Rev Dr Edgar Mayer – Living Grace Lutheran Church, Toowoomba – Date: 16 March 2014

For more sermons and other writings, please check the following homepage: www.livinggracetoowoomba.org

 

Whatever You Wish

 

How many times does Jesus have to make a promise before we believe him? It depends on the promise. What about this one – repeated four times on one day? He said:

 

Slide 1

 

John 14:11-14: Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. Very truly I tell you [in other words: I am fair dinkum here], whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

 

John 15:7-8: If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

 

Slide 2

 

John 15:16: You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.

 

John 16:23-24: In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you [I am fair dinkum here], my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, that your joy may be complete.

 

Do you believe Jesus?Ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” Even last week, someone shared with me their disappointment that they have prayed for something – they have wished for something – (for a very long time [ten years]) – (the healing of their dad) – but to no avail. The wish is unfulfilled and we all have our share of unfulfilled wishes. We pray about them and ask Jesus about them but the Father has not given us what we desire – not yet. Therefore – many a time – we withdraw – we pray less, we love him less, we believe less, we dream less. We protect ourselves from getting hurt by pulling back.

However – this morning – can we stop doing this and listen again to Jesus’ words? He spoke the truth.

[Before I go any further, what would you wish for?] Right now – if Jesus’ promise was true after all, what would you wish for and pray for? The smart move would be to copy Solomon in the Bible. [At one time, he sacrificed one thousand animals to God until] God granted him a wish. [God said: “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”] And Solomon chose wisdom and discernment to govern God’s people with justice – a wish that came from a serving heart – which pleased God so much that he added wealth and honour on top of wisdom – unequalled among the kings in Solomon’s life-time.

 

1 Kings 3:4-15: The king went to Gibeon to offer sacrifices, for that was the most important high place, and Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”

Solomon answered, “You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day.

Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”

The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honour—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. And if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.” Then Solomon awoke—and he realized it had been a dream.

He returned to Jerusalem, stood before the ark of the Lord’s covenant and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. Then he gave a feast for all his court.

 

Therefore, it would be wise to copy Solomon and ask for wisdom but what else would you want? There are some that always suspect that God grants the wishes that we don’t want. God seems to be like old-fashioned medicine –good for you but bitter in taste – (like cod liver oil). [Cod liver oil is one of the best natural sources of vitamins A and D. Soon every mother was admonished to give her children a daily dose of the oil—a practice that began in the 1920s and continued well into the 1950s. Yet the problem with cod liver oil remained its vile, nauseating, oily quality and taste.] For instance, will he make you a pioneer missionary in Africa when you hate the sun, can’t fix anything, are hopeless with languages and don’t want to travel?

 

Slide 3

 

This is not likely because the Bible says: “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4) and in the Bible passages, which I read before, Jesus said: “My Father will give you whatever you ask in my name, that your joy may be complete.Our joy is on God’s agenda. Hence, ask whatever you want according to the desires of your heart – according to your deepest passions – (Jesus encouraged us to aim high because he promised that we would do greater things than him) – and God gives them to you (also) for this reason: to make you happy – completely and utterly joyful. God loves you and likes to show you his love.

You may not be convinced yet but what is it that you would want from God? I look at Liam – 90 kilos of bulk and muscle at 12 years of age – and I dream about him becoming a rugby star. On Friday, I already made him promise me tickets to the Bronco games – maybe a corporate box for Living Grace. Carl is going to build the best houses. Stephen is going to design the new landmark structures of Toowoomba and Queensland. Kirsty and Dan are going to compose songs and melodies that have never been heard before – maybe a new style of music. And don’t you like dreaming about our children? They will change the world. Not everyone may run the country but everyone will impact those around them.

Am I too deep in fantasy land? Maybe – if we are just joking around – making careless and flippant suggestions – it’s not going to go anywhere but it is different when it comes to the desires of your heart – what you really want – because God takes our dreams seriously – many a time, before we even know him.

For instance, Moses in the Bible was born to slaves in Egypt but Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him and raised him a royal prince in the palace. When Moses grew up (ignorant of God at the time), he did not forget his origins and dreamt about helping the slaves – his own people – (the people of Israel):

 

Exodus 2:11-14: One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labour. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. Looking this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. The next day he went out and saw two Hebrews fighting. He asked the one in the wrong, “Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?”

The man said, “Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid and thought, “What I did must have become known.”

 

Moses rescued a slave from a beating by killing the Egyptian overlord and, the next day, he tried to mediate a conflict between two Hebrew men. From childhood, Moses had nursed dreams of being their rescuer, ruler and judge.

He was not immediately welcome but God paid attention to his dreams (which pointed to his God-given destiny) and – as he usually does – (when the time came) God made them bigger – much bigger – so that they ended up scaring Moses:

 

 

Slide 4

 

Exodus 3:7-22: The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt … So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

And God said, “I will be with you … Go, assemble the elders of Israel and say to them, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—appeared to me and said: I have watched over you and have seen what has been done to you in Egypt. And I have promised to bring you up out of your misery in Egypt into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—a land flowing with milk and honey.’

But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless a mighty hand compels him. So I will stretch out my hand and strike the Egyptians with all the wonders that I will perform among them. After that, he will let you go …

 

Exodus 4:13-21: But Moses said, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.” Then the Lord’s anger burned against Moses …

The Lord said to Moses, “When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go. Then say to Pharaoh, ‘This is what the Lord says: Israel is my firstborn son, and I told you, “Let my son go, so he may worship me.” But you refused to let him go; so I will kill your firstborn son.’”

 

All of Moses’ dreams would come trueand more: Freedom for the slaves, a new land flowing with milk and honey, death to the oppressors (the first-born sons) and him being the messenger from God – their ruler and judge.

God works with our dreams and makes them bigger and what happened to Moses, happened to many other people in the Bible. You can expect that it will also happen to you:

 

Slide 5

 

The Apostle Paul

 

Even before his conversion, the apostle Paul sought to surpass his compatriots in zealous passion for the Scriptures and obedience for God. In addition, he had a keen interest in what happened among the Gentiles even travelling in his righteous zeal – Philippians 3:4-7: If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.

 

After his conversion, God granted Paul to surpass his compatriots in zealous passion for the Scriptures (now proving Christ from them) and obedience and made him unique as the apostle to the Gentiles – Galatians 1:11-16: I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.

For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles …

 

Paul had the standing to publicly challenge Peter whom Jesus called the rock of the church – Galatians 3:6-13: As for those who were held in high esteem—whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not show favouritism—they added nothing to my message. On the contrary, they recognized that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised. For God, who was at work in Peter as an apostle to the circumcised, was also at work in me as an apostle to the Gentiles. James, Cephas and John, those esteemed as pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised. All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.

When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.

 

Paul worked harder and suffered more than all other Christian leaders – 2 Corinthians 11:21-29: … Whatever anyone else dares to boast about—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast about. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham’s descendants? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again …

 

 

 

Slide 6

 

Joseph

 

As a young man, Joseph dreamt about his family bowing down before him and, in time, God fulfilled the dream by making Joseph the most powerful man in Egypt after Pharaoh. His family depended on his good will for survival in severe drought conditions – Genesis 37:2-11: Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives, and he brought their father a bad report about them.

Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made an ornate robe for him. When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.

Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. He said to them, “Listen to this dream I had: We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.”

His brothers said to him, “Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?” And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said.

Then he had another dream, and he told it to his brothers. “Listen,” he said, “I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.”

When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, “What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?” His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.

 

Genesis 45:3-11: Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still living?” But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence.

Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no ploughing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance … God has made me lord of all Egypt …”

 

 

 

Slide 7

 

The Apostles

 

Each one of Jesus’ disciples – future apostles – wanted to be the greatest leader and Jesus surpassed their wildest dreams when he reserved for them twelve thrones for judging Israel and inscribed their names on the foundation stones of heavenly Jerusalem – Luke 9:46: An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. / Luke 22:24: A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. / Matthew 20:20-24: Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favour of him. “What is it you want?” he asked. She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.” “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” “We can,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.” When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers.

Luke 22:28-30: … And just as my Father has granted me a Kingdom, I now grant you the right to eat and drink at my table in my Kingdom. And you will sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. / Revelation 21:14: The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

 

 

 

Slide 8

 

Zechariah, the priest

 

Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth wished for a child and God exceeded their expectations when he gave them a son who would not only bring joy to them but many – Luke 1:13-17: But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your [barren] wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” [Cf. 1 Samuel 1:10-28.]

 

 

What about it now? Are you convinced? Is Jesus right, saying: “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it”?

 

Slide 9

 

He is but it is probably prudent to point out that Jesus attached conditions to his promise. He said:

 

John 14:11-14: I will do whatever you ask in my name …

 

John 15:7-8: If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you …

 

The prerequisite for having our wishes come true is obedience – radical obedience – to Jesus. The image is the one of the vine and the branches. Jesus is the vine and we are the branches who can do absolutely nothing by ourselves and independent from the vine:

 

John 15:5-8: I am the vine; you are the branches … apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers … If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you …

 

Quite clearly, it is whatever we ask in a state of obedience – in Jesus’ name – that will be fulfilled. Are we obedient? Are we connected so much to Jesus that all of the vine’s life passes through to us into the branches? The answer isnobecause our submission to Jesus is a work in progress. The Bible calls the behaviour of disconnecting from Jesus – giving in to separation from our master through selfish pride and ambition – quenching and grieving the Spirit of God:

 

1 Thessalonians 5:19: Do not quench the Spirit.

 

Ephesians 4:30-32: And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

 

A branch has no life of its own. It is all about the vine. It is all about Jesus. And that’s the journey for us: growing in holiness which is growing in our connection to the vine (absolute dedication in faith, obedience, prayer and fasting and giving).

This may sound a little heavy but it is less performance oriented than we think:

 

A young Southern-Baptist missionary – not yet out of language school – attended a worship service in the jungle of Mexico. There were about 400 Indians standing around and – in his own words – the Holy Ghost was everywhere in the meeting. They brought a little girl to him who was four years old. They set her down. He didn’t know what was wrong with her. She couldn’t hear. The problem was that she was born deaf. So he knelt down there. He had watched the power of God fall in the place and knock everyone down. He had watched people wailing and moaning. Jesus came and he was amazed at what was going on. Benches and benches full of people were falling and wailing and moaning. He had never seen it before. He – in his own words again – was just a little Baptist guy. But it didn’t matter to him. He didn’t value manifestations. He valued Jesus. He wanted Jesus.

So, he was holding onto this little girl. He was down on the floor. He had seen other things already get healed in the meeting and he was impressed with Jesus and his heart was almost ready to burst with joy and faith. He just knew it was going to happen. And he knew that he was going to run off that mountain like a madman, screaming and yelling and glorifying the King. And he prayed and prayed and prayed and prayed and the healing did not happen. That impressed him. There was that much of Jesus, and what he could see and what he could feel, and the little bits of knowledge that he did have in him, and it bothered him and irritated him that she was not healed.

He was weeping. He was complaining. He was screaming. He was commanding. He was jumping. He was very frustrated and she stayed deaf. All right. He was humiliated now. All of the great wonders of God were going on all around him and this baby that he wanted to be healed so much, she was still deaf. He didn’t like that. Something had to change.

And now I quote from his account. He said: “… So as I was on my knees weeping and holding this child, I called out to Heaven, ‘Please, would you help me? Just a little bit?’ And He did, there was a vision. I haven’t had a lot of them, just a few, probably 4, maybe 5 open visions where it is like a movie and I was there. What happened was, there was this awesome pasture, and it was beautiful, lush, and green and full of nutrients. The right things were there. And there was a huge beast, a big bull that was very strong, that represented me. He was snorting, and ripping the ground, and eating the right nutrients, and the power was definitely there. And the bull was tearing up the field with its horns. And then, suddenly in the middle of this huge beautiful pasture, there was a little present placed there by the Holy Ghost. And this huge, power bull walks up to that present, and with all of his power and might and all of his great ability, he could not open that present. In the next moment, there was a baby, 10 or 11 months old, maybe 15 months old at the most, sitting in front of that present and was very happily and easily opening the present. The big bull was tearing the ground up, was very powerful, was eating the great nutrients, but it was the baby that opened the box, not the big bull.

And I said to Jesus, ‘Either make me that baby or I’m not going to preach.’ And He said, “You must become like a little child to enter the Kingdom of God.’ It’s not the manifestations; it’s not the great power you possess; it’s not your great abilities, it’s becoming like a little child and using the gifts of heaven in your life. That’s the answer. That’s it! And so I’ve been working on that ever since” (David Hogan: Faith to Raise the Dead).

 

Obedience has to with identity, not just performance. The young missionary was ready to perform like a big strong bull – snorting with the intent of doing all the right things – but the secret of being a good branch is knowing the vine and knowing that I belong and can count on the favour that is coming from Jesus, the vine. [Expand on the love and power flowing from the cross.] Let go of yourself and simply be a branch that is like a little child depending on his parent.

When it comes to our deepest held desires and wants, there is much of the strong snorting bull in all of us. We strut the stage – tear up the field with our horns – try to get there in our own strength – and that’s when Jesus gets to work. He honours and remembers your dream but kills it before resurrecting the same dream in a purified fashion and much bigger than originally planned so that everyone can recognize God in them. This is the story of all the people in the Bible:

 

Slide 10

 

Moses

 

In the prime of his manhood, Moses took matters in his own hands – killing an Egyptian – which (immediately) cut short all of his ambitions. He was forced to flee – run for his life – and ended up herding sheep in the desert for forty years which was a humbling fall from grace for this proud prince of Egypt. The desert made him humble with the outcome that “Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3).

Finally, Moses was ready and God resurrected the dream that Moses had long given up. God would use him to rescue his people. He would lead them. Everything would be so much bigger than he would have ever thought possible.

 

 

 

Slide 11

 

Joseph

 

As a young man, Joseph had dreamt that his whole family was bowing down before him. However, his dreams were shattered when his brothers sold him as a slave to Egypt and told his dad that he was killed by a wild animal. In Egypt, he was wrongly accused and imprisoned – rotting in jail – for a long time. Once he had hope of being released but remained forgotten.

Finally, God promoted him from prisoner to the man in charge in Egypt, second only to Pharaoh. Finally – after all these years of prison and loneliness – he was ready according to God’s intentions and forgave and loved and served his family when they bowed down before him.

 

 

 

Slide 12

 

Paul

 

As an unbeliever and activist, Paul was extremely zealous for God but God showed him the shame of his folly and kept tempering his ambitions with suffering:

Philippians 3:4-9 [The Message]: You know my pedigree: … a fiery defender of the purity of my religion, even to the point of persecuting the church; a meticulous observer of everything set down in God’s law Book. The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ … everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God’s righteousness.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10: … Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

 

 

 

Slide 13

 

Zechariah

 

God only granted him the wish for a son in old age. When he had given up and surrendered his dreams, he was ready to let God give him a child according to his design.

 

 

 

Slide 14

 

The Apostles

 

When all the disciples ran away from Jesus – even denied him – at the peak of their self-confidence, all their dreams were shattered. Then, Jesus restored the humbled disciples and released them into a life-style of greatness through servanthood – Luke 22:25-27: “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.

 

 

 

Modern People

 

Yonggi Cho dreamt about building the biggest church but first went broke with an unfinished building. / Bill John dreamt about revival but spent years struggling with depression in Weaverville because he had the theory without the practical reality.

 

Dreams die before they get resurrected again. This is not always easy but there is also a beautiful secret that surprises those that are becoming obedient branches and it informs their desires and shapes their petitions. Jesus promotes them:

 

John 15:14-16: You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.

 

Slide 15

 

In the beginning, obedience may be hard – the attractions of this world seem so alluring – but the longer we set our hearts on Jesus, the more we are becoming his friends who begin to understand his way of thinking: “Servants do not know the master’s business but you are friends for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.Blind obedience can be hard but not informed obedience that shares in the awesome designs of God’s plans and purposes. When God shares his dreams with you, will you not get excited and will his dreams not rub off on you – modify and purify your own?

 

Charles Finney: It certainly is the privilege of every child of God to walk so closely with Him, and maintain so divine a communion with Him, as not to feel the necessity of worldly excitements, sports, pastimes, and entertainments to make his enjoyment satisfactory. If a Christian avails himself of his privilege of communion with God, he will naturally and by an instinct of his new nature repel solicitations to go after worldly amusements. To him such pastimes will appear low, unsatisfactory, and even repulsive. If he is of a heavenly mind, as he ought to be, he will feel as if he could not afford to come down and seek enjoyment in worldly amusements. Surely, a Christian must be fallen from his first love, he must have turned back into the world, before he can feel the necessity or have the desire of seeking enjoyment in worldly sports and pastimes. A spiritual mind cannot seek enjoyment in worldly society. To such a mind that society is necessarily repulsive. Worldly society is insincere, hollow, and to a great extent a sham. What relish can a spiritual mind have for the gossip of a worldly party of pleasure? None whatever.

To a mind in communion with God their worldly spirit and ways, conversation and folly is repulsive and painful, as it is so strongly suggestive of the downward tendency of their souls, and of the destiny that awaits them. I have had so marked an experience of both sides of this question that I think I cannot be mistaken. Probably but few persons enjoy worldly pleasure more intensely than I did before I was converted; but my conversion, and the spiritual baptism which immediately followed it, completely extinguished all desire for worldly sports and amusements. I was lifted at once into entirely another plane of life and another kind of enjoyment. From that hour to the present the mode of life, the pastimes, sports, amusements, and worldly ways that so much delighted me before have not only failed to interest me, but I have had a positive aversion to them. I have never felt them necessary to, or even compatible with, a truly rational enjoyment. I do not speak boastingly; but for the honour of Christ and His religion, I must say that my Christian life has been a happy one. I have had as much enjoyment as is probably best for men to have in this life, and never for an hour have I had the desire to turn back and seek enjoyment from anything the world can give. But some may ask: “Suppose we do not find sufficient enjoyment in religion, and really desire to go after worldly amusements. If we have the disposition, is it not as well to gratify it?” “Is there any more sin in seeking amusements than in entertaining a longing for them?” I reply that a longing for them should never be entertained. It is the privilege and therefore the duty of everyone to rise, through grace, above a hungering and thirsting for the fleshpots of Egypt, worldly pastimes and time-wasting amusements. The indulgence of such longings is not innocent. One should not ask whether the longing should be gratified, but whether it should not be displaced by a longing for the glory of God and His kingdom …

Now, is this rule a yoke of bondage? I do not wonder that it has created in some minds not a little disturbance. The pleasure loving and pleasure seeking members of the Church regard the rule as impracticable, as a strait jacket, as a bondage. But to whom is it a straitjacket and a bondage? To whom is it impracticable? Surely it is not and cannot be to any who love God with all their heart and their neighbour as themselves. It certainly cannot be so regarded by a real Christian, for all real Christians love God supremely. Their own interests and their own pleasure are regarded as nothing as compared with the interests and good pleasure of God. They, therefore, cannot seek amusements unless they believe themselves called of God to do so. By a law of our nature we seek to please those whom we supremely love. Also, by a law of our nature, we find our highest happiness in pleasing those whom we supremely love; and we supremely please ourselves when we seek not at all to please ourselves, but to please the object of our supreme affection. Therefore, Christians find their highest enjoyment and their truest pleasure in pleasing God and in seeking the good of their fellow-men; and they enjoy this service all the more because enjoyment is not what they seek, but what they inevitably experience by a law of their nature.

This is a fact of Christian consciousness. The highest and purest of all amusements is found in doing the will of God. Mere worldly amusements are cold and insipid and not worthy of naming in comparison with the enjoyment we find in doing the will of God. To one who loves God supremely it is natural to seek amusements, and everything else that we do seek, with supreme reference to the glory of God. Why, then, should this rule be regarded as too strict, as placing the standard too high, and as being a strait jacket and a bondage? How, then, are we to understand those who plead so much for worldly amusements?

From what I have heard and read upon this subject within the last few years, I have gathered that these pleaders for amusements have thought that there was more enjoyment to be gained from these amusements than from the service of God. They remind me of a sentence that I used to have as a copy when a school-boy: "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." They seem to assume that the service of God is work in the sense of being a task and a burden; that to labour and pray and preach to win souls to Christ, to commune with God and perform the duties of religion is so wearisome, not to say irksome, that we need a good many playdays; that the love of Christ is not satisfactory; that we must have frequent resort to worldly amusements to make life tolerable. Christ on one occasion said to His disciples: "Come aside and rest awhile." This is not wonderful when we consider that they were often so thronged as not to have time even to eat their ordinary meals. But it was not amusement that they sought; simply rest from their labors of love, in which labors they must have had the greatest enjoyment.

 

In the Bible, Moses was clearly identified as the friend of God who was trusted with insight knowledge of God’s heart intentions:

 

Exodus 33:11: The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend …

 

Numbers 12:6-8: When there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, reveal myself to them in visions, I speak to them in dreams. But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house. With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?

 

Moses understood God and was consumed by God so that he burned in anger against his own people when they committed adultery – worshipped a self-made golden calf rather than the God who rescued them from Egypt. He understood that God was doing much more than rescue a people from slavery. He made them his own – a treasured possession – and planned to be with them and give them a holy land that was flowing with milk and honey.

Nothing is impossible for a person that is consumed by Godthat knows him as a friendthat understands his heart. Moses had come to a place where nothing would do but the honour and glory of Godwhere he refused personal promotion for the sake the nation:

 

Exodus 32:9-13: “I have seen these people,” the Lord said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people. Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.”

But Moses sought the favour of the Lord his God. “Lord,” he said, “why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.’”

 

Exodus 32:31-32: So Moses went back to the Lord and said, “Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves gods of gold. But now, please forgive their sin—but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.”

 

And did this not have an outcome? God denied him nothing:

 

Slide 16

 

Exodus 32:14: Then the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.

 

Exodus 33:12-17: Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favour with me.’ If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favour with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”

The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”

And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”

 

Exodus 33:18-19: Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.” And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence

 

Jesus is the vine and we are the branches which positions us as friends of Jesus to hear the same words that Moses heard from God: “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.” Jesus made the same promise four times on one day:

 

John 14:11-14: Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. Very truly I tell you [in other words: I am fair dinkum here], whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

 

John 15:7-8: If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

 

John 15:16: You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.

 

John 16:23-24: In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you [I am fair dinkum here], my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, that your joy may be complete.

 

This is not selfish religion. On the contrary, the fulfillment of our wishes – in their purified form – is for God. When God answers our prayers, we are pretty happy but so is he. Jesus said: “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” “Ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

 

Slide 17

 

This morning, start dreaming again. The world is in need of so much and Jesus invites you to ask whatever you wish in his name. I close with one example: Can the Jesus Tent be full at Easterfest? Can there be demonstrations of the Spirit’s power that will demand a response? “Jesus, we are asking.” Amen.