Taken TO The Limit: Tested

This post is from Pastor Bruce's Sermon Series, "At The Limits" titled Tested, given on February 18, 2018

As we begin our Lenten Journey to the celebration of Easter, I thought we might ake a moment – as a church body – to reflect on those moments in our lives when we are living “at the limits” of our routine, everyday life.  Those moments that we sometimes dread, and those times we expectantly hope for.  Those moments where the daily disciplines break down from the shock of a cataclysm, the chaos of the unexpected, and –always, always – the work of a God who says of himself:  Behold, I make all things new.”

While Jesus takes us out of our comfort zones, we cannot ignore the ordinary means of grace in which we encounter Him.  Worship, Bible reading, memorization, and study, prayer, fellowship, and serving the poor, hungry, and those who are broken and in pain; all of these are everyday ways we can experience Christ.  And this must be part of our daily life.  If we don't,  then our extraordinary moments will become a few scattered moments of religious melodrama that are disconnected from the hints of His Grace, but moments we cannot depend on to guide our daily living. 

So continue in your everyday pursuits of ordinary grace, but also remember God is with us 'at the limits'- of our lives, of our understanding, at the place we find ourselves now in society.  It is times like these--school shootings, rampant reports of violence and abuse-- our world just busts open.  We are devastated, yes, but we also say, "again? another one?" Our capacity to be shocked and horrified is whittled down.  We are at the limit, yes.  But in Scripture we see that there are three moments in the life of God's people that He sends us TO the limit to address these issues.  

 "In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.  And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.  And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."Mark 1:9-15

1.  Everything is founded on our relationship with Jesus.  Like Him, we too receive the blessing, given by God, to all of His children.  As Christ followers, we are children of God and we need this foundational knowledge to address the issues of the world that have us at the limits.  We must open our hearts, call out for Christ to enter into it, into our lives, into our every day.  

2.  When we accept our place as followers of Christ, we are immediately tested, cast out into the wilderness. After we are blessed, we are compelled to go to the limits of our comfort zones, in fact, often pushed past them.  This testing does not come without help, though.  God opens up the lines of communication to help us.  Jesus in the wilderness received help from angels, messengers to help him.  During our own testings in the wilderness, God does not abandon us.  He is not trying to teach us to do things on our own.  He is teaching us to rely on our need for Him. 

3.  Because Satan knows that God is testing us for a purpose, he uses our time in the wilderness to TEMPT us.  The devil is out to get us out of the game.  God wants us out in the mission field, but Satan wants us on the sidelines.  So what does he do?  He keeps us glued to our newsfeeds, tv screens, watching the world burst open.  All the while, we wring our hands, we throw them in the air in a helpless gasp.  What can we do? Nothing.  Or so Satan would have us believe.  

But in the wilderness, we must remember that nothing is wasted.  Yes, we are in a time of wilderness, as individuals and as the body of Christ, and God is using it to prepare us for something greater.  He is preparing us to carry out His mission.   He is the solution to the world's pain and we are called to share that with people who are hurting.

 We may be at the limit, but God is not, He's just getting started.