Intro: Church's annual business meeting. Today's sermon is a "State of the
Union" address: "Where are we as a church?" Make observations, admit reality, and
sketch the hope for our future. Outline for my thoughts are drawn from the OT prophet,
The Ruins of Jerusalem! (Read Isaiah 52:9.) Why was Jerusalem in ruins? God turned His
back on them, because they stubbornly continued in idolatry. Always the case: When
the church neglects worshiping God alone, His Spirit is grieved; He withdraws, and
God's people decline. True here. East Side Church is in a season of decline. Why?
Many factors: Economy faltering, population shift, certainly. But the key factor
is, over time, East Side Church gave itself over to idolatry; we considered other
things more important than God. People's approval, money, our building, our need
to be in control, allowing unchristian behavior from church leaders. Church declined,
both gradually and quickly (during crisis); many people were hurt. Now we find ourselves
among the ruins.
The Runner's Announcement! (Read Isaiah 52:7.) A runner appears, heading towards Jerusalem.
Why is the runner running? After a military victory, a soldier was tasked with the
responsibility to announce the victory to the capital city. An important declaration;
"Good news! Peace! Good tidings! Salvation! Your God reigns!" God has won the victory
over His people's sin. Paul quotes this verse in Romans 10:14-15 ; (read.) Using this text, Paul teaches
that the primary responsibility of the pastor is proclaiming God's rule! That's
been happening here! I am committed to declaring the good news of the Gospel; proclaiming
the majesty, holiness, beauty, triumph of Jesus to East Side. God's victory is being
declared among the ruins.
The Return of God! (Read Isaiah 52:8-9.) Pictures a growing celebration! Watchmen
are the first to see the runner; news begins to spread throughout Jerusalem. Joy
grows as God Himself arrives among His people. Notice, though, that people are "singing
the songs of joy together among the ruins!" The people are still in the ruins, but
joy is starting to spread. God's presence brings a party to the ruins. Same
here. Groups of people who are making the transition from discouragement to joy,
from hurt to healing, from despair to hope, from anxiety to laughter. Jeff's prayer
suggestions! People are praying, starting to dare to hope, that God is turning back
to His people!
The Revelation of Salvation! (Read Isaiah 52:10.) Amazing picture of God rolling up His sleeves
to reveal His salvation throughout the whole world. God's plan for Israel doesn't
begin and end with Israel; need to learn this lesson! Most of us only have a vague
hope, but not past v. 9. (Wouldn't that be nice? Get more people in, pay our bills,
fill our leadership positions.) But if we focus on just maintaining our own church,
we'll fail to fulfill God's vision for us! God's plan for renewing our church involves
us taking the gospel into our neighborhood, our Valley, our country, our world!
God cares about everyone lost in the ruins; other people need to experience the party
of God's presence!
The Response of God's People! (Read Isaiah 52:11-12.) Remember Moses leading Israel out of slavery
in Egypt? Isaiah uses Exodus language to picture God leading His people out of their
slavery to sin. B/c He is traveling with them, God gives specific commands to His
people. 1) Get ready to move. 2) Purify yourselves for your priestly task, representing
God to the world. 3) Don't worry; God is with us! The best part of God's party is
that He leads us out of the ruins! The proper response to God's presence
is to repent, to joyfully leave behind the idols that caused our ruin, and follow
- Idolatry: human approval, self, building, reputation in the community.
- Neglect of personal spiritual disciplines; obligation instead of delight in God.
- Pride, self-sufficiency, unteachable spirit, prayerlessness.
- Bullying, anger, tantrums, slander, hateful speech, gossip.
- Bitterness, unforgiveness, distrust/disrespect of others/pastor.
- Fear, anxiety, despair, lack of faith, maintaining the status quo.
Is East Side where we want to be? No. But our story doesn't need to end here! God
is meeting us in the ruins; the joy is spreading. We're confronted with a choice:
Will we confess our sins, turn from the idols of our past and join God's party?
Or will we choose to remain in the ruins?