Saturday, February 4, 2012

Who Have You Set Loose?

Who have you set loose?

Preached by Jewel D. Williams 2009

Jesus wants to live in us and He is faithful to keep His promises. In order for Jesus to live in us there are some things that must happen. What must happen is you and I must die. Not a physical death, but a spiritual dying to our selves, our own ways and our own desires. We must die to our false Trinity or false god. What is that false Trinity, it is our own god of me, myself and I. When we do, Christ will live in us. God also promises that He will keep His promise in providing for us.

Life Abundantly - …I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. (John 10:10b)

What do people think when you say abundant life?

  • Wealth, success, position, happiness, importance and so many other things.  However, this is not what Jesus meant.

Abundant life – Is not just functioning through life, but a life filled with the fullness of the abilities and resources God has for His children. It is a life filled with His purpose, His gifts, His joy, and His peace. This abundant life that Christ came to bring is one that is available no matter what you face (wealth or poverty, health or sickness) you still have His abundant life. Your situation and circumstances do not have to change the fullness of the life you live in Christ.

In order to have this abundant life it will require the work of Christ in us, but it also requires something else. What do you think that is? It requires the people of God at work for the mission of God.

In a missions book there is a graph that I remind myself of often. It talks about the mission of God. It says God originated the mission, Christ enacted the mission, the Holy Spirit empowers the mission, the church carries the mission and the world receives the mission. In other words, the Triune God; God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit originated the plan of salvation, brought salvation to the world and empowers the people of God for the mission and you and I are to do the work of taking it to the world.

The scripture today helps us to see both parts at work; God and man in the mission.

 John 11:39-44

"Take away the stone," he said. "But, Lord," said Martha, the sister of the dead man, "by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days." Then Jesus said, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?" So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me." When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.  Jesus said to them, "Take off the grave clothes and let him go."

VS 39Take away the stone – The first step for us in this mission ordained by God, is there needs to be someone position to remove the barriers of Christ calling forth the dead.

What are the barriers? Anything that keeps the individual from hearing the call of Christ, in this case it is the stone.

In order to remove the stones that block individuals from hearing Christ call, the people of God must be in positioned. You cannot remove the barriers from the comfort of your chair at home or from the comfort of your seat at church. You have to be at the places where the dead are, where the need is. Jesus called for those that were standing near the tomb to come and remove the stone. He did not send word to their houses to come; those at home were of no use in the moment of need. We have to always be ready to hear God calling us to be in the positions and in the moment of need.

In order to remove the barriers you will need strength. The Holy Spirit empowers the children of God, yet we often forget we have the strength to remove barriers. We look at the barriers and think they are too big. As children of God we must realize Jesus will not call us to an assignment that we have not been given the strength to accomplish. We have the strength, power to remove what stands in the way of others being released from the death grip of sin. Sadly, too many of us look at the “stones” and think, those are just too big and instead of joining in the work, we stand as spectators.

In order to remove the barriers you will need wisdom. Wisdom will allow you to examine the situation and determine if you can remove the barrier by yourself or if you need others coming alongside of you to push away the stones. When you seek Godly wisdom you will be able to discern what tools are needed. You would not go to remove this stone with a spoon. That wouldn’t work. Instead you know you need physical strength and you will need the help of others to remove the stone. Sometimes we have individuals that are lost in sin but are facing addictions, habits and other things that will require us seeking the right help so they can be released from the grave.

In order to remove the barriers you will need teamwork. There are some barriers that you will not be able to move by yourself, this is why the command is for the entire body to be a part of the mission. Your pastor cannot do it all by him/herself. God is calling for us to work as a team to remove some barriers, some stones that block the graves of those that need to be called to life in Christ. This mission is not a spectator sport, it calls for all to be a part of the team doing their part, rolling away some stones.

In order to remove the barriers it will call for being inconvenienced.  If we are going to remove some barriers that keep individuals from life, we are going to have to break a sweat; we are going to have to do some work. It took the individuals that Jesus called to put their muscle into the task of moving the stone. They were not expecting to do this task, but Jesus had need of them and they went to do the work. You may not be expecting to do some things, but you must always be ready to be called on and be inconvenienced for the good of someone else.

In order to remove the barriers we are going to have to have a discerning ear. We are going to have to listen for Jesus’ call for us to remove the stones. It is not you or I that save, but we do need to be positioned and ready for the call of being a stone remover. When is the last time you listened to God calling you to remove some stones? When is the last time you allowed yourself to be inconvenienced so that someone else could be rescued? Are you listening?

In order to remove the barriers we are going to have to have faith and trust in what Christ can do. When Christ said remove the stone, Martha said, hey, he stinks! Its been four days. In other words, he’s been dead too long. We do that sometimes we see people on drugs for years, or living lives that seem as if there could be no redemption from and we think, they have been dead too long in their sins, surely it is too late? But Christ reminded Martha what he told her before, believe in me and see the glory of God at work even in the unthinkable things. He simply is telling her trust me, not what your eyes see. You and I are going to have to trust with our hearts and not what our eyes see, if we are going to be able to remove the barriers in the lives of the lost.

VS 41-43 This is the work of God. Jesus called Lazarus forth. Do you remember the day you were dead and through your blinded eye and your deaf ear you heard your name called? And you came forth from death to the life Christ was now giving? Christ alone brings life to those he calls forth. Now there is something I don’t want us to miss. Christ is the only one that can bring life, but there is still a part that he calls for us to do.

“Jesus said to them, "Take off the grave clothes and let him go." This is my question, who have you set loose lately? Lazarus was bound up. He had death clothes on, his hands were bound, his eyes were covered, and his feet were bound. Surely Jesus could finish the process and remove the grave clothes, why does he tell those around to do it? It is very simply, is the plan as God set forth. God set the plan of salvation in motion when he sent his Son to enact it through his blood on the cross and the Holy Spirit gives us the power to do the work. This is the work. We are to first remove any barriers from the lost hearing God call them forth into the life that His Son, Jesus Christ offers. Then when they hear and come forth from death, it is now our responsibility to help them to be set loss from the past and the ugliness of sins touch.

What are the grave clothes? It is anything from the life lived before coming to Christ that holds us in prison. Death clothes are a reminder of death, inability, lack of freedom, and restriction. The death clothes also carry the stench of death upon them. How can you truly live if you are not free and the reminder of death is still upon you?

Can I tell you that there are many believers today trying to function in life but they are still wearing the grave clothes? Oh it doesn’t matter how long they have been saved, it doesn’t mean they don’t love the Lord either, it simply means we have not been doing our jobs of removing the grave clothes. We often say things like, they should just get over it, or they should just change this or that. But can I tell you today that it isn’t always that easy because their hands are tied, they can’t reach up and grab the cloth that has them bound. Sometimes they don’t even know they are still bound because they cannot see clearly, their eyes are still covered. It isn’t that they are not asking God for help, but the help He sent, isn’t doing the work. That help is us. Today, I want to say the church has a mission. God is calling us to set some people loose.

Prayer: Lord today, help us to do our part in the mission. You have called us to be delivers of your Word to help those in the grave to be able to hear your call for them to be set free. And then when you have set them free help us to remove the grave clothes. Those things that bound them up and keep them from being free to soar and be all that you have called them to be. In Jesus name we pray, amen.