(Start with EASTER SERVICES slide)
Morning. My name is David Sorn. I’m the Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church. Morning to you.
Before we get started this morning, let me just remind you that we are now only 13 days away from our first of 6 Easter services!
It’s time to start praying!
Today, we start our incredibly important, 8,000 minutes of prayer.
If you want to know why we had almost 2,000 people at Easter last year…and saw SO many people accept Christ…it starts with this
(Show 8,000 Minutes of Prayer slide)
We want 191 of us to pray 3 minutes a day for the next 14 days
We have 168 people signed up so far.
Would 23 of you join us this morning?
If that’s you, head out to the hallway, grab a prayer packet and sign up after the service.
Let’s pray that Jesus saves a whole bunch of people.
I’m praying we see over 100 people stand up and accept Christ.
Would you pray that with me for the next 14 days.
And better yet, pray that you know 1 of those 100 people.
That’s one of the main reasons we want you all praying for the next 14 days.
Do you believe God could do some amazing things if you prayed for your co-worker, your neighbor, your sister, your brother…every day for the next 14 days?
And then invited them?
Because if you pray, you have to believe that God CAN move (if it’s his will), so we pray and move.
In fact, under your chair right now, there are a number of invite cards (some for people w/ kids…others for your friends that don’t have kids)
If you don’t have any yet, grab them, and start handing them out.
This is such an incredible opportunity for us to invite someone.
Let God use you!
All right…today is a fun day at Renovation Church!
Every year, we study a book of the Bible together, and this morning, we are starting our book for 2018 (drumroll please!)
The Gospel of Luke
(Switch to Luke/Lost & Found Series Slide)
We find that there is great value in sometimes studying the topics that Scripture teaches as a whole, but there’s also great value in studying a book of the Bible verse-by-verse
And so we do both of those things here
Luke is one of 4 accounts/books about Jesus (they’re called Gospels)
It was written by Luke a few decades after Jesus resurrected.
Luke as a doctor and companion of the Apostle Paul
As a medical man, and a scientist, Luke was incredibly serious about getting the facts about Jesus correct.
Look at how he opens up his book…addressing it to what many presumed was a man who held an important office in the Roman Government
(Luke 1:1-4) – NIV
Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 3 With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.
Luke lets you know he’s relied on written sources, eyewitness testimony, and he has personally & carefully investigated everything
This is not some fanciful story
Luke is the longest book in the entire New Testament, so this will take us a while to get through this.
We rotate between verse-by-verse series and topical series, so at that pace, this will most likely take 3 years. For real.
I think what we might actually do is throw in some other books in there as well.
Perhaps go back to the Old Testament in 2019, do a letter in 2020, and pick up again in Luke the year after that, etc.
Renovation Church has been open for about 450 Sundays, and out of all the genres in the Bible, I feel like we’ve spent the least amount of time in the Gospels…the accounts of Jesus’ life…so this will be good for us!
The name of our Luke series is “Lost & Found”
This comes from the theme verse of Luke…
( ) – NIV
For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
That is the main point of this book.
That we were lost…and Jesus came to save us.
CHAPTER ONE INTRO
So let me set the stage by bringing you from Exodus (what we studied last year) to Luke…in one minute or less ☺
The Israelites eventually make it into the promised land
They keep getting routed by their enemies and ask God for a King.
Which we studied in our 1 Samuel Monarchy Series if you were here in 2015 & 2016…
That book ends with King Saul dying, and David becoming King in about 1,000 BC
There are a few good kings (David, Josiah, Hezekiah), but most are wicked…so as a punishment, God sends the Assyrians and Babylonians to come and exile his people.
Jerusalem falls in 586 BC
The people of Judah…who eventually become the Jews are exiled in Babylon…which is where we get the stories of Daniel, Esther and others.
But after 70 years…they start coming back to Jerusalem
The temple is rebuilt, Nehemiah and friends rebuild the wall, and prophets like Zechariah and Malachi are still prophesying up until about 400BC.
And then, for 400 years, there is silence. Nothing. No major prophets. No major moves from God.
And finally, after 400 years…God is going to do something absolutely amazing.
And the first thing that happens in the New Testament is NOT when the angel appears to Mary, but actually, it’s our story for today, which predates the Mary story by a few months.
Luke is the only gospel writer who records this particular story
(Luke 1:5-7) – NIV
5 In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. 6 Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. 7 But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.
So Zechariah was a priest.
He was actually automatically a priest because he was a male descendent of Moses’ brother, Aaron.
At this time in history, there were thousands of Jewish priests.
We’re told that Zechariah was in the division of Abijah, one of 24 different divisions in charge of managing temple affairs in Jerusalem.
Each of the different divisions of the priesthood would spend two weeks a year serving in the temple in Jerusalem
(Luke 1:8-10) – NIV
8 Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.
Let me give you some more context on this:
Every day, of the 14 days Zechariah’s division was there, they would cast a lot (think like rolling a dice or drawing straws), and once a day, one of the 1,000 or so priests in Zechariah’s division would be chosen to go into the temple and burn incense on the Alter of Incense.
We actually talked about this Alter in February when we talked about the items in the tabernacle…
These same items are now in the temple at this point
And so Zechariah will get to enter into, not the Holy of Holies, but the next closest place…The Holy Place.
This would only happen once in a lifetime for a priest, and for many, it never happened…so this is the biggest moment of his life!
And as the priest would put incense to the fire, the smoke would rise out of the temple…and the worshippers standing outside the temple would see that as a symbol of their prayers rising up into heaven…and would then fall on their faces and praise God
Watch what happens when Zechariah goes in:
(Luke ) – NIV
11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”
19 The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”
21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. 22 When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.
Now, eventually, Zechariah’s wife gives birth to this baby boy…named John…John the Baptist.
And he becomes a great man who paves the way for Jesus Christ.
CLOSING & OPENING DOORS FOR GOD TO MOVE
But today’s story, is mostly about his father, Zechariah
Zechariah is getting ready to walk over the Alter of Incense, and hello, there’s an angel there!
And then the Angel Gabriel tells Zechariah that “his prayer has been answered…and he’s going to have a son, John the Baptist, who will prepare the way for the Messiah”
And then Zechariah says this:
(Luke 1:18) – NIV
18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”
Zechariah is politically correct before it was cool to be politically correct.
But Gabriel says, “’How can I be sure of this?!?? I don’t know…perhaps because I’m an angel and I’m talking to you!?!
But why doesn’t Zechariah fully believe?
Well, for one, it just doesn’t seem humanly possible to him given their age.
And secondly, this is subject matter that Zechariah and Elizabeth gave up praying about a long time ago.
We’ve all been in this place.
You’ve been asking God to heal your marriage for 10 years…and He hasn’t yet…
so you kind of just stopped praying about it
You’ve been asking Him to bring your spouse, your parent, your child, to Christ for years…and He hasn’t yet…and they look about as far from Christ as one can get…
so you kind of just stopped praying about it
You were praying to have kids, to get married, for your anxiety to leave, for your addiction to stop, you name it…but it hasn’t happened…
So you kind of just stopped praying about it
Think of it this way: Imagine that your life is like a mansion with 40 different rooms.
And each room is a different category of your life that God can move in.
Your different relationships are each a room, your emotions are a room, your finances are a room, your health is a room, your job…you get the picture
And if you’ve been in that place (which most of you have)…where you’ve prayed and prayed…and shed tears…and prayed some more…
And yet God is NOT doing what you’re asking.
Many of us, rather than persevere in prayer (see Luke 18 for example)…we walk over to that room where God isn’t answering our prayer…and we close the door.
And with tears rolling down our cheek, we tape up a sign on that closed door that says, “God doesn’t move here”
Where are you doing this in your life right now?
Where did you use to stand in that room and beg for God to move…but now…whether you slammed the door or just backed out slowly… you don’t go in there anymore
Where have you closed the door to His movement?
Ask yourself this question:
What have I stopped praying about?”
Let me tell you one of the reasons that question is so important:
This is a Biblical Truth…that is so clear in this passage:
The place where God hasn’t answered in the past, is the hardest place for us to believe that He will answer in the future. (Leave this up until next heading/section)
In fact, it would have been easier for Zechariah to believe the Angel Gabriel on a whole host of other things.
“you want to make me rich…okay!”
“you want to give me a longer life…okay!”
But this one…this one was different.
Zechariah’s refusal to believe arises out of past hurt.
You can almost feel this sense of: “I’m sorry, you’re going to do what now? Ok …but where were you when I was 25? Or when I was 35? Did you not hear me then?”
“I prayed, I fasted, I cried, I screamed, and God didn’t move. He didn’t move!!”
Do you know what I mean?
Have you been there?
The place where God hasn’t answered in the past, is the hardest place for us to believe that He will answer in the future.
It’s one of the reasons God gives us this story.
He wants you to mentally walk through those rooms of your life this morning.
Where is it that you’ve shut the door…saying, “God doesn’t move here” ?
What have you stopped praying about?
THE ROBBERY OF UNBELIEF
But I know what some of you are thinking…
You’re thinking, “But just because I want something to happen, doesn’t mean God’s going to do it. It doesn’t mean it’s God’s will”
And you’re totally right.
You might pray for something your whole life that God never answers the way you want
And so knowing that, most of us think, “I would actually just be happier…if I closed that door. If I stopped going into that particular ‘room of my life’ to pray…begging God to move!”
This is what Zechariah had done.
It’s not that he doesn’t want to believe Gabriel. Of course he does!
He’s just protecting himself from disappointment by not setting his expectations too high.
We do this all the time.
The Viking sign QB Kirk Cousins, and rather than Vikings fans saying, “I think the Vikings are going to the Super Bowl now…we say, “I’d just love to see us make the playoffs again”
The lower we set the bar,the less risk of disappointment
Pastor Ben Patterson says it this way:
“Paradoxically, the happiness of unhappiness is that it's reliable. You can always count on it.” – Ben Patterson
And so we think, “Maybe God will never bring my family member to Christ” or “maybe we’ll never get pregnant”
And rather than risk continuing to go in that room and plead with our Father in Heaven, we stop praying about it.
It feels safer for our heart.
It may feel safer, but trust me on this, it’s not better for your heart.
This is what I call “The Robbery of Unbelief”
Our unbelief robs us of the joy of believing God for the impossible.
Our unbelief robs us of growing in our faith.
Every door you close to God’s movement in your life, shrinks the size of your faith a little more.
Contrast Zechariah with Mary
Mary also meets Gabriel, and when she’s told about Jesus, she rejoices in song.
But Zechariah is unable to speak until John is born.
His unbelief has robbed Him of joy.
Now, notice, that God’s going to move anyway.
Zechariah’s unbelief would cost him his voice, but it would not cancel God’s plan.
And what God wants from you is not to settle for the safety of unbelief…
He doesn’t want unbelief to rob you of your joy!
He wants you, as a follower of Him, to be a person who daringly leaves open every room in the house.
This is what marks us as people of faith.
That we believe God for everything.
We don’t know His exact will, we ask for it daily, but while we pray…we believe…and we never stop believing…even when it looks impossible!
This is why I believe that the story of Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego is one of the most instructive stories of the Old Testament.
As the 3 Godly friends are about to be thrown in the fire by the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar for refusing to bow down to a statue, they say:
(Daniel 3:17-18) – NIV
If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand.18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
This is your tas k!
Don’t close a door. Ever.
Even as they’re throwing you into the blazing furnace…you yell out, “Our God is able to save us! And even if it isn’t His will, doesn’t matter! If He wanted to, He could!”
When an angel shows up in your life…when God’s ready to do something amazing in your life…you don’t want it to happen behind a door that you’ve already closed.
You don’t want to miss it.
Dare to open up some rooms again.
If you live like this…it will be risky.
It will be hard.
But it will be worth it.
Think of it this way: What were the scenarios that caused you to believe in God and grow your faith in the first place?
It was probably when God did something that caused you to say, “Wow? How is that even possible?”
Well, if that’s true, that open back up some of those doors you’ve closed…because it’s usually His movement in the unexpected rooms that cause us to grow our faith.
If we continue to close the doors to the rooms that we’ve determined are “too difficult for God to move in”…and we reduce God to someone who only answers in the most safe and obvious ways…
Well then guess what, your faith will eventually be reduced to a tiny and sad corner of your life.
So instead, look your unbelief in the face this morning and say, “Stop robbing me of my joy”
Remember that while keeping the faith is certainly harder than closing the door, you don’t get to enjoy the miracles that happen behind closed doors.
You will get to be a firsthand witness of so much more joy if you keep trusting in your God.
I see this being played out in my own life right now.
I’ve mentioned to you for years, that I don’t have the gift of faith…
It doesn’t come as easy to me as it does for some of you.
And yet as I’m walking back through those rooms in my life, and opening up doors that I used to have previously closed.
I find it’s making my heart lighter.
It’s scary, but I feel like I’ve traded in the heaviness of “God’s never going to do this” for the lightness of “but what if He did?”
And it’s bringing more and more joy to my life.
Friends, He’s worth it.
Can we trust his plan…his timing…and not ours??
When God didn’t answer Zechariah and Elizabeth’s prayer when they were younger, Zechariah closed that door of faith as he got older.
And he closed it because He thought he knew all there was to know about God’s timing.
But think about this.
What if Elizabeth and Zechariah had their prayers answered in their 20’s?
What would they have gotten?
They would have gotten just another priest.
Another temple worker in the line of A-bi-jah.
But God had a greater plan.
Zechariah & Elizabeth were indeed the very parents that God wanted to use to raise one of the greatest prophets the world has ever known…the very man who would make way for Jesus Christ.
But IF God would have answered their prayers while they fasted, and cried, and prayed at 25…or at 35…
Then the timing would have been all wrong.
John the Baptist would have come a few decades too soon.
I suspect Zechariah and Elizabeth would not have matured enough yet to raise such an amazing man.
But no, God had a PERFECDT plan.
And so I say to you this morning…keep your doors of faith open…no matter what.
We must be people of faith…not people who avoid risk so they can feel better.
Please consider that it is possible that God has a long-term plan that is even better than having your wants fulfilled today.
Dare to believe that God may be denying you the good you want now because, in his perfect will, he has an even better plan
Dare to believe that even if He never gives you what you’re praying for…that His will is right.
Always believe God has something better.
Keep every door open.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
You may use this material all you like! We only ask that you do not charge a fee and that you quote the source and not say it is your own.