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. Playing games in God's Kingdom

PLAYING GAMES IN GOD'S KINGDOM

http://omarcarter.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/nowplaying_app_logo.jpgIsaiah 1:10-20 (ESV) 10 Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom! Give ear to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah! 11 What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the Lord; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. 12 “When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts? 13 Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations— I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. 14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. 15 When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. 16 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, 17 learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. 18 “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. 19 If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; 20 but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be eaten by the sword; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

Introduction.

Logos has just turned two years old, and today we celebrate the grace of God in allowing us to have started Logos. As I have said many times before we exist by the grace of God, for the Glory of God, for the extension of the Kingdom of God. Our primary purpose as contained in our purpose statement is the desire to know God and to make Him known.

Now we all know that we as Christians are letters written to this world, as we speak or exegete the glory of God to a lost world expressing the desire that all people should become passionate to sing the praises of the living God. I love the purpose statement of the church where John Piper is pastor. They simply say that they exist: “to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ.” Now surely that is our goal as well, and that should be the goal of every church and that should have been the goal of Israel and Judah of old “to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ.” Wow!

Sadly when you turn to Isaiah 1 you find that Judah and Israel for that matter failed in that task. What was supposed to be the true worship of one true God became fun and games in the Kingdom, and by that I simply mean that they did not take who they are as a chosen nation and who God is seriously. Somehow they were busy with the things of God instead of with the God of the things. They were going through the motions but they had no heart for the worship of God.

I remember when I was a youth leader many years ago I would literally want to pull out my hair because when I wanted to get serious around the things of God the young people wanted to play games. You would often hear my voice echo around the hall saying: “come on guys, you are behaving like hooligans, let’s get serious now.”

And so in the chapter before us you hear God saying “come on my people, you are behaving like Sodom and Gomorra, let’s get serious now.”

The problem of Judah and Israel was great because their leaders were playing games and the people were playing games, which is why God addresses the Rulers of Sodom and the people of Gomorra. It was so bad that if you look back at verse 9 Isaiah says that they should have actually been destroyed like Sodom and Gomorra were destroyed if not for the grace of God. Are we much better off as the church of Christ today? Now whether we agree or not, I remember a pastor remarking way back in the early 80’s that “the church has become so godless that if God were to forgive us, He needs to apologise to Sodom and Gomorra”. Now, he did not really mean it, and his understanding of New Testament grace was intact, but we got his point. Well there is a remedy, and that is to hear God and to understand His concerns and to pitch our ears to hear what God has to say about the solution to the problem.

So, what is before us today is a call to hear the Word of God or the Word from God as we see in verse 1, but it is actually even a little more intimate as verse 18 says: “come now, let us reason together.” It is more important to hear God than for God to hear us.

I have often quoted the prayer of Spurgeon where he prayed: “oh, God, may we again desire thee and not thine.” If you dig into the text you will notice that what is at stake here is the worship of God which was seen in the coming together of the people of God, it was seen in their sacrifices, it was seen in their feasts or special days and seen in their prayers. Judah and Israel for that matter had a form of worship that was dead.

They had a form of worship but the water and the nourishment of it wasn’t there so it’s dead. It’s a picture really of how a faithful Bible regulated worship can be an abomination before God, how you can do all the right things in worship, you can have all the right sacrifices lined up. In fact, you can go beyond what Scripture commands and not just bring calves, not just bring cattle but you can bring fed cattle, fattened cattle; you’re going to go beyond it. How it is that a people can do all the right things on paper, to do it by the book, and yet have completely empty kind of worship? This is always an issue with the remnant. You can keep the Sabbath, you can do all the right things but in the heart, in the home, in the shop, there are sins of commission and sins of omission that destroy the worship of God as it exists among the people of God.

 

So the problem with Judah was that it became a day for their religion but it was not a day that reflected their hearts and their lives on the other six days of the week. So, the problem with their worship wasn’t the worship, it was what happened before the worship and what happened after the worship and that’s what we find here.

 

So for the rest of this sermon I want to focus on 6 truths that we find in the text before us. It is in the outline in your hands as we do not have PowerPoint before us today. So I have given you the printed text and the 6 points. Furthermore you can take notes.

 

I want to look with you in the first place at: How religious people can go through the motions of worship and still be like Sodom. (Verse 10).

Secondly: How biblically ordered worship can become an offense to God. (Verses 11-15).

Thirdly: How an offensive people to God can repent. (Verses 16 – 17).

Fourthly: How a repenting people can be cleansed. (Verse 18.)

Fifthly: How a cleansed and obedient people will be blessed. (Verse 19)

Sixthly: How a disobedient people will be destroyed. (Verse 20)

 

Point 1. How religious people can go through the motions of worship and still be like Sodom.

 

Let me say at the outset. When we are talking about worshippers needing to hear the Word of the Lord as we see in verse 1 where Isaiah says: 10 Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom! Give ear to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah”, we are not talking about those who are doing funny stuff in worship.  I can tell you many stories, from pastors boxing one another in the ring while the Word of God being preached to show victorious Christian living, where pastors come riding in church on a motorbike and members bouncing beach balls around to keep them focussed and awake. I can tell you about a church that installed football posts in their church because the pastor was a professional football player, and the person who brings the most guests on a Sunday gets to kick a ball at the goal and if he kicks it through he can win a few hundred dollars. Some churches look more like a circus or an entertainment centre than the people of God in worship. However, I am not talking about them. We can talk all day long about the unregulated, bankrupt, worldly, entertainment driven worship that exists in the church today but that’s not what this passage is about.

 

This passage is about a people who are doing everything right and according to precision with a level of seriousness. Actually they are prescribing to everything commanded by God, yet God calls their leaders the ‘rulers of Sodom’ and their people the ‘people of Gomorra’.

 

It is about a people of God for who the worship of God from Sunday to Friday in their case and Monday to Saturday in our case has become a burden. It is the same complaint from God as we see in Micah 6:3 (ESV) where God cries out to His people: 3 “O my people, what have I done to you? How have I wearied you? Answer me!” It is the same scenario where God cries out to His people in Malachi 1:6-10 (ESV) 6 “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’ 7 By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted you?’ By saying that the Lord’s table may be despised. 8 When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the Lord of hosts. 9 And now entreat the favor of God, that he may be gracious to us. With such a gift from your hand, will he show favor to any of you? says the Lord of hosts. 10 Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand.”

And this heart cry of God goes out around the world today, it moves through the pews of churches, targeting individuals whose hearts have grown cold, and whose sacrifices and worship has become unacceptable to the point that God says that it would be better for somebody to shut the doors as church leaders have become rulers of Sodom and members the people of Gomorrah. They have simply lost their heart of worship and are busy with the things of God and ignoring the God of the things. They are in the Kingdom but are treating the worship of God like nothing more than fun and games.

So they are challenged by Isaiah to hear the Word of the Lord, to give ear to the teaching of God. Now we are blessed every Sunday to be in the Word, but hearing is not just hearing words and sounds, it is listening with intent, grappling with the information and doing something about it. It is deeper. It fits with the messages to the seven churches of Asia where each one is challenge: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

There was nobody better in knowing the law and the teachings of God than the Pharisees and yet there was nobody as far from God as the Pharisees. Jesus says of them in Matthew 23:28 (ESV) 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” He says they are white plastered graves, an outwardly clean mug but inwardly dirty. He calls them a brood of vipers. They listened to the Word of God weekly, but their hearts were untouched.

So the challenge comes to us today to hear the word of the Lord.

I was hoping to do this as one sermon, but I need to break it up into two as there is just not time to wrap it all up. So I will continue with it next week and want to ask you not to miss it for all the money in the world as we are going to touch on major critical issues.

 

But as we draw it to a close today.

 

There is a challenge firstly to us as spiritual leaders. We have five men here today who are all theologically qualified. And we represent a broad spectrum of training and experience. We have Johann who is Methodist trained and with more than 25 years’ experience in the ministry, we have Mark who has done studies and is now studying through SATS. We have Ivan who studied at Baptist College and who completed a few years in the pastorate, and then Ernie, who trained in a Charismatic context and with over 25 years in the pastorate and then there is me with 10 years of theological studies through Baptist Seminary and Unisa with 33 years of pastoral experience. And all of us from our varied backgrounds are God’s gift to you. You will never have to say I am of Nicki, or I am of Johann or I am of Ernie or so on as we are all simply of Christ. But the message comes to all of us today, to check our hearts and to make sure that our worship is all about Him and that we are hearing God and obeying God, and that we all forget about our little kingdoms and focus on His big Kingdom.

 

This sermon is maybe for most, more preventative than a cure. May we never even with the other spiritual leaders, elder qualified men in our midst be called rulers of Sodom?

 

I have often wondered why God has brought to life Logos Community Church. We all were plugged in elsewhere. And what dawns on me at least in some respect is that it is simply God’s faithfulness. Isaiah 1:9 (ESV) 9 If the Lord of hosts had not left us a few survivors, we should have been like Sodom, and become like Gomorrah.” It is God’s mercy that He allows a remnant to survive who are willing to glorify Him whatever it may cost. There is hope for us as leaders as we will see next week: “though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. 19 If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land;”

So leaders, let’s do some heart searching even before we march through the rest of the text and let’s commit ourselves to the Kingdom of God and the God of the Kingdom whatever it may cost.

And this goes not just for the leaders here, it goes for all of us. Last time we were here in the Game Reserve I preached from Judges and you remember the critical verse I quoted. It was in Judges 5:2 (ESV) 2 “That the leaders took the lead in Israel, that the people offered themselves willingly, bless the Lord!” Some translations say: “When the leaders lead, and the people willingly sacrifice themselves, blessed be the Lord.”

The sins of Sodom and Gomorrah were exceedingly grave and God is speaking of them here, but there is even hope for those who are like Sodom. It’s very grave sin to disfigure the glory of God, it is a gave sin to disconnect worship from life, it is a grave sin to disconnect faith from works and to say that one just has to go through some particular religious duties, some ceremonies and some rituals.

 

There is something greater in the text here. It’s actually the greatness of a heart that longs to obey God. Now if you think that the days of Isaiah were not like our days, let me close today with two verses, one from Isaiah and one from Matthew and then you do the math. Isaiah 29:13 (ESV) 13 And the Lord said: “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honour me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men.” And then listen to Matthew 15:8-9 (ESV) 8 “‘This people honours me with their lips, but their heart is far from me;” 9 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ”

Oh may we come back to a heart of worship and realise that it is all about God and not about us, or our likes, or our preferences, or our traditions. It is all about Him.

 

Amen!

Logos Community Church:- 16 March 2014