Is God That Particular?
Is God That Particular? Does He Sweat the Small Stuff?
Today--listen till end before drawing too many conclusions. Big topic. Before we ask if God is particular, let’s ask a fair question? Are you particular about some things? No brainer. Think to yourself...What things am I particular about? various answers.
The Oasis (church name) is about split between marrieds and singles. Some of you married, also parents--adds a whole other dimension to married life. Does it ever. One of the first big challenges for parents--before the baby is even born, is coming up with a name. Sometimes this causes stress, because the name is a label this kidz going to wear their whole lives, or pay $50 and have it changed when their 18. There’s fear with some parents that all the other kids in class-8 years away are going to have the same name.
In a recent survey of newborn babies, researchers have determined the most popular boys’ names. They include Michael, Jacob, Matthew, Sean, Brendan, and Brian. Interestingly enough, for the third year in a row, the LEAST popular boy’s name was "Lumpy". So you don’t want it to be so overused. Yet you don’t want it to be so strange that people are always saying "Come again." Or turning their head and laughing. Krista and I are in the name hunt right now for our second baby--born in September. So we’ve gone through name books. Bible name--Mephibosheth, Nebachadnezzer, and Lucifer are all out. For us, we want a name with meaning.
ILLUS: Bring in a child...switch parents. Does it really matter which boy you leave with. You came tonight with a boy, leave with a boy...who cares which boy it is?
All of us here--single or married, Christian or not, are particular about some things. Visited houses--lawns, decorations, bathroom smells like cinnamon. Some particular about the kind of car you drive. Bumper sticker on a big jacked up Chevy pickup. "Have you driven over a Ford lately."
One thing I notice though is that people are more particular about things that they deal with either in their job or as a hobby. Lawyers make thousands by pouring over the small print in contracts. Minor details that have huge legal implications. My brother returned home Kuwait when he was with the Marines in Operation Desert Storm. His shoes were shinier than I’ve ever seen them, and his bed would be made to stiff horizontal perfection. I would have paid him to make my bed like that. Military men and women notice the detailis...A movie several years ago, A Few Good Men with Demi Moore and Tom Cruise--several scenes where the marines saluted at inappropriate times. They noticed.
Investors tend to be more particular about companies they invest in and their insurance needs. Notice things too. Forest Gump--The letter from Apple Computer is dated September 7th, 1975, when Apple wasn’t a public company open for investment.
Athletes tend to be particular about statistics. Reason for it. The difference in a baseball players batting average can be worth several million dollars a year if they get 2-3 more hits per week. Small differenc, yet statistically a big financial payoff.
Golf:1968, Roberto de Vincenzo was tied for first in the Masters Golf tournament (Tiger Woods), but he signed a scorecard that said his final score was 278 when it was really 277. This one slip cost him the 1968 Masters by one stroke. The rule in golf is if a golfer signs for a higher score than he actually shot, he keeps the higher score. Wouldn’t you check your scorecard to see what it said? This wasn’t a game of putt-putt, this was the Masters.
If it’s important to us, we’re more particular about it.
Advertisers have learned the hard way that paying particular attention can save them from costly mistakes.
Nike had a television commercial for hiking shoes that was shot in Kenya using Samburu tribesmen. The camera closes in on the one tribesman who speaks, in native Maa. As he speaks, the Nike slogan ``Just do it’’ appears on the screen. What Nike didn’t know until later, was the Kenyan was holding the shoe and saying, ``I don’t want these. Give me big shoes.’’ Most Americans didn’t know, but word got out.
Chevrolet Nova didn’t do well in Spanish speaking countries ... Nova means ’No Go’ ...
A peanut-packed chocolate bar targeted at Japanese teenagers needing energy while cramming for exams ran headlong into a belief that eating peanuts and chocolate causes nosebleeds.
When Coca-Cola first came to China, it was given a similar sounding name ... but the characters used for the name meant "Bite the Wax tadpole."
In Taiwan, Pepsi had a slogan "Come alive with the Pepsi Generation" when translated "Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead."
These advertisers learned the hard way.
Bottom line--if it’s important to us, we’re more particular about it.
Now when it comes to God and religion, this is where it gets interesting. God is not particular about some of the things we think he is particular about, while the Bible says that he is very clear about a few areas that we can’t ignore.
I read about a church, true story--painted large mural of creation. Adam, Eve, etc. But problem. Adam had a belly button, half the church didn’t like it. Half the church said--no belly button--no mother, no placenta, no umbilical cord, no way. Other half said--leave it--no big deal--the church split over a belly button. True. Seems ridiculous...but some people are very particular about these types of things.
Some churches get hung up on whether or not there’s a drum in the church--even though the bible says to praise God in the sanctuary with the tamborine (ancient drum instrument) and loud cymbals (Ps 150). Some get hung up over which bible version is used even though the bible was written in Greek and Hebrew and nobody says "Yeah give me one of those." Some get hung up over all kinds of issues, and some of us here even disagree on some points--but when I read through the Bible and especially the teachings of Jesus--one thing comes clear...
God is interested in relationships and he’s particular about things that get in the way between a genuine relationship with him and principles for healthy relationships with other people. Some of Jesus’ strongest words were to people who made all kinds of laws and rules that hindered a joyful experience with God. Jesus criticized hypocrisy in very clear tones and was very particular about an open heart, an open mind, and a committed life.
Read a clip of Matthew 23 (or show clip from Matthew Video)
Obviously when people today complain about hypocrites, they forget that Jesus had a problem with it too. But you don’t throw Jesus out, because some of his followers had some serious problems. If I see a Toyota salesman driving a Yugo, I’m not going to throw out my Toyota and cry "Hypocrite." It’s still the better car regardless of the salesman. Anything that hinders a real relationship with God, God is particular about. Anything that keeps us out of heaven, God is particular about. Jesus was particular about being honest-hearted, and fully devoted to God while, while at the same time not getting wrapped up in legalism and man made traditions.
Mark 7:1-9 "They worship me in vain; teaching as doctrines the commandments of men." You have let go of the commandment of God and are holding on to the traditions of men...And he said to them: "You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!...thus you make God’s word of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down." Later down the passage he said "The issue isn’t eating with washed hands--that’s not the issue." That’s not what makes a person unclean.
Verse 20 "The things that come out of people are the things that make them unclean. All these evil things begin inside people, out of their hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual sins, stealing, murder, adultery, greed, evil actions, lying, doing sinful things, jealousy, speaking evil of others, pride, and foolish living. All these evil things come from inside and make people unclean." Don’t get hung up on the minor things.
These are the issues that separate us from God.
Today--we often joke about the things that God is particular about. We go "woops." and forget about it. No big deal. God says --wait a minute. That’s serious stuff. It separates us. It separates our relationship.
I tell a racist or sexist joke. Someone from another race or opposite sex in room--I’ve built a wall of separation whether I wanted to or not. God is particular about the things that keep us separated from him.
What is it that God is particular about? What is it that separates us from God?
"But your sins have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you so that he will not hear." Isa 59:2
"Sin is breaking God’s law" I John 3:4
"Whoever keeps the law and but fails to obey even one command is guilty of breaking all the commands." James 2:10
"Woe to the world for the things that cause people to sin." Matthew 18:7
Jesus said, "Not everyone who says to me, "Lord, Lord," will enter the kingdom of heaven but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, "Lord, Lord didn’t we prophesy in your name, and drive out demons and perform miracles." Then I will tell them plainly, "I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers." Matthew 7:21-23
"Without holiness no one will see the Lord." Hebrews 12:14 No one uses that word today, but holy is used over 600 times in the bible. Count em. God’s particular about it.
How many of you tonight can say, "Man I’ve never sinned. I’ve never broken God’s laws. I’m holy. I deserve to go to heaven. I’ve got a pure heart and clean hands." Not me. Not one of us. Our culture today says no big deal about holiness. God says big deal. And we’re separated from God. Not one of us can say to God, "You owe me heaven and eternal life." He doesn’t owe God doesn’t owe anyone eternal life in heaven. None of us here deserve one second in heaven, because we’ve all missed the mark.
So how do we fix it...I was thinking this week how Holiness is like a tuxedo. Ladies imagine it’s a formal dress.
God is throwing a party called heaven and he has invited everyone to come. However without holiness (tuxedo) you can’t get into the party. You show up at the door. You’ve lived a good life, right--a lot better than the neighbors down the street. Lot better than Howard Stern and Dennis Rodman. You at least went to church on Easter and Christmas right? You ought to get right in. But you get stopped by the doorkeeper because you don’t have a tuxedo. But, you say, I was a good person, I did good deeds...and he reminds you.
Isa 64:6 "All our righteous acts are like filthy rags..." Look at your outfit, you thought you had a tuxedo--you thought you were dressed up--but you find yourself in rags.
Romans 3:23 "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."
But here’s what the doorkeeper says. Look--there is no way you’re getting to the party like that...but I’ll tell you what--go around the back door and you can get in easily. You walk around the building and notice some windows. You glimpse into the party and notice everyone’s having a great time. You try to slip into the window, but it’s locked. No luck. So you walk around back and a man calls out to you "This way. You can get to the party this way." The closer you get you see a big wide open door and Jesus standing there. Jesus says, "I am the door, and the person who enters through me will be saved and will be able to come in and go out." John 10:9 He gives you a clean outfit just your size. You walk into the party.
All of a sudden, the light clicks on...Hey-I’ll never make it on my own. I need his direction. He gives me a totally clean outfit and says "Here try it on. I don’t condemn you. My holiness will be credited to your account." Free.
"God saved us, not because of the good things we had done, but because of his mercy." Titus 3:5
"In (relationship with) Christ, we are put right with God, and have been made holy, and have been set free from sin. As it is written, "If someone wants to brag, he should brag only about the Lord." I Cor 1:30-31
God is particular about sin. But he’s also particular about heaven and wanting us to be there. So he paid the bill to get us there. And the most important thing--is if we truly want to be in the party, he’ll accept us without making us feel embarrassed about it. He’s not going to go around and tell everyone--look they look good now, but you should have seen the rags they came with.
Romans 10:11 "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame."
Romans 8:1 "There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."
Some people call it grace. I don’t care what you call it--I want to be in the party, and I’ll take God’s free gift even though he could have easily kept me out."