We are continuing our summer sermon series on the Early Church. Last week we heard how God directed the missionaries to the west, across the sea, into a foreign colony, down by a river – all for the sake of one woman named Lydia.
Lydia heard the Gospel, believed, and was baptized. Then, she became a partner in kingdom work.
That’s where we pick up. Lydia’s home was now the base of operations for Paul, Silas, and their mission crew.
Today we’re going to see how God worked through their mission work in Philippi to proclaim FREEDOM. Before we begin, let’s pray: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth, your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see, our ears to hear what you want us to hear and our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. Freedom from Evil
Acts 16:16 picks up the story some weeks later. The missionaries had gone back to the river where they met Lydia. It was a decent place for them to meet with people, preach sermons, and share the message of Jesus. They even started to get a bit of a following -- just not one they wanted: Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” (Acts 16:16-17)
A few notes:
This girl was a female slave. Unfortunately, you read that right. It was the 1st century and slavery was very common. Slaves were used to by their owners for housework, for fieldwork, for work down at the local harbor, and for any type of job that could earn the owner some money.
This slave worked for her owners by predicting the future. She read people’s palms. She gazed into crystal balls. She flipped over cards and told them about whether their dreamy new boyfriend was going to end up being Mr. Right.
She was able to do this because she had a spirit.
This was not a spirit of ambition.
It isn’t the type of “spirit” that gets people to work hard and end up on America’s Got Talent.
It wasn’t a good spirit.
It wasn’t the Holy Spirit.
It was an evil spirit.
This might be an undesirable truth, but it’s true nonetheless. Evil spirits are real. The Bible says that they are fallen angels. The devil was the first to fall by rebelling against God. But he wasn’t the only one. Others followed. They lost their godliness. They became evil. They became demons.
And it’s the truth.
Think about it:
If Jesus said he would rise from the dead…And he did.
Then, we need to believe what Jesus said.
And Jesus said that angels were real.
And so are demons.
One of those demons had possessed this slave girl. While this allowed her to do some amazing things like tell the future, it was a wretched life:
She was a prisoner in her own body.
She was influenced by demonic forces.
She was a slave in her own mind.
But not just to the demons! Her owners didn’t care one bit. She made them money! She was their ticket to the fancy new home theater with the 70” HD TV that they wanted. It didn’t matter if she suffered; she made them cash.
But now she found herself a second job. She followed the missionaries around shouting to the crowds: “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” She kept this up for many days…Paul became…annoyed. (Acts 16:17-18a)
That might seem strange. Because if you look at her words, they are filled with truth!
The missionaries were the servant of the God? Truth.
That God is the Most High God? Truth.
They were telling people the way to be saved? Yes, through Jesus.
Why is Paul annoyed at this addition to their missionary team?
Imagine for a minute that someone stumbled into church right now. They reeked of booze. They smelled of alcohol and cigarettes. In fact, they’d been on a booze bender ever since the 4th of July. They made their way to the front. And every time I made a point in the sermon, they lifted their bottle of Mad Dog 20/20, took a swig and shouted: “This guy’s speaking the truth about Jesus.”
Best case scenario? It’s annoying.
Worst case scenario? People leave before they hear the saving Gospel of Jesus.
It was the same thing for Paul. People were beginning to think: “If this Paul guy is associated with that demon-possessed slave girl, then they probably just want our money. It’s another hoax. Time to move on.”
But what could Paul do?
She was possessed by a demon.
She was held captive by the evil spirit.
She was a prisoner in her own body and mind – terrified and corned by a powerful devil.
Paul couldn’t do anything.
Paul said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her. (v.18b)
“At that moment.”
Not: “After a long period of time.”
Not: “After a struggle.”
Not even: “After a while.”
“At that moment.”
Because “at that moment” Jesus defied Satan.
“At that moment” the demon cowered at God’s power.
“At that moment” the evil spirit went running at the mention of Jesus’ name.
“At that moment” Jesus freed her.
Free from demonic influence.
Free from her owners’ heavy hand.
Free from her life as a sideshow.
She was free.
Here’s the first truth for this morning:
Jesus frees us from the power of evil.
We had an ant problem at our house. On top of the front banister there were hundreds of ants crawling around near our front door and making their home out of rotted a piece of wood. So, I went to the store and looked at pest control options.
There was a poisonous spray.
There was a baited trap.
There was a good old fly swatter, if I wanted to spend the next 48 hours waiting and swatting.
I came home with a little tube of gunk. (Call it “anti-ant gunk”) The directions state to take the gunk, spread it across the area that the ants will be crawling and wait. What happens is that it smells so sweet to the ants that they can’t help but make their way onto it. But then? It’s so sticky they can’t get away from it.
They become trapped.
Evil is just like that.
It seems nice.
Then, it traps you.
The fun of a mildly racist joke that leads to racism firmly entrenched in every conversation made throughout the workday.
The allure of pornography’s next exciting click leading to click number 178.
The pull of greed’s desire for more – even if that greed is standing over me, like a master – forcing me to work more and more and more…
The initial high of a drug. The chemical induced desire to give over all your money for just one more taste.
The feeling of release from letting your rage on your spouse – a moment you’ll need to defend – by releasing the rage all over again.
Evil takes over.
Evil takes control.
Evil leave us as prisoners.
Jesus lived perfectly against evil.
He died innocently for the evil you have committed.
He rose triumphantly after having conquered evil on the cross!
Jesus frees from the power of evil.
Jesus frees YOU from the power of evil.
In fact, Jesus said this:
If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (Jn. 8:36)
And Jesus did set you free.
And you are free.
You are free…
Whatever evil you’re fighting against.
Whatever evil feels like it’s controlling you.
He is your leader.
He is your Savior.
He is your Rescuer.
II. Freedom from Fear
Unfortunately, not everybody was thrilled with the freedom that this young woman was now experiencing. When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. (Acts 16:19)
Because they didn’t care that she was free from the demon that possessed her.
They were losing money!
It might be like a strip club owner that is losing a dancer.
Or a drug dealer that’s losing one of his customers.
Or even a boss that’s losing a worker’s availability to make him more money on a Sunday morning.
Sometimes when you try to abandon sin, people get upset that you’re doing so.
That’s what happened to this girl. Her former employers became angry and they had some weight with the city. They got leaders to listen to their side of the story…
That Paul and Silas had broken their merchandise.
That they had ruined their income.
That they had looted their business.
And the leadership listened.
Paul and Silas were stripped.
They were beaten with rods.
They were flogged.
They were thrown into prison.
And as they were thrown into prison, the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. (16:23) So, he put them into the inner cell. The maximum-security part of the prison with extra doors and extra locks. In addition, he fastened their feet in the stocks. (v.24) They couldn’t even stand up to begin investigating an escape route.
The jailer brushed his hands together:
“That should hold them. I’ve done my job. Nothing can break those bonds.”
About midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God. And the other prisoners were listening to them. (v.25)
“The Lord’s my Shepherd, I’ll not want.” (Psalm 23:1)
“Surely it is God who saves me, I will trust in him and not be afraid.” (Isaiah 12:2)
“This is the Day the Lord has made. Rejoice! And be so very glad.” (Psalm 118:24)
The jailer could hear them in the distance:
How could they sound so free when they were so…NOT!?!
I wouldn’t be like that. I’d be terrified.
I already am.
Because if I were to mess this job up, well…
I’d rather just go to sleep rather than consider the outcome of that.
Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. (v.26)
And the jailer woke up in a panic!
The doors are open!
If those prisoners are gone, then I’m as good as dead.
I won’t see my family again.
I won’t see my kids again.
If the Romans don’t kill me, then that angry mob will.
The jailer threw himself on the floor.
He drew his swords and was about to kill himself…
“Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!” (v.28)
The jailer stopped.
He sniffled back a few tears.
He recognized that voice. It was the one that had just been singing to God.
He set the sword down and made his way to the jail cells to find the prisoners still there.
His job wasn’t in jeopardy.
His life wasn’t in jeopardy.
A rush of emotion came over the jailer. His eyes were filled with tears of thankfulness as he looked at the men who had a chance to leave the jail cell but remained.
He spoke: “Sirs, what must I do to be saved.” (v.29)
Because I’ve lived my whole life in fear.
I’ve lived my life afraid of death.
Afraid of losing everything.
Afraid of punishment and eternal hellfire.
What must I do to be saved? (v.29)
Paul didn’t state it explicitly.
But it’s implied.
The jailer couldn’t do anything to save himself.
“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. (v.31-32)
Friends, the same is true for you.
Jesus provides freedom from evil’s power.
But he also provides freedom of another variety.
TRUTH: Jesus brings freedom from fear.
If you’re a dog, the 4th of July must be on the scariest holiday. There are strange people attending backyard BBQs, their owners’ hands turning into sparking things, and loud booms, signifying the end of the world…all night long.
But if you’re a human, there’s plenty to fear as well.
That some terrorist will be part of an Independence Celebration.
That war will break in America – ending many lives.
That the sickness will end in death.
And there’s nothing scarier in the world than our natural spiritual state before God.
We are sinners.
We are guilt.
We deserve death.
And it’s coming for each one of us.
Jesus removed our sins.
Jesus removed our guilt.
Jesus removed our eternal death sentence.
Jesus transformed death from a separation from God and our believing loved ones.
Into an eternal reunion together with our Father and them.
Praise the Lord! There is no reason to be afraid.
Look at the change in the jailer:
At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wound. No longer afraid.
He had himself and all his household baptized. No longer afraid.
The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them. No longer afraid.
He was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household. No longer afraid of death, because death would not stop him. (v.32-34)
You don’t have to be afraid any longer.
The worst thing that could happen to you in this life, it’s also the best:
Your death means your eternal life. All because of Jesus!
Friends, Jesus means freedom.
Freedom from sin.
Freedom from guilt.
Freedom from shame.
Be free from fear.
Be free from evil.
Because FREE is who you are in Jesus. Amen.
Today we are looking at the final sermon in our EYEWITNESS ACCOUNTS sermon series. It is based on the final time Jesus appeared to his group of disciples.
Have you counted up the appearances so far?
How many are there?
The other women.
The Emmaus Disciples.
The group of disciples on Easter.
The group of disciples - plus Thomas – one week later.
The group of disciples on the fishing trip.
That’s six accounts so far.
But that’s not all of them.
There’s another time that Jesus saw Peter – one-on-one. (1 Cor. 15:5)
There’s a time that Jesus appeared to a guy called James – either the disciple or Jesus’ half-brother. (1 Cor. 15:7)
There’s a time where Jesus gives his disciples the Great Commission (Mt. 28:19-21)
There’s a time that Jesus appeared to more than 500 disciples all at one time (1 Cor. 15:6)
There’s even a time when Jesus appears to a guy named Saul who was hell-bent on destroying Christianity, but Jesus’ appearance transforms his heart into a guy named Paul who goes on 4 missionary journeys, starts 20 churches, and writes 13 books of the Bible (Acts 9).
If you were counting – that’s 11 different appearances to over 500 different people.
The resurrection is not made up.
It is REAL.
But if so…maybe you still struggle with this.
Because would it be so much easier if you could SEE Jesus?
If you could take a trip to the Holy Land and get a selfie with him?
If you could check out his Twitter handle for his perspective on any cultural situation?
If you could text him every time you had a question on a Bible passage…
Why did Jesus leave?
Why did he disappear?
Today’s EYEWITNESS account is the 12th recorded account in Scripture. It is the last one that occurs before he physically disappears. Today we want to learn (1) where Jesus went (2) why he disappeared (3) and what he wants us to do in the meantime. Before we begin, a prayer: Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; our ears to hear what you want us to hear and open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. The “Disappearance”
The lesson we are looking at to begin with comes from Luke 24:50-51: When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven.
Timeline wise this is the 40th day after Easter. We find that out from Acts 1 – which is an expanded version of this same exact account.
Note that this final appearance starts with Jesus leading his disciples. That’s appropriate. He had led his disciples for 3 years. He had led him the last 40 days. He would lead them up until his last day on earth. In fact, that’s literally what disciple means: “follower.”
And he led them to Bethany. Bethany is a small town just to the east of Jerusalem. The city is the place where Jesus commandeered the donkey for his entrance into Jerusalem. In this instance, they are just outside of Bethany where a few hills are located.
And as they get to the top of the hill…
He disciples his disciples just like he had done so many times before.
Unlike so many times before…
His feet go up.
They lift off the ground.
And his body begins floating.
And he goes up.
And up. Until…
A cloud hid him from their sight.
Do any of you know who Criss Angel is? He’s like a tattooed, goth version of David Copperfield. He is famous for street magic.
One of the tricks that he did was he began to levitate in the air. Mind you – this is on the sidewalk, in the street, apart from a magician’s stage.
I thought that was amazing.
There’s a YouTube video of him explaining the trick. Essentially, he is wearing a special pair of pants that (1) break away in the front (2) have a mannequin’s foot attached to the back of it. This enables him to plant his real foot on the ground, balance, and go into a squat that makes it look like he is beginning to float parallel to the ground. The rest is misdirection and camera positioning.
And voila! Magic.
Jesus’ ascension is not a magic trick.
He isn’t floating on a false leg.
There isn’t camera misdirection.
He doesn’t hitch a ride on a hot air balloon, a jet pack or even a drone.
He goes all the way up to the sky
Without any strings attached.
Until he is hidden by a cloud.
This is a miracle!
This is Jesus’ ascension.
Jesus didn’t disappear; he ASCENDED into heaven.
This is a really important distinction.
Because if Jesus disappeared – we’re left confused and frightened.
But Jesus didn’t just disappear.
He ascended to heaven.
That word is really important. If any of you watched Game of Thrones – and I haven’t – but I think I can reveal this without giving a spoiler. I heard that at the end someone conquers all of the other people and ascended to the throne. He wins the Game of Thrones. He ascended to his position of power.
He did it because the struggle was over!
Jesus ascended because He conquered sin.
Jesus ascended because He conquered guilt.
Jesus ascended because He conquered shame.
Jesus ascended because He conquered death.
Jesus ascended because the work of salvation was completed.
That’s so important to remember!
Because Jesus’ whole purpose on earth was to defeat all of our spiritual enemies.
If he ascended to heaven? That’s because his work is done.
Remember that – it’s really easy to think:
I’ve got more to do.
I’ve got to become the perfect mom.
Jesus weakened sin, guilt and shame – but I have to finish them.
There’s even churches out there that preach – you’ve got more to do!
You’ve gotta get to perfection.
You’ve gotta improve.
You’ve gotta do some things to complete Jesus’ work for him.
Jesus doesn’t leave tasks unfinished.
Jesus always completes.
And Jesus completed completely conquering your sin.
If he hadn’t, he wouldn’t have left!
Jesus ascended where he rules over all.
Ephesians says this: “He raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.” (1:20-21)
Did you hear that?
The one who loves you more than you could ever dream is in control of all things.
He’s ruler over cities, counties, and states.
He’s ruler over kings, despots, and presidents.
He’s ruler over wind, waves, and the hot temperature outside right now!
He’s is ruler over all things!
Nothing’s more powerful.
Nothing can defeat him.
There’s one more place that he would love to rule:
I went to McDonald's the other day with a coupon for a free meal that someone had given me. After I ordered Value Meal number seven, I handed them the card and the person said: “Just a second. I can’t authorize this.”
She called over her coworker who looked at the card and said: “We need a manager to authorize this.”
She called over a shift manager who looked at the card and said: “I’m sorry. I can’t authorize this.”
She called over her manager who looked at the card, entered the code and authorized it.
It’s the same thing with life.
We want peace.
We want joy.
We want courage.
And we try to find it from all the things that don’t have the authority to give it:
Things like lust.
Things like greed.
Things like money, fame, career…a desire to be perfect!
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.” (Colossians 3:15)
Because Christ is God.
Christ is the one true ruler.
Christ offers true peace.
And Christ also offers us direction.
II. Our Mission
Because if the boss leaves and you don’t know what to do, it can be stressful:
Should we finish the reports?
Should we work on new clients?
Should we try to recover old ones?
UGH! Maybe we should just drink all of the coffee.
Christ didn’t leave us unclear with what to do. Look at what he told his disciples before his ascension:
Jesus told his disciples, “This is what is written (that’s a reference to Old Testament prophecy.) The Messiah will suffer (Jesus suffered) and rise from the dead on the third day (Jesus did), and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”(That hadn’t happened yet…)
But then look at what Jesus says next:
“You are witnesses of these things.” (Lk. 24:46-48)
Do you get it?
The final part of God’s plan is bringing the message of forgiveness to everyone.
And while all the other parts happened through Jesus…
This is the part that happens through you:
Before being UPLIFTED, Jesus commanded us to UPLIFT.
You don’t need to be confused about your task on this earth.
You see a coworker who is down? Approach them, listen to them, and share the message of Jesus.
Tucking your kids in for the night? Tuck them in, kiss their forehead, and share the message of Jesus.
Have a spouse who doesn’t believe? Go home, give them a hug, and share the message of Jesus.
Serve in ministry here at school? Do the lesson plans, cut out the art project, and share the message of Jesus.
Serve in leadership here at church? Think about funding, consider maintenance, but don’t forget our goal is to SHARE THE MESSAGE OF JESUS!
But don’t think you have to do it alone.
“I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” More specifically in Acts: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you….” (1:8)
Ten days later.
The disciples are in Jerusalem just like Jesus told them to be.
There’s the sound of a hurricane like wind without the wind coming from within the room they are staying.
They look around and they see tongues of fire appear on the top of each other’s heads.
They are able to speak fluently in languages that they have never even studied.
The Holy Spirit was with them.
And they immediately find courage. Because they go out that day and do some sidewalk preaching – in the middle of downtown Jerusalem – with the end result that over 3,000 people are baptized and believe.
The Holy Spirit was with them.
And the Holy Spirit is with you.
Jesus left you with the promise of the HOLY SPIRIT.
By faith, the Holy Spirit is with you and he does the impossible.
He made fire appear on the heads of disciples.
He made them speak in language they never learned.
He made the sound of a hurricane occur without any hurricane winds.
He does the incredible!
The seemingly impossible.
Working through you.
To bring others to faith!
But that’s not all.
Look at verses 49-50 of Luke 24:
When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, Jesus lifted up his hands and blessed them.
Throughout Scripture, whenever Jesus’ hands are involved, there are some amazing blessings:
In Luke 13 he lays his hands on a woman who had never been able to straighten her back…and instantly she did.
In Mark 7, he lays his hands on a man who is deaf and mute and…instantly he hears and speaks.
In Mark 8, he lays his hands on a blind man’s eyes and…instantly he sees.
In Mark 6, it simply says, “He laid his hands on…sick people and healed them.” (v.5)
Talk about blessings.
And then, there’s the final blessing that pours from his hands.
He heads to a cross.
They take his hands and nails them.
And then blood flows forth.
But not just blood.
Jesus left, but left us with BLESSINGS pouring from his HANDS.
Even though you can’t see his hands.
Even though you can’t touch them.
The truth is no less true.
The blessings are no less real.
It’s one of the reasons that pastors for centuries have continued this tradition. Using the words of Scripture – God’s Word – they lift up their hands. They communicate God’s blessings on the congregation. They say: “The Lord bless you and keep you.”
This is more than just wishful thinking.
This is God’s real blessing given to you.
III. What Now?
I think that if you were a passerby and saw the aftermath of the Ascension, you might have laughed.
Because there were 20 some dudes.
Eyes lifted upwards.
Staring into the cloud.
Gazing into the sky.
Mouths dropped wide open.
And this continued…
A tap on the shoulder:
“The angel said, ‘Why do you stand there staring up into the sky? This same Jesus who left you…will come back in the same way you saw him go into heaven.’” (Acts 1:10)
In other words:
You have a job to do.
Stop looking into heaven.
And start looking around.
Don’t you see…?
There are souls who need this message.
Souls in your office.
Souls at the garage.
Souls in your neighborhood.
Souls in your kid’s room.
Souls in your kitchen.
Souls in the easy chair across from you while watching Netflix tonight.
Everywhere you look there is work that needs to be done!
What a privilege God wants to work through YOU!
Keep your eyes on the task that Jesus has given you
Be a WITNESS of the EYEWITNESS truth of your Risen Savior. Amen.
You know, not that long ago I was watching an old TV show and this particular episode opened with the children in Sunday School. And the teacher was telling them about what an awful, horrible place hell was. How no one would ever, ever want to be there. Without being too graphic, she scared them quite a bit, which led to them asking the inevitable question, “Teacher, how do we make sure we don’t go to hell?”
“By following the ten commandments!”
Maybe for you that’s a facepalm moment. Maybe you know better. But really, out in the world, those who only know Christianity from pop culture… well that is what the answer is, right? Christianity is a system of rules designed to stop you from having any real fun and if you follow them (and just how often or how well you have to follow them is a little fuzzy), but if you follow them – the God rewards you with heaven… right?
I probably shouldn’t even ask that as a question. Because how many people who’ve never really looked into God actually think that? Too many. Too many who maybe feel scared for a bit about eternity at night when their mind is a little too quiet, but they calm themselves by saying, “No, I don’t have to worry. If there really is a God, I’m sure he’s a nice guy and I’m a pretty good person – I’m sure God will take me in if he exists.” That’s not just wishful thinking to many people, it’s what they really believe.
But… why? Why this perception of God? You and I know this is clearly not the case, God does not trade works for Heaven, at least not in the way we would make him out to do it. So why does this perception even exist? In fact, not just why does it exist…why is it the dominant thought of every person who doesn’t know Jesus for real? Why is it every false religion, even every erring branch of Christianity ends up with this notion that you must do something to be saved?
The fact is, it’s simply in our nature. Ever since the first humans betrayed God by reaching for that fruit in the garden. They were told they would be like God if they ate it. They wanted to be like God. They wanted to be in control of their own lives. We have not changed. Every single sin we commit comes back to this one basic principle: I want to be my own god. And that includes, if not saving myself directly, at least doing something to help or show that I’m worthy to be saved. It’s one of our strongest natural inclinations.
Can it work that way? Let’s look into history to see. Because there was a time when God made this deal with the people. It was pretty fair, all things considered. In fact, it was exactly the kind of deal that we want to hear. It was a list of rules, a list of conditions in order to remain in God’s good favor. Follow the rules, keep the law, and everything would be fine. God would be with you, he would protect you, and when the time came, he would take you to be with him forever.
Considering what God was offering, there shouldn’t have been anything he couldn’t ask of his people, and what God was asking wasn’t all that hard. If he was to be your God, then you had to give him the proper worship and honor as God and as far as relating to each other, it was all the sort of stuff anyone would consider basic human decency. Be nice, thoughtful, and fair. And if you messed up a bit here or there, not all hope was lost, you could make a repayment for your crime that would pay for the guilt of it. You would sacrifice something you had to pay for what you’d done. Something else could go in your place. All fair enough, really.
Except the problem was that for as “obvious” and “simple” as anyone would call these rules, nobody was able to keep them. Our society would call them basic human decency, and would say that anyone, properly educated, would be able to follow these rules that basically boil down to thinking about others first. But not one of them was able to do it. Nobody has managed to even go through one day without some selfish action or thought. And anyone who seriously understood how badly they’d failed this covenant would also understand that it was simply impossible to offer enough sacrifices for what they’d done wrong. Day and night they’ve have to be at the temple offering those penalties for breaking the law of God.
It couldn’t be done. No one could earn God’s favor.
And that has not changed in any group that claims there is something you can do to please God. It can’t be done. The demands can’t be met and the penance is never enough. And that was the point of the old covenant. This idea that something I do can make God happy with me; it comes from the depths of the sinful nature. The idea that God can be happy with what I do on my own is pure egotism. It is that old desire to replace God with the self. I can save myself, it says, I do not need God, I can be my own god. The Israelites and everyone since including you and me need to know and be convinced that I cannot make God happy on my own. God’s demands cannot be satisfied by us. The Old Covenant as this deal was called, the law, was never meant to save anyone, it was meant to teach us that we cannot save ourselves.
But that’s only part one of the overall lesson God wants to teach us. Because there is a new covenant, one that teaches us what we really need, what we’re ready for once we’ve learned that we can’t do this ourselves. The author to the Hebrews describes this for us in our reading this evening:
15The Holy Spirit also testifies in Scripture to us, for first he said: 16This is the covenant I will make with them after those days, says the Lord. I will put my laws on their hearts and I will write them on their mind. 17Then he adds: And I will not remember their sins and their lawlessness any longer. 18Now where these sins are forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin. 19Brothers, we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place through the blood of Jesus. 20It is a new and living way he opened for us through the curtain, that is, his flesh. 21We also have a great priest over the house of God. 22So let us approach with a sincere heart, in the full confidence of faith, because our hearts have been sprinkled to take away a bad conscience, and our bodies have been washed with pure water. 23Let us hold on firmly to the confession of our hope without wavering, since he who promised is faithful. 24Let us also consider carefully how to spur each other on to love and good works. 25Let us not neglect meeting together, as some have the habit of doing. Rather, let us encourage each other, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Here it is. “I will not remember their sins and their lawlessness any longer.” (v17) This is the entire basis of the new covenant. The old covenant was a deal: “Do this, and you will be rewarded. Don’t, and you’ll be punished.” We saw how well that turned out. God came with a new covenant. “I will do everything, and you will be rewarded.”
Now this isn’t just arbitrary. God can’t just erase what he’d already set up in the old covenant. The law had to be followed and where it wasn’t followed there had to be sacrifice, in blood. The difference is that now God says, never mind all that. I’ll do it. That is what Jesus is all about. He lived an innocent life completely in line with the law. And he grants you complete and full credit for that life. All the things you are supposed to do, all the things you were supposed to do – as far as God is concerned you’ve done them.
And the failures? The crimes? Again, a payment does need to be made. In blood. And that is the foundation of the new covenant, the blood that was poured out to pay for our crimes. Not just any blood this time, though. The blood of God himself. Poured out for us on the cross, just as we celebrate each time we come to the Lord’s table. This blood is the full sacrifice for all sins. The blood of animals didn’t actually accomplish anything, it was just a symbol for what was coming. The blood of God is valuable enough for all.
This is the new covenant that we enjoy. As the author says here, “Now where these sins are forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin.” (v18) There is nothing left to do. We cannot contribute anything to this covenant because it has all already been taken care of.
And the blessings it provides to us are immediate. It’s not just the promise of a future, better life. Yes, that will come. But it changes things here and now, too. By the blood of Jesus, we have the confidence to be able to enter into the Most Holy Place. That was the place of the temple where God’s presence dwelt. And by the law no one was allowed to approach except the high priest and then only once a year after special preparation. Sin divides us from God. But where sin has been forgiven, then there is nothing that stops us from approaching God. This point was driven home when Jesus poured out his blood to make this happen. We’ll see that tomorrow night as the curtain in the temple that separated the Most Holy Place was torn in two from top to bottom! Nothing separates us from our God now that the payment for sins has been made.
We can come before him now with our prayers and petitions, confident that we will be heard. We know that we don’t deserve to have our requests considered, we don’t even deserve to be given a hearing. But our God gives you 100% of his undivided attention whenever you approach him, because this new covenant has made it possible.
And this new covenant changes how we live now. As it’s written here, “I will put my laws on their hearts, and I will write them on their mind.” (v16) The law does not work like it used to. Before we had a heart full of sin and the law came to us from the outside, tried to browbeat us into submission out of fear of eternal death, but it never really changed the heart within. Now we have been cleansed from the inside out by our God and we are each a new creation. The new self that is holy at its core. This means the new self naturally does what God required in his law. Not because it is demanded of us, not because there is a threat if we don’t. The new self lives the law just because…that is who it is!
So as the author encourages us here, hold on to the hope that this new covenant brings. Don’t let anyone chain you back to the law and convince you that your actions are going to determine your salvation. As we grow individually weak, the fire of the group keeps your faith burning bright. Encourage each other to hold to the hope of Christ and let others be an encouragement for you. Keep up your meeting together to worship your Lord, not “because you always have,” or “because it’s what you’re ‘sposed to do,” but because of the benefits it brings your faith and your hope.
And as part of that ongoing building up and strengthening of your faith, celebrate the blood of that covenant that was poured out for you. Treat the supper with reverence, not taking it for granted or as some kind of rote formula you follow, but think about it! Treasure it! Celebrate it! Each time you come forward, let the blessings that God pours out to you through it continually strengthen and encourage you. Let it be another proof and reminder that God has done everything for you. The final day is approaching. Whether it is the last day of this world or the last day you set foot on it, let God prepare you, that your sure hope in eternity is built up and strengthened. This evening as we celebrate the institution of the Lord’s Supper, taste and see that the Lord is good. Rejoice in the new covenant he has made for you. Amen.
Do you know someone rallies around this cry? Or maybe the more modern YOLO – You Only Live Once? Or going way back to classic Latin carpe diem? Seize the day! Whichever one it is, it’s a call to live life to the fullest, to get the most out of it, and never shrink from an opportunity that you might regret missing out on later.
Maybe you know that person, maybe you try to do it yourself. Today, as we continue our series on The Kingdom of God is Like, we’re going to look at some people who lived that way.
First, a little bit of recap and context. Maybe you’re aware, maybe you’re not, but this is our third week in what we call the End Times season of the church year. It’s a time when we focus on what the end of this world will be like, what we’re looking forward to, and where our ultimate confidence is.
Last week was the Sunday of Final Judgment, and appropriately enough we looked at the parable of the net. We saw how the angels would gather up all the people at the end of the age and separate them, good from bad – judging them, as it were. And we heard pretty clearly what would happen to those bad fish.
Today, we look more at the outcome for those good fish in the Sunday we call Saints Triumphant. This day celebrates the end that awaits the holy people of God, the triumphant celebration in the kingdom of heaven after this is all over. And our parable today, again appropriately, revolves around a great banquet being held. So, let’s take a look at the start of that story Jesus tells:
15 When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.”
16 Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’
18 “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’
19 “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’
20 “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’ ”
Let’s pause there. What do we have so far? A man, with apparently significant resources, prepares a grand banquet. Out of the blue, no apparent reason, just to celebrate. And he sends invitations out to all his friends, to all the movers and shakers and well-to-do people of the area. To anyone worth inviting. To this grand feast. Let’s think about that part first. Now, maybe you’re like me and you just love food and good times with friends. The idea of this could appeal to you a lot. But let’s try to put it more into our context. A dinner party today is, hey that’s great, but it’s not the end-all, be-all of our lifestyles. It was perhaps a bigger deal at that time. So maybe translate that into something that really speaks to you. A Caribbean cruise? A wilderness retreat? A Disney vacation package? A massive party in an airplane hangar?
Think about it, whatever comes to mind as the best kind of time you can think of having. Think about that grand time and then think about getting a card in the mail inviting you to it. It’s from someone you trust, it’s not a prank or a scam, it’s real. Imagine the excitement of holding that invite in your hand. Someone else is going to the trouble of getting this all set up, taking care of all the arrangements, the travel, the catering, the cost, the guest list, whatever it is. All you have to do is show up.
Now imagine… what on earth could possibly stop you from being there at the appointed time?
Okay, maybe there’s a few things. A sudden death in the family or severe illness. Natural disaster getting in your way. Some stuff that’s not really in your control. But that’s not what happens here. The call goes out, the banquet is ready. Just show up and enjoy it! And the servant sent to gather the guests gets… excuses.
And I mean, it’s not like they’re terrible excuses. They all have something to do that is more important to them than enjoying a nice banquet. One wants to check out a new purchase of land. Another needs to field-test his new oxen. Still another has a wife he needs to take care of. Seems reasonable. But on the other hand, would an evening out of their lives to attend the banquet really have ruined these other things? You could kind of see it going either way, right?
See, here’s the problem with the “No Regrets” lifestyle. You can’t do everything. Every day you’re faced with choices of doing one thing over another. And we all value activities differently. Maybe for you living life to its fullest means going out and being social every evening. Maybe for me it means eating a whole bag of Oreos and reading comic books all night. But at every juncture, at every decision point – how do you know which one you won’t regret?
You can’t. You just can’t for any earthly activity. But we’re not really talking about earthly activities, are we? Remember a parable is an earthly story that teaches us about the Kingdom of God. So this banquet is not a banquet, it’s God inviting us to best celebration there ever is and ever will be. The triumph of heaven.
Last week we talked about the uncomfortable reality that hell is real. But just as real is heaven. It’s better than you or I could imagine. It’s better than the best cruise where you don’t get seasick, better than the best camping trip with no mosquitoes, better than a Disney vacation without any lost luggage or crying children and better than the biggest celebration without the awkward relative who drinks too much. Better than any and all of that put together. It’s utterly peaceful, utterly joyful, completely exciting, and without any pain, ache, or fatigue. It’s a grand celebration that never gets boring or tiresome. It is, quite plainly, the best.
Now imagine… what on earth could possibly stop you from being there?
So why do we make excuses all the time? Because we think we don’t want to regret missing things that come up here and now. Some of them are utterly mundane and trivial. “I’ll get to God later, for now I need to try out this new Xbox game.” Those should be easy to spot. Some…like the excuses in our parable, well they seem more reasonable. “I’ll get to God later, but right now I have to sort out our finances.” “I’ll get to God soon, but right now I have to get the shopping for Christmas done.” “I’ll get to God, but this new relationship needs attention first.” “I’d like to have time for God, but my family needs me to do so much for them.”
We think we’ll regret it if we don’t do these things we “should” or “have to” do. Switch your perspective on regrets. We said before there’s no way to know which earthly activity you might regret missing. Sure. But I can tell you this for a fact: When your end comes, when the banquet is ready, you will regret it if you’re not there. I can also promise you this: when you’re there, you will not regret a single thing you missed here.
Think that over a second time. Let it sink in. You will not be in heaven saying to yourself, “You know this sure is a great time, but I’m sorry I didn’t get to see the Grand Canyon before I got here.” How absurd! Replace that with whatever you want. There is nothing you can miss here that will somehow regret in heaven. But whenever we put something ahead of time with God, whenever we cut him out of our lives because we’re afraid of missing out on something else, that’s exactly what we’re doing! Day by day, inch by inch, God gets squeezed out of our lives because we fear missing out on something else here.
Now, perhaps I’ve got you thinking, just like I’ve got me thinking, about all the times I’ve turned down God’s invitation in order to do something utterly trivial in comparison. That’s not a great feeling. Might have you feeling a little worthless overall from that behavior. If that’s how I treat his invitation, why should God even bother to invite me?
If so, take a look at what happens next.
21 “The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’
22 “ ‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’
23 “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. 24 I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’ ”
The choice guests don’t come. They all think they have better things to do. But the meal’s prepared, the celebration is ready, it can’t just go to waste! So, the master sends his servant back out. Go and get anyone you can find. Get those that have nothing better in their lives, those that would never turn down such an invitation. I don’t care that they can’t pay me back, if I get no favors or a return invitation someday. Gather everyone who’s worth nothing to anyone.
They do. But there’s still room. So, he sends his servant back out. Go even further out. In fact, there’s an interesting connotation in the original language here. The places the servant is sent the second time are places that robbers and highwaymen were known to lurk. In other words, you’ve got all the worthless people in here? Go and gather the criminals as well! I don’t care who they are or what they’ve done – I don’t want a single space to be wasted.
My brothers, my sisters, it doesn’t matter that you have nothing good to offer God for a place at the banquet. It doesn’t matter if you’re not worth inviting. None of us are. But Jesus himself has prepared this feast. He is the one who ensured there were more than enough places to go around. And God the Father wants none to be wasted.
Here’s the plain facts: Jesus died and rose for all. Because he is God, his death on the cross is valuable enough to pay the price for every person who has ever and will ever live. Heaven can never run out of room. Everyone is invited. You are invited. The only people who will not be there are those that turned away because they had something “better” to do. Anyone who looks to Jesus, who actually shows up is welcome to come in.
And it doesn’t matter what you’re worth to God. He’s God. He doesn’t need anything, there was never a chance that you could bring him something he didn’t already have. More than that, even if you’re a criminal, if you’ve fought against him in the past, he still wants you there. He wants everyone to enjoy the banquet prepared by his Son.
Being there in the end is all that matters. That banquet celebration in heaven is the only thing you’ll regret missing out on. It is the only important thing in your life. A hundred, a thousand other things will scream for your attention demanding that they be dealt with before the most important one, but don’t mistake urgent for important.
Your relationship with God will almost never seem urgent. So, you have to make it the priority. You have to make sure God gets time on your calendar and the best of your gifts first, every time. Make that happen first, because it is the most important, it is the one thing you will regret if you don’t. Then, after you’ve given God your first and best, then you can continue dealing with the other urgent matters in your life.
The kingdom of heaven is like the grandest banquet you can think of, it is the best party, the best vacation, the best experience you can imagine multiplied by more than you can imagine. And you’re invited. Jesus bought you a place. Don’t meander towards that end, run towards it. Don’t ever think for a moment you’ll regret spending time with him, in his word, doing his work over something else in this life. Nothing here even comes close.
Live with that banquet feast in mind. Live for God. No regrets.
Today we are continuing our series called The Kingdom of God is Like. It’s a series all about parables. Parables are short earthly stories that teaching about the eternal kingdom of God. So far, we have heard that the kingdom of God is like buried treasure—which, to be fair, seems like a very flattering comparison.
Treasure is valuable
Treasure is beautiful.
Treasure is worth selling anything and everything to make yours.
Treasure seems like a great comparison for God’s kingdom.
We compare God’s kingdom to a fishing net.
Fishing nets are stinky.
Fishing nets are smelly.
Fishing nets come with those some of those little algae goobers encrusted on around the edge.
It’s not as flattering of a comparison.
Why is God’s kingdom like a fishing net? Before we look at this strange comparison which teaches us some very important truths about God’s kingdom, a 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. 1st Century Fishing
Jesus’ parable is from the parable-filled Matthew 13. It comes right after the parable of the treasure and stands in stark contrast to it. Remember – each parable emphasizes a different aspect of the Kingdom of God. The parable of the Treasure reveals the value of God’s kingdom; the parable of the net reveals methodology.
Look at what the parable says:
Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. (v.47-48)
Anybody here go fishing? Nowadays fishing consists of packing up a rod and reel, stopping by the local bait shop, picking out a nice, big juicy earthworm (or maybe a wriggly, black leech), then heading out to the local pond, casting, stopping to untangle the line from the tree branch behind you, casting again, watching as your line drifts into the middle of the lake…and then…
And waiting some more.
Eventually some fish grabs the hook, line and sinker.
You pull him in and…
If he’s an acceptable length and weight – you keep him.
If not …plop!
If it’s a delicious looking salmon, in the basket.
If it’s a creepy looking dogfish, not so much.
Back at Jesus’ time, the fishing is a bit different. Fishermen would drag their nets to the shore and paddle to the middle of the lake. Then, they’d toss a weighted net overboard. Then, slowly they’d move along with the waves, while their net dragged against the bottom collecting any and every fish that happened to get in the way of the net. When they’re done fishing, they pull up the ropes, cinch the corners and pull the net up.
But here’s the thing:
Can you tell which fish are bad?
Can you tell which fish are good?
Can you tell which fish are future 5-star restaurant menu items?
And which fish belong on some Discovery Channel documentary on deep sea monsters?
No. It’s too much of a jumbled-up mess!
So…what do the fishermen do?
They take the net back to the shore.
They open the net and begin separating:
Too much like Uncle Joe…
Fishing at Jesus’ time required a lot of sorting. But…
The fish cannot be sorted from the good from the bad while they are in the net; rather they are sorted when the fishing is finished.
II. A Priceless Treasure
But remember – this is a parable.
Parables are short earthly stories that teach about the kingdom of God.
Things are about to get real.
Real and a bit uncomfortable.
Look at the meaning of the parable:
This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (v.49-50)
At first glance, this might seem to be another parable.
The parable of the furnace…
But – let’s be clear: The second half of the parable the part about the blazing furnace and the angels, that’s not the illustration part.
It’s the explanation.
It’s not an illustration, but the reality.
In fact, this parable is all about realities.
Realities that are quite uncomfortable.
(1) Hypocrisy is Real
Because… that dragging net represents the kingdom of God at work. And there is no greater representation of the kingdom of God at work than visible local churches.
In a church, God’s Word is proclaimed.
In a church, people are baptized.
In a church, people celebrate the Lord’s Supper.
In a church, people pool resources to go and plant the Message of Jesus in the Hearts of North Raleigh.
In a church, God’s kingdom is at work.
And when God’s kingdom is at work, it’s like a big old net that collects people of all type and varieties.
Big and small.
Young and old.
Black and white.
Tarheel fans, Wolfpack fans and Duke fans.
But most importantly to this parable…
People that are a part of God’s kingdom.
And people that only look like it.
NOW STOP! Immediately. Because what some of you are about to do is quietly, sheepishly raise your finger and slyly point at someone else here. “Pastor, I think it’s him…”
NOPE. That’s not the point.
In fact, the point is the exact opposite. Because remember – while the net is in use – that is, while the people of God are using God’s Word – it’s impossible to see which are true believers and which are hypocrites.
It’s kinda like trying to identify which fish are good and which fish are bad when they’re still in the net.
You won’t be able to tell who’s a hypocrite and who isn’t in a church simply by looking at them.
You won’t be able to tell most hypocrites simply by looking at them.
But there is one person in the church…
That you should be able to identify as good or bad.
You know you.
You know your heart.
You know if your heart is following Jesus or if this is all just some big show.
Something you do because your parents told you to do.
Something you do so pastor will get off your back.
When it comes to facing the reality of hypocrisy, it doesn’t start by looking into the world…
Or looking into another Christian church…
Or looking at other people in this church…
It starts by looking in your heart.
(2) The End is Real
The second reality has less to do with now and more to do with later.
Take a look at Jesus’ words – This is how it will be at the end of the age. (v.49) He then goes on to describe angels, divine, holy messengers of God – no longer invisible – fully and completely perceptible - picking people up like fish and separating them.
If you are a hypocrite, you need to pay very close attention to this section.
Because, truth is, you might be able to fool other Christians.
You might be able to fool them with a fish sticker on the back of your car and “Christian” listed on your Facebook profile’s religious preference.
You might be able to fool others at church.
You might be able to fool me.
You can’t fool God.
And at the end, you will be separated.
And placed wherever it is you belong.
And can I say something obvious? There’s one place that you don’t want to be your final destiny.
(3) Hell is Real
Look at the description of where the bad fish go:
“The blazing furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (v.50)
Notice. The verbs are present tense.
Notice. The verbs are continuous.
That’s because this is eternal.
Stop – real quick – because the devil is doing everything possible right now to make you say:
“Pastor has gone off the deep end. Pastor is talking all mean like. Pastor is saying thing I wish he wouldn’t.”
I am because I love you.
And I don’t want you to go to this very real and very awful place.
But more importantly Jesus loves you.
After all, look at whose words about hell these are:
The same guy who told the blind guy to see…and he did.
The same guy who told the deaf guy to hear…and he did.
The same guy who told the lame guy to walk…and he did.
The same guy who told the storms to stop…and they did.
The same guy who told the Pharisees to go ahead and kill him because he would come back to life…
And they did…
And he did.
Jesus has street cred.
Whatever he says will happen, will happen.
And to those who reject Him?
This hell thing?
(4) Good Fish are Real
I’m not gonna lie.
Thus far this is one of the least uplifting sermons of all time.
Because – if we are talking about bad fish – how do you not begin to be filled with absolute fear!
We are sinners.
All of us.
And I am included!
I’m like some ugly carp at the bottom of a mutant ooze infested landfill with three eyeballs where his gill should be.
I’m gross and my sins are gross.
I think -- There is no reason that God would ever want to collect me in his basket and take me to heaven!
Here’s something interesting. When Jesus uses the word “end” here in verse 50, he uses the word: syntelia. That’s a form of the world telos which means: the end.
The end is when judgment will happen.
The end is when God will bring justice against sinners.
Now – here’s where things get really interesting.
Because about a year and a half after Jesus spoke this parable --
Jesus spoke something else.
On the cross.
Right before he died.
Which is the exact same root words that Jesus used in our parable to denote the end times.
IT IS FINISHED.
In other words, judgment has happened! From God’s perspective – Jesus has been judged as the bad fish.
And you – friends—you have been judged righteous.
Think about that!
We are sinners.
We are filled with a yucky past.
We are grody to the touch.
Yet because of what Jesus has done, you have been declared GOOD.
Ready to take home in the take basket.
And understand this point too:
We are not judged by our good merits.
We are not judged by our good deeds.
We are not judged by our good tries.
We are judged entirely by what Jesus did for us on the cross!
And we are judged righteous.
And by faith in Jesus, we are the good fish!
We will not be thrown out.
We will be collected and taken home.
(5) Heaven is Real
Because that’s what the good fish have to look forward to.
This parable just touches the surface of it. It says that the good fish, will be placed into baskets.
But what it doesn’t say is that those baskets have someone’s name written on the handle.
They have someone’s name written in Black, Permanent Marker.
Because the good fish – that is – those made holy by faith in Jesus Christ – will be brought to God’s home.
The kingdom of righteousness.
The home of peace.
And unlike this world --
With danger lurking on every corner…
And predators chasing after us…
And giant waves of life hitting us again and again…
Heaven is peaceful.
Heaven is a place of forgiveness.
Heaven is a place of peaceful rest.
Heaven is yours.
Friends! Praise the Lord for being caught in the net and taken home to heaven. Amen.
Today we are continuing our series called The Kingdom of God is Like. It’s a series all about parables. Parables are short earthly stories that teaching about the eternal kingdom of God. Last week, so far, we have heard that the kingdom of God is like a sower, a growing seed, a mustard seed, a homeless fox, an abandoned burial plot and a plow.
Today’s parable is well timed, because it fits in perfectly with a certain holiday.
I don’t know about you, but this past Wednesday, there seemed to be an extreme increase in the number of pirates that live in Raleigh.
Over at the new school, we have a security system with a key fob and you’d think it would lock out pirates, but these pirates were tricky and made their way into the school -- little 3-foot-tall pirates. With eye patches and stuffed parrots.
Pirates love treasure: gold necklaces, silver artifacts, coins, jewelry, bottles of rum. They loved treasure so much that they’d run ashore near a local port, approach someone’s front step and force them to give them treasure.
Not at all unlike what some little 3-foot-tall pirates did around my house on Wednesday!
And then, pirates take the treasure, sail to some deserted isle and bury it.
Deep under the ground.
With a few pieces of wood lain across the top:
“X” marks the spot.
Jesus’ parable today says this: “The kingdom of God is like a hidden treasure.” Before we look at it, a 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. A Hidden Treasure
Jesus’ parable is from Matthew 13. Take a look: The Kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field. (v.44) In his parable, the treasure is found by a man at work in a field.
It’s the middle of the hot day.
He’s using a fence post digger to dig a hole for the fence post he’s installing around the back of his owner’s property.
He’s slams and digs.
He slams and digs.
He slams and digs.
All day long.
Sometime around quitting time….
He slams and…
He slams and…
At first, he thinks it’s a rock. He looks around to see if he can adjust the post hole so he doesn’t have to go through the trouble of moving the rock. But right as he’s about to adjust the hole to the right and he’s thinking of his company’s slogan: “THE RIGHT HOLE IN THE RIGHT SPOT ALL THE TIME,” the glint of the evening sun shines off of something in the middle of the ground.
What is it?
He reaches down.
He brushes the dirt off the top to reveal – a metal crest on the top of an ancient chest.
His heart starts pounding.
To the front.
To the back.
To the side.
Until he gets enough of the dirt out of the way to pull the chest out of the hole and look inside.
It must be worth millions of dollars.
The man looks around.
The thing is – this isn’t his land. It isn’t his property. And the chest isn’t his property.
If he lets anyone know that he found it on this land, then the treasure will no longer be his. It’ll belong to the guy who’s fence he’s digging.
He puts the chest back into the hole.
He covers it with dirt.
He takes two twigs and aligns them in an “x”.
He heads up to his employer, wishes him a good evening and leaves for the day.
But his work isn’t done.
Later that night, he gets onto his bank account and empties his 401k into his checking account.
He goes on Facebook marketplace and begins placing anything he owns on sale:
His bass fishing boat.
His Mickey Mantle Rookie Card.
Even his Xbox!
The next morning, he heads to the bank and he puts his house on mortgage!
He takes all of this money.
He heads to work.
He slams a check worth 3 times the amount of the property onto his client’s desk:
I’ll buy this property.
I just think it’s nice.
I figure if I put fence post holes into it; it might as well be mine.
At 3 times the price, his client can’t say no.
The man buys the property.
The property is his.
Everything on the property is his.
But he doesn’t care about most of it.
He only wants THE TREASURE.
II. A Priceless Treasure
Jesus says this: “The Kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field.” (v.44)
Because here is the truth:
God’s kingdom is eternally priceless.
There is nothing as valuable.
… nothing as precious.
…nothing as eternally priceless as the kingdom of God.
It lasts forever.
Brings enduring peace.
And connects you to your heavenly father.
If you’ve ever searched for kingdom of God, then, you understand the digging for treasure scenario.
Because the religious landscape can be a lot like the Sahara Desert.
Places to dig everywhere. Where is the treasure…?
And so you start digging near a very peaceful looking pile of dirt.
A lotus flower is growing nearby.
“Oh! This must be the Sand of Spirituality. I’ve heard of that. Maybe this is where I’ll find the treasure of God’s kingdom.”
And you dig
And you learn breathing practices.
And you fold your body into a pretzel.
And you listen to Yanni.
And you think that you are closer to God…
Because you stopped feeling stress…
And started feeling nothingness.
Oh, the wonderful nothingness.
Suddenly – you think of that jerk Bob from work.
He should be slapped.
And you realize…
You are the same.
You still sin.
You still feel guilty.
Now you just own a bunch of Yanni CDs.
This is not a treasure worth keeping.
You walk a bit farther and you find a big old pile of rocks.
It’d be tough work to dig over there. But then again – that’d make it the perfect place to put the treasure – under the stones of Self-Righteousness.
And you dig and work hard because you figure if you work harder than anyone else, God will be impressed!
You work hard at being nicer to your family.
You work hard at never saying a mean thing.
You work hard to give extra money to charity.
You work hard at never taking a second glance a member of the opposite sex.
You work hard at being self-righteous.
Until you’re scrolling through Facebook after a day of finding self-righteousness and…
An ad pops up for a TRIAL offer of something…with a scantily clad lady telling you to buy it.
And you look her a bit longer than you should.
And you think about using some of the money penned for God to buy that thing to make the pretty lady happy.
And your spouse walks in and sees what you’re looking at, so you say something mean in response.
And then you want to get rid of the guilty your feeling, so you tell her about all the bad things she has done.
Those stones of self-righteousness come tumbling in on top of you.
This isn’t the treasure.
And you dig other places.
You dig in the mine of Material Wealth. No treasure.
You dig under the sands of self-allegation. No treasure.
You dig in the pile of filth known as Facebook. No treasure.
No connection with God.
In fact, you start to notice a pattern – all these attempts at getting closer to God are the same:
Do Mormon things and God will like you.
Do Islamic things and God will like you.
Do Jewish things and God will like you.
Do Hindu things and God will like you.
Do Tom Cruise things and…well…Tom Cruise will get richer.
It’s all the same! It’s all worthless! It’s all meaningless!
When you’re about to give up.
When you’re tired.
When you’re exhausted.
When you say: “I’m through! I’m done with this religious stuff. God hates me and that’s that. I might as well give up. I might as well put down my shovel and…”
What was that?
There appears to be something here.
There appears to be something different here.
This is the Gospel.
It’s the message of sins forgiven.
It’s the message of the true God.
It’s the message that Jesus lived for you.
It’s the message that Jesus died for you.
It’s the message that Jesus rose for you.
It’s the message that Jesus has removed every last one of your sins.
It’s the message that you are his child, you are forgiven, and you will be in heaven with Him.
It’s this message:
You know it is was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. (1 Peter 1:18-19)
Think about it!
That’s the value of Jesus’ blood.
It’s more valuable than gold.
It’s more valuable than silver.
It’s more valuable than a treasure chest of jewels, a treasure chest of rubies or even a treasure chest of those golden foil wrapped coins with chocolate inside.
It’s more valuable than good works.
It’s more valuable than good feelings.
It’s more valuable than any halfhearted, sin-tainted attempts at being holy.
It’s the blood of Jesus.
Our sacrificial lamb.
The perfect Son of God.
His blood has infinite value.
And friends – it pays for your sins.
It pays for your guilt.
It means forgiveness – full forgiveness – free forgiveness – absolute forgiveness --
III. WHAT NOW?
(1) Give up Untreasures
That’s what the man who found the buried treasure did. He sold everything he had. He made room for the real treasure.
He made certain the REAL treasure would be his.
Do the same with God’s kingdom.
Because here’s the truth:
The devil will do everything possible to make you think that something that’s NOT the treasure…IS the REAL treasure.
Don’t get rid of that addiction; it’s too valuable to feeling good.
Don’t get rid of that priority; it’s too valuable to being cool.
Don’t get rid of that self- righteousness; that’s the secret treasure that truly connects you to God.
It’s all lies.
Lies that will prevent you from keeping the true treasure buried within your heart.
And if you listen to the devil, instead of burying the Gospel deep in your heart, you cling to something utterly worthless.
It’s like someone trying to offer you a check for a hundred, billion dollars!
But you really like the piece of mushed banana that you have in your left hand right now so…I’ll pass.
Don’t be foolish!
Don’t fall for the devil’s lies.
The Gospel is eternally priceless!
Get rid of the fake treasure that’s taking up the spot where you’re the REAL treasure of Jesus needs to be.
And bury the treasure of the Gospel deep in your heart.
(2) Bury the Treasure
That doesn’t mean: “Hide the Gospel and tell no one about Jesus.” Nope.
That’s entirely contradictory to Jesus’ own directive to “Go and make disciples of all nations…by teaching them.” (Matthew 28)
Rather it means to hide the Gospel deep within your own heart.
To bury it deep within your soul.
To place it into the very core of your being and who you are.
How do you do that? Get a surgery with one of the fine doctors at Duke and have him implant one of those little Bibles from the Gideons?
You spend time in God’s Word.
You read The Gospel message.
You study the Gospel message.
You gather for worship.
You gather for Bible study.
You spend time with Jesus, because in doing so – his message – the message of the Gospel – moves…
From the pages of Scripture
To your eyes.
To your brain.
To your heart.
It’s like a beautiful diamond. You go down to the Jeweler’s and look at it in the light --
And if it’s cut well – no matter how you look at it – you see something magnificent.
It’s the same with the Gospel message.
Here’s I see God’s incredible compassion.
Here I look at God’s amazing power.
Here I look at the value of Christ’s redemption.
Here I enjoy the view of my atonement.
Here I see the mesmerizing perspective of peace with God.
And here I see the glories of heaven itself.
Bury God’s kingdom deep in your heart.
** The audio has an extra story in it. You can find it here **
I said the parable of the treasure fits well into a recent holiday.
But I wasn’t referring to Halloween.
Wednesday was also the 501st Anniversary of the Reformation. It’s the anniversary of a time when the treasure of Gospel was rediscovered.
Because the religious climate at that time – in the Christian church – was such that there was no treasure.
If you wanted to get God’s’ forgiveness, you needed to…
Do good things.
Say prayers to Mary.
Cross yourself in the right way.
Give money to charity.
And buy pieces of paper that said: “You are forgiven.”
And it was in that climate – in that treasure-less church that God re-revealed the TRUE treasure of the Gospel.
That Jesus is your Savior.
That in Him you are forgiven.
That by faith you are saved.
Friends, it’s 500 years later.
That treasure is at our fingertips again.
Don’t lose it.
Bury it deep within.
Today we are continuing our series called The Kingdom of God is Like…and hearing yet another parable from Jesus about the kingdom of God. Remember, a parable is an earthly story that tells about the kingdom of God. So far – we have heard three.
And today we are going to double the number of parables that we’ve heard. We are looking at three very short, one sentence parables from Jesus. Each one offers a similar, but slightly distinct perspective on the Kingdom of God.
Before we begin, let’s pray: 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. …Like a Homeless Fox
The parables for consideration come in rapid fire format from Luke 9 starting at verse 57. It’s in a section where Jesus is walking about with a crowd of people following him. I always think that’s interesting and worthy of a sermon of its own – Jesus didn’t sit around and wait for people to come to him; he went out and found people to bring the message of the Gospel to.
But…I’ve already got three other sermons to go through today, so…I digress.
As Jesus is walking, one man is getting pretty motivated listening to Jesus.
He’s getting pretty excited.
He’s getting pretty pumped up.
So, he shouts: “Jesus, I will follow you wherever you go!” (v.57)
…Jesus doesn’t high five him.
…He doesn’t congratulate him.
…He doesn’t even clench his fist in private celebration.
He says, “Foxes have holes and birds have nests, but the Son of man has no place to lay his head.” (v.58)
Have you ever seen a fox? Foxes can be hard to spot. Little, red, dog-looking things with fluffy tails. They are hard to spot, because they are very good at hiding. And they hide in their fox hole or fox den. Usually it’s thick inside some brush or a hole in the rocks or maybe even some mud in the ground.
It’s not fancy. There’s no Wi-Fi connection – but the fox has a place to be.
And a bird nest is similar. Bird nests are made from twigs, straw, branches, and even some stray dog hairs. They are not worth very much on Zillow, but it is a nice place for the bird to stay.
Think about this:
Foxes have bushy dens.
Birds have twiggy nests.
The Son of God who comes from heaven itself?
Not even a pile of twigs to call his own….
Very literally – during the 3 years that Jesus did ministry, he didn’t have a home. He didn’t have a studio apartment. He didn’t even have a room at the Extended Stay.
He was essentially homeless, staying wherever people opened their homes to him or under a myrtle tree if he had to.
It wasn’t because he was without resources. Remember: He made bread come out of thin air. He found a coin within a fish mouth. He controlled thunder and lightning.
He was homeless NOT because he didn’t have the resources.
He was homeless because he was too focused on his work with the Kingdom of God.
Truth: The Kingdom of God is greater than material wealth.
Because Jesus’ answer gives us a glimpse into the heart of the man who wanted to follow him. Commonly people thought Jesus was the Messiah, but they had a false idea of the Messiah. They thought that the Messiah would lead to political power, a restoration of the Kingdom of Israel, and a toppling of the Roman Empire.
The man probably thought:
“I’ll follow you Jesus! All the way to your future palace. Hopefully there’ll be a room in that palace for me. With my own servants and a plush bed and all the spending money I could desire.”
The kingdom of God was not about material wealth.
The kingdom of God was greater than material wealth.
This absolutely applies today. Because it is so easy to think that material wealth is greater than Kingdom wealth.
Whether it’s giving up money in the offering plate that could be used in a $401k.
Or giving up time on a Sunday that could be used to work on your side business and make some more cash.
Or giving up that good job offer that always has me working on Sunday and could lead to a million-dollar home near a golf course in North Raleigh.
Remember – the Kingdom of God is greater than Material Wealth.
Because material wealth won’t last.
The dollars will dry up.
The things will get old.
The stuff will need to be replaced.
This past week – if you saw the floors here – they are freshly waxed. They look awesome!
But this morning – I stepped with my shoes in the wrong direction and - well – material wealth doesn’t last.
But God’s kingdom does.
God’s kingdom offers forever forgiveness in Jesus.
God’s kingdom offers the promise of eternal life.
God’s kingdom offers the eternal comforts of heaven.
To be fair – Jesus knew that.
And he forsook material wealth in order to win for you eternal riches.
The Bible says this:
Though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, that you through his poverty might become rich.
How poor did Jesus get? He died on a cross.
How rich will you be? He gives you a room in heaven.
While on earth remember – the Kingdom of God is greater than Material wealth.
II. …an Abandoned Burial Plot
As Jesus keeps walking, he turns to another person that he meets along the way and he says to him: “Follow me.” To which the man responds, “First, let me go and bury my father.” (v.59)
Which doesn’t seem like that crazy of a request.
That seems like a very important family task.
Of all the tasks that one could do – burying your family member seems near the top.
But look at Jesus’ response:
“Let the dead bury their own dead, you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” (v.60)
Does that seem a little harsh?
If I asked one of you to help me go around the neighborhood and invite people to church and you responded that you needed to work on your dad’s funeral, I would probably tell you. “OK. No worries. I’m sorry for your loss. You are in my prayers.”
But Jesus says, “Don’t worry about your dead father, worry about the proclaiming the kingdom of God.”
If I can be crass for a moment.
At the seminary, one of our professors was talking about ministering at a funeral.
He mentioned that many love to talk about how great a person was in the funeral sermon.
He suggested we don’t do that.
If I can quote my seminary notes:
“The funeral sermon isn’t for the dead. They can’t hear you. They’re dead. The funeral sermon is for those who are alive – that they too, may live.”
Let’s be clear. Jesus isn’t saying that you shouldn’t have a funeral for your family.
But he is saying that even the most important seeming earthly task is nothing compared to the work of the kingdom of God.
To put it simply:
The kingdom of God is greater than any earthly task.
I think our society really needs to remember that.
Because it isn’t as if the struggle is between should I plan my dad’s funeral or tell about Jesus. (If it is, it’s a once in a lifetime struggle)
Usually the struggle is:
Can I go to worship this week? My kid has a baseball game.
Can I attend that Bible study? I’ve gotta do housework – have you seen the leaves at my house?
Should I plan on Garden Kids? Nah…I’ve got to work on some kind of task so that I can get to all my other tasks on my task list.
The Kingdom of God is greater than any Earthly Task.
It’s a task that produces lasting results.
Taking your kids to baseball practice will produce skills that last to high school, maybe collect – league softball and slowly deteriorate.
Raking your leaves? More will fall.
Any kind of task? You will have to do it again and again and again and again…because the benefits only last for a moment.
But the Kingdom of God last forever.
Jesus knew that.
It’s why Jesus endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb. 12:2)
He kept his mind on the most important task.
You do the same.
III. …a Plow
Final parable. Another person says to Jesus, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” (v.61)
It’s not as big a task as planning and carrying out a funeral.
It’s just a quick kiss on the cheek, a hug and a goodbye!
But – Jesus’ response is again surprising: “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” (v.62)
Have you ever used a plow? At the time of Jesus, they didn’t have a one of those big, gas-powered machines. They had a horse or donkey and hooked up to the plow. Your job is to stare where the plow is plowing and help to keep it in a straight line.
If you don’t pay attention, do you know what happens?
You go left.
You go right.
It gets all caddywampus.
And it’s the same with working in God’s kingdom.
If you’re more worried about what your family thinks than what God thinks then…
…I was going to go to worship, but my spouse wants me to Netflix binge with him.
…I was going to teach my kids that sin is wrong, but my sister disagrees with me.
…I was going to lead a pure life, but my boyfriend wants me to do otherwise.
And suddenly your following of Jesus is a caddywampus mess!
Here’s the third truth:
The Kingdom of God is greater than Any Kind of Relationship.
And again – Understand Jesus’ point.
He wants you to love your family. Absolutely he does:
The Bible tells you to love your family.
He’s the one who created the idea of family.
And he’s the one who created your family and gave them to you.
Please – this isn’t Jesus’ way of saying – stop loving your family!
It’s Jesus’ way of saying love your family; just love your heavenly Father more.
Because loving your Father most will actually show your family a greater love than you ever knew possible.
TRUTH: The Kingdom of God is greater than Any Kind of Relationship.
To be fair, our Heavenly Father knew that.
That’s why he was willing to put his relationship with you above his relationship with His only begotten Son.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him will not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
IV. What Now?
The message is simple. The message is clear.
The kingdom of God is greater than material wealth, earthly tasks, and any human relationship.
The kingdom of God is of the utmost importance.
Do you want to follow Jesus?
Follow this truth.
Make the God who made you most important be most important to you. Amen.
It isn’t fun to be confused.
It isn’t fun to be confused.
It’s even less fun to be confused about Jesus.
Why is this happening to me?
What does that passage mean?
Why is that story even in the Bible?
Tonight, we are taking a look at a moment when Jesus’ disciple Thomas was confused – I’ll call Biblically confused. Our goal is to see (1) what caused the confusion (2) how we have similar confusion (3) how do we deal with Biblical confusion. Before we begin, a prayer: Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see. Open our ears to hear what you want us to hear and open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. The Confusion
This actually takes place on the night before Jesus died on the cross – on Maundy Thursday. The context of the story is that Jesus is eating a private meal with his disciples. While they are eating, he is taking the opportunity to teach them and strengthen them for the very scary things that are coming up the very next day.
But during the night – a few confusing things had already happened:
It started with the feet washing. Jesus had done something really nice and gotten down on his hands and knees to wash their feet. Peter – trying to be nice – refused to let Jesus wash his feet. That seems nice. Polite even.
But Jesus responded by telling Peter he would have no part of him, unless he let Jesus wash him.
To which Peter responded, “wash all of me then!” Again – makes sense.
But Jesus refused. “Your body is clean. You need only your feet. Also…you need to be spiritually clean.”
Wait what? He wants us to be washed but also not to be washed, but to be washed anyways?
Was this a spiritual thing?
A physical thing?
Was this so confusing…
About ½ hour into the meal, Jesus had talked about betrayal. Then, he had prophesied that one of them would betray him. He followed it up by pointing out that the one dipping bread into the gravy bowl with him would be the betrayer.
The dipper in question? It was Judas. But what was the betrayal?
Was Jesus upset that Judas was eating all the gravy?
Had Judas betrayed Jesus and bought gluten free bread?
Whatever it was – it ended with Judas getting up and leaving the meal.
And the third thing – most confusing of all. Jesus was really somber. He was really sad. Why? They finally had a moment’s break. They weren’t surrounded by questions and help requests. It was relaxing – PLUS it was a holiday. It was the Passover. The Passover was a celebration of God’s goodness and keeping Israel safe.
Yet Jesus kept looking at the floor.
A few times tears welled up in his eyes.
He didn’t make a lot of jokes.
Why was he so sad?
It was really confusing.
Then, Jesus spoke a soliloquy. A soliloquy about houses. He said the following:
Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (v.1-4)
The statement was comforting.
It was beautiful.
It was downright confusing.
And Thomas couldn’t handle it!
“Lord!...We don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” (v.4b)
If you leave and then summon us without telling us where you are going, how are we gonna get there?
Dude – you need to be clarify. You need to explain to us where you are going and how we can follow you!
And Jesus turned his attention to Thomas.
He nodded his head.
He cleared up the confusion:
“I am the Way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (v.6)
II. Clearing up the Confusion
Now that’s a pretty famous passage. Maybe you’ve heard it before. But in context, I think it’s really, really interesting. Because Thomas is totally confused.
Where is this room?
How do we get there?
How do we get there if you don’t leave us a map?
And then…Jesus responds by saying – I’ll tell you the Way: It’s me!
Thomas thought Jesus was talking physically, locally, geographically.
Jesus was talking none of the above.
He was talking spiritually.
That room? It was a reference to heaven itself. Jesus was about to go there. He would die. He would rise. He would sacrifice himself for their sins and by doing so he would prepare a room in heaven for each and every one of them.
And when the time was right – when the time was right for each of them to die – and join him in heaven - Jesus would send his angels to get them. (They’d die.) Then, they’d live forever in heaven with him, too.
And the way to heaven? It isn’t local. It isn’t geographic. It isn’t physical.
You don’t take a plane. You don’t take a spaceship. You don’t get a ride on the Millennium Falcon.
You don’t live perfectly. You don’t do more good than bad. You don’t just “try to be a good person.”
“Jesus is the Way…No one comes to the Father except through him.”
Do you get it? Thomas already knew the way to where Jesus was going.
He knew him well.
He knew him as a miracle worker, a good friend, and a compelling teacher.
He knew him as a leader, an encourager, and coworker.
He knew him as Jesus.
He is The Way to heaven.
This is so important – because when it comes to spiritual confusion, it always starts with misunderstanding about the way to heaven. The simple answer is that Jesus is the way to heaven. The reality is that every other answer just muddies the waters:
Have I done enough?
Have I tried hard enough?
Have I truly loved enough to get my way to heaven?
These kinds of questions muddy the waters. And if we’re honest – if we want to be clear for the moment – we let them muddy the waters, because we know the clear answer. It’s the answer that Ash Wednesday – and the talk of dust and death and sin makes really clear --- NO!
No, I haven’t done enough.
No I haven’t tried hard enough.
No I haven’t loved enough to get to heaven.
But here’s the truth. Once you face the clear truth to those questions.
Once you face the hard “no.”
Suddenly, it’s a lot less confusing.
Have you ever done one of those puzzles where you have to follow the lines and figure out which one gets where you want to go? They are hard. The tough ones have 10 plus lines of squiggles. And it’s so easy to get lost, to start following the wrong string, and to take the wrong turn and never get there.
But what if the wrong lines were removed.
What if the wrong lines were taken away.
What if the only right way was the only one left?
That’s exactly what Jesus is doing in this section.
Don’t be confused.
I’ve removed the ways that don’t work.
I alone am the Way to heaven.
To a place without sadness.
A place without broken hearts.
A place without hurt and pain.
III. WHAT NOW?
(1) Remember the Answer
Because even as a Christian, it’s easy to get confused.
Have I done enough?
What does this passage mean?
Why is this happening in my life?
Do you remember in Sunday School? How every answer to every question is Jesus? Every time I do chapel with the preschoolers, the very first question that I ask them about the last week’s Bible story is: Who was in the Bible story? And the first answer – no matter what – no matter if he’s mentioned or not – is Jesus!
And every time I always say, “You’re right. Jesus is absolutely the answer. He’s a part of every Bible story.”
I know it’s a simple answer, but “Jesus” is also the answer for a lot of confusing adult questions.
Have you done enough? No. But Jesus did.
What does this passage mean? It means something important in light of Jesus – who lived for you and died for you.
Why is this happening in my life? A lot of reasons – but Jesus loves you. Jesus has you in his hands. Jesus will take you home to heaven.
Jesus is the answer for whatever confusion you have going on right now.
Jesus is the answer for confusion.
(2) Trust the Answer
Because sometimes humans are rational. We want scientific formula and rationale logic written out with numeric formulas in order to explain why it is the answer. Why it is what it is.
But Jesus is God.
And God is decades of eternities smarter than us.
And we aren’t always gonna get it.
Stop trying to figure it out.
Start simply trusting in Jesus.
He is the answer.
He is Your answer.
He is your Way.
He is Your Truth.
He is Your Life. Amen.
Have you ever asked your kid to clean his room in the middle of video gaming? It never works very well.
I’m coming. Just after this level.
I’ll be there soon just a few more minutes.
Mom! I’m battling Bowser for control of the Mushroom Kingdom! If I don’t help now, the toadstools will be under his control forever. How can you talk about dirty sneakers at a time like this?
Of course – the same thing happens when you’re a grown-up.
Ever heard of a Honey-Do-List? What amazes me is how long honey do lists can become. They become long for two reasons. (1) One spouse will keep adding to it. Fix the toaster. Paint the garage. I think the heater’s broken! Could you set up a hanger system in my closet for all of my pocket scarves? (2) The other spouse will come up with reasons not to fix it. I’m going fishing. I’ve got work to do. Somebody’s gotta watch this football game, it won’t watch itself.
It makes me think: Putting things off is human nature. Procrastination is a key part of being a human.
But what about when procrastination makes its way into your spiritual life?
No big deal thing?
Today we’re continuing our series called Follow. It’s about following Jesus. Our focal point this morning is urgency. We want to learn why following Jesus is so urgent and how we can be urgent about Jesus in 2017. Before we do that, join me in a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is 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. The Urgency of Near
The main lesson comes from Matthew 4. This takes place after our lesson from last week. Remember? John had pointed at Jesus and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) The heavens opened at Jesus’ baptism. A dove landed on his shoulder and a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love, with him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:15-17) Highlights.
That was a highlight for John. He had beheld the reality of his message – that a Savior was coming – with clear eyes. He must have felt pretty good.
Then, a lowlight. John, motivated by what he has seen in Jesus, keeps preaching. He preaches to the tax collectors. He preaches to prostitutes. He preaches to Pharisees. He even begins to preach to King Herod – the guy in charge of Judah. And Herod is interested in him. He wants to hear what this crazy preacher will say. He loves to hear him talk about those Pharisees. He loves to see those religious officials squirm. He loves John’s message.
Until – it hits home.
John turns and says to Herod, “And you? Stop sleeping with your brother’s wife. You aren’t married to her. She isn’t married to you. That sexual immorality. That’s one of the commandments: You shall not commit adultery. What you’re doing is wrong. It’s wrong and if you don’t change, you’re going to hell!”
Can you imagine Herod sweating? He’s embarrassed. (Thank goodness there wasn’t Twitter at that time.) He thinks it over. I can’t repent. That would make me look weak—like some crazy preacher has control over me. So instead Herod has John arrested and thrown into prison. Herod thinks, “There I’ve dealt with that. No more grand revolutionary spiritual voices for people to follow.”
And things are quiet.
When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee…From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” (Matthew 4:12,17)
What do you know about heaven? The Bible doesn’t provide a full architectural schematic of heaven. There aren’t any illustrations. You can’t find heaven on Zillow. Google Earth does not allow you to zoom in and see Peter’s car parked on a side street near the holy donut shop.
But the Bible does say this: In heaven, there is no sadness. There is no mourning. There is no sin. There is no pain. There is no hunger. There is no thirst. There is no loneliness. There is no evil. There is no cancer. There is no AIDS. There is no terror. There is no racism. There is no death. (Revelation 21)
There is God. There is his love. There is joy. There is love. There is family. There is friends. There is a peaceful forever existence in the happiness of eternity. (Revelation 21)
Sounds awesome, right?
Ok Pastor. How do I get there? Again – Heaven isn’t physical. Rand McNally doesn’t know the way. You can ask Siri and she will not know. Heaven isn’t a place you drive to, walk to, or ride a motorcycle to.
Heaven is spiritual.
Heaven is invisible.
Heaven is a place you go after this life.
Heaven is a place you go when you die.
Heaven is place you go for eternity.
Which means – God has to get you there. And since God is the one who does the transporting, understand that God is the one deciding whether you can come or not.
It’s kind of like driving in a car. I know that some people have rules when you ride in their car. No sodas. No chips. No food and drink. No melty chocolate. Why? Well – they probably have had kids spill all over the carpets as they hit a bump on the road. They would like a clean car. It is their car, so makes sense that they get to set the rules for it. I remember once trying to get into the car of my friend’s mom and she wouldn’t let me until I took off my dirty, muddy, shoes. I couldn’t be mad. It was her car, her rules. God’s the same way. Although it doesn’t bother God whether or not you are drinking a Coca-Cola when he comes to get you. There is something that God doesn’t want in heaven:
Do not be deceived: Evildoers will enter into the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)
Back to Jesus. Jesus said, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near.” It means this – Abandon sin! Turn away from sin and follow God. Stop following lust. Stop following greed. Stop following pride. Stop following gossip. Stop following your vengeful desire to yell at your wife. Stop sin and turn to God. Because sin has no place in the kingdom of heaven. God doesn’t want sin in heaven. If you have sin, God doesn’t want you in heaven.
Pause with me for a moment. Here’s what the devil tempts us to think when you see that: Ok. I’ll work on it – eventually. I’m sure I won’t die for quite some time. I’m a young person. I just reached the age that you’re able to rent a car. I’ve got a long life left. Now? I need to worry about this life. I need to work on my job. I need to work on money. I need to work on my house. I need to work on my family. I need to work on my retirement package. I need to enjoy retirement.
I’ll deal with God later.
Look at what Jesus said again. Notice he did not say, “The Kingdom of God is later.”
He didn’t say: It’s not even close.
He didn’t say: It’s way in the distance.
He didn’t say: Don’t you worry about it. You have plenty of time.
He said, “It’s near.”
As in, close.
As in, soon.
As in, you could die in the next year, in the next month, 15 minutes after worship.
As in you could choke on a cookie (God forbid) after worship in the fellowship hall!
You don’t know when it will be time. You only know that it’s near. That means you need to follow Jesus – NOW!
Do you sense the urgency?
II. The Problem of Procrastination
Maybe you’re thinking:
Pastor, this is a young person's’ thing. When people get older, they get wiser and they come to their senses.
Here's the thing. I’ve met people of all ages. Teens who have said, “Later.” People in their twenties: Later. People in their thirties: Later. People in their forties: later. People in their sixties: later. People at the end of life – at the retirement homes I visit – where I don’t even know if I’ll see them next week – that I ask to come learn about Jesus with - Later.
It’s always later. This means that the problem isn’t maturity.
A couple of years back I saw that a friend of mine on Facebook was coming to Raleigh. It was a friend from the Seattle area where I was an intern pastor. A pretty good friend. We had gone to their house and hung out — plenty of times.
But this time I only saw it on Facebook. She knew that I was in Raleigh so…why didn’t she reach out? I left a note on the Facebook wall – If you’re in the area, come visit! She said, “Sure. I might be busy, but maybe I can get away.” A week later I saw a photo on Facebook of her relaxing and drinking an iced tea at Beasley’s downtown – I left a passive aggressive comment, “That place is awesome.”
Nothing. No response. Didn’t seek to hang out. Didn’t come to church.
Suddenly, I came to a harsh realization. I just wasn’t that important. It wasn’t a matter of too busy or unable. But not important. It's the same problem when it comes to following Jesus. The reality is that if you aren’t following Jesus, then he isn’t that important to you.
You can say, I just don’t have the time. But if Jesus is important enough, you’ll make the time.
I don’t have the time for Bible study – He’s not that important.
I’m too busy for church – He’s not that important.
I’ve got too much going on to be baptized – He’s not that important.
If Jesus was important to you, you’d do everything possible to make time for him.
If you haven’t, it’s your fault. Not your boss’ scheduling. Not your health. Not the weather.
If you don’t follow God, you don’t value Him.
If you don’t value Him, that’s sin.
If you’ve got sin, you can’t get into heaven.
If you can’t get into heaven, repent!
If you repent, do so now – because the kingdom of God is near!
III. Near (Revisited)
Near. Let’s revisit that phrase, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near.” We’ve been talking about that temporally – in relationship to time. Any day. Any minute. Any hour. That’s exactly what Jesus meant.
But sometimes there’s more than meets the eye with Jesus. Sometimes Jesus means more. Sometimes the answer is so much closer than you think. Maybe you’ve heard this passages before: Jesus said, “I am the way – no one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) Put that next to the last passage. “The Kingdom of heaven is near.” Do you see it?
If you were the listening to Jesus speak, then, yes, the kingdom of heaven was near – you could die any time – it’s temporal. But it’s also spatial. As in – the entrance to the kingdom of heaven is a few feet in front of you. He’s speaking with you. He’s sitting by you. He’s Jesus.
Remember what we heard John say about Jesus last week – “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” That’s what Jesus came to do on the cross. Because the reality is that every human being has sin – sin that they can’t remove on their own – sin that disqualifies them from heaven.
Jesus came to wash us from our sins. Jesus came to clean us up. Jesus came to make us ready for heaven.
Here’s why: Jesus understood urgency. Jesus understood that if he didn’t fix the problem of sin then you would not make it to heaven with him. Jesus understood that he had to live perfectly when you couldn’t, die innocently in your place, and rise triumphantly for all of your sins. Jesus knew that he had to do this in order to get you into heaven. He knew it and in fact -- It was a priority to him.
You were a priority to him.
Do you believe this?
Do you believe in Jesus? Are you ready to follow him?
Then, there’s something very important that you need to hear:
If you haven’t made Jesus a priority, you’re forgiven.
If others things have been more important than following him, you’re forgiven.
If you follow him – even if you’ve never followed him til right now, you are forgiven.
You will be in his kingdom.
IV. What Now?
How do you react to this awesome message? How do you make following Jesus a more important part of your life?
(1) Be Willing to Leave your Nets
Look at the account that takes place right after we hear about Jesus’ ministry: 18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him.
Did you see that? They left their nets. That’s not a big deal if you’ve never touched a fish in your life and can’t tell the difference between a catfish and a guppy. But for these guys – it was everything! They left their nets – their livelihood. They left what made them money and followed him.
Do the same. Money is important, but not important enough to jeopardize your eternal future. Not important enough to jeopardize heaven.
If you are so busy, that you don’t have anytime to actively follow Jesus – make a change. Talk to your boss. Get Sundays off. Get a weekday off to join a small group. Turn off your work email at home and turn on your Bible.
Might you make less money? Might you not get promoted? Of course. That’s the reality of a world that doesn’t see the importance in following Jesus. But there’s eternal value in following Jesus. He will strengthen your faith in his Word. He will encourage you through his people. He will promote you – all the way to heaven.
(2) Be Willing to Leave Your Family
Look at the next verse: 21 Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
These guys go a step farther. They leave their family – not that their dad was necessarily against their leaving or putting up a big stink about it – but it’s still a challenge to leave family. And sometimes family can be one of the biggest challenges to following Jesus:
You’re still believing that? I don’t like how it’s changed you. I think you should give it up.
You’re going to church? Can’t you stay home and have breakfast in bed with me instead?
You can’t come hang out because you’re serving God? That’s crazy! If that’s how you’re going to act, don’t bother spending time with me.
But God isn’t saying – Have nothing to do with your family. We can see them. We love them. They love us. But God is saying don’t make them more important than following Jesus.
Because they don’t love you more than Jesus.
Because they didn’t give up their lives for you, Jesus did that.
Because your family can’t get you to heaven, only Jesus can.
(3) Embrace your New Family
Still that’s hard. How do you do leave behind family?
With your new family.
That’s what happened to the disciples. They became brothers. They became brothers and sisters. That was key because they were travelling around Asia minor spreading God’s Word. We still use that today when we talk about each other.
This is important. Because if you’re the only one in your family who believes in Jesus – that’s tough. It’s hard. But you’ve got family here. People who love you. People who care about you. People who will encourage you to follow Jesus all the way to heaven. Lean on them.
And if you’ve got lots of believing family – understand that about people who don’t – it’s hard. They need you to be their family. You can come here and catch up with your family sure. But branch out! There are others here who need your encouragement. They need your uplifting. Be someone to lean on.
Hebrews says this, “Let us encourage each other—and all the more as we see the Day approaching.” Do you hear the urgency? It isn’t just in following Jesus, but urgency in encouraging one another…because you never know when Jesus will come back. Be ready. Amen.
Have you ever heard of Angie’s List? It’s an online service that lets you hook up with various contractors in all kinds of areas. From painters to dry wallers, from lawn care to carpet care, from lizard wranglers to sheep shearers -- you can find the professional you need on Angie’s List
But you might wanna shop around. The truth is there are usually more than one company you can go with. Take plumbing, for example. If you need a plumber, you might like Plumberee – with lots of experience and fine craftsmanship, but a fine way of breaking the bank. Then again, there’s Bargain Plumbers less expensive, but so is their work. There’s Plumber’s R. Us. A bit corporate in its structure – so you know they can get the job done, but bad customer service. Then, there’s Frank’s Plumbing. Not as well known, but you can almost always get him on the phone and he does a fine job -- just as long as you don’t mind the smell of cigarettes that he brings with him everywhere he goes.
Who do you choose? The wise person shops around first, before making his decision.
Is the same thing true about grace? The last couple of weeks we’ve talked about the blessing of grace that Jesus brings. It’s without cost. It covers even the worst of sinners. It lasts into eternal life. It brings forgiveness for all your sins.
But…the wise person shops around first so…
What about Buddha? What type of grace does he offer?
What about Mohammed? I hear he has a good plan.
What about doing your best, trying your hardest, and earning some grace with the human spirit? That’s the American ideal. Plus you can get away with a lot more sins.
After all, doesn’t it kind of depend on your geography?
Different gods? Different traditions? Different religions?
Today we are finishing our series called Surprising Grace by looking at the exclusivity of grace. We’ll see why Grace must be from Jesus and how that’s true, no matter who you are or where you’re from. Before we do that, let’s say a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is 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. Shopping Around for Other Options
Today’s account is taken from Revelation 5:1-12. Revelation is the final book in the Bible. It’s written by the Apostle John. It’s called Revelation because it’s a revelation that John received from God. A revelation of the future.
That’s why it has to be from God.
Remember: Time is like a jump rope. You and I are on the jump rope. Somewhere within this tiny ½ cm. It means we can only see behind us – as much as is preserved by history – and we can’t see too far in front of us – only making best guess predictions.
But God is of the timeline. He’s eternal. He sees everything from 6000 years ago to 15 years from now like it’s happening before his eyes.
That’s why God was able to tell John about the future in this revelation. He could see it happening. So, when we read Revelation, we find out about the future. We find out that sometimes – the future is comforting. Sometimes it’s scary. And sometimes…well…it’s strange.
John fell to his knees. The sight before him was too much.
For starters, there were these beasts. 4 incredible, terrifying beasts watching his every move. They were kind of like earthly beasts – and kind of not. One looked like an eagle. One like a lion. One like an ox. One like a man.
But they were only like these things. They were radiating. They were flying. They each had eyeballs all over them. Each eyeball blinking in tune with John’s every movement.
The beasts weren’t the only ones watching John. Surrounding him were 24 smaller thrones. Each throne had 24 elders – dressed in white and crowns of gold on their heads (v.4) Long, flowing, divine white hair gently flowing in the breeze – as if they were floating on water.
But the gentleness was interrupted. Flashes of lightning, rumblings, and peals of thunder came from the center of the room. There stood a gigantic throne. There was a bright light radiating right in front of it. A white, bright light. The bright kind that makes you squint your eyes if you don’t have a pair of sunglasses.
But this light wasn’t coming from the sun. It wasn’t even coming from outside. It was coming from an ethereal rainbow that had fashioned itself at the top of the throne – marking and identifying the one who sat upon the throne.
Whose throne was it?
If John hadn’t figured it out yet – the melody of the elders made grew until it was at a thunderous level made him certain:
You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being. (v.11)
John again looked to the ground in horror.
He was before God Almighty. He was before the Creator of heaven and earth.
He was before the one who makes volcanoes explode, tectonic plates shake, and flood water engulf the earth.
He, a sinner, was standing before the All holy, sin hating God.
But God wasn’t fixated on him. Not at the moment. At the moment, God was fixated on what he had in his hand.
It was a scroll. An ancient version of a eReader or book. Divine parchment tightly rolled up and sealed tightly with seven seals. (5:1)
What was in the scroll? Well there’s two books mentioned in the book of Revelation. One is called the Book of Life. That’s an important book. Because there is written the names of every person who has life – every person who is allowed to enter into heaven. Picture it like a divine guest list – only the bouncer isn’t some tough looking Italian guy named Guido.
It’s God himself.
Meaning this scroll was important. Without it, there was no way of knowing who it is that is allowed into heaven.
And…for whatever the reason, God wasn’t opening it.
In fact, one of the angels, a mighty angel, the king angel with bulging veins in his biceps and a heart tattoo on his left delt, started shouting in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?” (v.2)
No one moved.
He repeated himself. Louder. “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?”
John looked around. Why wasn’t anyone trying to do it? Sure, the seals looked intimidating, but they were in God’s throne room. Why wasn’t he burly angel giving it a try? Why didn’t the ox-like thing try smashing it with his hoofs? Why didn't the eagle like thing try dive bombing it from on high? Why didn’t the 24 elders work together to develop some kind of divinely inspired Rube Goldberg machine to open it up?
But none of them were making their way to the scroll.
None of them were lifting a hand to break the seals.
Mostly, they were just shaking their heads – their divinely, haloed, eye-filled heads.
John began weeping. If that scroll wasn’t opened, then he wasn’t getting into heaven. Then, his friends weren’t getting into heaven. Then, none of his loved ones and fellow believers were getting into heaven.
v. 3 No one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside of it.
Pay attention here. Because this has everything to do with God’s grace. Because we need God’s grace to get into heaven. We need God’s grace to get our names onto the pages of the Book of Life.
And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could write our names in there. In fact, they couldn’t even open the scroll or look inside of it.
Not anyone in that throne room. Not the mighty angel. Not the eagle. Not the ox. Not anyone on below that throne room either. Not Zeus. Not Hades. Not Hercules. Not Buddha. Not Mohammed. Not Vishnu.
Not a president. Not a king. Not any member of congress. Not a brilliant scientist. Not a billionaire business man.
Not even a guy who tries really hard and does his best and hopes that it’s enough to get his name in the book of Life.
There is no one else. No one who can get your name on the Book of Life.
No one who can win your forgiveness.
No one who can offer you’re an eternity in heaven.
II. The Exclusive Answer
“Do not weep!” cried one of the elders. His mouth agape in excitement. “Look! The Lion of the tribe of Judah has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”
John took a deep breath. Of course! A lion. Lions are the King of the Jungle for a reason. They have majestic manes and fierce teeth for sinking into their prey. They have powerful jaws and swift, fierce claws. Lions were some of the most muscular and magnificent creatures on earth. A divine, heavenly version of it would have no problem destroying those seals!
John looked up with excitement. He covered his ears anticipating this miraculous roar!
But what he saw wasn’t a Lion.
It wasn’t fierce.
It wasn’t intimidating.
It didn’t roar.
Then, I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne. (5:6)
John turned his head in shock! A Lamb? Lambs aren’t intimidating! They don’t have claws – they have unbalanced hoofs. They don’t have majestic manes, but soft, gentle wool. They don’t roar – they baaa!
How was this creature – a creature of nursery rhymes and preschools – supposed to be the one to open the seals?
And this one wasn’t even in good health? It was looking as if it had been slain. (5:6) It looked like it was limping along. It needed to be held. It needed to be nourished. It didn’t need to be trying to open up these incredible seals.
John looked around. Is anybody going to stop this?
But no one else shared his concern. In fact, the others in the room – the elders, the winged creatures, the mighty angel – God himself – smiled at the sight of the Lamb and erupted into a magnificent song….
…to the Lamb:
You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain. (5:9)
Suddenly, it hit John.
The Lamb. The Lamb of God. He had heard that before.
He had read about it in the Old Testament – as the blood of innocent lambs foreshadowed this moment.
He had heard it from John the Baptist as he pointed at his leader “Look! The Lamb of God! Who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29)
He had seen it from his fellow disciple Peter who wrote, “-- a lamb without blemish or defect.” (1 Peter 1:1
That’s who the Lamb was.
That’s why he was slain.
That’s why he alone could open the scroll.
Because that Lamb was Jesus!
Brothers and sisters, understand this! There is no other being in heaven or under heaven or on earth who can open the scroll.
There is no other being in heaven or under heaven or on earth who can get you into heaven.
There is no other being in heaven or under heaven or on earth whose grace is enough for your eternal life.
No other being than Jesus Christ.
The Bible is simple then.
The Bible is clear.
God’s eternal vision has been revealed to you.
Do you desire forgiveness for your sins? Trust Jesus.
Do you desire to lose your guilt? Trust Jesus.
Do you desire to escape hell? Trust Jesus.
Do you desire eternal life? Trust Jesus.
Do you desire peace with God? Trust Jesus.
Do you desire eternal joy? Trust Jesus.
There is no one else who can provide these things – because the only one on the spiritual Angie’s List for salvation is The Lamb – Your Savior, Jesus Christ!!!
III. What Now?
(1) Celebrate this Exclusivity
Because what do they say? The only thing you don’t want to talk with people about are politics and religion. But…as this past election showed us – we had no problem talking politics. I’m friends with most of you on Facebook. I know this.
So why not religion?
Better yet…why not your Savior?
Better, better yet…why not the only one who provides forgiveness of sins, eternal life and salvation?
The elders didn’t mind shouting. Worthy is the Lamb!
The four living creatures didn’t mind shouting. Worthy is the Lamb!
The mighty angel didn’t mind shouting. Worthy is the Lamb!
Even John – stopped being nervous and frightened and as he watched Jesus open up that scroll shouted: Worthy is the Lamb!
You do that too. In fact, why do you get on your Smartphone today and make that your status. #WorthyIsTheLamb
Don’t be afraid to let others know who it is that you trust. Don’t be afraid to let them know who it is they can trust.
(2) Celebrate Diversity
Because notice what it says about the Lamb in verse 9 You are worthy…because you were slain and with your blood you purchased persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.
I love that. It means Jesus is your exclusive king no matter who you are.
It doesn’t matter what tribe you’re from. Which may be the closest Bible words for “race.” This is key, isn’t it? It doesn’t matter if you’re black or white, Asian or Latino, middle Eastern, Native American, combination of the above.
JESUS IS YOUR KING. JESUS IS YOUR SAVIOR!
And it doesn’t matter what language you speak. He’s the answer if you speak English or Spanish. Italian or German. Nigerian or Malawian. Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Sign Language…even if you speak in emoji!
JESUS IS YOUR KING. JESUS IS YOUR SAVIOR!
And it doesn’t matter where you live. It doesn’t matter if you live in America or Iraq. Whether you live in Russia or China. Whether you live in Mexica or Canada. It doesn’t matter if you live in Durham or Cary or Chapel Hill or Knightdale or Morrisville or South Raleigh or North Raleigh or anywhere else on this planet!
JESUS IS YOUR KING. JESUS IS YOUR SAVIOR!
And if Jesus is king of us all – that means we’ve got to celebrate that diversity just like Jesus does. We’ve got hug those from different backgrounds. Speak with excitement – show excitement – to those who speak different languages. Grab hands and go to work with those from different places.
Celebrate Diversity because that’s what Jesus celebrates!
(3) Celebrate Unity
Because diversity…sometimes leads to division. I fear it’s happened to America. There’s so many different people in America that we let our differences get the best of us and we fight.
The same is true in Raleigh. It’s a global, multicultural, multigenerational community. It’s started to get divided.
The same could be true for our church. More and more God has enabled us to reflect the global, multicultural, diverse community that He will have in heaven.
How do we stay united?
Look carefully at verse 9 again You are worthy…because you were slain and with your blood you purchased persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom.
Did you hear that?
Not many kingdoms.
No a White kingdom and a Black kingdom and an Asian kingdom and a Hispanic kingdom.
Just a kingdom.
Jesus creates only one kingdom.
And we stand together as one kingdom, by remembering who it is that created that one kingdom.
And that’s kind of what happens at the end of the section. Everybody remembers that it’s all about Jesus and they started shouting – despite their differences – despite some being angels and some being lions and some being elders and some being many-eyed-flying-ox-like creatures.
Then, I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice, they were saying: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!"
But that’s not it. Because then, John prophesies about us. And he says this:
Then, I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea and all that is in them saying – (and since you are one of those creatures – please, say it with me ) “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, forever and ever!”
And the elders said “Amen!”
And I say “Amen.”