2 Peter 3:9
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
That's a dream that God has for each and every one of our lives this morning. And God's dream for all of us is clear. The dream is - he doesn't want anyone to perish but everyone to come to repentance. And I believe that if we are to have the same dream that God has, there are two simple things that we need to see this morning.
1. We need to be clean for God
1 Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked,
2 "Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don't wash their hands before they eat!"
3 Jesus replied, "And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?
4 For God said, 'Honor your father and mother' and 'Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.'
5 But you say that if a man says to his father or mother, 'Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is a gift devoted to God,'
6 he is not to 'honor his father ' with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition.
7 You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:
8 "'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.
9 They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.'"
10 Jesus called the crowd to him and said, "Listen and understand.
11 What goes into a man's mouth does not make him 'unclean,' but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him 'unclean.'"
12 Then the disciples came to him and asked, "Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?"
13 He replied, "Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots.
14 Leave them; they are blind guides. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit."
15 Peter said, "Explain the parable to us."
16 "Are you still so dull?" Jesus asked them.
17 "Don't you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body?
18 But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man 'unclean.'
19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.
20 These are what make a man 'unclean'; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him 'unclean.'"
21 Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.
Jesus is talking about a concept of being clean when we worship God. It's not about personal hygiene - a bath or anything like that. It talks about being clean in ceremonial matters. And the thing that Jesus is referring to, is the ceremonial cleaning of hands that they used to do. And this ceremonial cleaning was done by jars of water that were kept outside. And the way they used to do the ceremonial cleaning was the water would be poured by another person to help you to do your washing.
And as they poured the water they would have the fingers pointing upwards so that the water would flow off your fingers onto your wrists and the procedure would be repeated with the fingers pointing downwards. Water would be poured on the wrist and fall off the fingers.
And once this procedure was repeated then both the palms had to be rubbed together and that's when you're declared clean. If anything happens like the water flowing onto your forearm or anything then you'd have to repeat the whole procedure again.
Similarly a person with an infectious disease was declared unclean and if anyone touches a man who had a disease the he would also become unclean. Every Gentile, everyone, who was not a Jew, was unclean. Uncleanness was also transferable. Let's turn to another interesting chapter, in the Old Testament -
11 "This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'Ask the priests what the law says:
12 If a person carries consecrated meat in the fold of his garment, and that fold touches some bread or stew, some wine, oil or other food, does it become consecrated?'" The priests answered, "No."
13 Then Haggai said, "If a person defiled by contact with a dead body touches one of these things, does it become defiled?" "Yes," the priests replied, "it becomes defiled."
14 Then Haggai said, "'So it is with this people and this nation in my sight,' declares the LORD. 'Whatever they do and whatever they offer there is defiled.
The Bible talks about consecrated or, rather, clean meat not passing it's consecration to other things because it has been touched. But if a person is defiled or unclean he can make another person unclean. Similarly, think about it, if you are healthy it doesn't mean that if you touch another person, an unhealthy person doesn't become healthy.
But if you're in contact with a sick person you can become sick. I've seen that if you are good at something, people around you imitate that only to a small measure. But if you're bad in some area, that is imitated in a large measure. If you have deep conviction about prayer and Bible study, your roommates in the brothers flat or your family will have some convictions about prayer and Bible study.
If you're an extremely disciplined person, people around you also have some sense of discipline and punctuality. If you're a super giving person, love encouraging people, love to hug people, you're all the time joyful, people around you are also happy. On the other hand, if you're a kind of unopen person, you'll have a kind of secret service going on around you.
If you have weaknesses of anger and fits of rage it rubs off and people around you also seem to become very irritated, angry and bitter. And that is something we've got to watch out for, because the good we do is only imitated in a small measure and the bad you do is imitated in a large measure even if you're not open about it.
Jesus goes on to talk about the Jews - how they loved following tradition and escaped following the truth. He goes on to talk about how honoring parents was in the law but the Jews called it Corban which means it is dedicated to the temple.
But you say that if a man says to his father or mother: 'Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is Corban' (that is, a gift devoted to God),
So that was a very convenient way of escaping responsibility. Instead of taking care of their parents they declared it Corban so then it becomes the responsibility of the temple to take care of the parents. That didn't stop there, this continued in every area of their lives. If there was a debt they could not recover from someone, suppose Mr.X took some money from me and he's not giving it back. I've tried everything and then I'll call the debt Corban. That means the money he owes me now he owes to the temple. Mr.X will feel guilty and he'll give it back to the temple.
If the money doesn't come to me at least that much money will go to the temple and not into his pockets. Jesus caught the Jews there because he figured out that they were trying to escape from every responsibility put on them by calling it Corban.
Now brothers is Jesus talking to the Jews or is he talking to us this morning? How responsible do we feel for our Christian life or have we declared it Corban dedicated to the Church of Christ?
- Spiritual growth is our responsibility. It depends on how much we lean on God, how much we lean on his understanding. Stop blaming your discipler for this problem!
- Our married life is our responsibility. The man leads and the woman submits to the husband. We cannot depend on the marrieds devotionals in our church for our marriage to change and become awesome.
- Our children are our responsibility. It's our job to teach them, bring them up in a loving environment, teach them them stories of the Bible, teach them forgiveness and all those things. We cannot dedicate our children to KKC and think that once in a week on a sunday morning, if our coordinators do a great job, our children will become great christians one day.
- Loving people is again our responsibility. You cannot blame someone that they didn't love you or look at you the right way or those kind of things. It's our responsibility how loving we want to become by following Jesus Christ. You know the question " Am I my brother's keeper?". The answer to that is always going to be yes.
Corban had another meaning also. It was an oath - a vow people made to God. And vows in the Bible were considered very, very serious.
30 And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD: "If you give the Ammonites into my hands,
31 whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the Lord's, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering."
32 Then Jephthah went over to fight the Ammonites, and the LORD gave them into his hands.
33 He devastated twenty towns from Aroer to the vicinity of Minnith, as far as Abel Keramim. Thus Israel subdued Ammon.
34 When Jephthah returned to his home in Mizpah, who should come out to meet him but his daughter, dancing to the sound of tambourines! She was an only child. Except for her he had neither son nor daughter.
35 When he saw her, he tore his clothes and cried, "Oh! My daughter! You have made me miserable and wretched, because I have made a vow to the LORD that I cannot break."
Israel was ruled by Judges and Jephthah was the 9th judge of Israel. One day he really gets fired up in his quiet time. And he makes a vow to God and says "God if you give me victory over the Ammonites whatever comes out of my house door first I'm going to sacrifice to you. Sometimes we also get fired up and make vows like this in front of God. God if you give me this I wont eat non-veg for 6 months. And then he starts struggling after the first week itself. But God gives victory to Jephthah and gives him victory over 20 towns.
And he's coming home to celebrate. And he's thinking some servant girl or some soldier is going to come out of the door first. And leaping and jumping for joy is his only daughter! She comes out of the door to greet Jephthah first. And he breaks down and says "I made a vow I cannot break". The victory was already there. He could have changed his vow and changed his mind and said "God I'll change it and do it some other time". The daughter could have complained and said "Did you consult me before making such a vow?" She did not say that. She said "You've got to do what you have vowed". In Ecclesiastes 5:4-5 it says when you make a vow don't delay in fulfilling it. Better not to make a vow than to make it and not fulfill it.
We make a lot of vows when we get baptized.
- I'm going to walk with you everyday. I'm going to have daily quiet times. Are we holding on to those vows?
- We made vows that we were going to read our Bibles everyday and follow it for the rest of our lives. Are we doing it?
- We made vows about being committed to the church and coming for all the meetings. Have we lost those vows?
- We made vows about giving our contribution - are we giving our contribution or are we giving excuses?
How serious are we about our vows today? Is Jesus the Lord of our lives today? Is he the Lord of our time? Is he the Lord of our money? Is he the Lord of all our energy, of our family today? That's what we said when we came out of the waters of baptism. You said Jesus is the Lord of my life, of everything, of everything I own, I do, I think! Is he our Lord today? It moves our heart to hear about Jephthah's daughter's death. Saddest thing for a parent is to bury your own child.
It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart.
It says it's better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting. Death is the destiny of every man and the living need to take this to heart.
The Bible says Death is the destiny of every man and the living should take it to heart. The life we have is very short brothers. Where we get buried there will be a stone. There'll be 2 dates there - the day you were born and the day you died. And separating the date of birth and date of death there will be a dash. And that dash is what we are living today. We are not in control of our lives. The decisions we make today have far reaching consequences.
Every child who dies makes it to heaven. Every mentally challenged child or adult makes it to heaven and every faithful man in Jesus Christ is also going to make it to heaven. It's no use outwardly beautifying us challenging the Pharisees. God cares only about what is on the inside. And that's what he wants us to keep clean. Secret sin makes us unclean.
- Evil thoughts - God knows what you and I can think.
- Murder is associated with anger in the new testament.
- Adultery - premarital, extramarital- all this is sin.
- Theft from the office and we justify it by saying we deserve a better salary. They are not paying me well so let me help myself. Cheating on taxes. Cheating in exams - students.
- False testimony - telling lies.
These all make us unclean. Slander -talking behind people's back - it's all sin. It's time for us to clean the inside and get closer to God. Our God is a holy God and he wants us to be united with him today. Just attending the church meetings is not enough. Let's make a decision to be clean for God today.
2. Rich for God
14 Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."
15 When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.
16 Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?"
17 "Why do you ask me about what is good?" Jesus replied. "There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments."
18 "Which ones?" the man inquired. Jesus replied, "'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony,
19 honor your father and mother,' and 'love your neighbor as yourself.'"
20 "All these I have kept," the young man said. "What do I still lack?"
21 Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."
22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
It's a great question from a man who wants to go to heaven and I believe all of us want to go to heaven. He's seeking happiness, he's seeking satisfaction, he wants peace with God but his very question betrays him. What must I do he asks Jesus. He's thinking in terms of deeds, he's thinking like a Pharisee. What is the rule, what is the formula, just give me the shortcut. I want to follow that and quickly make it to heaven.
And Jesus says it's not about "doing" but about obeying the commandments. He says don't murder, don't commit adultery, no lying, honor your father and mother. And this man says oh, I've been obeying all these things since childhood days. One thing you lack, sell your riches, and give it to the poor and you'll have riches in heaven. The Bible says he went away sad. That's the one thing that stopped him from making it to heaven. Riches can deceive a man and it can deceive men more than women. There are 3 simple ways you can get deceived.
a. False independence
Riches make us feel independent. Laodecea was a town that was very rich in Asia Minor. In 60 A.D an earthquake destroyed that city completely. The Roman government offered to help construct that town again. But the Laodeceans refused the offer saying they would do on their own resources. It was the same town in which there was a church and in Revelation 3 Jesus is rebuking this church. Jesus says you are actually wretched, poor, pitiful and naked.
That's what riches can do to us, it can make us feel independent -why do I need God? I have money to do anything I need. Why do I need God? The other day I was walking in the city and I saw a teenager wearing a T-shirt. And on the T-shirt was written "I was an atheist until I realized I was God"! Now that's what he thinks about God. That kind of arrogance can come in when we have money stored up. When you have no need for God you have no reason to lean on his understanding.
b. Riches anchor you to this earth
Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
It's easy to pray like David about the first part - we have no one else in heaven like you God but how confidently can we pray the 2nd part where it says I desire nothing on earth except you ? Riches can never satisfy us.
c. Riches make us selfish
As they say we are always one short of true happiness. Another very interesting line says - the tragedy of today is that instead of loving people and using things we love things and use people. Jesus says it is difficult for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. One of the interpretation goes like this. Camel was the largest animal the Jews knew about. There were 2 gates that led to the city of Jerusalem. One was the main gate where trade and traffic moved. Beside it was a low, narrow gate, open only at night. And that gate was called the Needle's eye and a man could not pass through that gate if he was erect. There were actually many who would kneel and walk through that low, narrow gate. Which is what Jesus is talking about - to enter the kingdom of God you need to be humble before God.
The broad gate which was open during the day - people would load up their camels and pass through with all their gates. But the narrow gate - a man had to pass through it alone, he could not carry anything into the city because it was too narrow. And that's how it's going to be in the kingdom of heaven. We are not going to take our gadgets and things when we make it to heaven. We are not going to tell the angels "open up the front gates, I've brought my car now. I got my things also. I need that in heaven. Come on- open up the gates". Jesus says it is
TOUGH not IMPOSSIBLE to make it to heaven. Zacchaeus was one of the richest men in Jericho who made it. Joseph of Arimathea was a rich man.
What is the one thing that is stopping us today from loving God and focussing on God? What is the dream we have today for the city? When we got baptized our dream was to help one person to make it to heaven.
We live in a city that does not care. We are the only ones who can keep God's dream alive in this city. This city is in need of Jesus not politicians. Let's have the same dream as God has for this city. Let one more person come to repentance and change their lives. It's dreaming about God and for God that keeps us alive today. Let's be clean for God today. And let's be rich for God today so that we can have riches in heaven one day. Let's keep the dream alive in our city.