Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church
Well, as Rachel said, we are now 3 days away from one of the best days of the year at Renovation Church: Christmas Eve.
It’s an amazing time to come and remember what Christmas is really all about.
It’s also the perfect time to see your friends and family meet Jesus.
In general, people are more open to coming to church than we ever think they are…but no time is this more true than Christmas Eve
Between 2012 and 2013, we saw 21 people stand up and accept Christ at our Christmas Eve services.
21 Family members…siblings…cousins…parents
21 friends…co-workers…neighbors of the people of Renovation Church!
This is our vision: To be a people being changed by God to change the world.
The next 3 days are an amazing opportunity for you to be a bold and courageous world-changer with us.
I pray that God is putting people on your heart to invite and that he gives you courage to act on it.
This morning, we are going to be finishing “The Kingdom” series on the book of Matthew in the Bible.
It’s a series we’ve been doing “on and off again” since back in March
And as we close out Matthew’s book about Jesus’ life today, we’re actually going to end in an odd place.
We’re going to end with Jesus the night before his crucifixion.
I’m choosing to end here instead of his death and resurrection because those are two stories that get taught on frequently.
And I’d rather teach you about something you won’t hear at another time of the calendar year.
So let me bring you up to speed on where we are right now in Matthew’s Gospel.
Jesus has just had the Last Supper with his disciples where he instituted communion.
And now he’s going to go out to the Mount of Olives to pray.
You might want to keep it open as I’m going to reference the passage a lot
(Matthew 26:36-46) – NIV
36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” 39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” 40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” 43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. 45 Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”
So let’s talk about this fascinating and rich passage.
Jesus goes to Gethsemane.
which is a garden among the olive tree groves on the Mount of Olives…on the edge of Jerusalem
Jesus takes his 12…now 11 disciples with him (since Judas has left to betray him)
But he asks 8 of them to wait on the outskirts of the garden.
He then takes his inner circle of Peter, James, & John with him deeper into the Garden.
But then, he leaves even them…to go on farther to pray alone.
And Jesus is completely overwhelmed with what is going to happen to him in the next 24 hours.
It’s an interesting picture of who Jesus…the God-Man…really is.
We get glimpses in the Bible of him being 100% God.
He’s calming the storm…feeding the 5,000…raising people from the dead.
But here we get a glimpse of his 100% humanity.
He’s so overwhelmed that Luke says in his account of the garden that Jesus’ sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.
Whether that was actual blood or just a whole lot of sweat…it doesn’t really matter.
What I want you to see…is the anguish of Jesus here.
He told his disciples that “his soul was overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death”
And what do his friends do?
They fall asleep.
In their defense...they had just had 4 cups of wine at the last supper.
And the Bible gives us this picture of Jesus falling face down to the ground and crying out to his Father…for a couple of reasons.
God wants you to see that Jesus is afraid.
It’s okay for you to be afraid.
God wants you to see that Jesus is overwhelmed.
It’s okay for you to be overwhelmed.
Renovation Church isn’t a place where you need to put on some fake mask of perfection.
Just messy people being Renovated by the Savior here.
God wants you to see that Jesus is experiencing anxiety.
It’s okay for you to be anxious.
Yes, Jesus eventually prays, “Your will be done,” but let’s not forget he started with, “I don’t want to do this”
But what is it exactly that he doesn’t want to do?
What is it that he’s exactly afraid of?
Is it death? Is it dying on the cross?
In some ways…that doesn’t make sense.
We have 2,000 years worth of stories of brave Christians…seemingly unafraid to die.
Like the 40 martyrs of Turkey in the 300’s who were persecuted by Licinius…
They were beaten and then ordered to go naked into a frozen pond to freeze to death because of their faith.
They were offered a warm bath if they would give up their convictions and sacrifice to the Roman gods.
And only 1 did.
But then, shockingly…one of the guards…admitted his faith in Christ…and joined them in the pond.
And 40 of them died boldly in the pond.
So how do we have these stories of courageous faith in the face of death…and yet Jesus Himself is overwhelmed to the point of death?!
It’s because Jesus is facing something entirely different.
When Jesus says, “If it’s possible, may this cup be taken from me?”
The “cup” he’s referring to is the “cup” of God’s wrath
That’s how “cup” is often referred to in the Old Testament.
God is symbolically pouring out his cup of wrath.
But what does that mean? Cup of wrath? And why?
We say here ALL THE TIME that Jesus died on the cross to take the punishment for us.
And for a lot of us, we think, “Oh yeah, he died in my place.”
But He didn’t just die.
He literally took your sin upon himself.
(2 Corinthians 5:21) – NIV
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
When Jesus dies on the cross, He’s going to have ALL of your sin…and the sin of billions more throughout history…be put on Him as He takes our punishment.
And as if that weren’t enough…He’s going to…for the first time in all of time…experience the absence of His Father’s presence.
(Matthew 27:46) – NIV
About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”)
So what Jesus is overwhelmed with in the garden is the fact that He’s not only going to have to die…but on top of that…carry the weight of the sin of the world…AND be without His Father’s presence for the first time.
And he prays…”If it’s possible, may this cup be taken from me?”
In other words… “Father…is there another way?”
THE IMPORTANCE OF PRAYER
But then he (very importantly) adds, “Yet not as I will, but as you will”
Not my will, but your will be done.
Afterall, that’s what he taught his disciples to pray in the Lord’s prayer.
“Our father…who art in heaven…hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come…YOUR will be done…”
And he prays for an hour…goes back to his disciples…and they’re sleeping.
So he goes back to pray again.
And you can see his resolve is beginning to change.
(Matthew 26:42) – NIV
42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”
In other words, “Okay God…if there isn’t another way…I’m going to trust in your will”
Like I taught my disciples.
I’m going to trust in the greater plan.
And Jesus knew the greater plan.
He spoke of it already to his disciples.
He knew that he was on earth to die.
But for a lot us when we suffer…that changes things. Doesn’t it?
It’s harder…because…we don’t know the greater plan.
You can theologically know a lot about God …but when you are filled with anxiety…and fear…and stress…our actions sometimes betray our stated beliefs.
The disconnect between your head and your heart might be greater than you realize
Despite what some Christians on TV and in their books try and sell you, “Sometimes life doesn’t work out.”
I would say…most of the time…it doesn’t work out.
Not how we’d like to script it anyway.
And then…when that happens…you’re going to face a crossroads.
What is it that you really believe about God?
Let me tell you something that’s maybe hard to hear:
When you get to a painful time of life…your faith in God will be shown for what it really is:
And it will be clear that either you believe God is a magician in the sky who can grant magical requests to get you out of tough situations, and get you back on the track YOU wanted to be on.
OR, you believe that God is God.
And you’re on His track…not yours.
And maybe His will ISN’T to get you OUT of anything…but merely through it.
See…I think too often we pray like God only has one option.
“God, heal me.”
“God, fix my finances”
“God, fix my marriage”
And then people in our culture say that they’re mad at God because He doesn’t answer our prayers.
Which is just another way of saying that God isn’t doing what I’m telling Him to do!
Which is just another way of saying that I’m not actually worshipping “GOD,” but merely a magician I’m imagining in the sky.
I can remember early on in my ministry, I had a young woman come to me whose Grandma had just died.
It was hard on her, and it really shook her faith.
I met with her and spoke with her about.
And then a few weeks later, she wrote me an email on MySpace (which dates the story for you)
And she said, “David, since my Grandmother died, I just can’t believe in God anymore.”
“I prayed…and He didn’t heal her, so I don’t believe in Him anymore.”
But we have to be able to trust that God’s will…that God’s perspective…is infinitely greater than ours.
We have to be able to humbly (and wisely) admit that if God were to answer all of our prayers…it would be the stupidest thing he could ever do. (REPEAT)
Think of it this way…imagine you have a 4-year old at home.
What if…for one week…you said “Yes” to every single one of their wishes? What would happen?
You’d eat pizza for breakfast
You’d have to let them play in the snow without their hat & mittens
You’d have to throw nap time out the window
You’d definitely have to throw bedtime out the window
And there would certainly be none of that stupid looking both ways before you cross the street garbage...
And, what any parenting expert would tell you…is that by the end of the week…you’d actually end up with one worn-out, frustrated, and miserable 4-year old.
It’s because they don’t actually know yet what they want…or more deeply…what they need.
Now…take that…and multiply it times a million, and that’s a glimpse of how much more God knows about what we really need.
We don’t know what we need like He does.
We don’t know His plan like He does
We don’t know how he will use even the darkest of times…like He does.
I spoke to a woman this year that lost her infant child years ago to an early death…
But then she told me of how God used her for decades as nurse to give comfort to young mothers in similar situations.
And she saw His plan in it.
And after 10 billion years reunited in heaven, these 40 years a part will seem like a blink anyway
I mean…look at Jesus’ situation even.
Things appear to be spiraling out of control.
He asked his friends to stand watch. They don’t.
He’s arrested. And where is God?
And now they’re beating him?! And spitting on Him!
I thought God was in control! Are you kidding me?
And now they’re going to crucify him??
I thought God loved him?!
What is God doing?!
I’ll tell you what He’s doing. He’s saving the WORLD through His Son.
Can you imagine if Jesus would have done what so many of us do when God doesn’t answer our initial prayer?
It’s always dangerous to say that God isn’t in control when all you have is just one piece of the puzzle.
Some people ask God to rid them of something…and He says no.
God teaches in our weakness. He is strong in our weakness.
The apostle Paul asked for a thorn in his flesh to be removed.
God said no. To PAUL!
In Paul’s weakness, God was strong.
Some people ask God to make the suffering go away.
Sometimes He says no.
Sometimes I think we fail to realize that the very people who help us through our suffering are usually the people who’ve suffered in their past.
How will the next generation know what to do unless we too…bear our own sufferings?
Some people ask God to heal them. He doesn’t
God teaches through our limitations.
Sometimes He heals.
Sometimes…in his wisdom (that we don’t always see)…He doesn’t.
When I was in Rwanda this summer…they asked me to pray for healing for a large group of people.
And I had never done that before. Sure, I’ve prayed for an individual. But not a group of people.
So I thought about what to pray for…and here’s what I did:
I prayed passionately that God would heal them.
And I believed He could.
But then I prayed over them that “If God chooses (in his wisdom) NOT to heal them….that they would see His purposes in it.”
Jesus teaches us SO much with his prayer in the Garden.
“Father…take this from me…but not my will, but yours be done”
It’s okay to pray for things to happen. We should pray! A LOT!
But I think many of us need to learn to add Jesus’ addendum… “But Your Will be Done”
And I will tell you right now…that is SCARY. It’s hard.
And honestly…sometimes…I don’t feel like adding that.
Sometimes…I’m not at all interested in adding it.
And I feel like telling God, “I don’t care what you think…You heal this person! You fix this in my life!”
But I’m not God.
So you can pray, “God, help us have a baby.”
But dare to pray… “But your will be done”
You can pray, “God, I’m single. Help me get married.”
But dare to pray… “But your will be done”
What if…in God’s wisdom…His plan isn’t for you to get married? What if that WAS His will for you?
I’m telling you…you don’t want to spend your whole life angry at Him because He didn’t give you what you thought He should have.
We need to be brave…and courageous…and wise…
And we need to say, “God is infinitely bigger than I am.”
God…you know what I need, “Your will be done”
Maybe your will for me is adoption…maybe your will for me is to be single.
Your will be done.
And what God is showing us through Jesus in the Garden is that PRAYER is about aligning our will with God’s will.
Jesus enters the garden and says, “Is there another way?”
But after over an hour of prayer…Jesus is able to say, “If you’re sure it’s not possible…your will be done…”
But He goes back and prays some more.
And then finally, when they come to arrest him, Peter gets all amped up and draws his sword to fight.
And look at what Jesus says now:
(John 18:11) – NIV
Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”
What’s happened is this: After a considerable amount of time in prayer…Jesus is now able to say, “Peter, we’re not going to fight our way out of this. God has willed that I do this. Who am I to go against His will?”
But how does he get to that?
How does he go from, “Is there another way” to THAT?!
And His will begins to align with God’s will.
Matthew tells us that Jesus keeps going back to pray the same thing for a reason.
This isn’t some sort of vain, repetitive chant that He’s praying over and over.
Jesus is praying that God’s will be done until He believes it and wants it.
And I want to tell you that that is our task as well.
Take one…or two of your requests this week…and dare to pray, “Your Will be done”
One of the main tasks of prayer is to pray that God’s will be done until that prayer gets from our heads to our hearts.
Until we believe it and want it.
It took Jesus a few hours.
For most of us…it might take years…decades more likely.
But that is our task.
Prayer isn’t just a time for us to sit down and make quick demands of God, in order for us to escape some sort of pain or discomfort.
Prayer is a time for us to get connected with God.
Look at what it does for Jesus!
His time of prayer in the Garden enables Him to go through one of the most difficult set of circumstances anyone could imagine.
His time of prayer didn’t actually get Jesus out of suffering.
But…in His time of prayer…the Father aligned the Son with His will…and gives him the strength to (not go around it)…but to go through it
Prayer doesn’t always change your circumstances…but it WILL change you.
And so if you’re in a place now where you want something from God…
Pray! Ask Him for it!
By all means, pray!
The Bible tells you to. And to do it often (without ceasing)
“You do not have because you do not ask,” it says
Don’t stop praying…don’t say that there’s no point.
There is a great point.
Pray with GREAT faith that God will move.
But pray with GREATER faith that HOWEVER He moves...that His will is right.
And remember…as you pray for these things to happen…
Learn from Matthew 26 today…that prayer isn’t always about changing circumstances.
It’s about changing you.
So spend some extra time on your knees this week.
And ask God for some amazing things.
But dare to pray…maybe even for the first time… “…but Your Will be done”
And may His will be done.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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