Snapshots of Kindness – part 3
Today we’re finishing up our series on Kindness. Now that might be some of the best news you’ve heard so far this year. Thank goodness we’re done with that-now I can go back to being grumpy-and enjoying winter-forget all this kindness business! So we’ll be returning to the book of Revelation next week where we left off before Christmas and dive into the bowls of God’s wrath! We’ll be exchanging kindness and a friendly smile for death, destruction and the world’s end! But before we do that, I want to remind us that kindness is going to be our ongoing theme for the year-Kindness: Because we have received it…we will show it. And we don’t want to stop showing it just because on Sunday mornings we’re looking at a different book of Scripture. As we’ll see today-God’s kindness is the thread that connects us from the world’s beginning to the world’s end; that His kindness is central throughout His Word. And I don’t know about you-but I think kindness has been central across our world lately. Maybe it’s because 2020 was such a difficult year where kindness ran thin because we were all on edge and worried, or maybe because kindness never goes out of fashion or grows old. But have you seen this theme of kindness cropping up recently? I definitely have! Just this week at our daughter’s school they participated in The Great Kindness Challenge. How about that! Listen to what the school said-“The Great Kindness Challenge” is one week dedicated to highlighting our on-going efforts in nurturing a culture of kindness at Silas Wood, within our South Huntington community, and across the nation. Students will be challenged to complete as many of these acts of kindness as possible, demonstrating to the world that KINDNESS MATTERS! And so they had some really good challenges: smile at 25 people (a little challenging with masks-by the way are you smiling in public or do you like getting away with frowning at people when they don’t know it?), pick up 5 pieces of trash, say hello to 10 people a day, sit with a new group of kids at lunch (you could easily do that at work), do a household chore without being asked (again something we could all do), let someone go ahead of you in line (very noteworthy-happened to me at Stop & Shop a couple weeks ago), cheer for every player on both teams (that’s a stretch), create a family gratitude jar, take a family walk, sincerely compliment 5 people (I love that one-what a way to use our words to really bless someone), entertain someone with a happy dance. Do the Carlton!
That’s just a snapshot of tangible ways to be kind, there’s countless opportunities. But we don’t want it to be a one-off thing, or something for a month while we’re talking about it at church, or even something occasional or random in your life. We’re actually not promoting random acts of kindness-instead the word we’ve been centering on is unusual which comes out of Acts 28:1-2. Something so ordinary and everyday-a fire and warm welcome-that it became an extraordinary and unusual blessing to Paul and his companions. That’s been our Mission. The question we’re asking this morning is Why? I completely and totally agree with the Great Kindness Challenge that says Kindness Matters. But why does it matter? It’s good to be nice? Yes-but far more than that kindness reveals those things. And so the last Snapshot of Kindness that we’ll examine this morning as we wrap up the series is the kindness of God. Open up your Bibles to Rom 2.
This is a passage we glanced at during the first week of our series on Kindness-but take a look at the context in which God’s kindness comes up-Rom 2:1. If there’s anything that’s unkind it’s judging someone while simultaneously doing the same thing. How often have we judged someone for being unkind and unloving while we gossiped to someone else about it. Can you believe how terrible so-and-so is? And yet we’re doing the very same thing by gossiping about them. Or we judge someone for lying while we find ourselves stretching and bending the truth to make ourselves look better. This is an easy trap to fall into-and one writer made a great point about it-If someone has sufficient knowledge to judge others, he condemns himself because he has the same knowledge to judge and evaluate his own condition. Meaning that if you have enough info on someone, if you’ve dug up enough dirt to condemn them, then undoubtedly you have enough dirt to condemn yourself because we all know our own actions better than anyone. And this is what Paul is trying to tell us. Now obviously we can and need to make judgements on what people do and call things wrong when they’re wrong. This isn’t saying that if someone is lying you shouldn’t call it a lie, or that if their behavior is sinful, you shouldn’t call it sinful. We need to call sin sin. That’s what God does-v. 2. God knows exactly what is right and wrong. He defines right and wrong. What He says is true-and we need to follow His truth by making a judgement. The difference, however, is that we can’t be making judgements upon people in order to condemn them or write them off or prove to others that they’re no good-which is often the motive for our judgements. We’ll point out the fault in others to make ourselves look better and feel better. Have you seen how they’ve been acting lately? I am appalled-I would never be like that. And we’re fishing for our friend to agree and say totally-you’re great, they’re terrible. But what do we find ourselves doing-probably acting just like that, not to mention tearing someone down to stoke our own pride and ego. And God sees right through that-v. 3. And that’s the place where we all find ourselves; that’s where humanity is equal-no one is better than anyone else-we’re all in this together-we’re all under God’s judgement because of our sinful, selfish, unloving actions. So the question is how do we escape? Paul is saying you can’t make the case that you’re better off or better behaved than your neighbor. That’s not going to convince God to withhold His judgement. Lord, you know I would never do the things that guy does-and the Lord says-Sounds good to me, I’m convinced, you’re in, 3 BR condo reserved for you in heaven. It doesn’t work that way-judging others to make our case isn’t the way to escape God’s judgment. There’s another way to escape it-and it’s based on His kindness.
Take a look at our key verse this morning-Rom 2:4. God’s kindness-His patience and tolerance-is the escape. It’s not comparing our morals in order to elevate ourselves-it’s about experiencing God’s kindness in order to repent. It’s not about being judgmental, it’s about being humble.
So Q1:Why is God so patient and kind with us? That’s what we started off asking this morning. Is it because God’s a nice guy and since He’s God He sort of has to be patient and kind-comes with the job? Or is God patient and kind with us because He’s so busy running the universe He forgets what we’re doing and looks the other way and doesn’t really care? No-God is patient and kind with us so that it would lead us to that beautiful place of repentance. He’s patient and kind with us so that we come to that place of brokenness and sorrow over our sins and mistakes, where we own them, admit them, and lay them at His feet saying-Lord, I need you to heal me and save me from this-because only you can. Q1:Why is God so patient and kind with us? Not that we’ll get away with our sin, but that we’ll repent of it. That’s what He’s after. God is not patient and tolerant of your sin so that you can keep at it day after day, year after year, and not much happens because God’s kind and still seems to bless you. He’s patient and tolerant of your sin, He withholds His immediate judgement and shows you kindness so that it will drive you to your knees in confession. Have you ever thought of it that way before? Let’s be honest, we love getting away with things. When we’re speeding and the officer sitting in the median doesn’t pull us over or if he does and just gives us a warning we think-Ahh-got away with it! Or maybe in school you got away with cheating and now you aced the test and your teacher is none the wiser. Or as a kid, who didn’t love getting away with things when your parents didn’t notice? Maybe you quietly snuck in the house because you stayed out too late and they stayed asleep. Or you broke the lamp but got away with it because you glued it together so well. Or I remember as a little kid not wanting to eat all of my meat and vegetables at dinner so I would just chuck them under the table! We didn’t have a dog-so I’m not sure what happened to all the meat and vegetables. My parents had to notice when they vaccumed-probably blamed my younger brother-but I thought I was getting away with it! Who doesn’t feel really relieved after getting away with something? We all do. And maybe it happens with people-but it doesn’t happen with God. And the more we think we’re getting away with things the more we’re disregarding His kindness-back to Rom 2:4. Does it lead me there? Or do I just ignore His kindness and trample it?
I have to tell myself that every time I think I got away with something I didn’t-God knows, He sees it for exactly what it is-and He still chooses to show me kindness so that I might turn to Him in repentance! That instead of destroying me with His justified judgement, He holds back and showers me with undeserved grace. Instead of saying done with you, God says come to me. God is not unobservant, too busy, out of touch, disinterested, not bothered, or not going to judge. He is going to judge our sin-all our sin-but He’s willing to patiently endure it and tolerate it because in His kindness He’s opened the door of grace. Listen to what one writer says-Boice, 215. That’s precisely the example we’ll see in Scripture which is our 3rd and final Snapshot of Kindness.
But in order to see that kindness we’re going to see a whole lot of unkindness. Early on in our planet’s history God gave a description of the human race-and it’s not very flattering-Gen 6:5-6. Now you might say that’s a bit harsh-and it is-but think about how God created people. They were to love Him and love others. God created the human race to be a group of people giving and serving and reaching out to others. To follow Him and submit to Him and do what He says-not because God is mean and wants to spoil our fun-but because God is good, He’s so full of goodness and kindness that by following Him He wants to multiply our joy and peace-but we didn’t do that. We rebelled. We turned away from Him and turned inward to ourselves-not loving God and not loving others-but making our own needs and desires number one. I’m concerned about me became the motto of the human race-and it hasn’t really changed. We’ve tried to turn ourselves into our own gods-which is the essence of idolatry and the essence of evil. So this is what grieved God’s heart. In fact listen to how vividly God describes His heart-Gen 6:7. And so this is a statement of God’s judgement-a well deserved, justified judgement. But in His kindness and patience it doesn’t happen right away. God gives people ample opportunity to repent long before the first raindrop ever falls.
Look at v. 13-14a. Here’s the gameplan Noah-complete and total destruction 40 days and 40 nights of rain-we’re talking a lot-like a flood-but I’m not doing it just yet-there’s still some time-and with that time make yourself an ark. And of course we all remember the story and know that the animals came 2 by 2 into the ark-and we picture the lions and tigers and giraffes and then sort of scratch our heads and wonder if 2 tarantulas entered the ark, did Noah allow 2 mosquitoes on the ark-if so bad mistake there! And what about the dinosaurs-did a couple T-rex’s enter the ark and how did they not devour all the other animals? Lots of important questions I want to ask Noah one day in heaven-but the ark wasn’t just for animals-it was for people-Noah’s family and anyone else who heeded the kindness and patience of God-because Noah wasn’t just an ark builder for the next several years-he was also a preacher. To discover that we have to go all the way to the other end of our Bibles-2 Pet 2:5, 9a. Indeed He does-and to do that He has Noah preaching to the people around him about God’s salvation while literally building the illustration right in front of them. Noah’s saying-God wants to save you-judgement is coming but there’s still time, turn to Him and repent-and if you’re confused by that message or question it just look at this boat I’m building to see that God is serious. Here’s the visual of His kindness and grace-we all deserve His judgement-but there’s a way out-and it’s through this doorframe that I’m trying to get straight! And most Bible scholars assume a range of 75-120 years that Noah built the ark and preached. It was a long time to respond-this wasn’t a hasty activity! And that’s precisely God’s point-1 Pet 3:20-21. So that’s the connection-God showed His patience and withheld His judgment in Noah’s day so people could have the chance to enter the door and board the ark to be saved-and even more so God is patient in our day so that people could turn to Jesus and enter into a relationship with Him to be saved. The sermons today aren’t any different than they were in Noah’s time-except the judgment isn’t a coming flood, it’s the end of the world. One more time in 2 Pet 3:5-7. The message is the same-just the method is different-instead of water it’s fire. Judgment is coming-but our God is still full of patience and kindness towards us-v. 8. What seems like a long time time for us isn’t long for God-it takes me forever to read 1,000 page book-for the Lord 1,000 years seems like a day-and the point is it will pass. It may seem like there’s lots and lots of time in life to repent so why rush. Lots and lots of opportunities to get away with sin. God doesn’t seem to notice, He doesn’t seem to be bothered-why change, why turn to Him, why repent? No hurry at all. But look at v. 9. Just like our key verse in Romans that God’s kindness is meant to lead us to repentance. His patience in holding back the world’s end isn’t for us to keep right on living how we always have been, disregarding the Lord and putting spiritual concerns on the back burner. He’s saying the time to repent and turn to Him is now. His patience is for that very purpose-because there will come a day when all that changes and the opportunity is gone-v. 10. Not a great future for the planet. I was lying in bed a few nights ago and heard the roar of a loud jet overhead-and wondered for a moment if that was the roar of the world’s end. It wasn’t! But God didn’t say this is what He’s thinking, that He’s got a few ideas for the worlds’ end, weighing a few options. He didn’t even say most likely this will happen-He said the day of the Lord will come. This is a guaranteed promise of what’s going to happen to our world. And that brings each of us to that point of decision-Q2:How will I respond to God’s kindness and patience towards me? Will you respond to this window of grace knowing what’s coming-or will you show contempt for His kindness and think you’re still getting away with things and there’s still plenty of time to make those changes in your life?
Take a look at how Jesus connects the dots for us-Matt 24:37-39. What happened then is no different from what’s happening now. People were hanging out, having a grand old time in life-Noah was faithfully preaching and they had better things to do-they were laughing, eating, drinking, getting married-all good things but they missed the important thing he was saying until it was too late-and a raindrop fell, and then another raindrop fell and then another-until the flood came and swept them all away. And Jesus is saying that’s going to happen again. Jesus is saying that’s happening right now. People are hanging out, enjoying themselves, eating, drinking and being merry-all with proper social distancing of course. But one day another raindrop will fall-and it won’t be a raindrop but the roar of the world’s end-and just like before people will be caught off guard and swept away when it’s too late. Will that include you? Q2:How will I respond to God’s kindness and patience towards me? Not to brush it aside, but to enter into a relationship with Him. Let me ask the obvious question-would you have entered the ark after hearing Noah’s preaching? Would you have said-this guy’s on to something, he makes good sense about this ark, a flood’s coming-I’m in, who’s with me? I think a lot of us like to assume that we would have been the people who would have responded wisely and entered the ark. But are we responding that way today? Does the reality of the world’s end and this window of God’s kindness drive us towards repentance and a relationship with Him? Or does talk of the world’s end sound as obscure and far removed as talk of a flood back then? Jesus is telling us it won’t be any different-and if we haven’t come to that place of surrender and repentance, that if we haven’t entered into a relationship with Him-and are still enjoying getting away with all of our sin and disregarding God’s kindness-then we’ll be swept away too. Just as the people back then had to literally enter the door of the ark to be saved, so we have to enter into a relationship with Jesus to be saved. Have you done that? Listen to what Jesus says about Himself-John 10:9. Have you entered through the door of Jesus’ life? Have you trusted in Him by faith. And if you have, is it one of repentance where God’s kindness isn’t the excuse to keep on sinning-but instead the very reason why you’re laying those things at His feet and letting Him transform you?
This past weekend we had a vision trip with a youth pastor candidate and his fiancé. It was a great time getting to know them-and at one point in the conversation we got talking about the Ark Encounter in Kentucky. Maybe some of you have been there. We’ve seen the commercials on tv and really want to go-because it’s a life-size replica of the ark that you can go inside and tour. So as we were talking about it the fiancé said it’s great, there’s several levels to explore-but she said you don’t actually go through the door, you see it, but you enter from the side. We all made the joke that it’s a bummer you can’t go 2 by 2-husband and wife, boy and girl-into the ark, going up the walkway through the door. But I suppose as a tourist attraction that makes sense-a side door is easier for groups to get in and out. But when it comes to our lives-there is no side door we can go through, there isn’t another option for being saved or entering heaven. There’s only one door each one of us needs to go through-and that’s Jesus. There’s only one road of repentance, one way of salvation-and it’s through Him. So have you entered into a relationship with Him? Has the incredible kindness and patience of God brought you to that place of repentance and new life in Him? Or are you disregarding His kindness and still looking for a side door? Still hoping for another option? You’ll never find one-Jesus is the door we all must enter!