Sermon for Sunday, April 1, 2007
Title: His Kingdom Comes – Taking the Church to the Nations
Text: Ezekiel 36:20-23 (HCSB) 20 When they came to the nations where they went, they profaned My holy name, because it was said about them: These are the people of the Lord, yet they had to leave His land [in exile]. 21 Then I had concern for My holy name, which the house of Israel profaned among the nations where they went. 22 “Therefore, say to the house of Israel: This is what the Lord God says: It is not for your sake that I will act, house of Israel, but for My holy name, which you profaned among the nations where you went. 23 I will honor the holiness of My great name, which has been profaned among the nations—the name you have profaned among them. The nations will know that I am Yahweh”—the declaration of the Lord God—“when I demonstrate My holiness through you in their sight.
Have you ever looked at the heroes of the Bible? Look at Moses, here was a guy, wanted for murder, runs away and becomes a sheep herder for someone. God chose him to lead the nation of Israel out of the slavery of Egypt. But the other thing is, when God asked him to do it, all he did was complain that he wasn’t the right person, he didn’t have the skills, and he wanted God to choose someone else. Look at Gideon. Here’s another guy that’s from the weakest family in his tribe and he’s also the youngest in the family. God asks him to save his people, and what does he do? He protests telling God that He’s made a mistake, and then he challenges God to prove it. I can give you other examples of how God uses people to do His work, but these people aren’t the kind of people that the world, or maybe even you or I would choose to be leaders. The people that God chooses probably aren’t the ones voted as “Most Likely to Succeed” in the high school yearbook.
Why did God choose Israel? Of all the nations of the earth, why did God decide to bless this little tribe of people? Why did He say, “I am going to give them My name and shower upon them My honor and My glory”? Why did He do that? Or perhaps a more relevant question is, Why would God choose to redeem us? We as a church family, me individually, you individually—why did God redeem us? We don’t often even ask the question truthfully, and we certainly can’t say that we deserve it.
But these verses that we just read reminds us that God has a master plan and has been at work to fulfill that plan through the ages. That’s what were going to talk about today.
Father, we pray right now that our hearts would be open to hear from You, not to hear from any person, but to hear a fresh word from You, directed by Your Holy Spirit, from Your Word. And may we be strangely troubled by the Word of God that brings conviction to the heart of man, and may we say yes, in Jesus’ name, Amen.
I. God’s Desire
Do you remember when David wanted to build a temple for God? He wanted a place that would represent the majesty of God. David wanted to build a house worthy of God’s name, where God’s name would dwell, where His character and His presence would be known.
Even though God sent word through His prophet Nathan that David would not build the temple but his son Solomon would, David’s spirit was not broken. He was still filled with praise to God. And in that praise, David said, “This is why You are great, Lord GOD. There is no one like You, and there is no God besides You. . . .And who is like Your people Israel? God came to one nation on earth in order to redeem a people for Himself, to make a name for Himself, and to perform for them great and awesome acts. You established Your people Israel Your own people forever, and You, LORD, have become their God” (2 Sam. 7:22-24).
David got it. He understood. David said there is no other god. This was not well known or accepted in that day. People worshiped numerous gods. Even today’s society there is a lot more of that. I was talking to someone at the coffee shop the other day, inviting her to church. When I asked if she knew Jesus Christ, she replied that her mom was a Christian, but she believed in all gods. I’ve heard that a lot lately from people that I meet. All over people are saying that everyone’s religion is true and their gods are to be respected. But David states the fundamental truth: there is just one God.
Then David wonders: What one nation on earth is like Your people Israel? What made them special? There wasn’t anything outwardly impressive about this tribe. Other peoples outnumbered and outmanned them. So why them?
David answers, “God came to one nation on earth in order to redeem a people for Himself, to make a name for Himself, and to perform for them great and awesome acts.” How easily we skim over David’s words. But his words reveal God’s desire. God said, “I redeemed Israel for Myself, that I might make a name for Myself.”
God wanted to make a name for Himself so that all the nations would know that He is the Lord God. It was a redemptive concern, that all nations would worship Him. The Old Testament repeats the phrase “the nations” over and over. I found 324 verses in the Old Testament that talks about the nations. God’s passion, from beginning to end, was and is that all the nations would come to honor Him as King.
When God chose Israel, He was looking for:
· A people who would embody His name, that is, a people who would embrace His character and would live in a way that others saw that their God was true and holy.
· A people who would embrace His mission to the nations. God was looking for a people who would understand and commit to His desire to be known among all people.
· A people who would obey His Word.
But the children of Israel were not faithful to that purpose. Instead, when God sent Israel among the nations, they disobeyed Him and profaned His name. God is not going to allow His name to be profaned among the nations in this way; therefore, Ezekiel outlines God’s solution. That brings us to Ezekiel 36.
Because of those things, God said, I’m going to bring unique blessing on you. Israel had assumed that the blessing of God was to be consumed rather than to be conveyed. The church in North America is at the same crisis turning point that Israel was when the prophet declared this opportunity. We’ve been so blessed as a nation; we’ve been so blessed as a church; we’ve been so blessed as a people. And yet we oftentimes come to consume the blessing rather than convey the blessing. That’s where Israel was.
II. God’s Solution
So God said, “I want to tell you what I’m getting ready to do.” God’s solution is in verse 23. Ezekiel 36:23 (HCSB) I will honor the holiness of My great name, which has been profaned among the nations—the name you have profaned among them. The nations will know that I am Yahweh”—the declaration of the Lord God—“when I demonstrate My holiness through you in their sight. God said, “I’m going to show you the holiness of My Name.” But even today, we ask the question, “When will the nations know?” and God answers, “when I demonstrate My holiness through you in their sight.”
God said, “I’ve got a strategy. I’ve got a plan. I’m going to put Myself in a people in such a unique way that I’m going to show Myself holy among them, among the nations. Then they’ll know.” This all begins right here, where we are, in this location, at the corner of Sacramento St and Berkeley Way. It begins in our youth groups, in our high schools; it begins in our young adults, in our senior adults, that wherever we go, whether it’s on the golf course, on the tennis court, in the high school, or wherever it is - that there’s a holiness about us that’s so attractive, people begin to say, “Who are those people and why do they live like they do?” It begins when that process begins to expand from us. God said, “When I show Myself holy among My people, then we will see the conversion of the nations.”
I know God has a solution. God has an activity. I believe that we’re living in the most exciting days that have ever been known since the days of Jesus. What is God going to do in our day? We may have an unprecedented chance to reach the nations. We’ve got the technology. We’ve the opportunity. We’ve got the mission force. What we do not have yet is restoration, renewal, and revival. And here’s what God says He’s going to do.
III. God’s Plan
The first part of God’s plan is Restoration: Ezekiel 36:24 (HCSB) For I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries, and will bring you into your own land.
After Israel possessed the land, they began to disobey God’s Word. So God scattered them several times. Ezekiel was preaching to a scattered people who had been taken into Babylonian captivity. He told them God promises that He will gather them and bring them back into their own country. He was going to restore His people.
2 Chronicles 7:14 (HCSB) talks about returning to God and the need to confess our sins. “and My people who are called by My name humble themselves, pray and seek My face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.” To confess, though, is more than verbal confession. It is aligning ourselves once again with God’s character. To confess His name means to agree with His name in our life. It’s not a matter of merely agreeing verbally. It’s easy to come to church, to kneel in prayer, and to say, “Lord, bring a revival on our nation.” But, the only way we’re going to see a change in the culture of this nation, the only way we’re going to see the penetration of the gospel among the nations, is for sweeping revival to come. God desires to restore His people.
The second part of God’s plan is Renewal. Ezekiel 36:25 (HCSB) 25 I will also sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. I will cleanse you from all your impurities and all your idols. God will restore and renew us.
There comes a time in everyone’s life and also in the life of every church that it must experience restoration and renewal. This is something that we must do to become new again. It’s like having a great awakening in our church so that we can truly see why God started this church and what He wants done through us and our church. Having a renewal would be like going to a new church, because that is what it will become.
God also said that He would cleanse us from our impurities. Ezekiel 36:26-27 (HCSB) 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 I will place My Spirit within you and cause you to follow My statutes and carefully observe My ordinances.
The third part of God’s plan is Revival. Ezekiel 36:28-30 (HCSB) 28 Then you will live in the land that I gave your fathers; you will be My people, and I will be your God. 29 I will save you from all your uncleanness. I will summon the grain and make it plentiful, and will not bring famine on you. 30 I will also make the fruit of the trees and the produce of the field plentiful, so that you will no longer experience reproach among the nations on account of famine.
God not only wants to revive us, but He also wants to reinvigorate us. When He saved us, He placed the Holy Spirit to live in us, and because of that, He asks for us to carefully obey those things that He asks us to do.
When we become people that Embody His Name, Embrace His Nation, and Obey His Word, God will bless us and revitalize our church and renew each and every one of us to become kingdom people. But why does God want to do this? Because He wants to restore our fruitfulness. Ezekiel 36:29-30 (HCSB) 29 …I will summon the grain and make it plentiful, and will not bring famine on you. 30 I will also make the fruit of the trees and the produce of the field plentiful… See how God pictures fruitfulness. He wants to give all of us fruitfulness again.
My passion, my heart in the power of kingdom growth is for our church, the Berkeley Chinese Baptist Church, to be restored and revitalized to fruitfulness. If we’re going to reach our community, our world, God’s going to restore fruitfulness. If we’re going to reach the nations, God’s going to have to restore the fruitfulness. God has a heart for the nations.
With God’s Spirit within us, we will be a new people in the land of promise, that’s right here where God put us, on the corner of Sacramento St and Berkeley Way. The marvelous thing is that God’s blessing does not stop there. We will be delivered from impurities. Our church, which is the land, will produce abundant harvests. God is bringing back to life His people and the land He promised them.
But the revival does not stop with us. God doesn’t do this for our sakes. His goal is that the nations around them will know He is God and that He has done this. God, true to His desire, longs for the nations to come to Him.
Why does God want to bring a great awakening in our generation at our church, the Berkeley Chinese Baptist Church? So that He will receive the glory. God chose Israel. God has chosen you. He wants all nations to honor His name. Are you living in a way that people see His character, His holiness, and His presence in you?
Father, I want You to bring restoration, renewal, and revival to our church. I pray that everyone in our congregation will become restored and revitalize so that our church will be able to start all over again, as if everything was fresh, and that the excitement when our church was born, 42 years ago will come back. Put in our hearts a desire to become kingdom people and to show the nations who You are through us. In Jesus’ Name I pray, Amen.