Remembering is Believing
Topic: Faith Passage: Revelation 2:1–2:5
Only Believe (?)
Grace Community Churchy
May 26, 2019
Remembering is Believing
Memorial Day is a day when our nation remembers and honors those who died in active military service. Our country owes a huge debt of gratitude to all who have made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our nation and our freedoms. This past week I heard the story of Marine Staff Sgt. Christopher Slutman, who died in Afghanistan just weeks before his tour of duty was to end, leaving behind a wife and three young daughters. Ultimate sacrifice for him means not watching his girls grow up or giving them away on their wedding day. To Marine Staff Sgt Slutman and his family and so many like him who died serving our country we owe more than we can possibly say. We also are deeply grateful for those who are currently serving in the military or who have served in the military. Thank you for your service. Memorial Day is a day when we remember our fallen heroes.
Remembering is a gift from God, our memory is an essential part of who we are. Those who have loved ones develop Alzheimer’s know the sadness of watching them lose their memories. Our memories tether us to our identity. I read about a man named Clive Wearing who, less than two years after getting married, had a virus attack his brain and left him with one of the most severe cases of amnesia on record. His memory lasts between seven and thirty seconds and then reboots. He spends every day thinking he is “waking up” every 20 seconds because his consciousness restarts. Somehow, though, his wife Deborah still has a deep grip on his memory. He doesn’t remember her when she isn’t with him, but the moment she walks into the room he lights up, takes her hand, and starts to dance with her.
Memory is the muscle that grips past events and moments and holds onto them, filing them in the memory for future access. Remembering is the act of retrieving those memories and putting them front and center so we can benefit from those memories, whether it be by treasuring them, learning from them, laughing at them, or crying at them. The ability to remember is a gift from God and a tethering anchor to our identity.
Remembering plays a key role in the God’s word too, but in the Bible the word remembering is used as more of a function of faith than a function of memory.
And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. Deut. 8:2
I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. Psalm 77:11
Conversely, forgetting is more a matter of abandoning faith than of memory lapse:
The sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asheroth. Judges 3:7
This forgetting isn’t memory-forgetting, this is faith-forsaking forgetting. And remembering isn’t memory-remembering, it is believing-remembering. We’ve heard the phrase, “seeing is believing”. As we continue our series Only Believe and in the spirit of Memorial Day, I’ve titled the message today Remembering is Believing. Let’s read Rev. 2:1-5 together.
Jesus calls the church in Ephesus to remember. They were doing a lot right, but they had forgotten their first love and Jesus says, “remember. Remember the heights you once knew and how far you’ve fallen from those days.” He’s calling them to remember the love they once had for Jesus and live their lives out of that love again. To stir that first love in our hearts, let’s remember four things this morning: who God is, what God did for us, what God will do for us, and what God wants to do through us.
- Let’s remember who God is
The first step towards apostasy in the church is forgetting who God is. We see it happen in Israel all the time. Yet my people have forgotten me; they burn incense to worthless idols, which made them stumble in their ways…Jer. 18:15
When we lose sight of who God is, our hearts start to make gods of lesser things. God becomes small and other things become big. Some people reduce God to a feel good being who is easy to step over. We need to remember that God is transcendent. That’s not a word we use a lot but it means God is above and beyond everything in the universe. No one steps over God! To give us a little perspective of the transcendence of God, consider this:
- The VY Canis Majoris is one of the largest stars we know of. It is over 1500x bigger than our sun and about 270,000 times brighter. That’s ridiculously big and bright but God is bigger and brighter. In fact, God is bigger and brighter than the entire universe. He is transcendent.
- Currently the smartest computer in the world is the IBM Summit in Tennessee. It takes 4000 gallons of water per minute to keep it cool and can perform 200 quadrillion calculations per second. (That’s 200 followed by 15 zeros). To us that’s incredibly smart, but it’s like a child to God. God is transcendent. Above and beyond His creation.
- In 1958 a rockslide in Alaska produced the biggest tidal wave on record. It was so massive it ripped up trees by their roots on cliff tops over 1700 feet above the bay. Imagine a wave higher than 1700 feet. To give you context, if you stood on the upper deck of the Empire State building and saw that tidal wave coming your way do you think you’d be safe? Only if you can hold your breath for a really long time, because even on the top deck of the Empire State Building, that tidal wave would still tower 500’ over your head. Think such a wave is devastatingly powerful? God’s justice, and His righteous anger at injustice, will roll down in such waves it will make the Alaskan tidal wave look like a ripple in a bathtub in comparison. God is transcendent.
God is transcendent in holiness, glory, wisdom, power, and justice. God isn’t just greater than anything in the universe, He’s greater than everything in the universe - combined. He is transcendent. Remembering how great God is helps put everything else in perspective. It puts our fears in perspective – God is with us so we don’t need to be afraid. It puts our goals in perspective – when we dedicate our labor to His glory God will establish the work of our hands. It puts our defeats in perspective – we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. It puts our heartaches and disappointments in perspective – the suffering of this world can’t be compared to the glory He’s prepared for us. It puts the meaning of life in perspective – our lives are hidden in Christ. Remembering who God is helps us have a right perspective about life. Let’s remember who God is.
- Let’s remember what God did for us in Christ
When Jesus was sharing the last supper with his disciples, he took bread and wine and he said “this is my body and my blood given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” When we take communion we remember what Jesus did for us.
Talking about a tidal wave, do you ever feel overwhelmed by your own sin and sinfulness like it’s carrying you along with a force and power that you can’t withstand? Ever feel weary and hopeless, like the waves of sin that wash over you are way too big for you to ever conquer? Do you ever feel like there’s so much wrong inside you that you’ll never be able to fix it?
Years ago I was working away when suddenly I lost my Internet connection. A little pop-up said “click here for solutions to your Internet problem”. Sounded promising so I clicked. Another message popped up saying it was working on problem #1… out of 541 problems! Here I thought I just had one problem, I couldn’t connect to the Internet only to discover I had hundreds of problems to work on.
Sin is like that. We’re all probably aware of some of our sins, but our sins are far more numerous and goes way deeper than we know. One sin is connected to another sin, and sin layers on top of sin. Anger intersects with malice, pride intertwines with the fear of man, greed morphs into covetousness, resentment into bitterness, jealousy into envy, insecurity drives us to gossip about others to make us feel better about ourselves. On and on it goes. We work on sin #1 but there are #540 more to go.
We need to get to the point where we realize we can’t fix ourselves. We can’t do it. We need to remember what God did for us in Christ Jesus. The God who is transcendent is also the God who drew near to us in our sinful state and loved us so much he gave his life for us. Communion reminds us that Jesus’ blood forgives and washes us clean of all our sin and reboots our broken connection to God so completely that God is now our Father and our Friend. We have communion with God, loving and intimate union with God possible only by what God did for us in Christ. Do this in remembrance of me.
Before we leave this point, if you see a trail of destruction and damage that your sin has left in its wake, the answer isn’t to try to fix things on your own. We get it backwards if we try to clean up our lives in order to get right with God. Jesus died to make us right with God, fill us with His Holy Spirit, so that God in us can help us clean up our lives. Our part isn’t to “do for God”, it’s to believe in what God did for us. Next Sunday we will be taking communion together again and as we do, we will do it in remembrance of what God did for us in Christ Jesus. Remembering is believing.
- Let’s remember what God will do for us
Remember what God has promised for our future, the future that spans this life and then our future when we get to the end of the line. When we are spending our last moments on this earth, taking our last breaths of this earth’s air, when we are saying goodbye to all that we have ever known: our friends and loved ones, sunlight, birds chirping, food, sleep, the earthly tents of our bodies.
At that point what can we remember then that will give us hope and our lives meaning? We may not even have a memory at that point. Our grip on memory may slip so that like Clive Wearing we don’t remember enough to even know what we’re saying goodbye to.
Remember this: God will remember you. One of the most touching moments in all the Bible is the interaction between Jesus and the thief on the cross. This thief had nothing left in this life and was truly at the end of the line. He was leaving this life with empty hands nailed to a wooden cross. There was nothing he could do for God or offer God or attempt for God. But while he hung there, he looked at Jesus hanging next to him and faith rose up in his heart and he said, Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.
With no visible evidence this dying thief saw that Jesus was a king and he asks, when you come into all that power and glory and authority please remember me with kindness and with mercy. Jesus’ response is amazing: truly I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.
Jesus’ words are so personal to this thief – he didn’t just say, today you will be in Paradise. Jesus could have said, “dude, I’m gonna be really busy when I enter my kingdom after 33 years of being away but I’ll make sure you’re taken care of. I’ll have my people set you up.” No, Jesus said, Today you will be with me in Paradise. Jesus will do more than remember him – he will personally escort him into His kingdom. God is transcendent, Jesus is transcendent, but he draws so near with such love. Jesus died to make it possible for us to live. If you’re the type who feels you need to control everything – this is something you can’t control. We need to loosen our grip on control and tighten our grip on trust. Trusting God. Let’s remember what God will do for us – He will remember us with mercy and love. He will escort us personally as we make that last journey from this earth to His kingdom. He will remember us.
- Let’s remember what God wants to do through us
Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Rev. 2:5
Someone has said the average Christian is like an old iron bed – firm on both ends but sagging in the middle. We know we were saved, and we know we are going to heaven, but in between we’re sagging. We want more from our lives than sagging. God wants more from our lives than sagging. Jesus told the Ephesian church to remember their first love and do the works they did at first. Now this is a church that’s already hard at work (Jesus says, “I know your works”) so what does he mean the works you did at first? I think he means the works they did when their hearts burned with love for Jesus. Not works to earn from God, works of love for God. Love for Jesus. See a sagging love for Jesus will always lead to a sagging life, so repent and remember your first love and that will work its way outward in your life. Love always works its way outward.
We don’t need to change who we are – God loves to use ordinary, unimpressive, imperfect people to do His work. We don’t need to change what we do – you don’t have to quit your job and move to Tanzania. God can use you right where you are. In the lives of the people who are around you every day.
When we let our faith just be about getting saved and going to heaven our lives will sag in the middle. God wants to use every one of us in the work of expanding Jesus’ kingdom. One person at a time. Will we answer the call? Or will we live sagging lives? Let’s not. Let’s remember that God wants to do His great work through us. Through you and you and you and you.
Pray. Listen for the Holy Spirit. Be available. Love Jesus. Then watch what God does through you. Remembering is believing.