Endurance, Series 2, Episode 5, Keeping it Real!
Steven introduces our theme this week – Keeping it Real!
As usual, we have #GoDeeper with Andy B and #GoDo with Steven and Nathan.
GoDeeper with Andy B, as he looks at how to Keep it Real!
Using James 2 v 14-17, Matthew 23 v 27-28 and 1 Samuel 16 v 10, Andy B goes deeper and focuses on being real, in light of the fact that God sees the heart.
We often think of what the outside looks like, and appearance is much easier to spot.
But James, as ever, gets straight to the point, and makes us question whether or not we’re actually saved – if we aren’t outputting the fruit of the Spirit do we really love Jesus?
Steven & Nathan give us 2 challenges for the week ahead in #GoDo:
Read and Remember:
Steven encourages us to read James 2, our Scripture for this week. And he reminds us that God looks at the heart, not the outside.
Reflect and Respond:
Nathan challenges us to consider what false pretences we may have, and to be real and authentic, because God can see the reality of our hearts.
Transcript – #GoDeeper with Andy B, Keeping it Real! – Endurance, S2, E5
So – Keeping it Real!
We’ve got a few, maybe, seemingly random scriptures today.
We’re looking at James 2 v 14-17, Matthew 23 v 27 through 28, and we’re going to jump to the Old Testament, 1Samuel 16 v 10.
Well, let me just start with this reading from Matthew.
This is a bunch of stuff where, basically, the Pharisees are being told off, really – that’s probably the best way of looking at this.
So Matthew 23 v 27 and 28. This is in the midst of a longer dialogue.
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites. For you are white washed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful but within are full of dead people's bones an all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness."
Jesus, as ever, not particularly gentle and patient with the Pharisees, who did know better – because they knew the Bible.
Now I just want to touch on white-washed-tombs because that doesn’t necessarily mean what we think it means, and in 2021 it definitely doesn’t mean what we think it actually meant 2,000 years ago.
And my notes – this is my English standard version – it gives us a little bit of a richer understand of what this is really talking about.
So white-washed tombs.
“The Pharisees were like tombs which in Jesus’s day could be outwardly very beautiful, but within held nothing but death and decay. These tombs were white-washed to identify them clearly”…
So the white washed isn’t just how they look, it’s actually, they were designed to stand out and the white wash would be very very obvious.
…”since people would be unclean for 7 days through any contact with them.”
And the whole uncleanness – to the Pharisees and some of the religious folk – was really important: if you went to white-washed-tomb you had to be unclean, and there was all sorts of struggles with what that would mean, and entail.
So you wouldn’t want to go near it!
But actually, there’s an, there’s an analogy here of white-washed tombs, which helps us a little bit, because the white-washed tombs look quite good; they stand out in a good way.
Well actually they weren’t standing out in a good way. That’s our modern understanding of something: we’re missing some of the truths of that, and that richness of what that really meant, and what Jesus was really saying is – you look great, but you’re dead inside.
We’ll come back to that topic throughout this.
So James 2 v 14 through 17.
“But each person is tempted when he, his lewd and enticed.”
That’s the wrong chapter. Shall I go back to Chapter 2? It’ll be even better.
"What good is it my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed, and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them - go in peace, be warmed and filled - without giving them the things needed for the body. What good is that? So also faith by itself if it does not have works is dead."
And the thing is, when we think about how we are perceived by others, we need to remember that perception of reality aren’t quite the same thing. Our perception of a white wash tomb is, well it’s quite pretty, it looks quite nice – it stands out.
The reality is, it stands out, but it’s not a good reason for why its standing out.
And we think of the cancel culture at the moment: I don’t like what you’re saying so you need to be cancelled and silenced.
Well, that’s not good. Just look back to 1940s and we look at the Second World War; people who had disagreements – well they were silenced. Well, that’s never a healthy sign of a healthy society when we want to silence the things that we don’t agree with.
But they’re obvious for us to see.
But there’s more un-obvious stuff, that we cannot see, which actually – for God – is far more important. And Endurance – these episodes that we create – it’s all about the fact that physical exercise, physical effort is a good thing. But spiritual exercise, spiritual effort has deeper value and it has eternal value.
Now God sees our heart.
God is omnipresent.
He sees all he knows all.
He hears all.
And however we project ourselves to the people that we meet God sees our hearts. He sees the good, and he sees the bad, and the ugly.
He loves us, but he still sees the truth and we need to be careful with vanity. The idea of how we are looking. We call it the Instagram generation. I’ve heard that banded around – how we appear; how many likes do we get?
Instagram now, probably because of mental health, are getting rid of the ability to see likes if you want to hide them…excuse me…you can do so, and then you won’t know how many people like what you’re doing, or not doing.
Well as Christians, surely, we shouldn’t care if we’re getting likes or comments.
Some’t I struggle with personally – if I’m not getting enough like does that mean it’s not good?
I sent someone a text at the weekend – this is an example of white-washed-tombs and all this stuff.
I sent a friend a text, a really good friend. I got nothing back. And I’m sitting there everyday, thinking, ‘well he hasn’t replied.; is he in a mood with me; is he not happy, doesn’t he want to talk to me anymore?’
So, finally, I sent him another text. ‘You alright? I haven’t heard from you? Did you miss my last text?’ ‘Oh yes, sorry I missed that’ and we had a great chat on text last night.
This is what happens. We start to imagine things that aren’t there: I perceive that he doesn’t want to talk to me ‘coz he hasn’t responded to me. But in reality, well he does want to talk to me but he just happened to not see that particular text message.
And the problem with us looking at appearances is, well, if you’re not replying to me the appearance is, you don’t like me.
God sees far, far deeper than that, and we need to see that too!
If you’ve heard of the Widow’s Mite, it often gets used quite a lot, but the windows mite it’s a brilliant bit of Scripture that teaches us about the heart.
Again, what’s really going on inside here and inside our mind?
What’s really going on with what we’re doing?
All the rich folk came along and gave a pittance of their wealth, and this little old lady came in, emptied her purse – into the offering – and that’s the one that God is approving of Why?
Well, it’s not the amount of money she’s able to contribute. Her amount of money is almost irrelevant. But her heart is what God sees – is what God cares about, and values.
So her, in a sense, pittance offering, wasn’t!
What we see is not much. What God sees is everything and she gave everything she had and that’s all God desires of us – is to give our heart to him.
Now I was looking at 1 Samuel earlier. I’m thinking about the King David. I’m thinking about Samuel, their relationship. Who’s king. God, people, all that kind of stuff.
But there’s this part in 1 Samuel which really helps us to understand what’s going on here, when we’re thinking about appearances and we’re thinking about how we look. And this is from 1Samuel 16 v10.
And the back story to this is they want a king. And Samuel’s coming along, and they’re trying to choose the next king – who that’s going to be.
And Jesse – the dad – parades all his children in front of Samuel the Prophet, who’s speaking for God.
And Samuel’s going along the line of these children because one of the sons of Jesse is going to be king.
Samuel is going down the line looking for the king, and every time he gets to a child, God says, no, not that one. Not that one.
And here we have, in verse 10:
"And Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. Samuel said to Jesse, the Lord has not chosen these. Then Samuel said to Jesse, are all your son's here? And he said there remains yet the youngest. But behold, he's keeping the sheep, and Samuel said to Jesse, send and get him."
Now a little bit earlier, Jesse’s first son is – from scripture – quite a big, formidable, looking character. He’s quite tall – we get that from the scripture. He looks like a king!
But God doesn’t care about how we look, as much as how He cares about our heart, and we can’t see hearts!
And Samuel is choosing the next king, but not all the sons are there.
Now there’s two things I thought would be really important for us as we think about appearance, Keeping it Real, what does that mean?
Samuel should have been phased by, ‘well, God sent me to do something – from one of the sons: I’ve seen all the sons, he’s not here. I must have got this wrong.’
Now we have this wonderful thing with Samuel. Great relationship with God and what does Samuel do? Doesn’t bat an eyelid in the scripture.
But I wonder if there is a little bit of sweat appearing – ‘Have I got this wrong?’
But actually, what Samuel then goes on to do is, what’s going on here – Jesse says there’s another one, the next son comes along, that’s David, that becomes king.
The second thing I think we need to think about is Samuel is looking at these really good, fine, strapping, young, lads suitable for being kings, but God sees the heart.
And when we’re thinking about keeping it real it’s about what is our heart really saying.
Erm, and there’s this bit from James which I wanted to read out from the notes’ coz this is kind of painful and this is the point of what we’re doing here.
When we think about the James reading, James 2, in my little notes at the bottom, it says ‘can that faith saving him? negative answers – no good and no, are expected. If someone says he has faith but doesn’t have works he should question whether he has been saved.’
If we’re not doing good things for God, are we actually saved?
Are we actually a certain of assured place in heaven?
Because what we do should reflect our heart for God.
And if what we’re doing doesn’t reflect a love for Jesus, what we’re doing isn’t gonna to reflect that – just by the logical of that.
Keeping it Real!
Sunday smiles. Let me finish with this.
Sunday smiles is “how’re you doing? Yes, I’m great!” and inside you’re dying; inside just struggling with depression and mental anxiety and worrying; you couldn’t feed your kids that morning, and your car’s broken down and you’re not going to get to work, and you your bikes been stolen, but you don’t want to tell your parents – how you gonna get to school?
“Yeah, I’m doing good!”
Well, that’s not particularly helpful, and going back a long, long time, 20-30 years since I’ve been leading church services, and I often have said this in the past: if somebody says to me how you doing Andy, I will say to them, ‘do you know what I’m really doing badly’.
How often have I had someone say, ‘oh, that’s brilliant!’ and off they go.
If we’re gonna to ask someone how they’re doing, let’s wait for an answer; let’s make sure that we’re actually gonna respond to the answer. And let’s not send them away in God’s love and peace, without being that love and peace to that person.
Keeping it Real. Being honest with God. Being honest with yourself, our heart matters – outward appearance doesn’t matter so much.
1 Timothy, the reading why we have the whole thing of Endurance – spiritual exercise is better, the outworking of the spirit in more important than running a mile, or 10 miles faster than everybody else as great as that can be; as much as God might want you to be able to do that for His Glory, and Kingdom, our spiritual exercise is better.
So, let’s keep it real by checking in with our hearts; checking in with God; not being worried about what people think of us, but hearing what God’s asking us to do, being sure of that and going at it no matter what.
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