Tuesday, February 11, 2020

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of February 9, 2020

Sermon Message: “Forming Spiritually – Revelation à Formation à Illumination

Cookie jars often contain wonderful sweet treats.  But if you can’t see what is inside you can’t be certain that there is anything inside.  The contents need to be revealed to you.  Who knows, the cookie jar might be filled with spiders, or works or even broccoli (YUCK!).  But when the lid comes off, the contents are revealed. 
Once you can see what’s inside you can form a plan to move forward.
·         If it’s cookies, you can get ready to have a delicious treat.
·         If it’s spiders, or worms, you may want to run. 
·         If it’s broccoli, perhaps you could be ready to say, “No thank you!” 

Sometimes it’s like that with God.  If we try to understand God on our own, it’s like trying to figure out what is inside the jar without being able to see.  But God reveals Himself to us in His Word.  As we read the Bible we come to understand who God is, what He has done in Jesus and how He forms us both physically and spiritually. 

We are coming to the end of the season of Epiphany, and Epiphany is about Revelation.  In this season we see who God is, what Jesus came to do and how the Holy Spirit calls us to faith.  This revelation leads to formation as we can see and experience God, we don't have to guess. As we read and hear the Word of God, it always points to Jesus who loves us and says to us, “Your sin is forgiven.”

A cookie jar filled with sweet cookies reminds us what it is like when we encounter God’s word.  He reveals Himself to us and we know how to move forward and His Word is sweet!  With God’s Word we can move forward with wanting more, by reading our Bibles, by coming to church or going to Bible Study, God reveals Himself to us and the revelation leads to formation so we can share the light of Jesus with others.  It’s similar to a pattern that we see play out in the pages of scripture:

Revelation à Formation à Illumination.

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1)  That is how the whole narrative of Scripture begins.  God revealed his plan as he used his word for form the heaven and the earth and to bring light to the world. 

Revelation à Formation à Illumination

But is wasn't long before this world was deformed by sin, and plunged into darkness, distress and despair.  What was a perfect, revealed plan, now seemed to be hidden.  (The cookie jar was closed), the signs were not able to be understood, and humanity was lost. 

It’s not just a story about others, but about you.  We all have been deformed by sin.  We do not seek God, we like things our way.  We don't desire the things God desires.  We wish God’s love were conditional for only those who look like me, act like me, or vote like me. 

But like we heard last week this is not a political issue but a theological issue. God had a plan and it was revealed when He sent His Son, born of woman, born under the law to redeem those under the law so that we might be formed and adopted and bring light to the world. (See Galatians 4:4-5)  It’s what the season of Epiphany is all about.  It’s about revelation that leads to formation and eventually to illumination. 

God reveals Himself first and foremost in His Word and it is that Word made flesh who took on the form of humanity to reveal to us His divinity and bring light and forgiveness.  It’s that sweet Gospel message, revealed and given to you for free that begins the formation process.

For all that deforms you, for those things you can stop doing, for those things you just can’t seem to do, the revelation of His Word is that you are forgiven! 

Forming spiritually is not about what you are to do, but coming to the understanding of what God has done in Christ for you!  And it’s not just your story it’s the story of the apostle Paul revealed to us in the pages of scripture.  Just look at the second lesson for today from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, “Brothers and sisters, when I came to you, I didn’t speak about God’s mystery as if it were some kind of brilliant message or wisdom.  While I was with you, I decided to deal with only one subject—Jesus Christ, who was crucified.  When I came to you, I was weak. I was afraid and very nervous. I didn’t speak my message with persuasive intellectual arguments. I spoke my message with a show of spiritual power so that your faith would not be based on human wisdom but on God’s power.” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5)

Paul makes it clear that this is not rocket science.  It’s the revelation of Jesus that provides the formation of who we are.  It’s not found in a search for wisdom or the conviction of intellectual arguments.  This wisdom is not an accomplishment by a person but the manifestation and revelation of a person, and His name is Jesus Christ.  And this revelation always leads to formation. 

As we talk about the Bethany Blueprint and being formed spiritually, it comes from the revelation of scripture as God reveals Himself to us in His Word, that Word always drives us to Jesus.  This is where some get stuck and think that living the Christian life is about a list of doing. 

But we are not called to do, but to be.  We are all called to be formed spiritually. 

Some of you are new to Christianity.  Some of you have been in the church your whole life and some are in between.  Some of you have read your Bible extensively; some have spent some time off and on and some have just scratched the surface.  No matter where you are in this continuum, spiritual formation is something we hope you will all find yourself in a state of being.  If you are not attending a regular Bible Study, I encourage you to start. 

I know you may think that you don’t have the skills or experience but believe me, everyone in the room, including the teacher is still learning. If Bible reading or daily devotions are not a regular part of your day, please pick up a copy of Portals of Prayer or another tool to get you in the habit. 

There is a famous quote that has been attributed to many different people but it seems that the earliest source gives credit to the church father Gregory the Great from the 4th century and it says, Scripture is like a river…, broad and deep, shallow enough here for the lamb to go wading, but deep enough… for the elephant to swim.” 

Like Paul, we deal with only one subject—Jesus!  Shallow enough for everyone to understand and deep enough to keep us engaged in forming spiritually for a lifetime.

So, what are you waiting for?  The Scriptures have been revealed to you…in English, or any other language your heart speaks.  God is in the formation business, and He has revealed an amazing message for you.

One more quick story of encouragement…My grandfather, who didn't get past 5th grade led a daily devotion from Portals of Prayer every day I was at his house.  He might have struggled with some of the words, but the Word of God had been revealed to him, he was being formed spiritually and let the light of God shine for others.  Now he was not a perfect person, he had is issues but God continued to reveal His Word to him, form him for service and call him to be a light to others.

That’s what our Gospel lesson for today is getting at.  Those who are forming spiritually are shining the light of Christ.  Hear the words of Jesus again, “You are light for the world. A city cannot be hidden when it is located on a hill.  No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket. Instead, everyone who lights a lamp puts it on a lamp stand. Then its light shines on everyone in the house.  In the same way let your light shine in front of people. Then they will see the good that you do and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)

No one is formed spiritually to do nothing, so let your light shine.  In so doing you are being formed, serving your neighbor and giving praise to the Father. 

Revelation à Formation à Illumination

-          Pastor Seth Moorman


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