Pastor's Sermon 3/11/18

Numbers 21:4-9 * Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22 * Ephesians 2:1-10 * John 3:14-21

Pastor Ed Harshbarger

 

“A call to social revolution”

 

THE OPENING WORDS OF JOHN 3:16, “GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD,” WERE THE WORDS THAT ULTIMATELY NAILED JESUS TO THE CROSS.

THE TEXT CERTAINLY REPRESENTS GOD’S ATTITUDE TOWARD THE WORLD BUT IT DID NOT REPRESENT THE ATTITUDE OF THE PEOPLE TO WHOM THE WORDS WERE FIRST ADDRESSED.

The religious leaders in Israel in Jesus’ day, like many Christian leaders in America today, do not want a God who loves the world.

Indeed, religious leaders all over the world seem to prefer a God who only loves the people of their particular race, color and creed.

As long as God is embracing US we love him, but when he embraces people we don’t want him to love then we, like the Pharisees, start looking for a cross on which to hang him.

AS I IMPLIED IN #2 ABOVE, IT IS NOT JUST JEWS AND CHRISTIANS WHO HAVE THIS PROBLEM - RELIGIOUS AND POLITICAL LEADERS ALL OVER THE WORLD HAVE TROUBLE WITH A GOD WHO EMBRACES ALL PEOPLE EQUALLY.

Too many Moslems and Christians do not want a God who desires to put his arms around both groups.

Too many white or black skinned Americans do not want a God who embraces both groups.

Too many nations are at war because they can’t imagine that their God would love their neighbors as much as he loves them.

The words of the Pharisee, who thanked God he was not like the Publican, are, today, on the lips of too many people of all races, colors and creeds.

PEACE WILL BEGIN TO CREEP INTO OUR LIVES WHEN WE STOP DISPLAYING JOHN 3:16 AT SPORTING EVENTS AND START LOVING THE WORLD AS THE TEXT TELLS US GOD IS TRYING TO DO.

MAHATMA GANDHI CHASTISED WE CHRISTIANS WITH THESE WORDS: “You Christians have in your keeping a document with enough dynamite in it to blow the whole world of civilization apart; to turn society upside down; to bring peace to this war torn world. But you read it as though it is just good literature and nothing else.”

GANDHI’S DREAM WILL HAPPEN ONLY WHEN WE CHRISTIANS TAKE THE WORDS OF JOHN 3:16 SERIOUSLY AND DECIDE TO EMBRACE THE WHOLE WORLD AS JESUS DEMONSTRATED.

  • THE FIRST STEP TO GETTING US GOING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION IS TO AGREE TO GO WHERE GOD LEADS.
  • THAT IS WHAT ABRAHAM DID.
  • God wanted Abraham to start a new nation through which all the nations of the world would be blessed.
  • Next God sent Jesus to demonstrate how we are to love all the nations.
  • Jesus and Abraham were called by God for the same purpose.
  • That same call has been handed down to us.
  • CARRYING OUT GOD’S MISSION WAS NEVER EASY FOR ABRAHAM OR JESUS SO WE HAVE NO RIGHT TO EXPECT IT TO BE A “CAKE WALK” FOR US.
  • For Abraham it meant leaving a luxurious home land for a land that looked much like a desert.
  • It was also no bargain for Jesus who had to give up heaven and reside on earth for 30 some years.


  • In his mission to extend the love of Jesus to all the world St. Paul also experienced a lot of discomfort as he describes in II Corinthians 11:25-28:
  • “Three times I have been beaten with rods; once I was stoned. Three times I have been shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger at sea, danger from false brethren; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure upon me of my anxiety for all the Churches.”
  • Abraham could have avoided leaving his homeland if he had just told God to do his own blessing of the world.
  • Jesus could have avoided the cross if he had chosen to love only the people who were welcomed by the elite leaders of the religious community.
  • I guess the discomfort we are willing to endure is in direct proportion to the value we place on what God is asking us to do.
  • GANDHI WAS RIGHT WHEN HE SAID THAT GOD HAS LAID ON US A “POWERFUL MESSAGE.”
  • BUT BEFORE WE CAN USE THAT MESSAGE ON OTHERS WE MUST LET IT DO SOMETHING TO US.
  • It must shatter the walls that separate us from one another.
  • We cannot love people we are unwilling to embrace or allow into our fellowship.
  • JESUS CAME WITH NO WALLS BY WHICH TO ISOLATE PEOPLE.
  • But Jesus was always running head on into a wall built by others.
  • It is sad but most of the walls Jesus encountered were built by religious people.
  • ABRAHAM GAVE UP A LIFE IN PARADISE AND THUS ALLOWED GOD TO GUIDE HIM TO A NEW LAND AND LAY ON HIM A MAJOR LEAGUE RESPONSIBILITY.
  • ST. PAUL COULD EASILY HAVE BEEN A CHIEF PHARISEE IF HE HAD TURNED DOWN THE CALL HE RECEIVED FROM GOD THAT FATEFUL DAY ON HIS WAY TO DAMASCUS.
  • WHILE SOME PEOPLE PRAY THAT GOD WILL MAKE THEIR LIVES EASIER, OTHERS PRAY FOR THE STRENGTH TO FULFILL THE OPPORTUNITY GOD HAS LAID ON THEIR SHOULDERS NO MATTER HOW MUCH DISCOMFORT IT BRINGS TO THEIR LIVES.
  • Peace comes to some people in direct proportion to the number of challenges they overcome on any given day.
  • Of course it will help if the challenges they overcame brought peace and happiness to another soul.
  • The peace I seek is the peace that comes from knowing I have enriched another person’s life even if it did cost a couple drops of my own blood.
  • IF THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST EVER BECOMES FOR ME A PACIFIER INSTEAD OF A FUSE IN A STICK OF DYNAMITE OR IF I NO LONGER EXHIBIT LOVE TOWARD THE WHOLE WORLD AS JESUS DIRECTED, PLEASE BURN MY ROBES AND SHOW ME THE WAY OUT OF TOWN.