Well, can you believe it? One year of online church already and I would like to take this moment to thank you, Pastor Tim and Emily, I want to thank you for your leadership, for your support, for your vision and we really believe that the best years for Festival Church are still ahead of us. Before we jump into the message this morning, I would like to have a look at this quick video. It’s a TV advert from South Africa. I’m sure you’re going to enjoy this one, have a look.
I just love it. “Do you know who I am?” And if I have to ask you the question right now – who knows you the most – who’s name would you put down in the chat box or who’s name would you write down in your notebook? I know for me, the person that I would write down is Klara, my wife, she’s the one that knows the good, the bad and the ugly, and, in fact, sometimes I think she knows me better than I know myself.
When I look at social media, you know we all post things online of our families and what we do and the things that we’re passionate about and I think it’s also because we want people to know us. We want people to celebrate life with us. We want people to see how perfect and beautiful our families are and how perfect our beautiful our cakes and our breads and everything about us are. Sadly, you know life is not perfect when you when you stand on the other side of the camera, you realise there’s more to this picture than just a pretty shot. There’s real life happening behind the scenes and everything is not always what it appears to be. But we want to be known, I believe that it’s true for you as it is for me. I want to be known not by the whole world, but I want to be known by people or individuals that really know me well, that understand me and that would love me through the good, the bad and the ugly. And that is what I love about the Scriptures. I love the fact that when God wrote the Scriptures through men, he didn’t hold back. He didn’t press pause and say well, no, no, no, no, no, that is not perfect. Let’s take that out. He says, let’s put it all in there to show you the journey that people go through, with the imperfections and the perfections and just how God loves them through it all and how God knows us.
There’s this one story that I love, it’s in first Samuel chapter sixteen. I love the story where God appointed the king and he’s not happy about the decision that he has made. The king has terribly disappointed God in his decisions and he wasn’t listening to God. And then God spoke to the prophet Samuel and He said to him, I want you to go to Bethlehem, there’s a man there, his name is Jesse – go and anoint one of his sons as the new king. And Samuel set out to Bethlehem and he meets Jesse and Jesse gathers all his sons together. There are these boys standing in front of Samuel and then there’s this one guy, the eldest brother, as he walks in Samuel saw his appearance and saw that this guy is tall and he’s like, wow, surely this must be the Lord’s anointed right here. But that was not the case. Look at what God says to him in verse 7:
But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.’1 Samuel 16:6-7 NIV
Wow, what God is basically saying to Samuel is there’s more to a man that his pretty face and a six-pack. One day the face will fade and the six pack will end up in a cooler bag. There’s more to that person. Do not pour my anointing oil on corrupted character. That is such great advice for people that’s getting married right now or planning to get married one day. Don’t just look at the outward appearance and think oh wow, this must be the man or the woman of God. This is like oh, this is God’s gift to me, wow, this is incredible. No, wait a minute, before you pour your anointing oil over the person, just test the character first. There’s more to the person than just what you see. There’s the heart and it’s the same for businesses when you step into a partnership with people, you don’t want to just jump in because the CV looks great and what they have to offer looks great. You actually want to consider what’s the motives behind what they do, what’s the real heart behind the issue there. It’s incredible that we’ve got the Holy Spirit to lead us through those moments.
What happens then is Samuel is like well if this is not the Lord’s anointed, then who is? Jesse brings the other sons one by one, he’s got eight sons. There are seven of them lined up and every single one of them, God says nope, nope, nope, nope, nope. Samuel is like God did I miss a memo or something, what’s happening here? Jesse, do you perhaps have another son and Jesse’s like oh, yeah, I’ve got the youngest one, he’s looking after the sheep right now. Do you want me to call him? Samuel was like, yeah go call him. We will not sit down until that boy is here – go and call him. And that’s what they did. When David walked in, God said this is the one, I know his heart, I know what kind of character he has. This is the one. Samuel poured the anointing oil on David and he anoints him as king of Israel. Then I thought, wow, what a moment. Imagine how David must have felt in that situation. The prophet came to town ready to anoint the new king of Israel. Super excited. My dad didn’t choose me. My dad didn’t think that I was king material. Perhaps my dad thought, well he’s too young, God will never choose him anyway. What a moment. Maybe David was disappointed and excited at the same, time who knows. And I know that sometimes as dads, and if you’re a dad, you can relate to this, sometimes we don’t always get things right. But I’m so grateful that God still works beyond our failures and the things that we do wrong at times. Sometimes when we overlook some of our sons or our daughters, God still works out his plan for our children. Don’t stress out too much. Mums, dads, God’s got big plans for your children and for your life, let him work it out. Trust God in this season.
So, there is David and perhaps you’re feeling like that. Perhaps you’re feeling like you grew up in a home and my dad never celebrated me. My dad never said, hey, you know, I’m there for you. My dad always overlooked me. Perhaps you know, he said to you, you’re a failure. You will not amount to anything. Can’t you just do anything right and you have this belief or this idea about yourself that you are not good enough. There are times where you’ve said that to yourself, why am I here? What purpose do I have? Does anyone actually really care? Why am I here? Does anybody really know who I am? Does someone really care about who I am? But now I’ve got good news for you because David later on in his life wrote a song and this is a beautiful song. Verse one of Psalm 139 says this:
You have searched me Lord and you know me Psalm 139 NIV
Don’t just jump to the next verse, just wait for a moment, just think about what David just said. He says you searched me. It doesn’t say well, my dad searched me, my mum searched me. It’s not like my brother searched me and also it wasn’t like he was lost. The Scripture doesn’t say God you searched for me. No, no, he wasn’t lost. God didn’t have a search party going on, no, no. It says you have searched me and that searching means when someone goes digging for gold. It’s digging deep into the ground. It’s like someone that goes and explores the land, not just to quickly have a look around, but it’s exploring the land to see the beauty of it, to see what’s really in there. It’s almost like that searching means like when you search a legal case. You’re really looking in to it properly. And that’s how God searched David’s heart. And the beautiful thing is that He says you have searched me. So many times, we want people to approve of us and so many times we want our bosses and our family members or friends to like us. But David says no, you have searched me Lord and you know me. The beautiful thing about this song is that it’s a declaration that David made, he writes the Psalm and he’s making a declaration of how God has formed him. How God has made him on purpose, for a purpose, he’s not a mistake, God knows him by name. And what’s even greater than that, I believe, is that it’s not a declaration of David saying that God how much you know me, it’s actually a declaration of God to you and to me saying I have searched you and I know you. I know when you sit when you stand, I know when you were formed in your mother’s womb, I created you on purpose, for a purpose. What I want to do right now is to take the rest of that song and I want to read it to you. It’s not too long, so hang in there, but it’s a beautiful song and I want you to listen to this, verse one:
1 You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
5 You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,’
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand –
when I awake, I am still with you. Psalm 139:1-18 NIV
I’m going to stop there. But I want that to sink in for a moment and I want you to know this this morning that God knows you. God knows your name. God knows your past. He knows your present and He knows your future. The beautiful thing about God is that he sent Jesus Christ. His one and only Son to die for your sins on the cross. So perhaps you’re sitting here saying Erold I don’t want people to know me. In fact, I don’t want God to know me. I don’t think if He had to search me, I don’t think He would like what he sees.
Well can I say this, whatever is hidden in your heart, Christ has died for your sins already. It has been paid for you are forgiven. All you need to do is say Jesus, I accept you as my Lord and my Saviour. I believe that you are the Son of God and today I invite you into my heart. I want to give you that opportunity right now to do that. Perhaps you’re that person right now, you’ve never done that and you’ve gone to church all your life. Perhaps you’ve never gone to church, this is the first time you’ve actually joined online church, God loves you, make a decision right now to say yes to Jesus. Be my Lord, be my Saviour. Thank you that you know me. Lord Thank you that you understand me Lord and thank you for the plans that You’ve got for me. And may we all, including me, may we find our purpose and our identity and our value not in what we do, not in who we are, not in what we own or who we know, but we may we find our value and our purpose in this fact that God knows us. God knows you.
God knows you. What I would like you to do this week, take Psalm 139 and set a time, and set a place and meet with God and let Him speak to you. He can’t wait to speak to you. Have a great week. God bless you.
Good morning and welcome to our Mother’s Day service. Isn’t it great that we set aside a day in the year where we choose to honour mothers. Now, I had a crazy conversation with Tim in the middle of the night just recently, it was, I think, the early hours of the morning, about 4 o’clock in the morning and we’ve got to the age where we randomly find ourselves wide awake at random times. I’m sure it is an age-related thing, but anyway, Tim was wide awake, I was wide awake and Tim just suddenly said to me “I can’t remember the Ten Commandments”. What a random thing to come out with in the middle of the night and so we were discussing the Ten Commandments. I said, well, there’s one I’m really certain about and that’s the one that says, “Honour your father and your mother” and he said to me “no, that’s not one of the Ten Commandments”. It’s not. It is. it’s one of the Ten Commandments because it’s one that comes with a promise “Honour your father and your mother that you may live a long time”. And so, the discussion continued, but today is the day that we take to honour our mothers because it is something that the Bible tells us to do. I know traditionally Mother’s Day comes from the tradition of the church, Mothering Sunday. My mother always insisted that I call it Mothering Sunday not Mother’s Day and that’s to do with the tradition of the church. But it’s now become one of those days where we do just love to honour our mothers and also just to honour what motherhood really means. For those of you who are mothers, you’re doing a great job and thank you for all that you are doing. And for those of you also who perhaps aren’t mothers, but there are people in your life that I’m sure that you are pouring out your kindness and your generosity upon and you are in a sense mothering, although they are not your children – thank you to for all that you are doing.
As it’s Mother’s Day, I thought I would have a look today at an example of a mother that we can find from the Bible. Of course, it’s an easy choice, I’ve gone with Mary, the mother of Jesus. Let’s take some time today to look at the life of Mary and what we can learn from her as a mother. There’s a lot that we can learn from her, but I’ve just picked out four points today that we can learn from her. So, what can we learn from Mary well?
The first thing that we can learn comes from a little little snippet of a verse in the book of Luke chapter 2 verse 19. It says this:
But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2:19 NIV
Now “these things” in this particular example, what is being referred to in the Scriptures is talking about the events and the words that were spoken all around Jesus’s birth. There was so many incredible and miraculous things that took place around the birth of Jesus and it was “these things” that Mary treasured up and pondered over. She stored them in her heart and so these were events and things that were spoken that actually happened, but we get the impression when we look at the life of Mary that she was somebody who actually treasured and pondered the Word of God, that she took that into her heart. Actually, a real very, very vivid part of her life was the fact that she had taken the Scriptures and taken them into her heart prior to anything else that happened in her life. We don’t know that for a fact but when we look at the song that she sings after the Angel visits her and tells her that she is the one who has chosen to carry the Saviour of the world and bring the Saviour of the world into the world, she sings this incredible song, and this song demonstrates that she is somebody who has spent a lot of time pondering and treasuring the Word of God, that she has spent time with the Word of God and that she knows God. It isn’t just her first encounter with God, but she really does know something about God. She knows about the plans and the purposes that he has and the designs that he has and so she sings this song. It’s in Luke chapter 1 verses 46 to 55, looking at that we can see that she really did understand and know something of God. She strikes me as being a person very, very like the description that we get in Psalm 1 verses 1 to 3:
Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers. Psalms 1:1-3 NIV
I get the impression Mary was like this, one who took delight in the law of the Lord and one who meditated on his Word. I like that word meditate and I’ve been thinking a lot about the meaning of the word. What does it mean to meditate on God’s Word? I like to think of it a little bit like ruminating. I don’t know if you’ve ever watched a sheep eat but they chew and they chew and chew their jaw going from side to side to side a bit like chewing chewing gum and they are ruminating over the same pieces of grass. It’s part of the digestive process for them. They ruminate and they seem to be chewing and chewing and chewing for ages and I think that’s a really good picture of what it means to meditate. It’s to take hold of a tasty morsel of God’s Word and to chew over and chew over and chew over and mull it over and get all the best goodness out of it. It’s each individual’s responsibility to choose to, in a sense, eat of the Word of God, to choose to take on the goodness of what God offers us in his in his Word. It’s our responsibility, each of us as individuals, to get hold of God’s Word and to meditate on it, to ruminate over it for ourselves. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13 verse 11:
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 1 Corinthians 13:11
That’s just a great picture, isn’t it, of that growing in responsibility, that it comes a time in life where we do just have to take responsibility for ourselves, take responsibility for our own meditation on God’s Word. No one can do that for you, it’s up to each one of us that we meditate on God’s Word ourselves.
1. Hide his Word in our hearts.
So, going back to Mary, what can we learn from her? She was one who clearly treasured and pondered on God’s Word. I believe she meditated on God’s Word and so like her we can hide God’s Word in our heart. Psalm 119 verse 11, great place to start if you want to look at the power of what God’s Word can do in your life. But Psalm 119 verse 11 actually says:
I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:11 NIV
Hiding God’s Word in our hearts helps to protect us in the way that we walk and in our walk with God that we might not sin against him. So, let’s learn that from Mary today, to hide his words in our hearts and meditate on his Word.
What else can we learn from Mary? There’s a great story in the book of John Chapter 2, and I’m going to read the whole story for you:
1 On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”
4 “Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”
5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
6 Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.
7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.
8 Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”
They did so, 9 and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”
11 What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
John 2:1-11 NIV
2. Go to Jesus for help
I love this interaction that we get with Mary at the start. When the wine has all gone – how embarrassing I’m sure that situation was, Mary goes to Jesus and says to him, they have no more wine. Jesus is like well, what’s that to do with me and it really amused me because I think I can understand this interaction, it feels like it’s quite relevant to me at the moment. I have adult sons and as a mother, I believe completely in them and in the capacity of what I believe they have to do and the skills that they have and so on. I think Mary felt like that about Jesus, she completely believed in him and she was really sure of who He was and what He was capable of, so she goes to Him and says these people they need your help here and Jesus is like “mother stop interfering”! It’s the sort of thing I could imagine my son saying to me, stop interfering mother, it’s not my time. And yet Mary just goes ahead and says to the servants do whatever he tells you to do. But what can we learn from Mary in this particular situation? Well, we can learn from her that we can go to Jesus for help. I love the fact that Mary went to Jesus for help not for herself, but actually for the sake of others. I think it’s something we can do for the sake of others, we can go to Jesus for help and that is something that just brings so much more or brings miracles into our lives and so much more of him into our lives.
There’s a great verse, Psalm 34 verse 17 that says:
The LORD hears his people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles. Psalm 34:17 NLT
Isn’t that amazing, more than Him just hearing, it also says He rescues them from all their troubles. Isn’t that great, that we can go to Jesus for help and especially for the sake of others. Let’s learn from Mary, let’s do that, go to Jesus for help. He hears us and He rescues.
3. Encourage each other to listen and do whatever Jesus tells us to do.
Carrying on with the story, Mary just said to the servants “do whatever He tells you to do”. There’s quite a lot of audacity in that, the fact that she just says to them, you know, regardless of what Jesus had just said, she says to them, do whatever He tells you to do. And the servants, they did as they were told, and actually what they were told to do was something so very, very simple. They were just told to fill the jars with water and so often the instructions that we are given that Jesus does give us are actually quite simple. I love what the servants do – they don’t fill these jars half-heartedly. It says that they fill them to the brim. I get the sense that they did their very best, it wasn’t just half-hearted, just half of it – they filled it to the brim. Though these are very simple instructions, they did their very best with the instructions that they were given. That teaches us something, when Jesus gives us instructions, we should wholeheartedly do our very best to fulfil them. But we need to listen for His instructions and this is something that we can learn from Mary here. She instructed the servants and said, do whatever He tells you to do and we should encourage one another to do that too, to listen for those instructions and to do whatever it is that Jesus tells us to do, however simple or even however complex it might be. We can encourage one another to listen those instructions.
Where do we find those instructions? Well, most often we find those instructions in the Bible. I was reminded of a song that suddenly came into my head when I was preparing this and it’s a play on the letters BIBLE, which some say stand for Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth, apparently, from Jesus. Basic Instructions in the Bible, and that’s where we can find the instruction from Jesus, by listening to His Word, we can encourage one another, encourage one another to listen.
Proverbs 1 verse 33, this is one of my absolute favourite verses in the Bible and I’m sure I’ve quoted it on many times before now, it says:
But whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm. Proverbs 1:33 NIV
I just find that so reassuring. We need to listen to what it is that Jesus is wanting to say to us because it keeps us safe. But more than that, we all need to do what He’s asking us to do, not just to listen but to do.
4. Remain Faithful
What else can we learn from Mary? This is my fourth and final point. Another story about Mary:
Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. John 19:25 NIV
This is much later on in the book of John that we find this story. Jesus is on the cross and these three Marys are there with him at the cross, including his mother. Mary did not abandoned Jesus in his darkest hour. Most of Jesus’s friends had left Him by this time and they were no longer anywhere in the vicinity that He was but Mary was still there by His side as He was hanging on the cross. It’s quite a contrast really when we think of Mary if we contrast her with Peter. Peter adamantly promised Jesus that he would not deny Him and Jesus said to him, Peter you will, and Peter did. As Jesus was under trial and Peter was standing in the courtyard, a young lady said to him, aren’t you one of them and he was like nope, nope, I don’t know I don’t know this Jesus and completely denied Jesus. I remember reading that story as a young Christian myself following Jesus and I remember thinking how did Peter, who declared his love for Jesus and was so you know so fervent in following Jesus. And I was thinking I love Jesus, I would never deny that I know Jesus and in that moment of just thinking about that story, I was sitting in our living room and I looked out the window and there was a gentleman, a farmer, over the road opening the gate and going into the field. I felt God say to me just go and go and tell him about me and I was like, no, I can’t do that, panic, complete panic, I can’t do that. I just felt God drop into my spirit that actually it’s quite easy for any of us to deny Jesus. It was a real pull me up of saying, don’t be too cocky, do be aware that actually that could come times in your life where you will feel that it is a real stretch of pride or putting your neck on the line to actually acknowledge me. I didn’t go and tell that gentleman about Jesus, it was a lesson in itself to me that actually any of us could quite easily deny Jesus and it’s far more of a challenge that we, like Mary, stay beside Him even when things get tough, even when it’s uncomfortable, we should stick by Him. So, from Mary, we can learn this sense of her always being faithful to Him. I think as a mother, it’s very very difficult for you to abandon your child. There’s a verse in Isaiah 49 verse 15 where it says:
Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you! Isaiah 49:15 NLT
That’s just talking about God at the end there, but it is actually very unnatural for a mother to forget her child and so it would have been very unnatural for Mary to have abandoned Jesus, especially as she’s so completely believed in who He was. She had been with Him right from the start all the way through his life. She knew who He was and obviously His birth was so dramatic, she knew who He was. Her belief helped her to remain faithful right until the end, she stuck by Him right to the end. This verse in Matthew 10 verse 32, it says:
Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. Matthew 10:32
So, when it does get tough, you know that we can feel very vulnerable in acknowledging our love for Jesus, we should remember that when it is tough and we acknowledge Him, He acknowledges us before our Father in heaven and that’s really encouraging. So, when it is tough, keep acknowledging Jesus, He is faithful to us, so we should remain faithful to Him. Great lessons from Mary and I’m just going to pray to conclude today.
Jesus, I thank you for all that we have learned today. I thank you for Mary and the lessons that we’ve learned from her and today, Lord Jesus, we ask that you would help us to meditate on your Word, to hide your words in our hearts, to remember that we can come to you at any time when we need help. Lord, help us to listen to you and to do the things the instructions that you give us. Help us to do the things you give us to do and do them well, to the best of our ability. Lord, it’s in our heart that we remain faithful to you, so Holy Spirit, we ask today that you would help us to always be faithful to our Lord and Saviour and to acknowledge Him in every situation in our lives. Thank you for being a part of our lives and thank you for the journey that you are taking us on. You are good and you fill our lives with good things so we praise you. Thank you today in Jesus’ name, Amen.
Well, thank you for joining us today and I hope you have a wonderful day enjoying Mother’s Day.
Good morning! Let me kick straight off with a question. What’s the difference between a thermometer and a thermostat? Good question. Well just park that for a minute, we’ll come back to that shortly. I want us to go back a week and think about what Pastor Rob said about sharing our faith in Jesus with those around us, where God has placed us. Well, let me just tell you a quick story. My eldest daughter, Bethan, is going to be eligible to start to learn to drive at the end of this year and so is her best friend. The difference between them is that her best friend has an eye condition that has always been getting worse. In fact, it’s so bad that she’s had to have a test to check whether she’s going to be eligible to even begin thinking about driving. Her friends aren’t Christians, but Bethan knows the best thing she can do is to pray. So without them knowing Bethan prayed and she prayed a prayer, something like this “Please Lord, can you help my best friend to drive by letting her be okay and be passed to start to learn, let her eyes be okay”. But then she had a bit more boldness and she asked God and said “But actually, I know that doctor said this will never ever get better but please could you even bring some improvement to her eyes?”. Well, the next day she had a call from her best friend and her best friend said “You’ll never guess what it’s great, I’ve passed the test to be able to think about learning to drive and my eyes are good enough”. Oh, that’s amazing Bethan thought that’s incredible and Bethan was out and just for a walk with a friend and another friend and a couple of them in fact and she was quite excited about this, but then all of a sudden, she got a message through from her best friend that said “Oh, by the way I left something out, I forgot to tell you that they said one of my eyes has even improved, it’s incredible”. At which point Bethan let out a squeal and she even started to cry because she was so happy. A friend started to ask what’s going on, so she shared what had happened that she prayed and shared her faith in Jesus. Those friends just started asking question after question after question and they spent a lot of time talking about Jesus. How incredible is that! You know, we’re called to not just share our faith in Jesus with words, but we’re also called to share our faith in Jesus in the way in which we act.
Let’s get back to that question, what’s the difference between a thermometer and a thermostat? Well, a thermometer is affected by the temperature in the room, it’s influenced. Whereas a thermostat sets the temperature in the room, it’s an influencer. So for us today, we’re going to look at what it means to be a thermostat, because God calls us to affect a change in those around us. We’re going to look at this in three points, but just before we get into those three points, let’s just look at the context of the society in which we find ourselves right now. You know, our present culture really does know the difference between being influenced or being an influencer. In fact, so much so, people have jobs now as an “influencer”, whether that’s in TV, Instagram, or any kind of media because there is power in influencing others for a particular gain. The world says that to be successful, we have to have more likes than anyone else, we have to make more money than anyone else, we have to have more titles, more recognition, people need to know us and recognize us more than anyone else and we need to leave a legacy that says “I’ve been here and I have changed something in the world around me”. That’s at complete odds to what Jesus said. This very series “Apprentice to Jesus” tells you everything you need to know. We’re called to follow him. Jesus said:
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”.
John 14:6 NLT
We’ve got to be followers of Jesus and become like Him and die to ourselves. That’s very different to the culture in which we find ourselves.
A quick story, in life I’ve kind of had a moderate level of success that the world would see in qualifications and in business and relationships and sport even. But there’s one time where someone was asking me, a director was saying to me, “we want to promote you”. They started wanting to throw lots of money at me, lots of accolades at me and lots of positions at me. Then I twigged and realised they wanted me to be promoted to actually push out one of my friends and colleagues. I said no and they came back to me with this simple statement “Don’t you want to be a success?” Wow, they thought they get me on that. I said “No. I already feel like I am a success”. It doesn’t matter what I’ve got in terms of qualifications or experience or relationship, I know my brokenness and I know that the only true success that I have is that I’m in God’s hands. That’s not by strength or force or qualification. It’s not by success of the world is actually only through Jesus dying on the cross and the work of the Holy Spirit in my life.
We are called to be thermostats to influence and change the place around us for Jesus and not for ourselves. We’re also called not just to sit back like thermometers and just change with the temperature of the room around us. Let’s look at those three points.
1. Who sets our temperature?
Going back to my science research days, we had all sorts of pieces of equipment in the lab that used to set temperatures, set all sorts of levels, but even they needed a “gold standard” to be set against. It’s the same with us. We might be called to influence others, to change the temperature, to set the temperature in the room or in our communities, but unless Jesus sets our temperature, then it’s all for nothing. I just want us to look at a character, a guy in the Bible from about 2600 years ago, a guy called Daniel in the Old Testament, just as an example of how he set his life by God first and in doing so he was able to affect a huge change amongst kings and a huge nation.
Let’s have a look in the book of Daniel in the Old Testament in chapter one and at the beginning the context of this is that Daniel was part of the of the nation of Judah and they lived in Jerusalem these guys at the time and they were really not following God’s ways. They were not good and so God used the Babylonian King, King Nebuchadnezzar, to come in and to defeat them and take them captive. In Daniel chapter one verses 3 to 6 it says this:
Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, his chief of staff, to bring to the palace some of the young men of Judah’s royal family and other noble families, who had been brought to Babylon as captives. “Select only strong, healthy, and good-looking young men,” he said. “Make sure they are well versed in every branch of learning, are gifted with knowledge and good judgment, and are suited to serve in the royal palace. Train these young men in the language and literature of Babylon.” The king assigned them a daily ration of food and wine from his own kitchens. They were to be trained for three years, and then they would enter the royal service. Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were four of the young men chosen, all from the tribe of Judah. Daniel 1:3-6 NLT
King Nebuchadnezzar was being really clever because he knew that if he took some of the top influences of one of the nations that he’d captured and he retrained them and re-educated them into his ways and have them on his team, then he knows their influence will stop a lot of problems that he has from that nation that he’s taken captive. That was his plan, what he didn’t think about was that he had captured God’s people and however much they’ve done wrong, there were many who were still following God and Daniel and his friends were those people. The King notes in verse 20:
Whenever the king consulted them in any matter requiring wisdom and balanced judgment, he found them ten times more capable than any of the magicians and enchanters in his entire kingdom. Daniel 1:20 NLT
You know, God, when He calls us to have an influence, we can have a huge influence as long as He’s the one who sets our temperature, He’s the one we are influenced by in the first place. Daniel knew this and when he went through a number of different trials and things, he always went back to his friends and said let’s consult what God says about this. He knew where to go, he never got big for his boots, he never thought it was about him. He knew it was always about God
2. We are called to be salt and light
Jesus says this himself and it’s documented in the New Testament in the book of Matthew chapter 5 verses 13 to 16. It’s under a heading called the sermon on the Mount. The reason why it’s called that was because Jesus had taken his disciples, his apprentices, up onto a mountain and started teaching them. We get to this section in verse 13 and Jesus says this:
“You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavour? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. Matthew 5:13-16 NLT
Just a couple of take-homes in this point and that’s this – we’re called to be salt. Salt preserves and stops things going bad. We are called to preserve the goodness of God in our society and in the world and we’re to halt the decay that’s going on by doing that. It’s giving more time for people to respond to Jesus and to see Him. We’re called to be light, we’re called to be those who reveal who God is, to be the ones who set the temperature, who show people the way to go, as long as our temperature is set by Jesus. The temperature we are called to set is one of goodness because God is good. In the first few verses of chapter 5 of Matthew, when Jesus begins to teach them, He tells them various things that should demonstrate that goodness. There’s humility, mercy, that we should have pure hearts and we should be those who work for peace.
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honourable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9 NLT
In Philippians 4:8, Paul says to us that we are to fix our eyes on the things that are good, that are true and honourable, that are right and then he says, keep practicing those things, keep working them out. Don’t just talk about them or just look at them, do it!
3. Who and what has God called us to influence?
This is really important and I want to set up a principle here, that it’s not always about doing the huge thing, or becoming well known. The world tells us to “go big or go home” and yet actually, God says “do it my way and in my time” and often it’s in the quiet places and it’s in the consistency and it’s the continually doing good in every circumstance that we can have an influence well beyond all we can think or imagine.
I want to look at an example of a guy called Barnabas in the New Testament. But first of all, let me tell you about a guy called Saul. He was a man who terrorized the early church, who killed many Christians and imprisoned many others and caused the church to scatter. One day, on the road to Damascus, he was struck by a bright light that blinded him and in that light, Jesus spoke to him. You can imagine many didn’t want to believe that and thought that it was a trap. But we read in Acts 9 verse 26 and 27 something about this guy called Barnabas.
When Saul arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to meet with the believers, but they were all afraid of him. They did not believe he had truly become a believer! Then Barnabas brought him to the apostles and told them how Saul had seen the Lord on the way to Damascus and how the Lord had spoken to Saul. He also told them that Saul had preached boldly in the name of Jesus in Damascus. Acts 9:26-27 NLT
Barnabas stuck his head out to vouch for him, but his influence to bring Saul in with the rest of the Christians really had a huge impact because Saul became Paul, and Paul changed the early church phenomenally. And really did affect a huge change for a nation. Barnabas was an incredible influencer by stepping out and not being the big name, but doing what was right, quietly and consistently. Barnabas and Paul became really good friends, they then went out on a mission and we’re called to do so. We see that in Acts 13 but then in Acts 15 they’re called to go back and they want to go back to see a lot of these places that they’ve seen churches started. But they have a disagreement because on their original mission, in Acts 13, they took a guy called John Mark with them and John Mark abandoned them at one point during their mission. So, when they want to go back to these places, Paul is saying “I don’t want to have anything to do with John Mark because the task is my focus”. Whereas Barnabas was wanting to bring John Mark again and say “actually I want to do what’s right by this person, it’s people that matter”. Neither were right or wrong, but the style differences here are clear to be seen, one is someone who knows where they’re going and how they’re going to get there, in Paul, and Barnabas is really interested in restoration of people. What comes from this is incredible, because if Barnabas had just gone with Paul and just abandoned John Mark, then we would have heard no more. But actually, through Barnabas stepping out, originally for Saul himself and then for John Mark, we find that John Mark was the one who wrote Mark’s gospel in the New Testament from Peter’s account, he became a good friend of Peter. If Barnabas hadn’t stepped out and hadn’t influenced in that way, we would never have Mark’s gospel. How incredible is that?
So, who are we called to influence? Well, those all around us. We’re not to have to do it big but we’re called to do it consistently, in every day and in the quiet ways, in the quiet things. Those that you influence for Jesus, you don’t know what can happen, they could go on to change the world because God calls them to do it, but we are called to be obedient to Him.
Are you a thermometer or a thermostat?
Are you going to be influenced or are you going to be one who influences others?
And in that, are you going to influence for God, by God, and through the power of the Holy Spirit?