Verse of 2017 (Luke 18:8b) – December 31, 2017
Rev. Jeremy B. Stopford, Pastor

Today’s “Special”: “Some Christmas leftovers”:
Christmas is weird. What other time of the year do you sit in front of a dead tree and eat candy out of your socks?
The 4 stages of man: He believes in Santa Claus; He doesn’t believe in Santa Claus; He is Santa Claus; He looks like Santa Claus
They announced that in Minnesota they found a mass grave of snowmen. Turned out just to be a field of carrots.

INTRODUCTION Remember our 2017 theme: “when the Son of man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8b) In particular, will he find individuals who are setting Jesus aside as the only One worthy of our lives? AND will He find that the habit of First Baptist Church of Earlville to be a church which is both regular and consistent in prayer and fasting as a church?
Do we now? Isn’t Jesus – the One Who gave Himself for our sins – worthy of that kind of church which is known to be the church that prays and fasts?
As we close the year, it seemed fitting to zero in on our text in conjunction with several verses from Psalm 65 (verses 4 and 11). Furthermore, it seems fitting to ask a thought provoking question. Think now about your answer, and I will get back to you near the end of the sermon: “how has God filled this year with His goodness, His presence in your life, or even in our church’s life, in 2017?” PRAYER

A casual reading of this psalm would encourage one to entitle it, “the blessings which come upon a nation and its citizens IF they trust God and put Him first, beginning with their worship”.
There are many things in this psalm which encourage the visitor to the temple in his worship, but let’s zero in on two items, found in versus 4 and 11.
First, “the good things of your house.”
But wait. We can’t zero in on the end of the verse until we look at the beginning of the verse. For this is one of those classic passages of the entire OT! “Blessed are those you choose and bring near to live in your courts” (NIV). The NKJV says, “blessed is the man You choose, and cause to approach You, that he may dwell in your courts.” The Message Wonderfully states, “blessed the guest at home in your place.” And the Expanded Bible reminds us that the word “blessed” means…”Happy”!
This verse has its NT counterpart. Ephesians 1:4 says, “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” My Calvinist friends think they understand these two verses through and through – that God in eternity past reached down through the ages ahead of time and said, “Jeremy, you belong to ME.” Some would water it down slightly and say that God knew ahead of time those who would ask Him to be their God.
Regardless of which thought you think, we need to look at purpose. In both the Old and New Testament, God has a purpose in “choosing” His children: that we are to live in His courts and to be satisfied, filled with the good things of His house” – to be “holy and blameless in His sight.” Period.
How would you answer the very probing question, “what do I need to keep me satisfied, content, happy, joyful?” Note what David DIDN’T answer, although he could have: a large army; a sense of protection from all his enemies; finances and food for him and all his troop (some 600 plus people!); security that in future days, his family and he would lack nothing. [in today’s language, a good retirement system and plan not only in place, but active]. And maybe once in a while a good time – no, not getting too close to the world, but at least enjoying the things the world has to offer. [a little nip here; a little visit there; an escape to there.]
Yet David asked God for none of those things. He realized that if he looked at his entire life, and all of his needs (which must have been many), there was only ONE thing he desired: “to be filled with the good things of Your house”.
That may be a confusing statement in 2017 language and mindset. But let’s try to look at it through David’s eyes. David says that if somehow in the big picture of things I belong to God, I will be satisfied with Him alone – and that satisfaction will be centered around His house. Perhaps there are two ways to look at this, and neither one seemingly “legalistic.” The first is this: in order to show God that I am satisfied with Him alone – with His love, with the cross, with just His presence – my life should be centered around His house. Hebrews 10:25 says, “let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Whew! David – and the writer of Hebrews – both state that I should be satisfied, HAPPY, with being with God and His people at His house! My day, my YEAR, should be planned around how I can be with God’s people. Illustration: we learned young in our marriage that one of the exciting blessings of life is that while we were on vacation, we should seek out a church to go to on Sunday. “But you’re on vacation,” you say. “God doesn’t really expect you to be in church.” No, He doesn’t expect it, but He hungers for it – knowing that our innermost being hungers for Him and for being with His people at His house, wherever His house may be. The church is BIGGER than First Baptist Earlville! For us, the church has included Calvary Baptist, Massena, NY; All Soul’s Church in Charlottesville, VA.; First Baptist in Hudson, FL; Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida; why even a lounge room with 28 other believers on a Sunday morning on a cruise ship to the Caribbean. God knows our hunger; and when we think that we can take a vacation from God, we starve – and He grieves.
But the thought is greater than that – note that the text says “we are filled with the things of…Your holy temple.” Now wait one minute! When David was alive, the temple wasn’t built yet! So WHERE was – AND IS – God’s “holy temple”. In heaven! So David is saying, “I am so happy that I am completely satisfied with having a vision that, though living on earth, I am looking heavenward to Your satisfaction alone.” Wow.
The “good things of Your house.”

But let us look briefly at the wonderful statement in v. 11, “You crown the year with your bounty…”. The Expanded Bible is quite helpful. It says, “You ·give a good harvest, and ·you load the wagons with many crops – literally, our wagon tracks/ruts drip with plenty.” The psalmist is looking backward through the past 12 months and saying, “God, Your goodness was there, too. Perhaps I didn’t notice it at the time. But I want to acknowledge it now!”
How about you? Remember our opening question, “how has God filled this year – your year – with His goodness, His presence in your life, or even in our church’s life, in 2017?” Maybe a couple of you would like to share!
We need to rehearse God’s goodness to HIM often!

CONCLUSION. Luke 18:8b one last time!
As we close the year, let’s remember how we began: “However, when the Son of man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” As you evaluate your life, or even our church’s life, has your faith increased this year? Have you stepped out on faith and trusted the Lord in fresh ways, perhaps in ways above and beyond what you could have imagined, this past year? Have you seen evidence of our church walking by faith in a fresh way?
Perhaps, sadly, your answer is “no” to both your life and to your view of our church. May I encourage you with one simple thought: you’re still breathing, so God is not through with you yet. With my recent bout with pneumonia, I have been given a fresh appreciation of the gift of breathing. Breathing is SO overrated, I like to say. But the breath of life is a gift. I often end graveside services thanking God for the breath of life which He gave the deceased loved one, and for how that loved one displayed that gift. Oh may that be said of us while we are alive! Oh may that be said about our church while we are striving to make a difference where God has wisely planted us here in Earlville.
As we close this year, let’s learn to breathe afresh true faith, true trust, that it can be said, “Jesus, when You return, You will find faith here in Earlville, in my home, in my heart.”

Close in prayer

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