Sermons Archive


American Baptist - United Methodist

By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

23 APRIL 1995


Genesis 23:10-16
Acts 6:1-15

Today is the second Sunday of the Great Fifty Days of Christianity which lead from the Day of Resurrection to Pentecost.

It is a time when Christians should grow in the power of the Holy Spirit.

It is a time when Christians should recognize their spiritual responsibilities, and act upon them.

Unfortunately, most of the Christian world is saying, "Wow! Last week I fulfilled my Christian duty. I went to Church. Now I can play each Sunday until Christmas."

Mostly, these kinds of expressions come from people who are rather weak in their faith.

But there are others who don't come because of the hardness of heart that they observe.

Last week the average church attendance swelled more than 50%, and still about half of all people who call themselves Christians didn't attend at all.

This situation in itself reflects a sorry state of affairs, but even worse than this is the sorry state of Godly living that is the root cause of why Church attendance is so low.

Furthermore, this ungodly living exists among church-goers and non-church-goers alike, and it is very discouraging for people who are truly seeking to live as God wants us to live.

We don't even have to look at the New Testament to see that this problem of irresponsibility has been going on for a long time, for the Hebrew Text is full of examples.

But we all know about the bad attitudes. We encounter them almost every day, and many of us encounter them several times a day.

So, this morning we're going to take a look at a few responsible people's lives and see how they reacted in a specific situation; for I believe we all learn better from positive examples than from negative ones.

Then, with these positive examples, we can better analyze the conditions of the world we live in.

Let's begin with a sad time in Abraham's life, shortly after Sarah, his wife, died (Genesis 23:10-16).

10. Now Ephron was sitting among the sons of Heth; and Ephron the Hittite answered Abraham in the hearing of the sons of Heth; even of all who went in at the gate of his city, saying,

11. "No, my lord, hear me; I give you the field, and I give you the cave that is in it. In the presence of the sons of my people I give it to you; bury your dead."

12. And Abraham bowed before the people of the land.

13. And he spoke to Ephron in the hearing of the people of the land, saying, "If you will only please listen to me; I will give the price of the field, accept it from me, that I may bury my dead there."

14. Then Ephron answered Abraham, saying to him,

15. "My lord, listen to me; a piece of land worth four hundred shekels of silver, what is that between me and you? So bury your dead."

16. And Abraham listened to Ephron; and Abraham weighed out for Ephron the silver which he had named in the hearing of the sons of Heth, four hundred shekels of silver, commercial standard.

Abraham would not accept that which cost him nothing for a permanent burial site for Sarah, or for other members of his family.

He did this because Ephron really had placed a value upon his property, gift or no gift, and one day he might have second thoughts about what he gave away.

Itís possible that Abraham also did this because one day in the future, other members of Ephron's family might argue that their father never received anything for the land, and thus reclaim the property and defile the grave site.

Abraham wanted a permanent burial site for his family, and he was responsible in securing it with the least possible recourse in the future.

Today, both the Moslems and the Jews consider this cave to be a holy site, and they have made it into a place of worship of God; for they both consider themselves descendants of Abraham, who was buried here, also.

But the over-zealous and irresponsible Moslems and Jews continue to kill each other, instead of living together in love as brothers.

And to illustrate how misdirected some people's ďholinessĒ is, and how irresponsible their actions can become, slightly over a year ago, a Jewish man took an automatic weapon into this cave and killed twenty-nine Moslems while they were worshipping God.

But this tragic situation didn't end there, for irreverent and irresponsible Moslems then proceeded to kill other Jewish people who had nothing to do with what this one man had done.

And I can't see how any of these killers could have really believed in God, or really served Him, can you?

Their actions tell you where their hearts really are, don't they?

Let's look at another example, this one from Genesis 39.

One of Abraham's great grandchildren, Joseph, had his brothers turn on him and sell him into slavery in Egypt.

Something like this could make you very bitter, couldn't it?

But Joseph served his master faithfully, and was entrusted with the care of his whole house.

But his masterís wife desired Joseph, and when he refused to have anything to do with her, she turned on him and lied about him to her husband (Genesis 1-16).

Let's read what happened, beginning at verse 19.

19. Now it came about when his master heard the words of his wife, which she spoke to him, saying, "This is what your slave did to me," that his anger burned.

20. So Joseph's master took him and put him into the jail, the place where the king's prisoners were confined; and he was there in the jail.

21. But the Lord was with Joseph and extended kindness to him, and gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer.

22. And the chief jailer committed to Joseph's charge all the prisoners who were in the jail; so that whatever was done there, he was responsible for it.

23. The chief jailer did not supervise anything under Joseph's charge because the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the Lord made to prosper.

As often as Joseph was given lemons, he made lemonade.

He turned other people's irresponsibility into his responsibility, and made a success of it, to the glory of God.

Because he was faithful to the Lord, the Lord prospered him.

Everything Joseph did, he did for God, not only for his human master.

As a way of protesting their situation, many people try to see how little they can do, or how much they can get away with.

Joseph's attitude is, "I will do the best job I can so that others will come to know God, for they will see Him with me in the way that I succeed and prosper."

This should be our attitude, too!

Now, letís take a look at a New Testament example from Acts 6:1-15.

1. Now at this time while the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint arose on the part of the Hellenistic Jews against the native Hebrews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily serving of food.

2. And the twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, "It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables.

The twelve apostles had been trying to do everything themselves, thus they were overworked and were unable to complete each task properly.

So they decided to get others to join them in their responsibilities.

Note what they told the congregation about the qualifications of such a person.

3. "But select from among you, brethren, seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task.

We might think of putting some less intelligent people in charge of serving tables, but they say that such a person must be full of the Spirit and of wisdom.

And what will the apostles do?

4. "But we will devote ourselves to prayer, and to the ministry of the word."

5. And the statement found approval with the whole congregation; and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch.

6. And these they brought before the apostles; and after praying, they laid their hands on them.

In other words, they ordained them, as a priest or pastor is ordained.

And for what purpose?

To serve the needs of others, including serving their meals.

Think of it; the church considered this task such a responsibility, that it deserved ordination.

Now let's look at how jealousy and fear grips those who have not the Spirit of God in them.

7. And the word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the [Hebrew] priests were becoming obedient to the faith.

8. And Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people.

9. But some men from what was called the Synagogue of the Freedmen, including both Cyrenians and Alexandrians, and some from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and argued with Stephen.

10. And yet they were unable to cope with the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking.

11. Then they secretly induced men to say, "We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God."

12. And they stirred up the people, the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and dragged him away, and brought him before the Council.

13. And they put forward false witnesses who said, "This man incessantly speaks against this holy place, and the Law;

14. for we have heard him say that this Nazarene, Jesus, will destroy this place and alter the customs which Moses handed down to us."

15. And fixing their gaze on him, all who were sitting in the Council saw his face like the face of an angel.

No matter how much people fight against the truth of God, they will still see His truth in His creation and in the lives of His responsible servants.

Jesus Christ died for each and every one of us, just as He died for these servants of the past.

Now consider for ourselves: Are we the responsible servants who are seen as being worthy of such a sacrifice?

Abraham and Joseph were seen as such servants.

The Apostles were seen as such servants.

Steven and the other six were seen as such servants.

And if we are seen as such responsible servants, then we can truly say, "Amen."


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