14 And it will be said:
“Build up, build up, prepare the road!
Remove the obstacles out of the way of my people.”
15 For this is what the high and exalted One says—
he who lives forever, whose name is holy:
“I live in a high and holy place,
but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly
and to revive the heart of the contrite.
16 I will not accuse them forever,
nor will I always be angry,
for then they would faint away because of me—
the very people I have created.
17 I was enraged by their sinful greed;
I punished them, and hid my face in anger,
yet they kept on in their willful ways.
18 I have seen their ways, but I will heal them;
I will guide them and restore comfort to Israel’s mourners,
19 creating praise on their lips.
Peace, peace, to those far and near,”
says the Lord. “And I will heal them.”
20 But the wicked are like the tossing sea,
which cannot rest,
whose waves cast up mire and mud.
21 “There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.”
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL
VERSION ®. NIV®. COPYRIGHT © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by
Biblica, Inc.®. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
- We’re told here that God (the high and holy one) lives with the lowly people. God seems to really value humility. What is humility and why do you think it matters?
- What is the opposite of humility and what can un-humbled people expect from God?
- What does God promise to do for needy people? What are some of the words used in this passage to describe his ministry to them?
- When you’re with humble people, it feels different. Why do you think it is more enjoyable to be around humble people?
- How does the gospel help to create humble people? Explain.
A Contrite Community
*This is a transcript is generated from the sermon audio. This document has not been edited for spelling, grammar, or exactness.
If you can track down a Bible, we’re in Isaiah chapter 57. And in the Bibles that we have here, that would be on page 637, six, three, seven. Isaiah chapter 57, verses 14 to 21. I’d like to read those verses. Then I’ll pray and we’ll get to work. Isaiah chapter 57, starting in verse 14.
And it will be said, build up, build up, prepare the road, remove the obstacles out of the way of my people. For this is what the high and exalted one says he who lives forever, whose name is holy, I live in a high and holy place, but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite. I will not accuse them forever, nor will I always be angry, for then they would faint away because of me. The very people I created, I was enraged by their sinful greed. I punished them and hid my face in anger. Yet they kept on in their willful ways. I have seen their ways, but I will heal them. I will guide them and restore comfort to Israel’s. Mourners creating praise on their lips. Peace, peace to those far and near, says the Lord. And I will heal them. But the wicked are like the tossing sea which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud. There is no peace, says my God, for the wicked.
Let’s pray. Lord, we commit this time to you as we’ve opened Your word. We’re praying that by Your spirit, through Your word, you would speak to us, help us to become a community of faith that embodies good news of the gospel. We pray in Jesus name.
We’re doing a series right now called Gospel Culture. The idea is we want our church to be a place that feels like the Lord is here. Not just a place that can talk about it, or a place that can make different confessions of what we believe and what we think and all these different things. But we actually want the good news of the gospel to become so profound and so real around here that when people walk in, the vibe that we have is the Lord is here, ministering to me. And that’s our ambition as a church. And that’s what we’re aiming to do. So let me show you here in Isaiah chapter 57, three things the work that we need to do, the key to that work, and then the gospel dynamic that makes it all work. Okay? So three things the work that we need to do, the key to that work, and then the gospel dynamic that makes it all work.
So first off, the work we find in verse 14, the work that we’re to do as a church is to prepare the way of the Lord and to make it easy and accessible for others. Look at verse 14 and it will be said, build up, build up, prepare the road, remove the obstacles out of the way of my people. You have job to do. When the scriptures say something twice in a row, it’s like an exclamation point or an underline. It’s saying, this is what we need to do. The Lord is saying, you have a job to do here. It is to build something up. It is to prepare the pathway of the Lord. It’s to make level ground and to remove all the obstacles out of the way of my people. The church has a job to do and it is to make the Lord accessible. I was thinking about it this week. There was a time where my brother Brad and I found a place on the farm that we had never been to before and it was on the creek. There’s a creek that runs through the tree farm and it’s a very shallow body of water. There are parts that are just a couple of inches deep all the way across. But we found a part that was a fishing hole, and we were fishing there, and we caught if you’re a fisher, if you go fishing often, this won’t impress you, but we caught 14 fish that day, and we caught northern pike, small mouth bass and bluegill, which I was like, I didn’t even know those could be in the creek. That’s just kind of weird. In my mind, that would be in a lake nearby. But we found this fishing hole and it was almost magical. But to get to it was really, really challenging. First off, you have to cross the creek. You have to go across a forge, an area where we put rock in so that you can drive through and it doesn’t wash out. And so we have these ATVs and you get on the ATV and you’re cruising out there and then you have to put your feet up on the fenders and then you just have to charge through so that it doesn’t bog down or stall in the middle. Which, by the way, there was a time where I took my Jeep Wrangler – my high school car – and drove it into that same exact spot when it was flooded and I sunk it. And we had to pull it. That’s a whole other story. My point is it’s very difficult to get to this fishing hole. So, we drive through on the ATV and then the creek’s going off in this direction, but you have to go in this direction. You’ll meet up with it later. And then we marched through. It’s called like a wetland area. It’s like a grassy area where the grass is up to your neck and you’re just kind of waiting your way through the grass. And we found I should have fact checked this, but we found a car out there, like a part of a car that had just been there for so long. It was like a shell. But anyways, we did that, and then I think we had to cross another part of the creek, which you walk on a beaver dam where they put the sticks up there. So we walked across there and all of a sudden we come into this open area with this big tree with a branch that sticks over the creek that we could easily climb up into, and we would just sit on the branch and catch fish out of a tree. It’s crazy. And it was so fun. And we were like, this is amazing. This is an awesome part of the farm we’ve never even seen before. Well, later on, somebody built a footbridge and mowed a path out there and just made it very, very easy and accessible for other people to get to that area. And I was thinking about it. When we look at this passage, what the Lord is telling us is you need to make this accessible. That’s your job. Build up, build up, prepare the road, remove any obstacles out of the way of my people. And most of us treat the church like it’s a secret fishing hole, like we love it, but we’re not really interested in figuring out a way to get a bunch of other people out there. We’re just fine with having to go through the creek and walk across a beaver dam and bring our stuff out there on our own. But what the Lord wants us to do is to make that path accessible, to clear any obstacles out of the way of other people having access to the Lord. So we need to figure out, as a church, how can we do that? How can we design what we do every Sunday in a way where somebody can walk in here and they don’t feel like they have to go through all this huge adventure to try to find the Lord? But we have done everything within our ability to build the path up, to make it obvious, to make it accessible, to make it something that even kids can walk to. That’s what the church is intended to do build this thing up, remove any obstacles out of the way. Now, the truth is, we don’t gravitate in this direction. Nobody does. So we have to be intentional about it. But there are a lot of different ways that we actually put obstacles in the way. For instance, one of the things that happens in any church, any Christian organization, is a lot of times what we find is we create obstacles by giving preferential treatment to certain individuals. For instance, there are some people who you recognize real quick. They have influence and decisions are made, and often it benefits that small group of people. That’s a danger that we would have as Park City Church, that we would create a church environment where only certain people are making choices and those choices are always beneficial to that small group. That would be an obstacle. So another person would walk in here and they’d feel like, I’m an outsider. I don’t know how I would ever get into that kind of experience. That’s one of the ways that we create an obstacle. The Lord is saying, remove that, get that out of the way. Another thing that we often do, and we see this in Scripture another thing that we often do is we put additional expectations on people that go well beyond what the gospel requires. We say, yes, you can be a part of our church. Yes, we’ll tell you the good news of the gospel. But if you’re going to be a part of this, there are also a lot of additional extra things that we expect from you. In fact, often what it ends up boiling down to is we want people to be like us. That’s kind of the essence of this one. We look at other people and we go, you’re free to be here as long as you kind of look like me, as long as you kind of behave like me, as long as you kind of think like me. The church has always been plagued with this issue. And in fact, in the first century, they had a meeting about [this issue] in the Council of Jerusalem in Acts Chapter 15, because what was happening was you had the the Jerusalem church started up and ethnically and culturally it was very kind of the same. Everyone just kind of thought the same way, did the same thing. But then as the gospel started moving out, it was reaching Gentiles and people who thought differently and people who acted differently and people who dressed differently and people who behaved differently. And they had to decide, what are we going to do here? Because I like church when people show up and they’re like me, and now all of a sudden we got all these other people coming in and it just doesn’t feel comfortable anymore. So what do we do? Do we make them become like us? Which often happens in evangelism and missions where people go somewhere and they say, we’re going to reach these people, but what they’re actually trying to do is just make them the same. The gospel wants us to be comfortable saying, hey, here’s what the gospel requires. We’re not going to go beyond that. So in that meeting in Acts chapter 15, they came to this conclusion, and I think this was James speaking on behalf of the group, but he said, it is my judgment that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Yeah, we could tell them a bunch of extra requirements to be comfortable around here, to fit in around here. But it’s my judgment that we should not do that. Because when we say, here’s the gospel message and here’s all the things we want you to do, we’re creating obstacles. We’re creating barriers that are in the way of God’s people coming to him through faith in Christ. So as a church we have to get comfortable with this where we’re able to say here is the essential requirements of the gospel, what God says in his word. And then we’re going to be open handed about a lot of other things and we’re going to be willing to be uncomfortable and inconvenienced as other people come in and they have different ideas than us, different ways of doing things than we have. And we have to be willing to say that’s okay, because we don’t want to create an unnecessary barrier to the good news of the gospel. We should not make it difficult for the gentiles who are turning to God. I’ve seen I’m on Pinterest looking at church design all the time, thinking about how can we make this place our own? How can we make this place better? One of the designs that I really like, and it often shows up in a church office space is this verse posted on the wall let us not make it difficult for people who are turning to God. All the planning we do, all the choices that we make, let’s be sure that we’re not making it difficult for people who are turning to God. Let’s choose to do this incredible work of preparing a path where people from all kinds of different walks of life can come in here and can hear the good news of the gospel and respond with faith. The second thing that we find here is a key to the work. We’ve got the work of building up.
THE KEY TO THE WORK
But here’s the key to doing that work that we find in verse 15. The key to doing the work is that we actually need to humble ourselves and become what is described here as contrite and lowly in spirit. If we’re going to do this sort of thing, we actually need to be the kind of people who humble ourselves and become contrite and lowly in spirit. But we find here in verse 15, 1st off, we find a problem. How can anyone draw near to God? How can anybody draw near to a holy God? Because that’s what we’re dealing with. We have a God who is absolutely holy, who is perfect, and in some ways is unapproachable as the Bible describes verse 15. For this is what the high and exalted one says he who lives forever, whose name is holy, we’re dealing with a holy God. Now, one of the critiques that I have received over the years and it’s been a critique of our church and kind of the culture is I’ll say things like we want to create a place that is safe for people or I’ll say we want to create an environment where people feel cared for. And some people will say, I don’t know Core, I don’t always want it to be safe. Sometimes I want it to be dangerous, right? We’re dealing with a holy God like can you always say it’s going to be going to feel safe and sometimes there would be some pushback and they’d say it feels like you’re making God just kind of wimpy. And the truth is, when you look at gospel culture, no, we’re not making Him wimpy. In fact, in some ways, we’re even underlining his holiness that he is the kind of God that Uzziah you guys remember the story where they’ve got the cart with the Ark of the Covenant on it and the ox are pulling the cart and it rocks? Like, the ox stumbles and the cart kind of tips a little bit. Uzziah puts his hand on it and dies because he’s dealing with a holy God and an item that is holy to the Lord. We’re dealing with that kind of God and we find it here in verse 15. This is what the high and exalted One says he who lives forever, whose name is holy and God says it Himself, I live in a high and holy place, but also with the One who is contrite and lowly in spirit. God is high and holy and otherworldly in the fact that he is unapproachable. He is wholly different from us. But this God makes Himself accessible to a certain kind of people and it is the kind of people who will humble themselves and experience his provision. He lives in a high and holy place, but also with the One who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the Spirit of the lowly, to revive the heart of the contrite. This is the testimony of the entire Scripture. In Psalm 138 six it says the Lord though the Lord is exalted, he looks kindly on the lowly, though lofty, he sees them from afar. God has a gravitational pull toward people who are humble and lowly. And we can actually flip that around and say and actually he’s repelled by people who are prideful, by people who feel that they don’t need to be humbled, by people who feel that their righteousness is sufficient. And in fact in this very chapter earlier in verse twelve, it’s talking about the righteousness that people are trying to bring their own homebrewed righteousness, this is what I can do. And God says to them, I will expose your righteousness and your works and they will not benefit you. So God is drawn to the contrite and lowly in spirit, flip it around and he’s repelled by those who have their own righteousness and don’t see a need to be humble. So it’s saying God gravitates to the lowly and what he does for them is he revives them, he revives their spirit, he revives their heart, he brings life to them. The Lord is close to the broken hearted and he saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34 verse 18 so God looks at us and he says, when you humble yourself and you are contrite and lowly in spirit, God draws near and he revives. Now, that word contrite, it’s actually a Hebrew word that means crushed. It means crushed. If we want to be contrite people, it means we’ll be a crushed people. And that’s actually a good thing. We’ll be crushed in a few different ways. One of the ways that you can be crushed is through life. Life is hard and heavy and things happen and they don’t go your way. And oftentimes it feels like, man, the wheels are falling off my life. I don’t know what’s going on. This is disappointing. But in reality, that is an opportunity for you to be humbled enough to receive from God all the good things that he has in store for you. It’s hard to look through the hurt and the difficulty and see this. But often what God does is he meets us at our places of need, and when we feel crushed by life, he is there. He’s near. He’s present with us and able to revive. Ray Ortland, the dude who wrote that little green book that we reference quite often and give away around here, there was a part of his story where he became the lead pastor of a church in Nashville, Tennessee. And he was doing it for a season, and it was going pretty well. It was an established church, it was going great. A lot of people liked him, but there was a small group of people who did not want him to be their pastor. And here’s what Ortland said about it. He said there was a group that purposed to not have me be their pastor. And simply put, they succeeded in their purpose. He said, it nearly took me out. If you ever have the chance to listen to him tell that story, you can hear it in his voice. It shakes. And he recalls those moments of being crushed by the experiences of disappointment. And he actually honestly would say in that moment, what he was wrestling with was it felt like God didn’t even like. But through that, God drew near to him and revived his heart and restored his life and his ministry. And he goes on from there to plant a church and to successfully minister and to write and do different things. But he was crushed by life. And what I’m trying to say is a lot of times we’ll go through seasons like that and we’ll feel hurt, disappointed and frustrated. But I want to say to you, God is present there, and in some ways he’s present there in that season of brokenness in a way that he’s not present in other seasons of life. God is there and he’s able to revive the heart of the crushed. He’s able to revive the spirit of those who are lowly. So God is there and he’s doing a spectacular work. So stay with Him and be confident in his goodness. Another way that we’re crushed is when we acknowledge our own sinfulness. Another way that we experience this contrition is by acknowledging our sin and our need for God’s work. For instance, in the book of Isaiah, it happens for Isaiah way back in chapter six, he gets a vision, he gets to see something, and it is breathtaking. In Isaiah chapter six, he says, in the year that King Uziah died, I saw the Lord seated in the temple, and the train of his robe filled the temple. So he gets this vision and it’s God in the temple and the train, like a wedding dress that would have a big train behind it, the train of the Lord’s robe was filling the entire temple, just filling the place up, just all this fabric in there. And then he sees seraphim, these angels that have wings, and they’re flying around, but they have three sets of wings. So with one set, they’re covering their feet, which like RC. Sproul says, their creatureliness, they’re covering themselves like this. And they’re flying around with the other set, the final set, they’re covering their faces and they’re crying out to each other, holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty. The whole earth is filled with his glory. And Isaiah has that experience, and he says, he falls down as though dead. And he says, I’m toast. I’m ruined because I’ve now beheld the holiness of God. I have seen the glory of God, and I’m a man of unclean lips, and I dwell among a people of unclean lips. In other words, he’s crushed by the glory of God in that moment because it dawns on him God is holy and I’m not. And under the weight of that acknowledgment, he experiences contrition. God meets Him at that point of need, and the angels take a tongue and get a coal and they place it to his lips, an expression of atonement. God is making a way for you to be here, but there’s that experience that we all should have, where we say, when I acknowledge the holiness of God, and I look into my own heart and I find their sinfulness, and I begin to realize the disconnect. I can’t be in the presence of a holy God without Him making some accommodation for me. And I am crushed by that. That is a part of saving faith. It’s the acknowledgment of sin. And that’s what I think is here, that both these ideas being crushed by life and being crushed by sin are a necessary requirement for experiencing God’s nearness. And the fact is, when we resist this, we are at odds with God when we say, no. No, Cor, I’m a pretty good person. I don’t need all this crushing talk, thank you very much. I’ll just be better. I’ll just try harder. I’ll just perform more righteous deeds and kind of win God over to me. Jesus once told a parable about that in Luke, Chapter 18. And it says, to some who are confident of their own righteousness, that’s the setup. To some who are looking at themselves going, you know, I know there are some people who really should be crushed by God, but I’m doing quite fine. And Jesus said to some who are confident of their own righteousness, let me tell you a little story. He said there were two people who went up to the temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, a religious person, a religious adherent. The other one was a tax collector, sketchy individual, poor choices, sinner. They both go up to pray. The Pharisee prays like this lord, thank you that I’m not like this guy. Thank you that I’m such a good individual. I do all the things you want from me. I do all the things right. I’m just trying really hard and I’m so grateful. I’m not like this joker. The tax collector, on the other hand, stands off at a distance with his head hung low, beating his chest, saying, God have mercy on me, a sinner. And Jesus said, Only one of them, only one of them goes home, right, with God. And it’s the tax collector. Only one is justified with God that day. See, a lot of us, we come in here and we forget how sinful we are. We forget to experience the holiness of God and feel crushed by our own sinfulness. And we start to look at our record of deeds and we start to think, you know what, we’re doing okay. And God reminds us repeatedly, no, all of us are sinners in need of his grace and his saving work. And what we need to do is to experience contrition and be lowly of heart. And then God will draw near to us and he’ll show us exactly what he’s done for us. Now, think about it. If a community of people actually believe this, how much more beautiful could it be if you’ve got a bunch of people who are self-righteous and just smug and looking down on other people and saying, you better try harder. Look at me, I’m doing a good job. Why don’t you do more like me? That’s an environment I want nothing to do with. But if you come in and it’s a bunch of people who say, hey, guys, around here we’re all broken, sinful people in need of God saving work, all of a sudden you come in and it’s an environment where you can be honest and you can be free to experience the work of God.
THE GOSPEL-DYNAMIC THAT MAKES IT ALL WORK
Well, thirdly, the gospel dynamic that makes this work, verses 16 to 21. Here at the end of this section, we see the gospel news. Now, DA Carson, a professor at Ted’s. He notes that we don’t have all the details here. We don’t have the name of Jesus. We don’t have the picture of calvary per se in this passage. But Isaiah does give us enough to see this is a Gospel message. There are two groups here. Both of the groups are sinful people. Not good guys and bad guys. It’s two groups, both of them sinful. One of the groups does not have their sin held against them. Question is why? Why can God do that? The other group, on the other hand, does have their sin held against them. They are called the wicked. In verses 20 to 21, my question is, what’s the difference? And what’s the difference in experience? Well, those who are wicked, you see it in verses 20 and 21. It says, the wicked are like the tossing sea which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud. There is no peace, says my God, for the wicked, there is no rest for them, and they are experiencing no peace. The other group, though they are sinners, experience the provision of God. That is absurd, if you ask me, it’s absurd. You don’t do this for people like them, but that’s what God does. Let’s look at it. What’s the difference between these two different groups? And the answer, I think, is that idea of contrition. The one group recognizes their sinfulness and their undeservedness, and they turn to God and God says, okay, I’ve got some great news for you. Let me show you what I can do for those who are contrite and lowly in spirit. The other group, the wicked, they turn away from God and they double down on their own sin. And that’s why God says there is no peace for them. There is no rest. They will always strive, they will never succeed in performing a righteousness that is required. The difference is contrition. The one group is willing to acknowledge their need, and therefore they experience God’s saving work. What happens is God is he’s not taking their sin and going, yeah, no big deal. Guys, I don’t really give a rip about sin. It’s not that big of a problem for me. So let’s just not talk about it. Let’s just kind of wink at it and pretend it doesn’t exist. No, the way that God deals with sin is through atonement it’s through punishing sin. But it’s interesting how God determines to do that. And we see it actually in the book of Isaiah, in chapter 53, not much earlier, we found out that there was this servant who was going to suffer, this servant who was going to be pierced for our transgression, and he was going to be crushed for our iniquity. And actually in Isaiah 53, verse ten, it uses the same word that we have found for the word contrition, but it uses it of him, of the suffering servant. And it says, it was the Lord’s will to crush him and to cause him to suffer, to make his life an offering for sin. This is what God was doing. This is the good news of the Gospel. God is atoning for sin. By crushing not us, but his Son, the suffering servant. So he gets crushed so that we could be revived. He gets wounded so that we can be healed. He gets pierced so that we can experience the peace of God. God is making atonement through the sacrifice of His Son. He is dealing with sin and all of its effects. That’s why the Apostle Paul puts it like this in Romans three, through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, what Romans three says in verse 26 is, this is how God is both just. He’s not unfair. He’s not tilting the scales. He’s not doing some funny business here. He is just. He is punishing sin. This is how through the atoning sacrifice of Christ, this is how God can both be just and the justifier of the ungodly. It’s the cross of Jesus Christ. This is how God can say, I recognize sin and all of its effects. And I’m not dismissing that I am punishing it. I’m exhausting my wrath fully on the suffering servant. I am just and the justifier of the ungodly. So he can look at us and he can go, yeah, I’m fully aware. I know what you guys are doing. I know the sinfulness in your hearts, and I am able to pardon you, and it is good news because you do not deserve this. But I have visited the punishment of sin on my son Jesus Christ, and you can experience that by faith in Him. Let’s look at the blessings of the Gospel in this passage. Verse 16 there is no condemnation. I will not accuse them forever, nor will I always be angry. The New Testament language there is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. God says, I will not hold this against them permanently. I will deal with them sensitively. Look at the second half of 16, for then they would faint away because of me, the very people I have created. If God held your sins against you indefinitely, you’d be smoked. But he says, I’m not doing that. They would faint away if I were to do that. The very people that I’ve created, I will deal with them sensitively. He’s aware of our sin. Verse 17 I was enraged by their sinful greed. I punished them and hid my face in anger. Yet they kept on in their willful ways. They persisted in it. And isn’t it true when you look at your own life and you go, man, I’ve been following the Lord pretty long, I should know better. And you keep doing the things that you know are offensive to him. And God says that’s who they are. I was enraged. I told them that I allowed them to suffer the consequences of their choices, and yet they kept on in their willful ways. They persisted in it. And then look at verse 18. I have seen their ways. We didn’t pull a fast one on him. He’s fully aware I have observed everything. I see it all, I know it all. Here’s what I’m going to do. But I will heal them. I have seen their ways, but I will heal them. I will guide them and restore comfort to Israel’s mourners god says, I’m fully aware, but here’s what I can do. I can minister to you guys, I can heal you. I can guide and lead you. I can restore comfort to you. I can bring you peace. That’s the ministry that God is performing for us, and it results in a worshiping community. Verse 19 creating Praise on Their Lips why do we sing at church? When the Williams get together for birthday parties and we sing Happy Birthday, we laugh because it’s so horrible. We don’t know how to sing. So why do we come together every week and say, hey, guys, we’re going to sing. It’s because we’ve got something to sing about. It’s because God has done such incredible work on our behalf that it creates praise on our lips and we just can’t help it. We sing because God is so good. And it says it goes on to say, peace. Peace to those who are far and near, says the Lord, and I will heal them. It’s the gospel that makes this whole thing work. When we talk about being a gospel culture, it’s not just some ambition that we have. It’s some reality that God has performed a saving work that is so absurd that he looks at people like us and he says, I love you. I know the things that you do wrong, I know the sinfulness in your heart, but look what I am doing for you. I will heal you and guide you and comfort you and bring you restoration. I will revive your heart and your soul. It’s the good news of the gospel. Now, when people embrace this, especially collectively, it makes a beautiful environment. It makes a place where people can come in and experience the work of God. I remember when I broke my arm skateboarding. I broke my wrist skateboarding at a skate park in Rockford. And I think I was 13 at the time. Second major injury like that. Both of them were were very unsettling. You just you start to think, is this thing ever going to look normal again? That’s the first thing that’s going through your brain. Like, this is not good. And there was this 18 year old, but he seemed like ages older than me, but he skates up to me and he comes near and a group of people kind of surround me. And he says to me, and I don’t remember all the details, but it was something like this I know you’re scared right now, and I know that this is hard to believe, but you’re going to be okay. And he said, I know because I broke my arm like this. And in that moment, that solidarity that we shared it helped me. And then my parents cart me off to the hospital, and we go to the hospital and it’s a very different experience. And I’m married to a nurse, so I’m not trying to pick on anyone in the medical industry, but it’s very clinical in there. It’s very sterile. And people come up to you and they tell you, what’s going on. You broke your arm in these different places. And here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to set it and then cast it up, and you’ll heal for whatever amount of time, and you’ll come back and yada, yada, yada. I don’t think this happened. But you can imagine that sometimes people are like, shouldn’t have been skateboarding, like kind of a smug attitude toward it. Like, oh, you did it to yourself. You chose to do these things. That can often be the experience in a hospital setting where you go in, you expect to be cared for. There’s not bedside manner. There’s not those sorts of things. Here’s my concern. A lot of times when people come to church, it feels more like that. It feels like they’re in an environment that is prescriptive. It feels like they’re in an environment where people say, you shouldn’t have done that anyways. Now you’re just suffering for it. It feels like you come into a place and what you get is a couple verses and they say, okay, pray this prayer and hear your verses. And once you come back in six months and we’ll see how you’re doing, instead of it feeling like a group of broken, wounded people who are experiencing the good news of the gospel that say, hey, I know this. Is scary right now, and this is disappointing. And you can’t imagine how this is going to play out. But it’s going to be okay. Because my God is the kind of God who takes broken situations like this. And he mends. He makes things well. And I know that because I’m the recipient of his grace. I’m someone who also has experienced brokenness. When you come into an environment like that, all of a sudden game on. Like, you can be free to be honest and you can share what’s really going on with you, and you recognize we’re all just a bunch of broken people standing at the foot of the cross saying, guys, here’s what we have to offer, what God has done for us, and it is sufficient. He is able to heal. He is able to guide and lead us. He is able to give us the peace that we so desperately need. He is the one. Henry Nouwen wrote a little book called The Wounded Healer, and the whole premise of the book is what I’m talking about right now. He says this, “The great illusion of leadership is to think that man can be led out of the desert by someone who’s never been there.” The great illusion is to think that we can get somewhere with people who’ve never actually been. But the truth is that the reason why we can be a gospel community is because we should be a group of people who say, we’ve been there. We’ve been to that place of brokenness and disappointment, and God has revived us. So anyone can come in with their brokenness and their hurt and their disappointment and they can find God. May we be that kind of church for his glory.
Let’s pray. Lord, I pray that you would help us to be a community of people who are willing to do the hard work of building up and preparing away and removing all the obstacles that would prevent people from finding Jesus Christ. We pray that you would help us to be self critical of the different things that we do that are preventative. Let us make the necessary changes to make the highway to the Lord easy and obvious. Lord, I pray that you would help us to experience contrition even if it means we have to be crushed, even if it means we have to experience devastation and loss. We believe it would be worth it. Help us to be contrite and lowly in spirits that you would draw near and revive us. Lord. Help us to be so aware of the good news of the gospel and the undeserved grace that you freely give out to us, that we would become a community of wounded healers who are pointing people to our Lord and Savior who rescues and revives, who guides and leads, gives us people. We pray in his name. Amen.