I'm scheduled to preach in the morning. I don't know just what I'm going to say even though I've been working on this message off and on since mid afternoon, and though I've been praying about it all week. So I guess I'll do what I have often done in the past few years when I seem to be stuck -- I'll write to you... to the one or two people who might see this blog post tonight. I wonder how long it will take to get this done?
Now I'm about ready to post this... it's 8:15 Sunday morning. Please pray that the Lord would bless His Word as it is preached today.
Added 5:00 PM - you can access the recording and visuals here.
We've been blessed at Crossroads as God has led us into a series of messages focused around the ten chapters of Graeme Sellers' book The Dangerous Kind. Now we're onto message #10 -- a message I've titled "The Choice of the Dangerous Kind." Graeme calls it "This Is Your Life."
Before the message we'll be reading Deuteronomy 30:19-20 (and some surrounding verses) and Matthew 7:13-15. The first of those passages includes the famous words "choose life" and the second, equally famous, says this:
"Go in by the narrow gate. For the wide gate has a broad road which leads to disaster and there are many people going that way. The narrow gate and the hard road lead out into life and only a few are finding it."Those are Jesus words. Words that Jesus speaks, not to everyone in general, and certainly not to those who don't yet know who Jesus is...
Actually, those are Jesus' words to those who had already made some sort of decision, whether well thought out or not, to follow him. Jesus' audience has already tasted his goodness and love and they had already decided they wanted more.
How do we know that?
Go to Matthew 4:23...
"... He [Jesus] went throughout all Galilee, teaching... and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.And at that point Jesus begins the long speech we call "The Sermon on the Mount"; and the "narrow gate" passage is part of it.
"So his fame spread... and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them. And great crowds followed him...
"Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them..." (Mt 4:23-5:2)
Here's what I see: The choice of the narrow gate with the hard road, or the wide gate with the easy road is given to people who have already had a positive experience with the Lord. People like that have, by then, already made a decision, of one sort or another, to follow Him, at least in the sense of wanting to know or hear more about Jesus. The message about choice isn't given to those who only have heard about him but who haven't had personal experience with him. The choice isn't given to those who have only just heard the testimony of other people or mere teaching about our Lord.
It's not about a first decision to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. It's about the continual decision to live as if Jesus really were Lord.
The same is true of the "Choose Life" passage of Deuteronomy 30. The people of Israel were already chosen by God and they were already a part of His family. They had already benefited from the saving power of God, leading them out of slavery in Egypt, bringing them safe through the wilderness of their rebellion. By this point God had already treated the people of Israel as his own. And yet, they were given a choice. Don't be distracted! Stay with me!
The choice wasn't to be or not to be one of God's children, but, instead, like in Matthew 7, the choice is for those who are already God's people to decide to follow in his ways, to act and to bring blessing to the world--to be, in their daily lives, the people God had already chosen them to be.
Grace always comes first, and then the choice is irresistible... like in "choose this day who you will serve" in Joshua or "will you also go away" in John 6:68. We say "Where else will we go? You are life and love and truth! You're the best, Jesus! We will love because you loved us first."
The fact is this: God always loves first. He always chooses first. He chooses. He pursues. And when we come to know Jesus, when we learn about him, we know God does loves and chooses every one of his human creatures. Even those who are the most far away.
So then, "the choice" of life or not life, the choice of following Jesus on the narrow path or following the world on the easy wide road... that choice is given only to those who already been chosen by God and who have been filled with his grace and love, to those who know they belong to him.
The choice is whether we will live in a way that honors Him and His choice for us. Whether we will follow him in pursuing the lost.
God's choice, his most dangerous choice, was to accept you and me into His family! What a risk! Therefore the only choice we have is whether or not we will copy his way of choosing.
- The choice is whether we, like Jesus, will leave the 99 who are safe and go in pursuit of the one who is lost.
- The choice is whether we, like Jesus, will passionately dare to pray and then, upon God's command, enter the dark places to bring light and life and hope.
There is an enemy who will get us off track. There is an enemy who comes to distract and dissuade... that is, to take us away from God's purpose... to make us something less than soldiers of God in this world.
At the beginning of this series of messages we put this picture up on the screen.
Is this how you think of your daily life? That you, a son or daughter of God, would be one of those who is sent into this world to rescue and reclaim those who are caught in darkness? The devil does not want you to think of yourself like that.
Here are Graeme Sellers words:
"The father of lies urges us to settle for nominal Christianity, for an unobtrusive, inoffensive fondness for Jesus that sentimentalizes him and minimizes the kingdom reign he ushers in."It's true. Satan comes up to us every day and whispers to us that we're really not very important. The devil tells us that the best we can do is to receive God's grace, that we will never be strong enough, not even with God by our side... that we will never be strong enough to really do anything significant for God
He'll tells us that "mission" is something we do in other places and that our every day life right here can never be as exciting or important to the Kingdom of God as what missionaries do, or what we do when we travel to another place. He'll tell us that only big churches and large crowds and flashy presentations are true signs of God's presence.
He'll tell us that you and I, in a little church in Dassel-Cokato can certainly not be important to Him.
And then the devil will tell us to
"... make ourselves comfortable...He'll convince us of things like imitating Christ's supernatural ministry is "mythology for half-wits" and
These are quotes, more or less, from Graeme Sellers' book.
"... that since we will always have the poor with us, then it is senseless to attempt to do anything about poverty.
The devil tells us
"... we ought to grasp for promotion and greatness...I believe this is true from the Word of God:
"...that we are free to pick and choose the words of God we like and discard the ones we deem personally irrelevant or culturally insensitive."
"Satan makes a play for our heart.Satan makes a play for our heart. He makes a play for the heart of believers. He tempts us to live for ourselves, to abandon the mission God has given us.
[Satan tells us that] "love must be doled out in careful measure to those meriting it but never to those who do not. How awful it would be, he tells us, to love someone who engages in practices and promotes viewpoints we do not, and in so doing inadvertently endorse them and their flawed, sinful ways. Keep love in reserve and guard your heart, the thief of hearts counsels us; it is much smarter and safer that way. Not loving unconditionally – that's really better for everyone concerned."
And then, worst of all,
"He [the evil One] will shame us and scold us and scare us, insisting that our bad behavior condemns us... and that our failings are the final word on our lives."You're done. You're out. You're disqualified.You may as well give up now."
" 'You had your chance,' [the devil will] tell us when God makes us an offer to become the dangerous kind and we refuse it, 'You blew it. And that's all there is to say-you're done
Those are the worst words that can be thrown at us.
But those are never words of God.
Jesus, who most clearly represents the heart of God came, not to condemn us, but to save us. And when our hearts condemn us, when Satan's scheme succeeds and our hearts fall into his hands, God is greater than our hearts!
God continue to choose us, even when we fail to choose him... he is stubborn and frustratingly persistent. He can take no for an answer, and he grieves when we refuse the call... but as long as we live he continues to pursue.
Here's a final quote from Graeme's The Dangerous Kind
This is truth that blows prison doors right off their hinges. Whenever our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts. Whenever our sin accuses us, God is greater than our sin. When it comes to being the dangerous kind, even though we keep refusing, God keeps offering. Why? Can't he take a hint? Can't he take no for an answer? Well, yes, he can, but he'd really rather not. He knows us better than we could ever hope to know ourselves. Our sin and stubbornness never surprise him and they do not deter him. He knows what we can be if only we will say yes to him.He knows what we can be if only we say yes to Him.
We, like Jesus, can become the Dangerous Kind. Right here. Right now. In Dassel-Cokato, pursuing the lost, piercing the darkness with His love.
God already made the most dangerous choice, choosing you and me to belong to him while we were still the worst sinners in the world.
He only calls us to follow him, to choose as he has, and not to shrink back.
Okay, that's all the prep I have time for. I still need to rearrange the slides and make a few more. Visuals are helpful... and then I'll run and pick up a man from the Cokato Apartments.
Hope to see you today... or on a future Sunday... at Crossroads... the most dangerous little church I know.