A sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church, West Melbourne, FL on December 2, 2007 by Pastor Dale Raether Catch God’s Vision for His Church Isaiah 2:1-5 A Christian is an optimist. Would you agree with that? There are times when I don’t. I turn on the news and I hear about Iran and terrorism or our own government’s latest attack on the family. I pick up the newspaper and I read that because of foreclosures and gas prices, consumer confidence is the lowest it’s been in two years. And why does that matter? 70% of our economy comes from consumer spending. If people stop buying as much because their running scared, our nation can poor talk its way right into really serious problems. So you see, it is hard at times to be an optimist; but I haven’t even mentioned yet the spiritual bad news. We all know people who want nothing to do with Christ and His Word. Unfortunately their influence in society and sometimes over our family members or church family seems to be growing. And then there’s the little matter of death. How does anyone stay optimistic facing the reality that sooner or later death is going to come to a loved one, and someday it’s going to come to us also?I’ve just shared with you all kinds of reasons for being pessimistic. So, then, how can any of us be optimistic? Perhaps you’ve heard the expression that the pessimist sees the glass half empty and the optimist sees it half full? Well, being an optimist is more than just changing how we look at things. It’s also changing WHAT we’re looking at. This morning come with me into the Word of God and let’s CATCH GOD’S VISION FOR HIS CHURCH. 1. See the Word going out. 2. See the people coming in. \When I described our times a few moments ago and then said that Christians can be optimists, I wasn’t closing my eyes to reality, nor are our times anything that’s never happened before. When Isaiah wrote the words of our text, Israel was at the height of its economic and military power. We complain about how many cars are on the road. The Old Testament prophets complained about how many chariots there were. We lament our nation’s materialism. The prophets lamented how people’s lives were all about their big houses, their fine furniture and clothes, their music and their wine. It’s just as Solomon said, “There’s nothing new under the sun.” However, what disturbed the Old Testament prophets most of all was how few people were worshipping in the temple and how few even among the priests were reading and hearing God’s Word. Now it’s in this setting that God turns Isaiah into an optimist. We read, “This is what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem: In the last days the mountain of the LORD's temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.” In those days all the major religions were into building mountains to impress people and make them want to join. For example, here’s a picture of an ancient temple in Babylon. It was over 300 feet tall or actually about the size of the VAB building. A king, who could build a temple that big must have had the gods on his side, and so everyone had better obey such a king – well, that’s the message they were trying to get across. And now here’s a picture of what’s left of the Lord’s temple in Jerusalem. This is just part of the foundation. If that’s the foundation, can you imagine what the whole temple looked like? Our entire property covers 4.4 acres. The temple in Jerusalem covered 30 acres. However, in our text God wasn’t talking about buildings and man-made mountains. Let’s look at it again. The phrase IN THE LAST DAYS is a biblical term for that period of time, which began with Jesus lived, died and rose again, and continues until he returns in glory. If that’s the Bible’s definition of the last days, we’re in them, aren’t we. In fact, we might even be in the last days of the last day. But rather than let that disturb us, let’s look to the Lord’s temple. No, I don’ mean this one (picture of wailing wall). I mean this one (picture of Jesus). Jesus is the temple of God. Remember that pillar of fire with which God led the Children of Israel through the desert? At times that bright light would appear in a room in the Old Testament temple called the Holy of Holies. Can you imagine awesomeness of seeing that in person? However, that temple was only a fore shadow of God’s real temple. Jesus had said that God’s greatest glory is His love. In this slide, see His glory radiating from His temple (Jesus on the cross). Jesus put it this way, “When I have been lifted up, I will draw all men to myself.” However, Jesus’ glory did not end, when the Jewish leaders tore down His temple and He died. But on the third day, Jesus rebuilt God’s temple and now Jesus is alive forever (picture of resurrected Jesus).But how does this temple attract all nations to stream to it? This temple offers forgiveness! Now, when you hear that word forgiveness, don’t think along these lines, “God looks the other way from my sin, but deep down we know He still knows.” Rather, God promises that when He forgives us, He remembers our sins no more! Because for Jesus’ sake God remembers our sins no more, all our guilt is also removed. And here’s what that means. When the courts find a person guilty, he is subject to some sort of punishment, isn’t he. Since OUR guilt before God is removed, we are NOT subject to any punishment for our sins – not in the life to come, not even in this life. With our guilt removed, God does not punish us. He does not treat us as our sins deserve! Rather He disciplines us for our good, because He wants to turn us from our sinning or from relying on our own strength. And so, the result of our sins being forgiven and our guilt removed is peace. In this peace we can look at all the bad news in this world, and we can even think about all those things that could happen. But we can still be at peace, because our God is the Almighty. Peace leads to joy, because we know that our hope for the future is real and it’s certain. Our God is with us everyday and every step of the way. The Psalmist writes, “You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory – Psalm 73:24.” Just as an example of how God is guiding and blessing us – earlier I mentioned that consumer confidence is the lowest it’s been in two years. Think about that for a moment. If consumer confidence is really an indicator of what direction life is headed, how many blessings have you received from God during these last two years? Can you count them all? Can you even remember them all? And sure God used some things along the way to discipline our faith; but aren’t those blessings too?Therefore, when we look to the temple of God (picture of the resurrected Jesus), we can’t help but be optimistic! My prayer, then, that God fill us with the peace, joy, and hope that comes through the forgiveness of our sins and the removal of our guilt, so that we all may be courageous optimists. It is fitting that we be courageous optimists, because in this way we are glorifying God. Also there are many around us who need us to be courageous optimists. Again we read in our text, “In the last days the mountain of the LORD's temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.” As in Isaiah’s day, there are still other mountains out there – religions that seem glorious to man. However, let’s show why God’s mountain is so much more glorious than mountains made by man. Here’s a list of what goes out from God’s mountain. (slide of courage, hope, joy, peace, removal of guilt, forgiveness). Here’s what worldly religions have to offer (side by side slide of courage, hope, joy, peace). Other religions do teach people how to be at peace with themselves and with each other. People of other religions do find joy in their various ceremonies and traditions. They may even preach about the power of positive thinking in a person’s life. But do you see what’s missing? The foundation is missing. The true forgiveness of sins through God the Son’s death and the certain removal of guilt through His resurrection is missing!When we think about the blessings we have in Christ, all the more let’s pray that God make us courageous optimists, so that others can be attracted to Him by our courage in the face of whatever. And then people, who are longing for courage, hope, joy, and peace, will stream to God’s temple. However, let me emphasize that in these last days, God’s temple is not a building (slide of temple). God’s temple isn’t even in ruins (slide of the wailing wall). Actually in these last days until Jesus comes again, God’s people are His temple. You and I are God’s visible temple. (slide of people)! May the Word of God go out through you – through your words, your actions, your prayers, your offerings! And then be optimistic that through you many will stream to Christ. So, then, can we be optimistic about the direction our country is headed? Well, could Isaiah be optimistic about the direction his country was headed? Not really! God had told Isaiah directly that things in Israel would keep on deteriorating until it was destroyed. But history doesn’t have to repeat itself. And so, let’s keep praying for our country, and serve her, and do everything we can to preserve our liberties and our constitution. However, if we’re truly going to do some good for our country, Catch God’s Vision for His Church. See His word going out. See many coming in and saying, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths." And now one last word of encouragement. Do not say to yourself, “God’s vision for His church doesn’t work anymore. Times are too terrible.” Well, tell that to the apostles, who evangelized the Roman world. Or, tell that to the martyrs, whose witness resulted in even many of their persecutors coming to faith. Tell it also to the Reformers and those who brought their faith to America that God’s vision doesn’t work. And finally tell it to the countless families who worked long hours all their lives with little or nothing in order to raise their children to be godly children. We’re any of these people pessimists? They were not. They had caught God’s vision for the church. God grant that we may catch it too! Amen.

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