10/4/2021 10:32:37 AM
God-Lived Life: A Life of Discipleship
Pastor Kyle Bitter - The Nineteenth Sunday After Pentecost - Sunday, October 3, 2021
What’s your favorite season of the year? We won’t take a show of hands today, but if we did, I would suspect that there’d be at least some hands raised for each of the four options. Summer would probably be a popular option. The weather is usually beautiful, the schedule tends to be a little more flexible across society with schools not in session. Family vacations, trips up north, time with friends – it’s a good time! But, for as much fun as that is, I would also guess there might be some votes for spring. There’s just something beautiful about seeing the world come to life again after winter, getting outdoors again, and enjoying the increase in activity that accompanies warmer weather! It seems likely that the numbers would be the smallest for winter, but even there I think we’d get a few. For many, Christmas and all that surrounds it is a great time of year, and on top of that there’s something incredibly beautiful about a fresh snowfall. And then we come to the season I’d raise my hand for: fall. It’s the best weather of the year in my opinion. The mornings are cool and crisp, but the days are still very warm. The restart of school brings with it all kinds of fun activity across society, and it’s hard to beat the beauty of fall colors! No matter which one you like the best, the variety of the changing of the seasons is one of perks of living in this part of the world!
In today’s sermon text, Peter uses the changing seasons as an illustration of a much broader truth about life, and we are about to see that illustration play out around us. Over the next couple of weeks, colors will reach their peak in our part of the state, but as soon as that happens the leaves will fall, leaving behind drab colors of winter. Cool, crisp temperatures will give way to cold, and frost quickly covers the ground as a harbinger of the snow to come. Seasons come and go, and so does everything else. The longer you live, the more clearly you see that! You start high school or college, and it seems like this epic adventure stretching out into the future, a huge portion of your life, but suddenly four years pass just like that and you’re a senior looking at graduation and then it’s done. Later on, children are born, and it seems like just a few minutes later they start school and just a few days after that they’re moving out of the house. You start a career that seems to stretch into eternity…but then before you know it it’s been 10 years or 20 or more and suddenly you’re close to retirement and you wonder where the time went. Nothing lasts forever, and it’s not just the passing of time. Styles and trends are popular for a while, but quickly replaced with something else. Bodies age and break down. Friends are here and loved and then move on and are gone. Nothing in life lasts. In fact, in today’s sermon text, Peter even quotes the words of the prophet Isaiah – words written by a man who himself was long dead and gone. “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.” (1 Peter 1:24-25a – NIV84). Everything has its season and time, and then it’s gone and replaced with something else.
I suppose on the surface that reality seems like a negative thing, but there’s another side to it. Peter wrote this letter for circulation among groups of Christians living in first century Asia Minor – a time and a place that was not particularly friendly for Christians. Among their biggest concerns was formal, government-sponsored persecution living under the tyranny of fickle Roman emperors. Difficult to be sure – but, like everything else, that too would have its season and time and then it would be gone and replaced by something else! The same is true for us. Things related to the pandemic seem to drag on, but in time normalcy will return. Disappointment over failures in life and missed opportunities are certainly painful, but in time that passes and new opportunities arise. Conflict in relationships, the loss of friends or loved ones, and other emotional struggles hurt, but in time the pain does fade and often new relationships are formed. “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.”
With all of that standing in the background, isn’t it kind of silly how easily we find ourselves completely caught up in these short-lived things that seem so important in the moment but ultimately don’t last all that long? If you look at your calendar, chances are it’s absolutely jam packed with activity, and many of those things are good and wonderful blessings from God that bring a lot of enjoyment into life, but ultimately won’t last all that long! And yet, we invest so much time and energy, sometimes at the expense of other things that are more lasting and significant! The same is true of negative things – how often does it happen that the things we are most concerned about aren’t the most important, but just the things right in front of our faces? We frantically panic over the latest news cycle, the most recent government decision, the project that’s due next week, the doctor’s appointment next month, and even smaller things too! What someone else thought about my clothing choice for today, how my comments made in passing were interpreted by those who heard them, what could go wrong with my plans for tomorrow, and so on. While such things certainly can be significant when they occur, in the big picture they just don’t last, and living and behaving as if they do brings needless stress and anxiety into our lives and even worse than that behaving as if such temporary things, whether good or bad, are of permanent significance ends up distracting us from what matters most. “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.”
There is one thing that lasts. What God does lasts. By the time Peter wrote his epistle, the prophet Isaiah whom he quotes had been dead more than 700 years, yet Isaiah’s record of God’s words and promise stood the test of time. For us looking back today, Peter is also dead, almost 2000 years ago, yet we still turn to his descriptions of God’s words and promises. Why? Because they're not just words! These words describe real events that actually took place and that have eternal significance! Isaiah is dead and gone, but the Savior he prophesied about came and fulfilled those prophecies by laying down his life for you and me. Peter too is dead and gone, but the Savior he saw with his own eyes and worked side by side with for three years still lives today, walking alongside you and me and providing consistent and timeless blessings. Peter described the lasting work of Jesus with these words, “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.” (1 Peter 1:23 – NIV84). Unlike anything else, what God does lasts. The blessings you have in Jesus don’t have a time limit on them. They don’t have an expiration date. They don’t get old and wear out. Jesus loves you just as much today as he did on the day when he laid down his life for you. Jesus’ promise of forgiveness and of eternal life in heaven is just as sure and certain today as it was when he first promised it so many years ago. “The word of the Lord stands forever.” It’s the one thing that lasts.
And that means that in Jesus, you and I have the beautiful opportunity to be a part of a life that has lasting stability and purpose that can’t be found anywhere else. Think about what happens in a life built around God’s word that stands forever. When you read or study his word for yourself, you’re reading and studying the one thing that exists that will be beneficial to you every single day of your life, no matter how many other things might have changed. When you offer your time and energy and resources for use in the formal work of the church, you’re joining in with a mission that that has a power and effect that goes far beyond anything else you might be a part of! When you share encouragement from that word with a hurting family member, co-worker, or friend, you aren’t just cheering them up. You’re offering them the one thing that brings with it the lasting and enduring power of the almighty God! When you live and work surrounded by God’s word you get to see firsthand the powerful and lasting way God changes the lives of others in ways that would otherwise be impossible. “The word of the Lord stands forever!”
Over the next four months, we will set aside four weekends, starting with this one, where we have the chance to specifically focus on the changes that come into life when it’s a God-lived life – that is, a life with God and his promises as the foundation. Each of these weeks will be followed by a challenge for you to prayerfully consider. If you’re a member of St. John’s, you’ll receive a mailing that can also be found on our website describing a way you can challenge yourself to live your life with God at the center. This month’s challenge is a discipleship challenge, offering you opportunities to create a new routine in your life will bring you into more regular contact with God’s word – the one thing in life that lasts and doesn’t fade away. The new routines can be small – a few minutes in prayer before bed, or ambitious – read the Bible in a year. The new routines can be personal – reading a daily devotion, or social – setting aside 15 minutes to discuss what happened in church with your family or friends.
No matter what form it takes, the Discipleship Challenge to create a new routine is a challenge worth thinking about, worth praying about, and worth doing in whatever way works for you because the seasons of life do change. Time does pass. Both good things and hard things have their seasons, their challenges, and their blessings. But through it all, the word of God remains the one thing we can count on, and a life built around God’s word will have the stability and purpose that can’t be found anywhere else. May God grant each one of us such blessings as we prayerfully consider the challenge to a God Lived Life of Discipleship and boldly anticipate the blessings that will result as God comes through on his promises, just as he always does. Amen.