Expectations. We all have them in one form or another. For instance, some of you may have come to worship this morning with the expectation that Pastor Andy would be delivering the message. Oh well, another unfulfilled expectation. And there are some congregations where the expectation is that the clergy be properly robed to conduct worship. Here at Faith Church, the expectation is that the clergy will be properly “sweatered”! I really love the expectations of this congregation and I will try to live into those expectations.
Expectations. Have you ever stopped to think about the number of times and situations where you have certain expectations? When driving a car, you expect that the other drivers will abide by the rules of the road. You expect that they will stop on red lights and go on green lights. You expect that they will stay in the traffic lane designated for them. You expect them to use turn indicators to let other drivers know their intentions. When you come to a bridge or an overpass, you expect that the engineers and builders will have done a good job in the design and construction of those bridges and overpasses. So you act upon the expectations that you have at intersections, bridges, and overpasses. If we didn’t act on these expectations, the traffic system would be in total CHAOS! Expectations, it seems to me that we all have them and we have them in all areas of life. We have expectation of each other and I suspect that we have expectation of God as well. But, have you ever found yourself unsure of what God’s expectations are for you?
King David, the shepherd boy of David and Goliath fame, the inspired, devoted leader of the Israelites, found himself unsure of what God’s expectations were for him. King David goes to God in a prayerful psalm and in Psalm 119, David asks God to teach him the way to overcome the chaos that he sees in his own life. Listen to the words of David beginning at v33 of [Psalm 119: 33-40].
Here David is crying out for some direction, some guidance, some order for the confusion he finds in his life! David wants to do what his God wants him to do. But David wants to be sure that he correctly understands what it is God wants of him, what God expects of him. David, from the very depths of his being wants to meet God’s expectations.“Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law and obey it with all my heart. Have you ever been where David must have been at that moment? Unsure? Have you been where David was? Have you wanted to clearly know God’s expectations, God’s will, God’s direction for your life? Have you cried out to God to just show you what it is that He expects of you? Dear God, please give me a clear understanding of what you expect from me so that I might do it! Well, that’s exactly where David was when he wrote this psalm. The sad fact is that God had already told David, just as he has told you and me, what it is that God expects of us. You see God did it in the giving of the Ten Commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai as recorded Exodus, chapter 20That’s where God initially laid out His expectations for all those who would be His faithful followers, His beloved children. He itemized His expectation on the relationship between we humans and Himself; and he specified His expectations about how He are to be in relationships with one another. And then God reinforced or clarified his expectations even further in the book of Leviticus, the 19th chapter. Hear these words. [Leviticus 19:1-4 9-18]
These are clarifications of God’s expectations of us. Remember that we, followers of Jesus the Christ, are the new Israel; the new People of God! So these clarifications are meant for you and for me! Respect mother and father: family unity, based upon loving respect, is very important to God, our heavenly Father. Stay faithful in the keeping of the Sabbath; not only is it a time for one’s body to rest and recharge, it is a sacred time to renew one’s personal time with God! This will help to prevent you from following after idols; false gods! God then speaks of caring for the poor and the needy by leaving some of the harvest for them to gather. This is the focus of missional outreach! Being sure to care for those who are unable to provide for themselves! Share your harvest! You have been blessed in order to be a blessing! One man’s excess is another man’s need! God clearly expects us to share from the bounty he has blessed us with! Do not steal; do not lie; do not deceive; do not swear falsely; do not withhold a workers payment. God expects us to be honest in our interactions with each other, it’s just that simple and straight forward! Simply put, it appears to me that our relationship with our fellow human beings is to be a reflection of our relationship with God! And our relationship with God should be reflected in our relationship with each other! I believe that is a significant part of what God expects of us!
And then Jesus dealt with the idea of reaffirming God’s expectations in his sermon on the mount as contained in Matthew, beginning at chapter 5. Listen to these difficult expectations starting at verse 38. [Matthew 5:38-48]
Jesus begins with these words: “You have heard that it was said,”. When he said that, he was referring to an O. T. scripture with which he was sure that his listeners were familiar. It is found in Leviticus 24:19-20.
Hear these words. [Leviticus 24:19-20] 19 Anyone who injures their neighbor is to be injured in the same manner: 20 fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. The one who has inflicted the injury must suffer the same injury.” This was an early form of equal justice. The physical harm that you cause to another is to be metered out to you. For all of its savagery, this was at least an effort to keep things even. It was a socially accepted for of retribution, “getting even”, or “pay back”. A problem that arose was that justice was being unequally administered. Life was taken for the loss of an eye and so forth. Jesus was teaching here on the sermon on the mount that life can be lived differently: life can be lived in grace so Jesus says that this is what it can look like. He does not say that it will be easy. He does not say that living life this way will receive a similar response from others. Jesus is simply saying that if one wants to live life the Jesus way, this is how one is to live.
Turn the other cheek; if someone sues you to take the shirt off you back, give them your coat as well; if you’re forced to go one mile, go two miles instead. This lifestyle is not about retribution or paying back evil for evil. This is a lifestyle that is about extending grace. You know that there are those who say that Christianity is for sissy’s or weaklings. Some view Christian faith as a “crutch” that we learn on. But it seems to me that being faithful in living up to these types of expectations takes a great deal of strength and courage. Turning the other cheek; giving more than is expected or demanded; going the extra mile. But I must admit that I had a problem with verse 39 “do not resist an evil person..” So I went to other translations and commentaries to get a better understanding of what Jesus is saying. In the Contemporary English translation, verse 39 reads“But I tell you not to try to get even with a person who has done something to you.” With that understanding, these verses are speaking to the idea of retribution; or pay backs which Jesus was referencing in his opening statement; “You have heard that it was said,”. But Jesus was pointing away from the idea of retribution and pointing to an alternative way, the way of grace.
Jesus seems to be taking those initial expectations of God as expressed in the Ten Commandments and is making them more practical in application! Jesus goes on to say, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you! The expectation is that we do this without regard to any differences we may have: Democrats or Republicans! Muslins or Atheists! Liberals or Conservatives! Whatever the differences we may have with the “others” we may be dealing with in life; as Christians, we are called to love them and to pray for them! That’s God’s expectation of us! But how in the world are we to live into those expectations? The reality is that we cannot live into them relying on our own strength, our own resolve. It will take the power of God’s Holy Spirit living and working within us, living through us, to be able to start living into these expectations of God. Now I want to share a video with you that may help us better understand these expectations. [Cup Video] Now if I were to ask you to give me a one-word description of this item, what might you say about it. Well, you might say that it is a cup; that it is yellow; that it is hand-crafted; that it is crude; you might say all sorts of things about this little, yellow, hand-crafted, a love-gift for Daddy. It was created and presented to me by one of our daughters. I don’t think that it was a senior art project but I’m not sure! Well, of all the words that you may have chosen to describe this cup, I am relatively confident that a word you would not have chosen is: PERFECT! While it may not be considered artistically perfect, I say that it is a perfect cup in that it performs the purpose for which it was created! Regardless of its appearance, this cup is capable of holding a liquid! That was its purpose and it perfectly fulfills that purpose! Look again at verse 48: Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. I am suggesting that you and I can fulfill the expectation expressed here if, like the cup, we fulfill the purpose for which we were created! And what is that purpose? Our purpose is to live into God’s expectations of us. And the primary of those purposes is found in Matthew 22:37 & 39
God, our Creator, expects our love for Him in return, in response to His great love for us! And God expects that our love for Him will be demonstrated in our loving care for one another! God expects us to be compassionate, merciful, and forgiving in our interactions with each other. The way in which we live out the faith we profess DOES matter! It does make a difference! And we have seen what it is that God expects of us!
But I feel the need to be very clear about something. You and I can never live into these expectations on our own grace and spiritual power. We need help! We need the power of God’s Holy Spirit working IN us and THROUGH us to even begin living into God’s expectations! And even then, it is not by meeting or even exceeding these expectations of God that we achieve the eternal salvation of our souls. Our good works, our good deeds, our meeting of expectations does not bring about our salvation! No, rather it is our salvation that should cause us to live into God’s expectations of us!
So, again, Our good deeds do not cause our salvation; rather, our salvation causes our good deeds! We cannot work or earn our way into eternal life; it is only by placing our complete faith and trust in the grace, mercy, and forgiveness offered us in Jesus the Christ that we are saved! So God calls us, God expects us, to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect! But do not let that expectation weigh you down. God simply expects us to live into the purpose for which we were lovingly created! You see, like that cup, you were lovingly and uniquely created and crafted. Like that cup, you are unique; there is no one like you! And, like that cup you are a gift; you are gifted! God expects us to acknowledge and to appreciate the giftedness of all other people of the world who have been lovingly and uniquely created by the same Heavenly Father!