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Jan 8 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Don’t Be Like the Gentiles — 01/08/2023



Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Good morning!                   May the Grace and Mercy of the Lord be with you.

Thank you, Chuck, for your Christmas Day prayer, and for the beautiful message you posted on New Year’s Day.

In years past, at least for me, by this time of the year I would have compiled my New Year’s Resolutions.  Have you had that practice, or do any of us still do that? A few years ago, I gave up with making resolutions, because I mostly didn’t keep them, this list of “what I was going to do/accomplish, achieve.”  But this year the word “Resolution” came to me in a fresh way, so I’ve decided to keep it. 

I’m learning to begin with my desires: What do I really long for or want: to become, to remember, to realign with, to recover, to receive? And then, writing those down, I can keep coming back—not to my list to do—but to my heart.  

And I was reminded that Resolution can also refer to the number of pixels (for images) or dots (for printers) of numbers per inch to describe the sharpness or clarity. A better resolution can help us to see better, with more clarity. I want to see better and more; I want to learn how to see. So, how will I form my life and practices to support this resolution for better resolution? I’m holding on to that question.

Along with that, I’m holding on to my last year’s focus; I want to realize my connected Self, the oneness/communion with God and others that IS, so I’ve purposed to practice ways that might help me to become aware and enjoy this connectedness. How many ways can I meet with God and others? 

We’re blessed this morning to have Holy Communion/The Lord’s Supper/The Eucharist—whatever you name it. For me, this sacred feast is a time for this better seeing and deep connection, and we are all invited to come.

Pray with me:

Lord God, we desire that we would gaze at you in a hundred places and that You would be known to us in a thousand ways. We offer this hour for you to come to us and steady us for this year’s journey. No matter where life takes us, You will make known to us the path of life. You will fill us with Joy in Your Presence. Let this season be filled with life, and light, and love. We are in need of all of it. Jesus, in Your Name. Amen

Morning Talk: chuck smith, jr.

You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Matthew 5:43-47
And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Matthew 6:7-8
Therefore do not be anxious, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. Matthew 6:31-32

Intro: Here we are together again, after a two week break

We’re going to begin this new year together with “Communion”;
– the Christian ritual of bread and wine
• in 1 Corinthians 10:16, Paul describes the ritual like this:
The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a [communion] in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a [communion] in the body of Christ?
• what happens here, is that we share a common union
◦ we are joined to Jesus by the gift of his body and blood
◦ we are joined to each other in God through Jesus
– in the Communion ritual, we renew our relationship with Jesus and with each other
• so we’re about to go straight to God and set our course for the new year

In the verses I read, Jesus teaches love, prayer, and peace

There is also a sub-theme in each lesson: Don’t be like the Gentiles
– why does Jesus pick on the Gentiles?
• it’s not that Gentiles were especially evil,
◦ but they did not know the God of Abraham
◦ the God who revealed himself in the Hebrew Scriptures
• Gentiles lived apart from the God who had sent Jesus,
◦ whom Jesus referred to as his heavenly Father
◦ Gentiles lived by light they had, but it was not up to the divine standard
– I came across these verses this week reading in Matthew
• the third time Jesus made a negative comparison with Gentiles,
◦ I was struck by the relevance of what he was saying
• a reason for that may be, I’ve also been reading small book
◦ Leo Tolstoy’s A Confession

Before his twentieth birthday Tolstoy had lost his faith in God
– later on, after winning financial success as a thinker and writer, he fell into depression
• nothing mattered to him or brought him any joy
◦ so great was his despair that he considered suicide
• the way he dealt with this dark period was to look for a meaning to life
– he turned first to science, but that proved to be a dead end
• science can tell us a great deal regarding life in a material universe,
◦ but nothing about its meaning or purpose
• he then turned to philosophy and religion – and there he found the bleakest quotes
◦ by Socrates, Schopenhauer, Solomon, and Buddha, all of whom concluded that life is meaningless
Tolstoy, “Not finding an explanation in science, I began to seek for it in life, hoping to find it among the people around me. And I began to observe how the people around me—people like myself—lived, and what their attitude was to this question, which had brought me to despair.”
◦ that paragraph hit me like thunder and lightning

Immediately I realized that’s what most of us do

Here’s what I’ve observed in young married couples: They do not know the meaning of their lives. They get out of bed in the morning and engage in its routine and rituals. They get dressed, eat breakfast, get their child or children to school, and then begin their day’s chores. They repeat these actions endlessly, not knowing the meaning of what they’re doing–or if there is any meaning.

At some point, they look at the lives of others, and ask, “What is important to them?” Then they compare their own lives to those of others. As a result of what they observe, they either begin setting goals for themselves or they severely judge themselves. Looking at others their age, they think they need: to own a home, drive a new car (preferably one with some status), push their children to earn good grades and force them into team sports. They also spend money they don’t have on the most recent technology.

All the pressure they place on themselves to greater achievement comes from observing the lifestyle of their peers. They have been caught in the stampede of the herd. They have no idea what they’re running from, or running to, or even why they are running. But they run because everyone else is running. And if there is a meaning to any of this or all of it, they have no idea what it may be. Maybe they assume this mindless running will eventually lead them to a meaning. If that’s the case, then their lives are very sad and they are destined to be disappointed.

You may have heard of Jordan Peterson
• after a severe life-crisis, he shared what he had learned through it:
Peterson, “In a crisis the inevitable suffering that life entails can rapidly make a mockery of the idea that happiness is the proper pursuit of the individual. . . . a deeper meaning was required.” (Emphasis added)

Jesus said, “Don’t be like the Gentiles”

Don’t take your cues from people who do not know the God of Abraham
– don’t ask the blind to take your hand and guide you
• don’t ask the world to give your life a meaning
• the world can’t teach you what it doesn’t know, or give you what it doesn’t have
– however, the world is clever enough to lie to us
• to make promises it can’t keep
• or offer us an artificial meaning to life,
◦ a meaning that will cost us money, yet is too shallow to satisfy the human soul

Conclusion: If we don’t borrow meaning from the lives of others, then where do we find it?

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you (Mt. 6:33)
– the specific meaning of your life or my life is hidden from us
• I don’t think we can know it by looking for it
◦ I think we can know it only by living it
Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God (1 Cor. 4:5)
• the general meaning of the Christian life is righteousness
◦ doing what is right according to the teaching of Jesus
◦ loving God above all else and loving our neighbor as we want to be loved
– I think our personal meaning will be tied up in the affect we have had on others

So, this new year let’s try, first thing every morning, to seek God first
And seek his kingdom
(rather than building our own little kingdoms)
And seek his righteousness;
namely, to be right with him
And to be right with others according to the teaching of Jesus

This, I believe, is how we will live into meaning of our lives

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