Text: Isaiah 55:6-9 March 10, 2013.
1) This is how we feel about Jesus: There are lots of things that dumbfound me about Jesus. One of the aspects of his ministry that has produced jaw-dropping, head-scratching responses is his upside-down teaching about life. As we journey through life, we may get to the point where we think we¡¯ve got all figured out and our thought patterns and responses for navigating through life are deeply ingrained. Then Jesus interrupts us in the midst of our routines and calls us to a new and better way. This encounter with the ways of Jesus may not be exactly what we understand nor want. It may be challenging.
2) These are what Jesus wants us do. Consider these paradoxical propositions of Jesus: To live one must first die (Mark ). To gain one must first give (Matt 19:21). To receive comfort one must first mourn (Matt 5:4). To rule over others one must first serve them (Luke 22:26) To inherit the kingdom of God one must first suffer (Matt 5:10). It is teachings like these that make people think Jesus and his teachings are strange and out of touch of real life. In fact, Jesus is not teaching things upside down. We are like teenagers who think they know better than their parents what is best for them.
WE ALWAYS LOVE OUR WAYS BETTER:
1) We love to be independent: This is a born-with nature from our ancestors traced back all the way to Adam and Eve. This is vividly demonstrated in our nature since we were still small children: We want to do our things ourselves without the interference of parents, siblings or anyone else. That sense of ¡°I-can-do-it¡± is a very strong desire in our blood. This has little to do with disrespect of God or anyone else, we just want to do our things ourselves. Nations wage wars to be independent, we just settle with do things ourselves.
2) We want things done our way: We all have that born-with desire that things done as we want them to--our way. That is how we choose our clothing, house, furniture and where to put them. Yes, we may take advice from magazine or people we trust, but eventually we make decisions the way we want them to. We all want to be the decision-makers on things dear to our lives. It makes us feel that we are in control.
3) We believe we know the best: Even we believe God knows it all, but when it comes to our personal need or wants, we still believe we are the ultimate authority---we know the best and the best way to ensure things go our way. We can¡¯t let anyone else do our things; we need to do them on our own. Many of us act like teenagers thinking they know better than their parents, so they want to do their things themselves.
4) We don¡¯t have enough faith: When people prefer or insist do things on the own and in their way, it is a clear sign they do not have much faith on others, including people and God, to do it for them. Either these people don¡¯t trust the ability of other people or God, or they don¡¯t trust God and others really know what they want. Either way, it is a matter of lack of faith. Having faith is fundamental for anyone to commit their matter to others, be it a person or God.
1) We work against God¡¯s offer: ¡°Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.¡± (Jeremiah 33:3) As God offered his assistance to the Israelis in Jeremiah¡¯s time, he is offering help at our time. God knows what we need and what we can or cannot do, so, he offers his assistance to help us solve our problems, meet our needs and lead us out of any and all puzzles in our life. If you truly believe that God is able and love, why don¡¯t you ask God to accept his help? Working through life against God is not a wise choice.
2) We reject good help of others: ¡°Two are better than one because they have good return of their work.¡± (Ecclesiastics 4:9) Read the following verses 9-12, we see the wisdom of King Solomon that it is better to receive help of others at work in our life for much fruitful results. No one is capable of accomplishing all things in one¡¯s life.
3) We miss opportunity to learn: In all aspects of life, no one may say he knows it all: Be it in academic, skill or experience. There are things or ways of doing things better than our own way. Being humble to learn from others is always a big plus in our life. Insisting on do all things our way can only limit our scope of learning and cut short of expanding higher possibility.
4) We hurt relationship with others: Many times, people who love us, want to see us do better, achieve higher, offer help to make life and things better for us. If we always insist on ¡°I can do it myself¡±, we are hurting our relationship with them. If this is rooted deep in our heart, we may live our life in more isolated situation. Many good relationships built from working together at work, in school, at home, in church and in community.
1) God invites us to know his way: ¡°Come all you who are thirsty¡± ¡°Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live.¡± ¡°Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near.¡± (55:1, 3, 6) Throughout the Bible, particularly in this chapter, God extends his invitations to call people to come to him, to receive living water for their thirst, blessings in his covenant and to find him and know his way. Deities in other religions may be elusive, uncertain and no where to be found for sure, but our God is a living God and he wants us to seek him to know his way and receive blessings. You also can read his instruction about life in the Bible, pray and ask his guidance and share your hearts with him. Jesus is knocking at the door of your heart, and wants to come in if you allow him to.
2) God asks that we give up our way: ¡°Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the Lord and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.¡± (55:7) Regardless what and how we call our way, God calls it wicked and evil way and he asks that we forsake our way and thought and return to Him. God intends to show us his mercy and pardon our pride, evil and arrogance: our way. The fact is if we insist on keeping our way, God can¡¯t extend his mercy on us and he can¡¯t pardon our evil thoughts.
3) God says his way is not our way: ¡°For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.¡± (55:8) This is the one thing often times we get confused: we want to believe that our thoughts and our ways are God¡¯s thoughts and his ways but God says NO, it is NOT. Very few Christians want to willfully live their life in direct contradiction with God, so, they try hard to convince themselves whatever they want to do is in line with God¡¯s will and God¡¯s thoughts. We need to be humble that we can never attain to the level that our thoughts and ways become thoughts and ways of God. How can any human being claim to think and do things the same way God will think and do? Any reasonable person will agree that God is different from us and we need to seek his thoughts and ways to direct lour life.
4) God tells us his way is the best way: ¡°As heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.¡± (55:9)I can develop a full sermon just with these 2 verses in this chapter. The essence of these verses is God is much higher in thoughts and ways than that of human thoughts and ways. God uses the differences between heavens to earth to show us the tremendous distance between thoughts and ways of man to that of God. How dare anyone of us would want to substitute our thoughts and ways to that of God and feel good about it. How foolish it is to do that in our plans, purpose, focus and everything in our life and believe they are equal or better than that of God¡¯s. And if we truly believe that God is wiser, bigger, he looks much farther and has more wisdom to make decisions, to lead our way, why would anyone want to manage his life by his thoughts and his ways?
1) It is time that we repent: We need to repent our arrogance, our pride, disobedience and lack of faith in God when we plan, make decisions, choices for our life disregard God¡¯s wisdom, intelligence, love and power to direct our life. We need to see that our way is independent of God¡¯s way and therefore it is wicked and evil in God¡¯s eyes. No sin is worse than forsaking God as Father and Ruler of our life. Repentance will bring us back to God.
2) It is time to we seek God: Repentance is in our heart, seeking is in our actions. We need to seek God¡¯s will, His guidance, and His plans in our life. We need to be dependent on His love and wisdom to lead our way. When making major decisions, we need to seek His leadership, follow His instruction, values and trust His love and good will for us. We need to believe that God has our best interest in His heart and plan for us, and be willing to follow where He may lead. This can be achieved by reading His word and constant prayer to allow Him to speak to our ears and our soul.