The sermon from July 19 was lost. So, I am putting up a manuscripted version of it for those that want to take a look at what was said but missed it. It’s not exact but hits the same points.
We don’t believe that God is who he says he is and therefore we we don’t care.
The question that we are answering this morning is this:
Why is there a deep apathy in the family of God? Why has there been no cry
or repentance for our nation’s sins just as Daniel did for Israel? Romans 1:18–32 speaks of God’s wrath against man because of his progressive downward spiral. Why no repentance?
This question is fundamentally about what we believe. A.W. Tozer said in his remarkable book, Knowledge of the Holy that “the most important thing about you is what comes into your mind when you think about God.” I think that is one of the most profound statements in Christian literature. Everything we do and say points to what we believe about who God is.
Consider what Annie Dillard says (from Teaching a Stone to Talk), “Why do people in churches seem like cheerful, brainless
ourists on a packaged tour of the Absolute? On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of the conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does
o one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a bunch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing cr
sh helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should alsh us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake some day and take offense, or the waking god my draw us out to where we can never return.”
Friends, this is the issue that is at hand. What is it that we believe about who God is?
The letter to the Hebrews is in many ways a mystery. Nobody knows who wrote it. Nobody is really sure to whom it was written. What seems most likely is that it was a letter written by a pastor to his Jewish congregation somewhere near Rome. There was a large Jewish population there and it is likely that within the city there were multiple gatherings of Christ followers and probably one within the Jewish quarter itself. The pastor was writing to them on the eve of persecution. It was about to get bad in Rome and he wanted to encourage his people. He knew that they could avoid persecution if they would simply set aside this Jesus and go back to their old ways of believing. So, he set out to write a letter to encourage them to stand firm in their faith because Jesus is better than everything else.
So then we come to passage that we are going to look at today. Hebrews 12:18–29. Here the pastor is giving them a graphic image of the God whom they now serve. He brings to their mind the image of Mt. Sinai and the giving of the commandments. This is the key event in the story of the Hebrew people. It was here that their leader, Moses spoke directly to God and would return emanating God’s glory. The holiness, majesty, and glory of God was so real that they could not even touch the mountain or they would die. The God of the universe was present on that mountain and the people trembled in awesome reverent respect.
He is telling his people this is the God whom they are up close and in person with through faith in Jesus.
But, that’s not all look at what’s next: They come to celebration that is beyond anything they can imagine. They are inheritors of the living God! This is what it means to be a part of the assembly of the first born. It means that you are included in the inheritance.
The story goes on though. It comes with a warning. He says look at this majestic, holy, great God who has invited you into his presence as his own, will you faithfully follow after him? Will you listen to the call that is on your life? Will you refuse him? H
points to the return of Jesus and says that when that day comes the things that are not eternal will be shaken away and what is real and eternal will be all that’s left. Therefore we are to be grateful for being in this kingdom that will last forever.
What is his application? “Let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” He says then, in light of all this, our response to the reality of God in us is that we are to acceptably worship God.
How can we acceptably worship God if we don’t really believe this?
I think that most of us live just like this from the film, Talladega Nights. Ricky Bobby and his family are illustrations of our silly attempts at making God manageable, trivializing him down to something small and meaningless. We seek to make him into something that we want. I think that Ray Ortlund describes it well in his brief essay, Jesus Jr.
“Our local deity is not Jesus. He goes by the name Jesus. But in reality, our local deity is Jesus Jr.
Our little Jesus is popular because he is useful. He makes us feel better while conveniently fitting into the margins of our busy lives. But he is not terrifying or compelling or thrilling. When we hear the gospel of Jesus Jr., our casual response
s “Yeah, that’s what I believe.” Jesus Jr. does not confront us, surprise us, stun us. He looks down on us with a benign, all-approving grin. He tells us how wonderful we really are, how entitled we really are, how wounded we really are, and it feels good.
Jesus Jr. appeals to the flesh. He does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him. He is not able to understand them, much less impart them, because Jesus Jr. is the magnification of Self, the idealization of Self, the absolutization of Self turning around and validating Self, flattering Self, reinforcing Self. Jesus Jr. does not change us, because he is a projection of us.”
Our lives, everything we do reflects what we believe about who Jesus is.
Why is there apathy? Why are we not seeing the repentance that we have seen in the past? Quite honestly it’s because we don’t really believe that any of this stuff is real. We minimize Jesus and create a reflected version of ourselves so that we can remain safe and comfortable.
We say we believe in prayer, right? Well, let’s see on average there’s two or three people who gather prior to the service to pray. I am not there either, but, I think it’s time I start showing up. Maybe most of us are praying on our way in, but I doubt it. We simply don’t really believe that praying is effectual. We don’t really believe that if we pray and ask God to move in our worship service that he will move in our service. No, we believe that we need a great band, a better speaker, maybe some entertaining videos and dramas. But prayer, well that’s not really doing anything.
We say we believe in the Bible right? Well, Romans 1:16 says, “the gospel is the power of salvation to those who would believe.” So, we boldly share our faith and invite people to encounter Jesus right? Oh, wait, no we don’t. We don’t want to offend them. We don’t want to make them uncomfortable. We don’t want to appear to be crazy Jesus people. We want our “lives” to “preach” the gospel to them. We think a slick ad campaign will bring them to Jesus. Except that Romans 10 tells us that it is by communicating, speaking our belief in Jesus that leads people to belief.
As Doug and I were planning one day at the Coffee Bean in Plymouth there was a man sitting near us. He eyed us up and down. He was listening to what we were talking about. He would walk in and out of the room. And finally he walked over and asked, “Are you pastors or something?”
“Yes we are.” Doug replied.
“Do you have any people in your congregation who are sick? With chronic pain? Maybe cancer?” The man asked.
“Yes we do.” Doug responded.
“Oh, man, then have you heard about medical marijuana? It will change their lives! It has healed me and it’s benefits are endless! You have to tell people about this and help them get the medicine they need!” Marijuana guy exclaimed.
He spent the next fifteen minutes proselytizing us concerning medical marijuana. He believed that marijuana would change the world and fix the core problems of our society.
Do we believe that Jesus and the life he offers is better than marijuana? Most of our lives would say that we don’t. Or consider this from a man named Penn Gillette. He is a devoted atheist and a comedian. You may have heard of him, he is the Penn from Penn and Teller. Well, after one of his shows a man gave him a Bible and this was Penn’s response (click here for the video).
Profound is it not? How much do you have to hate someone to not share the message of Jesus with them?
We look at the statistics of young people walking away from their faith after high school and we try to figure out a better program to make Jesus more exciting. Yet, what matters most is that kids see their mom and dad authentically living for Jesus. Second to that is having another adult involved in their life authentically living for Jesus. All of us desire to see children who love Jesus and are getting to know him, yet it’s the same handful of people over and over again who get up an hour early to teach sunday school. If we really wanted kids to walk with Jesus people would be lining up to volunteer and mentor young people.
We see that there are people hurting everywhere around us and then wonder when the “church” is going to begin a program to reach “those” people and yet we forget that we are the church. There is nothing “out there” that is going to do it for us. What will do it is us falling madly in love with our savior and really believing that we are so utterly broken that there is no hope apart from him. Until we really believe it then apathy and self-reliance will remain.
My brothers and sisters in Christ the reality that we must face is that we would prefer a manageable and safe deity of our own creation. If we say that we believe in Jesus and yet ignore him and choose to fill our lives with other stuff so that we are too busy to engage in his mission, then what do we really believe?
In this question there is a desire to see spiritual awakening take place. In a little book called Fireseeds of Spiritual Awakening, Dan Hayes lays out the five pre-requisites for awakening.
- God’s people must recognize that there is a desperate need for spiritual awakening.
- God’s people must humble themselves before Him.
- God’s people must confess their sin and repent.
- God’s people must continually and earnestly pray.
- God’s people must call others to join with them to meet these pre-requisites.
We are pretty good at number 1. It’s numbers 2–5 that we struggle with. It’s 2–5 where things get to close to home and we are faced with the necessity of real change in us and around us.
The bigger issue for me is that if we do these things then history tells us we can expect:
- Holiness of life for believers.
- Obedience to God and His Word.
- Increased power from God.
- A massive movement of God’s Spirit in evangelism.
When I am honest with myself all four of those things scare me to death and excite me beyond comprehension.
What would happen if we lived this out? What would happen if this kind of spiritual awakening took place? We wold be transformed. The world around us would be transformed. God would be glorified.
You see, when we come face to face with the God of the Bible, the God we meet in Hebrews 12:18–29 we are necessarily driven to our knees humbled, praying, gathering to pray, and calling others to join us.
So what do we walk away with? Well that’s really up to each of us. Will we believe? Will we bear out that belief by how we live? How will we choose to live in this world? Will we pray or will we simply go on living as happy, brainless tourists on a tour of the absolute?