God’s Chosen Place
Sunday, February 14, 2010 am
By Pastor James May
I’ve often felt a little disturbed that I’ve never felt a call to go to a foreign mission field. When I hear of those who have gone to preach the gospel in other places around the world, and they tell of the tremendous response to their preaching, I’ve often thought, “I surely don’t see that here. Maybe I need to go on a missions trip.” I have talked to my cousin over at Community Bible Fellowship and heard him tell of the great Bible Schools and churches that he has built and how the people walk for miles to hear the gospel, and I wonder; “God, shouldn’t I have a burden for those people too.”
When I talk to our missionaries down in Peru and hear of the wonderful work that they are doing and how that God is moving in the churches, I wonder why I’ve never felt the desire to go there and be a part of it in person.
Some time ago I was talking to one of District Ministers who had taken a missions trip down to the Philippines and had held a two week revival where people were miraculously healed, demons were cast out and one was even raised from the dead; and I think to myself, “Lord, we live in what I believe to be the greatest nation on earth. We are blessed beyond measure, and yet I never see the kinds of miracles like this preacher described to me. Is it me. Am I missing something? Why don’t I have a desire to go and preach in a far away land like that?”
It’s not that I don’t care for missions. We support missions and I love to hear the good reports of what God is doing over there; but what about right here at home? I sometimes feel like our nation is a greater mission field than anywhere on the planet. America has been bathed in the gospel message from the moment it became a nation and yet I see fewer people truly sold out to God than ever before. We are a nation that is backslidden; steeped in sin; and completely unrepentant of the sin which we have committed against God.
You can go anywhere on earth and preach a salvation message and people will fill the altars looking for hope in Christ; anywhere but America. If we preach a gospel message here, either one of two things will happen; Either most of those who hear it in the church will be half asleep and bored; or you will be ostracized for being close-minded and intolerant.
On top of that, it seems that God has called us to build a church at home; and everyone who knows anything about the Bible knows what Jesus said in Mark 6:4, "… A prophet is not without honor, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house." Now God is blessing Victory Temple and we are growing slowly, and we are seeing a few people get saved and committed; and those few are what makes all the effort really worthwhile.
I’ve also read the accounts of a few missionaries who preached for years on the mission field and never saw the first convert to Christ. I just don’t know how they could do it. I have to admire their obedience to the call of God.
But as I thought about why God just doesn’t seem to put upon me a great desire for being involved in foreign missions, I came across the Book of Ezekiel and then I began to understand a little of why my calling seems different from many others.
In Ezekiel chapters 2 and 3, we read about God’s call to him to become a prophet of God. As read about Ezekiel’s call, I began to realize just what my calling was and why I have never had a desire to go anywhere else. I’ve never been invited to preach anywhere except for a few churches around our area and I’ve never preached anywhere in a revival or camp meeting. It’s always been to a local church, right here in our community. And now I am beginning to understand why.
Ezekiel’s call was very definite. There was no doubt that he was God’s man for the hour.
Ezekiel 2:1-2, "And he said unto me, Son of man, stand upon thy feet, and I will speak unto thee. And the spirit entered into me when he spake unto me, and set me upon my feet, that I heard him that spake unto me."
How did you receive your call from God? I’m sure it was the same way that I did. One day I just felt the Holy Ghost moving on me and forcing me to stand up for Jesus and hear what the Lord wanted me to do. Did you argue a little with God? A lot of people do because they realize to do a great work for the Lord will require more than just being a bench warmer in the congregation; you’re going to have to really commit yourself to the task at hand and there is no excuse for failure or quitting. I wrestled with the Lord for a while, like Jacob at Bethel; until God finally answered every objection. There was only one answer that He gave me for every objection. It was simply this: “Is your objection worth missing God’s best, and is it worth risking losing your place in Heaven.”
Romans 11:29, "For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance." This means that there is no retiring; ever. There is no long sabbatical from doing what the Lord asks. It means you must stand and deliver; no matter what; with no excuses period. To not do what God calls you to do is to be in direct disobedience to the will of God; and will be counted as unrepentant sin. To not answer the call of God to do a work for Him can and will keep you from obtaining that eternal reward. None of us can afford to fail to answer that call when it comes.
What was Ezekiel’s call? Yes, I know he was called to be a prophet, but there was something special about his call beyond that.
Ezekiel 2:3, "And he said unto me, Son of man, I send thee to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that hath rebelled against me: they and their fathers have transgressed against me, even unto this very day."
Ezekiel wasn’t called to be a prophet to the whole world, even though his message would eventually reach out to the whole world. He was called to be a prophet to his own people.
We live in an area of the country known as the “Bible Belt”. That’s because there are more Bible thumping conservatives in the South than anywhere in the country. Even so, the Bible Belt is quickly giving up on the old traditions and we find the churches are becoming more and more worldly all the time.
Our nation, and our community right here in Ascension Parish fits the description of Israel in Ezekiel’s day to the letter. Everywhere you turn today you run into that spirit of rebellion against God. For several generations now, people have been turning their backs on God. Most of those of my own generation do not serve the Lord and they never taught their kids to serve God in holiness. Now that next generation doesn’t know what it means to be committed to Jesus or the House of the Lord, and their kids don’t even know who Jesus is most of the time. Now the next generation is coming along and unless God undertakes and sends us a mighty revival, this next generation will never give God a thought but will be given over to absolute rebellion against God’s Word.
Just look at God’s description of Israel and the Jews during the time of Ezekiel and I believe that you will see a perfect picture of the world around us right now.
Ezekiel 2:4, "For they are impudent children and stiffhearted. I do send thee unto them; and thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD."
Impudent means insulting, rude; saucy, pert; presumptuous, fresh or brazen. Just walk into any setting where people are gathered and you’ll find these attitudes all around you. There is no such thing as respect for elders, or respect for authority anymore. Rudeness is the rule of the day; and there is such a self-centered attitude that no one cares for anything or anybody but themselves.
Stiff-hearted means obstinate and stubborn. Have you ran across anyone like this recently? Perhaps even after you got to church today?
These are the people that God has sent me to minister to; and I really don’t want to have to break this news to you; but every one of you has that same calling from God. Your ministry will be to try to convert people who don’t want to hear what you have to say; are too busy with their own plans to care about what God wants; and they are too stubborn to change even if they believe what you say.
Ezekiel 2:5, "And they, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear, (for they are a rebellious house,) yet shall know that there hath been a prophet among them."
God knows how rebellious people are, but in His great mercy and love, He still tries to reach them and give them a chance to turn around. He also knows that most will never hear his pleas to come home. They’ll cast aside the wooing of the Holy Ghost, the seed of the gospel will just wither and die and they will refuse to repent, but God just keeps on trying anyway.
Regardless of whether sinners heed the message or not, they can never say that no one told them the truth. They will always know that someone was there, you and I, trying to intercede on their behalf. Forever, throughout eternity, they will remember that day you tried to tell them about Jesus. Forever they will remember that time they sat in Victory Temple on a day like today, heard the gospel and rejected it.
The reality of it is that most will not hear, so why do we preach it anyway? There are two reasons: 1) The Call of God is there and we must obey it for our own sakes, and 2) sooner or later someone will hear and someone will come to Jesus. We have to keep on working for the sake of that one!
The proof that the call of God is real and that your witness is working lies in the fact that though not many will turn to Christ and commit their lives to Him; just let anyone of those who have rejected Christ get into serious trouble or have a serious disease and they will be calling you and calling on the church to pray for them. They want the loaves and the fishes; but they don’t want to be fishers of men, committed to serving the Lord. They know that a man or woman of God has been in their midst. When the time is right; they will remember.
Ezekiel 2:6, "And thou, son of man, be not afraid of them, neither be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns be with thee, and thou dost dwell among scorpions: be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house."
Sometimes the very people you try to help will turn on you and reject you. They will not want to speak to you because they don’t want to hear about Jesus. Even so, that we are called to do – to preach the gospel, so we can’t quit. They might have a sharp tongue, or a thorny attitude; and some of them might even talk about you behind your back and call you every name in the book. But we can’t let that stop us from preaching the truth. Even some in the church world will call us old-fashioned and stuck in the mud, but the truth is the truth and it doesn’t change with the times or with the latest fads. That’s what we strive to do is preach the truth without compromise.
We must speak that which God gives to us, and we must preach that which God instructs us to preach or else we will join those who are fighting against God and become rebellious right along with them.
Ezekiel 2:8, "But thou, son of man, hear what I say unto thee; Be not thou rebellious like that rebellious house: open thy mouth, and eat that I give thee."
Notice this: we cannot preach what we don’t live ourselves. God told Ezekiel to eat what God gives him, and then go and tell others. Too many people talk the talk but don’t walk the walk. Being truly sold out to God means that you have integrity and that you practice what you preach. A false front will soon crumble under the pressure of the world of rebellion around us.
Ezekiel 2:9-10, "And when I looked, behold, an hand was sent unto me; and, lo, a roll of a book was therein; And he spread it before me; and it was written within and without: and there was written therein lamentations, and mourning, and woe."
I cannot tell you how many times I have heard someone say that “nobody wants to hear a negative message anymore. They don’t want to hear “fire and brimstone” preaching. They want a message of love, mercy, grace and something that makes them feel good about themselves.
Ezekiel’s message wasn’t popular either. I was a bitter pill to swallow. The Word of the Lord never sounds good to a sinner who won’t repent or to a lukewarm Christian who refuses to give up the things of this world to fully commit to serving the Lord. A message of repentance; a message of crying out for sin and a message of judgment for sin are never popular with those who love their sin and don’t want to quit that sin.
God’s gives us His Word. It’s all written down in the Bible. It’s nothing that we make up. God simply gives us a message to preach and that message is truth right out of God’s own word. If people refuse to hear it; then they are in rebellion against God, not against you or me.
Ezekiel 3:1-2, "Moreover he said unto me, Son of man, eat that thou findest; eat this roll, and go speak unto the house of Israel. So I opened my mouth, and he caused me to eat that roll."
It was as though God was saying to Ezekiel, just as He is saying to you and I right now, live by the Word, read the Word, digest it, put it in your heart, and then go tell others what it means to you and what God has done for you.
Ezekiel 3:3, "And he said unto me, Son of man, cause thy belly to eat, and fill thy bowels with this roll that I give thee. Then did I eat it; and it was in my mouth as honey for sweetness."
I have found that the more of God’s Word that I put in my heart, the better it tastes and the more I like it. It isn’t easy to swallow sometimes. There are times when I wish it didn’t say what it says. There are even times when I want to argue with God a little bit before accepting what He says. But in the end it always does good for me.
Sometimes the messages that I have to bring to the church, or the words that I have to tell people, are not what I would want to say. I know that sometimes the sermon is hard; and sometimes it isn’t well received. Those are not my choices, but that’s what God wants said, so I must speak it out.
I would much rather give you messages of love, grace and mercy all the time. I’d much rather make you feel good about yourself every time you come to church. If I could do that we would probably have several hundred members by now. But that’s not the message God wants to hear, so I have to speak what He says and leave the growth of the church up to him.
Ezekiel 3:4-5, "And he said unto me, Son of man, go, get thee unto the house of Israel, and speak with my words unto them. For thou art not sent to a people of a strange speech and of an hard language, but to the house of Israel;"
Like Ezekiel, I know that my calling is to preach to the church; and to those who are supposed to be Christians already. My calling is as a pastor, not as an evangelist or apostle. Pastors tend to the flock that God puts in their care.
Because of God’s warning to Ezekiel, I also know that sometimes the sheep want to bite back too. But God didn’t send me to a place where they couldn’t understand what I was saying, or to people who I couldn’t understand either. I am here; we are here; in our own country; among our own people; in our own families; in the midst of the church; and here is where we are set in place to minister for the Lord.
The hand of God was strong upon Ezekiel. He was sent to a people who were hard-headed, rebellious and stiff-necked; people who didn’t want to hear his message from the Lord. God knew that Ezekiel was going to face some pretty rough times of ministry so he prepared him for it.
Ezekiel 3:8-9, "Behold, I have made thy face strong against their faces, and thy forehead strong against their foreheads. As an adamant harder than flint have I made thy forehead: fear them not, neither be dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house."
God made Ezekiel even more hard-headed than the rebellious crowd around him. He gave Ezekiel a holy boldness to preach the message of repentance no matter what any of them said. That’s what God does for you and I too.
I’ve been accused at times of being hard-headed; uncompromising; intolerant and old-fashioned. All I can say is, “It’s God’s fault”. He made me that way so that the truth of the gospel could go forth. Some of you are just as hard headed as me and I thank God for you.
In spite of all that God could do to reach out to them, including sending a hard headed prophet named Ezekiel, God already knew that the Jews would reject the message and continue on their path to destruction. But God loved them so much; he had to give them every chance to change.
There may be someone hearing this message who has been fighting against God’s call to repentance. There may be someone who is hard headed; loves the life of rebellion against God, and who has continually refused to surrender your life to Jesus. God is not giving up on you. He sent me with a message for you today. He has called me, this church, these people to preach to our own community the message of the gospel.
Repent of your sin; surrender your heart and life to Jesus; and you can be saved today. That message will never change.
Will you reject Jesus again? Will you turn away again? The Truth will not change. Without Jesus there is no salvation. Without repentance for sin, there is no place for you in Heaven. Without God you have no hope for eternity. Will you come to Jesus today? We won’t quit preaching it! Will you quit rejecting it? We are all in God’s chosen place for ministry right now. Why not come and join us.