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Grace

Isaiah 65:1-2

Pastor Robin Fish

Twentieth Sunday after Trinity
Shaped by the Cross Lutheran Church  
Laurie, MO

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Sun, Oct 21, 2012 

Isaiah 65:1-2

"I permitted Myself to be sought by those who did not ask for Me; I permitted Myself to be found by those who did not seek Me. I said, 'Here am I, here am I,' To a nation which did not call on My name.  I have spread out My hands all day long to a rebellious people, Who walk in the way which is not good, following their own thoughts."

Grace

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

Some weeks, the text is long and filled with a variety of points and it is a challenge to select just the right points to emphasize and to keep the sermon down to a reasonable length.  That is not the problem this week.  I could preach on the text in its context and discuss the rebellion of ancient Israel, but that is not the focus of these few verses, really.  I could talk about human depravity and the contrariness of our nature - and that will probably come up in the course of the sermon, but that isn't the true focus either.  The real emphasis of these two short verses is our focus this morning, it is Grace.

Initially, these words of Isaiah apply to Old Testament Israel.  They were the stubborn and rebellious people.  They seemed to be committed to walking in a way which was not good, following their own thoughts.  They were, in a word, idolatrous.  They had a long history of being anything but faithful, and God was faithful beyond human reason.  These words describe the relationship of God with His Old Testament people very aptly.

But as one who is reading them at the end of time, which is where we are, according to the New Testament, I see these words as speaking much more clearly about us - the people of God throughout the New Testament times.  They apply to all of God's people whenever and wherever they may live.  But, boy, do they apply to us.

"I permitted Myself to be sought by those who did not ask for Me; I permitted Myself to be found by those who did not seek Me. I said, 'Here am I, here am I,' To a nation which did not call on My name.  I have spread out My hands all day long to a rebellious people, Who walk in the way which is not good, following their own thoughts."

We are Gentiles.  We were not seeking God.  I was baptized as an infant, but even if I were to have become a Christian as an adult, it is contrary to my sinful human nature to seek the true God.  This is true for each of you as well.  God found you, called you, converted you, made you His child.  Even when we go looking for God, we don't look for the one that exists.  Look at the so-called Christian churches around us!  They deliberate reject the God of grace and go looking for a God who blesses their good works, and rewards them for their own efforts.  The blessings of their religion offers are often focused primarily on this life and how well they believe they are doing outwardly here and now.  Where there are Christians in those churches, judged by the Scriptural definition, it is by mistake if we evaluate what they teach.

I have said in the past that a good Roman Catholic is not a Christian, because a good Catholic follows the teaching of Rome - and Rome teaches works righteousness, and penance, and purgatory, and paying for your own sins.  Sure, Jesus is involved, but He just starts the process and forgives your original sin in Baptism, and the rest is up to you, and most people, according to Roman theology, spend a great deal of time in purgatory paying for their sins before they ever make it to heaven!

Or look at the Protestant churches around us - not the buildings, not even the people, but the theology they teach.  They teach that you have to decide.  Jesus made salvation possible, but the entire issue of whether you go to heaven or you go to hell is in your hands.  You make it happen.  You choose.  And, after you choose, you had better walk the walk, and give evidence, and be the right sort of person or you could screw it up.  Some of them teach that you might just think that you are saved, but you haven't really believed!  Their salvation is always a question mark, and they think they can answer it by some sort of experience they have - a special feeling, or feeling like a Christian (whatever that feeling is), or the clear memory of a moment of some day in history when they got down on their knees and asked Jesus to be the Lord of their life!

And, sadly, most churches today, even many Lutheran churches, do not follow their own theology, so the little they might have taught that was faithful is lost because they are busy marketing attendance, and playing to people's 'felt needs', and trying to entertain them and make them feel good about themselves, without needing God and Christ at all!  Go Joel Osteen!  Go Saddleback!  Go mega-churches, and emerging churches, and church-growth.  People move from one church body to another without any sense of disorientation, because so many of them teach nothing, at least nothing true.  They are all about getting people in the pews and donations in the offering plates.

Of course there are churches like the other major Lutheran church body in America that once knew the truth but were taken on journey into false doctrine, and now teach that equality and justice in this life are the goals of religion.  I have attended the funerals of individuals in other church bodies, including some Lutheran, at which there was no hope of salvation expounded, no forgiveness mentioned, God's grace was not set forth, and the true comforts of the Gospel were not proclaimed to the mourners.  I have even been to so-called "Christian" funerals at which the name of Jesus Christ was not mentioned, except, perhaps, in the closing prayer.  What the people believed, I cannot judge, but what the congregations were teaching them and others is not the Christian faith.

These are people who are not looking for God.  What they are seeking seems to be something akin to a sense of control in their lives and peace with what is happening around them.  So, when anyone finds the truth, they find a God they were not looking for - a God who rescues them from their own thoughts and teaches them the truth.  And the truth is . . .

Grace.  God chooses us and makes us His own for His own reasons.  It isn't our looks.  It isn't how well we behave, because frankly, we don't behave that well very consistently.  It isn't because we know the right things, because the devil knows the truth - but He has no salvation in it.  God has already worked our salvation by sending His Son to live for us and then die for us on the cross, and then rise to new life on Easter.  Because of Jesus, your sins are forgiven.

Note that I did not say that they might be forgiven, or could be forgiven, but that they are forgiven.  Jesus died.  Jesus rose, and in His resurrection from the grave is the announcement from God in the clearest of ways that sin has been forgiven, taken out of the way, and out of the equation of eternal life.  Your sins are forgiven.  God pours out forgiveness and life eternal and it is received through faith.  He that believes and is baptized shall be saved.  It is a free gift.  It is not earned or deserved, nor is it chosen by us, but we are chosen by God to hear and to believe it.

Why doesn't God choose everyone?  He does, actually.  God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  That's 1 Timothy 2:4.  The reason that anyone is saved is Jesus Christ.  The reason that anyone believes is the gracious working of the Holy Spirit in us.  The reason that some - meaning all those who do not believe - do not believe is their own stubborn will.  They choose not to believe because they think they are too smart, or because they want to do something themselves to make themselves certain, or they don't want to accept charity, or whatever.  I imagine that the reasons for rejecting the gift of God are as varied as the number of people who refuse to accept what God has done and what He desires to give to them.

But it is grace!  God permits Himself to be found by people who were not looking - or were definitely not looking for Him.  He stands calling through the Gospel, saying, 'Here am I, here am I'.  What He said through Isaiah the prophet is true, I have spread out My hands all day long to a rebellious people, Who walk in the way which is not good, following their own thoughts.  We who believe are the recipients of Grace.

Luther put it like this, "I believe that I cannot, by my own reason or strength, believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him, but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me, just as He calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth and keeps it in Jesus Christ through the one true faith."

Sure, there are questions we cannot answer to our own or anyone else's satisfaction: why me? 

Why not someone else? 

Why some and not others? 

How come it feels like I am doing it? 

Why can I not sense the presence of God? 

Why, and how, and - I imagine that you can frame questions of your own.  The thing is that God has revealed this much, and while we wish we knew more, or could speak more clearly or authoritatively on the difficult questions, we know this much.  God has reached out, and let us find Him, even though we were not looking for Him.  We all have our own ideas about how it ought to be, but this is what is - and it is the forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and salvation - and it is wonderful!

And it is grace.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

(Let the people say Amen)



These sermons are for the Church. If you find it useful, go ahead and use it -- but give credit where credit is due. Shaped by the Cross Lutheran Church's Website can be found by clicking here.



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