Pastor Galen, March 24th, 2019
How many of you like free stuff?
I think our culture is pretty obsessed with the word “free.” We love to get things for free, we love being free, we love things that are free of contaminants or chemicals. The word “free” usually brings up positive connotations.
I love the website Craigslist. Craigslist is one of those websites where you can post local announcements or post pictures of things that you have for sale and people in your local area can buy them. Sort of like an on-line yard sale.
And of course, the favorite section is the free section.
I haven’t had very much success getting things for free on Craigslist — you have to be very fast and persistent. But I’ve had great success giving away things for free.
Last weekend we wanted to get rid of a refrigerator that didn’t work up in our youth space, Emmanuel’s Rock. It was super heavy, and I thought we were going to have to pay someone to haul it away. But I posted it for free on Craigslist, thinking that perhaps someone might come and get it to sell for scrap metal, and sure enough within a few hours a family came and hauled it away for us for free! In the past I’ve posted things for a few dollars and no one has even responded at all. But the minute I change it to “free” it’s usually gone within a few hours.
We as a society love free stuff.
All Who Are Thirsty
Here in Isaiah 55, the Lord invites everyone who is thirsty to come to the waters to be satisfied, everyone who is hungry to come and eat, and anyone and everyone to come and buy wine and milk, with no money and without price. Now if you’re buying something with no money, that essentially means its free! So often certain people are prohibited from buying or partaking in something when there’s a cost. But here God is inviting everyone to come and receive whatever they need.
The grace of God is free to all, there’s nothing we need to do to deserve it. Salvation is a free gift. There’s no amount of money we need to give or spend, no amount of good works we can do to deserve it, God’s mercy and grace are free and available to all, no holds barred.
That’s pretty amazing, right? Grace and mercy and salvation for free! We don’t need to spend money on it! We don’t need to do anything to earn it! You’d think that our culture would be obsessed with it!!
Why Spend Your Money on Things that Don’t Satisfy?
And yet so many people spend so much time and money and energy working for things that don’t satisfy. So many people think that they can buy their way into a life of satisfaction and joy. And so they spend their lives working as hard as they can to get into the best school they can so that they can get the best job that they possibly can, in order to make the most money that they can, so that they can buy everything they want.
They try to keep up with the latest fashion trends, the newest releases, the hottest styles, so they can appear on the outside like they have it all together.
But inside they’re not satisfied. Inside they feel like they’re missing out on something. And so they strive for more and more, hoping that eventually, they’ll fill the void.
Some people try to fill the void with relationships, jumping from one relationship to the next, thinking that if they can just find the right person then they’ll be happy.
Other people try to ignore the void. They binge on TV or food. They self-medicate, or turn to illegal substances or activities. Other people thrive off of adrenaline, seeking one adventure after another.
But in the end, there is down deep inside of us a hunger and a thirst that can only be satisfied by God.
And the Good News is that God’s grace and mercy and salvation are accessible to all,
We just have to “Seek the Lord while he may be found, [and] call upon him while he is near” and Isaiah says. We need to forsake our unrighteous ways, return to the Lord, and God will have mercy on us and abundantly pardon us.
God’s Word will Not Return Void
Many of you have family members, friends, and loved one whom you have been praying for. You’ve seen them heading down the wrong path, you see them striving after things that don’t satisfy, you see them filling their lives with things that are destructive or meaningless, refusing to acknowledge God. And I know it’s painful to watch people go down that road. It’s painful to watch, and so many of you have been praying and seeking God on their behalf for a long time.
But Isaiah’s word here gives us a measure of comfort for them as well. Isaiah reminds us that God’s ways are not our ways and that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts. And that just as the rain falls down from the sky and waters the earth, so God’s Word will fulfill God’s purposes on this earth.
Over the years many of you have spread the Word in a variety of ways. You’ve taught Sunday School, Vacation Bible school. You’ve sang in the choir, performed with the Good News Puppets. You’ve led youth programs, invited friends and family members to church, and in general tried to be a witness to your friends, neighbors and coworkers.
And some of you might wonder if it has all been in vain? You look around here at all the empty seats, and you think of friends and loved ones who used to go to church, people who used to come to Sunday School of Vacation Bible school, and now you’re not even sure if they’re following the Lord.
But Isaiah says that God’s Word will not return empty. God’s Word will accomplish the very thing that it is meant to do. The songs that you taught in Vacation Bible School, the Bible verses you taught in Sunday School, they will stick with people for years to come.
Music has a way of sticking with people. How many of you have ever heard a song that you hadn’t heard in a long time, and instantly you were flooded with feelings and emotions? You were taken back to a time in your life where that song had special meaning to you.
I talk to so many people who used to go to church. And even if they don’t go anymore, they still remember. They still remember the songs, the Bible verses, the kindness and gentleness of their teachers.
And so, even if your friends or loved ones have gone astray, keep praying for them. Keep seeking God on their behalf. Keep lifting them up to the Lord in prayer. Keep praying that God would work in their lives, that God would draw them back, that they would come and enjoy the spiritual feast that God has for them.
The reality is that there’s not much that we can do to change their minds. As you probably know, no amount of arguing or reasoning will work with some people. But as it has often been said, we are the only Bible that some people will ever read. So keep praying, keep trusting, keep seeking God, and allow your life to be a living witness and testimony to those around you.
Come to the Altar
This morning I want to make an invitation. We have an altar here that is available for anyone to come forward and pray. And so this morning I want to invite you to come forward if you would like prayer for anything whatsoever.
Maybe you want to pray on behalf of a friend or loved one for whom you have been praying for many years. I want to invite you to come forward, and kneel at the altar on their behalf.
Maybe you have a health need or concern. I want to invite you to come forward.
Or, maybe you are struggling with something in your own life that you just want to give over to God.
Come forward, and kneel here at this altar, and let’s just spend some time in prayer.