truth justice and the american way
When your time comes to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home.
I love superheroes.
My mom once told of the times I’d go out into the yard with a bath towel tied around my neck and would “fly” around the yard. And when I was a kid I read comic books about superheroes, watched TV shows and cartoons and went to the movies to watch them battle for truth, justice and the American way. In fact, I still do.
So, when a new movie comes out that retells one of those stories, I often buy a ticket, some popcorn, and sit down to enjoy myself.
This past month, there was a movie about a superhero in the theatres. Does anybody know who it was about? That’s right: Iron Man II. And ever since the release of the first of these two movies, I saw some Biblical themes that I wanted to explore for a sermon series.
For those of you not familiar with the “story” about Iron Man, it was a comic book series started by Stan Lee for Marvel Comics back in the 60’s. It was the story of a technological genius who’d been making weapons for the military but who began to realize that some of his weapons were being sold to bad guys.
Iron man’s suit wasn’t made of iron, but the image of an iron suit symbolized the virtual invulnerability of this hero to bullets, rockets and bombs big enough to level New York City. In his suit, Iron Man could fly, generate beams of energy and shoot his own array of bullets and rockets at the bad guys.
But, as with all movies about superheroes, one of the fun things is to watch how they go through the process of learning about their powers. There’s a learning curve they have go through to reach their full potential.
(Video of Iron Man I where he learns to use his suit. We began the presentation about an hour into the movie, where “Stark” suits up for his first flight, and ends where he crashes through 3 floors of his home onto one of his prized vehicles. It last about 3 or 4 minutes).
In Scripture, God uses Iron for a number of images. And amongst those images are the ideas that iron represents strength and endurance. As in our passage this morning:
“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17
When we became Christians God placed within us the power of iron. Romans 8:11 tells us “… the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you”
The power the Spirit of God revealed when it raised Jesus from the dead is the very same power that lies inside of each of us who belong to Christ. God’s Spirit has placed iron in our souls. And that Spirit gives us the ability to be strong and endure many of the difficulties of life.
But Proverbs 27:17 implies that (even as God’s people) we don’t start out that way. We don’t automatically begin our walk with Christ knowing exactly how to utilize the power His Spirit places within us. We have a learning curve that we need to go thru…
… so that we can be sharpened
… so that we can be honed
… so that we can have all the qualities of iron we need in our lives.
So how do we do that?
How do we take that quality of iron God has placed inside us and make it all that it can be?
Proverbs 27 says that as iron sharpens iron… SO ONE MAN SHARPENS ANOTHER
As Christians we need someone to help us grow in our faith
And God teaches that to us from the outset of our Christianity.
In the Great Commission Jesus commands us to “… go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you…” Matthew 28:19-20
Even when we become Christians, God set things up so that we would need another Christian there to guide us through the beginnings of our faith.
ILLUS: Our Southern Gospel Quartet took part in a gospel sing in another part of the state and we headlined for an excellent professional group from Ohio. This group did an excellent job of involving the audience in their singing and then they took a break. The lead singer began to talk to them about salvation and he asked them to all close their eyes and bow their heads and he asked for a show of hands of those who wanted to become Christians. One man raised his hand. The singer then informed the man that he should “ask Jesus into His heart” and led him in a “sinner’s prayer.” It was all very well done and very moving.
But there was one problem with all that.
There’s no sinner’s prayer in the Bible. Nowhere in God’s Word is anyone ever told to “ask Jesus into your heart.” It’s just not there.
I know it’s a popular thing to do in religious circles, and it has some significant advantages (for one thing, it’s easy and simple in its appeal). But if it’s not what the early church did, then there’s a problem here. And I can think of one grave disadvantage this sinner’s prayer has.
How many people does it take to “ask Jesus into your heart” (not biblical by the way)
JUST ONE = the pray-er.
How many people does it take to be baptized?
TWO – one to baptize, one to BE baptized.
The unbiblical practice of praying the prayer of salvation presumes converts will always have somebody there to teach them. But that doesn’t always happen! People who are led to believe praying to receive Jesus is Biblical often do so in their cars and homes where there is no Christian there to disciple them.
By contrast – the Biblical practice of baptism requires that the new Christian have someone else there with them – the person who baptizes them. And that person who baptizes them is expected by Christ to take responsibility for them & to teach them the basics of the faith. That’s what we’re taught in the Great Commission.
But even after baptism, God involves us with one another. That’s why Christ established the church. Ephesians 5:25-27 says it this way
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.”
Jesus died for the church.
Jesus died to establish the body of believers you belong to.
Part of the reason He went to the cross was create an atmosphere where we could sharpen the iron in those who worship with us.
So, it’s not true that you can be just as good a Christian without going to church
You can’t simply say “Well, I’m there in Spirit… but I don’t have to be there in body and soul. ILLUS: It’s kind of like the true story of an incident that took place at a University. This university had a policy that if the professor was 10 minutes late for class… it was cancelled. But one day a professor put his hat on his desk and then went to the faculty room. He apparently lost track of time and when he arrived back at the class he was 10 minutes late and found it room empty.
He was furious.
When the class next met, he informed his students “When my hat is here, I’m here!”
His class learned their lesson well. The following day, the professor arrived at 9 a.m. and he was met by the sight of 25 hats on the desks – but no students. (Albert I. Raizman, Reader’s Digest 1/05 p. 54)
Their hats were there!
They were there in spirit… but not in body.
But they weren’t really in class.
They weren’t behaving as true students should.
They weren’t going to learn anything… because THEY WEREN’T there.
AND – as Christians – we’re not going to gain anything if we’re not together with the church!
So we need to BE in church. But even that’s not enough.
Have you ever known of a student who goes to class and doesn’t learn anything?
Of course you have. And similarly, a Christian can be in a church building but not get anything out of worship. That’s because Jesus designed the church to be a place…
… NOT where we GET something out of it
… but where PUT something into it.
Heb 10:24-25 instructs us to “consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another— and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
You see – the purpose of church is to sharpen the iron that God has placed within us.
“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17
That means that your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ NEED you.
The Bible repeatedly drives home the fact that we need to BE THERE for each other.
· 1Thessalonians 5:11 tells us to “… encourage one another and build each other up…”
· Romans 15:1 says “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.”
· Romans 12:15 says we should “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”
· And Galatians 6:1-2 says “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ.”
We need to be there for each other, because we NEED each other.
We’ll never attain the fullness of Christ until we understand that significant fact.
Years ago, when I read the King James Version of 2 Corinthians 3:18 I gained an interesting insight: “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
Glory to glory.
When I first read that verse an image came into my mind. I visualized a person on a staircase, climbing up into God’s presence… glory unto glory. Every step they took was an accomplishment. Every step they took brought them up higher… closer to God.
But that image also told me something about our responsibilities to each other.
· Some people are a several steps up the staircase.
· Some are on the first step or two.
Unfortunately there are those who look down on those on the lower steps and they wonder why all those other folks aren’t as spiritual as they are, or attend Sunday School as often as they do, or understand how to tithe like they do.
But that’s not how God wants us to look at other in the church. If others are lower down on the staircase than you are… your job is to help them up the stairs. God expects you and I to reach down and take them by the hand and encourage them. To urge them on to greater deeds of love and good works. God expects us to sharpen each other… to bring out the quality of iron that God has placed inside us.
In fact, this is so important to God… that’s He’s watching.
Hebrews 6:10 tells us “God… will not forget … the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.”
God’s watching… He takes this seriously
Back when He made a covenant with Abraham, He told him “I will bless those who bless you… and I will curse those who curse you.”
He was telling Abraham “I’m watching. I’m paying attention if others treat you well, or if they don’t.
And in the New Testament, God repeated this promise
In Matthew 10:42 Jesus said “if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.”
What’s that mean? = I will bless those who bless My people
In 2 Thessalonians 1:6 Paul writes “God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you.”
What’s that mean? = I will curse those who curse you
And that’s easy to understand.
If you are nice to my kids… I’m inclined to be nice to you
But if you hurt one of my kids… you better look out!
Now that brings me to my last point. God expects us to be nice to each other, to build each other up. But that’s not always easy to do.
As one person said: “It’s easy to be an angel when nobody is ruffling your feathers.
It’s easy to be kind to other Christians when they’re doing things I agree with. When they’re not offending me. When they haven’t sinned against me… etc, etc.
But Jesus has a couple of rules about that
1. What if I’ve sinned against a brother/sister? What should I do? (go to them)
Matthew 5:23-24 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”
Don’t even bother trying to offer a gift to God if your brother/ sister in Christ has been offended by you. Go make it right.
Now, what if a brother/sister sins against me?
What if they tick me off?
What does Jesus say I have to do?
Matthew 18:15 “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.”
You are to GO to them.
Not to argue with them/or beat them over the head with your Bible.
Your objective should be to win them over.
So, it doesn’t matter whether you’ve sinned against them – or they’ve sinned against you – YOU have to go to them and get things right.
Because God wants us to sharpen each other… He wants us to help each other.
Now… how many of you agree with Jesus on this? (ask for a show of hands).
I’m glad you do.
But it’s one thing to SAY you agree with Jesus, it’s quite another to commit yourself to obeying Him in matters such as this. So what I’m going to ask you to do today is to make a vow before God. A vow is a very serious thing, and God will hold you accountable if you break it.
The vow I’m asking you to make today is that if another Christian offends you (preacher, elders, Sunday School teachers, fellow Christians of any stripe) that you will go to them and try to make it right. You’ll be vowing not to talk about them behind their backs or to convince others of how badly this person has mistreated you. You will go to them and try to win them over.
If you’re willing to make this vow today, I ask you to stand up where you are.
Make the heros confession and join the team that never will die, but live eternally.