October 15, 2023, The Benefit of God’s Word, Pentecost 20

If you prefer to worship at home at this time or simply wish to listen to the service or sermon again, you’re welcome to use the links below to have a time of worship at home. (Just click on the link to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you. And also with you.
The risen Christ is with us. Praise the Lord!
Let us pray: Lord, open our hearts and minds by the power of your Holy Spirit, that, as the Scriptures are read and your Word proclaimed, we may hear with joy what you say to us today. Amen.

HYMN 467 Trust and Obey 
Trust And Obey by Big Daddy Weave
Trust And Obey // Contemporary Style Hymn by Haddonfield UMC

A TIME OF PRAYER (Testimonies, Joys & Concerns)

Congregational Prayer − Dear Lord, This morning as I contemplate a new day, I ask you to help me. I want to be aware of and filled with your Spirit—leading me in the decisions I take, the conversations I have, and the work I do. I want to be more like you, Jesus, as I relate to the people I meet today—friends or strangers. Amen.

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 601 Thy Word Is A Lamp Unto My Feet
Amy Grant – Thy Word (Lyric Video)

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: The Benefit of God’s Word
Text: John 8:31-36, Luke 6:46-49; Matthew 4:17-22, 28:18-20
Series: The Benefits of Belief

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


John 8:31 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.” 33 They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham, and have never been in bondage to any one. How is it that you say, ‘You will be made free’?” 34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, every one who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not continue in the house forever; the son continues forever. 36 So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.

Luke 6:46 “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? 47 Every one who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: 48 he is like a man building a house, who dug deep, and laid the foundation upon rock; and when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house, and could not shake it, because it had been well built. 49 But he who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation; against which the stream broke, and immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.”


HYMN 462 Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus
Alan Jackson – ‘Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus (Live)

BENEDICTION The Prayer of St 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.

All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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


The Benefit of God’s Word. Just to recap, two weeks ago, we talked about the benefit of Jesus Christ being the Lord of our lives. Because when Jesus takes charge, when Jesus steps in to help us, Jesus begins to sort out our lives, identifying the things that we should stop and helping us to stop them, identifying the things that we should start and helping us to start them, and identifying the things that we should do to maintain our spiritual health. And I used the example of brushing your teeth; it’s something you should do to maintain your health. I used the example of changing the oil in your car; it’s something you should do. But when Jesus begins to guide your life, you will be led away from all kinds of things that are a waste of time and be led forward to what is useful, meaningful, and helpful.

Last week, I talked about how distracted we are, about how thousands of choices come toward us, floods of information come toward us, every day. And I talked about the benefit of loyalty. Then, once you figure out what you like, once you figure out what you’re loyal to, it saves you a whole lot of time. Friends, when I drive up to the drive-up at McDonald’s, I know what I like. Unfortunately, I like what’s on sale! There’s not been much on sale lately! But I know that it’s the Egg McMuffin that I like. I don’t have to worry about all the other things they’re selling. I want an Egg McMuffin! It saves me so much time to know what I want and be able to be loyal to it.

Today, I’d like to talk about the benefit of God’s word, which, in a similar way, cooperates with these two things to make our life both calmer and simpler and better.

But let me begin by telling you a joke. It’s not a very good joke – but it’s useful:

A guy is flying in a hot air balloon, and he’s lost. So he lowers himself over a field and shouts to a man on the ground, “Do you know where I am? “
Sure,” the man says. “You’re in a hot air balloon about 25 feet up in the air.”
Thanks.” The balloonist says, “By the way, are you a scientist?”
Well, I am. How did you know?”
Because everything you’ve told me is completely accurate but of no use whatsoever.”

And the scientist looks up at the man in the hot air balloon and says, “Wow. By the way, are you a pastor?”
And the man in the balloon says, “Yes, yes. Praise the Lord. I’m a pastor. How did you know that?”
“Well,” the scientist said, “You don’t know where you are, you don’t know where you’re going, you got where you are by blowing hot air, you only start asking questions after you get into trouble, and you’re in exactly the same spot you were a few minutes ago, except now it’s my fault.”

That’s the end of the joke. Where am I? Well, you’re in a balloon. Well, I knew that. You’re 20 feet up in the air. Well, I knew that, but I want to know where I’m going.

And you see, that’s where the Bible, I think, can greatly help us. But first, we have to get past this roadblock of the purpose of the Bible. Is the purpose of the Bible for us to know something? Is the purpose of the Bible to share information?

Or is the purpose of the Bible to tell us not so much what to know, but where to go and how to go? And in the picture on the screen, you see a bench in front of an image of Jesus being crucified and in the background is this beautiful landscape. And some people will come and sit on a bench and think about everything they know. But there’s an old proverb that says to know and not to do is not yet to know. Or to say it in a different way, knowing by itself needs to go further because knowing is supposed to move toward doing.

Let me give you an example. My mother’s favorite cookbook was Betty Crocker. And when it came time to make supper, Betty Crocker would come out and help her to know what to do. Now, I don’t have the same relationship with cookbooks. Every now and then, I’ll pull a cookbook out because I’m curious. What is it that makes barbecue sauce taste like barbecue sauce? Kim likes to watch these cooking shows. All the time, I’m picking up my phone and trying to find out what in the world a pork tenderloin porterhouse is. And apparently, it’s the pork version of a T-bone steak … because these cooking shows, as you know, go beyond what I’m capable of doing. They go beyond macaroni and cheese and go into places and use ingredients that I’ve never heard of before. And I’m curious.

But if somebody told you the purpose of a cookbook was for you to know what went into something, you would need to explain to them that they’ve missed the whole idea: the purpose of a cookbook is to show you how to do something. And I think one of the places where the church has gotten lost over all the years is that the Bible has gone from being something that we need to do to something that’s much less helpful, which is something that we need to know. To know and not to do is not yet to know. We don’t want to stop at knowing the Bible; we want to move from knowing toward doing the Bible.

So here’s the scripture about the benefit of the Bible. John 8:31. Jesus then said to the Jews who had believed in Him, “If you continue in my Word, – the implication there is if you continue to read and listen and let it influence you, just like they’re following Jesus and Jesus is talking to them every day. Well, we’re following Jesus, and Jesus talks to us every day through what we read in this book.

If you continue in my word, Jesus says, “You are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will do something remarkable: “The truth will make you free.

And immediately, those who want to argue with Jesus answer him, and they say, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been in bondage to anyone. How is it you say you will be made free?” Now, contemplate that statement for just a moment. We’re descendants of Abraham and have never been in bondage to anyone, but what about when they were slaves in Egypt? Not only that, a few centuries before, Greece conquered Israel, and even right now as they’re saying this, the Romans hold them in bondage. Yet, something that is so untrue comes right out of their mouth.

Apparently, they don’t know very much, but Jesus corrects them gently. Verse 34, Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.” The truth that you’re going to know that’s going to help you to be set free has to do with being set free from sin to change what you’re doing. Verse 35, “The slave does not continue in the house forever. The Son continues forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.

The words of Jesus, which we find in this book, set us free from the power of sin and death. If we understand the purpose of these words being there, they’re not just for you to know what is right and wrong, but to change what we do so that we can be more right and less wrong. It’s supposed to make a difference in our lives.

In Luke 6:46, Jesus puts it this way, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he’s like.” Remember, in the previous verse from John 8, “If you continue in my word, my word is going to begin to tell you what to do, and not only that, empower you to do what I’m asking you to do…” but the person who hears God’s words and does them – here’s what they’re like. And I want to use this as an example.

See that photo of a big, beautiful church? That big, beautiful church was built in 1926 in Gary, Indiana, and by 1927, just a couple of years later, this church had a congregation of 1,700 people and a staff of six. And it was the largest Methodist church in the heartland, the Midwest, the center of the United States of America. The picture you’re looking at right now is from 1955, which is the year that I was born. Now, the better the building, the stronger they need to build the foundation to hold all of that weight of this massive church which we could almost call a cathedral.

And here’s what Jesus says, “Let me show you what the person is like who hears my words and does them. He is like a man building a house or perhaps a church who dug deep and laid the foundation upon rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it because it had been well-built.” And this is a promise to us: If we let the words of Jesus Christ continue in our awareness and allow them to continue to change our lives, what we build in our lives will be built in such a way that no turmoil in this world can harm it … because what we build is going to be well-built.

Unfortunately, here’s what happened to the City Methodist Church of Gary, Indiana. But he who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation against which the stream broke, the troubles came, so to speak, and immediately it fell. And a ruin of that house was great. And so here is a photo of the sanctuary of the City Methodist Church of Gary, Indiana. It’s a ruin. You can go over to Greece and Rome and look at the ruins of Greek and Roman civilization. This is a ruin of Methodist civilization, once the largest church in the Midwest and the Methodist faith. In the Great Depression, they started running low on money. And because of conflict, they started running low on people. And in 1975, they finally ran out of both and the church was closed … just to sit and fall down into ruins. You’re looking at the choir loft, at the back of the church, and the stained glass is still there. But in a few years, it’ll all be gone.

The roof will be broken because the foundation that mattered– it’s quite clear the foundation these stones rest on is still fine. But the foundation that matters in the life of a church, the foundation that matters in the life of a Christian is this: the solid foundation of our lives is obeying Jesus. “Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and not do what I tell you?

It’s an interesting thing, if you have access to the internet to simply Google City Methodist Church, Gary, Indiana, and look at the ruins of the Sunday school rooms, of the fellowship hall, of this massive structure that has simply been left to fall down because no one wants to try to rebuild it or repair it.

This brings me to the very last words in the book of Matthew, Matthew 28:20, where Jesus says they’re to go and make disciples and baptize those disciples. But here’s the ongoing thing. What they’re supposed to do is teaching all those new believers, teach them to observe all that I have commanded you. And unfortunately, what the truth has been throughout history is that observe has meant to look at it and somehow not to observe as in the other definition of the word, observance to do it. The focus that needs to be for blessing and for things to last in our lives, the focus needs to be on the doing. Now, it starts with knowing, but knowing is supposed to lead to doing because the foundation of our lives is obeying Jesus Christ.

The path to abundant life is to ask this question: What did Jesus say about this?
We’re coming to worship. What does Jesus say about how we should worship?
We’re having coffee in the fellowship hall. What does Jesus say about our fellowship?
We’re going out of the church, and on Monday morning, we will get up and we go to work. What does Jesus say about that? That’s what strengthens and makes our lives solid. That’s what leads to abundant life.

Friends, the recipe for how to do God’s will will be found right here, in the words of Jesus in the Bible. The problem is when we read it out of curiosity rather than a desire to practice what Jesus preaches.

What did Jesus say about this? Well, on the back of your bulletin, you’ve got three questions, which are probably the most useful way to study the Bible. You go through a chapter a day. Reading one verse a day probably isn’t enough spiritual vitamins to keep you healthy. But let’s say a chapter a day, and you come across a certain verse, and that verse really speaks to you, and you can ask it these three questions to dig the deep meaning out of it.

First question is this: What does it say?

Second question is this: What does it say that I need to obey? There’s a lot that Jesus says that you’re required to understand, but you don’t have to do anything. But when you come to that verse that says, “You need to do something,” this is the question that’s useful to ask. What does it say that I need to obey?

And then the final question is, Who needs to hear this?

Now, these questions come from missionary training. I actually attended a missionary training workshop at the One Mission Society in Greenwood, Indiana, in 2009, because these questions are the way they do Bible study in native cultures where no one reads. So it all has to be oral discussion. And someone who can read, usually, a child who’s been to school, will read one verse. And then everyone gathered together will ask the question, “What does it say?” And one after another, they’ll go around the circle and answer these qyestion, “This is what it says to me.”

Then they’ll go around the circle and answer the question, “What does it say that I need to obey?” And each person around the circle will share their opinion: This is what I think I’m supposed to do that this verse tells me to do.

And then they’ll go around the circle and ask the third question, which may actually be the most important: Who needs to hear this? Because sometimes what Jesus tells us to do, that’s something we need to do. But sometimes when Jesus tells us to do something, it’s for someone else.

And I happened to be sitting at a table where the three men there were missionaries from Spain. They were starting churches in Spain, missionary churches. And when it came across time to talk about this question, “Who needs to hear this?,” they would come up with vague generic answers. They would say people who have lost their wife, somebody who’s going through a divorce, a person who’s lost their job. And I looked at these wonderful, caring, passionate men, and I said, “Friends, you have missed something. The answer to that question when you’re applying it to your life is my friend George, who’s going through a divorce, my friend Tom, who’s lost his job, my sister Marie, whose husband died.”

Because the Bible is supposed to be about real people that you know, and when Jesus directs your attention to them, you can begin to pray for them. And maybe God will lead you to come up to Marie and say, “Marie, I read a verse in the Bible, and there’s just something about it that says to me that it’s something I need to share with you.” Maybe that will happen. But at the very least, you can begin to pray because the words of this Bible are about you and specific people that you know if you let them be that real.

And so who needs to hear this actually takes us from the realm of what did Jesus say that we should know, to this place: You are now entering the mission field. We don’t have that sign over the exit door to our church, but it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea. Because whenever you leave this building, you’re headed out into the mission field where God is going to use you to help people find and strengthen their faith. And the meaning of the verse is not only to help them or to help you, because whatever problems you and I deal with, the problems are out there more than they’re in here, inside the church building. God is going to help you and people you care about out there on the mission field.

So that’s what these questions are for. How do I take this verse and live it in my life with the people I know? And for this reason, I want to encourage every one of you to begin with the words of Jesus and “continue” with them … because, frankly, there are some words in the letters of Paul that are very difficult for us to understand. There are some passages in the Old Testament that are very difficult for us to understand. But if we start with Jesus, I think our understanding will be more true and deeper, and we will understand the path that Jesus wants us to walk in this life.

You recognize this picture and these words from previous Sundays, because it’s our desire to follow Jesus Christ. And, thank God, Jesus Christ has prepared a path for us to walk. Jesus Christ knows where we need to be going even when we do not. And where will you find the map? You’ll find it in here, in the words of Jesus from the Bible.

You see, you’re not in a balloon 30 feet up off the ground. You’re on a path that Jesus wants you to follow. And you know how you’ll know you’re on the right path because you’ll be following Him. Jesus went along by the Sea of Galilee and saw Peter and John. And he didn’t say, “Let’s sit down here on the bench and talk for days.” He said, “Follow me.” And they had a choice. Either I get up and go or I’ll never know what he meant when he said, “Follow me.”

Please, pray with me. Lord Jesus, thank you so much for giving us a guide for the path, that you help us to understand exactly the directions to how it is to follow you. That first time, Lord, they literally followed you. They got up and they went where you went, and they heard all the words that you said. Lord, we don’t have that privilege, but we can pick up the Book and read it and say to ourselves, “If I was there, what would these words that Jesus said mean to me? Where would they lead me next? Who would I find along the path who also needs to hear this?”
And Lord, through the Bible, you can still guide us today out of the valley of the shadow of death towards the green pastures and still waters and the place where we can praise you, “Lord, we do not want. Our cup overflows.”

And so, Lord, we pray that You’d help us to see the Bible not as a list of information about which to be curious but a recipe of what we should do to live the best and most spiritual life that we can live in this world, a path that leads toward you and new life and the next life. 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.

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

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