Twixt Gloom & Glory - Luke 23:47-56 NIV
Lots of sermons about Good Friday and Easter. Not many about the Saturday in between. That’s ironic considering that it’s the Saturday between gloom and glory where we live 90% of our lives. We talk about what to do when disappointments and grief (gloom) come your way and we talk a lot about the glory of the Christian life! But what about those many (most?) days when you’re feeling neither up nor down?
1: ________________ with God’s help when I don’t feel like it.
“The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, ‘Surely this was a righteous man.’” Luke 23:47 NIV
This may be the same centurion from Luke 7 who showed great faith for his servant’s healing. He was an officer. Didn’t gamble. Didn’t snooze. Watched everything. Concluded this Jesus was not guilty of crimes (righteous man!) Mark 15 records “Surely this man was the Son of God!” All solid impartial witness info for us to help our faith. One more critical fact: The centurion praised God. This goes against our normal sense of joy in worship. Yet on this day of all days, He praised God. Great example for us. This praise came out of a disciplined heart, not just an emotional one. He praised because it was the right thing not the easy.
How do we worship and praise, when we don’t feel like it?
“I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.” Psalm 40:1-3 NIV
The Hebrew understanding of “wait patiently” is not the same as ours. Means “seek eagerly!” The Bible promises us that if we seek God, He will be found! (See Deut. 4:29 / Matt. 7:7) That’s just how God is. AND that’s just how God designed humans to be - God seekers and finders! When we find God, HE gives us a song! Based on discipline. Some may tell you that if you don't feel the worship that you should “fake it until you feel it.” But that’s wrong with worship. Jesus was critical of fakers. The discipline comes in seeking God.
Two Struggles I must work through to praise God:
A. ________________ from a broken heart.
“When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away.” Luke 23:48 NIV
That’s understandable. There was nothing more to see or do. I’m sure there was also emotional grief & emptiness. On our own it is impossible to worship when our hearts are empty. No more tears to cry! We feel like we’ll never experience joy again! God knows!
“I am faint and severely crushed; I groan because of the anguish of my heart.” Psalm 38:8 HSB
Life is not all rosy. Jesus KNOWS groaning! & anguish! But promises…
“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18
The Bible doesn’t advise that we get our act together, pick ourselves up by our bootstraps, or just get over it already. We don’t save us! God does!
B. _______________ from a distant heart. (The more common struggle)
“But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.” Luke 23:49 NIV
Have you ever felt like you stood at a distance from God? When it comes to worship do you ever feel more like an observer watching these things, rather than a participant? The answer once again is to seek God!
“Come near to God and He will come near to you.” James 4:8 NIV
Like Deut 4:29 & Matt. 7:7, this is a promise. This is just the way God is and they way He designed you. Learn to recognize complacency. Realize how deadly it is to your faith. REVIVE your faith by seeking God.
#2: _______________ when I see the opportunity.
“Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, who had not consented to their decision and action… He took [Jesus’ body] down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock.” Luke 23:50-51,53 NIV
Joseph is a good lesson for us regarding good people being involved in groups that may have questionable ethics. Our first instinct is that good people should never be involved in anything that is un-good(unrighteous) so our gut says good people must resign at the first sign of wrong. But then wouldn’t the result be that all the good people are not involved? That the bad just becomes worse? Our schools, government, businesses need ethical, sound, righteous involvement from Christians at every level Joseph sounded his dissent but then when the opportunity presented itself, he took action! You don’t have to FEEL LIKE IT to do good! It’s just the opposite:
“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9 ESV
Those without the Christian faith - those without hope - give up. Not us!
“Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good deeds.” Hebrews 10:24 ESV
We have a duty to not only do good ourselves, but to encourage others in our Christian community to do the same. This is how we overcome the Christian hopeless, blasé attitude that what we do doesn’t matter. It does
#3: ____________ the commandments trusting that God knows best.
We come to this last “TWIXT” story of the women who wanted to bury…
“The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.” Luke 23:55-56 NIV
Every instinct they had was to give one last honor to Jesus by giving his deceased body the spices and perfumes necessary to keep his decaying flesh from stinking as fast as would otherwise be the case. One last favor we could do for you! But that came smack up against obeying the Sabbath commandment. What did they do? “In obedience to the…”
What was one of the last teachings of Jesus?
On multiple occasions Jesus told his followers the importance of this…
“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. / You are my friends if you do what I command you.” John 14:15 / 15:14 NASB
Do you think God has a sense of humor that 1551 years later, when Robert Stephanus first numbered the verses in each chapter of the Bible that these two verses became 14:15 and 15:14?
Last week we sang about being friends of God. How do we know for sure we are His friends? Jesus tells us. We keep his commands! We often think of this as a hard thing to do for those who are unrighteous. Actually the more difficult is for the righteous - for there will be times (like with the women) when a good thing to do will not be the commandment thing to do. What do we do when this happens? TRUST GOD! That’s what is most involved in obeying the commandments - trusting that God knew what He was doing when He gave us those commandments in the first place!
Conclusion - These three things are what we spend the majority of our Christian lives doing - in the 90% of the times when we are twixt gloom and glory.
(1) WORSHIP. Seeking God so that we may praise Him. The strength we receive from our worship gives us energy to
(2) DO GOOD and
(3) OBEY COMMANDS.
When we place our faith in action with (2) and (3), our every instinct is to come back to (1) worship. It’s not only the Saturday between gloom and glory, but every eternal day of our forever lives!