Summary: Isaac reveals the ways of winsomeness.
Last Sunday the congregation of Mount Hope Church in Lansing, Michigan received several unwelcome protesters into their 11:30 AM service. On cue members of a gay rights activists group called Back Bash began disrupting the service. They were attempting to protest the passing of California’s gay marriage ban, Proposition 8. Protestors outside the church, dressed in pink and black shouted “Gay is okay” and “Jesus was a homo” through a megaphone. Protestors inside the church shouted profanity, confronted individual church members, threw confetti, glitter, brochures, and condoms all over the sanctuary, and kissed one another beside the pulpit. The incident ended when police arrived and the activists peacefully dispersed. No arrests were made.
It’s not clear why this church was chosen for protest. Activists say that Mount Hope is a hate-filled, anti-gay church. Others in the community say the church has done little more than offer prayer and counseling to hurting people. Whatever the case, it’s clear that the overall message of the church is being rejected by people who desperately need to hear and embrace it.
How different this is from New Testament times. In those days the Christians took the gospel to the streets and they were warmly received. Listen to the response of the crowd in Jerusalem after Peter’s sermon on Pentecost:
When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Acts 2:37 (NIV)
Many people of our generation are no longer asking that question. In fact, they don’t want to hear the words come out of our mouths. A few weeks before the election I read one blogger’s reaction to Sarah Palin. He rejected her as a VP candidate because, in his words, “I don’t want her cramming her religion down my throat.”
Part of the problem lies with our culture. The mainstream media, entertainment industry, and secularized public education have nurtured a generation that rejects any claim of absolute truth and insists on tolerance and equal footing of all points of view. The idea of sin and the need for a Savior has been all but erased in our collective consciousness.
But let’s be honest. Is our culture any worse than the ancient Greco-Roman world that the apostles successfully took the good new of Jesus Christ to? A shallow study of history would tell you “no.” The truth is that part of the problem today is Christians and the church. For some reason we have lost the qualities that made the early believers so attractive. Admittedly, there are some people who will refuse Christ no matter what, but we can do much better and become much more winsome to a lost and dying world. This morning we’re going to study …
The Ways of a Winsome Believer
We’re going to take a few cues from the life of Isaac and learn from the things that he did right. He had a magnetic faith early in his life that literally drew pagans to him.
The story begins like a repeat from Abraham’s life. Famine hit the land of Canaan and God appears to Isaac telling him not to go to the land of plenty in Egypt. Along with the command, God renewed His promise to bless and protect Isaac. He reminded Isaac of His covenant with his father Abraham, especially this part:
“…and through your offspring all nation on earth will be blessed …” Genesis 26:4
A literal translation of that verse is awkward in English, but what God said is that nations will come to Abraham’s descendants to be blessed. Isaac, as the chosen seed of Abraham, could expect to see that promise fulfilled … and that’s exactly what happens. By the end of the story, the Philistines come to Isaac to make a covenant of peace and friendship because they want the blessings of God. The ways of Isaac were so winsome that his neighbors wanted in on what God was doing in his life.
One of Isaac’s ways that made him winsome was …
1. Radical obedience to God command
A famine hits the area and Isaac prepared to do the sensible thing: pack up and move to Egypt. The water supply there was reliable and the fields always fertile. God interrupted Isaac’s intention with a simple command:
“Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live. Stay in this land a while …” Genesis 26:2, 3a
The author of Genesis understates Isaac’s radical obedience:
So Isaac stayed in Gerar. Genesis 26:6
There are two reasons why radical obedience is essential to winsomeness. First, it is a channel for God’s blessings and, second, it lets people know that our belief is a sincere commitment rather than fuzzy faith. One of the big lessons of this story is that God’s protection and empowering of Isaac were dependent on his radical obedience. If he’d continued on down to Egypt the deal would have been off. Rather than blessing, Isaac would have experienced judgment. Obedience is the channel of God’s blessings. Points 2 and 3 are only possible through it.