Don't Judge God by His Followers

Following is the first point of the sermon I will preach on Sunday:

Isaiah 5:1-7

"1 Let me sing for my beloved my love-song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. 2 He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; he expected it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes. 3 And now, inhabitants of Jerusalem and people of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. 4 What more was there to do for my vineyard that I have not done in it? When I expected it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes? 5 And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. 6 I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed, and it shall be overgrown with briers and thorns; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. 7 For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are his pleasant planting; he expected justice, but saw bloodshed; righteousness, but heard a cry!"

God has a vineyard. I have a garden. If you've been to my house, it is one of the many shames in my yard. I'm not the best at protecting my garden. We have rabbits and failed to plant any marigolds to keep them away, so the rabbits are free to eat whatever they whenever they want. It all depends on if my dog is out there to chase them. We have weeds growing in the garden that are almost the size of me. This is not a garden to be proud of, but the vegetables we have pulled from that garden are. We are fortunate to have such great soil, that despite all of our inadequacies in gardening I have had the biggest tomatoes I have ever seen come out of it. I have had cucumbers that were abnormally large. Now if only it would've produced giant pumpkins, but I digress.

I have heard garden horror stories. I have heard stories where people take great care and love their garden, yet it just does not produce good fruit and vegetables. God is far superior than me in that he did everything he could to make his vineyard fruitful. Forget marigolds to keep rabbits out; he built a stink'in watchtower. I tilled and forgot it. God painstakingly cleared it of stones. If you wanted to this afternoon, I'm sure you can still go in my garden and find stones. I have no idea how to tell good strains of tomatoes, peppers, green beans, or the like, so I just planted what the greenhouse carried. God planted choice vines. I was just fortunate to have good soil. God actually checked the soil before planting his vineyard.

Everything about God's vineyard was perfect - except for the grapes. He could only do so much. The grapes had to grow on their own. His people refused to grow and be what he intended them to be.

There are many people out there who refuse to follow God because of his grapes. At one point I was one of them. At one point in my journey at Great Lakes to become a pastor I gave up on Christianity. I became completely frustrated with what I felt was the whole charade of Christianity.

I remember coming back to Antwerp and going to an event at the church I grew up at on the other side of the river while I was in college. They were having a campfire and such. I went for a walk with my mom around the yard. During that walk I told her a conclusion that I had arrived at: "I don't think I'm a Christian any more." She wept. I hugged her. I just couldn't be a Christian when all the world is filled with all of these fake people who think they are saved just because they have proper belief statements.

Thankfully, God didn't give up on me. God laid this passage from Isaiah on my heart. It's a story about God trying his best to create a fruitful vineyard. However, he did all he could and it still produced bad grapes. He told us to "judge between me and my vineyard." At that point I decided to do just that. I can't judge God based upon the people who claim to follow Him. I need to view him for who He is and judge Him accordingly. If there is one passage in the Bible that has saved my soul, we read it today.

And we might think it is a copout to not follow God because of the people who claim to follow him, but, unfortunately, it seems to be the copout that most people use to not follow God. I've yet to run across someone who told me that they don't follow God because they can't accept the Trinity. But I have ran across many who refuse to follow God because the church is full of gossip. I have yet to run across someone who told me they refuse to follow God because they don't know if they can trust the Bible. But I have ran across many who refuse to follow God because they have been emotionally hurt by people who claim to follow God. I have yet to run across someone who told me they refuse to follow God because they don't understand the balance between free-will and predestination. But I have ran across many who refuse to follow God because they feel the church is not loving. I'm sure there are some out there who don't follow God because of intellectual reasons, but most people don't follow God because of the people who claim to follow him.

There was a somewhat obscure band in the mid-90s that I listened to called the Caulfields. They wrote a song about it being tough to follow God. I'm not going to sing it like some who have stood up here and quoted lyrics from songs. That is probably for the better because we might wind up with people who refuse to listen to this message because of the quality of my singing.

Fragile by the Caulfields

I'd love to hear your thoughts
On sinners you have caught
And what about the ones who got away
Where are they today
You see them everywhere
And they don't care
And if we all seem terrified
IT's just because we are
We're fragile
Don't let us down too hard

What does it all achieve
The orphaned family grieves
But still believes
In our rebirth
You damned us all to earth
And turned it into hell
And wished us well
And if we all seem petrified
It doesn't mean we're hard
We're fragile
Don't let us fall too far

Is this the part
When everyone gets on their knees for you
I always wanted to believe in you
But you never gave me half a chance
Or half a reason to
Are you fragile too?

I'd love to make you proud
But I know
They sure put on a show
And man they say it loud
They're not my crowd
And if I can't believe in you
It doesn't mean I don't
I'm fragile
Don't let me fall alone
I'm fragile
I can't fall alone

Since today is Superbowl Sunday, what would be a sermon without a football illustration. For those who don't follow football, the game later today will have two of the greatest coaches in the NFL facing off against one another. They are great motivators and tacticians, and they have trained their players well.

However, if we transplanted their careers and always placed them with players who refused to learn or be motivated, they would not be where they are today. Their success depended upon all of the players they have coached up to the point they are today. And their success today will depend upon their players. It doesn't matter if they are the best leader in the world, their success is all dependent upon the players on the field.

Christians are led by the greatest leader in all of history, God. And yet some of those who claim to follow him are immune to his motivation. They are immune to his training. If you're not a Christian and you have seen that, please do what God asks you to do in this passage - judge between Him and His people.

There's a flipside to this verse. (And that we will more than likely get to tomorrow.)

Watch out for the potholes.