Sunday, September 23, 2012

3 Simple Rules #2 Do Good - Sermon

3 Simple Rules
Rule 2: Do Good
John 13:34-35 & Ephesians 2:8-10

When I was planning my preaching schedule for the fall I was not aware yet that homecoming was always the third Sunday of September.  I know now and next year I hope we can have a guest preacher come in maybe along with some great music as well.  Today though we will be sticking with this sermon series entitled 3 Simple Rules.  This is a three week look into the General Rules of the United Methodist Church which are; Do No Harm, Do Good and Stay in Love with God.

Last week we talked about do no harm.  I mentioned that doing harm is reactive, it is how we interact with the people we come in contact with on a daily basis.  If we are to live out the calling God has in our lives then we have to learn to react to life, to people, to situations by first doing no harm.  It can be a hard concept to wrap our heads around and the live out.  The rules sound easy, but like I mentioned last week, it takes a deep, mature and solid faith to follow it daily.  That is the same thing with this week’s rule, do good.

It sounds so simple it is almost silly, do good.  But then you hear a quote that many people attribute to John Wesley, the founder of our denomination, “Do all the good you can, By all the means you can, In all the ways you can, In all the places you can, At all the times you can, To all the people you can, As long as ever you can.”  Well then that just gets a little more complicated then doesn’t it.

Where the first rule, Do No Harm, is a reactive stance on life, the second rule is proactive.  To do good means that we do not wait to do good, it should be something that flows out of us naturally and consistently as followers of Christ.  We see that in the scripture passages I read today.  In the John text Jesus says, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  Jesus is saying that if we are to be his followers, if we are going to go through the process of sanctification which makes us more Christ-like, then we will have to love like he loves.  Our love for our neighbors should lead us into life and doing no harm should be how we react to life.

We are created for this love.  It is something that is imbedded deep within us that needs to come out.  We have to learn to understand that we are created to love.  The Ephesians text shows us that because in verse 10 it states “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  God has created us in his image and placed in our DNA the ability and desire to love like he loves. 

Growing up I had a hard time swallowing meat.  Some of the tougher meats like pork chops and steak I would chew and chew and chew but never swallow.  I would fake having to go to the bathroom sixty times during dinner and somehow miraculously all that meat that I had packed into my cheeks was gone when I returned to the table.  My napkins were about twelve pounds heavier at the end of the meals with all the meat I tried to hide in there.  My parents would get so frustrated with me but eventually I grew out of it.  Recently I have noticed a trend in our daughter, Campbell.  My parents were over this week and we had some of those steamed whole green beans.  These are a little tougher than the cut green beans tend to be.  Campbell had finished most of her meal but she still had some beans left on her plate.  We encouraged her to eat them and she took a bite or two.  Then I look over and she is still chewing and chewing and chewing.  I asked her to show me the beans and she opened her mouth and showed me a wad of mashed up green beans packed into her cheeks.  My dad busts out laughing and I realize that this apple didn’t fall far from the tree.

I am sure there are moments when you have looked at your children or your grand-children and you stopped dead in your tracks because they were doing something that is just like you.  They had a reaction, they said something in a certain way or gave you a look and you knew that it had to be your DNS shinning through.  I wonder if God has those moments with us.  I wonder if God sees us doing good works and he sees himself in them?  I wonder when we are living out our faith by doing no harm and doing good if God smiles because he knows we are finally getting it and his image is shining through us in those moments.

We have to be careful though.  There is an idea out there that we can earn our way to God’s love through good works.  If we simply pile up more good works verses our bad works then we will be okay when we die.  But that is not true.  The good works we do does not earn God’s love but is an outpouring of the love that God has for us.

Did you all get that, I want to make sure that part is very clear.  As the Ephesian’s text starts off, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.”  We receive salvation; we receive justifying grace; through the free, unmerited, unearned grace of God.  It is not something we can earn if we simply do a check list of things.  Salvation is free for all.  Where good works come in, is how we live out this free gift we are given.  Once we know that we are loved by God and crave to be like his son, good works flow out of that.  We do not do good works because we want to earn God’s love but we do good works because we are loved.  It is out of our faith and our love for God and our neighbor that good works should flow freely out of us.

But there are some things you have to give up in order to do these good works like God wants us to.  We have to give up control.  We give up control because God doesn’t define who good works should be for.  His love is for everyone and so our love, our doing good, should be for everyone.  It is easy to do good for those who look like us, act like us, and think like us.  It gets much harder when we are pushed to do good to those who despise us, don’t think anything like us, and look and act nothing like us.  Then doing good becomes really hard.  It becomes really hard because we no longer have control over who gets the good works.  We cannot pick and choose and we love to pick and choose.  But God’s love is for all and God chooses us to be the tools to share that love with the world, so we have to learn to relinquish control and do good to everyone.

At our culture’s core we are a WIFM culture.  WIFM stands for What’s In it For Me.  We want to know the purpose and guarantees of doing good before we do them.  If I help this person out will that person help me out later?  We are comfortable doing good within a certain predetermined boundary that we agree to because then we are not pushed beyond our comfort zones.  We tend to do good as long as we can control it and we can figure out how we can benefit from that act of love.

The truth is that to do good is a direct command from Christ and a serious challenge to all those who seek to follow him.  Doing good can “not be limited to those like me and those who like me,”[1] it has to be for everyone.  We should not have to wait to see if a cause or a person is worthy, it should flow naturally out of our faith in the one who came to save us and them.

But how do we get to a place where we don’t put ourselves first and learn to live as Christ lived?  The best way to do that is to figure out your true-self.  I know that sounded very Oprah didn’t it.  But we are all created by God and we all have the image of God in us.  The good news is though we are all different and have different talents, gifts, and abilities.  What I am good at is not what you may be good at and what you are good at I may be horrible at.  God has created us this way so that as we work together we do the best work possible.  As we find out what our gifts, talents and abilities are we learn how we can do the best good in this world.  When we find our God created self and share that with others, God’s love and good works are done.  Then it doesn’t seem like work, because it flows naturally out of our faith in God and how God created us.

I hope this past week you looked at how you reacted to the people and situations you encountered and asked yourself, “will I do harm by reacting in this way?”  This week I hope you will look towards ways you can share the love of God that is inside you with those of this world, even those who seem not to even be worthy of it.  Look deep inside to see who God created you to be and what he is calling you to do to share his love with this world.  Each week we pray, “thy kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven.”  We can participate in the Kingdom of God in the here and now, not just in the life to come.  We do so by first doing no harm and second by doing good.  Next week we will learn how we can receive sustaining power to continue these first two rules.  But until then, may you do no harm this week and “Do all the good you can, By all the means you can, In all the ways you can, In all the places you can, At all the times you can, To all the people you can, As long as ever you can.”

And all God’s people said…Amen.

                [1] Job, Rueben Three Simple Rules:A Wesleyan Way of Living.  Abington Press, Nashville, 2007, p.36

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