8/27/2000, P11, Year B
Win Them All
"(41) ...when a foreigner, who is not of your people Israel, comes from a distant land because of your name (42) ---for they shall hear of your great name, your mighty hand, and your outstretched arm--- when a foreigner comes and prays toward this house, (43) then hear in heaven your dwelling place, and do according to all that the foreigner calls to you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel..." (I Kings 8:41-43, NRSV).
My earliest memories encompass the churches that my Dad served. I recall helping to carry Revival announcements throughout the neighborhoods. One year we had Cowboy Charlie Wireman as our evangelist. The 6 x 9 cards had a picture of him in a ten gallon hat. Since I wanted to be a cowboy when I grew up, I was especially eager to go out to everybody in the neighborhood and invite them to come every night during the two week Revival. And the people came. One night Brother Charlie shared his testimony from his early days as an outlaw in Oklahoma. The church was packed to hear how the Lord had transformed his life. Lots of strangers to the church were included during that week of trying to win them all. One of our Sunday School songs was entitled, "Everybody Ought to Know Who Jesus Is."
Later I learned that Jesus' Great Commission was from his deep love for the peoples of the earth beyond Israel's borders. "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations..." (Matt. 29:19). However, I feel that most of us missed the fact that the origins of our cross-cultural vision for evangelism finds its roots in the Old Testament.
The notion of universal salvation was not just an afterthought. God had intended that all of the families of the earth be brought into relationship with himself; however, His chosen people failed to carry out that mandate. God's ideal of inclusion is clearly heard in our text from King Solomon's Dedicatory Prayer at the opening of the Temple that he built. The vision that came to Solomon from God originally included all people.
The loss of this missionary mandate included in the Dedicatory Prayer, was lost as a result of the King's willful turning away from God. He married many foreign wives, daughters of Pharaohs and kings, with the political intent of forming foreign alliances. I Kings 11:3 tells of 700 wives and 300 concubines, who turned his heart away from God. He built altars, in Israel's Promised Land, to foreign gods, and even worshiped at these altars instead of at the Altar in the Temple to the One True God. Abominable heathen practices were incorporated into these false temples built on high places around Jerusalem. Instead of winning foreigners to the Lord, many of God's people were lost as slaves to sin the like of which had not occurred since the days of Sodom. Chapter 14: 24 tells of cult prostitutes, both male and female, who were allowed into these false temples. Although God maintained a faithful remnant, they never warmed to the idea of inviting foreigners into the covenant community.
In time, God sent His Son to offer free grace to all who would believe. He has commissioned us to carry forth His marvelous Gospel to the whole world. Our task as a church is to make disciples at our outpost on Peachtree at Porter Place. "Red and Yellow, Black and White, we are precious in His sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world."
Solomon's people were not able to carry out God's plan because their leader failed. Solomon willfully turned his back on God. His moral failure illustrates the tremendous domino effect that fallen leaders have on those who follow them. It took many years for God to right the wrong inflicted on his nation, and the world, by the corrupt King Solomon.
Time has healed most of the past and in our present situation we have the opportunity to invite everyone into our Sanctuary for all people. This is God's plan for us!
Surveys continue to tell us that most people who commit themselves to discipleship and church membership visited for the first time because of a simple invitation from a: Friend, Relative, Associate, or Neighbor. Thus, our Friendship Evangelism model is called F.R.A.N. You don't even have to walk through your neighborhood passing out 6 x 9 cards. You regularly see your Friends at social events and other occasions. Our Relatives, are folks we love and with whom we want to share our great church. Most of us have Associates at work with whom we strike up conversations and find it easy to say something like, "Why not visit our church this Sunday, we have the greatest preacher in the world!" Neighborhoods are made strong through strong friendships. As you get to know your Neighbors they just might ask you where you go to church before you can invite them. It's as easy to say, "Hey come on with us this Sunday, we have a wonderful Sunday School for your entire family!"
If we really care about our circle of FRANs we will want the best for them. Likewise, if Christ has brought us into His Kingdom, we can hardly not invite them into this marvelous experience of knowing God, and growing in His Grace.
Atlantans were shaken by the tragic story in the local news recently about a father, all tattooed and with many body parts pierced, who set his trailer on fire with his three children inside. We saw the televised pictures of him sitting and watching while small children burn to death, as he made no effort to save them. The neighbors were upset by what they saw; but, one can't help but wonder how the situation could have been so different if one of those neighbors had earlier invited the family to visit with them at their church. The same Lord that saved Cowboy Charlie Wireman can still change people's lives. The Holy Spirit wants to use our arms as His "outstretched arms" to win everyone everywhere.
And what a difference it could make if we could win them all to the Lord! There are boys and girls, men and women, in your circle of relationships whom you could best influence for the Lord. The challenge is ours: Will we find a way to stretch out our hand in God's name?
a sermon synopsis
by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor