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Sunday October 26th, 2014 • Message by Pastor Rich Doebler

Gotta Have a Plan

Luke 14:16-23 (NASB) 16But He said to him, “A man was giving a big dinner, and he invited many; 17and at the dinner hour he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for everything is ready now.’ 18But they all alike, began to make excuses. The first one said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of land and I need to go out and look at it; please consider me excused.’ 19Another one said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please consider me excused.’ 20Another one said, ‘I have married a wife, and for that reason I cannot, come.’ 21And the slave came back and reported this to his master. Then the head of the household became angry and said to his slave, ‘Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in here the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ 22And the slave said, ‘Master, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ 23And the master said to the slave, ‘Go out into the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, so that my house may be filled.’ ”

V 23: Go out…and compel them to come in, so that my house may be filled.

Compel? What a fascinating word! How can we “compel” people to come in?

Other versions for Luke 14:23 say: constrain, urge, insistently persuade, make, press, bring. The most alarming version is the Message paraphrase, which says, “drag them in.”

So what does it mean to compel people to come? Does it involve arm-twisting? Bribery? Prizes? A few years ago on Easter Sunday, a church in Corpus Christi, TX, lined up 16 cars, 15 flat-screen TVs, and a bunch of other prizes to give away to several lucky folks who came to church that week. Is that what it means to compel people to come in?

We’ve been talking the last few weeks about things we GOTTA BEor things we GOTTA DO if we’re going to faithfully serve God in this place at this time: Gotta be called…Gotta be challenged…Gotta have heart. Today: Gotta have a plan.

When it comes to having a plan—and when it comes to putting that plan into action—I like the word “compelled.” What does it mean? Well, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t mean twisting arms or giving away a bunch of prizes.

The dictionary says “compel” means to force, drive, or constrain; to necessitate or pressure by force; to exert a strong, irresistible force on, sway.

The original word in the Greek NT was a combination of two words—one meant to compress or press and the other meant up or back or again. Put together it meant “press in a certain direction.”

Our English word “compel” comes from an old Latin word compellere (which came from two words: com: “together” and pellere: “to drive”): to drive together. (The Romans would use this word to speak of herding cattle together into a pen).

I think there are at least three ways we can use this word “compel” as part of our kingdom plan or our strategy for fulfilling God’s call and purpose for us. To be “compelling” means…

  1. Caring enough to do something. Do you love enough to take action? To be compelled speaks of a sense of urgency.

We’re not talking about forcing someone or twisting their arm. But do we care enough to do something?

2 Cor 5:14 (NIV) For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.

Other versions: constrains, controls, urges. One says: the love of Christ puts us into action (NLV). Another says: the love of Christ makes us do what we do to win men (WE).

When I heard that the Romans used the word to talk about herding cattle, I thought of the job I had years ago at Armour’s meat packing plant in South St. Paul. I saw cattle being unloaded from trucks, driven together into pens, herded to one end into chutes where they were prodded along single file. And what was waiting for them at the end of that line was…well, it was the end of the line for them.

The problem with this world is that people are already headed toward the end of the line. Sin already has them caught in a destructive cycle. The world is driven (compelled) toward destruction.

If we love people, we have to take action! We have to try to stop them and turn them away from the path of destruction. Love compels us to compel them to go the oposite way—toward life and freedom. Love does what we can to reverse the direction (and the results!) of the compelling force of sin.

There is a sense of urgency to show people the spiritual danger they are in.

Ebola has been in all the news lately. The Centers for Disease Control issued guidelines and protocol. There were isolation units and filtration systems and hasmet suits. When a couple of nurses contracted Ebola, the CDC redoubled their efforts. There was a sense of urgency because Ebola is a deadly disease and most people who get it die.

There should be a sense of urgency about this deadly disease called sin. Love causes us to compel people to come out of danger and into the Father’s house.

  1. Clearing the way. Removing obstacles and hindrances.

Isaiah 40:3-4 (NASB) 3A voice is calling, “Clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness; Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God. 4Let every valley be lifted up, And every mountain and hill be made low; And let the rough ground become a plain, And the rugged terrain a broad valley…”

John the Baptist used this passage to describe his mission. He was to clear the way for the Messiah to come. It’s a picture we can recognize whenever we drive on a highway through hilly or mountainous area: the roadway is built up over valleys and ravines; the tops of hills are scraped down. All to make the road easier to travel.

Similarly, we should clear the way for people to come into the house! We should lower the threshhold and remove the obstacles and the barriers that cause people to trip on their way in.

Unfortunately, churches (and many Christians) are famous for putting up roadblocks and detours and hoops to jump through: “If you want to receive God’s grace than you have to learn how to dress like us, talk like us, and have no fun—just like us.”

These are spiritual detours that are just as real as the Hwy 61 St. Louis bridge being closed for repairs. People might want to get across the river. They know they need a bridge. Many realize they are sinners in need of God’s grace, but church rules and traditions require them to earn forgiveness—to behave a certain way. This is NOT Good News.

These expectations and additional requirements have little to do with real holiness or righteousness. They’re often cultural values—not biblical truths. And they create barriers that hinder people from finding God.

When we impose cultural expectations on people and call it “holiness,” we are putting up roadblocks that prevent people from finding God. Instead, we need to clear the way.

  1. Connecting with others. Instead of closing bridges, we should be building bridges.

Learn how to talk to people who are not like you. That doesn’t mean you have to be fake. It just means that you learn to be sensitive to where people are coming from.

When we send missionaries to a foreign land, we expect them to learn about the people and the culture. We want them to go to language school. They will generally speak with an accent, but that’s okay. Bottom line: they’re learning to connect with people in their own language.

1 Cor 9:19-22 (NIV) 19Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.

If we want to compel people to come in, we’re going to look for ways to develop relationships with others.

Jim and Renee in the Dominican Republic don’t just talk. They do. They go. They go to build bridges by helping people. They provide resources and solve problems the Dominicans could not do on their own. This is connecting on a deeper level. It is building relationships by showing that they care.

When Jesus came to this world, he didn’t come as a dictator or a tyrant. He didn’t manipulate people. He didn’t come throwing lightning bolts and bullying people to submit.

He came in love and compassion. He came in the flesh—on our level, among us—so he could connect with people and win them over. He didn’t come to rule over people, the Bible says, but to serve them.

Can we do the same thing? Can we learn how to meet people on their own turf?

Absolutely! That’s why we plan events and activities that bring people together (picnics and “trunk-or-treats” and concerts and “free-for-alls.”

That’s why we encourage groups who have common interests and a certain affinity toward each other: moms’ group; men’s fraternity; ignite young adults. That’s why we have groups that study the Bible together while others offer encouragement or counsel or assistance to each other.

In Jesus’ story, the man invited his neighbors and friends to come to a big banquet. (Matthew’s account says it was the banquet honoring his son’s wedding [Matt 22:1-10].)

It should have been a great honor to be invited. But it was a great insult to refuse the invitation. No excuse could be good enough (and there were plenty). You can see the frustration and the anger in the man’s response when he heard that people were refusing to come.

So he said, “Let’s find others who will come.” Go out and invite people in. We’ve done that. Then go out and find more and compel them to come in “so that my house may be filled.”

We compel people to come in when we care enough to do something, when we clear the way, and when we learn to connect.

Gotta Have a Plan