Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sermon on Deuteronomy 7:6-9, for the 6th Sunday after Pentecost, "The Steadfast & Loving God"

Sermon outline:

1. Childhood experience of “picking teams” for a neighborhood game. Chosen for your skill, or because your friend wanted you on his team? Feelings: pride, jealousy, warmth

2. Why did God choose Israel? Why did He choose us?
a. Israel unique in all of history, God’s chosen out of all the peoples who are on the…earth
b. Jealous? Unfair? Divine Favoritism?
c. NO! Look at the explanation God gives: not because they were exceptional, but because of His love. Nothing in themselves to be worthy, but the reason is found in God’s love
d. Surprised to find out that God says the same now of the Church of all baptized believers in the NT? 9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Pet. 2:9-10)
e. Jews and Gentiles. We once were not a people, but now we are God’s people through the mercy of Christ Jesus who died and rose to make us His people

3. God’s treasured possession! What greater affirmation of life, purpose, and value can there be? The God who created all, owns all, rules all, values His people as His treasured possession. We are of greatest worth to Him!
a. Do you realize that in the parable of the treasure hidden in the field, and of the pearl of great price, that the “treasure” is God’s people? That Jesus is the man who for His joy sold everything He had to purchase that treasure?
b. Jesus purchased the church as His treasured possession when He surrendered all His heavenly treasure, all His power and might, and humbled Himself for death on a cross. He gave it all away to have you!!
c. Not because we were greater or more worthy than anyone else, not because of the good things we had done, but because of His great and unfathomable love for us. Because He saw treasure even in sinners like us.
d. 26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Cor. 1:26-31) He saw value where we and the world saw none. Not pride in self, but pride in Christ. Not self-esteem, but Christ-esteem
e. Humbles and keeps us away from pride, but the greatest affirmation of value and purpose
f. Perhaps we see those words “God loves you” too often to let them seriously sink into our mind and grasp what they mean. How many people live a life alienated from God, either oblivious of His existence, or perhaps even hostile to the idea of God? Or maybe they long for God, but feel as though their life is a wreck, or that God must always remain distant from them because they’ve “screwed up” too much. For any and all persons, the news that God loves you is really a radical message, and it truly can change your life. But who is within reach of God’s love? According to John 3:16, the best known verse in the Bible, “God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him would not perish, but have eternal life.” God so loved the world. Whoever believes in Him has the steadfast promises, the unwavering commitment of God Himself, that He will preserve you for eternal life.

4. Chosen to be set apart, to love God and keep His commandments. He has a holy purpose for us, to follow and obey Him, not to remain in our sinful ways and passions. Chosen from among the nations, and set apart as a holy people. God created and gave them this treasured identity by redeeming them from slavery. Likewise our identity as treasured children of God comes from our redemption from the slavery of sin, by Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins. Returning to stay in our sins makes as much sense as the Israelites wanting to go back to slavery in Egypt.

5. Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love Him and keep His commandments to a thousand generations. (Deut. 7:9).
a. God creates and gives us value and worth as His treasured possession, and God is unlike any other. He has no counterpart or equal, He is the faithful God.
b. Keeps covenant and steadfast love. God stands by us. He is constant and unshakeable. He always keeps His promises. He doesn’t break them or fly away when the going is rough. If you want proof that God’s love is steadfast, there is no greater proof that can be offered than to see how steadfast in His love Jesus was, that not even the horrible path that led to the cross could turn Him away from the joy that was set before Him—the joy of redeeming us as His people. That was steadfast, unshakeable love.
c. As God stands by us, He is not only there to comfort, but also to correct and rebuke if we go astray, and to lead us back on the right path. Does this through the gentle instruction and encouragement of fellow believers, through the voice of our conscience, through the consequences of our actions, and most importantly through His Word, which we read, hear, and is preached to us. The whole history of Israel is of God’s faithfulness to them and constantly calling them back to His mercy and His promises.
d. God’s steadfast love is something to be celebrated and praised. It is to be sung and declared in the congregation in our songs and praise. God’s steadfast love is better than life itself. Nothing in heaven and on earth is more trustworthy than God’s steadfast love. It is our salvation and our entry into God’s holy house. It is the basis for our plea that God would not remember the sins of our youth, but for the sake of His steadfast love He would remember us and forgive us.

6. Here is the greatest freedom and joy for living, to know that God has called us to be His treasured possession, that He values us above all else, and that He willingly gave everything He had to have us as His own. The freedom to live in His love and to obey His commandments, with the promise of His unshakeable, unchangeable, steadfast love for us for thousands of generations. Don’t sell your life short when Jesus, for His immeasurable love, sold everything He had to have you as His treasured possession. Don’t take it for granted—God loves you! Amen.

Sermon Talking Points
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1. Deuteronomy comprises Moses’ final instructions to the Israelites before they entered the land of Canaan. He presents the Law of God a second time; reminds what God did to bring them there; how they were to live faithfully in the land He was giving them; and what would happen if they were unfaithful to God.

2. Was God’s choosing of Israel as His chosen nation an example of favoritism? Did it give the children of Israel grounds for pride in themselves? Deut. 7:6-8. What about the expanded calling to all believers in Christ? As God’s chosen children, a “holy priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9-10), do we have grounds to boast in ourselves? What, then, is the reason for God’s calling and choice?

3. Describe what it means to be called “God’s treasured possession.” How does this help us understand the startling meaning of the parable of the treasure hidden in the field, and the pearl of great price, told in Matthew 13:44-46? Who then is the man who sold everything to purchase this great treasure? What was the treasure?

4. How does this knowledge about how God values you create meaning, purpose, and identity, while at the same time keeping you humble? Explain what it means to have “Christ-esteem” in place of “self-esteem.” Read 1 Cor. 1:26-31 for help.

5. Who is within reach of God’s incredible love? Are you? John 3:16

6. How does our new calling and purpose for life lead us into a new path for our life? Titus 2:11-14

7. Where is the best proof of God’s steadfast, unshakeable love? How did Jesus demonstrate His determination to purchase us as His treasured possession?