Last week we continued to follow the apostle Paul as he left Athens and went alone on to Corinth. It seemed an impossible task, one man against a city of very devoted sinners. Of course, it wasn’t the first time God sent a man alone against unbelief like that, but it was an intimidating prospect, nonetheless.
But Paul did not stay alone for long. He reached out on common ground, met like-minded people, and before long a small congregation was blossoming. In fact, this pattern repeated most places he went. Even where he was forcibly driven out, he left behind a contingent of the faithful who continued the work after he departed. Though he made his rounds, sharing Jesus, strengthening churches, and moving on, each place he worked carried on the work without him.
Today, it is that effect in particular that we want to look at. That from the efforts of one, many can come to faith by God’s power. And each one of those many can reach out to just as many more. Let’s begin by taking a look at our reading for today, from Acts 18:
Paul stayed on in Corinth for some time. Then he left the brothers and sisters and sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila. Before he sailed, he had his hair cut off at Cenchreae because of a vow he had taken. They arrived at Ephesus, where Paul left Priscilla and Aquila. He himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. When they asked him to spend more time with them, he declined. But as he left, he promised, “I will come back if it is God’s will.” Then he set sail from Ephesus. When he landed at Caesarea, he went up to Jerusalem and greeted the church and then went down to Antioch.
After spending some time in Antioch, Paul set out from there and traveled from place to place throughout the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples.
Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.
When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers and sisters encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. When he arrived, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. For he vigorously refuted his Jewish opponents in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah.
One hates to talk numbers when discussing the church. God wants all people to be saved. He does not measure success in numerical terms. The effectiveness of the Gospel or a congregation should not be measured in numerical growth. It’s a slippery slope to talk numbers.
That being said.
Foregoing issues of doctrinal divide and incorrect teachings, the number of people in the world with saving faith in Jesus could probably be estimated in the hundreds of millions. The number of people who have passed to heaven in the faith in the last 2000 years makes that number significantly higher. Imagine what that number would look like though, if Paul had been the only one teaching people about Jesus. If everyone who had come to faith by his efforts simply took that faith home and enjoyed it for themselves and that was that? God is all-powerful, but humanly speaking – how fast can one person share the faith with the world?
In fact, even Jesus himself said the task was too great. He said the workers were too few and to ask for more workers. He turned to his disciples, told them to pray for more workers that the lost and helpless sheep might get what they so desperately need.
And we’ve seen through the book of Acts how desperately people need Jesus. And people haven’t changed much since our time. As we look at the people in Acts who need Jesus, we don’t just see the same people in our world, we even see ourselves. We see either what we once were or struggle every day not to turn into.
We saw the group that loved just indulging in everything life had to offer in order to try to find happiness on any given day. Do you know that person? Have you tried it yourself? Or even given into it a little bit? The rush of whatever is great… but at the end you have to face reality. And it’s never the same the second time. You have to go bigger and better. And you get caught in an endless loop of one-upping everything that went before. Doesn’t even have to be a sinful vice. Could just be a hobby or vacation or something. You’re working towards that one thing that you say, “when I get here, I’ll be happy and content and everything will be good.” But it’s a hamster wheel. It doesn’t work. And you just have to do it all over again. It’s a hollow chasing of the wind.
We saw the group that preferred to work for satisfaction. That’s just as deceptive a trap. Either you work really hard and end up with a false sense of security from how great you are… or you more likely stumble and make mistakes and end up utterly discouraged that you just can’t seem to get it right. It’s just as bad as chasing those hollow pleasures to think that somehow my life, my worth, my joy has to come from how good I am at something. I can’t stop moving and working because if I do, I’ll realize how empty it really is and it’ll all come crashing down.
And the less said about the town of Corinth and their worship of Aphrodite, the better. Sexual sin is some of the most prevalent in our world. We all know someone caught up in it and we’d be utterly foolish to think that as Christian believers we are above it or immune to it.
All of these people in our world are people chasing empty lives, knowing on some level that something is missing but unable to fill it. And before we look down our nose, they are exactly what you and I would be except for God’s grace in saving us. They need someone to save them. They need a God who died to make these things right. To give them joy and comfort that lasts, water they can drink and never be thirsty again. They need Jesus to fill that void and calm their desperate pursuits.
Just like we needed Jesus to do the same for us. And to help us daily that we don’t go back to those ways. We’re here to plant Jesus in the heart of North Raleigh and beyond…because North Raleigh is full of hurting people who desperately need it.
But this is not a job that one man can do. It’s not even a job that a small team of called workers can do. It is the calling of every Christian to multiply the faith wherever you go.
Jesus told the disciples to pray for workers and then what happened next? He made his disciples workers and sent them out to work. Paul made friends of Priscilla and Aquilla and before long they were travelling with Paul and teaching other believers
And what about that list of people Paul sent greetings to in Rome? You know, at the point Paul wrote that letter, Paul himself had never even been to Rome? And yet he had a laundry list of people he personally knew who had gone there to carry out ministry for Jesus.
The mission of the church can be summed up simply in two words: Grow and Go. We are to grow the faith of existing believers and we are to go with that faith to share it with others. If you look at Jesus’ great commission that is exactly the directive you’ll find him giving. But the great way about how God works is that each person the Holy Spirit works on and brings to faith is another person to carry out that same mission. One reaches many, the many reach many more, and on and on it goes.
We are a congregation. A gathering. We are very different, with different backgrounds, different attitudes and quirks and foibles. But we are united as a gathering of believers in Christ to carry out his mission. This is not a passive club that we show up to, put our dues in the offering plate and go home with a little bit of salvation. The believers are the church and the church is the believers. Yes, to guide our path we call a man specially trained to lead and shepherd us. Yes, we call teachers to bring up our children. Yes, we appoint leaders to help keep the chaos a bit organized. But you are still the church.
And the ministry of the church is more than Pastor Kiecker can do alone. It’s more than the preschool teachers can do alone. It’s more than the church council can even do alone. It’s up to all of us. Every believer working together to accomplish that mission to multiply the church, to share the gospel message, give the Holy Spirit his moment to work and bring others to the faith you know and treasure.
We’ve talked about the people who are hurting, we know how badly they need it. We know that could just as easily be you or me. And yes, maybe they’ll reject it. God doesn’t hold us accountable for that. He does hold us accountable if we never speak up. If we never do anything. How can anyone believe if they don’t hear and how can they hear if we don’t speak?
Now, I know we’re not all equally equipped. That’s part of the reason we have different roles in the church. We are not all here to do exactly the same things. But we all have gifts that can be used to carry out this ministry. Use them! Maybe it’s not a direct outreach effort, but it’s still work that supports that outreach. Whether it’s helping worship run smoothly for the visitor or keeping our facility beautiful to glorify God or taking some task off another’s plate so they can focus on larger priorities – we all talents and gifts to contribute to the ministry.
And let me just backpedal for a second and point out that ministry is not all about outreach, either. Remember I said the mission of the church is to Grow and Go. Becoming a believer means we are saved, 100%. But it’s also not the end of our earthly walk with God. Faith needs to be fed, nurtured, and grown. The ministry to strengthen faith right here in our own midst through regular worship and study and devotion is just as vital as the ministry to reach outside of our congregation. Look at Priscilla, Aquilla, and Apollos strengthening each other through instruction and study of God’s word prior to really tackling the task of reaching out.
What are you doing to grow? Are you making a point to attend Sunday bible study or one of the mid-week groups? Do you have a devotional habit to dig into scripture regularly on your own? Do you have someone you can reach out to for help when you wrestle with a difficult section of the Bible? If you don’t feel up to the task of reaching out, then start by reaching in – grow your faith in the Word here and help others do the same. And, if you’re not sure where to start – which is super common, then ask. Ask Pastor Kiecker, ask me, ask the leadership. Any of us can point you in the right direction and give you resources to get started.
Brothers and sisters, we are the church. We are the gathering of believers called to do his work. Study his word, learn from him regularly, build yourself up in that truth and then share it out there with those who so desperately need it. Ultimately the work of salvation is up to the Holy Spirit. He is the one who changes hearts and brings people to faith. The success of our mission is in his hands, not ours. But he has chosen to rely on us for the opportunity. Study the gospel, share the gospel, that more can know Jesus, that more can share Jesus, that the most can be saved. Amen.
Peter took a seat around the fire. It had been a rough couple of months. When he first started following Jesus, things had been pretty awesome. Jesus healed his mother in law. Jesus helped him catch hundreds of fish in just one net cast. Jesus even took him to a wedding and transformed a couple of jugs of water into wine with just the snap of his fingers.
It was fun. He had wanted to be a part of whatever it was they were building!!!
But lately…things weren’t so fun. The other religious leaders were getting angrier. Call it jealousy. Call it pride. They were getting angrier and heckling them as they went about teaching. In fact, the heckling had started to get a bit violent: One of Jesus’ ministry partners – his cousin named John the Baptist – had just been beheaded and there had begun to be rumblings that they wanted to kill Jesus, too.
Peter took sip of wine as he stared into the fire. It was good to get a break. Good to take a moment. Good to contemplate.
What were they really building?
Was it worth it?
Did he, Simon, really want to be a part of it?
And apparently...Jesus was doing the same thing:
Who do people say I am? (v.15)
Peter looked up. So, did the other disciples. Some still had ½ eaten pieces of fish hanging from their mouths.
I’m serious. Who do the people say that I am?
The disciples looked at one another. And then began to talk all at once: Some say, “John the Baptist” – dead, but come back to life. Other says “Elijah” – an even deader prophet come back to life. Jeremiah or Malachi or Zephaniah or some kind of prophet whose name is hard to pronounce. Honestly, Jesus there are all kinds of ideas about you: From nice guy to demon; to good teacher to scoundrel. I mean – those Pharisees look serious about shutting you down.
Jesus shook his head. Then, he looked directly at Peter.
“And what about you? Who do YOU say that I am?” (v.15)
Peter’s eyes darted to avoid the intensity of the question. He looked to John – who shrugged. He looked at James – who shook his head. He looked to the ground. He thought about what he had seen Jesus do. He thought about how Jesus’ hands had made blind people see and how his words had made deaf people hear. He could still picture Jesus stopping the lighting and raising the little dead girl back to life.
He nodded his head.
And he spoke confidently:
“You are the Christ. The Son of the Living God.” (Mt. 16:16)
Jesus didn’t slap him.
He didn’t facepalm.
He didn’t even say, “Good answer, but no…”
Jesus said this: “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter – which means “Rock” – and on this rock of a confession I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it!” (v.17-18)
In other words.
Today we will apply Jesus’ own words to what we are doing with that 10,000-square foot building over there. We’re going to learn (1) who we need to build on and (2) what we are really building. Before we do, join me in prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is the truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; open our ears to hear what you want us to hear; open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. Who to Build On
I think this is a really interesting section of Scripture because it gives you a glimpse into what people who lived and talked with Jesus thought about Jesus. Notice their answers. They name three prophets. Prophets were people who received messages from God and spoke message from God. And Elijah, John the Baptist and Jeremiah were some of the most well-known.
But more than that. They were all dead! Think about it: If I asked who you thought I was and you said, Elvis Presley, that’d be a compliment. If you really believed it, that’d be amazing. It would mean you have a high opinion of me.
Not only did these people think Jesus was a prophet, but they thought he was a dead prophet come back from the dead. They had a high opinion of Jesus.
Just. Not. High. Enough.
To be fair – most people today think highly of Jesus. They think he’s a good moralist. A good teacher. A nice guy.
Kinda like…Mr. Rogers.
Do you know Mr. Rogers?
Do you like Mr. Rogers?
I don’t know anyone that has ever complained about Mr. Rogers. He’s kind. He’s nice. He wears sweaters. He teaches kids to enjoy the land of Make-Believe, how crayons are made, and how to deal with slightly annoying mailmen—kindly.
Sometimes people think of Jesus just like Mr. Roger. Kind. Nice. Good teacher. But that’s about it.
Is that who we are building this school on?
Are we building it on some nice guy?
If so, how is it any different than George Washington University – ok guy, famous president, OR Johns Hopkins University – he had a lot of money and gave it to a hospital OR William Bucknall University – I don’t know even who he is!
We are not building this school in the name of some nice guy.
It’s not in the name of good morals.
It’s not in the name of good education.
It’s not in the name of good athletics.
If you want any of those, you can find those at just about any location down the street.
We are building this school in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Which was Peter’s confession. And it holds two important truths:
(1) Jesus is the Christ!
Really quick – Christ is the Greek word for “the Anointed One.” It matches up with the Hebrew word Messiah which also means “Anointed One.” If you are a fan of literature, it sounds a lot like the “Chosen One” trope that appears throughout it. Like Luke Skywalker being “the One” to bring balance to the Force, or Neo being the “One” to save people from the Matrix, or “Harry Potter” to defeat “he-who-must-not-be-named.”
It’s like that.
Only the literature we are talking about was around over 4000 years before those stories. And it finds very real fulfillment in a guy named Jesus 2000 years later.
He was born in Bethlehem as prophecy said.
He grew up in Nazareth as prophecy said.
He was Jewish as prophecy said.
He did miracles as prophecy said.
He died on a cross as prophecy said.
He rose from the dead as prophecy said.
And all of these visual fulfillments of prophecy – help us to understand some invisible prophecies he fulfilled.
He paid for our sins as prophecy said.
He won us forgiveness as prophecy said.
He defeated the devil as prophecy said.
He gave us eternal life as prophecy said.
He was our Savior as prophecy said.
Our school is about so much more than some nice guy.
It is about the One prophesied to save the world.
It is about the One prophesied to save us.
It is about the One prophesied to save – our kids.
(2) The Son of God
But Peter’s statement is two-fold. He calls Jesus more than just the Messiah. He calls him the “Son of God.”
My sister had a baby about a year ago. Harper Grace. I saw pictures of her and watched videos of her on Facebook. After a couple of months, I finally had the chance to confirm it in person.
My sister had given birth to a human.
From humans come humans.
From dogs come dogs.
From cats come cats.
From African Pigmy Hippopotamuses come African Pigmy Hippopotamuses.
And from God comes God.
Not that it’s quite the same. God is eternal. So, while Jesus is from God, he also always has been. Even you want to learn more about that – join me in Bible study this week to talk mind bending theology.
But for our purposes it is imperative you understand this truth:
Peter’s confession attributes “Godness” to Jesus!
That’s why he stopped storms.
That’s why he made the blind to see.
That’s why he made the deaf to hear and the lame to walk and the sick to be well.
That’s why he made the dead to rise and when he was dead he was able to do what most living people could not do – he brought himself back to life!
Our school is about so much more than some nice guy!
It is about THE Living God of Heaven above.
It is about the True GOD with his Almighty Power.
It is about the One who has always been around.
It is about the One who is always with us.
It is about the One who will never leave us – or our kids.
II. What are We Building
I want you to look out here. It’s just mud and sticks and stones. But I want you to close your eyes and visualize what will be. Close your eyes and visualize the final product. Close your eyes and visualize – what we are building. Close your eyes and visualize – a church!
Ummm…Pastor? Was there a mistake in the blueprints? I thought we were building a school?
Before you go grab the Construction Manager, look at what Jesus said to Peter. He said, “On this rock of a confession I will build my church.” Did you know that’s the first time Jesus uses the word “Church” in the Bible? The word is “ecclesia” and on its own it simply means an “assembly” a “group.”
But notice what Jesus calls it. “My church.”
This means a few things:
Understand this – church is not a building.
Church is not an organization.
Church is people.
People build on Jesus.
It means Jesus has been building onto “his church” for centuries.
He built onto his church when he brought us to faith in his family.
And God willing – he will build onto his “church” through our preschool building.
Every time a teacher tells a Bible story, God is building his church.
Every time a toddler sings the song “Jesus Loves Me,” God is building his church.
Every time an infant baptized, God is building his church.
Every time a parent talks to another parent and they hear about their Savior, God is building his church.
Every time a teacher gets down on her knees, explains that hitting is wrong, and the little child has tears in their eyes, blurts out, “I’m sorry,” and the director doesn’t just say, “It’s ok” she doesn’t say, “Try harder.” She says, “Jesus died for you. That means he forgives and I forgive you,” – God is building his church.
He’s bringing people to faith.
He’s adding to his kingdom.
He’s saving people to heaven.
III. What Now?
1. Be Confident Builders
Which might be a bit intimidating. Because we aren’t talking about simple numbers and letters anymore. The task is a lot bigger. The task is eternal. There will be temptations to fight against it. There will be temptations to fight about it. There will be people who don’t like it. There will be things that cause us to worry, numbers that cause us to fret and problems that cause us to vent.
Why wouldn’t there be problem? The devil will do anything to prevent a building dedicated to the good work of Jesus from happening.
But Look at Jesus’ promise: “I will build my church…and the gates of hell will not overcome it.” (v.17)
In other words – the building will happen.
Maybe not the brick and mortar building – but the building of God’s kingdom will happen.
Nothing can stop it. Nothing can stop us.
Not with God on our side.
Because Groundbreaking isn’t the end. The building isn’t finished yet. Neither the brick and mortar building or the building of God’s kingdom. If we stopped here to give each other high fives and say, “We did it!” We’d be wrong. There’s more building yet to do!
So…get to work.
If you can’t swing a hammer, pray.
If you can’t saw a saw, encourage.
If you don’t have any idea what a 7/8 wrench looks like, share the message of your Savior.
Be a part of this.
Be a part of building God’s kingdom.
And God bless us as we build on Jesus. Amen.
What makes you shout? Your kid reaching for a cookie even though you told them not to? A coworker expecting you to do something when it isn’t your job? Someone cutting you off in traffic on the way here this morning? Duke making it to the Elite Eight? UNC not making it to the Elite Eight?
Question: Does Jesus ever make you shout? I’m not talking about a firm “Yes” as you politely sip coffee and wait for the next part of the sermon. I’m talking about a feel it in your belly, this is so exciting, I’m just that blessed by God so I’m gonna let the world know, kind of shout.
When Jesus came into Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday before they even knew it was Palm Sunday, the people couldn’t help but shout. But it’s a bit strange shouting, isn’t it? Because there wasn’t anything altogether that spectacular about Jesus’ ride into Jerusalem. This morning we’re going to examine two things: (1) Why Shout? and (2) How to Shout?
I. Why Shout?
Picture the scene. Jesus was on the Mt. of Olives – which is just outside Jerusalem at about 2700 feet. That’s a decent height. From there he can see Jerusalem. Now – if you head back in Scripture just a chapter before Jesus tells his disciples this truth: 33 “We are going up to Jerusalem…and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.”
Do you suppose Jesus could picture it from there? Could he see the garden where he would be betrayed and arrested? Could he see the courtyard where he would be falsely accused and condemned? Could he see Calvary…a hill not too far away…where he would hang on a cross and die?
Understand this. If you book a hotel on Priceline and you want to write it off for your taxes, you have to list the purpose of the business trip. A conference. A client meeting. A nearby Expo.
The point of Jesus’ trip to Jerusalem was that he would suffer and die to save people from their sin. Do you think the IRS would let him write that off on his taxes?
Yet in spite of the gloomy circumstances surrounding his impending stay in Jerusalem, Jesus made preparations to enter. As they approached Jerusalem, Jesus sent two of his disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 3 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’”
Maybe Jesus had made arrangements beforehand; maybe he’s just being divine and knowing exactly where to send the disciples to borrow a donkey. Because verse 6 says, The (disciples) went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, 5 some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” 6 They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. 7 When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it.
Now how many here have been to a parade before? Parades are exciting. There are marching bands, beautifully decorated floats, acrobats, a giant balloon or two, and a few people tossing candy.
I grew up in a small town of 20,000 people. We had parades. They had the local beauty queen. A few dozen firetrucks. And that guy who’s driving along in a car--not a particularly impressive car either – maybe a 1997 Chevy Lumina minivan – and on the side of the car is the name of his business – “Bob’s A/C and Heating Supply”. The only thing interesting happening is that the guy is waving from the window. Maybe he’s tossing a few of those hard candies you get in droves from the dollar Store.
It’s not the most exciting.
Jesus is entering Jerusalem in a similar fashion. He’s not on a beautiful stallion. He’s not in the back of an awesome chariot. He’s not driving a fancy muscle car. He’s not at the top of a gigantic horse drawn podium like Santa Claus in the Macy’s parade.
He’s riding a donkey. A young donkey. He’s sitting on a coat for decoration. That’s it.
And the people went bananas: Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. The Apostle John tells us they were palm branches. 9 Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our Father David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
I’ve never reacted with that kind of fanfare for a parade. How about you?
It makes you wonder why. Why are they that excited to see Jesus? If we examine their words closely, we’ll get clued in as to why this is so exciting:
Hosanna! Hosanna is a Hebrew word. It’s an imperative. It simply means “Save!”
If your basketball team has been struggling in any tournament game, maybe you caught yourself chanting: “Score!” Score! Score already!” It’s something they are capable of doing and you want them to do.
Why were these people chanting “Save!?!” “Teach!” we could understand. “Love!” would seem appropriate. “Make the Pharisees look bad,” would be a fun chant as well.
But this word “Hosanna” teaches us so much about who Jesus is. He’s more than a teacher. He’s more than a nice guy. He’s more than a rebel that made the local officials feel foolish.
He’s the Savior.
This is key. Your level of understanding of this one word alone will affect your excitement today and always.
Truth is there’s a lot going on in our lives – financial struggles, relationship breakdowns, constant business. Learning about Jesus at church or in your Bible seem just like one more thing to cross off the list of ‘ToDos”. Indistinguishable in importance from one bullet point to another. This whole idea of Jesus it might not seem all that exciting all the time. I don’t even toss out candy…usually.
So whether you’ve forgotten, not pondered it in a while ,or simply never been told, consider what Jesus saves us from. Here’s three simple passages:
1 Timothy 1: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners…
Sinners are those who have done sin. Sin is anything wrong, selfish, greedy, lustful, rageful. Sin is God’s Word for wrong. It is the word for the awful things that humans say and do to each other.
Are you a sinner? Have you ever said or done something wrong? (I’m raising my hand real high right now.)
Not what 1 Timothy says though. Jesus came to save sinners. It doesn’t say that he came to show off. It doesn’t’ say that he came to high five the righteous. It says that he came to save! To remove sins that had marred our souls from before God’s sight. He came to wipe away our guilt. He came to cleanse us from sins!
This is a big deal. Because sins leads to God’s wrath. That's something else we need saving from. That’s because God hates sin and wants nothing to do with sin. He must punish it.
That may sound harsh, but consider how humans demand fairness. If you are driving down Falls of Neuse at 55 mph –the exact same speed as the car next to you and the cop pulls you over but not him, don’t you demand justice?
If you and a friend complete a test in school, but they get a higher grace because the teacher likes her better, don’t you demand justice?
If so, you’re like God. He’s just. He must punish all sin. Which means he must punish sinners. Sinners like you. Sinners like me.
Romans 5:9 says, We shall be saved from God’s wrath through Jesus! It’s as if Jesus saw God’s wrath coming and stepped in front of it for us.
Like a friend who stands in front of a fan, so that you don’t feel it’s cool breeze, Jesus stood in front of us so that we don’t feel the full force of God’s wrath! He did it on the cross. He suffered and cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Then Jesus saved us from one more thing. 2 Timothy 1:10 says, “Our Savior, Jesus Christ…destroyed death and brought life…through the Gospel.” That happened on Easter. He broke open the grace and broke open death. Death no longer means eternal separation from God and from loved ones. By faith in Jesus death means life. Eternal life.
Maybe you are thinking, “That all sounds nice. But how do we know it’s true?” Check out the second line of praise from the Palm Sunday onlookers: “Blessed is He Who Comes in the name of the Lord.”
Ever been to the store looking for FDA approved meat? If you see that seal on the package, then you know the meat is safe to eat. The practices are humane. The food is not going to poison you. It’s approved by the FDA.
Jesus is God approved. He came in the name of the Lord. We know this from more than just the people’s words. We’re smarter than that. We know this from Jesus’ miracles. God miracles. Things no one else could do! He stopped storms, cast out incurable diseases, made the blind to see, the deaf to hear, the lame to talk, and the dead to rise. On more than one occasion, a voice came from the skies – long before the time of microphones and speakers – and this voice said, “This is my Son whom I love with Him I am well pleased.”
God the Father had given his seal of approval for Jesus’ work. Jesus was now entering Jerusalem -- to suffer and die – work that was approved by God. Approved by the Father as the only way for you and me to get to heaven.
Buddha didn’t get that kind of approval.
Neither did Mohammed.
Neither did that Yoga teacher from Daily Burn ‘becoming one with your spirit’ breathing enhancement.
Jesus is the God approved way to be saved!
Blessed is the coming kingdom of the Father. This wasn’t the chant of some political zealots excited that the “God” party was being formed and soon all the rules in Ancient Rome would match up with God’s rule.
It means God had come to rule in hearts. To speak peace. To give joy. To hold in love. To promise a forever—happily ever after—in heaven to all who believe in Jesus.
Fear doesn’t rule. Peace does. Guilt doesn’t rule. Joy does. Hatred doesn’t rule. Love does. Death –awful, terrifying, frightening no longer rules. It’s not even death anymore. It’s life.
Hosanna in the Highest! Translated loosely this means “Raise the roof!” Why not? Look at all the awesome things that Jesus was going to do for the people in Jerusalem – the things he has done for you. He saved you from your sins. He saved you from your guilt. He saved you from eternal punishment. By believing in Him, he saves you to an eternity of pain free, guilt free, sin free bliss in heaven!
You see – we shout because God shouts! When our consciences shout, “Guitly. You are condemned. God can’t forgive you.” God speaks to us in His Word. He speaks through Jesus. He says, “You are forgiven. You are loved. You will be in heaven!!!”
That’s worth shouting about, isn’t it?
II. How to Shout
So…how loudly have you been shouting?
I don’t own an applause meter. I’m not going to hold it up and see if we can break Gethsemane’s all time decibel record on the next hymn. This isn’t an imperative to go downtown, set up a box on the curb, and scream at everyone who passes by.
Let’s worry less about how loud your voice is and more about how loud your life is. Think about the last couple of weeks…even months. How loudly have you been a witness for Christ?
· Are you certain to never miss a Sunday singing Amazing Grace in church OR just certain that you never miss a chance to sing karaoke?
· Can people glance at the cross by your workplace computer OR is it hard to find under the stacks of Duke memorabilia?
· Does your Facebook wall state, “I’m a Republican. I love country music. I’m obsessed with Hunger Games. I bleed NC State red. But…my religious views? That’s none of your business.”
Brothers and sisters, there are lots of people telling you to quiet down with your Christianity and your Jesus. Today I tell you crank it up! Turn that Jesus praise volume in your life all the way up! Do it in 3 Ways.
1) Shout in More Places.
If there’s anyone outside on a walk and I ran out and asked them what I just said, even if I was screaming it they would probably have no idea.
You can’t just shout in church. You need to “shout” in other places to.
Shout at home. Let them see you reading the Bible. Let them hear you praying. Make sure you practice forgiveness. Let them see you leaving for church. Shout at work. Invite someone to Easter. Pray for your friends. Lovingly, calmly, boldly share your faith in Jesus. Shout on the internet. Pass on Bible passages. Share what God has done for you today. Invite people Easter! Shout in other places too -- Shout in your neighborhood. Shout with your friends. Shout at the dog park, the laundromat, at Starbucks, at Goodberry’s for an ice cream. For goodness sakes shout in the library.
Wherever you are give glory to Jesus and don’t be afraid to let others know what Jesus has done.
2) Shout without Shouting.
The truth is that sometimes audible words aren’t enough. Sometimes big flashy, obnoxious, neon colored signs get your attention better than a few loudly spoken words. Krispy Kreme knows this and their light up “FRESH RIGHT NOW” sign drives people into the restaurant until the cars back up to the street.
Think of your life the same way. Jesus said, “Let your light shine that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Jesus’ point? Do everything you can to show people the love of Christ with your actions. Maybe they’ll take notice and then ask you and you’ll be able to tell them about what Jesus has done for them.
So be the best coworker you can be. Be the best neighbor your neighbor has ever had. Be an incredible mommy. Be a respectable father. Take pride in showing people love in a incredible, selfless, servant minded, “I’ve gotta pay attention to that” kind of way.
3) Shout Clearly
I love the Precious Lambs kids. But sometimes when I’m eating lunch with them, I have no idea what they just asked me. Perhaps it’s my ears OR perhaps it’s all the mashed potatoes up in their mouths.
Make sure your is a clear confession. If someone is seeing you drunk on Saturday night, but off to church Sunday morning, how is that clear? If someone is hearing you use foul language one minute and then, saying a prayer the next minute, how is that clear? If someone is hearing you invite them to church, but then you don’t show up at that same service, how is that clear? If someone is hearing you say “show love to everyone,” but then you are cold and abrasive to someone just because they look different than you, how does that clearly give praise to Jesus?
Shout clearly. Examine every aspect of your life to make sure it’s coming in line with God’s will. Make sure that everything you say and do points people back to Jesus!
Because here’s the deal. If on that first Palm Sunday – only a few people had politely golf clapped – thousands of people would have missed it. They would have missed seeing their Savior. They would have missed the cue to what he was about to do.
But together –that first Palm Sunday was an event for all to see. With everyone shouting God’s praises – it was clear that something awesome was going on. Something awesome was coming.
Together we are that voice. We are one loud voice. Shouted loudly in all kinds of places. Shouting loudly throughout North Raleigh. Shouting clearly this Easter message: JESUS IS THE SAVIOR! Hosanna! Hosanna in the Highest! Amen.
Ever used Lumosity? It's a series of online video games that help to train your brain. Studies have proven that over time you will develop language skills, memory, and speed recognition.
One of my favorite game is called FlyBy. In the game, a flying "V" of geese appear on the screen. Your job is to figure out which way the middle one is facing--up, down, left, or right.
At first it is. The image will stay on screen for a few seconds. But as your score improve so does the speed. Soon the image will flash on the screen! You can't blink. If you do, you might miss it.
It's that same way with sharing the message of Jesus. If you don't keep your eyes open, you might miss it.
Take Philip for example. Philip was travelling along a dusty, lonely road. As he walked, he encountered a speedy chariot going in the opposite direction.
Philip could have minded his own business. But instead, he saw an opportunity.
He approached the chariot.
He spoke with the man.
He told him about Jesus.
He baptized him in Jesus' name later that day.
1 Peter 3:15 says, Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.
That means be ready. Keep your eyes open.
The guy standing in line at the Dollar Tree.
The woman with the pitbull at the dog park.
Your next door neighbor taking out the trash.
The lady sitting near you at the library.
The young man lifting weight by you at the gym.
Be Ready. Keep your eyes open. You never know when you'll have opportunity.
Granted-- it's easy to NOT look. It's easy to keep your head down, your eyes on the smartphone, and your earphones in your ears. It's easy to walk right by your neighbor in order to get home and watch MASH reruns.
Jesus didn't keep his head down. He looks off through eternity and saw YOU.
He lived for you.
He died for you.
He rose for you.
Can you bring his message to other this Easter? Stay in prayer AND keep your eyes open for opportunities to tell about his love.