Hearts Set on Pilgrimage

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“Hearts Set on Pilgrimage” 

Sermon Notes – Ps. Jim White

Sunday 10th June, 2018

Over the last couple of weeks we have been responding to a scripture in Luke 7 that speaks about this generation being one that wants us – with some even demanding – that we all dance to its own tune, and to mourn for its own perceived loss of rights…

I didn’t share this last week, but listen to what the Passion Translation says:

Luke 7:32 (Passion). “You’re like children playing games on the playground, complaining to friends, ‘You don’t like it when we want to play Wedding. And you don’t like it when we want to play Funeral. Why will you neither dance nor mourn?’”

How telling is that?  I have read commentaries about this, and apparently it is speaking of the children in the marketplace who were imitating playing pipes or a type of flute – and these pipes were played at weddings…  Even though the Passion is a recent translation, it’s not being influenced here by current issues.  It’s a genuine reference to the days of Jesus.  But how prophetic is that?  I’ll leave it to you to join all the dots.

Because I want to move on from all that this morning and launch into the flipside of where all that negative story would want to lead us.

And I believe I started doing that last week, particularly with focussing on the fact that it’s knowing the truth that’s sets us free!   And it’s the truth that will set this generation free!

The truth is that we are bound to one thing only – one Person in fact – and His name is Jesus Christ – and whatever else that means, it definitely means we can live freely in a place of hope and expectancy and joy as we look towards the future.  

If freedom and joy can be found in the life of that man, Dimitri, whom I shared about last week, with his incredible story of touching the hearts of 1500 hardened criminals in a Russian jail, and being set free because His faith in God scared the guards, then freedom and joy can be found in any life, despite the tunes they might currently dance to, or the mourning they experience.

There is hope – genuine hope – for every single person on the planet.  Otherwise Christ is a liar and His promises are false.  And I know that my own life, and the lives of multitudes of people around me, and multitudes who have gone before me, testify to the reality, power, grace and resurrection life of Jesus Christ.  His word is not only true – it’s alive – it carries power to save even those who might consider themselves the most wretched among us.

And I believe that the Father heart of God grieves for a generation of children who come demanding that their own agendas and their our own tunes, which come usually from brokenness and woundedness, should be enforced on others. 

Do you know one reason why this generation wants to demand that we accept their agendas?  It’s because that it then appears that they are valid. 

I believe the Father does want us to come as children, but to come with an open heart – with wide eyed wonder…  That’s something I felt God was saying to us at the start of this year..  that we need to continue to look to God with child like wonder.  Don’t allow the things we hear and the negativity and drama that the world’s media thrives on…  don’t let that stuff rob you of your inner joy and hope and wonder of who God is and what He can do..

We should be always living with an expectancy that Father God will lead us into things that are exceedingly above our own desires.  

Ephesians 3:20 (NKJV),  “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us”

Paul said to Timothy that God’s grace is exceedingly abundant… 

Peter says:

2 Peter 1:4 (NKJV)  we “…have been given… exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature…”

These are our promises for this generation…  and it’s the Father’s validity and affirmation of us as His children, and what He promises us that counts…  not just to get us by, but to do it with exceeding abundance.  That truth carries the greatest weight of all. 

Matthew 18:2-4 (NKJV),  “Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

I love being with my grandchildren – mainly because I just love them to bits…  but because there’s something about the heart and the trust and the innocence of a child – and they are like sponges, soaking up life, discovering new things all the time…  

They don’t have our religious…  stuff!  They simply believe.  There’s nothing like the faith of a child.  My grandchildren – our grandchildren – love coming here… even during the week.  They think this is their second home and they walk around as if they own the place.  And so they should.  And I know many of your children and grandchildren do the same thing.  I thinks that’s awesome.  

They can play here. They can eat here.  They can dance here.  They can bribe Bronny into giving them a “prize” from the Sunday School table…   Bronny’s arm is easily twisted because she loves our kids too.  She wants them to be free in this place as well.

Last week I said it’s the truth that sets us free.

But I love the scripture that says:

Galatians 5:1 (NIV),  “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free…”

Why has He set us free?  It’s not complicated! It’s so we can live in freedom!  

Not freedom to do whatever we want, but freedom to live for Christ – to choose life – to not be bound by anything other than our love for Jesus.

Children who are nurtured and loved are a great example of what it means to be free.

1 John 3:1 (NIV),  “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!  And that is what we are!…”

So it’s that revelation of the love of the Father – lavished on us – that is going to be the truth that breaks through into people’s lives.  It’s the most freeing truth and revelation above all other things this world can offer…

I’ve somehow come through quite a few difficult situations during my life simply because I have faith as a son – believing that my Heavenly Father will take care of things – and take care of me.  I trust Him.  

Some might say I’m naive…  

Some might hear what I say about persecution and think I have no idea.   

But in the end, it’s not what I know or think that counts – it’s Who I know.

And as I’ve said countless times before – when you know how much your Father loves you, you can do anything – and you can get through anything.

Whatever happens in the future, I’ll deal with it like I have dealt with tragedy, grief, threats and stressful situations in the past – as with every other oppressive and threatening thing that has tried to come against me.  You don’t get to be 61 without more than a tooth ache.  That’s life.

But it’s only this life…  it’s only because we are visitors passing through an earthly experience.

When the writer of Hebrews was talking about all the incredible patriarchs of faith in Heb 11, he says:

Hebrews 11:13  (NKJV).  “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”

If you feel like you are a stranger in this world, it’s because you are.  But we’re called to walk it through.  God is doing something far deeper in us than we could ever imagine.  Who you are becoming as you journey through life is precious.  And who you bring with you into the kingdom of God along the way is even more precious.

Psalm 84:5 (NKJV),  “Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, Whose heart is set on pilgrimage.”

It’s a heart journey more than anything else.  It’s having a heart of conviction and faith – and a heart that is strong in the love of God – and a heart that is willing to press on and endure to the end.

And it’s more than likely that we won’t see the manifestation of all the promises this side of heaven.  But that’s no different to the great men and women of Hebrews 11.  Some of them died not having seen the promises.  And yet they did see them – they saw them through eyes of the Spirit – they were assured of them and they embraced them…

This is obviously how Dimitri from communist Russia journeyed through his life.  He had a vision of God’s promises.  He believed them in his heart and was assured of them.  He embraced the fullness of Christ in his life even though his outward circumstances were terrible.  

My friend and father in the faith, Roy Cowin, is in a place where his body is being ravaged by disease.  Is it terrible?  Yes, it’s really terrible.

But I have never seen a man more perfectly at peace and trusting in His Father’s love for him.  He is trusting that very soon, He will know exactly what it means to experience the exceedingly abundant promises of God in all their fullness.  He is heaven bound.  And after living the most incredible life for Christ, and sowing his life into people just like Venese and I, it’s his time to fall into the everlasting arms of his Saviour.  

We could get all super spiritual and Pentecostal and shout declarations of the healing power of the Blood of Jesus over him.  And we have prayed for his healing, heaps of times…  but our ultimate hope is not limited to this world…  it’s eternal.

We have been set free by Christ – by the gospel of His gift of salvation.  I don’t know why it’s called the good news!  It should be called the awesomely exceedingly abundant news!  For those who believe, for those who overcome and endure, there is the most incredible reward.

Hebrews 10:35-39 (NKJV),  “Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: “For yet a little while, And He who is coming will come and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith; But if  anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.” But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.”

I love those declarations of bold faith.  There are plenty of other bold voices out there in our world – why shouldn’t we be declaring the truth with all boldness?

So where we have the anti-Christ voices and self focussed demands of certain left wing protagonists, screaming injustice and discrimination…  it’s all so far removed from the true reality of the beauty of holiness that living in God’s Kingdom stands for.

Again – it’s not about us and them.  It’s not about condemning the very world we live in.  It’s about recognising that we carry the answer.  We know what love is – Divine love – not self centred love.  Father God loves every person who walks through our streets and our community.  And we’re called to love them as well.  

But it’s the truth that sets them and us free!

I’ve been shocked by the number of celebrities who have been taking their own life lately.  Anthony Bourdain, the famous food and Travel personality, took his own life just in the last couple of days – alone in a hotel room in France.  I took special notice probably because he’s exactly my age.  I have no idea what he experienced to get to that place…  but all these deaths seem to confirm that the very best this world has to offer still leaves a huge void.  I know we know that.  But it’s like that reality is hitting us in the face right now.  

To me, that’s much more scarey than anything we might face in the future because of our faith.  These tragic deaths only speak of utter hopelessness.  There’s not only no hope – there’s no strength – there’s no joy…

Fame and celebrity – being known by millions of people you will never meet – is a poor shadow of what it means to be known by God.  

Worldly fame is temporary and it’s fickle – abiding with Christ is constant and forever.

And I guess that’s what I’m trying to say in all this today.  Not that it’s about fame – but it’s about the fact that anything worldly that is disconnected to the greater realm of God’s love and purpose, is not just secondary – it’s such a fragile and ever changing basis for living.  To live on the solid, unchanging, eternal Rock of our salvation is incredibly precious and everlasting.  It exceeds any other thing.

The issue that people seem to struggle with in this generation, more than anything else, is knowing who they really are.  And that can cause some pretty extreme attempts to find discover and explore their true identity.  Many begin walking on paths that change direction constantly – depending on how they feel and what they desire.

But you and I choose to walk a path that is not so much about us – but about living a life that has far greater meaning and purpose than ourselves.  And it’s a solid and stable, enduring, consistent path.

It reminds me of the road that Isaiah prophesies about in the Old Testament.  It’s the road that leads to Zion – to the presence of God.  It’s the Highway of Holiness – and it’s not the holinesss of those who walk on it that opens up the way – it’s the holiness and righteousness of Jesus Christ.  

Isa 35: 3-10 (NKJV),  “Strengthen the weak hands, And make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are fearful-hearted, “Be strong, do not fear! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, With the recompense of God; He will come and save you.” Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, And the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the lame shall leap like a deer, And the tongue of the dumb sing. For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness, And streams in the desert. The parched ground shall become a pool, And the thirsty land springs of water; In the habitation of jackals, where each lay, There shall be grass with reeds and rushes. A highway shall be there, and a road, And it shall be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean shall not pass over it, But it shall be for others. Whoever walks the road, although a fool, Shall not go astray. No lion shall be there, Nor shall any ravenous beast go up on it; It shall not be found there. But the redeemed shall walk there, And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, And come to Zion with singing, With everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness, And sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”

Surely those words carry the power to minister life and hope to this generation!  

Where there’s no hope, there’s also no strength.  But God says I will strengthen the hands that hang down.  I will strengthen those who a fearful and I will save them.  I will heal those who can’t see and can’t hear.  I will bring My people to a place of deep inner joy – everlasting joy – a joy that’s causes them to sing.  And there’ll be no more sorrow or sighing.  But in all of that, I will place them on a path that is safe – a path to My presence.

Church – I know for a fact that there are people that God loves deeply that He is drawing into this place – this church – and these verses describe their hearts, their experience, their sadness, their fear, their weakness…

They are searching for a solid, secure and safe path to walk on.  By the grace of God alone, He has set us on that path – on that Highway of holiness.  And we are only holy, because He is Holy.

What are we doing about that?  How are we fulfilling our call to be His hands and feet and mouthpiece to those who are searching?  

The Seacoast, according to scripture, which is our vision for this church, is a pasture.  A shelter for shepherds and a fold for flocks.  It’s a place where the weary can come and lie down and rest.  It’s a place where God Himself will intervene in their lives and return them from their place of captivity.  

The vision is awesome – but it’s up to us to turn it into mission.  It’s up to us to disciple and care for those who were lost.  It’s up to us to not only love those He places in and on our path – but to set them free with the truth.

If we make room for him, Jesus Christ will do exceedingly abundantly more than we could ever ask, think or imagine.

Don’t just set your heart on getting to heaven yourself.  Set your heart on pilgrimage.  Trust Him in the journey and always be looking with expectancy and wide eyed wonder at what He wants to do through you…  but also what He wants to do in you in the process.

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