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Promoting the Priority of God

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Promoting the Priority of God

(Promotion Sunday Message)

Luke 2:40-52       September 5, 2004

 

Scripture Reading:

“but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us. Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you. You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.” (1Th 2:7-12 NivUS)

Introduction:

Once a year in the fall we have Promotion Sunday to begin our new Sunday School classes, celebrate the advancement that our children have made, and honor the teachers who lead them in this great calling.

Like the message we heard last Sunday about the place of the local church in our lives (God first, family second, job third – with the local church covering it all and tying it together), this message will bring to our attention how we can promote the priority of God in our children’s lives.

Our text for this morning is found in Luke 2:40-52 about the boy, Jesus, in the temple.

There are a number of principles we can learn from this text about our subject on the priority of God this Promotion Sunday morning – but first a story about priorities to whet your appetite.

ONLY A MAN, Author Unknown

At first glance, she looked like any other old woman. Plodding along in the cold rain, alone, neglected, head bowed. People passing on the busy city sidewalk averted their eyes, lest she remind them of pain and suffering.

A young couple, smiling, talking, laughing, arms loaded with expensive purchases, took no notice of the old woman. A mother with two small children hurried by on her way to visit relatives. They took no notice. A minister walked by proudly carrying his Bible in his right hand, like a well armed Christian soldier. But his mind was stayed on heavenly things, and he took no notice.

If these people had noticed, they would have seen that the old woman wore no shoes. She walked barefoot in the cold rain. With both hands, the old woman gathered her worn button-less overcoat at the collar to keep out the wind. She stopped and stood bent and bowed at the bus stop. A red and blue scarf covering her head, she waited for the downtown bus.

A gentleman carrying an important looking briefcase waited near her, not too closely. After all, she could have something contagious. A teen-age girl also waited for the bus. She glanced repeatedly at the old woman's feet, but said nothing.

The bus arrived and the old woman slowly, painfully boarded. She sat on the side-ways seat just behind the driver. The gentleman and the teen-age girl hurried to the rear. The man sharing the seat with the old woman shuffled uneasily and twirled his thumbs. "Senile!" he thought.

The bus driver saw her bare feet and thought; "This neighborhood is sinking deeper and deeper into poverty. I hate to see it. I'll be glad when they put me on the College Park route."

A little boy pointed at the old woman. "Look, Mother, that old lady is barefoot."

The embarrassed mother slapped his hand down. "Don't point at people, Andrew. It's not polite to point." She looked out the window.

"She must have grown children," a lady in a designer raincoat suggested. "Her children should be ashamed of themselves." She felt morally superior, because she took good care of her mother.

A teacher seated near the middle of the bus steadied the bag of groceries on her lap. "Don't we pay enough taxes to handle situations like this?" she said to a friend seated beside her.

"It's this tax-cut crazy Republican administration, her friend replied. They rob the poor and give to the rich."

"No, it’s the Democrats! ," a gray-haired man behind them interjected. "These Democrat welfare programs just make people lazy and keep them in poverty."

"People have to learn to save their money," a well-dressed young college man added. "If that old woman had saved when she was young, she wouldn't be suffering now. It's her own fault."

And all these people beamed with satisfaction that their acumen had delivered such trenchant analysis.

But, a kind businessman felt offended by this murmuring detachment of his fellow citizens. He reached into his wallet and took out a crisp twenty-dollar bill. He strode proudly down the isle and pressed the bill into the old woman's unsteady, wrinkled hand. "Here, Ma’am, get yourself some shoes."

The old woman nodded her head in thanks. The businessman strode back to his seat, feeling pleased with himself, that he was a man of action.

A well-dressed Christian lady had noticed all of this. She began to pray silently. "Lord, I don't have money. There is no way I can help. But Lord, I can turn to you in every need. Lord, I know that you are a loving God. You make a way out of no way. Now Lord, let your blessing shine on this old woman. Let shoes fall like manna from heaven, so that this old woman can have shoes in this cold, wet rain." And the Christian lady felt supremely spiritual.

At the next stop, a young man boarded the bus wearing a ball cap and nice blue windbreaker. A wire running under his cap and into his ear was connected to a Walkman. The young man jiggled his body in time to music only he heard. He paid his fare and plopped down on the sideways seat directly across from the old woman.

As the young man's glance caught the old woman's bare feet, his jiggling stopped. He froze. His eyes went from her feet to his. He wore his expensive, new, brand name sneakers. For months, he had saved from his minimum wage pay to buy these sneakers. Everybody in the gang would think he was "so cool." The young man bent down and began to untie his sneakers. He removed his impressive new sneakers. He removed his socks. He knelt down before the old woman.

"Mother," he said, "I see you have no shoes. Well, I have shoes."

Carefully, gently, he lifted the old woman's crusty feet in his hands. He placed his socks and his fine sneakers on the old woman's feet. The old woman nodded in thanks.

Just then, the bus arrived at the next stop. The young man left the bus and walked away, barefoot in the cold. The passengers crowded at the windows to watch him as he plodded barefoot through the rain.

"Who is he?" one asked.

"He must be a prophet," said another.

"He must be a saint," someone suggested.

"He must be an angel," said yet another.

"Look! There's a halo around his head," somebody shouted!

"He must be the Son of God," said the Christian lady.

But the little boy who had pointed, said, "No Mother, I saw him clearly....he was only a guy who acted like God."

Big Question:

How can we promote the priority of God in our children’s lives?

I.       Cycle One

          A.      Narrative (v. 40)

          B.      Implication

How can we promote the priority of God in our children’s lives?

We must realize that real growth and strength in our children is in the wisdom and knowledge of God.

          C.      Illustration

The Olympics ---

1Co 9:25  Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.

Eph 6:4  Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

1Ti 4:8  For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.

2Ti 3:16  All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,

          D.      Application

The life of Jesus himself gives us the example here because even Jesus had to grow spiritually.

Now, I’m sure that nothing other than this could have taken place in Jesus’ life, since he was the Son of God, but the fact remains that he had to grow.

Your children, like Jesus, must also grow spiritually, and the programs we provide here at church are designed to help them do just that (list them).

II.      Cycle Two

          A.      Narrative (vv. 41-42)

          B.      Implication

How can we promote the priority of God in our children’s lives?

We must provide consistent and proper example ourselves.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

For 12 years, Jesus’ parents had taken him to the Feast of the Passover.

For 12 years, Jesus’ parents had provided the right emphasis and example.

They lived and taught consistent example.

We must not just tell our children to go to church, we must take them and go ourselves.

III.    Cycle Three

          A.      Narrative (v. 43)

          B.      Implication

How can we promote the priority of God in our children’s lives?

We must come to accept and expect individualized ownership of the truth we have entrusted to our children.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

Our children will do things differently than we do in many cases.

We must allow them to individualize who Christ is to them and how they will follow him.

Perhaps they will improve upon the church, or get some new vision of how faith and godliness is carried out in this complex world complicated by increasing inventions of ungodliness.

It is God’s plan for each new generation to apply his unchanging truth to changing circumstances.

And we must allow this in our own families and in our own congregation as we make a place for who God has made our children to be and the way he speaks to them.

If we don’t do this, we lose. We lose a generation and we lose opportunity. The church becomes in danger of dying because it won’t change.

We must maintain a certain order of consistency for orderly transition, but that consistency must not become a rut.

We must embrace emerging leadership and emerging worship styles.

Opportunities are before us.

All parents and children struggle with the “coming of age” issue.

Jesus was coming of age at the age of 12 mentioned here (bar mitzvah).

He knew he must secure his place in the assembly of the righteous.

He knew his calling and his priority.

All this he had received from his parents he now sought to act upon.

Jesus had to grow into and exercise his own truth.

We must allow our children to grow into and exercise his truth.

Sometimes it is hard for us to allow them this freedom – but it is for freedom that Christ has set them free.

IV.    Cycle Four

 

          A.      Narrative (vv. 44-46)

          B.      Implication

How can we promote the priority of God in our children’s lives?

We must maintain an overriding concern for follow-up as our children grow in the Lord.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

Jesus’ parents trusted him and so they weren’t too concerned that they didn’t see him yet for the first day out on their journey home.

But being concerned parents, they soon began to wonder and to search. This wasn’t like him.

Had he been harmed, held hostage, fallen sick, gotten lost, been deceived in some way?

Although we must allow our growing children a certain measure of freedom, we must also follow up to see that things are going in a right way.

Parents are responsible for this. It is why God created this social order of families.

We see it even in gorilla social culture. The Brookfield Zoo was featured in the paper this week about a birth of a new baby and the picture in the paper showed the grandmother looking on over the shoulder of the mother to see that she was nursing the baby right.

Children need continuing, but diminishing, direction for most of their lives.

Statistics tell us that increasing numbers of children remain in their parents’ homes now until the mid to late twenties. Some children never leave.

When I was eighteen I fully expected to be making my own life and getting married and soon having children to care for in my own household when I was in my early twenties.

I also found out that the older I got, the smarter my parents got.

The accumulated knowledge of generations must be passed on, and emerging generations ere if they don’t consider it.

Our country seems to be losing this ground in recent years.

The Protestant Church seems to be getting more and more permissive and liberal. They have gone too far in not keeping oversight. There must be a balance.

We commit in baby dedications to nurture the child as the whole congregation.

That means we come and help: observe, visit, teach, drive, counsel, fellowship, worship together.

These are all evidence of the living edge of the church.

Jesus parents searched for three days to find him. They were not to be deterred. This was one day out, one day back, and one day looking for him in Jerusalem.

They didn’t give up and neither should we. As we persist, we, like Jesus’ parents, might be pleased at what we find.

We might just find in some way or another that our children are sitting at the feet of Jesus and learning from him the same way he was sitting at the feet of the teachers in the synagogue learning from them – or was he teaching them?

We might be surprised at what we ourselves might learn as we follow up on our children’s Christian growth.

V.      Cycle Five

          A.      Narrative (vv. 47-48)

          B.      Implication

How can we promote the priority of God in our children’s lives?

We must celebrate the success we find in our children’s growth in godliness.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

This is what we are doing today as parents, teachers, and the entire congregation.

The things of God you children are growing to understand are indeed amazing.

Now, I’m sure you wonder if you will ever have the understanding of Jesus himself.

But you are on your way and he has promised that it will be yours for you will be ‘like him’ and you will ‘see him’.

“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” (1Jo 3:2 NivUS)

“In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him.” (1Jo 4:17 NivUS)

 “Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen.” (Re 1:7 NivUS)

As parents and teachers we want nothing more than that you should be on your way to becoming like Christ. Indeed, we want that for ourselves and trust that many of you will surpass us in faith.

I wonder what kind of questions Jesus asked of his teachers at the synagogue?

Whatever they were, they revealed a knowledge of God that only God could know.

I wonder if they knew that he was really their teacher?

They were all rightly amazed at his questions and his answers.

We too, must celebrate the things you come to know that only God can reveal.

“"All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” (Mt 11:27 NivUS)

I’m sure that there are some things that we, as parents and teachers, have and will learn from you.

We need you to keep our perspective:

“At that time Jesus said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.” (Mt 11:25 NivUS)

“And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt 18:3 NivUS)

“Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."” (Mt 19:14 NivUS)

Sometimes we parents and teachers can lose perspective, “Son, why have you treated us like this?”

That’s when you need to be patient with us and help us understand how God is leading you.

VI.    Cycle Six

          A.      Narrative (vv. 49-50)

          B.      Implication

When we promote the priority of God in our children’s lives ---

We can praise God for how our children have grown in confidence, commitment, and devotion to Him.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

Imagine the joy you would feel if you found your lost child in church learning and worshiping God.

Sure we would have some initial consternation, but what better place to find a child than just where God would want them to be – and what you would want for them too.

For you children, is God’s house where you would want to be found?

Try it sometime and blow the socks off your parents’ feet, but you can do that and still let them know where you are going.

VII.   Cycle Seven

          A.      Narrative (v. 51)

          B.      Implication

When we promote the priority of God in our children’s lives ---

We can praise God for how our children have grown in obedience to us.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

Truly obedient children, those that rarely cause confrontational problems with the authority of parents and teachers in their lives, are rare.

Jesus was truly obedient to both his heavenly and his earthly father.

“And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!” (Php 2:8 NivUS)

It is his obedience that would save us from the penalty for our sins.

And just as Mary ‘treasured all these things in her heart’ so must we treasure in our hearts what really amounts to Jesus’ obedience to our overwhelming need for a Savior.

Jesus’ life truly manifested obedience.

“"Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done."” (Lu 22:42 NivUS)

“When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” (Joh 19:30 NivUS)

VIII.  Cycle Eight

 

          A.      Narrative (v. 52)

          B.      Implication

When we promote the priority of God in our children’s lives ---

We can praise God for how our children have grown in spiritual effectiveness in the world in which they live.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

The world is truly hungry for men and women of character.

Our children may be how we ourselves will make a difference in the world.

Big Answer:

How can we promote the priority of God in our children’s lives?

We must realize that real growth and strength in our children is in the wisdom and knowledge of God.

We must provide consistent and proper example ourselves.

We must come to accept and expect individualized ownership of the truth we have entrusted to our children.

We must maintain an overriding concern for follow-up as our children grow in the Lord.

We must celebrate the success we find in our children’s growth in godliness.

When we promote the priority of God in our children’s lives ---

We can praise God for how our children have grown in confidence, commitment, and devotion to Him.

We can praise God for how our children have grown in obedience to us.

We can praise God for how our children have grown in spiritual effectiveness in the world in which they live.

Conclusion:

The family of Jesus is our example this morning.

This text began with parental submission to God;

·        Mary’s earlier submission to be Jesus’ mother.

·        And she and Joseph’s continuing submission to raise Jesus as the child of God he was.

For us, the intended, hoped for, and oftentimes likely result is that the faith of our children may even surpass our own.

Let us not limit the promotion of our children by failing to promote Christ to the fullest extent in and through our own lives.

Timeless Truth:

When Jesus Looks

When Jesus looks upon my life,
What picture does He see.
Does He see His own reflection,
Or does He just see me.

Does He see His likeness,
The product of His hand.
Or just another Christian,
Who never took a stand.

Does He see a child of God,
A child that He set free.
Living life to honor Him,
Or does He just see me.

What about the other folks,
I meet along the way.
Do I show them Jesus,
To brighten up their day.

When someone looks into my eyes,
Can they truly see.
That calm and gentle peace of God,
That dwells inside of me.

When I reach out and shake a hand,
Is He right there in my grip.
Can they feel that strength from God,
That steadies when I slip.

When folks are in my presence,
Do they know His Spirit's there.
Can they see that He's the one,
Who guides me everywhere.

When other people think of me,
What is on their mind.
Do they think of Jesus Christ,
So gentle and so kind.

I try to be like Jesus,
Every single day.
Spreading love and kindness,
All along my way.

I'm afraid that I have failed,
I could not pass the test.
Deep inside my heart I know,
I haven't done my best.

I have had to fight my flesh,
Since the day that I was born.
It's always causing trouble,
And being such a thorn.

That's why His Spirit dwells in me,
He's helping me to learn.
In every situation,
Where I need to turn.

He knew I'd never pass the test,
That's why He took my place.
He gave His life to save my soul,
He suffered my disgrace.

Now I try to be like Him,
I must present Him well.
So other folks will want His gift,
And turn their backs on hell.

Other folks should see the joy,
That Christ has given me.
They should want to have it too,
Especially since it's free.

They should begin to ask me,
What is it they must do.
Just how it is they go about,
Getting Jesus too.

Then I get to tell them,
This wondrous gift is free.
It only takes a humble heart,
A prayer on bended knee.

Someday when I'm face to face,
With the Lord who set me free.
Will He see His own reflection,
Or will He just see me.


By Chick Velasco

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