Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Nearness of the Word

Audio of this sermon can be heard here.

Nearing his death, Moses addressed the people of Israel in the wilderness, encouraging them to remain faithful to God: "Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away...No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe" (Deut. 30:11-14). What a beautifully strange way of describing God's commandment. It's near to you, not far away. It's easy to grasp. It's within your reach. You can do this, Moses tells the people. Don't be discouraged.

On a daily basis, we play that same scenario out in our house. Just this morning, during the getting-ready-for-school routine, Elizabeth came downstairs and said, "Where is Sam?" I gave her a guilty look. "I don't know." When she found him, she said, "Sam, what did I tell you to come downstairs to do? What did I ask you to do? Do you remember? Did you forget?" He hadn't forgotten. As he put down the toy and scampered toward the back door, where his book bag is kept, Elizabeth called out, "That's not too difficult, is it? You can do that, right?" Daily basis.

Imagine, if you will, that God's greatest hope for you was right in front of your face--that you could reach out and grab it without any trouble at all. Right there! That close! Why wouldn't you grab it? What could possibly get between you and salvation if it were only two feet in front of you?

The problem with a farewell speech is that the one making the speech isn't going to hang around for very long. And the problem with sending a three-year-old downstairs to do a simple task is that a lot of distractions come up in the 45 seconds it takes to get to the back door. And the problem with just reaching out and grabbing the salvation that is right in front of your face is that it's easy to forget about it and leave it behind as you go on through life. We need some sort of reminder--some sort of string around the finger or chain around the neck or blazing neon sign that keeps us focused on just how close God's salvation always is.

Enter Jesus, stage left. Walking by the Sea of Galilee, Jesus saw two brothers, Andrew and Simon, fishing in a boat. "Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of people." And immediately they left their nets and their boat and followed him. The same happens with James and John, who were mending their nets when Jesus came calling. Upon hearing his invitation, immediately they put down their nets and followed him. Salvation came to meet them, and they got up and went.

And still there was much learning and reminding and cajoling and reprimanding and discipling to do. And that's the point. Jesus didn't say, "Accept the good news and go back to your normal life." No, he said, "Come and follow me." Faith is a journey. Obedience is a lifetime. Discipleship is a pursuit. We follow Jesus. Jesus came to bring salvation all the way to us--not up in heaven or across the sea but right to us wherever we are. But he gives us more than a farewell speech or a simple instruction. He invites us to follow him--to discover the nearness of the word and then pursue it for the rest of our lives. Yes, it's near to you--right in front of your face--but you still need to follow it every day of your life.

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