Sometime over the weekend, I started to think about something that was quite interesting. I’m hoping you don’t think this is too deep for a Monday, yet I think it is worthy considering we just had Resurrection Sunday. I’m not sure how to even introduce it other than to describe things as they unfold on a typical “Easter.” First, it’s a big Christian holiday, to be sure. Families gather from all over the place. New clothes are purchased for children. You know the routine. Lutherans also have a tradition of greeting each other with, “His is Risen!” to which others respond, “He is Risen, indeed!”
All this is very joyous as we consider the resurrection of Jesus – as it should be. So much so that we invite all sorts of people to church. Churches are stuffed to overflowing. Pastors hone their sermons for this crop, almost like a fisherman anticipating the smelt run. When it’s all said and done, we realize that it happened so quickly, and we caught very few fish. Even so, we anticipate next year. Sometimes we remember that salvation is God’s work. Other times, we don’t. Perhaps much of our excitement hinges on the hope that if we do things just right, we might increase our catch.
Sure, God may use Resurrection Sunday as the moment of salvation for many, but I don’t know of a single person coming to faith over this weekend. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not getting all down on any of this. It did, however, get me to thinking about something else. Would we, believers, be as excited about this holiday if we knew that nobody would be saved? Would we go out of our way to bring people to church – hoping the preacher would get through to them – if we knew for a fact that they wouldn’t be saved or never would be saved, ever? What if our marching orders were like Isaiah’s?
Isaiah 6:8-10 And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” And he said, “Go, and say to this people: ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”
Yes, you read that right. It doesn’t make sense. In fact, I have the following notes as reference. Look them up. Mark 4:12, Matthew 13:14-15, Luke 8:10, John 12:40, Acts 28:26-27. It’s no typo. It doesn’t make sense, that is, unless you realize that God hardens some hearts while at the same time softening others. In fact, when we really start digging into things, we start seeing it does indeed make sense. Oh, I might add, that it takes the Holy Spirit for ears to hear and eyes to see. No spiritual understanding comes apart from God.
So, what if God’s mission for us was different than we might think? What if God intended us to deliver a gospel message to ears that wouldn’t hear and eyes that will never see? What if our message was to do nothing other than to harden hearts? Would we still, then, get all excited for Easter and pack the house with non-believers?
Think about it. Would we still rejoice as we do if we knew that God would convert not one single soul that we witnessed to? I wonder sometimes about this. I’m not pointing fingers here. I’m wondering about myself. I get really excited about the prospect of being part of a salvation message. Indeed, so does heaven! Conversion is a great reason to celebrate. But, is that the reason, alone, to share the gospel? Do we do it so that we may celebrate? Think about this for a minute. If the reason we share the gospel is so that we might rejoice and enjoy spiritual blessings, then maybe we are doing it for ourselves.
Did I actually say that? I did. Again, I’m asking this of myself. Let’s quickly take it to the extreme. Would I share the gospel if I received NO spiritual fruit? If sharing the gospel is an act of worship, would I worship if I had all my spiritual blessings removed? What if I became like Job with everything taken away and even my spouse encouraged me to “curse God and die”? Would I still rejoice in the Lord? What if all my possessions were suddenly, permanently stripped from me? What if my family was suddenly taken from me? What if everyone turned against me and told me my faith was flawed if not outright evil? Would I still praise God?
I think this is a good lesson to settle in my mind and spirit. Are those “things”, those blessings, the reason I praise the Lord and share my faith? Let’s take it a step further. Is my own salvation the reason I worship God? If so, then I am no better than the non-believers for they, too, will one day worship Jesus. Let’s not forget this.
Philippians 2:9-11 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Certainly, God is to be worshiped for who he is and not the spiritual blessings we receive. In and of himself, he is worthy to be praised.
Romans 1:18-23 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they become futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.
Just in case anyone is wondering, Paul is talking about me in this passage. And, you. Nowhere in there does it say our praise is meant to be contingent on God blessing us with anything. No, in simply the things that have been made are we to offer praise. And that, my friends, is plain to us. We are without excuse.
Even so, we have hope in promises to come. On earth? Not so much. No, our promise is somewhere else. I’m going to give you a sampling of scripture and call it good for today. This stuff is giving me pause to think. I hope it does so with you.
Isaiah 25:9 It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord, we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”
Isaiah 49:14-16 But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me.” “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me.”
Habakkuk 3:17-19 Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.
Hebrews 11:13-16 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had the opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.
Friends, please pray for my friend, Jim A., who has just returned home from the removal of a malignant brain tumor. I don’t know anything more than that. He welcomes our prayer.
Father, we ask that your will be done for Jim. In light of today’s lesson, we know that you have prepared a place for Jim, and all believers, so that he may have great hope in the things that are unseen. Yes, we pray for complete recovery and place the matter entirely in your hands. We rejoice in whatever you have for Jim and for each of us. This world is not our concern other than to give thanks and praise to you in all circumstances. Yes, you are worthy, no matter what. Amen.
Copyright © 2018 Scott Powers