Will You Stand In The Gap?

I’m so excited for the new sermon series beginning this Sunday at Westlake. I’ve often said it is a series eight months in the making. Every week the question, who’s your one, has been asked. Now, we as a church are going to embark on a five week journey studying the power of one in the hands of God. We have an aquarium in the foyer that says, who’s your one? We are going to use three different color ping pong balls to fill this aquarium. The ones that we are specifically praying for by name will have their first name written on a white ping pong ball. When we share the Gospel with someone, we will write their first name on a yellow ping pong ball. And when God in His grace saves someone, we will write their first name on a red/pink ping pong ball. It is to be a visual reminder of our responsibility and God’s faithfulness. The white and yellow balls remind us of our responsibility to pray for the lost and to share the Gospel. The red/pink balls are a reminder of God’s grace and His commitment to His plan of redeeming lost sinners to Himself for His glory. I’m grateful to the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention for making this an emphasis, and for producing materials to help churches in this endeavor. But I want to share in the remainder of this post what is really driving this emphasis for me, and why it is at this time that we are going to do it, because again, I have asked this question every week for the last eight months.

The impetus for this comes out of Ezekiel 22:23-31. God in speaking to and through the prophet Ezekiel is explaining why Judah (southern kingdom of Israel) is experiencing the judgment they are. It is a powerful, yet sad indictment against the people. The Lord says that their are false prophets who are lying and taking advantage of the people, the government officials are corrupt by shedding innocent blood and taking advantage of the people, abusing their authority, and the people themselves are living no differently than the other nations around them even though they had been called by God to live a holy life. They are killing innocent people, they are taking advantage of the poor and needy, neglected the widows, neglecting and taking advantage of the foreigners in their nation (what we would call today the immigrants), and they were robbing one another. I have to be honest, as I look at that list, I can’t help but take Judah’s name out of there and put in its place the United States of America. I am not saying that the USA has replaced Israel as God’s chosen people. That is a dangerous and frankly a false teaching that should be condemned from every pulpit in America. However, America has been blessed by God, and our nation was founded upon Judeo-Christian values. Since our nation’s inception, we have enjoyed religious freedom which has allowed the Bible to be taught, and churches to minister freely in the nation. Yet, we are a nation of corrupt government which sheds innocent blood through abortion in the name of choice and convenience. We have a government that has redefined marriage from what God calls holy to something that is not only unholy but condemned by God. We have overlooked the poor, the needy, and the immigrant within our borders. Just yesterday, the United States House of Representatives passed H.R. 5, the so called Equality Act. This is a very dangerous piece of legislation that need to be defeated. It is so dangerous and such an overstep by the government that something I don’t ever think has happened before is happening, feminist groups and Christian groups are aligning to condemn this bill. H.R. 5 will not only redefine our understanding of sex or gender, but it will put the lives of our daughters in danger. I have much more to say on H.R. 5, but that will be another post at another time. The point is, our current government is following in the same footsteps of the government in Israel in Ezekiel’s day. But this isn’t just a government issue. Churches are full of false prophets and false teachers that are tickling the ears of hundreds of thousands of people each week, and lulling them to sleep with self-help, moralistic teaching that will not lead to salvation but rather condemnation of those who hear these messages. In many Christian circles, conspiracy theories about the government are spread faster and more often than the Gospel is shared. We are so busy trying to get the officials we feel should be in office in there, we have completely ignored our calling as the church. While we fight over elections, we are allowing people to go to hell without ever hearing the Gospel. Yes, we need to be involved in politics as Christians. Yes, we need men and women who loves Jesus and use a biblical worldview to make decisions in governing this nation. However, we cannot lose sight of our primary calling, to make disciples of all nations. This includes not just those who have been born in America, but also those who have come to America from other places. While illegal immigration is, well, illegal, it doesn’t mean that those people aren’t image bearers of God who are separated from God by sin, and in need of hearing the Gospel that God in His grace might save them. Hopefully I have been able to prove my point about where our nation is right now, and how it relates to Israel in Ezekiel’s day. But there is more.

In Ezekiel 22:30 it says, “And I (God) sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me, that I should not destroy it, but I found none” (bold for emphasis). God sought someone, anyone, who would stand up and stand in that gap. Someone who would take to God on behalf of men, and then go talk to people on behalf of God. Someone who would stand up and say ,”This isn’t right, we are going in the wrong direction.” And that last phrase is so painful to read, “but I found none.” In verse 31 God says that is why He destroyed the land and sent the people into captivity. This is the impetus for the series, Who’s Your One, now. Our nation is in a dangerous place. While we as Christians might often blame the lost for where we are as a nation, I believe that is wrong of us. I believe it is something we should confess and repent of immediately. We are in the position we are in, because we as Christians and churches have not stood in that gap. We have not prayed for our government enough. We have misplaced priorities which has led to misaligned worship. Instead of seeking to please God by making disciples and living holy lives, we have been too busy trying to live a comfortable life. We do everything we can to protect religious freedom, yet we do nothing with it while we have it. We act as though as Christians we must have freedom to do the Lord’s work. Yet, I would challenge you to go and study the Bible, especially the New Testament, and tell me where you see freedom of religion in there. Find that passage that says Christians will have an easy time while on earth. I will save you some trouble, you won’t find those concepts. What we will find is Jesus repeatedly telling His disciples to expect persecution, to expect living in danger, and expect to lose freedom and in some cases even your life for the sake of the Gospel. Maybe what we have been protecting is what is actually keeping us from fulfilling God’s mission for our lives.

I have been very bold and blunt in this post. Maybe too bold and blunt. If so, I sincerely and humbly ask for your forgiveness. My heart and I know the hearts of others are breaking for this nation, for this world, and for the condition of the church. This seems like such a monumental and insurmountable task. Yet, God has given us the Holy Spirit to live inside of us and to work through us. In the power of the Holy Spirit, we have everything we need. He will give us the grace, the power, the mercy, the love, and the grace to fulfill His calling on our lives and on our churches. The only question that remains is this, will be make ourselves available to God so that He can accomplish His plan in us and through us? A clergyman by the name of Edward Hale, who I do not agree with His theology, said, “I am only one; but still I am one. I cannot do everything; but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.” It starts where you are. It starts right now. Will you start today?

By His grace and for His glory,

Pastor Justin

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