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The Restorers of Streets

Matt Carter    /    Oct 12, 2008

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Matt Carter teaches on Isaiah 58:10-12

Series: A Church For The City (2008)

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Sermon Transcript

We’ve been using the word restore a lot recently. I want us to define it so we know what we’re talking about. Restore means to bring back into existence; to use or reestablish; to bring back to a state of health, soundness or vigor. The concept is used about a hundred times in the Bible. But I saw something interesting this week. The word restorer is only used twice.

Since it’s a significant word and only used twice, you’d think it would be attributing it to God. However, it’s not used in terms of God at all, but rather to describe the people of God. Us.

Obed The Restorer

There was a time in Israel when the country was falling apart. They didn’t have a king and were in desperate need of a redeemer to come in and save the nation. “In those days there was not a king in Israel and everyone did what was right in their own eyes” (Judges 21:25, ESV). That was the scene when we read Ruth.

So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife. And he went in to her, and the Lord gave her conception, and she bore a son. 14 Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! 15 He shall be to you a restorer of life…Ruth 4:13-15a (ESV, emphasis added)

There’s that word, restorer. This is one of the two times it’s used in the Bible.

Women came to Naomi and said this son was going to be a redeemer. He was going to be famous in all of Israel. He was going to be a restorer of life. But who was this son? He sounds really important.

Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her lap and became his nurse. 17 And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed…Ruth 4:16-17a (ESV)

Obed? Who in the world is Obed and why are they calling him the restorer of life? If we were going to make a who’s who of the Bible, would Obed make the list? You might talk about Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Elijah, Peter, James, John, or Paul, but Obed?

And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David. Ruth 4:17 (ESV)

Now do you get an idea of where God was going with this? Obed was a normal guy, but he would have a son. His son would be named Jesse. Jesse would have a son named David. You may have heard of David, one of the greatest kings of Israel. David would have a son named Solomon and it goes on and on. There would be a lineage that came from Obed and it would eventually come to a son who would also be a king. That King was to become the greatest King of the universe. His name would be the name above every name, Jesus Christ.

Obed was a restorer of life, because his life pointed people to the life of Jesus.

That’s what it means to be a restorer of life. Your life points people to the ultimate restorer of life, Jesus Christ.

When the Bible talks about God’s people, the first thing it says is that we’re restorers of life. I want to show a video of how God has used you to be what God said we would be, restorers of life.

David Rider from The Austin Stone on Vimeo.

This story about my friend is one of the most precious stories in my entire time as a pastor. It’s important because the impact on my friend’s life, family, and whole place of work can be traced back to God using you.

David watched you from the first Sunday and has watched you Sunday after Sunday since, serving and worshiping. God began to use you like Obed in Captain Rider’s life, the life of his family, and in the entire police department, bringing them to Jesus, the Restorer of life. Well done. Now let’s do it all over the city.

Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:16 (ESV)

Restorer Of Streets

If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. Isaiah 58:10 (ESV)

Notice God does not say if you give the hungry some food, but rather He says to give yourself. The word desire can be translated as soul, so if you satisfy the soul of the afflicted then your light will rise in the darkness and your gloom will become like midday. Watch what God says He’ll do in your life when you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the souls of the afflicted.

And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. Isaiah 58:11 (ESV)

If you go and give yourself to the poor and hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then God will satisfy your soul and guide you, making you a well watered garden. He will rise up in you a spring of waters that do not fail.

And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in. Isaiah 58:12 (ESV)

When you are living the God has ask you to, He says His people will be called the restorers of streets. I’ve been called a lot of things in my life, but never a restorer of streets. I desperately want to be though. What would it look like to live my life in such a way that when I’m lying in a casket somewhere and people would say, “He was a restorer of streets.”

Restoring St. John’s Neighborhood

Our new property is at the intersection of I-35, 183 and 290. If you were to take a map of the greater Austin area and found the center, our property would be right there. As we speak there’s currently a bar and a motel on the land. One of the girls that worked for the previous landowners said they would get about twelve to fifteen calls a week reporting prostitution and drug trafficking right there on the property.

We’re going to have our prayer service out there on Tuesday night. It’s pretty nasty out there so we decided to hire a company to clean it up for us. We called five professional cleaning companies. After seeing the property, four of them wouldn’t even give us a bid. They said it was too dirty. It was too littered with condoms, needles, crack pipes and broken bottles. They wouldn’t do it. The company that did do it told us it took three dump truck loads and twelve truckloads to get all the garbage out.

Imagine what it looked like when we saw it for the first time. On the way out there, our real estate agent who makes his living selling land said, “You guys aren’t going to want this property. Just wait until you see it.” Why would a guy that makes his living selling property tell us that? He knew what we’d see. He knew we’d see a dilapidated bar and hotel that’s probably being used for prostitution. He knew we’d see hypodermic needles everywhere. He knew we’d see tons of disgusting stuff. He assumed that just like the priest and the Levite in the story of the Good Samaritan, and just like generation after generation of city officials and churches looking for land here in Austin, we’d see the property and decide it was a little too bloody and messy for us and quietly walk on the other side of the road.

But something hit us as we walked on the property. This isn’t the kind of property that Jesus ran from. This is the kind of property that He ran to. Seems like I read somewhere Jesus said His followers don’t ever walk on the other side of the road. So we said we’ll take it.

And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in. Isaiah 58:12 (ESV)

That’s the kind of church I want to go to. I want to go to a church people know as restorers of streets.

The Cross & Social Justice

A lot of people have been asking me if this is just another social justice movement. Back in the nineties there was a big social justice movement. Lots of people tried it and failed. This happens when social justice is done apart from the gospel. Social justice apart from the cross is the Peace Corps. The Peace Corps is great, but Jesus didn’t say the gates of hell would not prevail against the Peace Corps. He said they wouldn’t prevail against His Church.

In the Christ’s Church there can be no separation between the cross and social justice. There is no separation in Scripture between the two. Last time I checked Matthew 25, on Judgment Day, Jesus was addressing His believers, purchased by His blood on the cross and said, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me,” (Matthew 25:34-36, ESV).

There is no separation between the cross and social justice.

If four thousand of us, God’s people, go into a neighborhood and live out the gospel, the full picture of it, two things will happen. People and places will change. If those two things are not being changed, it’s because God is not among us.

We are to be restorers of lives and of streets.

The Building

We’re called to be the restorers of life and of streets. God says that if we live out the gospel, streets will be restored. So that brings us to the question, “Why a church building?” We don’t have to spend twelve million dollars to restore streets. We don’t have to spend twelve million dollars to be restorers of life. So why build a building?

In America today there are more mega churches in this country now than ever before. We are one of them. There are more church buildings now than ever before. Yet, there are less people attending church right now than ever before. So why do we build a building is a great question!

We as elders of the church wanted to do it differently. God gave us a vision to do something different with this building than anything I’ve heard about going on in the country right now.

I was telling my mentor about it this week. He’s a PhD in the New Testament, a Greek scholar, a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, a brilliant guy and an amazing preacher. I was telling him what we’re going to do with the property and he said, “Matt, I’ve never heard of anything like this. This has the potential to change the paradigm of the way America thinks about church.”

First, we’re going to build a sanctuary. We want to continue to invest in you, just like we have been. In so many ways that you’ll never get to hear about, you already are a church for the city of Austin. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve talked to non-profits and asked if we can get involved with them and what they’re doing, and they look at us and say, “What are you talking about? Ninety percent of our volunteers are from your church.”

So we’re going to build the sanctuary, but we’re going to build it differently. We’re going to use tilt wall construction, which means you just pour concrete on the ground, let it dry and then tilt it up. We’re doing that because it’s real cheap. We’re going to have concrete floors and folding chairs. The big craze now is to have those theater style seats in a sanctuary that are padded and real nice. The problem is they’re $200 a piece. The chairs we’re buying are eight bucks apiece. I hope you like them. Why concrete floors and folding chairs?

Imagine the sanctuary being used on a Friday night as a concert venue for Austin City Limits. Then we’ll leave the chairs out, because on Saturday morning it’ll being used for a job fair for the St. John’s neighborhood. Then on Saturday night Austin LifeCare, Makarios or Community New Start will use it for a fundraiser to raise money for their non-profit. Then Sunday you’ll sit in them for worship. But on Monday it’ll being used for an after school program for Webb Middle School who lives across the street from us.

There will also be a children’s facility. We’re actually going to spend money on that one and it’ll look more like what you think a children’s facility should look like. We’re doing this because we want it to be secure for our children, and because environments matter to little kids.

The Nehemiah Center

The next part is what I’m probably most excited about. We’re thinking about calling it the Nehemiah Center. We’ve been talking to non-profits who are fighting for the city, who are wall builders, fighting injustice and for the poor, about inviting them at little or no cost to move right onto the campus of Austin Stone Community Church. At first we thought it might be difficult to sell to people, to be on church property. But the word has gotten out and our phones won’t stop ringing from non-profits wanting to be a part of the vision.

Let’s dream of what the building might look like. Austin LifeCare is an organization that ministers to women who are thinking about having or have had an abortion. They own a sonogram machine, which is cool because statistically nine out of ten women will change their mind about having an abortion if they see the heartbeat of their child. However, Austin LifeCare only gets to use the sonogram machine two hours a month, because they can’t find enough doctors who have the time to go come over and use it. We’ve also talked to a doctor in this church who is interested in opening a health clinic on the property and another organization wants to start an adoption agency on the property.

So imagine a church that on its campus has an organization with a sonogram machine that ministers to women who are thinking about having an abortion. Then right next door there’s a doctor that can run the sonogram machine. Then right next door to him there’s an organization that takes these babies and places them in loving homes around the city and the nation.

Being A Church For The City

I start thinking about the possibilities and I get so excited I can’t see straight. Listen again to what my mentor said, “Matt, this has the possibility of changing the entire way Americans think about church.”

One last story and we’ll be done. In the video about Captain Rider, he mentions how many of the officers in his department are being impacted by the Austin Stone. Well, we got an email from the chief of their department the other day. It said, “I just want to thank you guys. Three more officers came to me today about working at the Austin Stone this coming week. I want to thank you because your church is literally changing the culture of our department.” Wait, it gets better. He said, “I have an idea. I heard you’re thinking about doing this Nehemiah Center with non-profits. The problem with that is it’s in a neighborhood that’s fairly dangerous. The kind of people that are going to need that center most will be single moms that work two jobs. Most non-profits will have to shut down at dark because of the dangers and then the women who need them the most won’t be able to get to them.” He goes on to say, “What if we took our police headquarters and put them right there on your property? You think women would feel safe if we had seventy squad cars on the property?”

A church for the city.

People have asked me how this building helps the vision of being a church for the city. I respond by saying that’s the wrong question. The question is, how does it not?