Monday, June 24, 2013

Sermon from Sunday June 16th - Luck and/or Providence

Into the Grey
Luck and Providence
            Raise your hand if you believe in luck?  Raise your hand if you believe God is still active on this earth?  The question then is this: How do we know when something happens if it was luck or if it was God’s will?  As we continue this series called Into the Grey I want to talk this morning about this Grey area of when is something luck and when is something God’s will.
            Some of you may have had some trees or large limbs fall from the small tornado that came through the area on Thursday.  Anybody?  We had a fairly large limb fall in the front yard towards the house.  However, it stopped before it actually hit the parsonage.  The leaves from the limb are just lightly touched the brick on the front of the house.  It did no damage at all.  Now, was that good luck or was that God’s protection?
            I ran a stop sign one time and the cop gave me a ticket.  Was God punishing me for running the stop sign or did I just catch the cop on a bad day?  Another time I ran a stop sign the cop didn’t give me a ticket.  I could say “thank you God for manipulating the cop so he didn’t give me a ticket” or I could say “wow, that was lucky.”   
            When I play Candy Land or Monopoly with my daughters, both those games are won by the person with the most luck.  They are games of chance.  So when someone wins did God orchestrate the dice and the cards so that who wins is who He wanted to win or is it just luck?
            We as Christians believe that God is at work in this world and that He knows the very number of hairs on our heads (He has to count more for some of us than he does for others).  We believe God has a plan and a purpose and that He wants us to be a part of His plan and purpose.  So where does luck fit in?
            What got me thinking about this is a conversation I had right here at a church a few weeks ago.  Let me read the scripture and then I will share that conversation with you.  The scripture is from Acts 1 verses 15-26.  Jesus has been raised from the dead and he has gone back up to heaven.  The disciples return to Jerusalem and they’re first order of business is to find a replacement for Judas.  Remember Judas betrayed Jesus.  We learn what happened to him from our scripture today.  (Read Acts 1:15-26).
            A few weeks ago (I think it was 3 weeks ago) I was saying good morning to the Explorer’s Sunday school class like I usually do on Sunday mornings after the early service and as always, Ronnie and Charlie were back there.  I think Sandy was back there as well and I can’t remember if anyone else had arrived for the class by that time.  Charlie asked me if I remembered who took Judas’s place as the 12th disciple after he had betrayed Jesus.  I said, I remember how they determined who they picked, but I don’t remember the name of who was chosen.  Whoever it was, I knew he was chosen by casting lots.  Casting Lots was the modern day equivalent of throwing the dice.  Matthias was the one chosen.  They rolled the dice and Matthias was the one the dice selected.
            And then I started thinking out loud and I said “it makes you wonder doesn’t it?  Was Matthias chosen because He got lucky, because chance was on his side?  Or was He chosen because God manipulated the Lots that were cast so that Matthias was chosen instead of Joseph?  And I said, “that will be a good topic to look at for the next series I’m doing about the grey areas in life.”  And here we are.
            Casting lots was something practiced by the priests in the Old Testament.  It was actually a way to determine God’s will.  God told Moses in Leviticus to Cast Lots to determine the scapegoat and the goat for a sacrifice.  When it came to dividing the newly conquered promised land for the Israelites, the way the twelve tribes divided the land was done by casting lots.  When Jonah was on the boat and the storm came up, the men on the boat cast lots to see who was on the boat causing God to bring the storm and Jonah was the one the Lots pointed to as the one causing the problems and they threw him overboard.  Casting Lots was used to determine God’s will in the Old Testament and it carried over into the New Testament as well.  When Jesus is hanging on the cross a few of the soldiers cast lots to determine who gets his clothes.  Then we have our scripture where lots are cast to see who would be the 12th disciple.
            One thing we have to understand is that this decision was not a small decision.  The church of Jesus Christ established in the book of Acts was the work of these 12 disciples.  These men would determine the future of God’s church.  For God’s church to grow and thrive and be healthy they had to choose the right person.  And they roll the dice believing that God would guide the dice to pick the right person.
            What do we do with that today?  I mean should we roll the dice to determine big decisions in our lives.  God I can either take this job or that job, I’ll roll the dice and decide and trust that you will make the dice fall how you want it too?  God I can either marry this person or that person, I’ll roll the dice.  I don’t think any of us made the decision on who we married by rolling the dice did we.  We just don’t let chance dictate our major decisions.  We may let it decide little decisions.  I have a good friend that’s as indecisive as I am.  And we’ll be talking about where to meet for lunch and he’ll often say “name two or three places you could eat and then I’ll pick one.  So I’ll name them and then he’ll say “well it’s down to two places.”  And then we will say, let’s flip a coin to determine which place we go to.”  We actually do this.  It gets even more ridiculous.  So we’ll flip a coin and then say it lands on heads…he’ll say “are happy or disappointed that it landed on heads.”  And if I say “I was hoping it landed on tails” then we will go to the other restaurant.  Isn’t that ridiculous.  We may leave small decisions to chance and that’s fine, but not big ones.  I think it is dangerous to leave big decisions to chance.  Here’s why. 
This text is from the book of Acts.  The very next book after Jesus was resurrected and ascended - went up to heaven.  God promised the twelve disciples that in a few days the Holy Spirit would descend upon them.  And in the very next chapter that’s exactly what happens.  When the Holy Spirit comes upon them, this is now the point when God has fulfilled His promise not to leave the disciples, not to leave the church as orphans.  Jesus promised that God would send a Holy Comforter, the Holy Spirit to be His presence on this earth now that God in the human flesh is no longer present on this earth.  The Holy Spirit comes and now we no longer need to rely on chance, on luck, on rolling the dice, on casting lots, because now we have a two way open door relationship with God where we talk to Him anytime and He can talk to us anytime.
We do not see another example of casting lots for the rest of the story of the Bible after Acts 1.  Why?  Because God has unleashed the Holy Spirit into this world and into believers so that we no longer have to rely on luck, we can now rely on the powerful, life-giving, all wise, creator of the heavens and earth to help us make decisions.  You want to know what you are supposed to do in any given situation?  Here’s the answer: seek God’s will. 
What should we do to seek God's will? First, we should look to the scripture. Many questions can be decided by simply knowing what God has directed us to do in scripture.  2 Timothy 3:16-17  16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.  Are you in the word of God?  Second, we should pray (1 Thes. 5:17).  Sometimes life is so difficult, it’s so hard that we don’t even know how or what to pray: Romans 8:26-27 tells us: "26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God."  Get in the word, pray and trust the Holy Spirit.  In John 16:13 Jesus tells His disciples of the promise of the Spirit: "When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come."
            We have received the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Because we have received the Holy Spirit, Christians today have no need for casting lots when it comes to making a major decision.  I still believe in luck.  I believe whoever wins in our family when we play Candy Land had the best luck.  There are some things in life decided by chance, so I believe in chance, in luck, I just don’t trust in it.  I trust in the God of the universe speaking to me and through me.  I trust that at the end of my life, God does not roll the dice to determine whether I go to heaven or hell.  But instead because I am covered by the powerful, redeeming blood of Christ shed on the cross that I am forgiven and saved and that I will enter an eternity of glorious splendor in heaven to be united with my loved ones and meet my savior face to face. 

Romans 10:9-10 says this if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.  Don’t put where you spend your eternity to chance.  If you do not know, and I mean know.  You got know, that you know that you know that you’re saved, and if you don’t know that you know that you know that you are saved…it’s not something you want to leave to chance.  It’s not something you want to be in the Grey area.  The Gospel is clear that you can know that you are saved.  The altar is open this morning.  If you want to pray in your pew you are welcome to do that.  If you want to pray at the altar you are welcome to do that.  We gather here on Sunday morning to break from what’s happening in the world outside these walls.  Let this morning be a time for you to get right with God, to redidicate your life to God, to find assurance of your salvation.  Take that time now.

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