Ok. So on November 11, 2006, I gave a talk/sermon at First Christian Church during a retreat where the theme was based on hope. And it went like this.
Ok. Well, as with the previous two speakers, I have been asked to speak on the topic of why Jesus is my hope. Originally, I had already prepared a talk for today nearly two weeks ago. However, as with most things in my life, God decided to intervene last Tuesday and Wednesday and changed all that. So instead of my original talk, I’ll be giving a little sermon today. If you’re confused, don’t worry. I felt the same way for a while too.
I want to talk to you today about what it really means to have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Now this can take on many different forms (i.e. prayer. missions trips, fellowship with other believers etc.), but the key to everything you do is your willingness to follow Jesus and live in obedience to Him at all costs, despite what your life circumstances are or what other people tell you (and yes, it’s a 24-7-365 day commitment). In other words, in all that is done, do everything for the Lord alone, not for yourself or other people; if the Lord calls you to do something for Him, don’t let anything or anyone stop you.
There are plenty of examples in the Bible where people have either chosen to follow God or not follow him. But I will give just a few.
The first example is the prophet Jonah. If you don’t remember the sermon a couple of weeks back, Jonah was sent by God to Nineveh to tell the people of that city to repent of their sins and come back into right relationship with Him. However, Jonah was very stubborn. He didn’t want to go and tell the Ninevites the message God had entrusted to Jonah. So, he decided to head for Tarshish by ship instead.
Now after being on the ship for quite a while, a great storm developed and overwhelmed the ship and the people on board. By then, everyone was calling on their own god so they might be saved. But not Jonah, he was sleeping. So, the crew members woke him up and told him to pray on his God. Not only this, but afterwards, they cast lots to find out who caused all the trouble, and guess what, they found it to be Jonah.
So after interrogating Jonah, the members of the ship found that he fled from the Lord, and so they asked what they were to do with him. Jonah told them to toss him into the sea, so that the ship and its crew would be spared. After doing so, everything became calm. Jonah ended up being swallowed up by a big fish and spent 3 days and nights inside of its belly.
It was during this time that Jonah came to his senses and come back to the Lord (much like the prodigal son story). He began to realize what his calling was and decided to be obedient to God. It was only when Jonah decided to follow God that He was able to use Jonah to save the people, not only physically, but spiritually as well.
Jesus later recounts Jonah’s life as worthy of recognition because of the Lord’s mercy to still use Jonah bring glory to God.
A second example is in the way Jesus gave people the choice to follow Him or not. The Twelve disciples are a great example of those who left all they had in order to give their very lives to their Savior. Of course, there were others, who rejected the Lord’s plan for their lives, like the man who trusted in his own righteousness and in his riches, and was saddened to find out that to follow Jesus, he had to sell everything he had, give it all to the poor, and follow Him. There were also many others who were too concerned with their worldly affairs to give Jesus the time of day.
In John 6, Jesus talks of Himself as being the bread of life that was brought down to earth from heaven. He also talks of His blood as being the eternal water that also gives life. He goes on to describe how He and his Father are utterly inseparable and to know Jesus was to know the Father. Apart from Jesus, humanity comes down to nothing and is forever disconnected from God the Father.
And so, at these sayings, many people who initially followed Him turned away. He again reiterated these points and allowed their choices to be made. And at this point, an interesting thing happens, Jesus asks the Twelve, “Do you also want to go away?” To this, Peter responds, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And again, Peter makes the unbelievable declaration in Luke 18: “See, we have left all and followed You.” To this, Jesus also answered, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life.”
But how many of us will actually do this, take up our crosses for Him, despite what we desire in life for ourselves?
Jesus makes it clear that following Him will cost us our earthly life. However, He also promises to give us heavenly life through Him only and we also have the privilege of sharing in His glory. Imagine that God glorifies you because you chose to glorify God. The catch is that we have to be willing to serve Him by loving others here on earth, and to stand up for Him in the face of persecution, ridicule and death. Yes, He calls us to die for Him everyday; He never said that it was easy or pleasant or comfortable, but He promises to be right beside us in our joys, our struggles, and everything else that life brings.
Now you might be asking, why are you telling me this and what does this have to do with this morning’s theme?
I, myself, have been searching for the Lord’s will in my life, especially in these past 4 years. During this time, the Lord has put it on my heart to serve the least, the poor, the widow, the orphan, and the broken-hearted. He has also put it on my heart to go to seminary.
However, on Tuesday, I gave one of my recommendation forms for the T.E.D.S. seminary in Illinois to one of my reference people. We talked and he expressed legit concerns for his hesitation to fill it out and mail it to the seminary. Long story short, I thought about everything he said, and I was very distraught. I felt unsure about the Lord’s will for me in that moment. I was already tired of school, and needless to say, have lost my passion for music and singing anything outside of worship. So, what else to do except to take a hot shower?
And wouldn’t you know it? It was in the shower that a flood of Scripture passages came into my heart.
Jeremiah 29: 11
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 1: 4-10
Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.”
Then said I: “Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I cannot speak, for I am a youth.”
But the LORD said to me: “Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’ For you shall go to all to whom I send you, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of their faces, for I am with you to deliver you,” says the LORD.
Then the LORD put forth His hand and touched my mouth, and the LORD said to me: “Behold, I have put My words in your mouth. See, I have this day set you over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out and to pull down, to destroy and to throw down, to build and to plant.”
Matthew 10: 37-39
He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.
Matthew 16: 24
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.
Luke 9: 57-62
Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.”
And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Then He said to another, “Follow Me.”
But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.”
And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.” But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the Kingdom of God.”
Psalm 46: 10
“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
Isaiah 43: 29
“Then you will know that I am the LORD, for they shall not be ashamed who wait for Me.”
And so, after getting this revelation of Scripture, I felt revived and renewed in Spirit. I have no doubt that what I have been doing is not in vain. I believe that the Lord’s plan for me will come to fruition, for I know He loves me.
And so, the points I would like you to come away with are:
The Lord is always faithful in keeping with His promises. This means He will always do what He sets out to accomplish, even when we, don’t do the same for Him or other people. In other words, He is faithful even when we are not. He loves us more than we can ever imagine. He knows us both collectively and individually. He made us. He cares for us. And that is why the Lord is my hope and should be yours as well.
If the Lord is calling you to do something, don’t ignore Him. If you are ever in doubt about what He wants for your life, pray about the situation. Get guidance from the Lord’s Word, from those who are spiritually strong, discerning of spirit, and give the matter time. The most tempting thing to do is not to wait for the Lord’s answer and try to solve the situation on your own. Remember, He loves you, He will give you an answer. It may not be the one you want, but you have to be willing to trust Him for what is needed.
You were created to bring glory, honor and acknowledgement of the Lord to God, not for any other purpose. Each one of you has God-given gifts to accomplish this. This also means that you have the hope, eternal salvation, and genuine love of our Lord Jesus Christ to share with the world. The gifts are to be used for this purpose. In fact, the last command that the Lord gave to His disciples was to tell the world about Him, that those who believe on Jesus and do the Father’s will might be saved. So, instead of hoarding this pearl of great price that we have for ourselves, give it away. Give up your lives and let eople know about the Lord through word, thought, action, and deed, lest on the Last Day when you stand before the throne, they accuse you of neglecting their salvation. You are to be servants of the Lord, therefore, let your ministry be blameless in His sight.
There is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING that will give you life outside of Christ Jesus. This is the most important point you will hear today. There is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING outside of Jesus. All of creation, and everything in life itself can point you to God, but there’s only One that can lead you into a right relationship with Him. If you’ve been around long enough, you’ve probably come across people (including other “Christians”) who will tell you that Jesus isn’t the only way, the only truth, the only life, and that there are other ways to get to God.
Jesus time and time again proclaimed who He is.
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”.
“I am the bread of life.”
“I am the spring of living water.” (Jeremiah)
“I am the vine, you are the branches. Apart from Me, you can do nothing.”
“Before Abraham was, I AM.” (John)
To deny Jesus, is to deny your very soul.
Or to put it another context, we often put additional things or people alongside Jesus thinking that they will give us life (Jesus & a wife, Buddha, car, house, money, career, Hinduism, Islam, ministry for His Kingdom, etc.). However, none of those things can give us what God can give us. Furthermore, whether we know it or not, we are rebelling against God putting ourselves up on the pedestal above Jesus and because we think we know better than God about what is best for our life.
I’m telling you today that to follow Jesus, there must be absolutely nothing that stands in the way of your relationship with Him, not even yourself. Nothing on earth or the spiritual realms, no philosophy, ideology, religion, or anything else imaginable can even compare to Jesus. Anything that we put alongside Jesus is an idol. And essentially, when we do these things, we call Jesus a liar, we call His Father a liar, and we are saying that everything they did amounts to nothing. We make ourselves to be god in His place.
The last point I want to you with is about the consequence of not following the Lord. Jesus says in Matthew 7 that not everyone who calls on His name will enter into Heaven. Why? Because in their lifetime, they were inconsistent in whatever they did with what they professed to believe. They are evil-doers.
Jesus never shies away from the reality of Hell and the Kingdom of God. In fact, you will often find that they are side-by-side in His illustrations. Hell is not to be taken lightly. And I want you to understand that Hell is much more than a place. It is a state of being. Hell is often pictured as a place of burning sulfur, gnashing of teeth, etc. But what Hell actually represents is utter isolation away from God, your Creator, where you are no longer remembered and eventually cease to exist. And as the Revelation recounts, all the old will pass away and the only being that will exist is God. Death, pain, suffering and Hell itself will be no more.
But the Lord’s saving grace is that everything I’ve mentioned here today is not new, nor is it unattainable. The Lord has given us His literal and incarnate Word through Jesus Christ, so that whoever believes in Him and does what He commands will be called a child of God. These things are already proclaimed in His Word, so that we know beforehand what will happen and what responsibilities we have in living for God’s Kingdom. Everyone has this choice of either following Him or rejecting Him. Whosoever desires to follow Him is welcome to come before the throne of God, and ask for the incomparable grace, love, mercy, forgiveness and relationship with the Father that is given freely only through the Lord Jesus Christ. As I mentioned beforehand, He alone is the reason for my hope in Him, as I pray He is or would be yours as well.
And so, I leave you with these questions to answer:
Questions for after the talk:
1. What has changed about your understanding of who you are made to be in God? About who you are presently?
2. What parts of your life do you need to give up to the Lord and to trust Him in?
3. What has changed about your understanding of your relationship with God?
4. What steps can you take to further His Kingdom here on earth?