Saturday, September 6, 2014

"Everyone Needs Jesus," Sermon on Romans 11:30

“God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all,”  Romans 11:30.

Pay attention to what he said--so that he may have mercy on them all!  


Everyone needs Jesus. 
This is a rescue mission where no one gets left behind.

1. Leave no man behind
When kids go on a field trip, you don’t leave anyone behind.  The bus doesn’t leave until everyone is present and accounted for.  That’s kind of how God is with us.  He works hard to keep us all safe and close to him.

In the military, they leave no man behind.  Nate Rawlings wrote in Time magazine about looking for a soldier who had been captured in Iraq, Staff Sargent Matt Maupin—even after reports that he had been executed:  “One of our companies received a tip from a prisoner who knew where Maupin’s body was buried. The next morning at daylight, we cleared a field where Maupin was said to be. Heavy engineers used ground-penetrating radar to look for remains. Bulldozers dug up the earth, hoping to discover the soldier’s resting place. In the end, we came away with nothing. Dry hole, we said, and returned to our base.”  They finally found him and brought his remains home, 4 years after he was captured, 3 years after he was reported dead.

2.  God leaves no man behind. 
Where is God when his people fall away from him?  Our children, brothers and sisters, members of our church who have stopped coming… He is working to get them back.  Even better than the military, he is looking for those who don’t want to be found by him—and we should be too, because we aren’t just bringing home a dead comrade.  When we bring someone back to Jesus, he is actually bringing them back from the dead.   Just like what God said in Romans 11:15, that if the Jews would come back to God, it would be life from the dead for them!

Even though Israel fell away from God, he is still there trying to bring them back from the dead.  They rejected the Word of the Savior, and crucified him, so God sent his Word elsewhere to the Gentiles.—like a child who doesn’t want the delicious grilled cheese and turkey sandwich until she sees it sitting right there in front of someone else, God’s plan was to make them realize what they were missing by giving his Word to other people instead.  

See, when God’s people fall away from him, he never gives up trying to open their eyes to what they are missing.  He always wants sinners to come back to him, and they do he welcomes them with open arms.  There isn’t a hint of reproach in God.  He isn’t standing by the church doors to say, “Haven’t seen you in a while!  Where have you been?”  When we see him welcome us back even after we have rejected him, then we know his mercy all the more.  Like stars on the darkest night, God’s mercy shines brightest with the backdrop of our horrible rebellion against him.  –It’s beautiful mercy that he can say he never gave up on you; that he still wants you in heaven with him.

3.  What’s wrong with us? 
We actually do give up on people.  When they seem to have lost their faith, we do leave them behind.  Not usually our children, but sometimes a sibling who leaves Jesus, and often church members who stop coming.  And the neighbors—most of them have heard about Jesus, but a lot have fallen away from church.  When God is trying to get them back, why are we saying that they will never listen, that it’s a waste of our time, or—God forbid—that we are better off without people like that in our church?  Did you breathe a sigh of relief when a member caught in sin decided to leave the church?  Did you raise a skeptical eyebrow at a visitor walked in looking like trouble?  Have you given up hope on those who have spent most of their Sundays saying “No thank you” to Jesus?  God leaves no man behind.  We do, though.  Why are our hearts so far from where God’s heart is?  Hopeless cases need Jesus too—they need to be brought back to him!

4.  We need Jesus. 
Religious pride is the problem—that’s the reason why our hearts are so wrong on this.  We are as much like the Pharisee as we are like the Tax Collector in Jesus’ story.  We are as much like the older brother as we are like the Prodigal Son.  When our brothers and sisters fall away from God, we leave them behind, because we think we are better than that.

On the other hand, ironically, it hurts our puffed up religious pride when they leave.  They are disgusted with us.  They think they are too good for us—and in our minds we say that we are better off without them—that actually they are too hopeless, too evil, and not worth our effort.  This is so wrong—when did we start thinking that this a place for people who are good enough to be here?  Isn’t this a place for people who aren’t worth the effort?  Didn’t Jesus come to save sinners, of whom I, like the apostle Paul, am the worst?  We need Jesus.  Where is Jesus, when we fall into thinking that we are better than others, and that we deserve to be here but they don’t? 

Here he is, trying to bring us back from being self-righteous Pharisees.  His Word has exposed that sinful pride, and we see how unlovable we are, we who leave anyone behind because they aren’t as good as we are.  “God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.”—and those words are a promise that in our self-righteous disobedience God still has mercy on us.  You aren’t kicked out of the church, and neither are you kicked out of God’s family.  Jesus’ blood has brought forgiveness for your pride.  God has taken away your history of leaving the fallen behind.  He says that you actually are like him, that you love the lost and don’t leave anyone behind—because that’s the new life that he has given you.  That’s the life that you have been baptized into.  Your life is not what you have done—your new life is Jesus, and you are defined by who Jesus is, because Jesus has joined himself to you by the water and Word.  We need Jesus.

5.  Back to the fallen—We all Need Jesus. 

Pray for them.  They are spiritually dead again, just like those who have never had faith.  Maybe you’ve had frustrating conversations with them as you have tried to bring them back to church, and you know how true it is that only Jesus can rescue them from this spiritual death!  Pray for them, and be ready to welcome them back with not even a hint of “you know you really should have known better”—because we are all here only by God’s great mercy.  In the darkest night of our disobedience, God’s mercy shines brightly.  We all need Jesus.