TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS

 

Light in the Darkness

Luke 2:41-52

41 Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. 42 When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. 43 After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 44 Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”
49 “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” d 50 But they did not understand what he was saying to them.
51 Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.

 

During the Christmas season, there are times when you have to say, “You don’t need to know.”  You come home from a trip to the store with some bags and of course the kids notice and ask, “What’s in the bags?  Anything for me?” “You don’t need to know.”  A spouse opens up a gift that seems pretty expensive and blurts out with a bewildered excitement, “How much did this cost?”  “You don’t need to know.”  Some family members who said they weren’t going to make it for a visit during the Christmas season show up unexpectedly, and you say, “What in the world are you doing here?  I thought you couldn’t make it this year.  How did you work this out?”  “You don’t need to know.”

There are also times when that seems to be the response from God.  Certain things in the Bible often raise questions for me.  Doesn’t that happen to you?  I want to know more about the circumstances, people, or a doctrine so that I can understand my life, the good and bad, better.  I want to know how to figure things out or what to tell people who are bothered by questions or problems they are having, but it seems like God is content to say, “You don’t need to know” to some of the questions we might have.

Can you understand why that is the case?  I’m not God and I cannot begin to understand everything he does or everything he knows.  How could I understand all the bad things happen in this world, to those close to me, to me?

There are some examples in Scripture of some who wanted answers and thought they deserved better from God.  And from what those sections describe, I don’t need detailed answers for every single bad thing that I see on the news or experience in my life.  I need the simple, straightforward, universal answers. I need to be reminded that I’m not God.  I’m not the one who is in control of all things.  If there are problems and pain all I need to know is that the cause is a world that is dark with sin.  Sin is at the root of every single bad thing that happens.  And sin is not God’s fault, it’s mine, yours…ours.

And if I want to find the answer, the solution to sin, there’s only one simple, straightforward, universal answer for that.  It’s Jesus.  That little baby of Bethlehem wasn’t born so that we could have an entire category of music that takes over the radios from Thanksgiving to New Years.  The eternal Word did not take on human flesh so that we could have a time of year to be off from school, get together with family, share some memories and eat way too much.  The Son of God who came from heaven down to earth did not take up residence here only for us to have a brilliant and inspirational life coach.  Or any of that other stuff that people want Jesus to be.

He came here to be the one answer for our sin.  He came here to destroy the devil’s work.  He came here to make peace for sinners and his Father.  He came here to open the gates of heaven.  He came here so that we could have good news that no one can take away from us.  He came to bring us out of our own darkness so that we could live in the light and also shine with his light for others.

How’s that for keeping things simple, straightforward, and universal?  Every page of Scripture is an answer to what is wrong with me and this world: it’s sin.  It’s the darkness we make by doing what God forbids and not doing what he commands.  And every page of Scripture is an answer to what takes the darkness of sin away: it’s Jesus.  He’s the light that dawned on Christmas and has been shinning brightly through the Word ever since.

But then we arrive at this sixth day of Christmas, and those questions start coming back again.   If the entire Bible is written by God and given to point people to our Savior, then why don’t we have more about Jesus from 0-30 years-old?  What was it like to teach baby Jesus to walk, to talk, to eat solid food, to potty train?  What was his first day of school like?  Did he always get straight A’s?  What was it like to be friends with the Son of God?  What did it look like for a perfect Jesus to make it through the tumultuous teenage years?  Did his voice ever crack?  Did he play an instrument or sing in the choir at synagogue?  What was his favorite sport?  Did he hit a home run every time he batted?  It’s astonishing how little information we have about the upbringing and growth of Jesus, isn’t it?

Wouldn’t this time period of Jesus’ life help struggling parents what to do with their kids?  Wouldn’t this part of Jesus’ life help struggling kids how to have respect and obedience for their parents?  Wouldn’t this time of Jesus’ life be helpful for a lot of things?  Why not more?  All we have is a very brief mention of Jesus at 8 days old being circumcised, Jesus at the temple when he was 40 days old meeting Simeon and Anna,  Jesus as maybe a 6 to 20 month-old kid when the Magi come for a visit (more on that next week), and then this section in front of us today when he is 12.

God is content to say, “You don’t need to know.”  And the reason why we only need these few events and details of Jesus childhood is because of what Jesus was here to do.  Jesus was not here to write a book for struggling parents or children.  Jesus was not here to come up with a teenager’s guide to high school.  There are some sections of the Bible that can help people in all sorts of circumstances, but the main thing is to know who Jesus is and what he does for us.

That’s why this section of God’s Word that gives us such a brief glimpse of Jesus tells us everything we need to know: Jesus was taking care of business, every day and his Father’s way.

We hear that Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover every year.  And that’s exactly what we need Jesus to do for us.  He needs to keep the law that God gave in the Old Testament 100% perfectly.  Those ceremonial laws for Jewish worship were given by God for the people of Israel, so that they would be a light to the dark nations around them, so that foreign people would notice that there is something different about Israel and their God.  The problem was that the people of Israel did not always follow these laws very well if at all.  And that leads to the other reason for all of these special worship and festival laws and customs. They were also given by God as a promise that the Messiah was coming to forgive, deliver, save, and restore people.

These two little verses that seem so insignificant tell us so much about Jesus’ childhood and his life as our Savior from sin, death, and hell.  Every day he was following God’s laws.  Every day he was obeying his parents without a single sideways glance or disrespectful grunt.  Every day he was putting God first.  And he was doing that every day for all the 4, 5, 6, 12, 18, 24, 33, 42, 58, 67, and 92 year-olds who fail every day to obey God and those in authority, for those who fail to keep God as the number one priority, for those who fail to worship the Lord every week, for those who fail to keep God’s name holy, for those who fail to love their neighbor as themselves.  Every day Jesus was taking care of business, he was living as our perfect substitute who walked this world in our place so that some day we could walk in his place in heaven.

He was also taking care of this very important business his Father’s way.  When Mary and Joseph realize that Jesus is not with them, they react like every parent.  They search the big group of relatives and friends.  When that’s not successful, they take off for Jerusalem because this is worse than that Home Alone movie when the little boy, Kevin, is left all alone.  Kevin was in his house.  He knew the territory. He knew the neighborhood and the neighbors a little bit.  Jesus was in Jerusalem, not Nazareth where home was.  This is a huge city for a small-town kid.  I think we call understand the parents’ angst.

But the child was not lost.  He was not missing because of a conniving scheme to get away from mom and dad.  After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers.  When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”  You can here a little bit of an irritated mother in Mary’s words.  She knows who she is talking to.  She’s seen him every day of his life as the perfect Son of God.  But this seems like a stretch to her.  Jesus had not done something actively against them, but these words still seem to show her shock and anxiety that her son could go three days without his parents.

But this is where God doesn’t want to keep us in the dark.  This is where we need to hear the child Jesus explain who he is.  Mary says, “Your father and I…”  to which Jesus responds, “Why were you searching for me? Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”  Mary and Joseph are focused on their relationship to Jesus as his parents, his caretakers, his nurturers, his providers, but Jesus knows the whole time that his relationship to the Father in heaven is the priority.  It’s not that Mary and Joseph don’t matter.  Far from it.  But he knows why he’s here.  Jesus was here to take care of business his Father’s way.

Almost all the English translations say “my Father’s house,” but interestingly the Greek word for “house” is not in the text.  Literally, Jesus says, “Didn’t you know that it is necessary for me to be about my Father’s things.”  God’s business was that Jesus would fulfill all of the prophecies and laws for us. God’s business was to save the world through Jesus the Christ, his one and only Son.  God’s business was to put perfect Jesus in your place so that our sins would be removed from us and eternal righteousness would be put in their place.

And so that’s why Jesus gently, lovingly, and respectfully reminds Mary and Joseph whose he is.  He is God’s Son.  And in so doing he reminds them what his business is here in this world.   God lets us in on a little detail that Mary and Joseph don’t understand what he was saying to them.  It had to be difficult to raise the Savior, who doesn’t have the same life goals as normal children, but who also has to be a normal child to understand us and what we go through.

This is why Jesus quickly gets up and proceeds to go with them back to Nazareth.  Mary and Joseph are his earthly parents and there is a commandment about parents and authorities that we break far too often that Jesus needs to keep perfectly for us, because he is our Savior who is here to take care of the business of our salvation.

There are definitely times when we want to know more, we want God to let us in on some more information about the Bible, about our lives, about this world, about so many things.  But for all those times when God says “You don’t need to know” we have this beautiful section of Scripture recorded for us.  God says this is Jesus.  This is the one you need.  He is the one who took care of your business every day of his earthly life and just the way God needed him to do it so that we could be saved eternally.  I don’t know about you, but that’s more than enough for me to have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year for my entire life and for eternity.  Amen.

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ONLY CHRIST MAKES A CHRISTIAN HOME

Week 8 – 7.30.17

LL pic 2

Colossians 3:12-21

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
18 Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.
20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.
21 Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.

 

 

“It is so good to be home.”  Have you said it before?  I’m sure.  I said it when we got back from our trips earlier this July.  It doesn’t mean you hate vacation.  It’s just that you are happy to be done living out of a suitcase, sleeping in a hotel or tent, driving or flying from place to place, spending more money than normal, or eating too much.  You are happy to be back in your normal routine, your own bed, your own kitchen, and of course for the guys, our own couches and clickers.

Now, today we are not talking about the advantages and disadvantages of being at your house vs. being on vacation, but I think that comparison helps us get into the topic of a Christian home.  Because where does Christ need to be in a Christian home?  Should he be the visitor, the vacationer… or should he be living among your family and dwelling in you?  Should he have a continuous place in your home?

The Lord God himself makes the answer very clear in these words before us this morning: “Let the Word  of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Jesus needs a dwelling place, not a vacation spot.  He wants to be in your conversations and what you study and learn.  He wants to be the reason and the motivation for everything you do and say.  He doesn’t want to be relegated to visiting hours a couple days of the month or year.  He doesn’t want to have a quick mention before you eat.

So, let me ask you, where is Jesus in your home?  Is he the vacationer?  Or does he have a dwelling place there?  You don’t have to wonder about God’s willingness to be in your life and home.  When you were washed in baptism, he was taking up residence in your heart.  And your Lord wants nothing more than to stay there forever.  Since God loved you that much, since he has brought you into the family, what is your response?  How are you keeping the Lord present in your home? What does your side of that relationship look like?

There is a pretty easy way to tell.  Listen to what God says. “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly,” “ whatever you do, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus,” and  “give thanks to God the Father through him.”  Christ is dwelling in your home – not just visiting or vacationing – when his Word is in regular use.  Christ is dwelling in your home when you carry out your responsibilities with a focus on his purpose and for his glory.  Christ is dwelling in your home when prayers are not just a bunch of requests, but also thanksgiving for all that he has done for you and all the blessings God has given to you.  Christ is dwelling in your home when you follow what he says about family life and roles.

Jesus did not die to be your guest now and then.  He paid the price to take all your sins away and to bring you back into the family of God forever.  He established a dwelling in your heart, and he doesn’t want to leave.  To show us how much he cares and does for us and our homes God has some very practical things to say for his people about family life.  There are really three groups he addresses: the married, the children, and the parents.

First, when God thinks about a family, he wants a wife and a husband.  That might sound totally obvious, but when we live in a country where more than half of the marriages end in divorce, where many couples don’t even value the bonds of marriage, and where the very definition of marriage is being rewritten, we can’t just skip over that point.

Marriage is a lifelong commitment based in love that one man and one woman make to each other before God following the laws of the land.  It is the fabric of society and the foundation of a Christian home.  When God brings a man and woman together in marriage it is beautiful, and God wants to keep it that way.

Jesus said in the Gospel, “A man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”   God doesn’t encourage divorce or like it, because it not only ends a marriage but it fractures his foundation for a Christian home. Only when the other spouse makes it absolutely clear that they have broken their side of the commitment does Jesus permit divorce. The only evidence Jesus gives is sexual unfaithfulness, and God adds willful abandonment as part of that.

To keep a marriage going God’s way, then, it cannot be based on earthly things.  Sure, it’s a blessing to have a spouse who is fun, smart, passionate, prosperous, genuine, trustworthy, beautiful, and hardworking.  But those are not the main reasons to get married.  What if some of those things change?  What if time, stress, children, or an accident makes it hard to keep those traits going?  Would that mean it was time to break the marriage?  No!

No, a marriage cannot be based on what someone else gives or does for you.  The primary earthly reason for marriage is your love for the spouse.  It’s about what you give and what you do.  It’s not about how your spouse makes you feel but about your commitment to them.  And the only place to learn this kind of love is from the God who showed us what love is and what love does.  A Christian home will be built on God’s Word and the love of God that is shared between a husband and a wife.

The Word of Christ tells us, “wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.   Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.”  Wives, you are not slaves submitting to an oppressive master.  You are God’s perfect and necessary complement for your man.  Your submission to your husband shows you follow his leadership and support him with care and compromise. Husbands, we are not the dictators. We are the example of Christ in the home, willing to give up everything for the glory of God and the benefit of the family.

Maintaining a Christian home will be difficult when this Word of Christ is not dwelling there.  If a relationship other than the marriage union that God established, if a marriage is based on something other than loving sacrifice and submission, then maintaining a Christian home will be difficult because you are not following the Word of Christ.  And when you don’t follow the word of Christ, then how can he be dwelling in your home?  He is being treated like a sporadic guest.

The next part of the home God mentions is children.  “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.”  You won’t find God saying that children deserve a bunch of their favorite things.  You won’t find God saying that children can complain and groan if they don’t get what they want.  You won’t find God saying that children should focus first and foremost on sports or school or hobbies.  You will hear God say that it goes well in a home if children honor and respect their parents as God’s representatives.  You will hear God say that children should look to obey their parents more than looking for their parents to provide for them.  You will hear God say the children who listen to the Word of Christ are a huge blessing for a Christian home.

And that leads to the third category, parents. “Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.”  Often in a marriage, God will give the blessing of children.  It’s a privilege and responsibility.  It takes love, patience, wisdom, hard work, discipline to be a parent.  It takes a husband and a wife to give children the proper foundation for life.  It takes the word of Christ and the proper roles for the husband and wife to provide a Christian home for God’s blessing of children.

Sure, parents can give their children a nice upbringing without Jesus, but those children will be molded to think that life is about this world and my place in it.  They will grow up working hard and being good citizens to make a good life for themselves, but that’s all it will be.  And “how sad and poor and dark” is a place where Christ and the eternal joy he provides is not there.  So our primary goal is to let the Word of Christ dwell in the home. Our primary goal is to give glory to Jesus by trusting him and doing our best to live for him. If that is our primary goal, God promises that he will take care of everything else.

There are two reasons why Jesus cares so much about the home.  First, the family is the main way Jesus provides for us.  A father who is missing physically, emotionally, spiritually, a strained relationship between the father and mother, a lack of proper discipline, attraction/addiction to worldly pleasures, some kind of abuse –  when there is any kind of dysfunction in the family, it hurts.  It hurts the marriage, the parenting, and the children.

The second reason Jesus is concerned with the home is that God intended the family to be an illustration of his relationship with us. God wants a parent’s attitude and actions toward their children to be a picture of his own toward us. God wants a husband’s relationship with his wife to be a picture of his Son’s relationship with believers. If we don’t learn these examples at home, what are the odds that we will learn elsewhere? God could still make it happen, but the home was designed by God for that purpose.  If you don’t see God’s forgiveness play out at home between husband and wife, parents and child, a brother and sister, then where else can you see it? How are we going to see God’s Word in action if we have no model for it in the home?

That’s why Christ wants to dwell in your homes. But guess what, friends? Even if you grew up in or have a home that is a complete failure, it is still possible to learn and practice love and forgiveness and patience and discipline, because we will always have God’s household as a model. We will always have the relationship between God the Father and God the Son.  We will always have the relationship between Christ and his believers.

Paul doesn’t say, “Husbands, love your wives, just like your father loved your mother.” No, he says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the Word, and to present her to himself as a radiant Church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.”  That is why Paul doesn’t say, “Forgive each other as your parents forgave each other and as you and your siblings forgave each other.” What an inconsistent and sinful model that would be! No, he says, “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

Remember how Paul started this whole section?  You are God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved.  Christ doesn’t visit you, he dwells with you and lives in your heart through faith.  God brings you into his heavenly family so that you can live like his children here in your own family.  So be God’s children in your marriage, your parenting, your family roles, your obedience, and your life.  To God be the glory.  Amen.