Who came to hear a word from the Lord today? Will you allow me to preach the truth without any reservations? Woe is me if I don’t preach the truth! I can not and in fact, will not hold anything back! Let me take a handful of minutes to tell you about the inner-struggles of a pastor.
1. I love this church and it pains me to hear any negativity. I may not be physically with you day after day, but I am thinking about you. I think about each of you on several occasions throughout every week. I ask myself, “How can I pray for this person or that family?” I think about us as a church most often. I see people who have been Christians for many years. There are still some of you here that were a part of the founding of FTCC. I see others who are struggling to get through each week and keep their faith. I want what’s best for you and for us, but it is most certainly not little spats here and there. It is most certainly not continuous sinning in our lives. I not only think about us often, but I pray for us. We need the Lord to move in our hearts. We need Him to move in our assembly times. We need Him to confront us. We need Him to speak to us where we are.
2. You may be thinking, “Why does he worry about these things?” I don’t know how to explain it. I have a deep devotion to this congregation. I am committed to us 100% and will not be satisfied until I see us on the same page. We need to forget what is behind and strain for what is ahead. And I am not quoting Scripture just to sound good or make you feel better. I am quoting Scripture because it is the Word of God. It is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. We need to get back to the basics. We need to get back to loving one another, forgiving one another, serving one another, and reaching out to this community with the words and hands of our Lord Jesus Christ.
3. Romans 12:1-5 says, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.”
God calls us to be “a living sacrifice.” It is our reasonable service to God in response to the grace He has given us to actively love, forgive, and serve one another. And not only that, but we need to reach out to the lost and dying of this community with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
4. My fear is that many of us have lost the Biblical picture of God. Many of you had this picture when you were younger, but you’ve lost it somewhere along the way. I think many of us are simply going through the motions. We have to know that just “getting by” in our faith is not enough. If we don’t nurture our faith it may be consumed by this world and we will be at risk of losing our souls to eternal damnation in Hell. Have we forgotten that God is a holy God? Why do we assemble ourselves together for worship and fellowship while behaving like God is not among us? Do we not know that we are His special people and may proclaim the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light?!?
A text that can help us to restore that picture of the glorious God we belong to is Ezekiel chapter eight and following. Those supposed “people of God” had turn away from Him. They were worshipping idols and all sorts of false things. They were in the Temple of Almighty God, but were serving anything and everything but Him. Ezekiel is given a vision of what is happening and then he is shown a picture of his God removing His glory from the people. God is a holy God, a God from everlasting to everlasting. He mourns over sin and rebellion.
READ Ezekiel C8- This is the Word of God
1 And it came to pass in the sixth year, in the sixth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I sat in my house with the elders of Judah sitting before me, that the hand of the Lord GOD fell upon me there. 2 Then I looked, and there was a likeness, like the appearance of fire—from the appearance of His waist and downward, fire; and from His waist and upward, like the appearance of brightness, like the color of amber. 3 He stretched out the form of a hand, and took me by a lock of my hair; and the Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven, and brought me in visions of God to Jerusalem, to the door of the north gate of the inner court, where the seat of the image of jealousy was, which provokes to jealousy. 4 And behold, the glory of the God of Israel was there, like the vision that I saw in the plain.
5 Then He said to me, “Son of man, lift your eyes now toward the north.” So I lifted my eyes toward the north, and there, north of the altar gate, was this image of jealousy in the entrance.
6 Furthermore He said to me, “Son of man, do you see what they are doing, the great abominations that the house of Israel commits here, to make Me go far away from My sanctuary? Now turn again, you will see greater abominations.” 7 So He brought me to the door of the court; and when I looked, there was a hole in the wall. 8 Then He said to me, “Son of man, dig into the wall”; and when I dug into the wall, there was a door.
9 And He said to me, “Go in, and see the wicked abominations which they are doing there.” 10 So I went in and saw, and there—every sort of creeping thing, abominable beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel, portrayed all around on the walls. 11 And there stood before them seventy men of the elders of the house of Israel, and in their midst stood Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan. Each man had a censer in his hand, and a thick cloud of incense went up. 12 Then He said to me, “Son of man, have you seen what the elders of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in the room of his idols? For they say, ‘The LORD does not see us, the LORD has forsaken the land.’”
13 And He said to me, “Turn again, and you will see greater abominations that they are doing.” 14 So He brought me to the door of the north gate of the LORD’s house; and to my dismay, women were sitting there weeping for Tammuz.
15 Then He said to me, “Have you seen this, O son of man? Turn again, you will see greater abominations than these.” 16 So He brought me into the inner court of the LORD’s house; and there, at the door of the temple of the LORD, between the porch and the altar, were about twenty-five men with their backs toward the temple of the LORD and their faces toward the east, and they were worshiping the sun toward the east.
17 And He said to me, “Have you seen this, O son of man? Is it a trivial thing to the house of Judah to commit the abominations which they commit here? For they have filled the land with violence; then they have returned to provoke Me to anger. Indeed they put the branch to their nose. 18 Therefore I also will act in fury. My eye will not spare nor will I have pity; and though they cry in My ears with a loud voice, I will not hear them.”
When we read passages like these we think to ourselves, “What an archaic people. They were so backward and gross in their behavior. How funny it is that they worshipped the sun and creeping things. I would never bow down to an idol; I would never be so vulgar.”
Do we not know that when we lie to one another we are just as vulgar?
Do we not know that when we are selfish that we are worshipping an idol? Ourselves
Do we not know that when we manipulate someone that we are sinning against the Body?
These things are just as wicked as the things they were doing in the Temple. We are just as offensive to God in our assemblies if we are participating in such abominations. Quite possibly our behavior can be a greater sin than the sins that Ezekiel saw. Paul tells the Corinthians, “Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.” We come here every week to partake of the Lord’s Supper and I fear that many of us do so without any recognition of sins against our brethren.
Paul had strong words for the Corinthians who were abusing one another. They were even taking one another to court over matters! He said in 1 Cor 6:8-11 “But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers and sisters! Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor those who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” Some of those people had been involved in those wicked things and had come to faith in Christ. Christians can not conduct themselves this way. We have been WASHED, SANCTIFIED, and JUSTIFIED in the name of the Lord JESUS!
If you follow Ezekiel’s account, you read about the glory of the Lord departing from the Temple. Yahweh God slowly removes His presence from among His people.
1. Ezekiel says in (3:23) “So I arose and went out into the plain, and behold, the glory of the LORD stood there, like the glory which I saw by the River Chebar; and I fell on my face.”
2. (8:4) “And behold, the glory of the God of Israel was there, like the vision that I saw in the plain.”
3. (9:3) “Now the glory of the God of Israel had gone up from the cherub, where it had been, to the threshold of the temple.”
4. (10:4) “Then the glory of the LORD went up from the cherub, and paused over the threshold of the temple; and the house was filled with the cloud, and the court was full of the brightness of the LORD’s glory.”
5. (10:18) “Then the glory of the LORD departed from the threshold of the temple…”
6. Finally, (11:23) “And the glory of the LORD went up from the midst of the city…”
Well, what can we do about this? It has come to my attention that many of us are guilty of such serious sins against our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. On the other hand, others of us are sinning by omission. We are not living lives worthy of our calling. We are going through the motions with no respect for Almighty God that loves us and gave Himself for us.
(1) The first thing we can do is heed to what the Lord Jesus said in Matt 5:23-24, “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother (or sister) has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother (or sister), and then come and offer your gift.”
*Let us not come to worship with lingering problems with our brethren.*
(2) The second thing we can do is be blessed by the second beatitude, Matt 5:4:
*“Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.”*
To “Mourn” means to be unhappy over sin- individually, corporately, and in general (levels).
The psalmist says in 119:136, “Rivers of water run down from my eyes,
Because men do not keep Your law.”
We can not grow unaware of sin and its outcomes. Maybe you remember what James said, “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.”
We can not grow unaware of sin. We can not ignore sin in our lives or in this church.
We can not allow our hearts to grow hard, calloused, and cold so that we overlook sin.
Jesus says, “Blessed are those who mourn…” To receive this second blessing we must be unhappy about sin (the emotional counterpart to poor in spirit). The best illustration I can think of for this type of mourning is one of Jesus’ parables. Luke 18:10-14 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be COMFORTED. – Take comfort in this:
“But now, once at the end of the ages, [Christ] has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.”
Though we mourn over sin – God has, and will, comfort us.
“Comfort, yes, comfort My people!” says your God.
Turn away from your sin. If you confess your sins, He is faithful and just to forgive you your sins and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness. Turn to Him- He will be present with you, His glory will cloud around you, and you will be comforted though you mourn.