Matthew R. Perry

When a Good Sermon Turns Ugly, Part II

In Sermons on February 7, 2008 at 6:02 pm

(This sermon was preached on Sunday, February 3, 2008, at Boone’s Creek
Baptist Church, Lexington, KY. To listen to this sermon in its
entirety, click here. You can also read over the Introduction and Part I.)

Part II:  Most in our culture will reject Jesus’ word eventually.

Luke 4:22-27
And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” [23] And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself.’ What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.” [24] And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. [25] But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, [26] and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. [27] And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”

For the majority of individuals, when a sermon shakes us out of our comfort zone, shakes us out of our feeling of security before God, shakes us out of our lethargy and our delusion that we may be in good standing before God — these are the sermons that offend us. And ultimately, it is not the sermon that offends us — but it is Jesus Himself that offends us.

For the people there, Jesus offended them on many levels. For one, Jesus was one of them. He was from Nazareth, but said that this age old prophecy referred to him. In Mark 6:2-3

[2] And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? [3] Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.

But Jesus doesn’t stop there. He notes how they long for him to do a sign — signs like he did in Capernaum and other places where he ministered. That’s what he meant when he said, “What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.” Jesus’ response to the attitude of his hometown crowd is most interesting.

The first thing he looks at is the story of Elijah and the widow found in 1 Kings 17:7-16. A famine had overtaken the land, and this woman named Zarephath in the land of Sidon. She was gathering sticks when Elijah came up to her, so she could have one last nice meal for her and her son. Elijah responded in this way:

1 Kings 17:13-14
And Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said. But first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterward make something for yourself and your son. [14] For thus says the Lord the God of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain upon the earth.’ ”

Then Jesus talks about the story of Elisha and Naaman from 2 Kings 5:11-12. Naaman was a Syrian and was a commander of the Syrian army, sent by the king of Syria to be cured of leprosy. When Naaman went to the prophet Elisha, he told him to go wash himself seven times in the Jordan River. This commander objected. The Jordan was a dirty river and he requested angrily to be washed in the cleaner rivers back in Syria. His advisors told him to do what the prophet said. So he followed the prophet’s orders and was cured.

Now, these listeners in Nazareth were quite upset — but why? What’s the connection? Well, Jesus not only told them that they were poor, blind, captive, and oppressed, but now they were worse than the Gentiles! The widow from Sidon and Naaman from Syria (both decidedly Gentile territories), believed God’s messenger. They didn’t ask for a sign, they simply obeyed.

The question is brought up: can God only work where there is faith? Here, Jesus didn’t do any miracles, but in other places it was said that Jesus couldn’t do any miracles there because of their unbelief. Can God only work where there is faith? In other words, does our lack of faith hamstring God’s effective will?

The answer is a resounding “No!” God is the one who determines how His Word will move. Acts 17:24-25 says, “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, [25] nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.”

Let me ask you: has there ever been a time when you felt a sermon flatly offended you? Was there ever a time when you felt you were in good standing before God, only to have a faithfully preached sermon hit you right between the eyes? How did you react? Did you feel as if you were above the rebuke? How many times have I been told that a sermon hit someone right between the eyes — and I had no idea it would do so! Some have gotten upset because they were convinced I was talking directly to them.

My question to you is this: is your faith a faith that continually examines itself? When Paul wrote in 2 Cor. 13:5, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? —unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” The true Christian faith is one that takes God’s Word — whether they ‘enjoy’ it or not — and use it as a mirror to examine themselves. The true Christian faith does not rest on its laurels!

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