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Worship Theme: Sharing God’s Word Is Our Privilege and Joy

Sermon Theme: Are You All In?

In today’s Gospel Jesus tells us that following him requires us to be all in, and from 1 Kings 19:19-21 we look at how two Old Testament prophets, Elijah and Elisha answer that very same question. So today we’ll ask and we’ll answer “Are You All In?” June 26, 2022.

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My family and I have a summer tradition that started a few summers ago. We love to watch a TV show together called America’s Got Talent. It’s a talent competition that attracts comedians, magic acts, singers, dance groups, and our favorite – daredevil routines. They have knife throwers and bow and arrow stunts, and people that do really dangerous things. One of our favorite contestants was on a few years ago – a man named Uzeyer. Uzeyer was a short little lovable man who had an amazing and amazingly dangerous routine. He did a free-standing ladder routine, where he would climb up and down a free-standing ladder. He’d bounce around with the ladder, even would do handstands on the top. It was amazing… and I think part of what made it amazing was how dangerous it was. He told a story of falling off a ladder when he was younger and being in a coma for 3 days! This was a wildly dangerous routine. And his performance a few years ago proved it. You know how they say “Don’t stand on the top rung of a ladder?” He ignored that advice in a big way! He not only stood on the top rung, he stood a step higher on the uprights, carefully adjusting his balance to keep the ladder standing up straight. That is beyond what even the most agile among us could accomplish – but that wasn’t enough for Uzeyer! He called to his assistant and had them toss up to him two hula-hoops. He’d spin those around his waist and around his arms. It was incredible to watch, but during his performance on AGT, one of those hula hoops got caught on his foot and he lost his balance. He fell 20 feet down to the stage below. Luckily, he landed on his feet. Had he fallen while he was doing a hand stand, it might have been a different story!

America fell in love with Uzeyer. They appreciated the fact that he was all in. No harnesses, no safety nets, no mats to catch him! It was all or nothing! It was real danger. He was either going to succeed or he was going to hurt himself badly trying! And America fell in love with him for it! He would have won the $1 million had he not broken his foot in that fall a few rounds before the finals.

Today God asks you “Are You All In? We’ve been looking at that question already today. Our second reading showed that Paul was all in, even being willing to suffer for the sake of the gospel of Jesus. In today’s Gospel that we just heard Jesus tell us that following him requires us to be all in, and now we look at how two Old Testament prophets, Elijah and Elisha answer that very same question. And finally like it should, it comes back to us to answer for ourselves. So today we’ll ask and we’ll answer “Are You All In?”

As we meet Elijah in the words that are before us today, you probably are picturing a confident bold faithful prophet. He’s passing the baton to Elisha, the next prophet that would run the race that God was calling him to run. It was Old Testament Call Day, and Elijah had the privilege of being involved. You wouldn’t be alone if you pictured Elijah as the boldest and most faithful in the land on that day! But the context of these words tells a different story.

If you read the words that precede our First Reading, you’ll find a different Elijah. God finds Elijah, even though Elijah didn’t want to be found. He was hiding in a cave and God appeared to him and asked: What are you doing here, Elijah? And Elijah answered “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

Have you ever been there? “Feeling like your labors are futile and maybe what you are doing isn’t even worth it?” Maybe you get a little depressed because you are seeing the results that you’d like. Maybe you are getting anxious or a little fearful at the way our country is moving politically or socially? Is a Christian going to be able to survive here in 100 years? 50 years? 5 years?

It’s pretty easy to start to sulk the way that Elijah did. It’s pretty easy to feel alone like he did. It’s all too common that we give up. Doubts creep into our minds: “Maybe the fight isn’t worth it?” “Maybe our culture is right and I’m the old-fashioned one?” We start to wonder if it’s worth it to be all in for God anymore.

Or far too often we start losing the all-in fight before we even get a chance to think about it! The social pressures that surround and bombard us have our minds inclined to sympathize with sin and to excuse shameful attitudes. We develop pet sins that on the grand scheme of things we feel aren’t really that bad. We decide for ourselves that we can be mostly in for Jesus while still maintaining a few comforts as our own little secrets!

But my friends, there’s no such thing as mostly in for God! Following him is an “All or Nothing” proposition. And far, far, far, far, far too often, in fact every single day, in sin we chose the “nothing” side of that equation. We opt for the words, the actions, the attitudes that we think will give us joy. We chose the self-serving ways that we think will give us advantages over others. We think that’s the way to get ahead, but all that leaves us with is the guilt that comes attached to our sinful failures. And we end up being all in for the wrong thing. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). We are not lonely like Elijah but have all too much company. Jesus himself said it: For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it (Matthew 7:13). That’s the company and the destination we deserve because of sin. Destruction along with all the rest in the fires of hell.

We aren’t all in the way that God requires and because of it we deserve condemnation. But just like Elijah, we have a Savior-God, one who loves us and went all in for us. He didn’t hold back. He didn’t shy away from pressure or pain. Jesus went all in because that’s the kind of Savior that we needed. He went all in and took on our human flesh. He went all in and gave up glory to take our gloom. He went all in and went to amazing lengths to show us Amazing Grace. He went all in and did the most dangerous thing that’s ever been done –standing in your place and in mine to bear the wrath of God and the curse of our sin. Worse than a stunt that might end in death, he began his act knowing that it would end in death. He knew what God’s plan meant for him and he embraced it! He embraced the plan, because it was the only way that God could embrace us forever. So, he went all in and lived for us. He went all in and suffered and bled in our place. He went all in and died so that we would not need to be separated from God. Jesus went all in for us, so that we could be forgiven and have eternal life.

And now that we have a Savior who is all in for us, we can be empowered to be all in for Him! With sins forgiven we can serve. With guilt removed, we are free to carry each other’s burdens. Being reminded that we are not alone shows us the opportunities that we have to build one another up and encourage our family of faith.

Look at Elisha! He was called to serve and God enabled him to do just that! God put that confident trust in his heart that he didn’t need to rely on his old way of life. God enabled him to sacrifice, very literally, to serve him. Twelve yoke of oxen was an incredible blessing. He must have been operating a farm that was worth a fortune. But more important than worldly wealth is being all in for God! So, in faith he is willing to leave that life behind. In faith, Elisha went all in and followed and served his God.

So Elisha left (Elijah) and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his attendant.

God empowers us to leave the old life behind. We can ignore the empty promises of the world, we can leave our lives of sin and go all in for Jesus. We can make sacrifices to follow God. No matter what it is, it’s worth it! It’s OK if all in for Jesus means missed opportunities in the world. It’s OK if all in living means that we will have different priorities than the people of this world. All those things are temporary, only one thing matters. Earth is temporary, heaven is forever.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind. And love your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10:27). That’s your calling. That’s your all-in mission statement from Jesus!! And the same one that calls you strengthens you to do just that – to go all in for Him! He dwells in your heart and enables to you live an all-in life! Live it, love him, serve those around you! And I think you’ll be amazed at the many opportunities you’ll have to thank your God and to worship his holy name!

Paul summarized it really well in his letter to the Galatians. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20).

God has made it possible! So go and live it! Do what he’s made possible for you to do! Go all in for him who is all in for you! Amen!

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