Friday, October 7, 2016

Lord, did they not hear our message?

Read Isaiah 53
Read Romans 10

My program director—Dr. Tom Campbell—was also my preaching instructor while I was in school to be a Cumberland Presbyterian minister or Word and Sacrament.  He told a story once of a small congregation that he ministered for a few years.  At the end of each service, one member would always shake his hand and say, “Warm sermon.”

When it was time for Tom Campbell to move on and pastor another congregation, he asked the man what he meant by “warm sermon.”

With emotion, he replied, “Not so hot.”

For those of you who want something more in your sermon, I will include 3 P’s that you can take with this week. 

Just in case you need something small and manageable to take with for your drive to work or as you walk the hallways at school or if you get lost trying to remember what you came into Walmart for in the first place, there are 3 P’s at the end.  You probably won’t pick them up along the way, so just know that there will be a take-away at the end even if you think you are imprisoned in a warm sermon.

Many of us have lost something that I don’t think we can get back.  We may try but I don’t think we will ever regain it, not that we want to.  What exactly have we lost?

The ability to understand what it was like to be lost, to be without Christ.  Some who may have come to Christ recently may still have clear memories but many of us who have been living in this gift of salvation have forgotten what it was like before.

Yes, we have testimonies.  Yes, we have memories of times past, but the state of being lost or forsaken or true hopelessness is foreign to us.  We are no longer fluent in hopelessness.  It is a dead language to us.

We only distantly relate to blindness to the truth.  We know that Jesus is Lord.  We have professed it with our lips and we believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead.  We believe!

We may struggle to stay the course as we follow Jesus, still have a bazillion unanswered questions, and often wonder when God will answer some of our prayers; but we believe.
We believe!

We believe that God loved us so much that he came in the flesh to live and die as a man.  He came to teach and to heal.  He came to bring the mighty acts of God into whatever situation he was in. 

He came to die as an atoning sacrifice for our sin.  He did all of these things and we believe.

He made us right with God and we believe.

The prophet Isaiah said that all of these things would come to pass but most of us before we believed were not very familiar with Isaiah.  If it wasn’t required for a book report or in today’s generation didn’t fit into the size of a text message, we probably didn’t read it before we believed.

So here we sit safely in our salvation, thankful and blessed and loving the peace and divine connection that we know; and sometimes wonder about everyone else.  What about them?  Will God’s message reach them?

Paul was still sharing his pain with his readers as we enter into the 10th chapter.  We should be able to feel how he longed for his people to come to know Christ.  It’s not that they were an ungodly people or too apathetic to care.

They were zealous about their God.  They knew he was the one true God.  They knew that all righteousness comes from God; yet, they drifted into a righteousness of their own and were blind to the truth.

Were we to read ahead to the next chapter we would see that these chosen people were in a stupor.  They were not sensitive to what was happening around them.  It was if they were drunk while Christ walked the earth and missed the whole thing.

Paul still has a heart for his people and has more to say about them later, but for now he counsels his readers that faith once again is central to receiving this gift of salvation, with which comes being right with God. 

He used words that many of us know so well.  They are words of salvation and life.  These are from the New Living Bible.

If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.

This invitation is for Jew and gentile alike.  Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.

Israel heard.  Some responded.  Most did not.  In the words of Isaiah: “Lord, did they not hear our message?”

We are going to step out of Romans chapter 10 and step into the 21st century church, specifically this body of believers for the moment.

Have you ever felt like Isaiah?  Have you even felt like Paul?  “Lord, did they not hear our message?”

Think of the many ways that we connect.
·     Walk a block for Jesus
·     Trunk or Treat
·     Easter Egg Hunt
·     Vacation Bible School
·     Feed the Players
·     5th Quarter
·     Backpack Ministry
·     Chewy Tuesdays
·     Pop Tarts and Peanut Butter
·     Food baskets

All of these things are laced with messages of God’s love and invitations to know Jesus as Lord.  These things are accomplished by ministers hoping to share God’s love and salvation.  I don’t mean the guy in the robe who preaches twice on Sunday.  This is the body of believers connecting.

Did they not hear our message?  Most of these conversations begin with God loves you.  We don’t put people in headlocks or even thump them with a Bible. A wrist band might get them from God loves you to love one another.  If we haven’t scared them off by then, we might actually get to talk about how great God’s love for us is.  That ultimately leads to Jesus.

“Lord, did they not hear our message?”

On top of that some people have even come into the church building on a Sunday for a service to check it out.  Some have even heard me preach.  How could that not have been enough?  Yes, my tongue might be stuck in my cheek on that one.

“Lord, did they not hear our message?”

Some have heard and have come and are seeking the Lord, but many have heard and have not.  “Lord, did they not hear our message?”

Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?

Paul was heartbroken about his own people.  He addressed what is in store for them in the next chapter.  But what about us?

What do we do when we continue to follow Jesus and help so many who are lost or are disconnected from the body and they will not hear?  What do we do?  Consider Paul’s words in the New Living Translation.

But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?  And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!”

This is our message to share.  Jesus Christ is Lord.  In him alone comes salvation.  We are commissioned to take this message into the world.  Remember that a commission is more than a command.  A command tells you what to do or what not to do.  A commission comes with some authority attached.

Think to the end of Matthew’s gospel.  Jesus states that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him.  He is not bragging or boasting about his status because the next word that we encounter is the word “therefore.”

Jesus makes a connection between his authority and our commission.  We are to go into all of the world making disciples, baptizing, and teaching people to follow what he taught us.

We have a mission.  The Lord has commanded this and he has also given us the authority to take his message into the world.

How much authority did Jesus have?  All authority!

God’s message of love to the world is now our message of love to the world as well. It is our message.  We are like Isaiah in this regard.  We can say: “Lord, did they not hear our message?”

We can say it and know that we have not overstepped our authority.  We have the authority to fulfill our mission.  We take this good news to the world.  We are sent by our Lord and Master into the world with this incredible news of God’s love for us.  We are very much in this divine work together.

We have been called out of the world, set apart from the world to be made ready for a special work, and now we are sent back into the world commissioned to do that work.
And so many do not respond.  What are we to do?

Go into the world and proclaim the gospel of peace and salvation and love everlasting unburdened by the response.  The response lies in the domain of those who hear and God’s own Spirit.

The response of those who hear the gospel is not part of our yoke that our Master has given us.

We continue to go where we are sent.  People must hear.  They need to hear it in person.  Webcasts are great.  Television preachers are fine.  Facebooks posts surely are compelling, but this message is best delivered in person.

“How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!”

We are those messengers and we continue our deliveries.  Some might be thinking, “Hold your holy horses one minute.  Isn’t that why we hired a preacher?”

There is an interesting dynamic here.  The pastor or shepherd tends the flock and when that analogy is used, people often say: “I don’t like being compared to sheep.  Sheep are stupid.  Don’t compare me to a sheep.”

But when the topic of taking the good news to the world comes up, the same people sometimes say, “Hey, I’m just a sheep.  Send the shepherd out into the world with that message.  Isn’t that what he is there for?”

We are commissioned.  When it comes to taking the good news of life in Jesus Christ to the world we need to accept, perhaps even embrace our role as the commissioned.  That is who we are.  We deliver good news!
We deliver!

But the yoke of our Master has not placed the response of those who hear on our shoulders.  We could not bear it and we should give thanks that we don’t; but we continue to proclaim the good news of life in Jesus Christ.

We don’t own the response but we continue in our commission.  It has not been revoked.

The Apostle Paul wrote the church in Corinth noting that he had become all things to all people so that some might be saved.

Some?  God’s desire is that all be saved.  How could Paul write so that some might be saved?

For as zealous as Paul was to take the gospel to the world, he knew that his commission was to deliver this good news.  For those who came, the work continued in baptism, teaching, and discipleship; but even zealous, zealous Paul knew that not all would respond even though they heard.

Paul so longed for his own people to know true joy in the Lord and we will find in the next chapter what the plan for that is, but he knew that he was one man, set apart by God for a special work.  He would do great things for the Lord and many would come.

But many would not.  “Lord, did they not hear our message?”

My message to you this day is this:  Do not be discouraged.  Your commission remains in effect.  It has not been revoked and some will hear and some will respond and some will know the joy of the Lord when they call upon him.

“How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!”

The work that you have been called to do, commissioned to do, is still a blessed work that will produce good fruit.  Share the good news.  Live in response to the good news.  Know that some will call upon the name of the Lord because they have heard the good news of Jesus Christ.

Some will be saved!

Now to the promised P’s.

We are people who have PEACE.  It is peace that goes beyond human understanding.  It is a connection that we often know in the way the psalmist charges us—be still.  Know that he is God.

We have PURPOSE.  We are called out of the world, set apart from the world to be prepared for the work of the Lord, then we are sent back into the world to be God’s love and deliver his good news.

We are PROTECTED from a burden that is not ours to bear.  God’s Spirit is with us always and the response of those who hear our message rests with them and God’s Spirit.  Their response is not part of the easy yoke that our Master has given us.

We who know peace in God also have been given purpose by God and are protected by God as we go into the world to be his love and proclaim life in Jesus Christ.

Some will be saved!


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