Life’s Simple Seven! What enables growth? Add Love!
Have you ever heard of the movie Snakes on a Plane? Well, this is more of Snakes on a Boat! This has nothing to do with Carnival Cruise Lines. Is there anyone in the room who’s not real fond of snakes? If snakes make you nervous I would suggest you do not visit the tiny island of Guam anytime soon. Guam is an organized, unincorporated territory of the United States in the western Pacific Ocean[i] and it is infested with an estimated 2 million brown tree snakes.[ii]
Daniel Vice, the Assistant State Director of U.S. Department of Agriculture said, "There really is no other place in the world with a snake problem like Guam."[iii] This picture was taken on February 5. Tony Salas is holding a snake that he caught just outside his office at the Anderson Air Force Base. Most of Guam's native bird species are extinct because of the brown tree snake. The snakes are climbing power poles and wires, causing blackouts, slithering into homes and biting people even though their venom is not lethal to humans. The infestation is tarnishing Guam's image as a tourism haven! So what’s a person to do? Admit you have a problem and call for help. In this case a scientist! Scientists are lacing dead mice with painkillers, attaching them to tiny parachutes and dropping them one by one from helicopters so they get caught in the trees where the snakes live. Officials are hoping a majority of the snakes will swallow the mice and die.[iv]
Today is Palm Sunday! We also call it the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. What is Jesus going to triumph over? SIN & DEATH! Who is Jesus going to triumph over? Satan - our enemy. Let’s admit it friends! WE have a problem. We have a sin problem that can’t be resolved on our own. We need to call for help! And only ONE can help – is the Son of the living God!
The triumphal entry of Jesus is found in Matthew 21, Mark 11, Luke 19 and John 12. I just finished reading Matthew this month. Find Matthew 21:10! Do you need a Bible? We will give you a Bible, but you can also utilize your smart phone or iPad by using You Version! The scene in Matthew 21 would have been electric. Jesus is coming into Jerusalem riding on a donkey’s colt. Look at Matthew 21:10! (10&11) The crowds hailed Jesus with compliments. Drop back to verse 9! Have you ever said one thing but meant another? A minister named Tom Ellsworth said, Money can buy you a House, but not a Home / Money can buy you a Bed, but not Sleep / Money can buy you a Clock, but not Time / Money can buy you a Book, but not Knowledge / Money can buy you a Position, but not Respect / Money can buy you Medicine, but not Health / Money can buy you Blood, but not Life! I read that and thought, Tom you are so wise! But then he continued, “So you see money isn't everything. And it often causes pain and suffering. I tell you all this because I am your friend, and as your friend I want to take away your pain and suffering... So send me all your money and I will suffer for you!”[v] I don’t think Tom has my best interests at heart! Neither did the crowd on Palm Sunday! They are fans not followers. Their CHEERS on Sunday become jeers, taunts and ridicule on Friday! I want to use verse 10 to direct our time today! When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, "Who is this?"
That’s a question worth answering! Just who is Jesus? I mean no disrespect to Matthew, but Peter knows! Go from Matthew 21 to 2 Peter 1:5. Today we conclude Life’s Simple Seven. We’ll grow spiritually if we add to our faith! Read 2 Peter 1:5-7! Paul’s list in Galatians 5 begins with love. Peter’s list ends with love. I think Peter did what Paul said in Colossians 3:14: And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Walking with God starts with faith and grows when we radically love the people around us! The word Peter uses for love is agape. Agape is a God like love. Agape is “self-sacrificial action on behalf of another.”[vi] Did you read about the father in Japan who froze to death trying to protect his daughter? Just a few weeks ago Mikio Okada died as he tried to protect his only child, Natsune, against winds up to 67 mph and temperatures that plunged as low as 21 degrees. Mr. Okada called his relatives to say that they were stranded and that they would try to make it out on foot. Both were found less than 2 tenths of a mile from his truck. The father gave his daughter his coat and was found hunched over her cradling her body into his arms. The young girl was taken to a nearby hospital and suffered no apparent injuries.[vii] What one word describes what that man did? LOVE – Agape! But here’s what makes agape unique. Jesus did that for people who hated him. It’s one thing to give your life for your child, but what about giving your life for someone who might hurt your child? Let me ask the same pivotal question again - Who is this? Who is this person called Jesus? Peter’s answer – Jesus is agape - the most sacrificially loving person who ever walked the planet! Of the seven virtues Peter says to add to our faith the last two are /“supremely the characteristics of Jesus!”[viii] /
Great Greg, but why should that matter to me? Hmm! How many of you have heard of Taylor Swift? You might be living under a rock if you haven’t heard of Taylor Swift. She has a bazillion songs and videos – one is called I knew you were trouble. Someone added a twist to her video. See if you can pick it out? (Trouble – Goats Edition)
Singing goats are always funny! Taylor Swift sings, I knew you were trouble when you walked in. Peter says to the false teachers, I knew you were trouble the moment you opened your mouths! These false teachers are making Jesus out to be less than he is! Have we? We have if we think we’re going to overcome sin! If we’re going to beat death! My friend Scot Schreiber let me borrow his t-shirt which says, “Statistics show that 5 out of 5 people are going to die!” We can’t beat death! So who is Jesus and why should he matter to me? Maybe this verse will help! John 3:16: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
The world “perish” means “to declare that one must be put to death.” It also means “to give over to eternal misery in hell.”
What are your thoughts when it comes to death? Many people think death is nothing more than “cessation of life.” Your body stops functioning and you cease to exist. The late Christopher Hitchens believed that! Before Hitchens died in December 2011 he wrote several books, one called God is not Great! He once said in an interview, “There’s only one game in town as far as serious science is concerned. It’s not that there are two different theories. No serious scientist doubts that we are cousins of gorillas, we are cousins of monkeys, we are cousins of snails, we are cousins of earthworms. We have shared ancestors with all animals and all plants. There is no serious scientist who doubts that evolution is a fact. What’s going to happen when you die? What’s going to happen when I die? I may be buried, or I may be cremated, I may give my body to science. I haven’t decided yet. So it just ends? Of course it just ends. What else could it do? My thoughts, my beliefs, my feelings are all in my brain. My brain is going to rot. So no, there’s no question about that!” Is that what you believe? I DON’T! It’s not what the Bible says. I am currently reading a book called How People Grow by Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend. Look at Romans 5:12. They write, “Paul explains in Romans 5:12 that this separation from God was a state called death. Death was not cessation of life as we normally think of death. Instead death was separation from life!”[ix] That’s what sin and death do – they separate us from those we love. From God and from people! So who is Jesus and why should he matter to you? He triumphed over sin and death so we might not be separated from God or each other! How did he do it? He loved us. He “agaped” us!
Peter tells us that we’ll grow if we add love to our faith! Jesus is the example, but Jesus isn’t in this world anymore which is why John the Apostle said this in 1 John 3:16: This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.
That’s sounds good, but how do we actually pull it off? God acted. He gave us his son! Jesus acted! He gave us his life! So love isn’t love unless it’s accompanied by action! Let me give you a few examples! Becky Sloan – Rahab’s Hideaway – a rescue home for women set free from sex trafficking. $2 per roll! Have you noticed the Easter basket shopping carts? WARM would like us to show love by donating canned pineapple, chicken or chicken & dumplings! Just place the cans inside the baskets! Did you notice the quarter on your chair today? Would you take that quarter and tape it to the top of a jar of peanut butter that you purchased and then bring the jar & quarter back so we can give them to hungry Haitians living in and around Grand Goave, Haiti! Lifeline Christian Mission will make sure the peanut butter gets shipped and distributed! Personally, I think those are easy! However, these are not. Loving involves forgiving. Loving involves giving – namely your time. Loving requires patience.
Did you hear about the teacher who was helping one of her kindergarten students put on his boots? He asked for help and she could see why. With her pulling and him pushing, the boots still didn't want to go on. When the second boot was on, she had worked up a sweat. She almost whimpered when the little boy said, "Teacher, they're on the wrong feet." She looked and sure enough, they were. It wasn't any easier pulling the boots off than it was putting them on. She managed to keep her cool as together they worked to get the boots back on, this time on the right feet. He then announced, "These aren't my boots." She wanted so much to say, "Why didn't you say so?" but she didn’t. Once again she struggled to help him pull the boots off. He then said, "They're my brother's boots. My Mom made me wear them." She didn't know if she should laugh or cry. She mustered up enough patience to wrestle the boots on his feet again. She said, "Now, where are your gloves?" He said, "I stuffed them in the toes of my boots..."[x] Who is your snow boots person? God’s love is patient! That’s why Peter said this: 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.
God doesn’t want you to perish – to be separated from him. That’s why Jesus triumphed over both sin & death! And what enabled Jesus to do it? LOVE! What will enable us to grow? You tell me! Love! Love enables us to see people the way God does! Who is Jesus? The ONE who triumphed over sin & death! The only question is – have you put your faith in him?
[ii] www.preachingtoday.com / News That Illustrates, March 4, 2013
[vi] EBC, NT, 1065
[viii] Holman New Testament Commentary, 2 Peter, Volume 11, 110
[ix] Cloud & Townsend, How People Grow, 163