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Sunday, January 27, 2013

"As was His custom. . . "

January 27, 2012
3rd Sunday after Epiphany

“As was His Custom. . . “

Luke 4:16

"And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read."

We see here in this passage that our Lord Jesus, like so many of us, behaved according to His custom. He had grown up in the town of Nazareth in the pious Jewish family of Mary and Joseph. He had been accustomed to going to the synagogue  every Sabbath. Now that He had begun His public ministry it is no surprise that He was in the custom of going to the synagogue on the Sabbath day and preaching there.

We know what it is like. We are creatures of habit. We have patterns and routines in our lives that are sometimes very necessary and often times, comfortable and comforting.  There is nothing wrong with that. It’s how we are made. God created us and He created a universe that would best suit us. This creation has an order to it -- a rhythm. God created the Light and separated it from the darkness so that there would be morning and evening and the passing of days and years. He allows the earth to go around the sun in such a way that there are seasons, seedtime and harvest. He created the world in six days and on the seventh day He rested and He told His creatures that they too should follow that pattern of weekly rest.  Being creatures of habit is not a bad thing. It has a divine source.

Jesus Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the V irgin Mary and was made man. He, the creator, in this inexplicable miracle that is the incarnation became a creature of habit.

Do you suppose that anyone around that household of Mary and Joseph in Nazareth, ever asked that question, why do we have to do it this way?  Do you suppose that Jesus, as he was growing up, ever heard the answer: “because we’ve always done it that way.”

As times change, so must we. We must progress, we must stay current with some things.  But with some things, there is great value in holding to the customs and ways that are proven and sure, moral and good. God help us to know the difference.

You need not be ashamed of doing things out of habit. So what if some would despise you for bowing your head and whispering a prayer for a meal. Perhaps they will say, “oh, they’re just going through the motions. It’s just a habit, they don’t even think about it.”

No don’t be bothered by such ideas. Habits are useful. Customs are good.. . as we see in the example of Jesus.

But the thing about habits is this:  You and I and all Christians, throughout our lives must examine ourselves, examine our hearts, our thoughts, words and deeds. We must regularly ask ourselves, are these habits I have good, healthy, godly habits or are they bad habits.

A Christian can get into the bad habit of just going through the motions of prayer and worship and turn the good habit of regular, customary prayer into the bad habit of an empty, thoughtless act of self-righteousness.

For instance, a listener can fall into this sort of habit at the start of the sermon. The hymn ends and the pastor gets in the pulpit and the mind begins its habit of wondering. The thinking is, Ok, now’s the time that the pastor has to say what he must say. I can relax and imagine something more enjoyable.  That line of thinking is a bad habit that must be broke. Instead the listener needs to be in the good habit of saying what is there today in God’s Word that is for me to hear and believe and then live by in the week ahead.

So you must examine yourself: thought, word and deed. Have you let yourself get into habits that are sinful. For example, is there some part of your daily routine in which get so totally self absorbed, that your spouse or your children or your neighbor who needs you, must suffer on without you.

Have you left behind the good habits you should be fostering?

Examine yourself, beginning with your thoughts. Our thought patterns are most likely to follow the custom we’ve allowed to happen. Rain drops fall and gather into pools and then streams follow the paths cut for them by the customary erosion. So with our thoughts. They will naturally follow the same course again and again.  Are your thoughts, then, too customarily lustful? Do you spend much of your day entertaining thoughts and imaginations that follow the rut of greed and coveting what does not belong to you? Do you find yourself habitually getting angry over the same things that go on in your household or on the job. Is the problem what others are doing – or is the problem your bad habit of angry thoughts.

Thoughts are the seeds from which our words and actions grow. Unkind words sprout up from thoughts that do not take into count the best in others, but always focus on the worst.

Selfish and self-serving habits grow where there are little or no thoughts to how you might serve your neighbor and show love to those God has given you.

Good habits of personal prayer and devotion to God will only come from the heart and thoughts that are in the good habit of carefully, attentively listening to His word.

One Sabbath, almost 2000 years ago, Jesus, as was his custom and good habit, went to the synagogue and began to preach. He was handed this big scroll that contained the 66 chapters of the prophet Isaiah. Jesus read from this ancient scroll a description of what He the promised Christ, the anointed one would do.  What his habits were, so to speak.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
    and recovering of sight to the blind,
    to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.”  (Luke 4:18-19)

Listen to the good habit Jesus has of preaching good news.

Jesus was on a mission to proclaim good news to the poor. To proclaim liberty to the captives. Who are the captives? One who is stuck in the rut, bound by the chains of bad habits: bad thinking, bad patterns of speech and action or inaction. He or she can feel and in a very real way is captured.

In Jesus, we see One who has the habit of proclaiming good news, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.  He had been doing it ever since Isaiah was inspired to first teach this and even before. 

He spent His lifetime Proclaiming that good news and freedom. He preached it loudly from the cross when He said Father, forgive them.

He proclaims that good news to you now and always.  Hear Him in His word. Prayerfully repent of your bad habits and with love in your heart for your Savior, ask His help in changing them.

And He will. He who made the blind to see and the lame to leap, also lifts you out of the captivity of sin and disgrace and sets you on His paths of righteousness.