Lent Sermon Series – Giving it up: Control
Giving up Control
Luke 4:1-13 (The Temptation of Jesus)
This Lent, I’ve decided to try something new. New for me, at least. I’m going to be doing a Sermon Series entitled “Giving it up”. Giving things up for Lent as a means of practicing personal sacrifice, is a time honored tradition of the Church. Through the next several weeks of Lent, we’ll be considering somethings which we might “give up” not just for Lent, but indeed, things which we need to constantly be giving up in our lives, in order to turn our lives over to God.
This week, the title of the sermon is “Giving up Control.”
Power, influence, authority; the need to be right, to have the last word; anger, intemperance, stubbornness; sarcastic remarks, passive aggression. These are all words which come to mind when we think of control.
The human attempt to be the masters of our own destiny, controllers of our own fate, cuts to the quick of who we are as human beings, and goes back to the very beginning of the bible. Indeed, it goes to the very beginning of human life on earth, to Adam and Eve.
You recall the story of of Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve took the apple from the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil when tempted to do so by the serpent. They knew right from wrong. They knew they should not have eaten the apple, they knew what it meant that God told them not do eat it. They knew what would happen if they die, and they knew that was bad. But the serpent lied to them. He told them they wouldn’t die from eating the apple. The serpent, the devil promised that the apple would actually make them more like God.
They chose to take a chance. A chance, you might say, to be in control of their own lives. Up until then, God was in charge, but if they ate the apple, they would take God’s place. In eating that forbidden fruit, they, and we along with them, lost the innocence in which we were created. Their eyes were open, and they knew they were naked.
When we try to take control of our lives rather than turning ourselves over to God, allowing him to be in control, what we’re really trying to do is to take over his place, just like Adam and Eve tried, when they believed the lie that eating the forbidden fruit would make them like god.
I wanted to include a quote about control in my sermon, so I did a Google search on “words about control.” I found a website with quotes about control. Sadly, what I found was that most quotes that well known people make about “control” are in fact that opposite of what I believe God wants us to do.
Every quote talked about taking control of our lives, mastering our own destinies. In a secular world, as it is, filled with humanity in its fallen state, a world drifting further and further from its creator in heart and mind, its really no wonder that quotes about control and power would be self-centered. I’m the one that needs to be in control of my own life. I’m the one who needs to decide who I am and where I’m going.
As Christian believers holding to the catholic and apostolic faith, we believe in something much different. We believe our goal is to turn control of our lives over to God, so that he may be glorified, his kingdom increased, and finally, in a sure and certain hope, we may dwell with him in house forever.
The one quote I did find on that website was from the grandson of Billy Graham. He said this: “Grace is thickly counter-intuitive. It feels risky and unfair. It’s dangerous and disorderly. It wrestles control out of our hands. It is wild and unsettling. It turns everything that makes sense to us upside-down and inside-out.”
(Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/control.html#1KjZfGpPgAuAwozy.99)
The opposite of control, power, authority, being in charge of my own life, is a life turned over to God. As Christians, we call that a life of Grace.
Surrendering ourselves to the grace of God in Christ is perhaps one of the greatest challenges we face as Christians. One wonders if one can even call oneself Christian without doing it. In theory, we want to do it, we want to be led by Christ in all aspects of our life. But in practice, it’s the most difficult thing to do. Why? Because we’re sinners.
And the truth of the matter is, what we need in order to turn ourselves over to the life of grace, is the grace of God. It sounds crazy, but it’s true. It’s only by God’s grace that we can turn ourselves over. So our challenge, then, is to ask God to give us that grace to turn our hearts fully to him, to help us give him the control which we so desperately want to keep, but know we need to turn over.
Perhaps the best way to test our turning over control to God is by asking ourselves “is this my will or is the God’s will?”. Is this me being stubborn or angry? IS this me seeking to be in charge of this situation? Is this me being jealous, controlling, or conceited?” Or by this choice I make, will I bring glory to God? Will I reflect the light of Christ in the world? Will God’s love be known through me in this decision I make.
As I thought of a scripture which illustrates why we ought to turn control of our lives over to God, the scripture that stood out was from Romans 8:28- “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good.” Here Paul tells us that when we turn our lives over to our creator, and allow him to guide us and lead us, all things will work out for the good. Indeed, what more could we ask for? But I want to finish this morning by reading through to the end of the chapter. Because what Paul tells us is that when we turn our life over to God, when we are his, nothing can separate us from him and his love for us.
“…we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,[h] for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be[i] against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.[j]35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.