Return unto the Lord

Today is the Last Sabbath before we enter into the annual Fall Holy Days.  This Thursday, September 5th, is the Feast of Trumpets.  Saturday, September 14th, is the Feast of Atonement, a day of fasting from food and water.  Thursday, September 19th, is the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles.  Feast services begin the previous evening, September 18th, just after sunset.  The Holy Convocation of The Last Great Day is on Thursday, September 26th, concluding the Fall Holy Days.

Return unto the Lord

This week marks the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s iconic “I Have a Dream” civil rights speech delivered from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.  Though vast strides have been made in voting rights, integration and employment opportunities, Dr. King would be appalled at the crumbling families and moral decay that has ensued in this half-century.  The hopes and dreams of Martin Luther King should have been better heeded.  Dr. King learned a great deal from India’s Mahatma Gandhi whose doctrine of non-violent protest to achieve political and social progress was hugely influential in Martin Luther King’s life.

Jesus Christ made a statement about leadership that is rarely adhered to in this world:  “He that is greatest among you shall be your servant.”  Do we understand that Jesus is saying, “Be a servant first and always?”  Do we understand that it is those who are willing to “lower themselves” to serve others who will be the ones to reign and rule with Jesus Christ?

Why is it that so many men who are in church leadership positions believe that the way to best serve is from the top of their authorative pyramidal structures?  When Jesus Christ, the Son of God walked the earth He was indistinguishable from the man on the street.  He taught, “Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.”

How did Jesus serve us?  He gave His life for us that we might live!  And when He laid His life down He was setting an example for us to serve in like manner.  In the world, a servant would wash his master’s feet – not the other way round.  Notice this role reversal (from what we would consider the norm) by Jesus with regard to this all important subject of serving:

“Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am.  If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet.  For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.  Truly, truly, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.  If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.”  (John 13:13-17)

Jesus was saying that in the Kingdom of God the Master serves the servant.  We are being taught that we should squelch personal ambition and condescend to serving men of low estate (Romans 12:16).  “He that is greatest among you shall be your servant.”  That declaration goes contrary to our understanding of things – but it is the way things should and must be from God’s point of view.  It is counter intuitive to our carnal mind – like Christ’s often repeated saying, “The last shall be first, and the first last.”  It just does not compute in the senseless carnal mind!

In today’s sermon we will be investigating some of the contradiction and excess which men in authority often take upon themselves.  And, sadly, even in God’s Church there is all too often a proclivity in our brethren to respect a celebrated and distinguished name – rather than a servant leader who busies himself by serving the needs of the weak.

The Pharisees were not able to grasp the spiritual implications of Christ’s words.  They wanted to be in power.  They wanted to be in control.  They loved the chief seats in the synagogues.  They loved the uppermost rooms at the Feast.  The Pharisees twisted the words of Christ to say that it was their prerogative to make the rules that men were to live by:

“Then spoke Jesus to the multitude, and to His disciples, Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.”  (Matthew 23:1-3)

The Pharisees and the Orthodox Rabbis would contend that they have been given absolute authority to have the final say – sitting in Moses’ seat – even to the extent that God has relinquished His sovereign rule over to them.  When the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat they believe that their will has become God’s Will.  They draw the people to look to them – and not to God and His Word.

“Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their reverence toward me is taught by the precept of men.”  (Isaiah 29:13, Matthew 15:7-9)

Within the Church of God, and among many in the ministry, there is a way of thinking that is not that much different from that of our errant predecessors.  They would rather be served than to serve.  They would rather rule than to be ruled.  They honor God with their lips, but where is their heart?

“Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.”  (Isaiah 55:7)


Sermon:  "Return unto the Lord"