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A Loser Friendly God

Matthew 11:1-6

Jim Davis

Larry Carter tells the following true story:

I remember when I was a kid, some 40 years ago, playing on a Little League baseball team.

One of the things our coach did was host a picnic for the team at the beginning of the season. After we ate hot dogs and burgers, he sat us down for a pep talk. He asked, "How many of you have a dream to one day play in the Major Leagues?" Almost every hand shot up. Every kid with his hand up believed he could do it. You could see it in their eyes. He then told us, "If that is to happen—that dream begins now!"

I was so inspired by that challenge—all of us were—that we practiced and played hard and we went undefeated for the next few years. All-Star teams from other leagues would play us and lose!

Some 25 years later I became a Little League coach. I brought all the kids together at the beginning of the season to give them a pep talk—the same one my coach had given me. I asked my team the same question, "How many of you have a dream to one day play in the Major Leagues?" Not one hand was raised. Not one kid believed he could do it. You could see it in their eyes. I was speechless.

The rest of my talk was meaningless, so I said, "Really? Nobody? Well, go get your gloves and let’s throw." I thought about that day for a long time. What had happened in the 25 years since I was a kid? What had come into their lives to steal their dreams? What had convinced them they would never be more than what they were? (Citation: Barry Merritt, Toledo, Ohio.)

The world has a way of robbing the greatest potential from  even the best of people. The message we receive from the world is mostly impersonal. There’s no one standing over you telling you that you will never amount to anything. They are just ideals of success buzzing all around us that convey that message. We become thoroughly convinced that the majority can never attain the world’s standards—and the vast majority can’t. The good news is that you don’t have to attain the world’s standards to be successful or to be great. You are already great in God’s sight. If the death of Christ doesn’t prove that to you, what can prove it to you?

Disillusionment Discourages Us

The world also has a way of making even the best of God’s children feel like losers. There wasn’t a man of greater importance that preceded the immediate coming of Christ than John the Baptist, but he was made to seriously question his importance. He had heralded the coming of Christ as the Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world. The world brings him to such a diminished view of his own importance that he seriously questions his best efforts.

Matthew 11:1-12
11:1 After Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee.

2 When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples 3 to ask him, "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?"

4 Jesus replied, "Go back and report to John what you hear and see: 5 The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. 6 Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me."

7 As John's disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: "What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? 8 If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings' palaces. 9 Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is the one about whom it is written:

"'I will send my messenger ahead of you,

who will prepare your way before you.'

11 I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. NIV

It is hard to believe that a man God commissioned to prepare the way for the Messiah could become so disillusioned. John the Baptist may have been in prison for at least a year when he asked this question. He recognized Jesus was a great healer, but he was preaching the Christ as the one to bring judgment. John had been suffering unlawfully and immorally because he preached Christ, yet Jesus had not brought justice to him. Israel’s concept of the Messiah was that he would establish his earthly kingdom and rule in righteousness. John became disillusioned because Jesus didn’t fit the role the world had envisioned for the Messianic kingdom. He believed that if Jesus was the Messiah he would have already delivered him.

"Faith gets tested when a sense of God's presence fades or when the very ordinances of life make us question whether our responses even matter.

"We wonder, "What can one person do? What difference will my small effort make?"

I once watched a series on public television based on interviews with survivors from World War II. The soldiers recalled how they spent a particular day. One sat in a foxhole all day; once or twice, a German tank drove by, and he shot at it. Others played cards and frittered away the time. A few got involved in furious firefights. Mostly, the day passed like any other day for an infantryman on the front. Later, they learned they had just participated in one of the largest, most decisive engagements of the war, the Battle of the Bulge. It did not feel decisive to any of them at the time, because none had the big picture of what was happening elsewhere." (Philip Yancey, "Reaching For the Invisible God," Christianity Today 9-4-00)

The answer Jesus gave John doesn’t ring a bell in our modern ears. Do you know why the answer doesn’t ring a bell with most? It is because most do not understand the message of salvation. To most of us it probably seems far removed from the actual inquiry. "Jesus replied, ‘Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.’" This was Jesus’ way of saying justice and judgment has come. It came in Jesus Christ. It wasn’t the way John anticipated. The spiritual healing Jesus brought to the world was for those whom the world had discarded.

Jesus’ answer to John was a straightforward answer. John may have not fully understood the kind of justice Jesus sought, but those healed fully understood what Jesus was doing. In John chapter nine when the Pharisees asked the blind man whom Jesus had healed who Jesus was he simply replied, "We know that God doesn’t hear the prayer of a sinner." He didn’t know much about Christ, but he knew he was from God. Jesus simply reminded John of the healing that was taking place. Jesus had set them free; therefore he had brought judgment and justice.

Jesus came to bring spiritual healing and justice to losers. The world regarded the type of physical needs Jesus healed as a sure sign that God has discarded them. It was necessary for Jesus to heal the blind, lame, leprosy, the deaf, raise the dead as he preached a gospel that would vindicate their worth. What better to way proclaim their dignity than to do for them what only God could do—heal them? They needed to know they were not cursed by God. They needed to know that God loved losers.

The religious leaders of Jesus’ times were from the upper curst of society. They put everyone else down—including Jesus. However, Jesus came to save those the upper crust considered losers. In doing so he turned the world’s idea of winning and losing on its head.

"Though you are one of the teeming millions in this world, and though the world would have you believe that you do not count and that you are but a speck in the mass, God says, ‘I know you.’" (D. Martyn Lloyd Jones in The Best of Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Christianity Today, Vol. 38, no. 7.)

God Is Loser Friendly

The most amazing thing about the Christian’s God is that he is loser friendly. The world only uses winners, God seeks losers. It seems as though he has always chosen the greatest losers to do his best work. How vastly different from the world’s view of picking winners to help us succeed.

Luke 5:8-11
8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus' knees and said, "Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!" 9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon's partners.

Then Jesus said to Simon, "Don't be afraid; from now on you will catch men." 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him. NIV

When Peter concluded that Jesus was from God he proclaimed, "Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!" He had concluded that God didn’t have anything to do with sinners. Somehow he had formed this opinion from the ideas buzzing about God buzzing around him.

We may not realize it, but the world tends to impose this kind of idea upon us. There are those around us that set the standards the world expects us to live up to. There may be those in the church setting the standards for others to live up too. Our children may have teachers setting standards for them that are unrealistic. Their friends may be setting standards for them that make their lives painful when they fail to meet those standards.

Adolescence children have a difficult time dealing with these pressures as there bodies are going through constant changes. About the time they adjust mentally to one stage their growing bodies are forcing them into another strange stage. It is hard for their minds to keep up with their bodies. As they go through each stage they may begin to think of themselves as losers.

Parents may breed a loser attitude in their children. They may teach them that sex is dirty and unthinkable, because they don’t want them do wrong. When children begin to develop sexually why wouldn’t this cause them to think less of themselves when they begin to change sexually? After all, if sex is dirty, then I am dirty!

There are many self-proclaimed winners who delight in putting others down. We begin to think that those people in a certain class are losers.

There are some things each of us can do well, but there many things we fail miserably at. No doubt there are some very important things in our lives that we have failed miserably at. There is so much emphasizes on winning today that most feel like losers. We live in such a competitive world that most are losers by the world’s standards.

Salvation Puts the World’s Ideas to Shame

Matthew 11:7-11
7 As John's disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: "What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? 8 If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings' palaces. 9 Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is the one about whom it is written:

"'I will send my messenger ahead of you,

who will prepare your way before you.'

11 I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. NIV

Jesus asked, "What did you go out into the desert to see?" The question indicates that they had a preconceived idea of what they were going out to see. They were looking for someone who fit into their mold of greatness. Their ideas blinded them to John’s greatness. Likewise, Jesus didn’t fit the world’s mold for the Messiah either. Neither do you fit the world’s mold for greatness.

Jesus breaks their mold for greatness when he says, "Yet he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than" John the Baptist. It breaks our mold for greatness too. Two thousand years later we are still scratching our heads trying to figure out what he meant. It means the thief on the cross was greater than John the Baptist—for he was certainly not as great as John.

God has chosen the weak things of this world to shame the wise.

1 Corinthians 1:26-31
26 Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things-and the things that are not-to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God-that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord." NIV

"God called the Corinthians to remind the world that the weak, base and the despised were the objects of his grace. The lost world admires birth, social status, financial success, power, and recognition. But none of these things can guarantee eternal life.

"The message of salvation ‘puts to shame’ the high and mighty ideas of our world. The wise of this world cannot under stand how God changes sinners into saints, and the mighty of this world are helpless to duplicate the miracle. Gods "foolishness" confounds the wise; God's ‘weakness’ confounds the mighty!

"I have seen amazing things take place that the lawyers and psychologists could not understand. I have seen delinquent teenagers become successful students and useful citizens. I have seen marriages restored and homes reclaimed, much to the amazement of the courts.

"And why does God reveal the foolishness and the weakness of this present world system, even with its philosophy and religion? ‘That no flesh should glory in His presence’" (1 Corinthians 1:29). Salvation must be wholly of grace; otherwise, God cannot get the glory. ("The Bible Exposition Commentary." 1989 by SP Publications, Inc.)

Our boast is not that we have a great calling it is that we have a great God. Without God we are nothing. The most astonishing thing about Jesus Christ wasn’t that he was God, but that he was God who came to be one of us. God stamped his image deep in our psyche when he created us. Satan so blurred that image in Eden that it was necessary for Jesus to come and restamp God’s image upon our hearts. The most credible evidence that we are made in God’s image is the fact that God became one of us. Christ came to tell you that you are not a nobody. We are made in the image of God. The world has tarnished that image, but God has come to make that image shine in all its brilliance in each of us.

If God died for you, should there be any question in your mind about your personal worth, or the possibility of your personal salvation. It is no accident that Satan wishes to blind the world to the power and relevance of the cross. He is busy convincing all of us we are losers.

Conclusion:

True greatness comes when we put on Christ, or should we say clothe ourselves with Christ.

Galatians 3:26-29
26 You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. NIV

We clothe ourselves when we give God our lives as a living sacrifice to be conformed to his will.

Romans 12:1-2
12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will. NIV

In baptism we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit to make possible this transformation.

Acts 2:38-39
38 Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off-for all whom the Lord our God will call." NIV

 

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