Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Heart of the Motive—Sermon Notes, 11/29/09

November 29, 2009—Mark Seekins: "The Heart of the Motive"
[Christ Chapel Bible Church, Ft. Worth, Texas]

Sermon text: Luke 17:7-19 (NIV)
"Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, 'Come along now and sit down to eat'? Would he not rather say, 'Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink'? Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.' "

Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, "Jesus, Master, have pity on us!"

When he saw them, he said, "Go, show yourselves to the priests." And as they went, they were cleansed.

One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.

Jesus asked, "Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" Then he said to him, "Rise and go; your faith has made you well."
Mark Seekins is one of the pastors at Christ Chapel Bible Church in Ft. Worth, where Jaimie and I visited today while down with her family for Thanksgiving. We've been there before and enjoyed it, so we thought we'd stop in again. They're teaching through Luke, currently, and chose this passage as a fitting point for reflection around Thanksgiving.

Pastor Seekins opened the sermon by noting that, "When it comes to following Christ, motives are important," and then asked: "Why are you following Christ?" He offered up a list of motives that many of us have had at various points in our lives:
  • others' expectations of faith
  • duty to people or God
  • fear of hell
  • love of God
  • gratitude toward God
  • the proverbial insurance policy
All of these, he argued, fit into one of two heart categories pictured by this passage. The first is a heart that is motivated by duty and fear (vv. 7-10). There are unworthy servants, he said, who do only what obligation or the threat of punishment demands. The servant does exactly what he is ordered to do, no more, and no less. Pastor Seekins suggested that it's likely this servant was simply working for wages: he needed the money to eat. The servant, he concluded, is "unworthy" because he did nothing but what duty and fear demanded.

Pastor Seekins pointed us to the rich young ruler by way of comparison: a man who had done everything the law demanded, yet could not go the next step to true faith. The modern picture, he argued, is the hard-wroking, moral, curch-attending, family-loving "Christian" without real faith in and love for Jesus.

The second heart is that pictured by the second narrative: a heart that is motivated by love and gratitude (vv. 11-19). Jesus commanded the men to show themselves to the priests—to be obedient to the Mosaic law—just as the servant above was commanded to serve by his master. All ten were healed, and they would have understood that Jesus was promising them healing: they had no other reason to see a priest. Of these men, only one returned to thank Jesus and praise God.

Unlike the other nine, he had been truly transformed as well as physically healed. While the others met the bare demands of the law, he understood that he was called to give thanks to God. Pastor Seekins argued that, though this man was still an "unworthy servant," as are we all, he was one who recognized Jesus' work. Jesus statement that the man's faith had made him well followed his return for thanksgiving: the wellness in sight here is a spiritual wellness that exceeds mere physical healing.

Pastor Seekins brought up the woman in John 12 who washes Jesus feet with her hair as another example of a person who truly understood what we owe to Christ. The modern equivalent, he said, may look much like the unsaved "Christian" above... but their motives will be vastly different. Instead of duty and fear, this true believer is motivated by love of God and thanksgiving to Him for all He has done.

Finally, Pastor Seekins concluded by asking four application questions:
  1. Are you taking God's gracious actions for granted?
  2. Have you taken time to thank and praise God?
  3. Do you live in such a way that displays that the Gospel is for all?
  4. Have you chosen Jesus

As far as Thanksgiving sermons go, this was a pretty good one. I appreciated that Pastor Seekins mostly stuck to the text (with the exception of some suppositions about the servant's motives). I had one significant issue with this sermon, though. As I've written elsewhere, the gospel is everything. Especially when we're trying to increase in love for God and gratitude toward Him, we need to remember that simply telling people, "Hey, change your motive!" isn't terribly helpful.

Rather, we grow in thankfulness because we know better what it is to give thanks for, and we love because we understand how he has loved us (for example, John 3:16, Romans 5:6-8, and 1 John 4:10). Today's good sermon would have been a great sermon if Pastor Seekins had taken the step beyond rightly exhorting the congregation to come to God with right motive and shown them how. The gospel is just as effective for sanctification as it is for justification.

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