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MOST WATCH, BUT FEW COME WHEN CALLED
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
11 JUNE 1989
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
Preparation Verses: (Romans 10:17-18)
17. So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.
18. But I say, surely they have never heard, have they? Indeed they have;
"Their voice has gone out into all the earth,
And their words to the ends of the world."
Two weeks ago, on Memorial Day Monday, I was walking in the Athens parade
along with Merle Hoogheem, the pastor of the Reformed Church, and Ralph
Reitmeyer, pastor of the Lutheran Church.
We were noting all the people watching us along the sides of the road, and the fact that some of them would move from one place to another to see the parade a second time.
It reminded us of the church, for we saw a parallel between the people watching the parade and those who just look at the churches in town and yet don't enter in.
There was something else that dawned on me later, as I was thinking back on
Not everyone who was participating in the parade knew what the day, or the parade, really represented; and that is like some of the people who enter our churches.
Also, as I was preparing the opening prayer for the parade, I couldn't help but think of the parallel but opposing positions that Memorial Day and the parade have with Jesus Christ and the Church.
Memorial Day and the parade were intended to call to our attention and remembrance the hatred, the horrors, the loss, and the suffering and death that wars bring about.
On the other hand, Jesus Christ and the Church represent love, and our hope, our faith, our peace, our salvation and our everlasting life.
We have wars because the peoples of this world do not truly seek God.
But God has never ceased calling to all the peoples of the world, so that we all might turn to Him and not suffer loss.
Hear again the words of our Old Testament lesson for this morning, Proverbs 4:20-27:
20. My son, give attention to my words;
Incline your ear to my sayings.
I presume that almost everyone wants their children to exceed beyond where they have, and not to make the mistakes that they have made along the way.
So, we do our best to teach them.
We want them to hang on to every word we say and to listen intently, for we do our best to speak with wisdom.
God has been speaking to all His children in the same way through His word, the Bible.
He wants all of us to listen intently to all that He tells us, so that we might live forever with Him.
Thus, we are continually encouraged.
21. Do not let them depart from your sight;
Keep them in the midst of your heart.
The word of God should always be visible before us, and we should treasure it in our heart, as the most precious thing we have.
22. For they are life to those who find them,
And health to all their whole body.
The word of God does lead us to everlasting life, and in the name of Jesus, we are made whole.
But none of God's word does us any lasting good, unless we enter in and receive it.
We can not receive the benefits by watching others who have received.
His word must be in our own heart.
We even cannot get its full benefit from listening only part of the time, and then spending the rest of our time listening and participating in the things of the world.
Thus, we are cautioned.
And as we look at the following verses, picture your life in Jesus Christ, as walking in a parade.
23. Watch over your heart with all diligence,
For from it flow the springs of life.
If the word of God is well established within us, then its benefits will overflow from us, and others will hear the words that bring life and overcome death, and this applies to every human and animal.
But, we must be diligent not to let the ways of the world contaminate us and thereby be confusing to others.
For the ways of the world all to often bring violence, suffering and death.
If the participants in the parade do not follow the leader, it also can become very confusing, until it no longer is a parade.
24. Put away from you a deceitful mouth,
And put devious lips far from you.
If we speak and sound like the world, and let the world's ways become our ways, we will be the same as the world.
If someone watching the parade asked a member of the band to play some other tune, and he did, all the music would be confused.
25. Let your eyes look directly ahead,
And let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you.
In a disciplined parade, all who march look straight ahead and the parade has a polished look.
But by looking around, we have a tendency to get out of step, and those who watch, laugh.
26. Watch the path of your feet,
And all your ways will be established.
If we do not watch where we walk, we may trip and fall, or step into something we don't want to.
The ways of the Lord are well-established; they are straight and smooth.
But if we don't watch where we are going, we may walk off the path.
And then, unfortunately, there are those who deliberately try to trip up believers, by placing stumbling blocks before them.
We must always watch our step.
27. Do not turn to the right nor to the left;
Turn your foot from evil.
If we stay on the road on which the Lord is leading us, we will be protected from evil; but if we turn off, we will most assuredly find it.
And what about those who just like to watch and do not want to participate?
They are as the ones that are described in Ecclesiastes 11:4:
4. He who watches the wind will not sow and he who looks at the clouds will not reap.
The Lord wants everyone to enter into His church and to believe.
But the key is not just in believing, but in bringing forth the fruit of that belief through our lives.
Remember what we are told in James 2:18-19:
18. But someone may well say, "You have faith, and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works."
19. You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.
We should shudder, also, if we are like them; but we should have great peace and joy, if we are the Lord's.
In Matthew 11, Jesus had just finished chastising those who should have known the truth but had turned away.
They had seen and heard the truth about God paraded before them over and over again, but most of them never entered in.
Thus, Jesus says of them in verse 24 of Matthew 11:
24. ''Nevertheless I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you."
God destroyed Sodom and the surrounding towns because of their evilness; but because they didn't have God in their presence as the Israelites had, and may not have fully known as Israel should have known, He will be harder on the unbelieving Israelites.
And what about us today, Christians?
But then, God, in all His love and mercy, reaches out to call these same unbelievers back to Him, so that they might be saved.
It's just as He does for you and me, and every other person in the world.
Let's return and take another look at our New Testament lesson for this morning, Matthew 11:25-30, and hear what the Lord is saying:
25. At that time Jesus answered and said, "I praise Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou didst hide these things from the wise and intelligent and didst reveal them to babes.
26. "Yes, Father, for thus it was well-pleasing in Thy sight."
Jesus begins His grace message with an open prayer, a prayer that expresses not only His frustration with the nonbelievers, but also His joy over those who understood and believed and entered in.
We cannot approach spiritual truths from a position of worldly intelligence.
We have to enter in by faith.
It's just as we are told in our preparation Bible verse, Romans 10:17:
17. So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.
If we, in our worldly wisdom, are so active that we cannot fully read our Bibles, because we are too busy reasoning it out, or finding fault with the word, or come up with some excuse that something else is more important, we will never hear.
And if we don't hear the Lord's word, we won't have faith, either.
But those who lay aside their worldly wisdom, and receive what is offered as a baby would, will gain much faith.
And their words will come forth with more wisdom and intelligence than the so-called wise and intelligent people of the world.
I've also seen this occur, and I know that it's true.
After Jesus had said this prayer, He spoke to those gathered:
27. "All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son, except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father, except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him."
What Jesus is saying is that in order to understand the things of God, we must first come to Him and accept Him as our Lord and Savior.
Listen to His plea:
28. "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.
29. "Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls.
30. "For My yoke is easy, and My load is light."
Here is the trumpet call that the parade is coming to you.
Here is the beat of the drummer, so that we might fall into step.
Tell others about this too.
We no longer can afford to keep watching the parades going by.
For this parade may be the last.