Sermon 01/17/21: Power Tool #2: The Ministry of the Word (Epiphany II)

At this time, due to surging Coronavirus rates, the United Methodists Churches of our Illinois Great Rivers Conference are not holding face-to-face services. Please click on the link below to watch the entire worship service as a video on your home computer, tablet or smartphone.

Link to Video:

Screencast-o-matic: https://screencast-o-matic.com/watch/crVD0J9iHY

Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/501314321

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If you would prefer not to view the video, you’re welcome to use the links below to have a time of worship at home. (Just right click on the link to play each hymn or the sermon in a new tab, and close that tab when finished.)

CALL TO WORSHIP: Please recommit your life to follow Jesus as Savior and Lord with the words of the Covenant Prayer in the Wesleyan Tradition: 

I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by thee or laid aside for thee,
Exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O Glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
Thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
Let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.

HYMN
I Know Whom I Have Believed
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lLX-6BmZ04Y

A TIME OF PRAYER (Testimonies, Joys & Concerns)

Congregational Prayer: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

Please pray for yourself and your neighbors, lifting up your needs to God while giving thanks for answered prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven; hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

HYMN
Thy Word (with lyrics)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Ycs23FQDRI

MOMENTS WITH THE CHILDREN – If you are blessed to have children with you, ask them what they are thankful for, and then thank God together!

GIVING OF OUR TITHES AND OFFERINGS – these can be mailed to the church office.

MESSAGE: Power Tool #2: The Ministry of the Word
Text: John 1:1,14; 15:3, 7; 8:30-34; Matt 28:19-20
Series: Those Methodist Tools (Attend Upon All The Ordinances of God)

Right-click, open in new tab to play … Sermon audioSermon slides as a PDF file.

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SERMON NOTES

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.

John 15:3 You are already made clean by the word which I have spoken to you. … 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you.

John 8:30 As he spoke thus, many believed in him. 31 Jesus then said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” … 34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, every one who commits sin is a slave to sin.

Matthew 28:20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.”

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HYMN
Trust and Obey (Hymns with Lyrics)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KB4KcleYiWM

BENEDICTION: Let us dedicate ourselves to the service of Jesus by joining in the Prayer of Saint Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy
O Divine Master, grant that I may
Not so much seek to be consoled as to console
To be understood, as to understand
To be loved, as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
And it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it’s in dying that we are born to Eternal Life
Amen

(If you wish, you can listen to this prayer being sung:
Sarah McLachlan – Prayer of St. Francis
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agPnMxp5Occ )

If you worship at home, please let us know so we can pray for you!

TRANSCRIPT

Last week we talked about The ONE Thing. And the idea behind The ONE Thing is this, in every moment of our life, there is always ONE Thing that is the most valuable and beneficial thing that we can do. Such that by doing that ONE Thing, everything else will be easier or possibly even unnecessary. This is one of the great truths of this life.

But something for us to keep in mind, the ONE Thing is, actually, ONE Thing after another. Last week we talked about the ONE Thing that is most important, being to rededicate our lives to Christ, as Savior and Lord, with a prayer that renews that covenant. And that prayer of submission on our parts, that’s the ONE Thing. It is a Wesley rule. It is a spiritual power tool that can greatly change our life. But once you do that ONE Thing, give your life to Christ, there is a new ONE Thing that comes right after that. And that’s for you to learn what it means to follow Jesus. For you to learn what it means to be obedient.

So now, there’s a new ONE Thing, and it has to do with the role of the Bible. Holy scripture, that’s in our life. In Psalm 119, verse 105, you hear those words that we just sang about. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet. The Bible provides light in our darkness so that we can see where we’re going.

You’ve been on a country road, like this, in the night many, many times. The headlights on your car help you to see where you’re going. Not all the way to your destination. Not even past the next little hill. But your headlights give you the light that you need for right now. The next step, to look to the right. Is there a deer on the side of the road, on either side? To look ahead. Is there oncoming traffic? To see the road. This is a very straight road in the picture, but how long do you think you could stay on it if you closed your eyes? Not very long. We need that light. It shows us the path.

When I was much, much younger, my family would go camping. And I had to grow up, to a certain point, to where my dad would allow me to have the flashlight. I don’t know if this happens to you when you’re camping, but there’s such a temptation when you’re a kid to shine the light all around. Or even worse, shine the light into the eyes of someone walking toward you. “Where the light is needed,” my dad would explain to me, “is where we’re going to take our next steps.” It needs to be shining on the ground, not in our eyes to blind us, but on the ground so that we can see where to put our feet.

Thy word is a lamp unto our feet. It provides light in our darkness. And along with darkness, sometimes, when we’re in the darkness, it’s easy for us to be worried, concerned, afraid. It’s easy for us, if we’re trying to make our way through the woods in the dark, to worry about getting lost. And because the Bible helps us to see, one of the realities is the Bible helps us to see that Jesus loves us. The picture on the screen is one to where literally the print of the Bible reaches out and wraps its arms around a young girl who’s afraid. The line of text across the top says this, “Only the word of God can do this,” because when you read those printed words, Jesus becomes real. When you read those printed words, those words are a demonstration to us of what God does to help us. They are a demonstration that Jesus loves you and me and is there for us in our difficult times. The word of God can comfort us when we’re frightened and upset.

Now, how this works for me, might be the same for you, is I’m really angry, and, all of a sudden, I remember a verse of scripture that tells me to calm down. I’m really sad, and, all of a sudden, a word of scripture comes to my mind that reminds me that there are reasons for joy. I am filled with regret, and a verse from scripture comes to my mind that reminds me that if I ask God to forgive me, I will be forgiven. And not only that, but Jesus will work to change whatever it is in my life that caused me to go astray. The word of God cannot only light up the path and inform us, the word of God can emotionally comfort us and encourage us. If it’s inside of us, then it can rise up to help us when we need it, but it needs to get inside of us.

Somebody once said that the most frightening words that any man ever read on Christmas Eve were the words some assembly required. It’s also true that the word of God doesn’t just light up the path, it doesn’t just encourage it, sometimes we have a problem and that needs some research. The smartest question you can ask yourself is, what did Jesus say about this? The smartest question you can ask yourself is, where did something like this happen in the Bible, and what did God teach God’s people to do? Because that will let you assemble your life when your life is all in pieces.

Now, I’m like most men. I don’t like to ask for directions, and I absolutely do not want to read the instructions. They are supposed to make it so simple that I can put it together without ever opening a book of instructions. That’s their job, not my job. But every now and then, my back is against the wall, and I just don’t know what to do. Every now and then, so many things come to me and overwhelm me, and I don’t know which one is the right one. And that’s where I can open my Bible and start to work my way through it. It’s a little easier to read that some of these instruction manuals that we have. But I can work my way through it and find the place where the Bible helps the Christian know what to do when your life falls apart into a million pieces. Thank God, the Bible is there to be the instructions for our life.

How does that work? Well, here’s what happens in the Gospel of John. The very first verse, “In the beginning was the word. And the word was with God, and the word was God.” And you read on down 14 more verses, and it says, “And the word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth. And we have beheld His glory, glory as of the only son from the Father.”

If you ask me who Jesus Christ was, I would tell you that Jesus Christ was the word. Jesus Christ was God’s attempt, a successful attempt, to communicate to people what God wanted, what God is like. Jesus is the voice of God coming into our world. And every word he said to us becomes words of truth from God to you and me. Jesus Christ is the Word. And he spoke to us what God wanted us to hear.

Eight chapters later, John, chapter eight, verse 30, “And as Jesus spoke to us, many believed in him.” Verse 31, “Jesus then said to the Jews who believed in him, ‘If you continue–“ And the Greek word here is also translated in John 15 as abide. “If you continue in my word.” If the words of Jesus surround you continuously, they will teach you, they will comfort you, they will guide you, because they are God speaking to us through Jesus. “If you continue in my word,” Jesus says, “you are truly my disciples.”

It’s a wonderful thing to go to church. It’s a wonderful thing to listen to Christian radio and sing along as you’re on your way to work. But Jesus defines what it means to be a disciple. A disciple is someone who listens to his words. That’s what it means to continue in his words. And what happens if you surround yourself with the words of Jesus is described in verse 32. You will know the truth. When life is confusing, you will know the truth. When life is tragic and fearful, you will know the truth. When life seems to not make any sense, the words of Jesus will help you to know the truth. And knowing the truth will make you free.

The people who are listening to Jesus said, “We are always free. We always know the truth.” Well, we know they didn’t. But in verse 34, Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.” And the words of Jesus will help you to know the truth about what is right and good and true. And they will help you to know the truth about what is not right, what is not good, what is not true. Because it’s very easy to become a slave to sin because you’re uninformed. The Bible tells us the truth.

Now, if you want to have your own personal Bible study, you see that little acronym down at the bottom of the screen – “S-O-W” – the SOW Bible study method.

You read one verse and you ask a question, “What does it say?” And you try to put the words of that verse into your own words to determine what it says.

And then you ask the second question, “What does it say that I need to obey?” Obey is the O in the SOW questions. A lot of the scripture explains a lot of truth to us, but there are some times when Jesus gives us an instruction, something that we are to obey. And we need to notice that. I think you should make a little star in the margin of your Bible or use a highlighter or underline anything that seems like an order, a command, an instruction from Jesus because you will want to include that in your way of life.

The final question is, “Who needs to hear this?” because sometimes the truth that we discover in a Bible isn’t really for our benefit. Sometimes it’s for the benefit of someone else. Sometimes it’s for the benefit of someone who is greatly suffering and the truth from the Bible could help them. Now, it’s important that you tell them in a way that allows them to hear it, because far too many of us have been lectured to by a well-meaning person. Sometimes it’s our parent. Sometimes it’s our preacher. Sometimes it’s somebody who just won’t mind their own business. But it’s very possible that a truth that you discover in the scripture might literally save another person’s life.

What does it say? What does it say that I need to obey? And who needs to hear this? Maybe it’s me. Maybe it’s someone else. That’s one way to do Bible study – one verse at a time – because every verse has some benefit for us.

So we look on through John, we get to John, Chapter 15, my favorite chapter in the scripture, where Jesus talks about how we’re a branch on the vine, and he talks about how God will prune the branches on the vine so that they can be more fruitful. And you might think to yourself, “Well, how does God actually prune us?” Take a look at the third verse. You are already made clean. The Greek word there is the same one we translate as prune, as pruning. You are already “made pruned” by the word. You are already made clean by the word which I have spoken to you. If you surround yourself with the words of Jesus, they will clean up your life. The words of Jesus, in your mind, in your heart, as you discuss them with others, in your mouth, they will clean up your life. They will clean up the mess that sometimes you find that your life is in. The words of Jesus will clean you up and make things that are falling apart all of a sudden start to work well. Let the words of Jesus have their full effect upon you.

And as you abide in Jesus, as you surround yourself with the words that he has spoken, there’s a beautiful promise in verse 7, “If you abide in me and my words abide in you” – two parts – “and my words remain in you. Ask whatever you will, and it will be done for you.” Being able to pray with faith and have answered prayers comes about because we allow the words of Jesus to continuously surround us with the truth that comes from Jesus, the word sent to us by God, the Father.

So, how should we live our life? How should we help other people? The Gospel of Matthew ends very, very simply with this instruction. You’re to go out and make disciples of all nations. You’re to baptize them. But what then? How do we help people change their lives?

Well, there’s only one other thing we’re supposed to do, teach all those people. Teach them to observe. Now, that doesn’t mean simply to study. That means to live by the words of Jesus, to observe all that Jesus has commanded them. This sermon should remind you of things that Jesus has commanded of you. That’s our task (in preaching). We’re surrounded by the words of Jesus, and when someone, including us, needs to hear them … We are a part of God teaching them because it is the words of Jesus and, in particular, the commands of Jesus that solve our problems, straighten out our lives, make marriages better, make children happier, draw families together, cause forgiveness to happen, help people turn their lives around to live better. All of that comes from the way the words of Jesus act upon our hearts and upon our minds.

And in order for them to be observed, how they show up in our hands and in what we do, it’s not enough for us to know the words of Jesus. It’s not enough for us to talk about the words of Jesus. God is pleased when God sees us doing the words of Jesus.

The Bible is a power tool that can powerfully affect our spirituality. Well, here’s how to use that power tool. The basic truth is simply this: What did Jesus say about this? And you read through the Bible, and when you get to one of those commands, you stop for just a minute and you pray. You say, “Lord, help me not just to know but also do what you want me to do.”

It starts with knowing what Jesus said, and it goes into us doing our best to do what Jesus asked. I think the best model is to read through a chapter a day … to set that as your goal. Now, some folks, that just seems like too much. Well, then read one verse, but a chapter a day. When I was at Caseyville United Methodist church, we intentionally began to read in the Bible. I didn’t tell people what to read. (Although I’ll be honest with you, if it’s the words of Jesus that change our life, I think the place for us to start is Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and start by reading the words of Jesus.) But simply anyone could read any chapter that they wanted to, and then they would come to church and in the front pew there would be a clipboard. And on the clipboard they would write how many chapters they had read in the past week. It became really clear very quickly who was serious about reading the Bible. One of the most interesting stories, I had one lovely church member in her 80s who was afflicted with arthritis and fibromyalgia, who was in pain quite often at night. So during the week, in the night, as a way to try to calm herself and go to sleep, she would read through the Psalms. And on Sunday, she would write down 150 chapters. If she went through the Psalms twice, 300 chapters.
She sort of embarrassed all the rest of us, including me. But that reading helped her to deal with her own physical pain.

Read through a chapter a day.

I like to take the book of Matthew. And today is the 16th, so you read the 16th chapter of Matthew. I also like the Book of Proverbs, 31 chapters. Just like Billy Graham always did, read the book in chapters, the chapter in Proverbs that corresponds to the day. So this morning I actually read Proverbs 16 which has an awful lot to say about the wise way to live your life. And I copy those verses that speak to me (into my diary). And I think about them throughout the day, and I’m continuing to listen to God. Lord what does this say? What does it say that I need to obey? And quite often, before the day is over, I have learned something valuable for myself from that chapter I began to read in the morning.

We want to let the scripture influence us, and the best way to do that is to accumulate instructions by writing them down somehow so that you can reflect on them again and again. That’s how to power tool.

And you need to remember to let those scripture verses speak, because, again, the most important thing, what did Jesus say about this? Let those words, what Jesus said, apply them to your life. They’ll be like a compass to keep you going in the right direction.

One of the principles that they have in computer programming is called garbage in, garbage out. Whatever you put into your life grows there and comes back out. It’s a good thing for you to be aware of the information that you take into your life because what you take into your mind will influence your thoughts. And you’ll see what you take into your mind come back out through how you live.

Consider, just for a moment, what you like to watch on television. We have a tendency to like to watch television shows where bad things happen to bad people and good things happen to good people. But there’s a time there in the middle where it looks like the good people are really going to suffer. But I want to ask you this with all sincerity, if you spend all this time watching these soap operas, do you really want to live in the middle of a soap opera? Do you really want your life to be involved in suffering like the people you watch on the little screen? Garbage in, garbage out. What you put into your life begins to come out in your actions. What a brilliant thing it would be for you to put scripture in, and then God and other people could see scripture coming out.

Gary Keller, the author of the book, The ONE Thing, says that the purpose of a goal is to be appropriate in the moment. The purpose of a goal, an instruction, a command from Jesus is to help you to be like Jesus in the moment when you’re tested. If you fill yourself up with Jesus by absorbing the words of Jesus, when you are tested, when bad things happen, you know what’s going to come out? Jesus. Zig Ziglar once said that when you have the bucket and the bucket is full and you get in a hurry, pretty soon everybody sees what the bucket is full of. If you let your bucket be full of the words of Jesus, even if life gets a little rough, what people will see is Jesus. That’s a power tool: to let the scripture into your life.

And Jesus, also, was spoken of as God’s light in the darkness. That’s in John 3. Also, John 1. Let God’s word– let the words of God’s word, who is Jesus — shine into your darkness and the darkness that might surround you, the darkness of people that you love – you’d like to see their life be different – let the words of Jesus Christ be light that shines into the darkness all around you.

Let’s pray. Lord Jesus when it’s dark and we can’t see, your word is like a lamp for our feet. When someone comes toward us in the dark and we’re frightened, we don’t know if their friend or enemy, your light helps us to see and know the truth. We need your help in this life. We need to know the truth to calm our anxious hearts. We need to know the truth, to know what we should say and what we should do. Lord, inform us by your word, and form us by what the words of Jesus say to us. So that when we’re pushed and jostled by the world … (we know that’s going to happen) … what comes out of us are the words of Jesus. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION: Let’s have a conversation! Please reflect upon the questions below as you consider the material presented above. In a comment, share your thoughts and additional questions. What would you like to know?

What grabbed your attention?
What is the human need or problem?
What questions do you have about any quotes provided?
Does the Bible say anything about this?
What solutions do you see for the problem?
What specifically could we begin to do to make a change?

Additional Resources
Kinmundy United Methodist Church is located at 308 E. Third Street, Kinmundy, IL 62854. Worship begins at 9 am Sundays. The building is handicap accessible.
Wesley United Methodist Church is located at 3381 Kinoka Road, Patoka, IL 62875 in the country between Kinmundy and Patoka. Worship begins at 10.45 am Sundays.
VISION: We are a functional family of God, where Jesus is Lord and people grow.
MISSION: Every layperson is called to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20); every layperson is called to be missional. (¶126 of the 2016 Book of Discipline)
Paradigm: There are two kinds of people in this world: people who need to become disciples and disciples who need to become disciple makers.
 

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