Summary: This sermon challenges us to stop worshipping the god in our box, and instead worship the one the who cannot be contained by the entire universe.
The God Outside Your Box
Intro: God in a box.
We like boxes. When we move, we put everything neatly in box, and neatly label it. We use file boxes. We eat boxed lunches. We receive and ship packages in boxes. We wrap presents in boxes. We organize our shelves by putting items in boxes. The “Container Store” specializes in charging you lots of money for boxes of various sizes. We even have a toy and restaurant called “Jack in the Box.” Boxes give us a sense of control and organization. If I got it in a box, and I got it labeled just so, then I know exactly what I got. It is empowering. Take it out of my box and I begin to feel anxious. I begin to feel out of control. I begin to feel that I’m controlled by what should be in the box, instead of me controlling it. So, I quickly work to get it back into the right box.
It is not surprising then that our compulsion to have things under control, to have a sense of predictability, compels us to try to put God in a box. We like the idea of winding the little handle and out comes God just as we expect him. We create boxes in our mind of what God can and can’t do. We want to know that we can predict what he might do next. He conveniently fits into our lifestyle and so happens to approve the choices we make. The problem is that the god in our box bears little resemblance to the God living outside our box. We end up worshipping our own image of God, instead of recognizing that it he who made us in his image not vice versa. We rob ourselves of the wonderment of serving and worshipping a God that is beyond anything we could ever imagine. We never know what it is like to give up being god of our own lives and to let an uncontainable God have free reign in our hearts. What happen if we gave up the god of our box for the God outside our box? Dare we venture to find out?
Move 1: The plan of salvation revealed.
Where I grew up, ask anyone in the CofC the plan of salvation and they would proudly give you the five-step plan of salvation. Hear, believe, repent, confess, and be baptized. You know what the problem is? There is not a single mention of God in this plan of salvation. The Bible never expresses the plan of salvation as five steps to be executed by man. That’s more of us trying to fit God into a box. If we execute the steps just so, God will pop out of his box and grant us salvation. It is not that those five are not important, even essential, but they are not the plan of salvation. They are together our response to the overwhelming plan of salvation, which includes us only by the grace of God.
God’s plan of salvation isn’t really about steps. It isn’t easy to get your mind around. Rom. 9-11 are perhaps the most difficult chapters in the Bible to understand. The subject is God’s incredible plan to orchestrate a way to save both Jews and Gentiles through Jesus Christ. That part sounds simple enough, but Paul is wrestling with how the Jews could be God’s chosen people and yet find themselves so out of favor due to unbelief. How could they be rejected and the Gentiles be accepted? This troubles Paul’s mind so much that he even says that he would wish himself accursed if it would save his countrymen. But Paul is clear. The Jews are the chosen instrument of God to bring salvation to the Gentiles and that he is so sovereign that even he uses the rejection of the Jews as a way to save the Gentiles. Remember Paul when he spurned by the Jews said “from now on I turn to the Gentiles” (cf. Acts. 18:6). The Jews’ rejection of Christ led to the opportunity for the Gentiles. While at the same time, God planned to use the acceptance of the Gentiles to arouse the jealously of the Jews that they might come back.
Everyone is either a Jew or Gentile, and so the destiny of all men is at stake in this discussion. It is hear that Paul will quote difficult OT texts to underscore God’s election and sovereignty. Here he says things about God that doesn’t fit into our box. 9:13, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” 9:15, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” About Pharaoh in 9:17, “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”