Written and preached by David P. Nolte


MATTHEW 7:24-29

They say, "You can't teach an old dog new tricks." Be that as it may, it is no excuse for people, old or young, to quit learning. You are not an old dog, and it is not merely new tricks you ought to learn. We need to learn lessons that impact on our parenting, that alter our personal relationships, that keep us from making the same foolish mistakes time and again. We need to learn lessons that improve the quality of life for self and others around us. We need to learn lessons that change the meaning of our years from mere existence to genuine living. Some don't want to learn anything new. Learning moves us out of our stale routines. Learning demands discipline. Learning may mean that we have been wrong and have to change! Learning is threatening to the status quo. Learning is sometimes difficult. But learn we must, or stagnate we will. And in all your learning, remember that we are greatly ignorant if we have failed to learn from Jesus Christ. His teaching amazed some, angered some, and motivated others. He taught with authority and didn't merely echo the teaching of others as did the Scribes. Some obeyed Jesus' teaching and some did not obey it.  Listening to and doing what Jesus taught makes all the difference in our "house" standing or falling.Though some of you are being honored as you graduate, remember that graduation means you have reached a level, not the final level, from which you need to keep progressing, striving and learning. There are many lessons we ought to learn from Jesus. I will call some to mind this morning. The list is by no means exhaustive but should be suggestive.

    1. Jesus said, in Matthew 16:24, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me." To deny self means to learn to say, "No!" to your selfish desires and motivations and to mean it!
    2. You can trace nearly every sin back to a failure to deny self and to pander to selfish desire.
      1. Consider Lucifer himself. He was created to be the highest cherub. But note how his ego got him into disaster: "How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, You who have weakened the nations! But you said in your heart, 'I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, And I will sit on the mount of assembly In the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.'" Isaiah 14:12-14.
      2. Consider Absalom. The spoiled king's kid who wanted to throw David out, even by death if need be, to become king.
      3. Consider Ahab. The evil king who went along with Jezebel's plot and murdered Naboth to secure his vineyard.
      4. Think about this: self-centeredness is destructive:
        1. It ruins marriages.
        2. It destroys friendships.
        3. It breeds dishonesty, cheating and even crime.
        4. It leads to greed, covetousness and other forms of idolatry.
        5. It sparks hostility, enmity and war. James said, "What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. And you are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures." James 4:1-3.
    3. Awhile back I read a piece dealing with childish logic. It truly reflects the "me first" attitude.
      1. If I think it's mine, it's mine.
      2. If it used to be mine and I gave it to you but want it back, it's mine.
      3. If it looks like mine, it's mine.
      4. If you laid it down for a minute, it's mine.
      5. If I didn't want it until you wanted it, it's mine.
    4. A few months ago, my granddaughter, Alisha, e-mailed me this thought: "Dear Grandpa, Hi!!! I had no idea how many viruses there are, kinda like sin huh, if you download the wrong stuff you start to do more stuff bad, and spread it onto others, it's so sad, but if we spread God's news on we can kill some of the viruses (sin) huh, I was just thinking about and thought of sending you this letter, You could use this as one of your sermon things if you want to, I think it could be a good sermon, and I won't get upset if you don't. You can even read this letter, or delete it. I love you!! Alisha C." The point: Selfishness is one of the worst viruses we'll ever encounter. We need to kill it or it will kill us. To kill it, we need to learn the lesson of self-denial.
    1. Jesus said, 
      1. "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." John 13:35.
      2. "But go and learn what this means, 'I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT SACRIFICE,' for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners." Matthew 9:13.
    2. Paul wrote, "And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. And beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity." Colossians 3:12-14. So, compassion means to 
      1. have pity, to feel distress for the problems of others, 
      2. Be patient and kind in their failures, 
      3. be loving and gentle in their weaknesses 
      4. be forgiving when they wrong you. 
      5. Show kindness or good will towards the suffering and afflicted, and it is to couple it with a desire to help them.
    3. To put that into action, seek out
      1. The lonely and overlooked and forgotten. Be a friend.
      2. The one who everyone picks on or taunts and who is lowest on the pecking order. Be a defender and advocate.
      3. The one who is grieving, sorrowful and sad. Be a healer and comforter.
      4. The one who is desperate, at wits end and discouraged. Be an admonisher and encourager.
      5. The weak, stumbling and failing. Be a lifter, give a hand.
      6. The newcomer to the community, school or church. Make them welcome.
      7. Seek them out - not to add to their difficulty but to alleviate it!.
    4. Despite his busy schedule during the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln often visited the hospitals to cheer the wounded. On one occasion he saw a young fellow who was near death. "Is there anything I can do for you?" asked the compassionate President. "Please write a letter to my mother," came the reply. Unrecognized by the soldier, the Chief Executive sat down and wrote as the youth told him what to say. The letter read, "My Dearest Mother, I was badly hurt while doing my duty, and I won't recover. Don't sorrow too much for me. May God bless you and Father. Kiss Mary and John for me." The young man was too weak to go on, so Lincoln signed the letter for him and then added this postscript: "Written for your son by Abraham Lincoln." Asking to see the note, the soldier was astonished to discover who had shown him such kindness. "Are you really our President?" he asked. "Yes," was the quiet answer. "Now, is there anything else I can do?" The lad feebly replied, "Will you please hold my hand? I think it would help to see me through to the end." The tall, gaunt man granted his request, offering warm words of encouragement until death stole in with the dawn. That's compassion. That's a lesson we ought to learn!
    1. We read of an instance that illustrates this in Luke's gospel: "Now as they were traveling along, He entered a certain village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. And she had a sister called Mary, who moreover was listening to the Lord's word, seated at His feet. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him, and said, 'Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.' But the Lord answered and said to her, 'Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only a few things are necessary, really only one, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.'" Luke 10:38-42.
      1. Martha, not sinfully, was occupied FOR Jesus.
      2. Mary, not lazily, was occupied WITH Jesus.
      3. Jesus wants us occupied for Him, but not if it interferes with being occupied WITH Him.
    2. Many times 
      1. We hustle and bustle, hurry and worry, fuss and muss about a thousand things but don't take time with Jesus.
      2. We are busy and dizzy, rushed and flushed, uptight and affright about this world's activities, but are neglectful about Jesus.
      3. We have time for school, work, play, sports, amusements, hobbies, newspapers, TV and a lot of other pursuits, but are negligent about Jesus.
    3. How significant is Jesus to you? How important, how central, how prime in your activities, thoughts, and life?
    4. Let me tell you about an African girl to whom Jesus was number one! She saw others bringing offerings to the missionary and had nothing to give. One day she came and handed the missionary a single coin. He knew of her poverty and asked, "Why, where ever did you get this coin?" She said, "I went to a neighboring plantation owner and sold myself to him as a slave for that coin. I wanted to give Jesus an offering which satisfied my heart." No question who was first in her life.
Lessons for living. Learn self-denial. Learn compassion. Learn to put Jesus first. If you succeed in learning those lessons most other things will come into place. When we learn those lessons we learn to say no to lustful and immoral desires. We learn to deal with people as Jesus would deal with them: forgiving those who wrong us, helping those in need. We learn to value what Jesus values and to hate what He hates, to walk in ways that emulate Him and avoid ways that break His heart. We learn how frequently we fail, and how mercifully He restores. We learn how unworthy we are, and how gracious He is. We ought to learn that while we cannot do anything to put ourselves right with God, that Jesus has already done that. We ought to learn that we come into right relationship with God by receiving Christ by faith. Believing Him, trusting Him, and obeying Him. The Master Teacher says, "Come, learn of me." Will you come? Will you show that you are willing to learn from Him by trusting and obeying?
Lincoln and Coin stories from Knight Illustration Books

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