“GOD’S GAME PLAN FOR THE CHURCH”

Sermon by the Reverend Amos McCarthy

21st Sunday after Pentecost

October 29, 2017

TITLE: GOD’S GAME PLAN FOR THE CHURCH

TEXT: ISAIAH 61:1-7

1.“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim the good news to the poor.  He has sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, 2. To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, 3. And bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.  They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor. 4.They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations. 5. Strangers will shepherd your flocks; foreigners will work your fields and vineyards. 6 And you will be called priests of the Lord, you will be named ministers of our God.  You will feed on the wealth of nations, and in their riches you will boast.  7.Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance.  And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.

The book of Isaiah is filled with messianic contents, things about Jesus Christ the Messiah.  The book of Isaiah contains many evidences, about the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ.  When we read Isaiah, we will find the prophecy of the virgin birth (7:14).  It tells about the Messiah in His humility as a “root out of parched ground” (53:2), but also of His royal heritage, as the “shoot… from the stem of Jesse” (11:1), as the “king who will reign righteously” (32:1), as God’s “chosen One in whom He delights” (42:2).  Jesus Christ is mentioned in Isaiah as the suffering Servant on whom the Lord laid “the iniquity of us all” (53:6), but Jesus Christ is also the resurrected One who “will prolong His days” (53:6) This passage in Isaiah 61 forms the heart of the concluding prophecy of Isaiah.  It tells about Jesus as the Proclaimer of “the favorable year of the Lord” (61:2) and “the day of vengeance of our God, as He comes in judgment and treads “the wine through alone” (63:3) One could almost write about the life of Christ from the allusions in Isaiah.  

The passage read is the fulfillment of Christ’s ministry on earth.  Jesus Christ’s use of Isaiah 61 in the synagogue at Nazareth is found in Luke 4, which is instructive of the fact that the Scripture was fulfilled, in the hearing of those gathered.  Not only in Luke is Isaiah alluded to, but in numerous places in the New Testament.  It is a fact that with the exception of the Psalms, Isaiah is referred to more often than any other book from the Old Testament.  Matthew uses Isaiah to show that Jesus of Nazareth is the promised King and Messiah (Matthew 4:14;8:17;12:17).  The apostle John reported that Isaiah, in his vision of God, spoke of the glory of the Lord Jesus (John 12:14).  Paul, in both his sermons and discourses, and in his writings quotes Isaiah (Acts 28:25-27; Romans 9:27-29; 15:12).  All these quotations of Isaiah is in support of a unified theme of God’s plan for Jesus’ ministry on earth.  It is in fulfilment of God’s plan to sent Jesus Christ, as “the anointed One” (Isaiah 61:1-11) and “will clothe the redeemed with a robe of righteousness” (v 10-11).  This is the fulfilment of the God’s plan for the ministry of the church.  This morning we will explore together this game plan of God for the church.

In the United States and many countries of the world, sports is big business.  Some popular sports teams are football, soccer, basketball, hockey and many others. People organized these teams for the purpose of gaining victories. The more victories a team accumulate, the more money.  It is a lucrative business.  In a quest to win, a teams must have a game plan.  A game plan is a strategy a coach designs to win or achieve a set goal.  In this game plan by the coach, everyone, including staff and players must comprehend what it is and be ready to execute it.  If there are oppositions to the game plan, it could hamper the team’s effort to win or hinder the chances to win.

This is the same with the church.  The church is not a group, it is a team.  A group is a number of people or things gathered in the same area. A group could be at the park, walking along the trail, just being together without a goal.  A team varies from a group.  A team works together with a common purpose and a common goal. A team has a connection and joins together.  The church is not a group of people, it is a community of people.  It is God’s called out ones or ekklesia.  It is God’s team to win the world to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.  GOD HAS A GAME PLAN FOR THE CHURCH.

Considering the church as a sports team, Paul the apostle compared the team members or Christians to runners. In Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth, Paul told them that the Christian was like an athlete,”who competes in games and exercise of self-control.”  Paul further compares himself to a runner or a boxer in training for the title fight when he said, “Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.”   In Hebrew 12, the anonymous writer urges the runner to “run with patience the race that is set before us.” The church is like a team.  We are like athletes playing on a team.  We are Jesus’ team, and the Holy Spirit is our coach.

In the passage under consideration, God gave our team a new game plan. In Isaiah’s time, the nation of Israel was in a bad shape. It was messed up. In Isaiah 6, God wanted someone to sent to execute His game plan. Isaiah took the prophecy.  In Isaiah 61, the burden fell on Jesus who was anointed by God. In Isaiah’s world, there were acts of discrimination, intimidation, corruption, mis-education, pollution, and all kinds of problems.  It was time for God to save the world from itself.  There is a common saying in America, “If you want to get something done, you have to do it yourself.” God decided to come and save the world himself.  God came and dwell among men in the person of Jesus Christ.  Our world today is in bad shape.  We live in a world where many Christians do not know the differences between right and wrong. Good and bad is relative and depends on the situation.  God came in human form to set things right.  Theologians referred to it as the Incarnation.  Jesus Christ came with a strategy.

Doctor Luke tells us that during the genesis of Jesus’ ministry, He first visited the synagogue in Nazareth.  When Christ was asked to read the Hebrew Scriptures, He opened the scrolls and read from Isaiah 61.  In Luke 4, Christ made it clear that the Scripture was fulfilled in Him.  He had a game plan from God, and that game plan was going to be given to the church.  He pointed out that the same game plan God used for the children of Israel would be used for His ministry and the church.

The first part of the game plan is that the church is blessed to be filled with the Spirit of God.  Jesus read, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me.”  Anointing is to be consecrated by the use of oil.  In Old Testament time, priest, prophet, and kings were anointed.  Anointing means to set aside for the service of God and God alone.  In the same manner, the church has been anointed and consecrated, and set aside for the service of God and God alone.  

As an anointed institution, the church is both human and divine. Jesus is the head of this anointed institution. The church is the only institution where the membership does not end at death.  When a person dies, his membership in the church continues in heaven. As mentioned earlier, we are a community.  A community of faith under the leadership of the Holy Spirit.  Without the Spirit, we would be powerless, ineffective and dead.  As a team, our strength and our resolves to win the world comes from God. Without God’s Spirit we will have no focus, and there would be no purpose in our lives. Paul points out in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  The church must always keep this in mind.  The first part of God’s game plan is that church is a community of faith filled with the Holy Spirit.

The second part of God’s game plan for the church is the Great Commission.  The church must take the good news of Jesus Christ to the poor and needy. Usually, poor people are looked down upon. But God has commissioned us to inform the poor that they are special in His sight. In today’s world, the poor is referred to as the disadvantaged, marginalised, unfortunate, but they are still the poor. Many of the poor are homeless.  In many societies, poor people have no value and are worthless.  But in the sight of God, they are made in his image and are precious like everyone else.

In Old Testament times, widows and children were among the least.  They were without protection because there was no husband or father.  But in this message to the people of Israel and to the church, God is declaring that poor people should take courage because He would be their protector.  The church has a binding duty in mission to protect the poor and care for the vulnerable in society.  The church stand against child abuse.  The church defend women against domestic violence.  The church must execute God’s game plan by being the voice for the voiceless.  The church must do this because it is the mission God give the church.  This is good news to the poor because they do not have to feel that they are voiceless anymore.  Membership in the church is not based on if you are poor or rich. It is based on if you believe in Jesus Christ and accepts Him as your Lord and Savior.  All people matter to God and so they MUST matter to the church.

God’s game plan for the church is for the church to heal the broken-hearted and set the captive free. We all have experienced some kind of broken-heartedness.  We have either lose our relationships, jobs, health, homes, money, or things of value.  At those moments in our lives, our hearts are broken.  We all have had times of silent tears during the midst of the night. During times of broken heartedness, life can become dark and depression can set in.  Depression can lead to other emotional problems and even death.  It causes the mind and the soul to be dark.  It makes you feel you have no purpose.  But Psalms 30:5 encourages us, “For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for a night but joy comes in the morning.” God’s game plan for the church must be to heal those who are broken hearted. The church is not in the business of discussing those who are broken hearted, but through prayers and support helped to heal.  We must call them and let them know we care. The church must show love for the broken-hearted by being a comforting presence and assuring them they are not alone.  

Life mishaps lead us into prisons. The worst kind of prison is the prisons where a person is locked up in situations. One kind of prison is addiction. So many people in the world today are addicted to something: drugs, gambling, alcohol, sexual immorality, and many other vices. These things leads to social and personal problems.  People commit crimes because of these addictions and end up in jail or become prisoners of their own addictions.  These things have destroyed families and sometimes entire communities.  God’s game plan for the church is to help people break free from these addictions.  The church must support Alcohol Anonymous or AA and any organizations that help people free themselves from the prison of addictions.  The mission of the church is to set the captive free.

The birth of Christ came with it a game plan from God. The game plan is to make the church a place of grace, a place of acceptance, and a community of love.  God’s game plan is for the church is to reach the unreached, love the unloved, and save the unsaved. The story is told of some American soldiers, who during War World II, requested to bury a fellow soldiers in a church cemetery.  The pastor refused because the dead soldier was not a member of the church. The friends took the body just outside the cemetery fence and buried the soldier.  After the war, they returned to pay their respect to their dead friend but could not see the body.  When they questioned the pastor, the pastor informed them, that after careful thought, he had moved the fence so that the dead soldier’s grave should fall within the cemetery boundaries.

As we sojourn in this world, we must live out God’s game plan.  The church must show love to everyone.  We are not just a group of people, but we are a community of faith filled with the Holy Spirit.  We are filled with the Spirit to heal the broken-heart.  We are a community of faith filled with Spirit to set the captive free. We must proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.  That is God’s game plan for the church as spelt out by the prophet Isaiah and made manifest in the life and ministry of Christ.