Have you heard the good news? I mean have you really heard the word? I was listening to JD Walt who runs the Seedbed daily text. JD Walt is a Doctor of Theology and vice president of Seedbed at Asbury Theological. He has an excellent grasp of the Bible of the nuts and bolts so to speak of what it is that we believe. I don’t mean we as in pick a denomination. I mean we as the Ekklesia, a fancy Greek word whose literal translation is: convocation, but it also means: assembly, council, congregation and for us it means both this body of faithful people and the whole body of the faithful. In other words, all of Christianity is the Ekklesia and just us, here, right now, are the Ekklesia. Jesus said, “for where two or three are gathered I am there among them.” [Matthew 18:20 NRSV] Jesus is among us and wherever we go even if there is no building, the church goes with us because we are the church. Now you’re probably wondering what all this has to do with today’s sermon. I have a question for you. The Bible says and this is my third favorite passage in the Bible: But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? In other words, how in the world can I believe in Jesus Christ if no one tells me about him. If no one witnesses to me about what Christ did for me, when he died on the cross for me, when he took my sins away from me for me. He died for you too. So, how can I believe in something that I don’t know exists? I mean it’s fairly obvious to me that you have no reason to believe in God if you’ve never known him. Is it enough that we expect people to take this on faith? Look at it from the secular POV we are asking for their faith for their trust. It’s the same as when Jesus appeared to Thomas. We’re all on the inside. We were there. We saw Jesus and we believe, we have faith. You’re probably thinking maybe the pastor needs a vacation if he thinks he’s seen Jesus. And you would be right I do need a vacation but that not what I mean. If you had not seen the power of the Holy Spirit you would never have come to church in the first place.
We know. Not so much your average guy, your average guy is just like Thomas: unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe. Jesus had to go to him and say to Thomas: put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe. I want you to focus on one thing though, Jesus could have come to Thomas in his sleep and made Thomas believe, He could have given him a vision, a sign. Hundreds of different ways that Jesus could have made Thomas a believer. Instead he came to Thomas physically, He got into Thomas’ face and spoke directly to him so that Thomas could hear him. Sometimes it’s just not enough to know. Sometimes we have to hear it, see it, feel it. But like Jesus said because you have seen me you have believed blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. You see I firmly believe that a person needs to hear the word of God actually spoken… proclaimed and affirmed. And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? That’s not just my job, it’s yours as well. We are the Ekklesia, the congregation, the called out. We are the 70 that Jesus sent out and we are the ones that Paul speaks of in Acts when he says and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” We are those people that Jesus speaks of everywhere in the Bible. We are the ones to come, that’s us. Me and you. We are the ones that Jesus is speaking to, not just those long-ago members of another church but to us right here, right now, today…his words are speaking to us. And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? Jesus sent the first 70. The rest of the disciples followed and their disciples and so on and, on the cycle, repeated itself over the millennia. As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” Everyone loves good news, you cannot go wrong preaching the word of God, it is the good news and you will be received. That doesn’t mean that just because you’re speaking that people won’t listen God tells us that there’s many people who not only won’t listen, they won’t obey. But not all have obeyed the good news; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” In other words, we have spoken the gospel and they have heard it and they refuse to believe it. That’s on them you have spoken the good news you have done your job good and faithful servant. Now it’s all up to God. It’s up to God to have that person seek after him. No matter how hard you try you and I, we can’t make someone love God, only God can do that. And the only way that they will know that God loves them is if they here it and have faith in Christ.
So, faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ. Again, it’s all about what is spoken to us what we here if we don’t hear the word spoken to us if all we do is read it, we aren’t getting the full benefit. We are not getting what God promised us. We need to speak it and hear it spoken among ourselves. That is one of the great things about the church, it’s a cornerstone of our faith, our shared belief and the power of the Gospel as we share it with one another and the world. Because the world needs to hear the word of God from us, “The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); What do we proclaim, we proclaim the mystery that is Christ. That Christ died for us, was buried and on the third day He arose and ascended into the heavens and sits at the right hand of God the Father. Because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Again, we hear that is the sound of our words that has meaning. God wants to hear us. Don’t get me wrong just because you’re praying silently to the Lord and the bible says not to boast or to make a big deal out what it is that you do in private to worship God. But we are also expected to proclaim his glory and his word, that’s not pride in ourselves. That’s pride in God and we’re allowed to have that kind of pride. We are expected to have that kind of pride, that devotion, that willingness to put the Lord first in all that we do. That is the sign of a Christian. Once you get us talking about God you can’t shut us up, well you’re not supposed to be able to, we are not only called to pray all the time we’re called to redeem ourselves by glorifying God at all times and to exemplify Christ’s life at all times by giving thanks for his sacrifice, for His redemption of us. All of the time, not just when it’s convenient for us. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. It’s good that we have an internal faith and that we open our hearts to God so that he can write therein. But it is with our mouths that we are saved, it is our speech that paves the way for our salvation. It is only by our repentance, our turning away from sin, that we are made righteous in God and that is what He wants from us. He already knows the things that we have done he just wants us to admit it, to say it so that the world can hear it because it is through that process that we glorify God. We show the world that we can’t do this on our own it is only through the Providence of the Lord that we were able to conquer sin and death, only, because he has already conquered it for us.
The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. There are no Jew or Greek, no rich or poor, no black or white, no gay or straight, it doesn’t matter. There is only one Lord and he is generous to all who call on him. Who is he generous too? All, who call on him. Jesus has never segregated sinners. Jesus never stereotyped us. Jesus never hated anyone, in fact his entire mission was love and he came to proclaim the good news that the Kingdom of God was near. Why? Because he wanted everyone to be there, to be a part of the Kingdom to have a chance at redemption then that chance was extended to everyone for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Here it is again all who call on the Lord shall be saved. who will be saved? All. How are we to be saved? By calling on the Lord. It is the spoken word that brings us closer into relationship with God. It is His word spoken that frees us from bondage for joyful obedience. So, with that in mind let’s go to the Lord in prayer.
When we confess our sin,
God is faithful and just to forgive us our sin
and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
And when God lifts the burden of our sin from us,
we are changed.
We are at peace with God through Jesus Christ.
Go forth and share the peace of Christ with one another,
Share your witness and gifts
with the church and the world.
So that God may be glorified. In Jesus Name we pray. Amen!