Manage episode 294530808 series 2479944
Four Students plan to arrive late to their final exam so they can take it the next day. By the time they arrive the exam is almost over, so they head over to the professor to ask if they can take it the next day. They tell him they tried their best to come on time, but their tire blew out and it took a very long time to replace it. The professor tells them, "Don't worry about it. You can take it today and, since there's almost no time left, you only have to answer one question. If you get it right, I'll give you an A on the test." The students, thinking this is even better than they thought, excitedly take their seats and look at the question: Which tire blew out? James 1:21-22 tells us 21 Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. 22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. Life is a daily test and God records in the Book of Life our answers according to how we live our lives. And, to go along with the story I started this sermon with, I too have one question. How do we measure up when compared to the prophet Elijah? in James 5:17. It says this: Elijah was a man like us, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. You remember Elijah. He was one of the greatest prophets of the OT. He is the one who stood before wicked King Ahab & looked him eyeball to eyeball & said, "Ahab, if you don’t straighten up the heavens will be sealed & there will be no more rain on our land."
Someone described Elijah as a "blood & guts" prophet. Elijah is the one who climbed to the top of Mt. Carmel for a "call down fire from heaven" showdown with the priests of Baal, & who said to the people of Israel, "Who are you going to worship, Baal or Jehovah? Let’s settle it once & for all."
You remember Elijah. When his life’s work was over he was the one who was caught up in the whirlwind & a chariot of fire sent by God.
And when Jesus was on the earth, Elijah & Moses were the ones whom God chose to meet & talk with Jesus on the Mt. of Transfiguration.
When John the Baptist started preaching, the crowds said, "Elijah has come back." And when Jesus hung on the cross & cried out, "Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabachthani?" the crowds said, "He is crying for Elijah to come." In every Orthodox Jewish home at Passover time, even today, when they put the chairs around the table & spread all the emblems of Passover, there is always one empty chair because they are waiting for Elijah to come.
Elijah, the OT prophet of God, was a very special person indeed! And yet, there is this amazing statement in James 5:17that says, "Elijah was a man just like us." And that phrase, "just like us," is only used one other time in all the Bible.
The 14th chapter of Acts tells about Paul & Barnabas in the city of Lystra. They healed a crippled man & the miracle was so amazing that the citizens of Lystra decided that Paul & Barnabas were gods. They called Paul "Mercury" & Barnabas "Zeus" & began to worship & offer sacrifices to them. But as the crowd surrounded them, Paul cried out, "Wait. We’re not gods. We’re men, just like you."
What does James mean when he says, "Elijah was a man just like us?" To be honest with you, I’m having a little trouble with that also. Can you picture Elijah driving up & down the roads of Chardon? Can you see him in line at McDonald’s, ordering a Big Mac & french fries? or shopping at Walmart? Rather hard to imagine, isn’t it? Yet, James says that "Elijah was a man just like us."
If James had said that Peter was "a man just like us," I wouldn’t have as much trouble believing that because Peter was often saying the wrong thing, talking when he should have kept quiet & making mistakes. So if James had said, "Peter was a man just like us." I would say, "Yes, I can somewhat relate to that."
But James says, "Elijah was a man just like us." As a prophet from God, Elijah did some very extraordinary things.
But James’ message is that Elijah was just an ordinary person, & that God can take ordinary people & accomplish extraordinary things. So, let’s take a closer look at Elijah to see what we can learn from his example.
First of all, we learn from Elijah that someone committed to God will not compromise his faith. Elijah has an interesting name. It comes from two words, "el" & "jah." Put them together & his name means, "Jehovah is God." Now that may sound redundant, but his name was very important, & it reflected Elijah’s conviction.
A. Elijah believed with all his heart that "Jehovah is God, & there is no other God." And that brought him into a direct confrontation with King Ahab. You remember King Ahab, don’t you? Maybe you remember his wife better. Her name was Jezebel. Now King Ahab also believed that Jehovah was God. The problem was that he married a woman who believed that Baal was God. And Ahab was a politician who didn’t want to offend anybody, especially Jezebel. Therefore he decided, "If worshiping one god is good, then worshiping two gods is even better." So he built altars to Jehovah & also to Baal. Into his palace he brought priests of Jehovah & also priests of Baal, & he told the people, "You can worship whichever God you choose, or you can worship both of them if you want."
B. But Elijah confronted Ahab & condemned his idolatry. As a result of Ahab’s example,
Many of the Israelites were now worshiping Baal, while others were worshiping Baal one day & Jehovah the next. They couldn’t make up their minds. Finally Elijah calls for a climactic contest on top of Mt. Carmel & in 1 Kings 18:21 he utters these words to the people of Israel, "How long are you going to waver between two opinions? If Jehovah is God, follow Him; but if Baal is God, follow him."
Elijah was saying, "You cannot serve both Jehovah & Baal at the same time. So make up your minds which one you’re going to worship." And he challenged the priests of Baal to a contest to see which one is God & actually able to answer prayer.
The priests of Baal built an altar & called on Baal to send down fire from heaven. But nothing happened. They shouted out to Baal almost all day long until they were hoarse. They tore their clothing, & even cut themselves, but nothing happened.
Finally, when it was obvious that they had completely failed to get any response from Baal, Elijah said, "Now it is my turn." It was time to prove once & for all who is the one true God.
In 1 Kings 18:30 we read, "Then Elijah said to all the people, ’Come here to me.’ They came to him, & he repaired the altar of the Lord, which was in ruins." Elijah rebuilds the long neglected altar of God & offers his sacrifice upon it. Then when Elijah prays, God dramatically responds with fire from heaven to consume the sacrifice. “Jehovah is God." That is the proclamation of the life of Elijah.
C. Is there a message there for the church today? It seems to me that there is. Elijah said, "I will not be contaminated by my surroundings. I will keep my life pure, my testimony untarnished. I will keep on standing up for the fact that God is who He is, & there is no other god."
Do we need to hear & proclaim that message today? You see the world will tolerate us as Christians as long as we don’t get too serious about it. It is perfectly acceptable to the world for us to believe that Jesus is the Christ as long as we conform to its standards & values & attitudes.
Several years ago an article appeared in the Wall Street Journal about a woman who called herself Reverend Terry & her new-age religion. She called it "The New Christianity" & here is what it said that she teaches. "Happiness is limitless, & people don’t need to change for the better, but simply to realize that they are already perfect." As you look at the world around us, do you believe that? Somehow, she seems to have a very strange perception of this world.
She doesn’t believe in sin or hell. "Sin is simply self hatred," she says, "& hell is what some of us build for ourselves right here on earth."
The article described her audiences as young & suntanned, driving Mercedes & BMW’s. She teaches prosperity & happiness & says, "You should never feel guilty for anything that you do, but rejoice in your own perfection." Now isn’t that comforting? "Do what you want to do & never feel guilty."
Her conclusion is that since there isn’t any such thing as sin, there is no need or room for Jesus Christ to come & save us from our sins. Somehow it all sounds like the 18th chapter of I Kings, doesn’t it - where they compromised & diluted the worship of God to the place where they were no longer paying any attention to the word or will of God.
Is that what is happening today? People say, "Your god is as good as mine. You worship yours & I’ll worship mine & I might even worship yours once in a while because it really doesn’t make much difference." OR, you worship the way you want to worship and I will worship the way I want to do.
But Elijah’s message for us today is, "Separate yourselves from the world’s values... not isolate yourselves but separate yourselves." We must never be contaminated by what “the world” teaches. The PRODICAL SON’s story in the New Testament illustrates this point.
Now let’s look at Romans 12:1 2. We’ve heard it so often that I am not sure we really listen to it. Paul says, I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test & approve what God’s will is His good, pleasing & perfect will."
There are two words in this passage that I have underlined: "conform" & "transform." And as you study the Bible & read about the impact made by lives of the people mentioned in its pages you’ll find that they can fit into one of two categories: those who conformed to their world, & those who transformed their world. Ananias & Sapphira conformed. Yes, they went to church, & they said their prayers. They joined in the life of the church. They were respected in the church. But they desired to be praised, & they ended up lying to the Holy Spirit.
Judas conformed. He had the privilege of listening to the teachings of Jesus of learning straight from the lips of Jesus Himself. But he conformed & sold out to the world. Joseph in the OT didn’t conform. He was sold into slavery. He found himself tempted to commit adultery with Potiphar’s wife. But he didn’t conform to the world, & in time he transformed the world in which he lived. Daniel did not conform. He wouldn’t conform to the pleasures of the palace. He wouldn’t bow down to their golden idols. He kept on believing & praying & he transformed the world that was around him.
The same is true of Peter, James, John, & all the other great saints who followed God. The pressures were there, but they would not conform & finally they turned the world upside down - or right side up.
Jesus said, "You cannot serve both God & mammon. You will end up loving one & hating the other." And that’s where it is today in our society. There are other altars, & other gods beckoning for our attention & our worship. Society says, "That’s all right. You can still go to church & be a respectable Christian. Just go ahead & serve the other gods too."
But from Elijah comes this message, "Don’t conform, but be transformed." And here is how, "First of all, offer your bodies as living sacrifices. Give yourself to God." Secondly, "Renew your mind." Let God’s Word teach you & shape your thinking, your attitudes, & your values in a new & wonderful way. Thirdly, "Then you will be able to test & prove God’s good & pleasing & perfect will" for your life.
CONCL. That’s God’s message for us today. We dare not compromise it. We dare not dilute it. Like Elijah, we must stand strong on it & proclaim it to the world today.
"For God so loved the world that He gave His one & only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him" [John 3:16-17].
During the war in Vietnam, a young West Point graduate was assigned to lead a group of new recruits into battle. Despite difficult circumstances he did his job well, leading them to accomplish their assigned objectives. But one night they met stiff enemy resistance. And as they were making their way to the helicopters that would evacuate them to safety one of his men fell, severely wounded.
The young lieutenant & his men who had reached the helicopters knew that any attempt to save him would almost certainly mean death for the would-be rescuer. But the young lieutenant rushed back anyway. He was able to save the soldier, but in the process was mortally wounded & died before the helicopter reached the base.
After the rescued soldier had recovered & returned to the States, the lieutenant’s parents heard that he was in their vicinity. Wanting to know this young man whose life was saved at such a great cost to them, they invited him to dinner. When their guest arrived, he was late and had obviously been drinking. He was loud & obnoxious. He used foul language & showed no sensitivity or gratitude for the sacrifice of their son who died to save him.
The grieving parents did the best they could to make the man’s visit a positive one, but their efforts went unrewarded. Their guest finally left. As the dad closed the door behind him, the mother collapsed in tears & cried, "To think that our son had to die for somebody like that."
Yet, that’s what Jesus did, isn’t it? He SUFFERED and DIED on the CROSS for EACH and EVERY ONE of US!!!!! Even those who were mocking and beating him! We hear him say on the cross as he hung there in ALL that pain, “Forgive them for they know not what they do”.
Sermon Contributor Melvin Newland