Sunday, November 15, 2009

Big Rocks: Remember Your Call – Matthew 6:7-15 and Hebrews 7:15-28

This week we are concluding our preaching series entitled Big Rocks where we have been looking at the big rocks or tenets of the Christian faith. Our first week we spoke about Grace and how Grace impacts and informs our lives as Christians. Then we talked about Salvation, what it is, why it was necessary, and what our response should be to this incredible act of love. Next, we spoke about the idea of discipleship and what it means to truly be a disciple of Christ. Today we are going to bring it all together as we spend some time talking about what it means to be a covenant people and how that impacts our faith.

A young boy by the name of James had a desire to be the most famous manufacturer and salesman of cheese in the world. He planned on becoming rich and famous by making and selling cheese and began with a little buggy pulled by a pony named Paddy. After making his cheese, he would load his wagon and he and Paddy would drive down the streets of Chicago to sell the cheese. As the months passed, the young boy began to despair because he was not making any money, in spite of his long hours and hard work.

One day he pulled his pony to a stop and began to talk to him. He said, "Paddy, there is something wrong. We are not doing it right. I am afraid we have things turned around and our priorities are not where they ought to be. Maybe we ought to serve God and place him first in our lives." The boy drove home and made a covenant that for the rest of his life he would first serve God and then would work as God directed. Little James was entering into a promise, creating a covenant.

What is a Covenant?
So what is a covenant? A typical covenant is basically a legal fellowship between two humans. Back in the era of the Old Testament, two people that had entered into a fellowship with one another would come together, agree on the purpose and terms of the covenant, and then divide a suitable animal and walk between the two halves. This was done to signify that if either of them broke the covenant may their fate be the same as the animal they just sacrificed. So as you can see entering into a covenant back then was a serious endeavor not to be taken lightly or for granted.

But there was also another type of covenant and that was one that was made between humanity and God. Scripture makes mention of several different covenants; between God and Noah, God and Abraham, the Sinai covenant, God and David, and of course the New Covenant made complete with the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.

For our purposes today we are going to speak about the covenants between humanity and God for the means of fellowship and the forgiveness of sins. It is important for us to understand that the idea of covenants were instituted for our benefit. Covenants are a human enterprise and God chose to use that institution to help us relate to God. You see, covenants were established to help encourage other people to keep their word. And since there is no issue with God not being faithful to God's end of an agreement, we can see why covenants are human driven and not necessary for God. But God entered into them anyway for our benefit and comfort. So when we think of a covenant we can know that if we do what we promised to do, any promised blessings are guaranteed. There is no worry of God defaulting on the agreement. Our God is a perfect God, always faithful, always dependable, and always eager to bless us as much as we will allow it.

Our Response
So are we part of a covenant? Absolutely! And here is our part of it. Our first Scripture lesson this morning gives us the basis for the prayer that we gather together and pray each week. The Lord's Prayer. I want us to focus on the second line of that prayer for just a moment, “Thy Kingdom, come, thy will be done, on Earth, as it is in Heaven”. That is a request from us, we are asking for that. We are asking for God's Kingdom to be established here on Earth. And since we are asking for it, we have a part to play in its realization. When Christ ascended into Heaven, he gave us the Great Commission. He told us to go and make disciples of all nations, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. That is Kingdom building, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on Earth, as it is in Heaven”. As followers of Jesus Christ, the Great Commission is our part of the covenant. And we pray for that exact act to happen each week. That is a part of the covenant we have made with God when we proclaim ourselves to be believers in Jesus Christ. When we devote ourselves to His ways, we are agreeing to be bound by God's commands. And one of Christ's commands is to build the Kingdom here on Earth.

You see the whole goal of our creation is to ultimately spend eternity with our Creator, and to have everyone be a part of the Kingdom. And God went to great lengths to give everyone the opportunity for that very thing to happen. He sacrificed his Son for our sins.

Remember earlier we talked about what a covenant was, how it was entered in to, and the consequences of breaking it. Well there was a downfall to those types of Old Testament covenants, and it was that the animal sacrifices used to atone for us breaking our covenant with God, had to keep being repeated. The animals were not sufficient. So God decided to enter into a covenant with us using a permanent sacrifice, His Son.

Our second Scripture lesson this morning from Hebrews details for us why the sacrifice of Christ was necessary, sufficient, and final. As this passage of Scripture points out, The Mosiac law that used to be the norm never made anything perfect. But through Christ, we have a new hope, a better covenant. The animal sacrifices of the past lacked permanence, so another was necessary. Jesus as our high priest was superior because his sacrifice fulfilled the necessity, offered the needed sufficiency, and was forever. The permanence of Christ's sacrifice was something never before seen and it granted access for all people to have a relationship with God.

What Next?
So what's next? All of the big rocks that we have discussed here these past several weeks have led us right here. For us to be a true covenant people, we need to understand the big rocks of our faith.

Our bulletin cover this week, shows humanity on the right as sinful, God on the left as Holy, and the sacrifice of Christ as the bridge that brings us all together and honestly that is the reality of it. It is through grace, given in the form of salvation, that creates our desire to be disciples, that urges us to enter into a covenant with our Creator.

There were covenants entered into in the Old Testament that were temporary. There were sacrifices made by priests that allowed the short term forgiveness of sins for the believers of God. But God wanted more. God wanted a permanent way for all of humanity to be able to reap His blessings, so God entered into a covenant on our behalf. God wanted everyone to have access to the benefits of being in His presence, experiencing His grace, and being transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Our challenge as a covenant people is to live into that agreement. Our response to this wonderful gift is to share the aspects of grace, the gift of salvation, the blessings of discipleship, and the rewards of righteousness with all that we meet.

Remember that young cheese salesman we spoke about that made the covenant with God? Well, he kept that covenant to serve God first and foremost and he was blessed. So every time you take a take a bite of Philadelphia Cream cheese, sip a cup of Maxwell House, mix a quart of Kool-Aid, slice up a DiGiorno Pizza, cook a pot of Macaroni & Cheese, spread some Grey Poupon, stir a bowl of Cream of Wheat, slurp down some Jell-O, eat the cream out of the middle of an Oreo cookie, or serve some Stove Top, remember a boy, his pony named Paddy, and the covenant promise little James L. Kraft made to serve God and work as He directed.

We have a calling from God that is demanding. A calling to go and make disciples of all nations, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. A calling that requires our complete devotion. A calling that usually requires more than we are capable of. But God will equip you, God will lead you, and God will fulfill God's portion of the covenant made on our behalf. Folks, it is a win-win for us. Remember your call, remember God loves you, and remember the sacrifice he made for you, before you were even born.

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