Sunday, July 09, 2006

Trinity 4 - Job 38:1-11

You probably think you know a thing or two about God. You probably are of the opinion that you’ve been around long enough, experienced enough of life, and are special enough a thinker to have figured God out. Sure, you won’t say you’re expert. In fact, no one’s an expert, for, after all, who can know the mind of God? But, since no one’s an expert, what you think probably ranks pretty highly on the reality scale of who God is and what he does.

Now, you probably have a few ground rules that you picked up somewhere at church. Something like “God is love” and “Believing in Jesus get’s me to heaven.” But beyond that, who can say? That’s really all you need to know anyway, right?

Then why are you here? What are you doing listening to me? Are you hoping in all of my rambling and story-telling you’ll find some little point you agree with so that you can take it home, pat yourself on the back and consider yourself a spiritual person? Is it a good work you’re doing, being here? “I give God some of my time and he will bless me.” Maybe you don’t know why you’re here, wasting your time listening to one more hothead’s opinions about what he thinks God is like. Or maybe you’re not listening at all. Maybe your parents made you come.

We all have our reasons. And I’m pretty confident that none of them are completely pure. I know mine aren’t. But I can tell you this without any reservation:

If you don’t think that somewhere, somebody knows the one and only Truth, and that this truth can be enfleshed with human words and put down, once and for all, with unquestionable clarity – if you think that the Church is a beast of human opinions some of which are true but some of which we’ll just have to wait and see about – then I can tell you without reservation that you are wasting your time here.

You’re wasting your time because if you can’t know truth without a shadow of a doubt, if you can’t pin it down, write it out, speak it again and again and have it always be the same answer, then the reality remains that you simply can’t know truth at all. And if you can’t know truth at all then the Church and everything to do with it is a big, fat lie. You’re better off sleeping in, eating out with the fifty dollars you put in the offering plate, and waiting for death to take you somewhere else, wherever that might be.

That is a life without truth. That is a life without faith. And make no mistake: we’re all faithless. It’s not just our postmodern culture and it’s claims of "relativism. " It’s our human nature, sinful and unclean – that means, without faith. That means unable to believe the Truth even when the Truth is staring you in the face, like Job and his friends, sitting around together, spouting our opinions about what we think God is like, all the while admitting that we don’t really know anything, but going on to pool our ignorance anyway as if this somehow does us any good.

Do you know what it does? It makes God angry. Listen to his Word to Job when Job, righteous man, decided to think he knew a thing or two about God. God said: Who are you that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?...Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me…Who determined its measurements—surely you know! …Who shut in the sea …and prescribed limits for it …and said, 'Thus far shall you come, and no farther? …You [must] know, for great is your [wisdom.]

Do you know these things? I don’t. I haven’t the foggiest clue. But God knows these things. He knows these things and a whole lot more. And because He is God, when He decides to reveal the answers to these questions or any others, then it's probably a good idea to listen.

But that’s hard for us Americans. That’s hard for us human beings. We’d rather cling to our opinions. We like our ideas. We like them so much that if we try hard enough we usually can find a way around what God says. And that, right there is the cause of all division in the world. Error which refuses to believe the Word of God is the sole author of discord and disunity. Of course, who gets the blame for the discord? Surely not our lofty opinions. We blame the Truth, or the person who speaks it. We blame “theology” and "doctrine," as if these things were not God’s gifts of His knowledge of Himself, given to us for our own good. We find ourselves acting like God is the problem, rather than the answer.

And who do you think is hurt most by this unbelief? Not God. We are. Without the Truth of God’s Word we are impoverished. We are empty vessels. We are dying animals. And that’s all we are. Look around you at the world. Next time you walk through Shop Rite or Wal-Mart, look at the people, the empty vessels, the dying animals. Look at them and see in their eyes, in their faces, the lack of truth. The lonely, hurting, confused opinions that barely keep them running, like a car coasting on fumes, sputtering and puttering to the end of the line, which is nothing other than an open grave.

And who can help them? Who can give them answers? Surely no congregation that thinks “theology” is a matter of opinion and that our guess is as good as anyone else’s. If that’s the case, then every one of us should hop on a train to S***** R****** Community Church, because they’re already doing this “growing congregation” thing far more successfully than we are. And if we don’t have real, true answers to the false answers being taught there, then, frankly, who do we think we are encroaching on their turf with our opinions?

But theology is never a matter of opinion. There is a man who knows the answers to all questions. There is one man who knows where the sea’s boundaries lie, who can even stand up in a boat and say to the hurricane, “Peace, be still!, and it is! There is one man whose every word is a word which gives life to the dying animals. There is one man who broke into the chaotic whirlwind of our opinionated, impoverished world to bring us the few but absolute answers that he believes are the ones we need most.

Jesus Christ came to give us Truth. Jesus Christ came because he is Truth. And the Good News is that you, right now, are receiving that Truth. That is why you’re not wasting your time here this morning listening to me, because Jesus Christ is Truth. That is why you put $100 in the offering plate this morning, because you know that this is the one place where you can be certain to receive Truth, the real, unshakable answers of authentic Christian theology which creates faith by filling you with the name of Jesus.

Jesus, who doesn’t just have the power to stop the rain from falling, but who has the power to give you words you can believe without reservation. Jesus, who didn’t just speak louder than those around him about what he thought might be right, but who claimed he was right incarnate, and then he took himself as right straight to the grave that was supposed to kill right once and for all. And just as the enemies of all that is right laughed their loudest, thinking they had won, he showed that life, when it is a life lived with the power of Truth, is stronger than death.

This is your Lord, who rose from the dead to prove once and for all that there are answers. And every time you hear these answers your faith grows stronger.

Such is your confidence! When Almighty God gives answers his answers are plain. No matter how much or how often error insists upon causing division by dissenting from the clear and the obvious Truth of the Holy Scriptures, the foundational teachings of the prophets and the apostles, given in the name of Jesus, are a doctrine that drips with the waters of life. Having tasted such nectar, how could we eat anything else ever again? Having come to the fullness of Truth, how could we ever depart from it? Having been raised from the dead, you, already in our Lord Jesus Christ, how can we not also believe that every answer he gives us are the very words of eternal life?

The grass withers, and the flowers fade; but the Word of the Lord stand forever. Amen.

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