Life carries with it a fear of being rejected.
I have a friend who was a professional baseball player. One March I visited with him while the team was in winter training. During our visit, I asked him, “What does the future hold for you?” He responded by saying, “I have had many years in professional baseball, and I know the future is not too bright. When the body gets older, you can’t run bases as rapidly and you can’t hit the ball as well as you once did, so you get the pink slip.” I could sense in him a fear of rejection.
God’s Word speaks about being rejected, but it also talks about being accepted. There are two parts to being rejected. The first part is the fear of being rejected by people. All of us know this kind of rejection. The second part is the fear of being rejected by God. We can handle human rejection better when we know that God promises to accept us in Christ.
I would like to read to you some words of Jesus. He says, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”
Jesus is saying that if we come to him and trust him as our Savior and Lord, the Almighty God will never reject us. We will be His forever.
Now you notice He says, “Whoever comes to me,” I am interested in that word whoever. That statement was a real bomb for many of those Jews who were listening to Jesus. They were convinced that God was only concerned about the Jews. Then came the day of Jesus Christ, and they got the word that God’s Kingdom is not limited to a particular nationality but offered to all who trust Jesus Christ. Christ and His Church speak to the nations.
The Jews did not understand this inclusiveness, but who are we to criticize the Jewish people of that day. Rather, we ought to look at ourselves. The Church has not understood this inclusiveness very well either. Our congregations become cozy little social groups made up of people with many similarities.
Back in the Ô60s, our denomination had a congregation in Chicago. These 600 people had a beautiful church in a nice, safe part of the city. The members were content in their church home and did not care if the congregation grew. Most of these people were Lutherans who had come from Denmark. They were happy to receive Norwegians and Swedes as members. Germans were questionable, but were acceptable if their spouse had Scandinavian blood; the English should go down the street to the Methodist Church; and those who displayed any emotion in the service should seek out a Baptist Church.
Soon the black population began to buy houses around their church building. So the people said that the two races were not meant to be together. It could end in an interracial marriage, and there had to be passages in the Bible, although they did not know where they were, that spoke against such unions.
In the Ô70s, they sold that church and went to a new location with a white population where they built a second beautiful church building. Shortly after it was dedicated, I received a call to become their pastor. I declined even though the Cubs were close by, but soon they found another pastor and all went well until the Ô80s when they were thinking about another move.
They were nice people, but they had never gotten a hold on Jesus’ words Ð Whoever comes to me I will receive. Jesus wants us as one body. It isn’t race, social or economic status, nationality or education that makes us one. It is Jesus Christ, for he accepts us and calls on us to accept each another.
If God had wanted to reject us, he had a right to do so. Yes, he had a right to say that we had our chance once, but it is over, and he will not receive us. Yes, He had a right to say that we are not qualified to be members of his Kingdom. Who of us are qualified to belong to Him? Jesus tells us that, no matter what our past has been, no matter what we may have done, if we will come to him, he will never cast us aside.
We are in the Lenten season. We remember that day when our Lord was hanging on the cross. On each side of Him was a criminal. One criminal said, “Jesus, will you remember me when you come into your kingdom? He had heard Jesus talk about the Kingdom, and He had a longing to be received by Jesus. What did Jesus say to this man? “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” I’ve often wondered if Jesus did not comfort himself by saying, I was crushed when Judas rejected me, but here this sinner has come to me, and he is mine forever.”
This is the day of grace. If you who read or listen to this sermon do not believe in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, he is saying to you, “I am anxious to receive you.” That is the Gospel. Jesus paid the price for our sins. That is what this Christianity is all about. It is far more than the Golden Rule, which you can learn in the Boy Scouts. Christianity is about God loving us in Jesus Christ.
The text also has another part. It says, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.”
These words cause us to wonder why some come and others do not. It is a haunting question. Can’t you just hear a mother and father, who have five children, say, “Why did one of our children refuse to receive Christ while the other four did? Where did we go wrong in the raising of the one who is an unbeliever? What can we do to make amends for our mistake? Is it possible that God gave our other four children to Jesus because they were elected while the other one could not possibly come because God had not chosen him?”
This has been a big theological debate for centuries. We have many suggested answers to this question, and I do not propose to have the correct one. I am convinced that we will not have the final answer until we get to heaven. Bishop Ryle has said, “Receiving Christ is not a human decision based on convincing arguments. Salvation is not our business.” It is God’s grace that invites us and empowers us to believe. God takes the initiative to invite us to receive Him, and we are empowered by God to respond.
Beyond this answer, I must wait until I see Him face to face. Now I know only in part.
Life carries with it a fear of rejection. Just remember, God has said, “If you will come to me, I will never cast you out.” Humans might turn their backs on you, but your Heavenly Father never will.