Good morning! I’m Pastor Don Gotham, and it is my pleasure to welcome you to our worship service this Sunday. The mission of our church is “Inviting people to rely on Jesus to find unexpected purpose, peace, and joy. We sincerely hope our service this morning speaks deeply to you, and because of our time together, you know more fully how passionately God is in love with you!
We will be continuing with our drive-in worship format through the end of September. Beginning on July 19th, we will hold our worship services at 9 am. The change in time will hopefully help us beat the heat of the summer. When the Leadership Board decides on new target dates to begin safely worshipping inside the building, we will be sure to share that news with you.
Friends, hear the Good News! Remember that in baptism we were baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, so that we may no longer be the slaves of sin, but alive to God. I challenge you this morning to believe the Good News! For, in Jesus Christ, we are forgiven.
So, set your feet upon the new path of life in the company of Jesus, and leave behind the old ways of sin and death. And, may it be that when this service is over, we desire more of God! Amen!
Gospel Lesson – Matthew 11:16-19
16-19 “How can I account for this generation? The people have been like spoiled children whining to their parents, ‘We wanted to skip rope, and you were always too tired; we wanted to talk, but you were always too busy.’ John came fasting and they called him crazy. I came feasting and they called me a lush, a friend of the riffraff. Opinion polls don’t count for much, do they? The proof of the pudding is in the eating.”
Scripture Lesson – Romans 7:15-25a
15 I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. 17 But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.
21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, 23 but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Sermon: “Oh Adam, Oh Adam, or Oh Sam, Oh Sam?” (Romans 7:7-25)
Do you have to do battle with yourself over your own self-control? When I was in seminary, there was a large church north of where we lived. In proximity of the seminary, it was the closest thing we had to a Mega Church. From time to time we would go there and take in a production they put on for a special season, like Advent, or Holy Week. The pastor came and lectured for a couple special courses at our seminary. Many of the students were excited to hear what pearls of wisdom he might have to share. After one of the lectures, he took questions. He had shared much of his own devotional life, and when one of the students asked with all sincerity, “With all of the success your church is having, and with your own spiritual house in order, what is your secret to not having any downfalls in your life?” I still remember his rather jarring answer. “Young man,” he asked in return, are you blind? Do you not see me standing here in front of you? I weigh over twice as much as a man my height should weigh. My sin is plainly visible for everyone to see! Don’t you dare go thinking I have no struggles. You might go to bed at night wishing the things that cause you to stumble were gone come the morning, but know this: I have pastored for over thirty-five years, and have yet to find someone, parishioner or colleague who when they are honest can tell me there hasn’t been a time in their life when they battled their own sense of self-control.”
I think that was about the time one of my professors required us students to watch an early movie version of LES MISERABLES. In class when we discussed the story, our professor shared that he had learned how Victor Hugo, the author of the book the movie, and the musical is based on struggled with self-control. Hugo was very clever in how he dealt with his struggles. The author would ask his servant to steal his clothes every morning. Since Hugo had no clothes appropriate to go out and about, he was forced to carry on with his writing.
Is there anyone here today who can tell me they have this matter of self-control all sewn up? Before you glibly check that off in your mind as a “Yessir,” ask yourself when the last time you spent time judging the words and actions of someone without knowing all of the story? Which of us can look at the words from this passage of scripture and not feel a bit of conviction?
If we are truly honest, I believe most of us can agree there can hardly be a more relevant passage of scripture for us today. Okay, it is relevant, but God’s word is supposed to do more than just convict us. What is the answer? How do we move forward?
First, we move forward when we own up to the truth that we can do better. As long as we hang on to the notion, we are doomed to continue to make the same mistakes, we will continue to make the same mistakes. We have choices in how we live. Ask anyone who has successfully quit smoking. It takes a determined choice to overcome. We have to own up to the fact that we were given the ability to make choices. We have the power to follow through. Take a look at the great heroes of the faith: they all came to the place where they made a decision, a choice, and they stuck to their convictions that they could do better.
Second, we move forward when we arrive at the truth that nobody can fight this battle for us. The battle is our own.
Years ago on a Christian radio station, I heard pastor Tony Evans tell this story about a forester named Sam. Old Sam would be out chopping down the tree. You could hear him say one phrase: “Oh, Adam. Oh, Adam.” Every time he hit that tree, he’d say, “Oh, Adam.”
One day the foreman came by and asked him, “How come every time you hit the tree, you say, `Oh, Adam?” Sam said, “Because Adam, my forefather, sinned against God. God cursed him and said that he would have to work from that time on. So every time I hit this ax against the tree, it reminds me that if Adam hadn’t sinned, I wouldn’t have to work.”
One day his supervisor came and said, “Come here, Sam.” He took him to his big, plush, palatial ten thousand square foot mansion. He said, “It’s all yours. You can live in it; you can do whatever you want. You’ve got a swimming pool, a tennis court, servants everything. Everything in this house is yours. I’m giving it to you because I don’t want you to struggle with that Adam mentality. I ask only one thing: Don’t lift up the box on the dining room table. Enjoy everything else in the house, be what you want to be, do your own thing, but that box on the dining room table, do not touch.”
Sam said, “No problem. I can handle it.” So Sam played tennis every day, went swimming, ate three meals a day. But after about five months, he saw that box. That bothered him. He wanted to know why, if he can have everything, that box was so important. He said, “No, I’m not going to touch it; I’m not going to jeopardize my time here.”
After a year he had tried everything. He had gotten used to everything. There was nothing new anymore. There was only one thing new in that house, and that was that box. And so one day, when nobody was looking, he lifted up the box just a little bit. Out of that box ran a little, teeny mouse that hid, and Sam couldn’t catch it and couldn’t find it. The supervisor came and noted that the box had been lifted. He went to Sam and said, “Now Sam, I warned you. Go back out into the forest and pick up your ax and chop again.” The next time the supervisor came by he heard Sam saying, “Oh, Sam. Oh, Sam.”
Sam came to see that he couldn’t blame his predicament on Adam. Only on Sam. We begin to win the battle for control, first of all, when we recognize that nobody can do it for us.
Lastly, we move forward when we acknowledge we have God on our side. God can’t give you the resolve to make a course correction, but the Holy Spirit can convict you there is a better path, if only you’ll follow it. God wants you to stop laying the blame for all of the days and the ways you stumble at the feet of your parents, or your boss, or your spouse, or at the feet of God. God wants you to wrestle with how much you want to do the right things instead of the wrong thing, so you will realize how much you need God’s help. And then when you come to the place of honestly asking for God’s help, you will accept it, and own your part, and see how it is different than God’s part.
I recently had a conversation with a man I had counseled some years ago. He had struggled with drinking, and he desperately wanted to quit, but time and time again, he gave in to his desire to have the alcohol take away the stress of life.
His struggle came into an acute focus when unexpectedly his sister died. The man had a brother with special needs, and his parents had passed away, so the sister’s passing left him as the only family left to care for his brother. No one had even considered making the man his brother’s guardian, because of his drinking habit. Still, he loved his brother, and couldn’t bear to think of him becoming a ward of the state. So, he resolved to become his brother’s guardian.
Being they were in a small town, the local judge knew of the man’s drinking habit. When the judge held the hearing in court, he questioned the man. The judge was concerned at the possibility of making him the guardian of his brother, and having his drinking bring harm to one who needed help. Using the judges own words, he spoke of how he believed we didn’t have to follow the wrong path, and being convinced of the ability for people to be redeemed, he said he believed God could assist him to do this very thing. The judge agreed, and the brothers went home.
Not only did the man stop drinking, but he helped his brother to flourish. His brother with special needs made excellent strides, and now lives in his own apartment.
He said, I claimed it! I claimed that I believed in God’s help to make this work. I held on to that belief each day, and God has been faithful. I know I couldn’t have made it without God.
Friends, each of us faces a battle for self-control. But we can do better. We can win the battle. The times we fail are not someone else’s fault. We are responsible. And praise God, we have Jesus to help us once we take responsibility. That’s how it works.
Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord. We are not alone. Praise be to God! Amen.