12-22-13 “The Supernatural Means Unearthly Joy, Hope, Faith”
?The Supernatural Means Unearthly Joy, Unearthly Hope, and Unearthly Faith?? Jn. 1:1-5; Heb. 11:1-3 12/22/13 at Lake Murray Presbyterian by Dr. J. Ben Sloan
Video of “Supernatural Joy, Hope, Faith” 12-22-13
My brother is a chemical engineer, and he has written supposedly a really great book on something called ?thermodynamics.?? When I try to read his book- I cannot understand it- the words are different, the ideas are different from what I am used to, the world of thermodynamics is different.? I frankly, get bored with his book.? But it is not that his book isn?t true.? It is that I am not there.? I have heard there are people who love his book.? I want to say in a similar way- when someone comes to church and doesn?t believe it is like taking a psychology major and putting them in an engineering class.? Augustine, the greatest theologian past the Bible, said that he really thought church was boring until he converted away from his hedonism.? Then he found he couldn?t stay away.? I can remember when my wife, who grew up in the Methodist church was converted in college.? She said that before Christmas was a bit boring, about shopping and spending.? But when she knew the Christ of Christmas- everything opened up to her- the trees had meaning, the lights pointed to Jesus as the Light, the wreaths, the candles, the Christmas Eve worship.? The crazy thing in our day is we have reversed the truth.?? We think that doing wrong is exciting and doing right is boring.? We think that watching TV is exciting and worshiping the one who loves us is boring.
In some ways we are so addicted to the mundane- the boring- that we think it is real and good for us.? People fuss at real people in order to be entertained and watch their favorite TV.? People fuss at real people in order to write a text message.? We should always put people ahead of our entertainment and machines.? When God comes to us at the end of our lives and says- what did you do with your life?? To say ?I texted 300 people a day about what they were doing? is really fairly empty .? To say- I watched TV 8 hours a day is really fairly lame.? It is mundane.? The word ?mundane? has a dual meaning- it means boring- banal- ordinary- usual; But the second meaning is earthly, this world, consumed with the present. ?They go together- if we live for only this world we are missing what is most important- our soul.
We are like the family who is sitting in the living room.? One is watching TV, another is on Facebook, another is texting friends, another is on the IPAD- together but not together.? There- but not connecting- really mundane.? Then there is a knock at the door and everyone goes into panic mode.? Let me tell you, Jesus is knocking on your door asking you to leave your mundane ordinary life behind and do something for Him.? He wants to know you and you to spend time with Him this Christmas.? After all- in a very real sense, Christmas means that God wants to come down and spend time with us.? ?Christmas is that the supernatural- the unusual, the non-mundane (if you will) wants to interrupt our ordinary lives with something extraordinary.?? Such interruptions are not boring- they are miraculous bringing true joy, hope, and faith.? When Jesus, the Prince of Peace came, he said, ?Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you.? Not as the world gives peace do I give to you.??? He could have said this about joy, hope and faith too- ?Joy I give to you- not as the world gives;? Hope I give to you- not as the world gives;? Faith and love I give to you- not as the world gives.? So let?s look at the joy, hope and faith Jesus gives just a bit and compare them to the world?s version of the same.
I. SUPERNATURAL JOY- ?The Bible says when the wise men saw the star pointing to Bethlehem they had ?great joy? or they were ?overjoyed? (NIV).? When the shepherds heard the singing- bringing ?good news of great joy.?? It is joy to the world- the Lord has come.? ?The world?s joy is like a firework that goes off for a second but does not last.? It is like a sparkler that shines for a minute and attracts everyone?s attention- but we know it cannot last.? So it is with beauty- even with millions and hundreds of plastic surgery operations beauty does not last.? Intelligence may bring joy, but even the smartest person can get Alzheimer?s or have a stroke.? The strongest person eventually breaks down.? The world?s things that give joy are temporary.? The lust, the greed, the enthrallment with the world?s things just doesn?t last.? There is no U-Haul going behind the Hertz.
But the joy of the Lord is our strength.? It is our song- worth singing about in times of trouble and worth singing about in the great times.? There is a joy that even death, even strokes, even cancer cannot take away.? It is the joy of Christmas.? The great joy the angel talks about is God cares. ?He cares enough to do something about our situation.? I could tell you hundreds of stories of people who were living ordinary, mundane, lives- but then they experienced the great joy of Christ and everything changed.? But one of the best was Dennis.? Dennis could not read, he was born with brain damage.? But one of the elders in our church in Asheville decided he would try to teach Dennis to read.? As Dennis learned, he also started coming to church.? We had a really long conversation about God- but his tutor elder showed him love.? I can still remember seeing the joy in Dennis?s eyes.? He had a reason for living.? Today he is teaching others to read.? He is the first in church each Sunday.? He shared his faith- like the shepherds did- with everyone.? He had joy!
II. SUPERNATURAL HOPE-What do you hope for this Christmas?? Are your hopes shallow, temporary, mundane?? Or are your hopes deep, meaningful, strengthening?? I look back at what were my Christmas wishes, my Christmas prayers when I was young and they seemed so very shallow and really hopeless.? When I was eight I wished for a plastic motorcycle with a box on it that made engine sounds.? I think I actually rode that bike only about six times. There are video games, games, and clothes that are in the GOoDWorks and rummage sale pile that I thought were so very important at the time. ?These are boxes of dusty hopes of the world.? We have the opportunity for instant communication- cell phones, tweets, text messages, email- all come up instantly even from around the world.? The illusion is that this is fun- but it can breed another kind of addiction- the addiction to knowing what is going on with everyone. ?So families can be sitting together texting across the table. ?If your time is consumed with when so and so is combing their hair- where they went shopping today- whether they have had a shower in one day or three days- then your focus is squarely on the mundane.? Earthly knowledge can consume you and puff you up with pride that you know so much about so many people and so many things.? But even the smartest among us will find little hope in such knowledge.
There is a hope that Jesus gives that is unearthly.? Faith is the confidence we hope for our passage said.? Simeon was an old man living with the hope that he would see the Messiah before he died.? He held Jesus in his arms and said, ?Lord now your servant may depart in peace for my eyes have finally seen your salvation- the hope of Israel.?? Signs of real hope are that it lasts, that others speak of it as being helpful and that it is fulfilled.? The Christian hope is something no one can take away from you.? It lasts until eternity.? Many have talked about the hope of Christ helping them overcome their addictions and problems in this life and we see those who have near-death-experiences telling us that this hope will be fulfilled.
III. SUPERNATURAL FAITH- ?Faith is something we cannot live without.? We have to have some measure of faith to keep going and to rely on the things and people around us.? So we have faith when we go to sleep that the sun will rise in the morning.? We have faith that God our ?soul will keep? when we lay be down to sleep.? We have faith when we get in the car it will work.? We have faith that the loved ones we trust are trustworthy.? In this world- all of that can get messy.? People can let you down, cars can let you down, your work can let you down.? We are designed to depend on God- and to have faith in Him.
We live in such a really, really skeptical time.? People are rebelling against what has been proven as the wisdom of the ages- and there is this kind of almost teenage rebellious pride- like- we know better than those who went before us.? In our rush to do that we are skeptical of everything we hear and lack an ability to have faith- and really an ability to have meaning and peace in life.? There is some balance from na?ve belief in whatever you tell me- and the skeptical inability to trust anyone but the modern ?experts.?? Go back to the Bible.? Trust the eyewitness accounts more than the traditions and layers of lacquer put on the Christmas story.? But also do not trust those who want to jettison the eyewitness account because they have figured out we now know ?better.?? Put your faith in the story of stories, and in the God behind them all.? Faith is, as our passage says ?Being certain of what we do not see.?? Faith is important.? ?????????Why do people who can?t seem to find faith not one anyone else to have faith?? Why do people who can?t find hope not want others to hope?? Why do people who have no hope want to take hope away?? So the bill board says in Times Square that we don?t need Christ to make our Christmas Merry.? But let me tell you when you take ?Christ? out of Christmas you strip away hope, love, joy, and faith.? I am skeptical of the skeptics who say if you just have food and family you will be happy.? Belief in God turns regular food into a holy gift.? Belief in God gives hope to families who are hurting or face death or who are alienated or dysfunctional, and calls us to be aware of the families who don?t have any room at the inn.? Belief in God turns our Walter Mitty-like ordinary existence into something special.? Christmas- the real one- is not about the winter solstice- it is not about the boring the mundane- it is about the miracle, the joy, the hope, and the faith.?? You have the opportunity to do something that defies the mundane.? The best Christmas gift you can give to yourself and your family is to gift yourself to Christ.? Leave the ordinary- step into the miraculous life.