Serve God Now!

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Serve God Now!

Matthew 4:12-17

Sermon by Rick Crandall

Grayson Baptist Church - Feb. 6, 2013


*In our last study two weeks ago, we looked at the temptation of Jesus Christ, but there's a little bit of whiplash as we go forward tonight. Under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, Matthew abruptly jumped forward almost a year. He omitted the Judean ministry of Jesus that is covered in John 1-4. (1)

*With that little bit of background in mind, let's read Matthew 4:12-17. This Scripture helps us see that now is the time to serve the Lord.


*About 250 years ago, John Wesley was a tremendous servant of God in England. Revival came to the nation, and they were spared the murderous darkness that descended during the French Revolution.

*John Wesley's motto for Christian living was:

-"Do all the good you can,

-By all the means you can,

-In all the ways you can,

-In all the places you can,

-At all the times you can,

-To all the people you can,

-As long as ever you can." (2)

*As long as he possibly could John Wesley faithfully served the Lord. But now it is our time to serve God. And here God's Word shows us some crucial reasons why.

1. First: It is time to serve the Lord, because our lives are speeding by.

*Our time in this world is running out. John the Baptist's trouble in vs. 12 reminds us of this truth. Here Matthew gave this report: "When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, He departed to Galilee."

*John the Baptist lived an excellent, Godly life. His life was full of devotion to the Lord. His life counted for Christ. In Matthew 11:11, Jesus even said: "Among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist."

*John the Baptist faithfully served the Lord. But now his time had almost run out, because Herod the Tetrarch had put John into prison and would eventually kill the great prophet. Church: We may not like to think about it, but our time is running out too.

*There is a steep hill in our neighborhood up in West Monroe. One afternoon I was walking up that hill, just as a young mother came running down, pushing her little boy in a stroller. When I saw her I thought: "Holy Smoke! If I came down that hill as fast as she did, I'd have to go back up to get my kneecaps!"

*Anyway, -- just as I passed her and that stroller, I asked her: "Do you ever wish you could swap with him?" She laughed, and I trudged on up the hill. But then it dawned on me: One day she will. If that young mother lives long enough, one day she will swap places with her son, and he will be pushing her.

*Our time is running out much faster than we realize. So we must not waste our lives. Now is the time to serve the Lord, because our lives are speeding by.

2. But also because God's Light still shines.

*We see the Light of the Lord shining in vs. 13-16:

13. And leaving Nazareth, He (Jesus) came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali,

14. that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying:

15. "The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles:

16. the people who sat in darkness saw a great light, and upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.''

*The Lord was on the move in vs. 13, and He is still moving in His world today! The Scripture Jesus fulfilled in these verses came from Isaiah 9:1-2. Those words were written over 700 years before Jesus was born, but God fulfilled that prophecy, and He is still fulfilling prophecy today.

*The Light began to shine for those people in vs. 15&16, and it is still shining today! I know there is darkness all around us, but we can still see the Light.

*Gardner Taylor pastored the 14,000-member Concord Baptist Church of Christ in New York City for over 40 years, but he started as a young preacher in Baton Rouge. It was during the darkest days of the Great Depression, and Gardner was in the middle of a sermon one Sunday night.

*Suddenly the electricity in the small church went out. Standing there in the darkness, the young preacher stood motionless. He didn't know what to do. But finally, an older deacon yelled out from the congregation, "Preach on, preacher! We can still see Jesus in the dark." (3)

*And we can. No matter how dark it gets in this world, we can still see Jesus in the dark. God's Light is still shining, and it should change the way we live. As Jesus said in John 8:12, "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life."

*Jesus Christ is the Light of the world! And in Jesus we have the light of life, but only because Jesus took our death when He died on the cross. Do you believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins? Most of us would say, "Yes!" Do you believe that He rose again from the dead? Yes. Have you seen the Light? Yes. But are you walking in the Light of the Lord?

*1 John 1:5-7 says:

5. This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.

6. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.

7. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.

*How could we not serve the Lord who died so that we could live in the light? Now is the time to serve the Lord, because God's Light still shines.

3. But also serve, because the lost are still sitting in darkness.

*We see some of them in vs. 15&16:

15. "The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles:

16. the people who sat in darkness saw a great light, and upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.''

*J. Vernon McGee reminds us that the Lord grew up in Galilee. But here God's Word calls it "Galilee of the Gentiles because so many people from the Roman Empire had migrated to the area. There was a resort area near the Sea of Galilee. It was very popular, but also very worldly and wicked. The people in that area were very far from God. So in vs. 16, the people "sat in darkness . . . in the region and shadow of death." (4)

*Think how terrible it would be to live in constant darkness. Commander Richard Byrd reminds us. Once this famous explorer spent six months living in a metal hut at the South Pole. In the Antarctic winter, the sun made no appearance during four of the six months Commander Byrd was there.

*Listen to these words from Richard Byrd's journal: "I find that I crave light as a thirsting man craves water. . . A funeral gloom hangs in the twilight sky. This is the period between life and death. This is the way the world will look to the last man when it dies."

*Byrd later wrote: "I tried to imagine what it would be like (when the sun returned), but the conception was too vast for me to grasp." And when the sun finally did reappear, Commander Byrd was overwhelmed with the wonder of its light. (5)

*Church: We have seen an infinitely greater light. We have seen the Light of the world! But there are billions of people in the world today who are still sitting in the darkness of vs. 16. They are still in the region and shadow of death. They have never seen the Light. And somehow we must get to get to the point where we cannot stand them being stuck in the darkness. Now is the time to serve the Lord, because the lost are still sitting in darkness.

4. And because the Lord is still saving.

*The people in vs. 16 who truly saw the Light of the world were saved. Luke 19:10 tells us that Jesus came "to seek and to save that which was lost." 1 Timothy 2:3&4 tells us that God our Savior, "desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." And 2 Peter 3:9 tells us that the Lord is "not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance."

*The Lord is still saving people today, even in the darkest parts of the world. In 2001, the Baptist Message gave a great example from a North African country where our missionaries are not welcomed. This article told the story of an unnamed Muslim man.

*One night this man dreamed he was in a boat on a river. In this dream, he was holding books about his Islamic religion. Then he looked up and saw Jesus coming toward his boat, walking on the water. Then Jesus gave the man another book and said, "Read this. It is the Book of Life."

*In his dream, the man threw his Islamic books into the river, and accepted the book from Jesus. Later, the man told his Muslim teacher about the dream. The teacher warned him that Christianity was dangerous and that he should ignore the dream. But that night, he had the same dream again.

*The next morning he was disturbed as he went to his job selling cigarettes from a stand by the street. That day, the dreamer noticed a stranger sitting next to him at a stand that sold cigarette lighters. The stranger was reading a book. And when the dreamer learned that the book was a Bible, he asked the stranger where he could get one for himself, since Bibles are very hard to find in his country.

*The stranger gave him the copy he was reading, and the dreamer never saw stranger again. But the dreamer started reading the Bible, and after several months he gave his heart to Jesus Christ.

*Even in the darkest parts of the world, the Lord is still saving people today! And He wants us to do everything we can to shine His Light to our world.

*In May of 2005, "Time" magazine of all places had an article about someone who is shining the Light. The young man's name was Peter Howell. Every week, the young men of Sigma Nu fraternity house at Indiana University expected a visit from Peter. He was a fellow student and president of the Greek InterVarsity. It's a Christian group on campus. For two years, Peter had given a weekly visit to every guy in his dorm! He also invited them to a Bible study on campus.

*Most guys turned him down, and Peter could have easily become discouraged. Why did he keep trying to share his faith with guys who didn't seem to care? -- Because Peter had seen the Light of the Lord! And he knew that the Lord is still saving people today.

*Peter did make a difference on that campus. One of his frat brothers told Time, "In the biggest meathead frat, he's himself. He's 100%. And no matter what day I say no, he'll always come back. One day, when I'm ready, I'll remember Peter." (7)

*May God help us all to be more like Peter! Jesus wants us to do everything we can to help other people see the Light. Now is the time to serve the Lord, because the Lord is still saving.

5. And because the Lord is still standing close by us.

*Matthew reminds us of this great truth in vs. 17: "From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.'''

*"The kingdom of heaven is at hand." It's close. It's nearby. And there is a great word picture behind the original word "at hand." It's the idea of a bended arm, drawing you near, even squeezing to bring us near. God really wants to be close to you and me!

*Sometimes it may seem like God is far away, but He is never far away. Jesus is right here with us, close enough to be our best friend! Proverbs 18:24 says, "There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." And that's our Savior Jesus Christ!

*Some of you will recognize the name of Joseph Scriven. He was a brilliant young man engaged to a beautiful lady, during the 1800's. Tragically, Joseph fiancée slipped into a pond and drowned. Her body was found on the night before their wedding. Joseph never really got over the shock, and many more tragedies plagued his life. But he spent his life serving the Lord among the poor people of Canada.

*In 1855, Joseph wrote a poem to send back home to his mother in Ireland. His goal was simply to comfort his mother during a difficult time in her life. But thirty years later the poem was discovered by a friend who was taking care of Joseph in his final illness. And that poem became one of our favorite hymns:

"What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!

What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!

O what peace we often forfeit,

O what needless pain we bear,

All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

Have we trials and temptations?

Is there trouble anywhere?

We should never be discouraged.

Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share?

Jesus knows our every weakness;

Take it to the Lord in prayer." (8)

*Jesus is not far away. He is here with us right now! The kingdom of heaven is at hand!


*And now is the time to serve the Lord, because:

-Our lives are speeding by.

-God's Light is still shining.

-The lost are still sitting in darkness.

-The Lord is still saving.

-And the Lord is still standing close by us.

*As we go to God in prayer, renew your commitment to serve the Lord. Renew your commitment to shine the light for Jesus Christ.

(1) "Believer's Bible Commentary" by William MacDonald - Edited by Arthur Farstad - Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Copyright 1995

(2) "John Wesley - Revival and Revolution," Christian History, no. 2 - Source: “Bible Illustrator for Windows” - Topic: Service - Subtopic: Spiritual - Index: 3894-3899 - Date: 12/1997.1440 - Title: John Wesley's Rule for Christian Living

(3) Adapted from #3653 - SOURCE: Online Christianity Today - TITLE: The Pulpit King: The Passion & Eloquence of Gardner Taylor - AUTHOR: Edward Gilbreath - PAGE: 25 - DATE: 121195 - TYPIST: David Holwick

(4) "Through the Bible" with J. Vernon McGee - Matthew 4:14-16

(5) "Reaching for the Invisible God" by Philip Yancey - Source: Online sermon, "Thoughts on Heaven" by Rodney Buchanan - Revelation 21:1-7

(6) "The Baptist Message" 2001 (exact issue unknown)

(7) "Faith and Frat Boys" by Jeff Chu - "Time" - May 9, 2005 - p. 50 - Source: sermon "With a Little Help from My Friends" by King Duncan - Mark 2 1-12

(8) From "Hymns" section of Luther Seminary home page, St. Paul, MN. Cited in "Preaching on the Lessons" by Carol M. Gregg, THE CLERGY JOURNAL, Feb. 2000, p. 54 - Source: email from 11212004

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