THE LORD CALLS OUT FOR ALL TO SEEK HIM
Dear friends in Christ,
So you are feeling anxious. Maybe even panicky. You didn’t get any sleep because the mind didn’t turn off. How did you deal with it? Did you close your eyes and start counting sheep? Did you take deep breaths? Did you dig out those stress balls and squeeze them? Or maybe you took a walk or went on a jog.
But then you are a Christian. You certainly didn’t forget that. You prayed. You got on your knees either figuratively or literally. Did you search the Scripture? I hope so! Which chapter? The 23rd Psalm? Psalm 27? Psalm 51? There are so many good psalms. Maybe you went to the book of Job. Chapter 38 is a good chapter. You read but you listen. You are humbled as God speaks like a machine gun reminding all that he is and what he has done. It makes us feel foolish to doubt that he is who he is and he is in control.
The book of Isaiah is a good book too. There is Isaiah 40. From Isaiah’s perspective the Savior is coming who brings you comfort. From our perspective he already came. Read it slowly and thoughtfully. Read chapter 53 about the Savior who bore your sins and iniquities. Read chapter 55. God invites us to believe in him. Our sermon reading comes from this chapter. “The Lord Calls Out For All to Seek Him.” 1) Now; 2) How; 3) Wow!
Now! “The Lord Calls Out For All to Seek Him”… Now! “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near.” I saw a recent article stating that one in 10 Americans believe there is no God, but strangely enough only three percent identify themselves as atheists. I assume that means people will identify themselves as agnostic but not atheists. But in the same article they say there is a new study that suggests that the true number of atheists could be as many as one in four! In fact, they say 26%.
There are so many reasons to believe in the Lord. There are so many reasons to follow him all the time. Roger Ailes died this week. Lots of bad things have been said about him in the last year. I am not trying to defend him or accuse him. But he once spoke to group of young men and said,
“My experience has taught me that those who believe in God not only have a more successful life, but a happier one. The premise of God will be challenged throughout your lifetime. Higher education institutions challenge it all the time. The media has begun to question openly whether people’s belief in God is real, even making fun of people who have core beliefs. I was on a television show once and another guest made fun of the fact that I said God exists.
And he said, “How could you believe in some fantasy? Miracle birth, life after death. It’s unrealistic.” And I said, “Let me tell you what I think is unrealistic. I think it’s unrealistic to believe that somewhere in outer space two big rocks crashed together with a bang and now I have a wonderful family, freedom, and opportunity.” We’re gathered here with love and fellowship and friends. You can bang rocks together all you want; you cannot create what we have here. Maybe God can create life from big bangs, but rocks can’t.
I don’t know whether he was suggesting God used the Big Bang either. I don’t agree with that, but clearly he said God has to be at the beginning of all things. Creation demonstrates there is a God.
Isaiah goes way beyond this. The reality of death and what comes after is reason to believe there is a God. You never know when you will die. A couple of weeks ago there were six teens killed in two separate crashes in metro-Atlanta. Imagine the parents who got the call that no parent wants to get. Do those grieving parents know where their children are now? Do they have the hope of seeing them again? “There is but one small step between life and death.” Isaiah’s words ring out to all, “Seek the Lord while he may be found.”
Seek the Lord now in faith, not just for advice, not just for temporary help through one of life’s rough spots. Seek the Lord now as the Savior from sin. A pastor had to warn an adulteress that if she died the day he spoke to her she would go to hell. She made it known that she had a goal to sleep with a different guy each night after work. How wicked the sinful flesh can be! She quit driving on I-85 to downtown and took streets there where the traffic was slower. Traffic was slower. An accident would not be so violent. That isn’t what the Lord had in mind here when he says, “Seek the Lord while he may be found.”
Remember that now means now, all the time. Don’t think you can take some years off to have some unrestricted and ungodly fun and get back to him later. God is God all the time. There are challenges to be faithful all the time. The sinful flesh is sinful all the time. Seek the LORD now. The Lord Calls Out For All to Seek Him - Now.
The Lord calls out for all to seek him not only now but also explains how. Isaiah writes, “Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts.” You forsake something when you know it is not good for you. The problem is we don’t always know what is good or bad for us. The sinful flesh likes a lot of things that are not good and godly. I like what St. Augustine once said on this subject, “Sin comes when we take a perfectly natural desire or longing or ambition and try desperately to fulfill it without God.” We need to put the Lord into the decision making process. His way, not our way; his thoughts, not our thoughts.
We need a whole new way of thinking. That’s what repentance is. That’s how we come seek the Lord with a whole new way of thinking. In the Bible the Sadducees didn’t believe in heaven or hell. They needed to think differently. If they had, they would have seen the need for Jesus as Savior. If it is more important to make money, or to live life on your terms than God’s, you need to change your thinking. If your ways are more important than God’s ways, it is time to change your thinking. It is time to repent. That’s how we seek the Lord.
What’s the LORD like? One word – Wow! “Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.” Our sins were not and are not an unsolvable problem. To us – yes; not to the Lord. Notice the picture here – turn to the Lord! Don’t walk away from him. Turn to him. He has the solution. He wants to and does freely pardon. How do we know? Jesus is the proof. His life and death and resurrection, done and witnessed and recorded – that’s the proof!
This thought makes me smile. God is omnipotent. God is omniscient. But there are things he can’t do. What are they? Some of you might say he can’t lie. He can’t sin. He can’t take back promises he has made. What makes me smile is this: He can’t remember. What do you mean by that? “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more. What God forgives, He forgets. Wow! Martin Luther once said (and isn’t this the truth?) that sin is like a little black dog that keeps barking and biting our own consciences, even though we have been forgiven. Our God is way better than we are at forgiving and forgetting.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” We like to quote this verse when we go through a time of testing. We ask the Lord “why?” The unbeliever reacts with contempt. “If your God is so good then why did he allow this to happen?” We like to use this passage. God has his reasons that aren’t always evident to us. “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” In context these words have more to say to the Wow Factor about the way our God saves.
The moment sin ruined everything, God already had a plan in place. The plan was prophesied. The plan was personalized. The Lord made it personal. God the Son came in the flesh. God the Spirit did a miracle that the Son became flesh in the Virgin Mary. He was flesh but no ordinary child. You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor so that you through his poverty might become rich.
He was willing to lower himself and occupy our space to live in our place. He was willing to bear our sin as the world record holder of sin and die to pay for them all. He was willing to suffer the hell of being forsaken by the Father. He gave up his life in death. To prove that the cost of sin was paid he arose on the third day so we would rise on the last day. He gave us Baptism which seems so ordinary but because he places promises in it, we receive the extraordinary. There is this Holy Meal of forgiveness in which he comes to us personally and gives us proof of forgiveness – himself, his body and blood. Why? To reassure each of us that he is committed to a relationship with us that will last forever. Who would have thunk? His ways and thoughts are indeed so much higher than ours. Wow!
We are connected to these promises because they are in black and white. He says these are “my Words.” When God speaks, it is time to listen. How can we not?
“As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
Many years ago a member died at another church which I pastored. Claude was from Michigan. The family wanted me to preach at the funeral where he had been introduced to the Lord. The pastor at the church led the service and I preached the sermon. The pastor did something prior to the service that I thought was so good. Before the procession we normally have a prayer before we the procession goes into the sanctuary. He had a devotion on the words I just read.
Many come to funerals who are not members of God’s household. The pastor read these words and simply encouraged the people to understand what happens when God’s word is read and preached. It is like rain or a snow that refreshes the ground. Questions about death and life and hope are given. As you listen and have questions please ask.
The words of God are like a gentle shower. They bring hope instead of doubt and questions. They bring pardon from guilt. They bring life from death. The promises make us say “Wow!