God Prepares the Way

On December 16, 2007, a power failure at Manor Church meant that we had to cancel our worship services. Here is the text of the message that was to be given that day. It was message number 3 in a series on “EPIC: God’s Grand Story.”

God Prepares the Way

Youth With A Mission / New Life Church
(Lines that stand alone describe a slide that was to be shown on the screen in the service.)

We live in a world of beauty.
We live in a world of violence, injustice and suffering.
A young man with inner confusion and wild ideas takes up guns – kills four innocent people – is shot – and then kills himself.
There are more questions than we can answer.
There is more than enough pain to go around.

Lynyrd Skynyrd music group

In the midst of the pain and darkness people everywhere long for a better world.
Perhaps you recognize these people. Lynyrd Skynyrd – music group with a Southern blues rock style.
Started in the 70’s. Still going.
One of their songs is Simple Man, released in the year 200.
A mother is talking to her son.
Forget your lust for the rich man’s gold / All that you need is in your soul.
And you can do this if you try.
All I want for you my son, Is to be satisfied.
People long for meaning in life.
We will return to that search for meaning in a few minutes.

History

Let’s think about history –especially the philosophy of history.
Are you up to that kind of thinking today?
What is history like?

Circle with arrows

Is it cyclical? Events and trends always repeating themselves in an endless cycle?
Some people say so.

Idol

Some religions say so.
Last month Pastor Ben and I were in India, where the predominant religion is Hinduism.
Hinduism believes in reincarnation
When the body dies, the soul is reborn – perhaps as a new human being, perhaps as an animal. (Don’t kill that frog – it may be your grandmother.)
Endless cycles for the human soul.
Some say that history is cyclical.

Straight arrow

Others say that history is linear. It is going somewhere, moving forward toward a certain goal.
What is your view of history? What is the biblical view of history?
We will return to that question in a moment.

EPIC

In this series we are learning about epic as it relates to the Bible.
Epic – the overarching story of what God is doing.

God is setting things right on planet Earth and in the universe.
1. Before time began, God was.
2. God created everything good, but sin brought tragic results.
3.

One way of summarizing this epic is to say that God is setting things right on planet Earth and, in fact, in the universe.
We can lay out this story in five chapters.
We have already seen:
Chapter 1. Before time began, God was.
2. God created everything good, but sin brought tragic results.
By the end of today’s message we will fill in chapter 3.

I will bless you…Genesis 12:1-4

Let’s begin by reading about an event that took place early in human history.
Genesis 12. A man named Abram. READ

God called Abraham and his descendents (Israel) to be a blessing to all nations.

What we learn here is that God called….
He said to Abram: I will bless you and make your descendents to be a great nation. Israel…
But this blessing I’m talking about is not just for your own benefit.
I want to bless all nations and all people groups – so your descendents are to live with a large purpose – to tell all nations about my love for them.

Slavery – Exodus – into the Promised Land / Judges / United Kingdom / Divided Kingdom / Exile and return

So God set out to accomplish this purpose in the history of the nation Israel.
You see the major periods of their history listed here on screen.
Some religions discount the value of history. Islam is one.
Islam claims that the Quran (their Scripture) is sent down from heaven and is not contingent upon history.
But if history is incidental to Islam, it is central to Judaism and Christianity – because both Judaism and Christianity teach that God is working out his purposes right here in human history.

Yahweh / Covenant / Law / Sacrifices / Worship / Prophets / Priests / Kings

So God revealed himself to Israel in specific ways.
First of all was his personal name: Yahweh.
Then followed each of the other developments you see on the screen. Through each of these features the Jews learned something more about God – his nature, and what he wants to do in our world.

But Israel often turned away from God to idols.

God’s desire for his people was that they should love him with a pure devotion – and obey him with an undivided heart.
But often the people did not live up to what God wanted.
They turned away from Yahweh to worship idols.
The story of Israel is the story of an unfaithful nation – like an unfaithful wife.
Spiritual adultery – that’s what Israel succumbed to.

Circle: Idols / Warning / Judgment / Repent / Restore

So this cycle was repeated time after time.
Comment…
This cycle was repeated time after time in Israel’s history.
The tragic cycle was finally broken in the 500’s B.C.
God sent his people into captivity in Babylon. And there they had a change of heart that was permanent.
Since that captivity the Jews have never worshiped idols, to this day.

But God continued to carry out his plan to send a special Deliverer.

Now, the incredible thing about Yahweh is that despite Israel’s unfaithfulness, he never abandoned his epic – his overall plan.
He continued developing his epic.
He kept promising to send a special person through the Jewish nation – a Deliverer, a Rescuer, a Savior for the whole world.

a child is born / Isaiah 9:6-7

One well-known promise from God about this Deliverer is found in the writings of the prophet Isaiah. READ…
From where we stand today, we see that this prophecy is being fulfilled in Jesus Christ – whose birthday we will celebrate in just over a week.

Straight arrow

Let’s return to our earlier discussion about the philosophy of history.
The biblical view of history is not cyclical. It is linear.
History is moving forward purposefully.
It is moving toward a specific goal – not a goal that we humans dreamed up – but the goal set by God himself.
That goal is the establishment of the reign of God – the kingdom of God – here on this earth.
And no matter how much damage God’s enemy Satan does in the meantime, God will accomplish his goal. You can count on that!
History is his story.

God calls the church to a worldwide mission.

Now, everything we learned about Israel has direct implications for the church today.
The plan that God started in Abraham and Israel, he is continuing in the church.
God is calling the church to a worldwide mission of making Christ known – taking the good news about Jesus to all peoples everywhere.

God calls the church to repent.

Sadly, like Israel, the church sometimes fails to be faithful to God.
We get busy with our own petty agenda. We turn to the false gods of our day.
When that happens, God calls the church to repent.
Recently Bill Hybels and his staff took a hard look at their church – the mega church Willow Creek Church located near Chicago.
They found that they were leading many people to confess faith in Christ – but then they were neglecting obedience and discipleship – and their people were falling away in huge numbers.
They were not continuing to follow Christ.
So Bill Hybels did a brave and unusual thing: he publicly repented of his failure – and Willow Creek’s failure – to build Christian disciples.
What about Manor Church?
In what ways have we been faithful to God’s mission?
What false gods are tempting us?
What do we have to repent of?

God is working out his purposes in history.

But God is serious about his mission – his overarching grand story.
Whether a given church is faithful or unfaithful, God will find a way to work out his purposes in history.
He will keep on acting out his epic.

God is setting things right on planet Earth and in the universe.
1. Before time began, God was.
2. God created everything good, but sin brought tragic results.
3. God chose Israel for a special mission.

So now we are ready to add chapter 3 to God’s great epic: God chose Israel for a special mission.
That mission included sending the Messiah or Deliverer.
And despite Israel’s unfaithfulness, God carried out his plan.
The Messiah has come. His name is Jesus.

Straight arrow

The search for meaning – the Lynyrd Skynyrd song – “All I want for you my son, Is for you to be satisfied.”
Your life will never make sense if you live only for yourself.
But if you take God seriously – if you follow Christ in daily life – the pieces of life will eventually come together.
Through Jesus Christ, God is working out his loving purposes for the human race.
For the rest of our service we will celebrate God’s wisdom and love in carrying out his great plans – that focus on Jesus Christ, his Son.

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5 Responses

  1. I quickly scanned the above. This series which takes the redemption story through linear history has been such a blessing. Sorry I can’t have my friend Jane join me. She seems determined to attend her own church, when she goes. What a marvelous reality of God made flesh and dwelling among us!

    Verna

  2. Great sermon, John!

  3. This is a sermon that should be retold sometime soon. We all need these words to be reminders of our imperfections and our need for God daily. Not only in a time of need. This past Sunday, when the church was closed, gave me a touch of how it feels to not have this religious freedom.
    Worshiping together is a Freedom we take for granted. We are so Blessed.

  4. Great message! Only wish we could have heard it live. And a reference to Lynyrd Skynyrd in a John Hawbaker sermon, how awsome is that! You are truely a gifted preacher.

  5. Because I know you so well…when I read it I can hear you speaking it and see your mannerisms, too. Simply put, communicated so that anyone can understand what really has always mattered to God. Another inspired and gifted series.

    Thanks for being a faithful servant/teacher.

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