Sermon 01/24/21: Power Tool #3: Do no harm; do all the good you can. (Epiphany III)

At this time, due to surging Coronavirus rates, many are not quite ready to return to face to face worship. If this includes you, 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

Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/503957079

Screencast-o-matic: https://screencast-o-matic.com/watch/crVZc195U3

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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 557 Blest Be The Tie That Binds
Blest be the tie that binds | lyric video by Gryphon Hall
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TQ0Epw1rwbc

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 367 He Touched Me
Gaither Vocal Band – He Touched Me [Live]
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5m–ptwd_iI

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 #3: Do no harm; do all the good you can.
Text: Matthew 7:24-27, Romans 13:9-10, Ephesians 2:4-10
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

Matthew 7:24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock; 25 and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house upon the sand; 27 and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell; and great was the fall of it.”

Romans 13:9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

Ephesians 2:4 But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God– 9 not because of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

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HYMN 593 Here I Am, Lord
Here I am Lord with lyrics by Eric Tom
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EcxOkht8w7c

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

Let’s get started. The wise men are on their way back to normal life from Bethlehem, from the Baby Jesus. And in the same way we, like people who want to be wise, are coming back from Christmas and bringing the truth that Jesus is here into our world and our present time and our neighborhoods. Let’s get started, and let’s be wise.

We’ve been talking about our spiritual disciplines. We’ve been talking about how we begin with surrendering to Jesus Christ. And once you’re surrendered, last week, we talked about the reality of opening up the Bible and listening to the words of Jesus. Why? Because Jesus has something to tell us about what we need to do today.

I talked to you about the “S.O.W.” questions. The first S.O.W. question is, “What does the verse say?” And in that, there is something for us to understand. The next question, “O: what does it say that we need to Obey?” The verse– not all of the verses, but many of them, give us something to do. And the third question says, “Who needs to hear this?” because God, through the Scripture, through each verse, reminds us that there is someone who benefits from this verse.

One, surrender.

Two, consult the Scripture.

S.O.W. … What is next?

Well, the third step in our life of devotion, of rededicating ourselves, is to follow through. You see, to “follow through” means that God gave us something to do, told us about it in the Scripture, we agreed to do it when we surrendered. What comes next is, it’s time to do what we’ve been asked to do. We are on the path. We are following Jesus today, and we’ve been given something to do.

The Scripture is like a compass. It points us forward in the right direction to follow Jesus.

What does God want? Well, the big picture always comes back to what Jesus called The Great Commandment: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” And in every sermon you hear, you should find this answer somewhere. “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind.” In every verse in the Bible, you’ll find this same answer. It’s the big picture of what God wants.

And Jesus goes on to say – and the second is like it – “You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Out of everything that you’ve received in this life, there’s plenty for you, and there’s also plenty for you to share. If you think about it, everyone is served through what God has given to each of us.

But who do we invite to come to the table? What is it that they need? What is it that they want?

This is a matter of prayer for us as we go from the big picture down to the specifics. What does God want us to do today?

In the past, we’ve talked about prayer walking. We’ve talked about the fact that if you and I are to love our neighbor, that means we have a neighborhood. And specifically, the scripture you read will connect you with someone who is your neighbor.

And the scripture you read will connect you with something that God wants you to do to provide love to your neighbor. So you need to understand who is in your neighborhood because God wants you to love them.

Here’s my best answer to that question. The people in your spiritual neighborhood are the people that you speak to, on the average, every week. And I love this little acronym, FISH.

Family: One corner of your neighborhood is made up of your family and the friends you have that are like family. That’s quite obvious there in your neighborhood.

Interest: But another part of your neighborhood is where your interests and your hobbies, what you like to do in your free time. And of course, this would include participating in church. Everything you’re interested in, the people you know from that corner of your neighborhood. They’re also your neighbors.

Serve: There’s also the people you know from where you work or, possibly, especially if you’re retired, where you volunteer your time. Those people are your neighbors.

House: And then, of course, as the dictionary says, we need to take seriously the reality that the people who live in houses close to your house, literally, according to the dictionary, they are also your neighbors.

And the reality is, as you go through the week, you will talk to various people who are a part of these four corners of your own personal neighborhood. You are asked by God to do some kindness for your neighbor, and what you read in scripture will tell you exactly what it is.

Here’s why I say, “Who do you speak with in a week?” Well, if you sit still, the people who are in your neighborhood, the people who are a part of your personal mission field, they will actually come to you. If you let your light shine, they will come to you the way a moth comes to a light. Or maybe when you sit in a place, and you surrender to Jesus Christ, and you surrender to what His word tells you to do by reading the scripture, and you begin to pray for your neighbors because, certainly to love your neighbor, at a very minimum, would mean to pray for them: People from your neighborhood will come to your mind. They will come into your prayers, they will come into your attention. They will knock on the door of your life because God will bring your attention to them when you pray.

A few weeks ago, I told the story about a man who felt God saying to him that he needed to get a gallon of milk, he needed to take the gallon of milk and drive through town. And then he felt that he was supposed to turn right, and then he felt that he was to turn left. And then he felt that he was to stop in front of a house and he took the gallon of milk to the front door, rang the doorbell, and said to the man who answered, “I’ve never done this before, but for some reason, it seems to me that God wants you to have this gallon of milk.” Well, it turned out, according to the story, that he was an answer to their prayer.

A gallon of milk is a very small thing, but an answer to prayer is a very large and wonderful thing. A very small miracle in terms of the whole wide world, with nothing really small at all to the person who desperately needs that gallon of milk. As you’re praying, you may feel the same thing with regard to your neighbor. Could be a gallon of milk, it could be a little boy and you understand that they don’t have a bicycle and you have a bicycle in your garage, and maybe you could give the bicycle to your neighbor. But whatever it is that God brings to your attention, don’t forget it. Remember the milk. Remember the bicycle. Remember the suggestion that God gives you when you pray.

And in order to remind you to pray for all your neighbors, it’s a wise thing to actually make a written list, because you wouldn’t want to forget anyone that is important to God.

We listen to the scripture, but here’s the secret. When you live the scripture, when you obey the scripture that God gives you, it greatly strengthens not only your faith, but it also strengthens your life. Jesus said it very plainly. Matthew, chapter 7, verse 24. “Everyone then who hears these words of mine,” That’s you when you read a chapter in the morning. “And does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock.” And the rain fell and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall because it had been founded on the rock.” You and I are building day by day a foundation to support our life, and we build that foundation with faith. And if you had X-ray eyes to look into a foundation, what you would see is the concrete there is strengthened by what’s called rebar … the word of God is rebar and the foundation of your life. It holds everything together, and it causes everything to work.

See, the rain is going to fall, and the floods are going to come, and the winds are going to blow and beat upon your house. But if your foundation is good, if your house is built upon the rock, you will endure all that comes to you.

In the same way, Jesus said in the 26th verse, “Everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house upon the sand.” And the rain fell because rain is going to fall. And the floods came because floods are going to come. And the winds blew and beat against that house. And it fell because the foundation was not strong enough to deal with the challenge. And great was the fall of it.

I read an article today that talked about the reasons why foundations fall. And the author of the article said that the primary reason is because the foundation is expensive. A foundation can literally represent 50% of the cost of a building of any size. But people who skimp upon the foundation, who do not have rebar of God’s word in the concrete that holds everything up, that’s a foolish choice. And great will be the fall of that. You need to read God’s word every day. And you need to build your life with rebar from God’s word, holding things together.

This means that when you read scripture, you need to read it carefully. You need to read it seriously. You need to think about what it means. There’s a picture of a coffee cup on the screen. It says, “I can do all things through a verse taken out of context.” A verse taken out of context is not strong like rebar. It’s weak like cardboard. You need to not only understand the scripture, you need to understand what you’re to do to obey it. And you need to understand for whom the scripture is meant. That’s not a verse taken out of context. But that’s a verse applied and put into the proper context.

Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law. That’s Romans 13:10. But it also refers to the first Methodist rule. We talked about it several weeks ago. When you read the scripture, what God is going to tell you is where you’re doing harm. And God is going to show you with the scripture how to stop doing harm. The scripture informs us and strengthens us to do right.

The scripture is also going to tell you what to do that is good. That’s the second rule. The scripture is going to help you to do all the good that you can. Now the big picture– you need to love God, you need to love your neighbor, and you need to love yourself. But the Scripture will tell you how to stop doing harm in all of those areas. The Scripture will tell you the good to replace the harm in all of those areas because love does no harm to a neighbor.

Another interesting thing about these rules– Ephesians 2:10 states that we, you and I, all of us together– we are God’s workmanship. We are created. We are recreated in Jesus Christ. We are born again, and we rise up from death just like Jesus did at Easter. But this Scripture points out that you’re not just simply born again to do what benefits you. We are born again, created in Christ Jesus for good works. There’s something you and I are supposed to do. Now, we’re not supposed to do it so that we can go to Heaven. We’re not supposed to do it so that we can be forgiven. Jesus did all that for us. But we are given good works to do because we follow Jesus Christ, we call him our Savior, and we’re grateful. We call him our Lord. And calling someone Lord is all about clear obedience.

So notice something about these good works according to Ephesians 2:10. The good works are those works which God prepared beforehand. God gets everything ready so that we should walk in them, so that we should follow through, so that we should do the things that God wants us to do.

So consider the gallon-of-milk story. If you bring a gallon of milk to somebody’s house because you think God wants you to do it, everyone can use a gallon of milk. The greatest risk you and I have is perhaps appearing to be a tiny little bit foolish. But it’s worth it. Because sometimes, what we feel in our hearts– because certainly, it’s true, sometimes we know things and we don’t know how we know them. Sometimes, the gallon of milk is an answer to prayer. Sometimes, it’s the difference between a person giving up or hanging on to their faith. And sometimes that little thing that you or I do might actually save someone’s life.

We need to understand that all around us, within our neighborhoods, God has gotten things ready for us to do. So when Jesus looks down upon us, does He see us praying? Does He see us reading his Word? And then, does He see us doing what He has asked?

If you’re supposed to love your neighbor, it means you have a neighborhood. And as I’ve suggested, your neighborhood, I would say, is everyone you speak with on a routine basis. Because, sometimes, the thing that God wants us to do, the person that God wants us to help, sometimes that person is a complete stranger.

But most of the time, I would suggest that they are someone who we already know, someone who already has some small amount of trust in us, someone who is willing to let us help. You see, God could set it up for you to help a stranger. But these little miracles that God does through people, they work more effectively in an ongoing relationship. We are taught in our culture today, “Stranger, danger.”

But if God is preparing something for us to do, it most likely is with one of those people who is already in your neighborhood. And consequently, if you pray for them every day, you’re more likely to hear God’s instructions because as God continually works in the life of someone you know, the relationship deepens, and they begin more and more to feel as if they are a part of the family of God.

God works through many small things. God works through many small, ordinary people. And God works through small churches. Be one of them. When you look around in creation, all of creation is made up of many small things that work perfectly together. Every cell of your body is very small. But in all those small things that cooperate together, that’s why we experience being alive.

And in the same way, when we look around us, all of creation is made up of small things. And all of the nation, in fact, every community is made up of ordinary people. And there are small churches here and there and everywhere. And God works through them. Please be one of those people. Please be one of those people through whom God does many small things because the many small things done by many small people who worship in many small churches add up to a great number of things. Which are all about life. But you won’t know the small thing that you are to do today if you don’t first surrender, and then in a surrendered state, let scripture guide you.

Please pray with me. “Lord Jesus, you have things for your people to do. It’s wonderful, Lord, when our faith involves us sitting back and watching you at work. But Lord, you invite us out of the stands and down to the playing field. You invite us up out of the audience to join you on the stage. You desire to be a part of us, little insignificant us, doing your will, bringing healing and wholeness and changing the world all around us. Because, Lord, when you do things through small people and small churches, it’s quite clear that God is at work. And God deserves all the thanks and glory. And so Lord, help us to be faithful, not just to surrender; help us to be faithful, not just to read the scripture; But Lord, help us to be faithful by being people who actually do what we hear in prayer when we surrender, who actually do what we see in the Bible. Help us, Lord, to be people just like that. 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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