Jesus’ Answer to a Basic Question

Many people enjoy a good discussion on religion.

Some of these discussions are delightful experiences. Usually they are between people who either are Christians or are seriously inquiring about the Christian faith.

Other people have no personal interest in the Christian faith, but like a discussion that can generate a lot of emotion. These people like to ridicule those who believe in Christ as their Savior and Lord. These conversations can be disagreeable because little will change and relationships can be damaged.

In today’s Scripture text, Jesus is with his disciples in the Upper Room where he institutes the Lord’s Supper. His disciples are depressed, for everything seems to be falling apart. Jesus announces that he was leaving them, and Judas goes on his way to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. Peter would deny Jesus three times before the night ended.

In that sad setting, Jesus seeks to lift their spirit when he says, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe in me.” Our Lord was saying, Trust me, the time is difficult but I will be with you.

Bishop Ryle of the Church of England used to say, “A precious remedy for the old disease of a troubled heart (depression), is the pill of faith.” When we throw ourselves into the arms of faith, we can know what it is to not only be forgiven of our sins, but also to be given strength to face every conceivable thing that can come to us while we are here on this earth.

Now comes the question: What happens after death?

Is there a life after death? Many of our religious discussions center around this subject.

Jesus answers, “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so would I have told you? I am going 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” (John 14:1-3). Jesus assures them a heavenly home awaits those who trust him as Savior and Lord. This is the answer to the question that we are also asking. Heaven does exist. Jesus said so. Is that not enough?

Yet as clearly as Jesus’ answer is, the vast majority of people do not accept it.

Certainly the masses of people want to believe in some kind of existence after this life, but don’t know what it will be. Here are some of their answers:

1. I am trying to live a good life, and God will reward me.

2. The home in heaven will be enjoyed by all.

3. We can make the gospel of life after death acceptable to our culture; faith in Christ is not a requirement.

4. My own personal experience convinces me of a life after death. I was seriously ill and an experience empowered me to look through a long tunnel where I saw Jesus and other people I know.

All these thoughts are the products of the human mind or emotion. Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you, and I will come back one day and take you to be with me, that you also may be where I am.” This eternal word from our Lord is the solid foundation of our faith that a heavenly home awaits all believers who have received Jesus as their Savior.

Many other passages also point us to the heavenly home Ð

The writer of the book of Hebrews says, “For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come” (Hebrews 13:14).

Jesus says, “. . . many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 8:11).

Jesus tells his disciples, “. . . rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20).

Paul said, “Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands” (II Corinthians 5:1).

Peter writes, “(We have) an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade Ð kept in heaven for you” (I Peter 1:4).

Let these truths sink into your mind and the words of Jesus become authoritative.

God’s Word tells us a heavenly home is prepared for us by our Savior if we receive him. However, there is also a hell.

Who says so?

Jesus.

What You Wear Matters

We live in a crazy, mixed-up world. Can you give me an “Amen” on that?

We’re the middle of a sermon series right now entitled, “How to Keep Your Head on Straight in the Crazy, Mixed-up World.” Our teacher is the Apostle Paul, and the material we are using is a letter he wrote to a group of Christians called the Colossians. They were having problems living out their faith in Christ in a crazy, mixed-up world filled with strange teachings and behaviors. It’s a situation not so different from our world today, which is what makes this letter so relevant for us.

In this crazy, mixed-up world, all kinds of really bad information is being passed around as truth, and it can be harmful to your spiritual health. So in our first two lessons from this letter, we discussed our beliefs. Paul taught us that it is important to hang on to those beliefs. Stick with Jesus! Let your life be rooted and built up in him, established on Him. Then Paul taught us to stick with the Gospel! You were taught that Jesus is above all. He’s the Son of God who died on the cross to reconcile sinners like you and me to God. Don’t let that one go! Let this Gospel be your hope and your confidence.

In chapter 3 of the book of Colossians, Paul moves from belief to behavior. He reminds them, first of all, that they have been raised with Christ to a new life with Jesus, and they have the great promise of heaven awaiting them. So while they’re waiting for the day when they will see Jesus face-to-face, the Christian is to set his mind on things that are above Ð God’s values, God priorities. Paul points out that a lot of crazy, mixed-up behavior is being passed off as normal. You may have done those things in the past, but if you continue to take part in them, you’ll find yourself messed up and headed in the wrong direction Ð away from Jesus.

In this chapter, Paul uses a clothing analogy to talk about behaviors to take off and behaviors to put on. In essence he’s saying, what you wear matters. Chapter 3, verse five says, “Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient. These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life. But now you must get rid of all such thingsÑanger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator.”

Paul is telling us the old clothes have got to go! Those old, nasty habits don’t wear well on Jesus people. They are not appropriate. It’s time to get them out of your wardrobe.

Julie, my wife, and I used to watch a show on television called, “What Not to Wear.” The hosts, Stacy and Clinton, would find people who had terrible wardrobes. Then they would go into the person’s closet and throw their clothes into the garbage and say, “These have to go!” The person would try to talk them into letting them keep their things, for it was painful to let go of the old clothes. Then they would help them change their entire wardrobe.

Paul is taking on our closet of old favorites and saying, These have to go, because you belong to Jesus now. You have been raised with Christ to a new life. You are dead to sin and alive to Christ. It is not His plan for you to wear these old clothes. He wants to conform you into His own image. As the saying goes, “Jesus loves you just as you are, but He loves you too much to leave you that way.”

So Paul tells us these old habits will spiritually, emotionally, and physically damage you as well as others around you. Jesus did not rescue you for that purpose. He has quite a lengthy list of old clothing that has to go: Fornication (immoral sexual relationships outside of marriage between a man and a woman), impurity (unclean thoughts, allowing your imagination to go off in lured directions), passion (lust and emotion that give way to sexual excesses), evil desires (wicked, self-serving, predatory desires), greed (selfishness), covetousness (idolatry, materialism. Instead of you having stuff, the stuff has you), anger (rage inside of us, anger boiling over onto to others), wrath, malice (viciousness), slander (character defamation), abusive language (filthy talk, foul, obscene, abusive speech), and lying to other people. All of these must go. They don’t belong in your closet any longer, if you are in Christ.

Paul describes it this way: Put it to death. Strip it off. Get rid of it. Vehemently refuse to wear it, engage in this type of behavior, any longer. Don’t feed it. Do you remember the children’s song, “Oh be careful little eyes what you see, for the Father up above is looking down in love. Oh be careful little eyes.” And “Oh, be careful little ears what you hear . . .” Don’t feed it these evil desires. Some people get caught up in watching pornography or listening to unhealthy song lyrics or off-the-wall extremists in the media. This can be deadly for you.

I’m reminded of a story about a hiker up in the mountains who ran into a shepherd and was invited to stay for lunch. The shepherd had two sheepdogs, and the hiker noticed they fought a lot. So he asked the shepherd about it. The shepherd said, Oh, they fight all the time. When he was asked which one usually wins, the shepherd smiled and said, “The one I feed the most.” The one I feed the most.

This list from Paul sounds a lot like what we watch each evening on many of our television shows. We need to be careful with what we watch, read, and listen to, for it is easy to become desensitized to knowing right from wrong. They can delude us into believing it will not hurt our walk with Jesus. We stop seeing the inconsistencies between our belief and our behavior, and can fall prey to addictive behaviors, which are harmful not only to us but also to the others around us, and soon we have our heads screwed on all wrong.

Paul tells us what we wear matters. Get rid of the old stuff in the closet. You need a new wardrobe, which Christ has made for you. As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, we need to clothe ourselves with the garments Christ has provided for us Ð the Jesus line, or the kingdom wear. Paul describes it as “compassion (being sympathetic, tenderhearted toward others), kindness (a Greek word used to describe wine that grows mellow with age and has lost its harshness), humility (the absence of self-exultation and pride), meekness (gentleness, exercising strength under God’s control), and patience (long suffering in the face of insults and injuries).”

“Bear with one another, and if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” Forgive as you have been forgiven.

“Above all,” he says, “clothe yourself with love.” Love here is a verb, meaning something you do. It is Jesus’ love. It is a sacrificial love. It means putting yourself out there for someone else. Jesus’ love serves.

I’m reminded of the night before Jesus crucified. He took a basin and a towel, and he washed the feet of his disciples, like a servant would. He even washed the feet of Judas who would betray him. When He was done, Jesus said, “I have given you an example. As I, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you should watch each other’s feet.” That is love. It is the kind of love Paul was talking about.

We also think of the love seen on the cross. Jesus laid down his life as an active sacrifice to save us from our sins. It was love at its best for you and me Ð laying down one’s life for the sake of the other, so they can be all God created them to be.

As we wear this wardrobe, healthy character growth occurs in our relationships, and we begin to look like Jesus. It helps us keep our heads on straight.

What are you wearing these days? Do you have some things that need to be confessed, repented of, and let go? Are some things in this list of the “Jesus Wear” that aren’t being worn? What you where matters.

Wearing this new wardrobe is not easy, because the old self within us still wants to have its way. Satan loves to play on that weakness in us and lead us astray to live life his way. But here is some encouragement.

First of all, remember who’s you are. You are God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved. That means, my dear friend, if you are walking in a relationship with Jesus, you have Christ Jesus Himself residing in you through His Holy Spirit. He is ready to create a new and beautiful you and give you the fruit of the Spirit, which are those things listed for you. You are not on your own.

Use the resources Jesus has given us. Allow the Holy Spirit to work in you. “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Tap these resources. Let Christ’s peace rule in your hearts each day. Surrender yourself daily in prayer. Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly, for it is truth that will set you free.

Admonish one another. Lean on your brothers and sisters in Christ. Make them your accountability partners. Turn to them, share your life with them, share your struggles with them. Worship together singing hymns and spiritual songs to God.

Keep your eyes on the greatness and the grace of God. And keep your mind on this guiding principle: Whatever you say or do in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus.

The question to ask constantly is then, Does my action or talk represent the name of Jesus well?

God has not left you on your own to wear this new wardrobe. As a believer in Jesus Christ who has received His forgiveness and grace, dear friends, remember: what you wear matters. I appeal to you this day, use your resources. Take off the old and put on the new “kingdom wear,” the “Jesus line.”

That is how you, as a follower of Jesus, will keep your head on straight in this crazy, mixed-up world. Enjoy your new wardrobe.

Stick With the Gospel

We’re doing a series on the book of Colossians called, “How to Keep Your Head on Straight in a Crazy, Mixed-up World.” It is true that we live in a crazy, mixed-up world where good is called evil, and evil is called good. All sorts of crazy ideas are being passed around. So how does a Christian keep his or her head on straight?

We’re using Paul’s words to the Colossians, who were also living in a crazy, mixed-up world. This letter begins by telling us that the way to keep your head on straight in a crazy, mixed-up world is to stick with Jesus (last week’s theme). This week we are going to ask who this Jesus is, because people have formed some different ideas about Him, which can get us going in the wrong direction.

Recently I heard someone say, “Jesus is the most controversial individual who ever lived! Some love Him, worship Him, and follow Him. Others hate Him and reject Him. Still others ignore Him and disregard Him altogether.” I would add to that: others try to supplement to who He is and what He has done, thus giving us an altogether inaccurate picture of Jesus. Some people in the world would say He’s a great moral teacher. Others would say He’s a rabbi who went crazy. Some of us would say He’s the Son of God. Someone else might say He’s a very interesting prophet. Others cry out, “He is a fraud, a lunatic!”

We in the church sometimes use clichŽs, churchy language, religious shorthand so to speak, when we talk about Jesus being our personal Savior and friend. We are using watered-down language, which can be very confusing and doesn’t make sense to those outside the faith.

Not long ago, I had a conversation with an attorney on the elevator of a huge corporation here in the Twin Cities. When he found out I was a pastor, his immediate response was, “You believe in Jesus.”

When I replied, “Yes,” he said, “I don’t see how some dead guy on a cross can make any difference in my life and how anyone can buy into that stuff.”

As it turns out, Jesus has always been controversial. Such was the case with the Colossian congregation. Some very unhelpful information was being passed around about Jesus among that congregation by some who considered themselves super knowledgeable and a little more in touch with God than anyone else. They were downsizing Jesus and causing confusion amongst the congregation. People within the church began to wonder if they were saved or not. They turned their heads away from trusting in Jesus alone for their salvation.

The Apostle Paul wrote this letter in response to encourage the Colossians to stick with Jesus. “Keep your roots deeply in his soil,” he said to them, “and in Him alone. Christ is all you need” (2:6). In today’s passage, Paul reminds us that Jesus is bigger and greater than what you might be hearing from the so-called spiritual gurus of the day.

Each week in our worship service we say in our Apostles’ Creed “I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord.” What do we mean by that? Our passage in Colossians gives us some solid answers to that question.

First of all, the passage tells us Jesus is God in the flesh. Jesus is huge Ð BIG! Paul says it this way: “He’s the image of the invisible God.” The word image is “icon,” which is a way of talking about a portrait. Jesus once told His disciples, “If you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the Father.” He reveals to us not only a portrait of God, but also the character of God. He has made God known to us. To look at Jesus is to see the face of God.

Jesus also said He’s the firstborn of all creation. That doesn’t mean He was born first, it means He ranks first among creation. He’s above all things, He’s ultimate, He’s supreme, He’s preeminent. He holds a special place above all things in the creation. In fact, Paul goes on to say He is the Creator. In Him and for Him all things were made, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers, all things were made natural and supernatural. By Jesus all things were being created through Him.

I am reminded of John’s Gospel where it says,

” In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him” (John 1:1-2).

Jesus is the Creator. He knows what makes us work, what makes relationships work, and what makes life work. He ought to; He invented us.

Paul goes on to say all things have been created not only through Him, but for Him. All things are moving toward Him. It’s as if Paul is saying, Christ owns it. He lays claim to it, and He sustains creation. In Him all things hold together. He keeps it going.

And then Paul moves on to say, “Christ is the head of the body, the Church. He is the authority over all of us within the Church. He is supreme over all the resurrected (firstborn of the resurrection). There, His resurrection is a prelude to the final resurrection. Jesus Himself said, “I am the resurrection and the life.” He is Mr. Resurrection.

Then Paul summarizes with this statement: “For in Himself all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.” Paul is telling us about the power and the presence of God residing in Jesus. His miracles and His teachings caused people to wonder and His disciples to worship because eventually they realized they were standing in the presence of God. Paul is basically saying in this first part of this passage that Jesus is the creator, the ruler, the sustainer, the owner of the world. He is the ruler of the Church, and He is Lord of all, supreme over all things.

I love a quote by C. S. Lewis in which he says, “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic Ñ on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg Ñ or else he would be the devil of hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

Jesus is so much bigger than many give Him credit for. He is supreme over all! Hang onto that. It is Gospel truth!

Then Paul goes on to say, that’s not all Ð look at what he did for you! Look at the rescue Jesus accomplished. “. . . through him (God was pleased) to reconcile to himself all things, . . . (by) making peace by the blood of his cross.”

We were alienated from God and lived as His enemies because of our sin. Sometimes we alienate people by something we say or do. Scripture tells us that we’ve also alienated God by our sinfulness. We’ve made ourselves enemies of God and need peace between God and ourselves.

How do we get that peace? We can’t make it happen by ourselves. The gap between us and God is as wide as the Grand Canyon. It needs to be bridged in order for us to be forgiven of our sins. God provided the bridge. It is the cross where Jesus took our sins upon Himself and paid for them. At the cross, Jesus took our deserved punishment upon Himself, and the bridge was created for you and for me.

Paul was trying to encourage those Colossians, who already considered themselves believers in Jesus, to continue believing. He says, “And you . . . he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before God.” YOU, He has reconciled.

That word “reconciled” means brought together. It’s a relational term. God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. One translation puts it this way: God was in Christ making friends with the world, re-establishing the relationship. He was creating a bridge we are all invited to cross in faith. As we receive Christ, we have a new status in God’s sight. Paul says it makes us holy, which is a way of saying we are set apart for Him. We are special in His sight. We are blameless and without blemish. We are cleansed in His sight and irreproachable. We have been exonerated of everything and can now live unaccused because Jesus took care of it all for us at the cross. God raised Him from the grave and affirmed His great sacrifice for our reconciliation. This is what we call the Good News, which is another way of saying the Gospel.

This is the Gospel truth, which saves us. Don’t move from it, Paul tells the Colossians. Hang onto it when you think about Jesus. Keep your hope and your confidence in Jesus. Remember who He is and what He has done for you. Trust Him alone for your salvation. Build your life on His promises and rest in the security He offers. Stay continually focused on the cross. All He offers is yours provided you don’t shift your hope and your trust to something else but Jesus Christ.

At one point in this passage, Paul says Christ has done all these things so He might have first place in everything. Not only do we trust Him with our whole heart, but we give Him first place in our lives, in our families, in our marriages, in our professions, in our ministry, in our time, in our conversations, in our play and in our pleasures, in what we watch and what we read, in what we listen to. We give Him first place in our worship. The Gospel calls for us to place our trust in Jesus Christ and give Him the central place in all aspects of our life. We stick up for Him when others run Him down. We point to Jesus as supreme and say, “He is the way, the truth, and the life! No one comes to the Father but by Him. I will not compromise on that truth!”

Brothers and sisters in Christ, it is a crazy and mixed-up world. But we have a message from the apostle Paul as he holds up Jesus, made in the image of the invisible God, preeminent, supreme, who has reconciled us to God Himself through His suffering, death, and resurrection. The message is to stick with the gospel. Stick with the gospel. Stick with that gospel to your dying breath and don’t let it go.

That is how you keep your head on straight, Christian, in this crazy, mixed-up world.

Stick With Jesus

Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase, “She’s really got her head screwed on straight.” It is a positive way of describing someone who thinks clearly and makes some good decisions. Around the church, we will sometimes use that phrase to describe someone who is walking solidly in their faith.

We all know it is sometimes difficult to keep one’s head on straight. Life throws so much at us. For instance, bad circumstances happen can shake our foundations and confuse our thinking as we deal with the difficulties they cause.

Good situations can seduce us into thinking we’ve got all the answers and don’t need anyone else to instruct us and keep us on the straight and narrow.

Many ideas, thoughts, and information come at us through the Internet and other media, such as TV, radio, and books, and we are inundated with all kinds of information coming at us as truth. Discerning truth from falsehoods, therefore, can be a difficult challenge.

How do you keep your head on straight when everybody’s telling you they’ve got the truth? That is the main concern of the book of Colossians. It is a New Testament letter, written by Paul, a concerned pastor, to people who had received Christ and were walking with Jesus Christ. People around the Colossians were diminishing the status of Jesus, causing the them to rethink their faith. Their neighbors were offering up a new and improved theology by adding on things one must do and attain in order to be in a saving relationship with God. Perhaps those who were teaching these messages were admired celebrities or intellectuals who seemed really smart. All this convoluted teaching was beginning to confuse the Colossians.

This still happens even today, which is what makes this letter so relevant. Plenty of information is being passed along as truth that can be very damaging to one’s spiritual health. A plethora of religions, such as Jehovah Witnesses, the Mormon Church, and Christian Science, claim to be Christian, but they really are not. When you examine them, you find they really have a rather twisted outlook on Jesus Christ.

Our world also has a lot of philosophical “isms.” They include the following:

Hedonism: the belief that pleasure is one’s highest good.

Humanism: the belief that the human mind and interests reign supreme.

Individualism: the belief that individual interests are paramount.

Universalism: the belief that everybody is saved. All roads lead to heaven. This belief is finding its way in the church today.

Polytheism: a belief in multiple gods.

Agnosticism: the belief that we can know nothing beyond the material phenomena of our world.

Syncretism: blended beliefs. (We see a lot of that in the church today.) A little bit of this and a little bit of that, and you’re set.

Mysticism: a personalized spirituality without traditional revelation such as the Bible and the church.

Gnosticism: a belief in some special, mysterious spiritual knowledge in order to step up closer to God and be saved.

The list of all these “isms” goes on and on and can leave one wondering what’s right and what’s wrong, what’s true and what’s false.

People in the Colossian church were struggling with their faith, as we sometimes struggle. However, in the middle of it all, Paul points us to the best way to keep our heads on straight in a crazy, mixed-up world. The answer is found in our text Ð “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ.”

To sum Paul’s words up, he’s saying that Christ is enough! He’s all one needs, so stick with Jesus.

“As you therefore have received Christ Jesus, continue to live your lives in Him.” As you stepped into a saving relationship with God, stick with Jesus at the center of your life.

Be “rooted and built up in him.” To be rooted is an agricultural phrase. It reminds us of Psalm 1 where the psalmist says he’ll be like a tree planted in soil by a stream of water and will bear fruit in his life. It also reminds us of Jesus’ words, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Abide in me.” Stay rooted in Him.

And “built up in him” is an architectural phrase being used in the present tense. Continue being built up in him. Someone once said, “Jesus accepts you just the way you are, but He loves you too much to leave you that way.” He has a plan for your life, to build you up.

Stay “established in the faith.” The word “established” literally means strengthened. Be strengthened in the faith.

Stick with Jesus Christ, “just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” Thanksgiving means praise and worship. Always praising Him for what He has done for you.

What does “living in Him” look like in a practical way? Well, it means I am going to regularly worship Him. I’m going to come into His presence and allow Him to give me a glimpse of the big picture: Jesus is Lord, and all history is moving toward Him. He will appear again someday. He is in charge. He owns this world. He is the Lord, the last word. He forgives me of my sins, and He is with me. All of this comes out in worship.

I have a friend who keeps her head on straight by beginning each day with prayer. She asks Jesus to lead her and help her serve Him throughout the day.

Living in Christ means to study the Word of God. I get to know Jesus as I study the Gospels, as I study the whole Word of God.

Be a student of the faith. Read what some of the great minds of the Christian faith have written. As a Lutheran, I review Luther’s Small Catechism. It is rich with what we need. Then perhaps I will even graduate to Luther’s Large Catechism and get even deeper in the great ideas of the faith. Pick up a book like John Stott’s Basic Christianity. Books such as these contain thousands of years of experience to help us stay rooted in Christ.

Stick with the community of Christians. Check in with one another, worship together, encourage one another, compare ideas, share Scripture, have devotions, encourage each other. Jesus says, “Where two or three are gathered, there am I in the midst of them living in him.”

Some might ask why they should stick with Jesus. This is a fair question to ask, I suppose. My response to it is a statement attributed to Martin Luther: Christ plus nothing else equals everything.

Why should I stick with Jesus? Because Jesus is everything. He is the way to heaven. Through His suffering and death and resurrection, He has opened the gates of heaven to all who place their trust in Him. He said quite clearly, “No one comes to the Father but by me” (John 14:6).

Why should I stick with Jesus? Because Jesus is the best, most faithful friend we will ever have. This past week I had a very sad funeral for a twenty-seven-month-old little girl. But Jesus was there. I saw him working in the lives of that mother and father. He was helping them to praise Him, even in the midst of the hurt, and to lean upon Him. Such strength I saw that day as Christ Jesus provided a strong shoulder for them to lean upon!

Why should I stick with Jesus? Because Jesus makes life exciting. As we live our lives for Him by making disciples, forgiving those who have hurt us, praying for our enemies, and turning the other cheek, exciting stuff can really challenge us and make our lives an adventure! Jesus said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). This is exactly what He’s talking about! As we live with Him and follow His lead, Jesus gives us anything but a boring life. This is what happens we when serve Him and follow Him.

Why should I stick with Jesus? Because life is very empty without Him. I learned that lesson the hard way years ago. I was a young guy who thought he had all the answers. I wanted to make it in rock music, so I dropped out of college. A lot of those “isms” got a hold of me, and I began to live life for myself. I walked away from my relationship with Jesus Christ. After some time, I hit bottom and was a mess without Jesus.

Fortunately, God put someone into my life who pointed me back to that Jesus, who waits for everyone who wanders, ready to receive them. I went back. It wasn’t an overnight sort of sensational experience. It was a matter of plugging myself back into those things I described earlier, being in Him. A spiritual awakening happened, and I never want to go back. Christ is enough for me.

That is my appeal this day to each and every one of you in this crazy, mixed-up world that we face. Stick with Jesus Christ. Christ is enough. Christ is enough. May Christ go with you.

Leave It All on the Field

I am a terrible golfer. When people ask me if I am a golfer, I reply, “Well, I own clubs.”

A while back, I was golfing with a friend. As I approached the first hole, I teed up my ball, wound up, and swung at the ball. I absolutely missed it. Some ant hills were lying around the tee, and they went flying in every direction. My friend graciously said, “I didn’t see that. Go ahead and try again.” So I swung a second time and again hit another ant hill, totally missing the ball.

As I was getting ready to try the third time, I saw an ant crawl on top of my ball. It looked like he was screaming, so I leaned over and heard him call out, “If you want to stay alive, you better get on the ball.”

That’s the basic thrust of the book of Hebrews. The writer is saying, “If you want to stay alive, you better get on the ball.” This church had been on fire for Jesus at one time. It head led many people to Christ, putting itself on the line. Nothing Ð not even persecution Ð had stopped it from being a very fruitful church. But now the strong church was beginning to erode at its foundation. While they were veterans for the cause of Christ, a certain listlessness, a spiritual lethargy of sorts, had set in.

One can understand how that can happen, I suppose, when desperate prayers seemingly go unanswered as timely as we desire or in the way we desire. Or as we look at all the evil in this world and wonder if the Lord even notices.

Perhaps the Hebrew church developed some unhealthy spiritual habits, like not going to church, or not opening the Word of God on a regular basis, or not spending time with God each day. When you get tired of failing at spiritual matters, you soon stop taking risks for the faith, and no longer answer the Spirit’s challenges. When that happens, a certain deadness of the spirit sets in.

That’s what happened to the folks in our text. They were sluggish of spirit, tired and fading. The fire, that had once burned so brightly for Jesus, was now beginning to cool. They had some second thoughts creeping in about Jesus, and those thoughts were robbing them of their energy and their boldness. The Hebrew Christians thought Jesus was going to return soon, and they grew weary as they waited for him. This letter is written to rouse the people back to an energetic faith.

The author uses three means of rousing them in the letter. First of all he uses the tool of diagnosis (Hebrews 5:11 – 14). He tells them what is wrong with them Ð they’ve stopped maturing in their faith. He almost chides them a little bit as he talks about them acting like babes in the faith when they should be mature.

He also offers warnings about the possibility of falling away from Christ and being under judgment. (6:4-8)

Thirdly he uses is to remind them of God’s promises: Remember, you are on the way to God’s eternal rest. He told you that you will enter his eternal rest and receive mercy and salvation. Stick with Jesus Christ and you’ll find grace in every time of need. You will enter that heavenly sanctuary, draw near to the throne of grace, and see the Lord. Trust these promises, act on them, and build your life around them. (6:9-12)

In chapter 10, the author summarizes by saying, Don’t abandon your confidence in God’s promises. Remember, you’re on the way to God’s eternal rest that he’s promised. You need endurance so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what He’s promised. For yet “in a very little while, the one who is coming will come and will not delay, but my righteous one will live by faith. My soul takes no pleasure in anyone who shrinks back'” (10:37, 38).

Then our writer moves into the grand finale, Hebrews 11. Meant to inspire, he opens the family album and attempts to keep us from moving away from Christ by using flesh and blood illustrations of what it means to live by faith. He talks about Abel and Enoch, Noah, Abraham and Sarah. He says, “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. He set out, not knowing where he was going.”

In Genesis 12, God came to Abraham and promised him, “Now, after the world has fallen apart in God’s sight, he says, “Abraham, I’m going to do some mighty things through you. First of all, I’m going to make a great nation of you. Second, I’m going to make you a blessing to the nations of the world. Third, I am going to give you some land to build this nation upon. So Abraham, without knowing where he was going, set out to pursue those promises that God had given him. He acted in faith. Faith is more than a simple, intellectual assent to some truths; it is putting yourself on the line, building your life upon the promises of God.

Imagine Abraham waking up in the middle of the night, shaking his wife and saying, “Sarah, Sarah! You’re not going to believe this, but God has given me a dream. He’s going to build a new nation through us! We’re going to be the beginning of a new epoch in human history!”

Then Sarah replies, “Go back to sleep, Abe. You’re 75 years old! Forget this silly dream.”

However, Abraham keeps going, “No, Sarah. God’s going to create this new humanity through us! We will have many descendants.” When Sarah asks how this new humanity could get started with them, he says, “I’m glad you asked, Sarah!” And then he tells her, and they both fall back in the bed laughing.

In the next scene, we see Abraham and Sarah slowly making their way out of Er of the Chaldees, with their neighbors yelling after them, “Where are you going, Abe?”

“Don’t know,” Abe responds.

“What are you going to be doing, Abe?”

“Don’t know that, either,” he calls back.

“Then why are you leaving, Abraham?”

“Because God has given me a vision,” he declares.

God gave him a vision. Abraham demonstrated what faith is all about when he pursued the vision God have given him. It’s interesting to note that they lived like a tourist in a foreign land, having nothing to show for it. Why did he do that? The writer of Hebrews says, “He looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” He wanted to live in the presence of God forever in the heavenly city. He had the big picture in his mind. So Abraham and Sarah lived out their lives to the very end trusting the promises of God.

In sports, we sometimes hear a coach tell their players, “leave it all on the field.” It means to hold nothing back, put it all on the line. Don’t end the game feeling like you could have given more. Don’t leave feeling like you played it safe when you had the opportunity for something greater.

That is what Abraham and Sarah did. They left it all on the field for the Lord. It was a roller coaster ride, and they had their doubts. They questioned God and laughed at God. They even tried to interfere with God’s plans. However, they learned along the way that they could trust God. They left it all on the field and held nothing back.

The writer of Hebrews finished his comments about Abraham and Sarah by saying, “Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God.” Afterward, God often referred to Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

By the time Abraham and Sarah died, all they owned was a burial plot Abraham had purchased. They had one son, a daughter-in-law, and most likely a few grand kids. They had received only glimpses of those promises fulfilled. They didn’t get to see it in full.

Later on, Abraham and Sarah’s descendants migrated down to Egypt during a famine. They began to multiply and soon became a national security threat because of their numbers. They grew so large as a nation, they became a national security threat and were made slaves. However, God freed them through Moses and brought them back to the land He’d promised Abraham. He led them into the promised land through Joshua and gave them the land to possess and make it their own. God kept those promises.

What about the blessing to the families of the world, the nations of the world? Read Matthew 1:1, which goes like this: “An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” The greatest blessing to the nations is Jesus Christ, who died upon a cross for the sins of people like you and me. God raised Him again on the third day, and He has opened the way to have a restored relationship with Himself through His Son, Jesus Christ. God kept his promises to Abraham and Sarah as He gave us a Savior, who was a blessing to the nations of the world. God kept his promises, and, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, God keeps His promises to you, whom He has called to be His own and serve His cause in this world.

The appeal this day is this: If you want to stay alive, you gotta get on the ball. That means, leave it on the field for Jesus Christ. Keep trusting Christ in His promises. In this day and age Ð with pluralism in our culture that calls our faith into question and asks if Jesus really is the way, the truth, the life, and the only way to the Father Ð people call Christianity narrow. Keep trusting the promises of Him who said, “I prepared a place for you, and I will come again and I will take you to myself.” Hang on to Jesus Christ as the way, the truth, and the life. Trust those promises, such as “Come to me all who labor and heavy laden and I’ll give you rest.” He tells you how to live your life by laying your burdens on Him, “for my burden is light and my yoke is easy.” You will find rest for your souls. Hang on to His promise, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.”

Don’t let your game become a yawner. You have been saved for an adventure with Christ. You have been saved to leave it on the field for the cause of Jesus Christ. It doesn’t matter how old or how young you are. Remember Abraham and Sarah’s ages. God still had a use for them.

Make a move for Christ’s cause. After all, He promised to always be with us. We often use that promise to comfort ourselves when things are going bad. But the real context for that verse within the command, Go, make disciples of all nations. Leave it on the field for Him. Tell others about Him. Make them disciples and “lo, I am with you always.”

Take a risk for the cause of Christ. Make a bold move, be a witness, a disciple. Stand up for Him when others are tearing Him down. Start praying for opportunities. Are you praying for your neighbors? Do you claim your neighborhood for Christ and ask God to not only bless them, but to let you serve them and to be a light to shine for them for Jesus Christ? I’m doing that myself!

It can be a frustrating adventure as you wait for that opportunity and sometimes when you do take the opportunity, you strike out the first, second, third, and fourth time. However, be patient, endure, and trust those promises, because Scripture teaches us that GOD IS FAITHFUL.

As you take your bold moves and leave it on the field for Christ, you’ll find adventure and you’ll find the presence of Jesus with you. You will be energized. You will beat the spiritual doldrums, but more importantly you’ll bear fruit that glorifies God.

May our prayer these days be, “God, what bold move do you want me to make next? Is there someone near me that doesn’t know Christ? Does someone need to experience His loving touch? Then Lord use me. I’m ready to leave it on the field for you. Go for Christ. Trust His promises.