At Bethel Church we are continuing a very important sermon series entitled “Living Above & Beyond.” The purpose of the whole series, and this season in which we find ourselves, is to equip followers of Jesus to live above and beyond material slavery, spiritual complancency, and small-minded eternal vision. We want God to meet us where he finds us today, and to transform us toward greater maturity and sensitivity to his Spirit.
Recent weeks have found us giving attention to Deuteronomy 26:5-11, from which we have been equipped to understand what it could look like for us to “make a response” to God (Deut. 26:5) that affirms God’s goodness and recognizes that everything that we have and all that we are is for him and his glory. It has been important to establish this, for any further discussion on how we as a church might live above and beyond where God finds us today must begin with this important truth. Of course, this has significant implications for the value we place on things like our talents and spiritual gifts, our relationships, our time, and our money. If we really believe that all of these things belong to God, then that revolutionizes how we live. Deuteronomy 26:10-11 empowers us to remember that God deserves not just a portion of who we are or what we have, but he deserves all that we have and are! And his goodness calls for a celebration of extravagant joy!
This goodness begs for proclamation. We must be a people willing to take God’s story above and beyond where we have it today. There is a whole world of men and women, boys and girls, broken and weary and lacking peace for their souls. They have shame that pierces their souls and leaves them wanting. Thankfully, God’s story is about the replacing of shame with honor. It is about cleaning up our broken pieces. It is about replacing disarray with peace. It is about forgiveness and healing and becoming united with the One who loves us better than anyone else could. Consider these truths as revealed in the tenth chapter of the New Testament book called Romans:
If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Romans 10:9-15 ESV)
Note that with the great truth that all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved, there is the equally great need for people to present that truth. “How are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?” Someone has to be sent. And those someones are you and me who follow after the person of Jesus. Which takes us to Isaiah 6:8, wherein it is said, And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then [Isaiah] said, “Here am I! Send me.”
There are a handful of important observations regarding Isaiah’s response to the Lord. First, in the Hebrew language the more precise response Isaiah offered for “Here am I” was “Behold, me.” In effect Isaiah is offering his total self to Jehovah, saying something akin to “Take note of all of me!” It is noteworthy that the words “me” or “I” are in the final position of the phrase. Were one to say, for example, “Here I am,” then the “I” would suggest something of place or space, or it would imply mere presence. But being placed at the end of the statement moves it past place or presence, making it serve instead as a reference to composition or totality. It is not that Isaiah is declaring he is physically or spatially present for the call to go. He is offering his whole self for the cause.
Secondly, also within the Hebrew language the more precise response Isaiah offered for “Send me” was “Send you me.” Embedded within the ancient writing is a reference to the One extending the invitation, the “you,” the Lord God. The sending for the cause of proclaiming the good news was not initiated by Isaiah, but by God. Isaiah is responding to the authority and direction and will of God. “Send you me” emphasizes the task at hand, the authority behind the task, and the total offering of the self for the task.
Isaiah’s response to God’s desire for someone to “go for” God and God’s mission should be your response and my response as well. It should be the response of Bethel Church too! We live in a world hungry for a remedy for the hurts and brokenness of the soul. We live in a world desperate for people to preach the good news. “And how are they to preach unless they are sent?” Well . . . they are sent, in the sense that the invitation is there from God. The questions really are these: Are we asking to be sent? Are we offering ourselves?
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Special Note: For those of you wanting to participate in Bethel Church’s capital campaign entitled, “Living Above & Beyond,” an effort through which we, by God’s grace, intend to eliminate the remaining 2.3 million dollars that we have on our facility, please note that pledge Sunday will be February 19, 2012. On that date we will receive from all interested parties whatever pledge commitments they would like to make to see the debt eliminated. Also, Sunday, March 4, 2012, will be our “first-fruits” Sunday, at which time pledge participants will offer their initial gifts for the effort. For more information click here.
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“Write This Down…” provides a restatement of selected points or observations from various teaching venues at which Pastor Matthew speaks. The preceding material is from Pastor Matthew’s message entitled, “Taking God’s Story Above & Beyond,” and part of the sermon series “Living Above & Beyond,” presented on the weekend of February 19, 2012, at Bethel Church.