The Diamond Within You, Part 2:
Welcome, Jesus

September 25, 2005

The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor

Montgomery United Methodist Church

 

Matthew 21:23-32

 

The Authority of Jesus Questioned

    23Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. "By what authority are you doing these things?" they asked. "And who gave you this authority?"

    24Jesus replied, "I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. 25John's baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or from men?"

   They discussed it among themselves and said, "If we say, 'From heaven,' he will ask, 'Then why didn't you believe him?' 26But if we say, 'From men'—we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet."

    27So they answered Jesus, "We don't know."
      Then he said, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.

The Parable of the Two Sons

    28"What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work today in the vineyard.'

    29" 'I will not,' he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.

    30"Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, 'I will, sir,' but he did not go.

    31"Which of the two did what his father wanted?"
      "The first," they answered.

   Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.

 

 

Brothers and sisters in Christ, good morning! Our series of sermons is entitled, “Discover the Diamond Within You.” Last week was part 1, “Discovering the Gem.” This week is part 2, “Welcome, Jesus.” And next week… well, won’t you come back and find out?

 

The Reverend Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, fifty years the pastor of Marble Collegiate Church in New York City and a father in the faith to me, tells this story: Dr. Peale was in a diner late one night, and he sat down at the counter for a cup of coffee. Near him was a young man who was also having a cup of coffee. This young man, wearing a sleeveless black shirt, head shaved, earrings in his ears and tattoos covering much of his body, had one particular tattoo that got Dr. Peale’s attention. It was on his arm, and it said in large letters, “BORN TO LOSE.” Born to lose! It was more than Dr. Peale could stand to keep the silence. He said, “Young man, tell me please about that tattoo.”

 

The young man said, “Well, it’s simply the truth. That’s the way I felt growing up, and that’s the way I feel now.”

 

Dr. Peale said, “Oh, young man, may I simply tell you that there’s a higher truth than that? Your tattoo should read, ‘Born to live, born to be a blessing,’ because, young man, there is a God who loves you and sent His son to live and die and rise again for you, and He would have done it if there were only one of you. Won’t you think about it?”

 

My dear friend, I believe so deeply that we live in a world of brokenness. We live in a world where many people have broken hearts. We live in a world where many people feel worthless and unloved and unlovable. We live in a world that needs a Savior, a Savior for people to come up out of the pits of feeling unloved and unworthy and broken, a Savior who will put them in touch with who they really are, a Savior who will put them in touch with the source of all love, God Almighty. And that Savior is our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Last week, we talked about a story that Jesus told. Jesus told the story that the kingdom of heaven, the place where God is king, the closeness to God, is like a man who went out and saw a field. He was an unhappy man. But in the midst of that field, he saw something glimmering, and he knew that it was a great treasure. He went out and sold everything he had and bought that field. And Jesus said when he bought that field, he picked up that treasure and, Jesus said, he was filled with joy. He had come home again. He had discovered the treasure within him. It’s like a diamond.

 

I believe with all my heart that that’s what the world needs, this Savior named Jesus who puts people in touch with the diamond that’s inside of them, the sparkling, priceless gem that is innocent and beautiful and loveable and wonderful and worthy to be in contact with Almighty God. That’s what Jesus does.

 

Many people have lost contact with the diamond at their center. Maybe they’ve given it away; maybe they’ve been talked out of it. Maybe they’re just so broken-hearted that their eyes are veiled with tears and they can’t see it anymore. Maybe you know somebody like that, or maybe you’ll meet somebody like that. That will be your chance to tell them about Jesus, the diamond-discoverer.

 

My dear friends, there may be people here this morning who are saying, “Pastor, how do I get in touch with this diamond? It seems kind of remote to me.”

 

I can tell you this: there is someone who will help you find it. His name is Jesus, and all you need to do is invite Him into your heart and He will help you find that diamond within you. Once you find it, you will be saved. You will have salvation, and no one and nothing in all time can ever take that away from you. Jesus will put you in touch with your true self. It’s so important.

 

I was watching a video about people who took the Disciple Bible Study. One of them was a gentleman who made it his business to visit the local prison and to talk to the prisoners. Why should anybody do that? Aren’t they being punished rightly? Maybe so; justice is justice. But this man had the vision that these prisoners still have a diamond inside of them that is loved and beloved of God. And so, he visits without judgment and shares the love of Christ with them.  Jesus Christ is the one who can save this world. Jesus Christ is the one who has the key to the central problems at the heart of society, and that is that people feel worthless and unloveable. Jesus said, “You are born to live – in the love of God.” Jesus is the one who will help you find the diamond within.

 

Second, Jesus is the one who will help you refine the diamond within. There may be some folks thinking, “Pastor, there may be something to what you say. That diamond that I found in the field of my life has a lot of sand on it. That has a lot of rough edges on it, you know?”

 

Well, me too. But Jesus is the great diamond polisher, and He can polish off that sand. The sand might be the mistakes we’ve made, the sins we’ve committed, the things we regret that we can’t change, maybe the rough edges of our personalities. Jesus can refine that into the picture of what God had in mind for you and for me at the very beginning. Jesus is the great diamond polisher. Jesus helps us refine the diamond within. He can do it for me. And He can do it for you.

 

Finally, and this is a gentle point, Jesus can tell you how fine your gift is. He helps you find it, helps us refine it, and He tells you how fine your gift is. You see, that diamond within you may need a little protection, friend. It’s a tough world out there. There are forces out there that would pull you away from the beauty within you, from the value you have for yourself.

 

Well, it happened it this morning’s gospel, didn’t it? Jesus was teaching on Solomon’s porch in the temple amid the great colonnades. Some leaders of the temple came to Him and said, “By what authority do you do all of this?” You see, they were attacking Him. They were attacking the gift within Him.

 

And Jesus said, “No, you won’t. Let me ask you a question, and if you can answer this, I’ll answer yours.” They could not, and He did not. It was an example to us, to say that your gift needs to be protected. No matter what your history, no matter what you’ve been through, there’s preciousness within you.

 

Some years ago, I was going through a time of great pressure and stress. There may be one or two of you here today who can identify with that. I was so helped by a colleague, who was also a counselor, and I’ll never forget one of the things she said. She said, “God expects us to take exquisitely good care of ourselves.” Have you ever thought about that? Do you need to hear those words? Let me say them again: God expects us to take exquisitely good care of ourselves.

 

Is there a way you need to apply that in your life? Do you need more sleep? Do you need better boundaries against forces that would pull your worth away from you? I’ll leave it to you and God to interpret what that sentence means to you.

 

In closing, my dear friends, please remember that the religious life starts by knowing that Jesus Christ can help you discover the unique, unrepeatable, precious gift within you, the diamond that is your soul. He can do it, and He will be your friend forever. Just ask Him.

 

Will you pray with me?

 

Dear Lord, our God, I pray Your rich blessing upon Your wonderful people, and I pray that if there are people here who have not invited You into their hearts, or perhaps if there are people here who are inviting You into their hearts for the two-hundredth time, You would hear that prayer, You would help them get in touch with their inner worthiness, and You would bless them. And so, dear God, I’m not asking anyone to raise a hand or make any gesture. But if there are people here who want to invite You into their hearts to be friends forever, may they envision a hand being raised within, saying “Yes, Jesus. Welcome, Jesus. Be my Lord forever.” And may they know that salvation, now and forever, is theirs. Amen.

 

God loves you, friend. I do, too. Have a blessed week. Amen.

 

© 2005 Anthony J. Godlefski