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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » James Meehan » James Meehan - One Thing Christians and Atheists Agree On

James Meehan - One Thing Christians and Atheists Agree On

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    James Meehan - One Thing Christians and Atheists Agree On
TOPICS: Atheistm

Well, Christians and atheists don't agree about a lot of things, but one of the things that they do agree on for the most part is their dislike of the Book of Leviticus. Like, for many Christians, this book is a source of so many questions and so much confusion, because like they start reading it and they come across laws that say things like, don't get tattoos, or don't eat shellfish, or only wear clothes that are made from a single garment. And they start asking very logical questions, like, "Wait, so does this mean that my tattoos are wrong"? Or, "Does this mean I can't eat shrimp anymore"? Or, "Dude, every piece of clothing I own is made from more than one material. Do I have to sell everything and start over from scratch"?

Now, if you have had or do have those questions, you are not alone. That's why this message matters, to help us read this book wisely. Now, for non-Christians, their issues with the Book of Leviticus are some of those ridiculous laws that I just mentioned, where they hear those and they think, "Yeah, yeah. That's why I do not believe the Bible is inspired, because it seems like God cares way too much about little things and not enough about big things". And then they will point to those laws and see how many Christians aren't actually following them, and use that as evidence to call Christians a bunch of hypocrites. That's why today's message matters, because when we learn to read Leviticus wisely, we can see the truth of what we've been talking about in this series. And that is that God uses all things, the good, the bad, and the ugly, including the Book of Leviticus to tell a better story.

So why should you care about Leviticus? You should care about Leviticus, because reading it wisely will prevent so many difficult questions from getting in the way of you growing closer to God. And you should care about Leviticus, because Jesus cared about Leviticus. As a matter of fact, there's this one time, where He was asked the question, what is the most important command in all of the Bible? And we read His answer in Matthew 22, where Jesus says this. He says, "You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself. The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments". What Jesus is saying is, "Hey, out of everything that's in the Bible, these are the two things that matter most, love God with all that you are".

That's a quote from the book of Deuteronomy. And, "The second one is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself". That's a quote from Leviticus. And then what Jesus says next is so important, because He says, "All of the laws and every demand of the prophets is based on these two commandments". What Jesus is telling us is that the entire Bible was written to help us become the kind of people, to help us become someone who loves God with all that you are and loves your neighbor as yourself. This is how Jesus reads the Bible, as wisdom, as instructions, as lessons to help us become that kind of person. Which is why we say if you want to read the Bible wisely, you've got to remember that Jesus is king and context is everything. Jesus is our king.

So it should be our goal to read the Bible the way that He reads it. And when we begin to do that, the way we read Leviticus, the way we read the Bible changes in really powerful ways. So that's what we're gonna do today. We are going to zoom in on the book of Leviticus, specifically the chapter that Jesus quoted from, and we're going to read it the way Jesus would've read it, so that we can appreciate it the way that Jesus appreciates it. Now in this chapter, we're gonna walk through it in three different parts. Part one is called becoming holy. Part two is about loving God. And in part three is about loving others. We're gonna start in Leviticus 19, verses 1 and 2 with the first part becoming holy. Here's what Leviticus tells us. "The Lord also said to Moses, 'Give the following instructions to the entire community of Israel. You must be holy because, I, the Lord your God, am holy.'"

So right here in these two verses, we are given the context and the purpose of Leviticus. What is the context? The context of Leviticus is that it was a set of instructions given by God to the people of Israel. What you may not know is that at this point in history, the people of Israel had just been freed from 400 years of slavery in Egypt. This is the context, a set of instructions from God to the nation of Israel to help them understand how to live as His people. This is a part of the Old Testament. This is the part of the Bible from the beginning in Genesis all the way right up until before Jesus arrives. But we, as followers of Christ today, are living in the time of the New Testament.

So the truth that you've gotta understand is that these instructions were given to the people of Israel for a specific time and purpose that was fulfilled in Jesus. So while these commands apply to the people of Israel very directly, they do not apply to us in the same way. Like, if they're repeated in New Testament, absolutely they do, but for the most part, these were specific instructions to a particular group of people for a set of time and a specific purpose. When I was in middle school in sixth and seventh grade, I went to to a school where we had our middle school and our high school. And in middle school, we, sixth, seventh, and eighth graders had to wear uniforms, but high schoolers did not. So once you got to high school, the uniform went away.

Now you're still a part of the same school, like, you're still going to class every day. You're still learning, the goal is still to graduate. But the standard is different depending on where you fall in that. If you're a middle schooler, uniform. High schooler, no uniform. The Old Testament law is kind of like that, like the law of Leviticus. The Old Testament was for the people of Israel. But when Jesus arrived, the stage changed. We went from the Old Testament to the New Testament. We went from middle school to high school. And so while we're still following God, while we're still trying to learn everything we can about how to love and obey Him, some of the things changed. This doesn't mean that like, we can do whatever the heck we want. There is still a dress code for lack of a better term, but it's important to recognize that there are some things that are different, because Jesus arrived and He changed everything.

So that's the context, the purpose of Leviticus is what we read in verse two, when God said, "Tell the people of Israel to become holy as I am holy". This is what Leviticus was written to do, to teach these people, these freshly freed slaves, how to live in right relationship with God and with each other. It was meant to teach them how to love God with all they are and to love their neighbor as themselves. Because at this point in time, they had just spent decades, generations, family member after family, growing up in the land of Egypt, learning the practices of Egypt, worshiping the gods of Egypt. So basically, they needed a detox from the addiction to idolatry that they had built up over generations.

And so God brought them into the wilderness to teach them a new way of life, so they could unlearn the ways of Egypt, and they could learn what it really means to be holy. When you start following Jesus, you will go through a similar process, where you're gonna have to unlearn some of the old ways of thinking, and living, and believing that you had before you met Jesus, so that you can learn what it really means to follow Him. This is what we learn in the first two verses of Leviticus 19, the context and the purpose. It's a set of instructions from God to the people of Israel to teach them how to become holy, that's part one. Part two is about loving God.

If we keep reading, the very next verse, verses three and four tells us this. "Each of you must show great respect for your mother and father, and you must always observe my Sabbath days of rest. Because I am the Lord your God. Do not put your trust in idols or make metal images of God's for yourselves. I am the Lord your God". This is the lesson that we learn here, that becoming holy begins with loving God, and it looks like doing what He says. Because He's God and we aren't. We show our love for Him by doing the things that He tells us to do. Like, loving God absolutely starts with believing that He is real, but it moves beyond that to actually doing what He says. Biblically speaking, love is a choice, to sacrifice yourself for the good of another. My wife and I, we've been married for a little over seven years now, and just like imagine the scenario, where I'm sitting down in my living room playing video games and my wife comes up to me and says, "Hey, hey, James, will you please take out the trash"? And I respond by saying, "I love you". And I just keep playing video games.

A few hours pass, she notices the trash has not been taken out, and my butt is still seated on the couch. "Hey, James, will you please take out the trash"? "I love you," but I keep playing video games. Like, my words are saying one thing, but my actions are saying something entirely different. Do not miss this. The reason so many of you might be stuck in your faith and you're not actually growing closer to God is because all you are doing is believing that He's real. You're not actually doing what He says. The truthfulness, the genuine nature of what you are saying will be proved by what you do. So if you really love God, if you wanna become holy, then don't just agree with what God says, actually do it.

So what is God asking you to do? Whatever it is, commit to it, and put it into practice. Part one, becoming holy. Part two, loving God. Part three, we're gonna talk about what it means to love others. Now, there's a lot of different verses leading up to verse 18 that give instructions on what it looks like practically to do this. But then verse 18 kind of summarizes all of it, where God says, "Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against a fellow Israelite, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord".

Now, it's important to acknowledge that when Jesus talks about loving your neighbor, He's not just talking about the people who live next door to you or sit next to you in class. He's talking about all human beings, and we know this, because later down in that same chapter of Leviticus verses 33 and 34, tell us this. "Do not take advantage of foreigners who live among you in your land. Treat them like native-born Israelites. Treat them like your neighbor, and love them as you love yourself. Remember that you were once foreigners living in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God". Here's the lesson, becoming holy begins with loving God. And it always includes loving others. Becoming holy begins with loving God. And it always includes loving others. So if you are a follower of Jesus, if you are a Christian, this is a big deal to love your neighbor as yourself, to do for them what you would want them to do for you.

Now, I don't remember, like the moment when this started for me, but I do remember I was in the bathroom standing at a urinal, incredibly annoyed by the chewed up pieces of gum, someone had spit into it. Like, I am so upset about this, because I'm like, "Don't you understand? You can't flush that down the toilet". Somebody has to reach in and pull that out. And that's when I felt like God was showing me a way I can love my neighbor as myself. So I kid you not, I walked over to the paper towel dispenser, got a whole bunch of them, wadded them up significantly, reached into the dad gum urinal and grabbed the gum, walked it to the trash can, and threw it away. Why? Because if it was my job to clean out a urinal, dear goodness, I would so hope somebody else would do that, so I wouldn't have to.

Now, I understand some of you're thinking, that is disgusting and that just seems extreme, and you're probably right. But that is one of the ways that like, no kidding. I choose to love my neighbor as myself, because I would want someone to do it for me. The most recent time was literally last Friday, I was meeting a buddy at Chick-fil-A for coffee and there I am doing my business, and I see a bunch of sunflower seeds spit into the urinal. And once again, like I'm starting to get heated, 'cause I'm like, "Don't you people understand how the restroom works? You can't just flush that stuff down". Somebody has to clean it up, so it might as well be me.

So got all the paper towels, wadded it up, reached in there, threw it away, washed my hands for like 20 minutes, and then returned to my coffee with my friend. Why? Because I wanna be holy. I wanna become someone who loves God with all that I am and loves my neighbor as myself. I wanna do for others what I would want them to do for me. And while that example is weird, it's specific, and maybe a little bit extreme, that's how seriously I take this. I think that's how seriously God wants you to take this, because He wants you to become holy. He wants you to become someone who loves Him with all that you are, who puts Him first in every part of your life. And He wants you to become someone who loves others the way you love yourself. He wants you to become someone who does for others what you would want done for you.

So how do we take all of this and apply it to our lives? Well, we do exactly what we've talked about, two points. Point number one, you do what God tells you to do. And point number two, you do for others what you would want done for you. You do what God tells you to do. What does God tell you to do? Love your neighbor as yourself, which brings you naturally to point two, you do for others what you would want done for you. So begin asking the question, if I were them, what would I want someone to do for me? If I was in their situation, what would I hope someone would do for me? If what they are currently walking through was something that I was currently walking through, how would I want people to show up in my life?

Like, maybe you've got a friend who opened up in small group last week about something really serious, and you weren't sure that other people, like kept following up with them, checking on them, and praying for them the way you would hope they would for you. So maybe this week, you're gonna show up to small group a little bit different. You're gonna pull that friend aside, and you're gonna check in and see how they're doing, and you're gonna ask them what you can do to help. Maybe for you, you've got a younger sibling that just annoys the heck out of you, right? Because they're a younger sibling. But maybe, if you were them, you would really want to spend time with your older brother and sister, because you look up to them immensely.

And so maybe instead of just like dismissing them, you actually begin investing in them. Maybe for you, like right now, you're trying to pay attention to this message, but there are some people around you who are being a distraction. And while you really wanna get onto them, and complain, and whine, you remember back to when you used to be a distraction. And so maybe instead of just complaining, and whining, and riding that person off, afterward, you begin to get to know them to figure out why it is that they come to switch, to become a friend to them. And maybe you help them see that there's something special God wants to do inside them. They've just gotta be open to it. How do you apply this message? You do what God tells you to do, and you do for others what you would want done for you.

Now, here's the thing that you cannot miss, like this is the best part of the entire message. This is where the good news show up, because God will never ask you to do something that He wouldn't do for you. God will never ask you to do something that He would not first do for you. Matthew 5:17, Jesus says this. "Don't misunderstand why I have come. I didn't come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose". What is their purpose? To help us become people who love God with all we are and love our neighbors as ourselves. What did Jesus do through His life, through His sacrifice on the cross, and through His resurrection? He did exactly that. He gave His life as the ultimate demonstration of love for God and love for others. He loved us while we were sinners, sacrificing Himself, so that we could be safe.

What He did for you then? He's inviting you to do for others now. Because love is a choice we make to sacrifice ourselves for the good of another person. And while He's probably not gonna ask you to die on a cross for anybody, He is gonna ask you to get a little bit uncomfortable, to do some things that might feel extreme, or weird, or that you actually don't want to do. But when you do, you will start to become the kind of person who loves God with all you are and loves others the same way that Jesus loves you. This is why you should care about the Book of Leviticus, because this book, like every book, is an invitation to know Jesus better, and it's an invitation to become more like Him. This is why you should care about Leviticus, because Jesus cared about Leviticus, and Jesus cares about you.

Heavenly Father, we thank you so much that you loved us enough to go first, that you loved us enough to put yourself in our shoes, to hang on that cross, and to die so that we could live. God, help us to become holy. Help us to trust You and obey You in everything You ask us to do. And help us to love others the way that You have loved us. We pray all this in Jesus' name. Amen.

Maybe there are some of you right now, and you're hearing this message, and you're hearing me talk about holiness, and Jesus, and God, and all that He wants for your life. And there's a disconnect. There's a gap, because you don't really know the heart of God. You don't actually understand how much He loves you. I need you to know that every command that God gives is an expression of His love.

And it is always for your good, that God is love and He loves you so much, that 2000 years ago, He stepped into history as a human being named Jesus. He lived a perfect life, perfectly devoted to loving God and loving others. He died on the cross as a sacrifice for your sins and for mine, so that anybody who puts their faith in Jesus would be saved, that they would rise again just as He did on the first Easter Sunday. Jesus conquer death, hell, sin, and the devil, so that all of us could be reunited with our Heavenly Father, and maybe... maybe that's what's next for you, is to put your faith in Jesus, to trust He is who He says He is, to become a part of His family and be transformed in the process.
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