“LIVING IN THE TENSION” SERMON Transcript by Robby Morris for June 19th, 2022.
INTRODUCTION: I don’t know about y’all, but it’s hard to make heads or tails about anything anymore. We live in a culture where UP IS DOWN and DOWN IS UP. It’s not real clear what’s true and what’s not. There’s more division, strife, and TENSION than I ever remember in my lifetime. I wasn’t old enough in the 60’s to remember what that was like, but I’m sure there were some similarities. There is a reason we are having a mental health crisis of epidemic proportions.
Most of us don’t like TENSION, stress, crisis, conflict, confrontation, division, etc. We want to get rid of it if we can as quickly as we can. However, there are some that can’t seem to live without it. If it isn’t there, they will create it. Personally, I try to avoid it wherever and whenever I can. But whether we like it or not TENSION is UNAVOIDABLE. We do have to learn how to live with it and deal with it, so that it doesn’t escalate into violent, aggressive, and confrontational behavior.
TENSION is UNCOMFORTABLE, DRAINING, DABILITATING, & UNHEALTHY. It’s a lot of other things, but that would take too long. Considering the TENSION we are experiencing right now; I think it’s an important subject and explains a lot about what is going in our world today.
TENSION permeates and infects every area of life, we have:
- Social Tension
- Relational Tension
- Racial Tension
- Economic Tension
- Theological Tension. (This is the one that concerns me the most because it effects all the others. The more we take God out of the picture, water down, or dilute the meaning of God’s word, the worse it’s going to get.)
TENSION is defined as the state of being stretched tight, mental, or emotional strain.
TENSION is TRIGGERED by a host of things that come naturally, but it doesn’t help that our culture keeps coming up with new ways to exacerbate it or make things worse. The MEDIA and SOCIAL MEDIA have mastered the art of creating CONFUSION and FEAR because it SELLS, gives them something to TALK ABOUT, gets HIGH RATINGS, & STIRS UP TENSION. They want us on EDGE and STRECHED to the limit. (Share about being on social media this week.)
I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know; it seems there is has always been a crisis in progress. Jesus himself said,
33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NIV
What is interesting to me is how we/Christians get sucked into it, and instead of being the voice of reason, a calming influence, or peacemakers, we add to the chaos.
Before we start pointing fingers at one side or the other, which is what usually happens and adds to the TENSION, we have to examine how we are contributing to the problem no matter what side of the argument/ideology/theology we may align ourselves.
My message today is not an attempt to solve/fix the problem. I can’t do that. It would be arrogant to assume that I could. I don’t have all the answers, but I know who does, and I know where to find them. (Not Google, Social Media, the Media, or Court of public opinion)
“The Bible is the #1 way God speaks to us” – Pastor Mark Plummer. (Former Pastor of Harrison UMC Pineville, NC)
God has given us a TOOL/RESOURCE to help us deal with TENSION and everything else that we will face in life. The Bible. But I’m not oblivious to the TENSION that it creates. The proof is in how divided we are on its meaning/interpretation. This is where the THEOLOGICAL TENSION comes in. It’s not a NEW THING, but I’ve never seen the Bible under as much scrutiny as I see today. The Bible tells us that:
“16All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17 NIV
16For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty…19We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things.21For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter 1:16, 19-21. NIV
7Now to you who believe, this stone (Jesus-THE WORD) is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” 8and,“A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for. I Peter 2:7-8 NIV
Even John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Movement and our denomination agrees that the Bible God’s word is indeed inspired by God:
According to Wesley, “THERE are four grand and powerful arguments which strongly induce us to believe that the Bible must be from God; they are, (a.) miracles, (b.) prophecies, (c.) the goodness of the doctrine, and (d.) the moral character of the writers.
“Thus Christianity is built upon four grand pillars: the power, understanding, goodness, and holiness of God. Divine power is the source of all the miracles; divine understanding, of all the prophecies; divine goodness, of the goodness of the doctrine; and divine holiness of the moral character of the writers.
“I now propose short, clear, and strong arguments prove the divine inspiration of the holy Scriptures.
“The Bible must be the invention either (1.) of good men or angels, (2.) of bad men or devils, or (3.) of God.
- It could not be the invention of good men or angels; they neither would nor could make a book, and tell lies all the time they were writing it, saying, “Thus says the Lord,” when it was their own invention.
- It could not be the invention of bad men or devils; for they would not make a book which commands all duty, forbids all sin, and condemns their souls to hell to all eternity.
- Therefore, I draw this conclusion, that the Bible must be given by divine inspiration.
God has given us a GUIDE, BLUEPRINT, INSTRUCTIONS, etc. He’s mapped it all out for us pretty comprehensively in His word. (That doesn’t mean that He answers every question we have, and unfortunately that leads to some of the TENSION that we have over its meaning or interpretation. However, much of our THEOLOGICAL TENSION today is over the basic tenets of our faith that are clearly addressed in the Bible.)
HERE ARE SOME OF THE GREATEST TOOLS IN GOD’S TOOLBOX:
- The Fruits of the Spirit, which the greatest tool-LOVE.
- The Beatitudes
- Tons of examples of how to live righteously and have relationship w/God
- Obedience, righteousness, and holiness. (This is the one thing we have the hardest time with, the one we get hung up on, and where things get interesting and not in a good way. We’re usually good with all the stuff on top, but obedience really trips us up as Peter says in I Peter 2:7-8 NIV, we disobey the message.OBEDIENCE is not a very popular word.)
Obedience to God is mentioned over 170 times in the OT/NT
37‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40 NIV (Jesus condenses everything, but he’s not excluding anything )
15 “If you love me, keep my commands. John 14:15 NIV. (LOVING GOD = OBEDIENCE)
“Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed (obey) is better than the fat of rams. 23For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.” 1 Samuel 15:22 NIV (King Saul)
Obedience or the lack of it is what led to TENSION and all the other bad stuff we experience in the first place:
“15The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” Genesis 2:15-17 NIV
The bulk of the problems of humanity can be summed up in this one verse and in one word, NO. We don’t like that word. Parents, we can relate, right? When we say no to our kids, it creates tension. When God says no, it creates tension. TENSION, and all that comes with it, is the result of a BATTLE OF WILLS. OUR WILL AGAINST GOD’S WILL. We don’t like to be told what to do, and there is a long line of rebellion that stretches from Adam and Eve to us today. It is part of the reason we suffer.
I don’t want to end this on a negative note, and to remind us that the Bible is full of love, encouragement, comfort, hope, forgiveness, grace, justice, compassion, salvation, and so much more.When God kicked Adam and Even out of the Garden, He didn’t abandon them or us. Even though we have chosen to GO OUR OWN WAY. God keeps reaching out to us, throwing us lifelines, and ultimately sent Jesus to give us an easier way to COME BACK TO HIM. Even though we created the TENSION, God doesn’t want us to stay there. He wants to help us find a way out or learn to LIVE IN THE TENSION, and He’s given us a pretty powerful to tool to deal with it. His Word. The Bible. We just have to be willing to use it.
“4Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:4-9 NIV
“7For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7 NIV