Sunday, June 12, 2011

Urgency of the Matter

Another beautifully sunny morning here at New Life Covenant Church in Saginaw, MN. A man walks in and another, and a couple, several families, three women and a youngster, and now the group from downstairs sauntering in as we gather for worship as the sanctuary fills. After several personal acknowledgements about the room Pastor Brad, with characteristic energy, checks the microphone and greets us. “I’m glad you guys are here today….”

He reminds us that we are now studying the Paul's letter to the Romans. His warm-up pitch went like this: "Paul has an urgency in today’s text about his desire to go to Rome. It’s a text that might alter you."

Announcements this a.m. included:
Darlene: Next Sunday is Father’s Day… We're asking all women to make pies, adding, "If a father wants a specific pie in particular, he can make it himself."
Brooke wore her bright colored Pandamania t-shirt this morning as she made final VBS announcements. VBS will be daily from 9:30 – noon every day at the Twig Town Hall. This Friday everyone is invited for the closing ceremony/program at 7:00 p.m.
Suzy Lane announced that donations would be welcome to feed the 100 or so youth and adults daily at VBS.

Brad read from Psalm 150 to lead us into worship.
1 Praise the LORD.
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens.
2 Praise him for his acts of power;
praise him for his surpassing greatness.
3 Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise him with the harp and lyre,
4 praise him with timbrel and dancing,
praise him with the strings and pipe,
5 praise him with the clash of cymbals,
praise him with resounding cymbals.
6 Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.

Praise the LORD.

We then sang together a contemporary version of Amazing Grace and several other contemporary worship songs. After the offering Ruth Anne read from Acts 2:14-21, which was followed by a time of prayer and the sermon.

Urgency of the Matter

Today's message was drawn from Romans 1:18-23
18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

We're all familiar with urgent messages. "Tom, call home, it’s urgent!" Or, "Judy, call home, it’s urgent! The first section of the book of Romans is dripping with urgency, an expression of Paul's laser-focused mission. Paul loved the church, committing his life to planting churches, training churches… because he loved what Jesus loved: the church.

Today's sermon could be called “No excuses.” Brad warned us this this section of Scripture could be hazardous to our assumptions. It conveys Paul’s awareness that unbelievers everywhere are daily committing a spiritual crime that will place them eternally separated from God.

In presenting the message, Brad rearranged the verses to help make the case with greater clarity.
1. God has revealed Himself clearly to all human beings everywhere. (19,20)
2. Unbelievers suppress the revelation of God. (18b, 21-22)
3. Suppressing the revelation of God continually unleashes God’s angry displeasure. (18a)

God has revealed Himself clearly to all. Since creation of the world His divine attributes have been clearly seen. This passage asserts that knowledge of God is evident inside all people. Every person everywhere knows that there is a God.

Vs. 20 elaborates. People understand through what has been made. In theological terms this is called “General revelation.” You cannot walk this planet and claim that there were no clues.

No one looks at a car in our parking lot, and doesn’t know that the car was designed by someone. You could even find, if you looked hard enough, the one who did it. Likewise our watches. So it is with the Creator.

The world is littered with clues. Creation bombards us with so much evidence that we must not only conclude God exists but that he is eternal and powerful. When you see an ocean or a rainbow, what does that say about God?

God’s invisible attributes can be seen within nature, and in moments of wonder, even unbelievers often involuntarily exclaim, “Oh… my… God.”

Therefore, Paul states, every human being is without excuse.

The next point Paul makes is this. Unbelievers suppress the revelation of God (18b, 21-22)

There is a God and He is worthy of worship. But unbelievers, rather than responding with integrity, do the untruthful thing. They suppress the truth and refuse to worship. “This, my friends, is a crime against the almighty God,” Brad said.

Suppressing the truth is like trying to hold a beach ball under water. It takes effort to suppress the truth. The unbeliever doesn’t want to deal with it, doesn't want to know the truth and has to push it down. The truth can cause trauma, and it’s easier to believe lies. Truth is disruptive, causes inner turbulence. Our tendency is to love the darkness rather than light. Truth traumatizes sinners.

Sinners have a vested interest in suppressing truth. If you do not suppress truth, it will stare you in the face and harass you till you come clean. There are two options: Confess sinfulness or suppress the knowledge of God.

God’s grace is amazing. When we confess, He is a merciful God.

The third point is this. Suppressing the revelation of God continually unleashes God’s angry displeasure. God has revealed Himself in many and various ways and has now revealed Himself in Jesus.

Some day all of us will stand without excuse before God. It that day, it will not be a knowledge problem, but rather had an acknowledgement problem. That is, we know the truth in our hearts.

In the end, God will give those who reject God what they sought after… freedom from God’s presence… that is, separation from God, for ever.

On judgment day, the cry of the unbeliever will not be, “I just didn’t know.” It will be, “I wouldn’t bow.” And there will be unfathomable regret. Anguish.

"For seven years I have preached about God’s love in this church," Brad said. God loves us so much and He doesn’t impose His will on us. He lets us choose. Brad’s appeal: it doesn’t matter where or how, just bow down.

In closing we sang, “Jesus, what a friend for sinners.”

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