Saturday, October 30, 2010

Do You Know Who You Are?, by Pastor Ed Evans

Do You Know Who You Are?

Scripture: Isaiah 1:10-18, Luke 19:1-10

Isaiah 1:10-18
1:10 Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom! Listen to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah!
1:11 What to Me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the Lord; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats.
1:12 When you come to appear before Me, who asked this from your hand? Trample My courts no more;
1:13 offerings is futile; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and sabbath and calling of convocation -- I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity.
1:14 New moons and your appointed festivals my soul hates; they have become a burden to me, I am weary of bearing them.
1:15 When you stretch out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.
1:16 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil,
1:17 learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.
1:18 Come now, let us argue it out, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.

Luke 19:1-10
19:1 He entered Jericho and was passing through it.
19:2 A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich.
19:3 He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature.
19:4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because He was going to pass that way.
19:5 When Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, "Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today."
19:6 So he hurried down and was happy to welcome Him.
19:7 All who saw it began to grumble and said, "He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner."
19:8 Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, "Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much."
19:9 Then Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham.
19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost."

Whatever happens in America as a result of the Nov. 2nd national election, the stress and strain of coming days makes it most important that you know who you are. For it is on that basis that we make crucial life decisions. Who we are determines our entire approach to life and its highs and lows. We forgive, support or lash out at other people depending upon who we think we are as we come into contact with them.

In today's scripture readings, in Isaiah and Luke, we find two different responses. God had judged the rulers of Sodom and Gomorrah, but they recognized His authority over them not at all. Maybe, for just an instant of time, they thought they had the powers that God has, but He shut them down, permanently.

In Luke, Jesus comes to town and the man thought by all to be a sinner, judges himself as a sinner, but Jesus Christ speaks words of comfort to Zaccheaus, and ignores the judgment of the self-righteous; ignores even their judgment of Him.

The rulers didn't know who they were. The tax collector Zaccheaus knew who he was. In fact, he knew he was short, so he climbed a tree just so he could see Jesus. He knew who he was. Jesus knew who he was. The man's neighbors only thought they knew who he was, because they didn't know who they were. Do you know who you are?

It really is important that we have a clear understanding of who we are because our response to Christ, our understanding of Him, is filtered through our vision of who and what we are, and many have altered views of Christ you will not find in the written, inspired Word of God.

They are like the man who figured there must be some magic in the Bible, and to avail himself of it, all he had to do was pick out a verse and do what it said. So blindly he pointed to a verse. It was Matthew 27:5, which said that Judas went out and hanged himself. Well, that sort of shook him so he blindly pointed to another verse, Luke 10:37, which said "Go and do thou likewise." When you don't know who you are, and you don't know Jesus Christ, you are just up for grabs.

Listen to what Oswald Chambers says in "My Utmost for His Highest" -- "That Christ died for me, and therefore I am completely free from penalty is never taught in the New Testament. What is taught in the New Testament is that 'He died for all' (2nd Corinthians 5:15) -- not, 'He died my death' -- and that through identification with His death I can be freed from sin, and have His very righteousness imparted as a gift to me. The substitution which is taught in the New Testament is twofold -- 'For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.' The teaching is not Christ for me unless I am determined to have Christ formed in me."

Oswald Chambers ends his lesson with a reference to Galatians 4:19-20, where we read Paul writing to the Galatians, "My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you!"

Paul feels the pains of a mother with a stillborn child, seeing that those to whom he preached stopped at the point of thinking Christ was for them, without coming into the fullness of Christ by having Him formed in them. The Galatians knew about Christ from Paul, but they were now listening to others who played upon their emotions, and kept them from moving on to experience Christ.

They thought they knew who they were, but because they now listened to the siren sounds of the world, they were not who they thought they were.

We might use the common zipper as an example. The zipper on our jacket works a wonder to quickly and firmly close the jacket around us and keep out the cold breezes. Unless it gets off-track. Once a snag in the cloth gets in the way, or a hurried movement interferes, the zipper gets off track and does not work correctly. It will not advance and it will not go back. And it does not keep out the cold breeze.

When we not only know about Jesus Christ, but follow His example to experience Him, we can then fully experience the gift of life that God intends for us. Before God Almighty we wear the white-robed righteousness of Jesus Christ. We walk in His will for us, and nothing touches us that does not pass through His hands first. We are not promised that our existence here will be trouble free, pain free, or filled with riches and sweetbreads, but we are promised that He will go through it with us, and, as Mark Twain once alluded to it, ours is "the confidence of a Christian with four aces."

Do you know who you are, or do you only think you know? Are you so caught up in capturing and enjoying what is "good" for you that you have ignored God's warnings about who you are in His eyes? The rulers of Sodom and Gomorrah ignored God's judgment to their own peril, and destruction. The short-of-stature Zaccheaus accepted who he was, and changed, for which God blessed him.

This world does not adapt itself to our wishes, but often buffets us about with difficult lessons and misadventures. What is going on right now in the social structure of the United States of America is creating difficult times for many people, especially in the economic arena. Food, medicines, all the items necessary for life are rising in price, even as jobs and the opportunities to earn a living are disappearing.

Some counsel changing all this through the ballot box, even as reports surface of illegal voting practices. Some counsel change through the law, even as judges have begun to change the laws without the benefit of legislation. Some counsel that freedom and change comes from the barrel of a gun, and call for armed revolution.

Psalm 20:7 cautions us, "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God." The lesson of the Bible is that prayer changes people, and then people change things.

Do we know who we are as people of the Living God, as followers of Jesus Christ? I think we do, for again and again I see quoted 2nd Chronicles 7:14, "If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land."

Do we indeed know who we are? Are we "...My people, who are called by My name..."? If so, then we know what we must do. The very word of God could not be more clear. So, who are you? Do you know?


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