February 25, 2024, We Are All Going On To Perfection, Lent 2

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.)

Lord, I believe: Help my unbelief. Help me to see my world as You see it.
Lord, I obey; Help my disobedience. Focus me; guide me. Prune me.
Lord, I follow; Help me to stay on the path. Thank you for the path, for guidance, for Providence and protection.
I humbly ask for wisdom and for knowledge in every human situation.
Lord, help me to flourish as a part of the vine, as a means of grace, as a person through whom your Holy Spirit flows. Amen.

HYMN Just As I Am
Just As I Am – From the video: “Gospel Music Hymn Sing”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rlTSWZ_Ahy4
OR
Alan Jackson – Just As I Am
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G9oSB3elWY4

A TIME OF PRAYER (Testimonies, Joys & Concerns)

Congregational Prayer −
“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.”

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 Gaither Vocal Band – The Love of God [Live]
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NqbqjX2KRyY

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: We Are All Going On To Perfection
Text: 1 John 1:8-10, Philippians 3:12-16, Matthew 5:48
Series: What We All Have In Common.

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

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SERMON NOTES

1 John 1:8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Phil 3:12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brethren, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature be thus minded; and if in anything you are otherwise minded, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

Matthew 5:48 You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

  ————————————————————————————————————-

HYMN 377 It Is Well With My Soul
Guy Penrod, David Phelps – It Is Well With My Soul (Live) [Official Video]
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0nJ6wQpLmuo

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!

TRANSCRIPT

During Lent, I thought it would be useful for us to look at what we all have in common. And today, I want to talk about the reality that we all have this in common: We are all going on to perfection. Those are words that John Wesley used.

We all have a beginning and we talked about that last week. We talked about prevenient grace where Jesus Christ is reaching out to us to lift us up from any reality that is negative, any problem that we have, to reach out and take us and help us, to help us go from a place that can be very dark, the valley of the shadow of death, and then move with Jesus toward green pastures and still waters and what we need. And prevenient grace is that preparation where Jesus is reaching out toward us and helping us toward a brand new beginning, helping us in every struggle. And you see, in prevenient grace, that’s what we see, Jesus Christ reaching out to us in love.

And you see that picture? Isn’t that just a beautiful example of that, of Jesus reaching out? On the other hand, I’d like you to see the rest of the picture this morning. Jesus is saying, “All right. That’s enough. Give me the phone.” And that’s because Jesus understands our problems. Jesus understands where problems come from. And in sanctifying grace, which comes after that new beginning, Jesus begins to help us solve the problems that weigh us down. Jesus begins to help us now to change our lives for the better.

Last week, we talked about this wonderful new beginning, which is a little bit like a baby being born. But now that a baby is born, you want the baby to grow up. And it’s God’s will for all of us. We have this new beginning. But now it’s time to grow up. And sometimes that means that there are things that we have to give up sometimes.

One of the beautiful images for me is the star that led the wise men to Bethlehem. And in Matthew 4:17, it says, “From that time, Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.'” If we want to see that perfect world, that better world, it’s because we are willing to grow up and put down the phone and move toward what God wants, to go this way and not that way. And I shared this picture – that’s the 17-year-old boy who found a new beginning in Jesus Christ on Leap Year Day, believe it or not, Leap Year Day, 1972. It comes around every four years … it’s coming up this Thursday, my spiritual birthday. 52 years ago, my life changed. But since then, my life has also changed day by day because just like the wise men, I’m trying to find my way to where Jesus is. And I’m trying to learn by by being wise.

And unfortunately, I hate to tell you, there’s a lot of that learning that is learning the hard way.

And some of it’s been easier because I was careful to listen to Jesus along the way. But God doesn’t want to leave us in that baby, infantile, helpless place; God wants to help us to grow up and be all that we can be. And so Jesus put it this way in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:48, he said these words, “You therefore must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” And this phrase comes after when he says, “You need to pray for your enemies.” Well, why would I need to pray for my enemies? Well, because God loves them too, and you need to be like God. It’s not a bad thing to be like Jesus. And you see, that’s part of what this growing up is all about.

A famous football coach Vince Lombardi once said this, “Gentlemen, we are going to relentlessly chase perfection knowing full well, we will not catch it.” Notice what Wesley said, “We’re going toward it.” And Wesley specifically, when he was challenged, he said, “What God wants you to be is made perfect in love in the way you love one another.”

But Lombardi said, “We know full well we will not catch perfection because nothing is perfect.” But he said, “We are going to relentlessly chase it because in the process, we will catch excellence. I am not remotely interested,” he said, “in just being good.”

I also am not remotely interested in just being good. I also “in just being good enough.”
And what I hope for us as a church together, I hope for us as individual people of faith, I hope we are far more than merely good. And I hope it is a great desire for us, each of us, to be more than good enough. Because I know if we focus on the right direction, which is perfection, and we will make progress. And not only are we doing God’s will, we will will also never stop learning and our lives will never stop changing for the better.

I am 69 years old today. There are times that I wish I was 25 again. But when I wish that, I always think to myself, I wouldn’t mind being 25, but I sure don’t want to be as stupid as I was back then. When I think about being in junior high again, “Oh, Lord, please no!”

I am thankful for all the progress I’ve made toward perfection, and it has made all the difference in my life. But you see, here’s the reality of perfection. We measure ourselves from where we are to where we wish we could be, and we find that we fall short.

And that’s where this verse really has helped me. “If we say we have no sin,” 1 John 1 says, “we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” If we say that we are perfect, the truth is not in us. “But if we confess our sins,” if we have a conversation with Jesus about how we fall short, about how we are not who we wish we could be, if we have a conversation with Jesus about our desires for what we wish life was like or in other words, “if we confess our sins,” the ways we fall short, “he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Throughout the history of the church, the church has always talked about the need for forgiveness. But that other promise has become very meaningful to me. God is not just willing to forgive you and then let you struggle and try again. God is ready to clean up the mess. God is ready to cleanse you from all unrighteousness. And when I pray for my own health, I remember being hospitalized a few years ago with a giant blood clot in the blood vessels between the heart and the lung. And I think to myself, “That’s something that was not supposed to be there. Therefore, that’s something that is unrighteous. Lord, cleanse my body from everything that shouldn’t be there, like a blood clot. Cleanse my body from everything that shouldn’t be there, like too much blood sugar in my bloodstream. Cleanse my body from something that shouldn’t be there, like an infection.”

And when you are ill, I find myself praying the same things for you. Lord, don’t just forgive us. Take out the trash. Take anything out of our life that holds us back or keeps us down. Cleanse us from all that is not right.

But then John comes back again and just simply says, “If we say we’ve not sinned, not fallen short, not made mistakes, we make God a liar, and His word is not in us.” Zig Ziglar had a famous saying. He once said, “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing,” he said. “That’s why we recommend bathing daily.”

Friends, however clean you are today, it doesn’t last because the world is not a clean place. As we go back and forth during our day, we get dusty. Sometimes we get muddy. And that’s why we bathe. And if the bathing of your soul that cleanses you from all unrighteousness, it’s a good thing for it to be a daily practice. If not, whenever it occurs to you, just pray: Lord, forgive me and make me better. Make me clean.

Paul also emphasized that he was not perfect. “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect,” he says in Philippians 3, “but I press on to make it my own. Because Christ Jesus has made me His own.” That’s prevenient grace and that new beginning. Verse 13, “Brethren, I do not consider that I have made it my own, but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal.”

Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done. I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature be thus-minded. And if in anything, you are otherwise minded, God will reveal that also to you … because God is seeking to reveal to each one of us the next step in our walk of faith. Therefore, what should we do?

There’s a Japanese proverb that says, “Fall down seven times, stand up eight.” For a saint is just a sinner who fell down and got up again. We fall down. We get up again because we’re following Jesus. And because of that, we never stop learning. And God has many things to teach us.

Now, occasionally, though, the problems start to pile up. Occasionally, we begin to feel overwhelmed. We’re anxious. We’re afraid. And sometimes when people are anxious and afraid, you know what they do? They get mad so they don’t feel afraid. And sometimes when people get mad, they do things they really don’t want to do, and they say things they really don’t want to say.

Perhaps when something like that happens, a pause is a good idea. Because you know, if you are going in the wrong way, the last thing you want to do is go faster. If you are digging a hole in the wrong place, the last thing you want to do is dig harder. If things aren’t going right, if it’s a bad day, and you can tell … maybe what you need to do is just pause for a moment … because there are a whole lot of things that this pause will do for you. The first one is this: if you’re making a mistake and you stop, you won’t make more mistakes, at least for a little bit. If you’re saying hurtful, angry things to people and you stop, well, you’ll stop doing that. It’s good to pause when things aren’t going well. And just sit down and be still. Perhaps be still and pray. Perhaps be still and ask God to intervene. Perhaps be still so you can hear the God voice speaking to your mind. Perhaps be still so that you can think.

Friends, the devil always wants you to go faster so that you have no time to think.

When things aren’t going well, perhaps the smartest thing we can do is pause and think and listen to the voice of God saying, “Dave, that wasn’t what I asked you to do. Dave, that isn’t what you read in your Bible. Dave, why don’t you ask Me what to do next?” Because we’re always learning. But we don’t always learn very much if we’re rushing off and getting even more lost.

Perhaps a pause is a good idea. And during that pause, you may hear Jesus say, “All right. Give me that phone.” You’re not feeling well. Give your best friend your car keys and tell him not to let you have them until you feel better. If you pause, God will speak to you and help you to know how to follow Jesus. In the middle of that, whatever it is, that storm, that struggle, that difficulty, whatever it is. In the middle of being upset, and I guarantee you this, none of us are wise when we’re emotionally upset.

And so to repent, which means to change our direction. Sometimes it requires us simply to pause and think and ask God for the better thing to do, not just to say no to the bad thing, but to pray and discover what it is we should say yes to. That’s something that is more important. Lord, what do you want me to do now?

Please pray with me. Lord, every now and then, no matter how smart we are, we feel helpless. Every now and then, no matter how much people love us, we feel alone. And sometimes, Lord, we feel betrayed. No matter what the truth is, Lord, sometimes we don’t see the truth clearly. And certainly in this age of misinformation and lies spread as if they were true. Lord, we have to pause and listen for your voice in the midst of the noise of all the voices of this world. And Lord, we pray that in this process of growing up, which involves falling down and getting up and falling down and getting up, that you would help us to learn not only how to walk by faith, but how to walk well in this world and move forward with wisdom from all that we learn. Lord Jesus, we ask this in your precious name. 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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