Revelation 21: 1-7
The Movie Clip you just saw is from the movie Grand Canyon. In the scene, a man has broken down in a bad section of town and calls for a tow truck. As he sits in his car he is approached by a street gang who threaten to rob him. In the midst of the robbery the tow truck driver arrives, he is a gentle man, who is upset by the way this man is being intimidated by the street gang. He makes a comment that resonates so deeply to me and to our community. I hope you heard it. He says, Everything in this scene is not the way it's supposed to be. I'm not supposed to have to ask you guys permission to do my job, and this man is not supposed to have to wait with his car in fear that you will rip him off. This is not the way things were meant to be.
What an amazing summary of the world that we live in. You could go to any corner in our community and see that things are not the way that they are supposed to be. It’s not a secret that we live in a broken world. It’s not a secret that your life has it’s own share of brokenness, or that your family is dealing with it’s own brokenness. Our government is broken, businesses are broken, Hollywood is broken, we live in a culture of brokenness and that is not the way that it is supposed to be.
In Genesis chapter 1 we see that God comes into the chaos and brings wholeness and beauty. The story of scripture is that God created our world to be a place of amazing beauty. God entered into the chaos and creates peace and everything was perfect, just like it should be. There is a biblical word for what God created and that is Shalom. God brought Shalom into the chaos, but Adam and Eve sinned and the world began to spiral back into chaos. We sit here on the first Sunday of 2019 and we have to admit like Danny Glover in our movie clip that things are not what they should be. But we have some good news, God promises us that there will be a day when Shalom is going to be restored once again.
Look back at the text that was read for us this morning from Revelation 21. John looks into heaven and writes: “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” (3-4)
John paints a beautiful picture of renewal and restoration. Can you imagine living in a place that is surrounded with overwhelming beauty, a place where there is no reason for anyone to shed a single tear. John says that God is going to restore Shalom. If you are a child of God then you have the promise of Shalom in your future. There is a promise that one day you are going to experience the Shalom of God, the Shalom that God created to exist in your life, and you will never cry again. I know that seems like such a far cry from what you are experiencing right now.
Maybe you hear this passage and you think, sure God is going to restore all things. I believe God is going to bring Shalom back to the world. But that will happen when Jesus returns. That is last days kind of talk, we are not going to find Shalom here. Let me caution you to not get so focused on what God is going to do that you miss what God is doing right now or what God whats to do through your life today.
Our text this morning is not supposed to just give you hope for what God is going to do, it was written and preserved so that you can know how to live during this first week of 2019 while you are waiting for what God has yet to do. This passage is not just to make you feel good about your future, it is supposed to teach you how to live while you're waiting for your future.
I love living in this area; there is a sense of hope and excitement in the Golden Springs area. There are some exciting plans on the table for this area and I really believe that we live in a community that is on the rise, we are in the midst of a wonderful physical renewal. But we are not there yet. We look around our at community and have to acknowledge that this is not the way it's supposed to be. We all understand that our Model City has suffered through a period of urban blight. There still is evidence of brokenness all around us.
As we begin this new year we need to understand that it is not just the Model City that needs to go through a time of renewal. God has given us the responsibility to go into this community with a gospel of renewal. God has chosen you to be part of that great renewal. So, I want to look with you today, at what living that Gospel of renewal actually looks like. Look at verse 5 of Revelation 21: And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!”
God calls us to live out a Gospel of renewal. If you were to spend a few minutes thinking about what sin has damaged in our community, in your life you would eventually get to the point where you admit that sin has damaged everything. Everything in our world, in our families, in our lives have been twisted or distorted or bent or turned by the presence of sin. It’s everywhere. Our families are supposed to be a place of compassion, healing, and growth. But sin has invaded our homes and they can become one of the most hurtful places on earth. Churches are supposed to be a place of welcome, but sin has invaded our churches and turned them into places of condemnation and criticism.
Jesus didn’t die on the cross and leave the tomb empty so that we could be some kind of secret order of the saints that hide out with one another as we sing hymns, and wait for the Second Coming. Jesus invites us into His mission for the world, He calls us to be the most involved, the most creative, the most engaged community on earth because we have already experienced God’s renewal. We understand that God brings renewal over and over again because His mercies are new every morning. So we are called to share the Gospel of renewal.
We are called to live out a Gospel of presence. Look at what John writes in verse 3: I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.
You might be surprised to know that God is not shocked at the brokenness that exists in our world. He understands how we are enslaved by our brokenness. He knows how powerful our sin is, and He knew that the only solution for that brokenness was not a good doctrine and a clear set of principles. God knew that we needed the gospel. If all we needed was a little bit of doctrine and a few rules, Jesus would've never had to come. That’s why if we want to find true urban renewal we cannot just try to toss out a list of rules or a system of redemption. We are called to introduce our community to our Redeemer.
God looked at our brokenness and knew that the only way to fix what we had done was to come into our chaos and bring calm. God became a man and filled our need for a Redeemer. God knew that our greatest enemy is ourselves. He offered us a relationship but we were too selfish, we wanted to be God. And our selfish desires created a huge mess that God had to enter and save us from ourselves.
That's why we needed a Redeemer, and that’s why our community needs a redeemer. But here is the really great part that scares you to your core. God has not just offered you redemption, He has called you to be His ambassador in this community. Whatever you're doing, wherever you're doing it, there's always a greater agenda. You are not just working a job, you are bringing some urban renewal to your place of business. You are not raising a family, you are introducing your wife, husband, kids, grandchildren to a life that imitates Jesus. You are not living in your community, you are called to Model Love in the Model City.
You have been chosen to be His ambassador. You have been called to share the hope of humanity. You are the only way our community will hear the tone of God’s voice; the look on His face. You are the way our community will understand His mercy, compassion, grace, and faithfulness. God’s presence is not only in your life, but you are called to share His presence with our world. You are how the world will know His love and His character.
We are called to live out a Gospel of compassion. Verse 4: He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever. I love the way that John describes God’s mercy and the compassion. God's compassion not only reaches out to our needs, it completely meets our needs. He promises to wipe away every tear. John says that death, sorrow, or pain can never reach farther than God’s love and compassion for His children.
If we are going to receive His compassion in our lives, we have an obligation to share what we have received with those in our community. We are called to care about suffering of every kind, physical suffering and emotional suffering. We are called to not only recognize the brokenness in our community we are called to enter that suffering. We should want to be involved in the lives of others. When you understand how deep God’s compassion is in your own life it should compel you to reach out to others.
The body of Christ should be the most compassionate community on earth. The Church of Christ, a church that is striving to live like Christ, should be known for our mercy; we should be known for our tenderness; we should be known for our love. We ought to be on the front lines of any aspect of suffering where ever it exists because our Lord is the Lord of compassion.
Not only a Gospel of compassion, but a Gospel of humility. Look with me at verse 6: It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life.
The central point of Christianity is that we have been given a gift we could never earn, a gift that we could never deserve. We received the gift of eternal life, eternal acceptance into the family of God. There is no way you can earn a gift like that. It is the gift of grace. And while we could not earn it, we can live the rest of our lives being thankful for the gift.
Can we be honest and admit that Christianity has not always been known for humility, love, or grace. Actually if you were to ask a non-Christian how would they describe a Child of God, they would use words like self-righteous, condemnation, and judgmental. We carry some of the responsibility for the Urban Decay in our community. We have reasoned that there were other agencies that could do a better job taking care of the poor, that the government had programs that could better take care of the homeless. And we have turned all of our responsibility over to someone else reasoning that they would do a better job, when in reality we just didn’t want to do it.
When we tried to isolate ourselves from suffering it created an attitude of self righteousness. Having a spirit of Self-righteousness or feeling that somehow you are better than others does not line up with the Gospel of Christ. Actually, it's a contradiction of what we say we believe. The gospel calls us to stand next to the most broken and lost and rebellious sinner and look at him with eyes of compassion and eyes of love and eyes of grace because we know that we are honestly more like them than we are unlike them. If we judge a fellow sinner, we are actually passing judgement on ourselves as well. That’s why we must be known for our humility; for being a place where grace can be found.
Finally we are called to share a gospel of Victory. Look at verse 7: All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children.
If there was ever a group of people who could stand strong in the face of opposition, it's Christians. I mean we know how this story plays out, we have already read the last chapter. That’s why we will never relent in the face of opposition or difficulty. We can be stedfast in the face of trial. We refuse to abandon this city, even though it is a difficult place to minister.
As long as God allows us to have a voice we will remind our community that this is not the way it was supposed to be. We will be a voice of encouragement, not because we have it figured out but because we trust that God has it all figured out. We will remain committed to our heavenly Father, and we will step forward in faith and courage until we have reached Urban Renewal. If you want to be a member of this Greenbrier Family, if you want to be a part of God’s Family then you understand that God has called you to this lifestyle. You have been called to a new kind of life; you cannot live a life of passive Christianity, because God has been proactive in your life, you must be proactive in the lives of others.
I am not sure of you have figured it out or not, but your life hasn't worked according to your plan. Last week things didn't work like you wanted them to. If I could be a little bold and say that as I look out over the congregation this morning, that today didn't work according to your plan either. But thankfully God has a better plan for our lives, our families, our church, and our community. We are not called to understand what God is doing, we are called to follow where He leads, because He has promised that His plan for our lives ends in victory.
This year let’s strive to Model Love in the Model City. Let’s not just just live with the hope of Shalom, let’s live in the reality of Shalom. You have been called to a particular way of living. Are you living up to that calling? Are you paying attention to the broken people, and families that God has put into your path? Are you really interested in learning how to live a life that looks like Christ? Are you interested in reflecting His character. Is it important to you live out your faith, hope, and love in our community, knowing that is the only we can help God usher in renewal?
Are you motivated by compassion or are you so busy, you don't even see the brokenness that is prevalent in our community? Have you taken on an attitude of humility or do you walk around and critique everything and everyone you see? Do you realize that everything you have comes from God and is to be used in His Kingdom for His purpose? Does the realization of God’s grace in your life make it impossible for you to mistreat sinners because, when you look in their eyes, you see yourself? Are you courageously living a life that points people to God? Are you willing to answer God’s call in your life to model love in the model city?
The truth is that you won't always be liked. You won't always be understood. People won't always appreciate what you say and what you do. But you have a better calling so don’t quit, don't relent, because you've got amazing reasons for courage. You have heard how this story ends, you know that wherever God leads you, you are not alone because He leads the way.