Why Won’t the Lost Listen?
Luke 2:52: ‘and Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man.”
At first glance, it seems like a no brainer. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the greatest truth ever told. It is the story of a loving God who desires us to be in fellowship with him so much that he allows his son Jesus to die a sacrificial death that all who believe in him have life and life more abundantly. He enables us to have a greater and more significant life while we are on this earth and at our death enter into a perfect paradise. Forgives us past sins; guidance for today and hope for tomorrow. Who wouldn’t want that? It seems a lot of people and we wonder why?
It can’t be the story. What is greater news than that?
Last week, I ask you to give your opinion about why the lost won’t listen to our story? You responded in overwhelming fashion. There were about 250 different responses. I tabulated the results of the survey. Here they are:
Show results of survey
A. 3 B. 5 C. 1 D. 4 E. 2
Is there any experience in life more frustrating than to see someone you love committed to a course that can lead only to heartache and despair and yet not be able to get through to them?
As parents, we see our kids heading in the wrong direction. They won’t listen. A friend – good moral person – helpful – kind – pleasant but wants nothing to do with the story of the gospel. Why won’t they listen?
Jesus experienced the same kind of frustration with those who came to hear him teach. A sower went forth to sow, he said. Some of the seed fell by the wayside and the birds devoured it. Some fell on hard ground and withered because the young plants could not put down deep roots. Some fell among thorns and the thorns grew up and choked them. But some there were that fell on good ground and they brought forth fruit in some cases a hundredfold.
There are theological reasons why they don’t listen.
We are in a spiritual war. To prevent that story from being heard and accepted; Satan and his legion of demons try in any way possible to discredit the story and to keep people from believing it. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, the authorities, the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Eph. 6: 12
Anybody can score if there is no defense on the field but we have a formidable opponent. He doesn’t get tired or take a break – he is out to destroy the gospel. There are casualties in a war.
We can’t make people believe. John 6:44 Unless they are willing to allow the Holy Spirit to draw them to God, they won’t listen. We don’t have any control over that.
John 12 says that their eyes are blinded and their hearts are hardened against the things of God.
From that perspective our spiritual responsibility is to pray that their eyes would be opened and their hearts receptive.
Then there are practical reasons why they won’t listen. Those are the areas where you and I can do something about it. I have tried to take your comments and add my perspective on the scriptures to give us things we can do.
I. We don’t need Jesus. Luke 12: 13-21 is the parable of a rich fool. In that parable Jesus says: be on guard against all kinds of greed.” We are so affluent and comfortable in our lifestyles that we see no need to change. It is simply not a priority in my life – I have too many other options.
Dr. J. S. Whale of Cambridge University in England received a letter from a radio listener who had heard one of his religious lectures over the BBC. This is what the stranger wrote:
"I am 65 years of age, retired after an active life, and very happy. My wife is six months younger than me. We have been married forty years very happily. We have never attended Church. We have never said a prayer. We neither of us believe in life after death. We believe in making the world better. Without being egotistical, I believe that we have succeeded. We are highly respected by our neighbors. We are not hampered by creeds but stare life directly in the face. You might, in your talks, tell me what religion has to offer us?"
This man is not alone. There are millions like him all over the world. They were there during Jesus time: eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow you might die. How do we help someone who believes they are self sufficient. The greater our affluence, the deeper our need for spiritual values. when we think we can provide for any need we have, we don’t need God.
Success is not a sin, though there are some who would like for us to think so as they interpret the scripture, SUCCESS IS A RESPONSIBILITY. To whom much has been given, much is expected.
materialism is the philosophy that seeks to find life's joy in things and consumption. This thirst for more is spiraling out of control in this country. Times it creeps into our religion. Turn on the TV – God loves you – send money and he’ll bless you – give you more stuff.
Burkett said, " the greatest threat to Christianity is not drugs, sex, murder, rape, or even politicians; the greatest threat is materialism."
How do we minister to those people? There is no secrete formula – it is a matter of befriending them in such a way, we are able to share our message.
1. We don’t deny the benefits they enjoy, but we challenge them to think about character development and what happens at death.
2. We don’t pepper our language with things like: wow, I wish (I had favorite possession) When we engage them in conversations, we don’t emphasize temporal but spiritual values.
3. Our conversations with them cannot be centered on materialism and then expect them to seek spiritual values.
4. We look for inroads into things in their life that are not going well. Sometimes it takes a tragedy or a failure to help people see their need of God. While you wait, you build bridges to them.
II. We don’t know how to experience Jesus. Romans 10:14-15 how can they know if no one tells them.
We live in a scientific world. The only thing we believe is what we can prove by our senses. Faith is too abstract. The Bible is just a book. The various interpretations prove that it isn’t true.
Most of us have been trained to look for scientific explanations concerning the nature of things. We live in a world of cause and effect.
Because of some bad teaching, Christians have assumed they have to be afraid of scientific inquiry. Not at all. Science is a pathway to glorify God. Religion is a set of practices and beliefs concerning the cause, nature and purpose of life; science is the effort to study what God has done in the universe through observation and experimentation. Science cannot disprove God nor where that very first primeordial ooze came from. We can’t prove that God does exist but we sure have a lot more evidence that he does than that he doesn’t exist. The odds that every thing arrived here by chance are impossible to calculate because the number is too big. Don’t be bullied into thinking otherwise.
From the atheists position, there is no creator God; the universe is cold, random, and purposeless. From our perspective we are here because of a God who loves us and desires that we grow in wisdom of God and mankind – which story do you want to believe?
There are some things that cannot be explained in scientific terms: love beauty kindness we know it when we see it but it can’t be quantified into a box.
Grace forgiveness mercy faith expressions of life that can’t be quantified but can be experienced. Our responsibility is to help people experience God
III. We don’t want to be like you. Luke 2: 52
This is the one that hurts the most. In the minds of many non Christians, Christians have not role modeled a lifestyle that is different from non believers. They are arrogant, judgmental, and hypocrites.
Oct. 3, 2006, a deranged man named Charles Roberts IV entered a one room schoolhouse of Amish children; order everyone out but the girls and preceded to shoot 10 of them, killing five. There were two religious groups that made headlines with their responses to this tragedy.
Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka Kansas claimed that the killings were the fault of Pen. Gov. Ed Rendel because he had criticized WBC on national tv on Fox because of their hatred for a website called: God hates fags.com. After the killings the church’s website prayed for additional violence upon the people of Pennsylvania.
Amish community. Quite a bit different – dress differently – worship differently customs different but they serve God and proclaim that Jesus is Lord just like WBC. Despite the depth of their unfathomable grief, the group joined together and set up funds for the families of the victims. There is another detail that is important – they also set up a fund for the killer’s wife and 3 children and told them, they would be welcome in the community to stay. They took food to their house and even invited them to the funeral – although they declined. When asked why: one member said: we are simply trying to live as lives as Christ would live.
Which of these groups fulfilled God’s statement that by their fruits you will know them. WBC got it wrong on several accounts: it never says God hates homosexuals – it says he hates the sin of homosexuality – he loves them as he loves straight people. There are six admonitions against homosexuality in the scriptures – it’s pretty clear – there are over 300 admonitions against illicit sex among heterosexuals – that is also pretty clear.
How should we live our lives in that case? Three options: the first is that Christians can live a perfect life, making the right decision every time, always the perfect attitude and the perfect treatment of relationships. That is our goal – we should strive for that.
This philosophy lends itself to live in fear of making a mistake. We can’t live in fear that we are going to upset someone – paranoid.
Option two is that we live our lives in no different fashion that non believers. While we may avoid the big sins: we engage in gossip, gluttony, pride, egotism, greed, materialism, prejudice and indifference to the plight of our neighbors. Our neighbors say: why become a Christian – they live just like me.
Option three; is to live Biblically – a life sensitized by the Holy Spirit.
We cannot disengage from society by hanging out at church pot lucks and bunco parties all the time. We have to get out where they are. God calls us to be in the trenches of the world – in schools, factories, businesses, sports arenas, musical theatres, and everyday homes.
Our mission is not to rid the world of sin; God will do that when he comes back – in the meantime, we have a cultural war to fight. All of the moral issues of our day from drugs, illicit sex, corporate greed, slavery, abortion and a dozen other social ills are only symptoms of a bigger problem. The internal hearts of individual people. We will never eradicate those problems until people’s hearts are changed. The cure is found in the hearts of people.
Jesus Christ is the answer. Human beings are inherently sinful and will remain so until they encounter the living Lord in Jesus Christ. We are his mouthpiece, his examples, his visuals for people to see. When we act in a way that brings dishonor to God, it hurts the entire family.
Conclusion: did you ever wonder why Jesus died so young? He could have hung around for 33 more yeas and done more miracles, taught more lessons, healed more people. Maybe established a school: Jesus Seminary, built a stronger base of followers.
Jesus himself said: when I am lifted up, I will draw all men unto me. When people saw the grace and dignity in which he died: even the hardened centurion soldier said: surely this was the son of God. They rejected his teaching but they could not reject the testimony of his death.