Summary: 1. What does God want? -- My whole life. 2. What does it take? -- Discipline 3. Why should I do it? -- The Cross!
(The outline of this sermon and some of the content has been adapted from Rick Warren’s Forty Days of Purpose material).
I recently read this scripture from Isaiah and was struck at how this passage contained the entire message of the Bible in just a few words. More than that, it is the whole story of God’s passionate and relentless pursuit of his creation, and the apathetic and rebellious response of those God is calling. God has prepared a feast. He is calling us to enjoy this feast, which is all of God’s best. The feast is the feast of life. The table is spread with all the delights which God has planned and desired to give to his creation. It is a life of goodness and fulfillment. Nothing is lacking. And the best part is that it is free. Even if we have no money, we can come and be satisfied in the richest of fare. It is as though we have been foraging in the waste containers in back allies, because we thought we did not deserve to come to God’s table, but he is telling us that all the time we have been feeding on garbage, we could have been enjoying his food. He welcomes us, but does not force us. It is not a forced feast; we are free to go where we please, but we have used our freedom to go in every direction but his. We will eat at any garbage dump rather than come to God’s table. The problem is that what we are eating never satisfies us, and it has cost us a great deal. In spite of that, we keep going where we want to go and doing what we want to do, even when it is destroying us.
You have to ask yourself, “Why are we doing this? What is it in the human condition that makes us run from God instead of running to him? What is it that makes us live in rebellion even when it is tearing us apart?” The only answer I know is that we are afraid of surrendering to God and losing the control of our lives. We are afraid that even though we are sick of the garbage we have been eating, which is not satisfying us, that coming to God will deprive us even more. We have greater confidence in our ability to meet our needs than we have in God. We are confident in our own ability to meet our needs, because we know we are determined to do it. We are not so sure that God will meet our needs in the way we want them met, or on the timetable we have for getting them met. The bottom line is that we do not trust God’s love for us or his methods.
Jesus used a similar image to that of Isaiah’s. He said, “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ But they all alike began to make excuses” (Luke 14:16-18). Each one had an excuse, but they were as lame as ours. In another place, Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come” (Matthew 22:2-3). Can you imagine it? God is reaching out in love, and we all have excuses why we cannot come to the banquet. God is calling us to the greatest love we have ever known, and we don’t want to come. He is offering life in its fullness, but we are too busy running our own lives to receive what God has for us. At the end of the parable, Jesus said, “For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14). The question is: “Will you be one of the chosen?”
I heard of a pastor who was asked about the spiritual condition of the people in his church. He replied, “Many are thawed, but a few are frozen.”
I remember trying to help our daughters tie their shoes when they were young. They had not learned to tie their shoes, but they were still sure that they could do it. I would try to tie their shoes, and they would push my hands away saying, “I want to do it myself!” They would end up in tears of frustration because they couldn’t do it, but that did not necessarily mean that they were ready for me to receive the help I wanted to give. I had to wait until they were completely done trying before I could help them. The more they tried to do it, the longer it took for me to help them. Their efforts to do it themselves actually got in the way and delayed what I wanted to do for them. It is the same in our relationship with God. We wonder why God his delaying his help, but it is because he has to wait until we are willing to stop our futile efforts and let him work.