Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Don't Be Afraid…To Be Accepted

Mid-Week Lenten 4
March 30, 2011
Luke 12:4-7
"Don't Be Afraid…To Be Accepted"

It was a dreadful thing Judas did - betray his own Master. But he was sorry for it. He showed his remorse by returning the 30 pieces of silver. Yet he must have thought his deed was unforgivable. Despair overwhelmed him, and he destroyed himself. The issue at hand was not Judas' acceptance of himself but rather God's acceptance of Judas.

The matter that concerns us tonight is not whether we have accepted ourselves, but whether God has accepted us. The question, which begs to be asked tonight is this: "does God really accept me?" Our text for this night affirms that He does!

If you and I can be confident of this fact, that God really accepts us, then, we'll have much less difficulty accepting others and ourselves. God's encouraging words for us on this night is this: Don't be afraid…to be accepted!

I'm sure that all of you are familiar with the great king Solomon of the Old Testament. He wrote three books of the Bible. He wrote the Song of Solomon when he was young and in love. Proverbs when he was middle aged and finally the book of Ecclesiastes when he was an old, old man. This third book of his trilogy can be best summed up with the words, which occur throughout the book "Vanity of vanities all is vanity".

Now to some, that statement of wise King Solomon, that all is vanity, that's a bothersome statement, and yet, that is the voice of experience. Solomon wrote his book toward the end of his life, as he reviewed his final years of life.

As he reviewed all of his life's existence he had to admit to himself that a vast majority of his time and energy was spent with many vain and selfish endeavors which he had hoped would have gotten him noticed.

Today, some 3,000 years later not too much has changed. In our time, as well, many people spend an exceptional amount of time and effort trying to become noticed. The motive is simple; if others notice me, I'll also become accepted, or at least, I'll have an easier time at being accepted!

True, every day we as human people are confronted with many a vein attempt at becoming noticed. Folk may ask, "do people notice me?" "Are my clothes right?" There is much that people do to fit in. Some may act a certain way around other people, they engage in their conversations, do things that they do just for the satisfaction that others will stand up and take notice.

As the wise old yard reminds us "it's not always what you know but who you know that counts. That's a common phrase that carries the understanding that if we associate with the right people, at the right time and at the right place, then those personal goals that we so desperately want to achieve will be accomplished.

For example, the student, that just so happens to have an uncle who is the president of the local bar association has a better chance of getting into his choice of Law schools then other candidates. We might cry out "foul!" and raise charges of nepotism and dishonesty but that's what how the world views acceptance on a grand scale.

While we can see all around us, many people exerting a great deal of energy, sometime by flattery, other times, through cunning; so that others will sit up and take notice, and thus becoming accepted. There are plenty more, who in possible more subtle ways, try to be noticed and accepted by God.

In our pride, we Christians can be tempted to reason and think that by our church going, or by our involvement in the life of the perish we will somehow gain a greater acceptance; if not by others, possibly by God. Certainly He will see the sacrifice that we bear for the sake of the good of the gospel we might reason. But the reality is that by our own actions and our own works, no matter how "good" they appear to be, they can not make us acceptable, not in the least before a just and holy God.

We have nothing to offer before God. We certainly can not flatter Him for we are each and the same declared to be sinners, for the greatest to the least of us each is declared to be a fallen sinner. There is not one person here this night that can claim that they have no sin. For there is not a single just man upon this earth, that does good and does not sin. Each of us, have gone our own separate way. We have all like sheep gone astray from our Lord and His ways.

Tonight, let us remind ourselves of the eternal consequences for our sin. For the wages of our sin is death, and as Jesus reminds us in our text for this night, "Do not fear him that has the power to kill the body but rather fear Him who has the power to cast into hell."

Strong words these are. Yes, they come from the mouth of the Savior. What He is relating to us is the fact that he has the power over death and hell and those who fail to believe in Him will find themselves completely and totally cup off from Him if they refuse to believe.

But God in Christ has done something about our sin. He has fashioned a plan by which we can become accepted by God be becoming acceptable in His sight.

God has accepted us. He accepts us as Jesus Christ has lavished His mercy upon us. Jesus Christ became human on our behalf and endured the cross of Calvary for each of us. In His suffering and death he secured our acceptance and now regards us as friends.

Now, how can we be sure of this acceptance? How can we be assured that the Father welcomes us? Consider the birds of the air, the Savior reminds us. If He hasn't forgotten the sparrows He won't forget about us as we are of much higher value. If He has numbered the very hairs on our heads then He certainly knows each and all of our needs.

What this says to each of us is that nothing in our life, great or small, is beyond the realm of God's love and care. He knows how hare it is for us to accept some people, especially those who have hurt us. He is able to aid and comfort us and to heal and to strengthen us.

Our Lord, by accepting us, while we were unacceptable, while we were "yet sinners" enables us to extend His compassion, and His love to other people in our life.

How can we measure such love and acceptance? There once was a little girl who had a ragged old Teddy bear, one, which the stuffing had come out over and over again. The girl's mother had tried repeatedly to sew it up but it was no use. Finally, the Teddy Bear was put out in the garage in a box marked "Good Will" But the little girl would always manage to find that old Teddy bear and drag it back into the house. She loved it for what it was. He dolls and toys just weren't the same!

That's the type of love Christ has for people life you and me. We have all sinned again, and again, and again. The stuffing has come out of us repeatedly! But God has sewn us up with His love, and healing tenderness. When we see all that God has done and continues to do for us, we can see that He cares for us. Jesus has in fact accepted us. He loves us, and what's more…He likes us. That's why we don't have to be afraid…to be accepted!

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