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Scripture: Joshua 3:5
Track 5 of 5 in the Transforming Story: The Tale Begins--Again series
Running time: 27 minutes, 21 seconds.

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Chuck Sackett Speaker: Chuck Sackett
Dr. G. Charles Sackett is minister of Madison Park Christian Church.

View all sermons by this speaker.

"All Things New"

Approximately 55,000 people in the United States are 100 years old or older. They were born in or before 1907. They saw the introduction of Scott Towels and color photography (1907), cellophane and Model T Fords (1908), "talkies" (sound movies) (1910), Lifesavers (1912), pop-up toasters (1919), and Band-Aids (1920). They started driving just in time to receive the first parking tickets (parking meters in 1932) and go to drive-in movies (1933). Just in time to rescue their ho-hum kitchens came the microwave (1946) and Tupperware (1947) and cake mixes (1949). In 1950 they could get their first credit card, but couldn't use an ATM until 1969.

Centenarians have so many new things. Some have simply been new, more recent developments or improvements on things that existed. They've seen the growth of cooking stoves from wood fueled to gas to electric. But they've also seen the introduction of microwaves. They've experienced riding in horse-drawn buggies, horse-less carriages, trolley-cars and trains. But they may have also flown and watched men launched into orbit beyond our sky.

Some things are new and some things are new. That is, some are more recent than others, but some things are new in essence, a completely different way of doing things. Both exist in Scripture. The New Covenant (since Jesus / 30 AD) is more recent than the Old Covenant (since Moses / 1400 BC). But the New Covenant is new in essence, also (salvation through Christ's once-for-all death, not an ongoing offering of bulls and goats that often led to a salvation-by-works mentality.

The Bible promises a new heaven and a new earth (Isaiah 65 / 66; 2 Peter 3; Revelation 21). It will be more recent than the one we have now. But it will also be fundamentally different, no death, no pain, the immediate, unhindered presence of God.

Scripture teaches a new birth (John 3), that we are new creatures (Galatians 6:15). Our new life is more recent than our old one. But it is in essence new, too. The old has passed away, all things have become new (2 Corinthians 5:17). We are different.

We have been given a new song (Psalm 40, et al). We have a new heart and a new spirit (Ezekiel 36). We live in a new covenant (Jeremiah 31; Hebrews 8). We look forward to a new heaven and a new earth.

In Christ, God makes all things new. Our past is wiped clean. Our present is lived under His direction, with His blessing. Our future is secure.

MPCC SERMON 12/31/06

Apparently it is in us all to want to take those kinds of risks and yet we all seem to have a great deal of hesitance before we step out and try something entirely beyond our ability to understand or to believe is true. If you ask people about their New Year's resolutions lots of folks, thousands of them, respond to polls and tell you that they want to try something new. They want to do something they have never done before. So I thought I would offer you that opportunity. It is not too late for you to leave. If you catch the plane sometime this afternoon you can be in Coney Island tomorrow for their 104th anniversary of the Polar Bear Swim, January 1st. Temperatures are supposed to be actually pretty nice. It should be about 55 degrees. Of course, the water temperature should be down to about 42 degrees. They have been doing that now for 104 years. I have words for what I think of people who go swimming in the Atlantic Ocean on New Year's Day, but those probably do not fit in any sermon that is polite, words like, "Are you crazy?" Wanting to do something new.

Let's go to Joshua, chapter 3. We are just going to jump off on 1 verse. I am going to tell you what I want to try to do today. We have been through this text before. It is not like it is new information. I want to try to pull together 3 different things in your thinking this morning. One of them is our desire for that which is new, not to see things be different than they used to be. I want to try to pull together the idea that God wants things to be new because I am absolutely convinced that that is true. He does not want things to stay the same. And I want to pull together a string that has to do with your own willingness to take that risk. I do not know if I would necessarily want to call it a legal _____ but certainly would want for us to think about taking a step into a direction that God has called you to, but you may not be able to see the outcome. Those are the 3 things I would like you to think about as we try to pull this together, and think about what it is that God might want to do in us and through us tomorrow. Joshua, chapter 3, verse 5, has this rather interesting statement in it. Joshua told the people consecrate yourselves for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you. You know where the context of this lies. They have been wandering now for 40 years in the wilderness because they failed to obey God in the first place. And here they are for now the second time given an opportunity to cross the Jordan into the land that God has been promising them for generations. For 3 days, they had been waiting to see what was going to happen. The promise is that when the leadership, the priests, take the Arc of the Covenant and step into the Jordan River, there is going to be opening just like there was in the Red Sea, they will cross on dry ground, and God will take them through into a promised land,. What is fascinating about this text, Joshua, chapter 3 and chapter 4, is that in this particular text, at least 16 times, the Arc of the Covenant of God is mentioned. Sixteen different references, not counting the pronouns that refer back to it, but the mention of the Arc itself, which was the testimony of the presence of God. In addition to that and another 23 times in which the name God, or the word Lord, is used in this text. So by my minor calculations somewhere in 2 chapters there are around 40 different statements that call direct attention to the presence of God. That seems to me to be significant. But if you really want to have a future, if you really want to think about tomorrow, if you really want to think about pulling together your own desire for something different and God's desire for you to be different, and you want to ask whether you are really willing to do that, it is all going to come back to whether or not you are practicing and experiencing the presence of God. Where God is present change occurs. Where God is there things are different than they used to be. Where God is there and you trust him you can count on the fact that things will be different in your life.

So, I have a question. It is a simple question that I want to pose this morning that is going to run through the rest of what I have to say and that is this question. Do you trust God enough? Well, I do not have any doubt that you trust him. You probably would not be here if you did not trust him. If there was not some element of your life that you have given over to the Lord in a statement of trust you probably would not have bothered to get up today and come to church. But the question is, do you trust him enough? Are you willing to take that kind of step into the future in the confidence that God is going to be present with you and doing what it is that God desires to do. Here is the question that I am asking. Do you trust him enough to allow him to govern your life. Do you trust him enough to just simply place your life in his hands and allow him to provide the direction that you ought to go. Do you trust him enough to let him be the one who gives you what you do. In Ephesians, chapter 4, the Apostle Paul talks about that kind of trust and that kind of change that God is looking for in the one in whom we trust. He describes our old life in chapter 4, verse 17, and he walks down to the place that he asks us to put ourselves into the hands of God where there will be a renewal that begins to occur in us. Ephesians chapter 4, verse 17, I tell you this, I insist on it in the Lord that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and they are separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity they have given themselves to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity with a continual lust for more. You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard him . If you are following along in your New International Version they have for some reason supplied the word, of. Surely you have heard of him. That is not what the text says. The text says surely you have heard him. The assumption is that you have been listening to what Christ has to say. You have heard him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught with regard to your former way of life to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires to be made new in the attitude of your minds, to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. You used to be this particular way, living the way you choose to be, satisfying your own self-gratifications, and now he says I am calling you to allow God to renew you and to make you new. In essence, not just in time. So, I guess I am asking this question, are you willing to let God begin the process of reshaping your life? Are you willing to kind of take your hands off and say okay I am going to listen what it is that God says. I am going to listen to him and I am going to let him give me the direction that I need. So I am going to follow it up with a question. If you are not willing to do that, why not? Are you afraid that he will not do it as well as you do? Are you concerned that God is not able to give you direction equivalent to, as valuable, as wise as the direction you have given yourself over the years? I tried to find out about the average American. I did not have much luck so I decided that rather to find the average American I would use somebody who is probably average. How many of you can join me in having purchased something that you really did not need because the salesman was persuasive. Maybe a set of encyclopedias when you were first married or a package of pictures that they would take regularly for you? Nobody is raising their hand, I guess I am, oh thank you, I did not want to be the only below average person in here. When I think about those kinds of decisions and I think about really more substantive foolish decisions that I have made in my life, why would I think that I could do a better job of governing my life than God could. And yet like you, I really like my hands on the wheel, don't you? It had to be an average Christian who put together the bumper sticker that said God is my co-pilot. You know why, because they will not let him be the pilot, because we like to control our lives and we are unwilling to step back and say I wonder if in scripture God might have something to say to govern my life. I wonder if we have ever stopped to think that it might be possible that listening to Godly Christian people might be better than simply listening to ourselves. I wonder if it is ever possible that God through his spirit might prompt us in ways that we are not capable of doing on our own. So can I make just a suggestion? If you are not currently a part of a discipleship group or a bridge community
where you are learning to understand the Word of God and the direction that he gives, would you really seriously begin thinking about 2007 as an opportunity for you to hear more clearly from God in a women's Bible study or a men's Bible study or a small accountability group of some kind? Would you take it upon yourself to just commit yourself to read your Bible regularly with the possibility that God may somehow choose to speak to you. I guess what I am asking is a simple question. Do you trust him enough to just let him run your life? Are you willing to put yourself in a position where that can happen?

I want to ask you a second question. Are you willing, do you trust him enough, to allow him to replace your spirit with his spirit? That is his desire you know. Back in the 36th chapter of Ezekiel he talks about this new spirit that he wants to give us, a new heart, a new spirit. Israel has been in captivity and they are ready to return and when they come home from having been captive because of the sins that they had committed he is hoping that they are going to allow him to let him replace their heart, to replace their spirit; when they come home again to allow him to work in their life in ways that they have not allowed him to do before. The text is chapter 36 of Ezekiel. It starts out in verse number 24. I will take you out from the nations. I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your land. I will sprinkle clean water on you and you will be clean. I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all of your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you. I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I wonder what kinds of changes in the way that we think in our heart of hearts might need to occur. I wonder if there are relational changes that need to occur. I wonder if the company that we keep somehow impacts the way our heart functions. I wonder if there are spiritual decisions that need to be made that somehow would allow God to work within our spirit in a way that opens us up to see what it is that he is attempting to create in us. I wonder, if we trust him enough to allow ourselves to reshape in us the way that we think about life, the spirit of our life, the heart of our lives as we would open ourselves up to him and ask him to give us guidance in the way of relationships. I wonder what would be different if God governed the spirit of men and women instead of the flesh governing our spirit when it comes to relationships with other people. I wonder how many fewer divorces there would be or how many fewer broken children we would have if we allowed God's spirit to work within us and stop listening to ourselves. Do you trust him enough to supply your needs relationally? You see part of the issue is that we sometimes find ourselves feeling so desperate for a relationship that we sacrifice everything that we believe in in order to have a certain kind of relationship. Do you trust him enough that you would let him supply your needs financially, that you would simply do the thing that you know you should do, which is to give God the first fruit of your life and then let him worry about taking care of the rest?

You know that tomorrow is January 1st . It is the start of 2007 just in case you kind of got lost in the holidays, that is really true. Steve was incorrect. We do not have several days until January. We only have several hours until January. January is named by the way for Janus. It is a Roman god. He had 2 faces, which is kind of an interesting thought. He had one that looked forward and one that looked back. He was worshipped on every major occasion when that was appropriate, birthdays, celebrations, and for that reason we start our new year. I got to thinking about that, wondering what it would be like having a face going in both directions. You would have to use a rearview mirror. I do not know. Would you have to turn your head to watch a tennis match? And can you imagine what kind of a football helmet that would be? Which direction are you looking? That's really the question, isn't it? Because there is value in looking back, but most of us do not look back very well. In a survey done this last summer, spring and summer, Parade magazine, of course you can always trust results in a Parade magazine, 48% of the people polled last April decided they were worse off than their parents. In June, Roper did a survey and 66% of those people surveyed said that the good old days were better than today. The good old days, by the way, being defined as the 50's though the 80's. Somehow I have a hard time envisioning the 80's as the good old days, but it could be age then. In May, the Pew Research Center took a poll and the vast majority of Americans believed that their children will be worse off than they are, primarily financially. Now you want to know the truth of the matter? The truth of the matter is that we are 25% better off than we were 30 years ago and that is after adjusting for inflation. In the last 10 years our spending power has increased by 10% and we pay 8% less in taxes. Our ability to look ahead based on looking behind is not always very good because looking behind somehow seems to always be better. The question I am asking is, do you trust God enough to look forward with him in control. Let him take care of your relationships and your finances and your life.

Let me ask you a third question. Do you trust God enough to allow him to renew your hearts, to renew who you are completely? Second Corinthians, chapter 5, verse 17, was a verse that struck me when I first became a Christian. You probably have it memorized. If not, I highly recommend that you consider having it memorized. If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. Behold old things have passed away and all things have become new. Are you fascinated? I am. I never watch them, but I am fascinated by the number of television programs that include phrases like Extreme Makeover, The Swan, Biggest Loser, Trash to Treasure. It covers the gamut, by the way, from remaking peoples' homes and turning antiques into money and taking your body and re-vamping it. It has been parodied on a number of TV programs by things like Miami Slice, Nip and Tuck, various _____ other TV programs. We have a penchant for wanting to be remade. We put a lot of eggs in that basket. Having watched my wife's business over the last 10 years prior to having moved here January was a terrible time to be selling things like speciality coffees and pastries. It was a great time to be the owner of a fitness center or the person collecting Weight Watchers money. Because this time of year we are all saying I am going to do something different this year. I am going to weigh less, I am going to be better fit, we are going to change the way we are. In fact we are so into it that people actually get hurt when it does not happen. Did you read the newspaper report last year about Delise Williams? She was invited to Extreme Makeover and on the night before she was supposed to start the makeover they sent her home and so they did not do the makeover. But as is typical of their programs they had interviewed all of her family and friends and they had said what they really thought about how she looked, how ugly she was, how they could not believe that their son had married her, things like that. They had taped her sister saying really nasty things about her looks. And of course they had played that for her in anticipation in how much better life would be once everything was new, except nothing became new. A few weeks later her sister, Kelly, the one who had said such nasty things, committed suicide because she could not face her sister. People want to be different. Unfortunately we want to be different in all the wrong ways, in the ways that do not really matter. God wants you to be different in all the ways that do. Because you see the God of the universe who has made you loves you for who you are and he is willing to accept you the way you are, but he will not allow you to stay that way. And so he wants to do something about your past. And so you have these repeated passages of scripture that say you used to be this way, but now you are like this. You see, he wants to provide for you forgiveness for all the stuff that you ever did, in fact, all you ever will do. He wants to make it possible for everything you have ever done to simply be buried in the depths of the sea. To be removed as far as the east is from the west. To be covered by the blood of Christ so that when God looks at your life he does not see anything, except you. He wants to direct your future, to direct your present, he wants to give your life guidance, he wants to bless you on a day by day basis, he wants to live with you. He wants you to experience him every moment of every day. And he wants to reshape your future with hope. He wants for you to know that your future is secure, that you can look to tomorrow with absolute confidence that God is going to begin doing great things in your life, shaping you, molding you, changing you, supplying your needs, giving you the things that you really need.

In 2006 we spent our time talking about the transforming story of scripture, what God had done in the lives of people in order to bring Christ into our world so that you and I might experience that kind of radical transformation ourselves. In 2007, we are going to talk about how the church becomes the agency of God in the transforming of peoples' lives. We are going to start next week looking at who we are. Why does Madison Park Christian Church exist in the first place? What are the values that we hold dear to our hearts? What is it we are here to try to accomplish in our community and in the world around us? Later this spring we will talk about the fact that we are going to be transforming families. We will talk about family issues and how scripture and the church and godly people help us become the family that God desires us to be. This summer we will spend some time talking about the culture in which we try to exist and how the church exists in order to transform even the culture in which we live. Because the story of God is a transforming story it produces a church that is a transforming church. But the church cannot transform anything unless you are willing to be transformed, unless you open yourself to that possibility. You see the very first decision that every person makes that changes things is the decision to step off into what is the unknown in the confidence that God is there to catch you. It is not that you just cannot see the bridge in front of you. It really is a step of faith when you walk into the presence of the hands of God because he is going to change who you are. He invites you to let that change happen. He wants to do in you everything needful to make you who you ought to be. We invite you to let him do that, to open yourself to the change that God may want to make in you, to place your confidence in him, that the changes he makes will be the right ones and you will never be disappointed. If you are open to that we invite you to join us in a statement of worship and adoration before God, which opens yourself to him. If you need help we invite you to come to seek that help. You can come right now if you want. You can certainly grab us immediately after the service and give us a chance to talk and pray with you so we can help you find the direction that God is looking for in your life.

[Transcribed by CF10]