Now why would we call this time of year midterm? Everyone knows that spring is beginning of the season. It’s where life starts a new and we plant the seeds that will grow during summer. But Think about it. The Year is 12 months long. If the Holy Day Season ends with the Last Great Day. Then you have 6 months until Passover and another 6 months before the next Fall Holy day season ends. So Passover is right in the middle. Just like Mid-terms examine students midway through the year, we are told to examine ourselves spiritually 6 months before the harvest season begins.
We are in that time each year of self-reflection and examination. As we approach the Passover we need to ask ourselves those familiar questions about our commitment and steadfastness to this way of life. But more than just agreeing to carry on, we must probe deeper to measure our growth.
1 Corinthians 11:28-32 1 Corinthians 11:28-32 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.
29 For he that eats and drinks unworthily, eats and drinks damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.
30 For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.
31 For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.
32 But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.
American King James Version× NKJ But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup.
It is very clear here that God does not want us to partake of the symbols until we have done this. In fact, the next verses give a curse to those that choose not to do this.
29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. 30 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.
It’s a pretty horrible thing to be condemned as this world is. It is our knowledge that the world is going away but a better kingdom will replace it that keeps us going and to think that we could be excluded from that kingdom because we refuse to do this yearly self examination is beyond comprehension. So we want to spend time each year in prayer, meditation and if need be, fasting to draw close to God and consider our path. Next, we want to probe our own thoughts and feelings about how we are doing. To look at ourselves the way God does. To see us from His eyes and with His understanding. So how do we accomplish this?
Well, what most people do to examine themselves is to ask, how am I doing right now? This may seem perfectly reasonable at the time but it does not give us much context about we are progressing over time. We might have just come through a difficult time and we feel we are in a good place but if this difficult time is a re-occurring problem then we might not be making a lot of progress after all.
Its common to fall into a pattern where we go through a trial and then God gets us through it. We are thankful and we resolve to move on but do we? I have had conversations with people that noticed the same trials over and over we talk about whether they have actually moved on and grow from them.
If you do a word study on the word “Turn” you will find this particular term means a lot to God. Over 288 occurrences in the bible and often God uses it to describe someone’s relationship with Him. “They turned aside from following Me”, or “If they would turn again, to me”. “Take heed, do not turn to iniquity”. These are just a few. Lets read some of them together in Psalm 125
Psalms 125:4-5 Psalms 125:4-5 4 Do good, O LORD, to those that be good, and to them that are upright in their hearts.
5 As for such as turn aside to their crooked ways, the LORD shall lead them forth with the workers of iniquity: but peace shall be on Israel.
American King James Version× NKJ Do good, O LORD, to those who are good, And to those who are upright in their hearts. 5 As for such as turn aside to their crooked ways, The LORD shall lead them away with the workers of iniquity. Peace be upon Israel!
Isaiah 58:13-14 Isaiah 58:13-14 13 If you turn away your foot from the sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honorable; and shall honor him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words:
14 Then shall you delight yourself in the LORD; and I will cause you to ride on the high places of the earth, and feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father: for the mouth of the LORD has spoken it.
American King James Version× NKJ 13 “If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, From doing your pleasure on My holy day, And call the Sabbath a delight, The holy day of the LORD honorable, And shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, Nor finding your own pleasure, Nor speaking your own words, 14 Then you shall delight yourself in the LORD; And I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth, And feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father. The mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
These passages illustrate how God sees those that obey are actually turning from another path to follow Him down the correct path. It means a course change in our lives. If you were on a ship, and you set off to cross the ocean. Only the right course will get you there. Early ship captains had to use a variety of ways to make sure they stayed on course. Even though they had a compass, the maps were not accurate enough to find another spot across the see. They would plot their location using the stars if they could see them at night. As navigation improved the captains Could leave Europe and be assured they would land in New York Harbor but they had to use all the methods available and re-examine their course constantly. If they were off-course, they would need to turn to correct the error.
So how do you know if you need to turn? You need to examine yourself, not just to see that things are going well now, but that you are progressing toward your goal.
To do so you have to be willing to submit yourself for a regular self-examination. When you are in school they don’t want you to get to the final exam of the year to find out you have been failing. Can you imagine going through a whole year of study without knowing if you are learning or not and as you approach the final exam you realize that if you fail then you have to start all over again. How terrible is that.
Fortunately, there are many tests along the way and the most important of those tests is the midterm. A time right in the middle where you can learn if you are cutting it or not, and if not, you can work harder to learn what you have been struggling with. The Title of the Sermon today is
Preparing for our Passover midterm
Now why would we call this time of year midterm? Everyone knows that spring is beginning of the season. It’s where life starts a new and we plant the seeds that will grow during summer.
But Think about it. The Year is 12 months long. If the Holy Day Season ends with the Last Great Day. Then you have 6 months until Passover and another 6 months before the next Fall Holy day season ends. So Passover is right in the middle. Just like Mid-terms examine students midway through the year, we are told to examine ourselves spiritually 6 months before the harvest season begins.
So the first question on this mid-term is:
1. When did you start preparing for this midterm?
You see, some students often get so wrapped up in the start of the term that they sometimes neglect homework and working on projects until right before they are due. Now many people have gotten their degrees doing this very approach but we can all agree that learning something for an exam on forgetting soon afterward does not prepare one to take on the world afterward.
I remember going to grade school and I would take homework home. My intention was to take it home and do it.
But my parents never forced me to do homework and so I would go home and assume I was going to feel like doing it at some point in the evening. When I got involved in other pursuits I would tell myself I could do it tomorrow between other assignments. Of course I never counted on getting behind the next day as well. So when I came up to a test the week before was very important for me to actually try to learn weeks of information as quick as possible so I could pass the test. Pass I did, but sometimes I barely passed.
2 Timothy 2:14-18 2 Timothy 2:14-18 14 Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers.
15 Study to show yourself approved to God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
16 But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase to more ungodliness.
17 And their word will eat as does a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus;
18 Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some.
American King James Version× NKJ Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers. 15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 16 But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. 17 And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, 18 who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some.
We don’t want to have to have that Shame when we evaluate ourselves and find that we have spent too much time doing things that not only haven’t profited us but may even have hurt others. These two that Paul called out were doing just that. They didn’t do the work that would have helped them and they relied on their own understanding of something to teach others. If we have some issue to discuss we don’t have to look inward for the problem.
Its like the Bible Study Course we are going through. We have reached the halfway point and we can all ask ourselves if we point ourselves into the study to see what we can learn, or have we approached it with a minimalist approach.
Since the 12 lessons are meant to build a spiritual foundation then neglecting it will only harm the structure we build upon that foundation. If you hope your foundation built decades ago is all you need to for the great tribulation ahead you might find that the concrete of our foundation is cracked and easily broken during adversity. These are lessons that are learned too late. God gives us His word that repeatedly tells us the only way to life is to turn from the ways that seem right to us.
So why doesn’t God just tell us where we are weak when we need to turn? Why does He require us to examine ourselves? It’s because unless we come to him with all our heart is this conversion process then He does not know if we will ever turn from Him in the future. So we must show Him that we are committed to this way of life by performing this self-examination.
So we want to do well on this midterm but have we put the work into our preparations for it. Some might just want to pass the midterm and getting a good grade is not that important to them. If you have similar thoughts then you will want to ask yourself the next question.
The second question on this Passover mid-term is:
2. How will this exam affect your overall grade?
I used to work at a Community College. During my 16 years I attended a number of meeting that discussed how to improve student success. In fact, only about 15-20% of students that entered school got their 2 year degree in 4 years of school. 4 year schools did better but not much with only a third of students getting their 4 year degree in a 6 year period.
The plan that was given to improve those numbers was called Early Academic Warning. They learned that only those students that were the most determined to get a degree had much of a chance of getting through the whole course of study. They wanted a degree when they entered school, but wanting something and doing the work necessary to achieve it are two different things. Often what is lacking is a proper understanding about how tough it is going to be. If only students can realize early on that it is going to be tough before they fall behind.
I was in one meeting where Deans were trying to broach the subject of testing the students earlier in the term so they would know if they were not on pace. Teachers resisted this because they did not want the extra work. They did not want to come up with the extra course work to test the students on. Turn to Hebrews 12:
Now God does not have the same objection with the work necessary to ensure we are ready for the challenges ahead.
Hebrews 12:5-11 Hebrews 12:5-11 5 And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to children, My son, despise not you the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when you are rebuked of him:
6 For whom the Lord loves he chastens, and whips every son whom he receives.
7 If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chastens not?
8 But if you be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are you bastards, and not sons.
9 Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection to the Father of spirits, and live?
10 For they truly for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.
11 Now no chastening for the present seems to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to them which are exercised thereby.
American King James Version× NKJ 5 And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; 6 For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.” 7 If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? 8 But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. 11 Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
But the only way this instruction from God works is for us to participate in the process. If we turn our back on God and choose not to grow then we hurt ourselves. However, we have a wonderful instructor in God who wants the best for us and is waiting to reward those who diligently seek Him.
The third question on this Midterm is:
3. Are you prepared to change your study habits?
Learning where we fall short is vitally important but if we don’t act upon those knowledge then we will find ourselves at next year’s mid-term and struggle then too. There is a quote that is often wrongly credited to Winston Churchill that was actually given by Spanish Philosopher George Santayana.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
We must learn from our mistakes, and from historical patterns that often ensnare us or we will be tripped up by them again and again.
If we are on the wrong track the Bible is full of examples of people that taken the same wrong roads and wished they hadn’t. Turn over to Lamentation.
The Book is traditionally ascribed to Jeremiah although there is some debate to that. The context of book would lend itself to be written by Jeremiah soon after he left Jerusalem. The opening verses set the stage to what must have been a very difficult book to write.
Lamentations 1:1-5 Lamentations 1:1-5 1 How does the city sit solitary, that was full of people! how is she become as a widow! she that was great among the nations, and princess among the provinces, how is she become tributary!
2 She weeps sore in the night, and her tears are on her cheeks: among all her lovers she has none to comfort her: all her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they are become her enemies.
3 Judah is gone into captivity because of affliction, and because of great servitude: she dwells among the heathen, she finds no rest: all her persecutors overtook her between the straits.
4 The ways of Zion do mourn, because none come to the solemn feasts: all her gates are desolate: her priests sigh, her virgins are afflicted, and she is in bitterness.
5 Her adversaries are the chief, her enemies prosper; for the LORD has afflicted her for the multitude of her transgressions: her children are gone into captivity before the enemy.
American King James Version× NKJ How lonely sits the city That was full of people! How like a widow is she, Who was great among the nations! The princess among the provinces Has become a slave! 2 She weeps bitterly in the night, Her tears are on her cheeks; Among all her lovers She has none to comfort her. All her friends have dealt treacherously with her; They have become her enemies.
I can imagine Jeremiah writing this with tears streaming down his face. He had preached repentance but the people resisted. He had wished on redemption but the people would not heed God’s instruction.
Continuing on to verse 3 Judah has gone into captivity, Under affliction and hard servitude; She dwells among the nations, She finds no rest; All her persecutors overtake her in dire straits. 4 The roads to Zion mourn Because no one comes to the set feasts. All her gates are desolate; Her priests sigh, Her virgins are afflicted, And she is in bitterness. 5 Her adversaries have become the master, Her enemies prosper; For the LORD has afflicted her Because of the multitude of her transgressions. Her children have gone into captivity before the enemy.
This goes on through the first two chapters when the Author gets much more personal about what this feels like. And then in verse 39 of chapter 3 we read this:
Lamentation 3:39-41 NKJ 39 Why should a living man complain, A man for the punishment of his sins? 40 Let us search out and examine our ways, And turn back to the LORD; 41 Let us lift our hearts and hands To God in heaven.
Even when all seams lost, we are admonished to examine ourselves and then turn back to the LORD.
This is a powerful lesson to us. We are not too far-gone as long as we draw breath. God is patient if we turn to Him.
If we are coming into this present evaluation, period and we are not a prepared as we wished we were. We can still turn back to God. That is the point of reading about Old Testament Israel. We see God reaching out to them continually and they not having the faith in Him to deliver them. We have access to His Holy Spirit and if we choose to use it can overcome all of the problems that plagued Israel. We can build a relationship with God and with each other that will see us through all of the trials of this life.
We can still start from this day forward to plan not just for a more successful Holy Day Season this year, but ready ourselves to start next year off right. But to be successful we need to change our study habits. We
To do this we have to acknowledge there is no break from this way of life after the fall holy days. We can’t say to ourselves, “Great Feast, now I can take it easy until spring.”
That may sound absurd but I have talked to a lot of people that are hit hard by the Spring Holy Days. Satan is trying to knock us off our game and cause us to stumble. We need that contact with God during those winter months. A good time to start a new study topic is right after the feast. Maybe start a bible reading program where you read the entire bible in the year. Its quite a commitment but it pays off, especially around this midterm and definitely on the final. We want to keep our hearts and minds engaged so that we enter the spring festival season with hope and promise and not regret.
Changing your study habits is a not something you do all at once. It’s a lifestyle change. We add those elements that are lacking or in some cases, are not there at all. Ask yourself, how often to read the bible? If you answer, only at church, then you have a problem. If you ask yourself, how many times do I fast, if the answer is only atonement, then you have a problem. Of course a 24 hour fast is not possible for some health reasons but you can do all sorts of fasts that show God you care about Him more than this world. I can’t give you a quota for prayer, study, and drawing close to God, but if you are doing it correctly then you will know and this mid-term ahead of us will not worry us at all.