When a young student has a year of so of college behind them they hopefully know what they want and what their goal is beyond graduation. True, many don’t and are rather aimless, but let’s stick with my illustration. College has its fun parts, but there is also a lot of work, frustration with some professors, maybe financial concerns. But they keep moving forward because their eyes are on the goal, graduation. That gives hope, and reason for all the years of struggle. The same is true with life. Our time in life is God’s college course for the good purpose He has planned. There are fun times, but also trials and pains. Yet the more we keep our eyes on the Lord and His good purpose, the more we find hope, and strength to continue. What God has planned for us is far more than white robes and harps. Paul faced his trials, many more that most of us endure, but he would still say, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”(Romans 8:18)
I have always said that when you read the Bible don’t rush through it. Think about the action that is happening, the people involved, and what might be their motivations. In Mark chapter ten is an account of a young man who ran up to Jesus and knelt before Him. The man ran and knelt. Why? He asked a question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Later in the chapter a blind bagger couldn’t be silenced when he heard that Jesus was coming by. He cried out urgently for the Lord to have mercy on him. There is much more in both of these accounts, but the observation here is the urgency with which both men approached the Lord. Jesus was their hope. Jesus was the source of something deeper in life than they had ever found anywhere else. Our Lord is always extending that something deeper to us. It is a gift that He freely gives. You see, these little phrases in scripture can mean a great deal, inviting us to find true life in our Lord.
In yesterday’s message I said that Jesus can’t be relegated to a secondary place in life, because Jesus is the source of life itself. Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.”(John 5:25-26) Jesus has life in Himself. The Bible makes clear that it is God who is the source of our life. It is He who numbers our day. We do not have life in ourselves. There is an important distinction here when we are talking about life. The New Testament uses two different Greek words that are translated life. One is bios, which speaks of physical , biological life. The other is zoe, which is the spiritual, the very substance of life itself. There are many people, unfortunately, who are alive and active physically, but in the very substance of their lives they are dead. The word that is used in the quote from Jesus is zoe, true spiritual life. Jesus is the true and only giver of zoe life. And again we say, Jesus is the source of life itself.
I had the privilege last evening of talking to a couple about baptizing their child. This is a privilege because it give me the opportunity to share again the Gospel of our Lord, the truth of what He has done for us in Jesus Christ. And further, how He brings us into His new life each day. Baptism is not a magical one time shot, but something that is lived and renewed daily. In Romans chapter six the Apostle Paul speaks of it as our dying and rising with Christ. Many of us who were baptized as children have no memory of the event. Yet, God, the Holy Spirit, has been active in life seeking to draw us ever closer to the Lord. Living in our baptism means that we die a bit more to our old nature, and are raised to a new nature in Christ. What we look forward to sharing with this child in a few weeks, will again be a reminder of what happens in us each day.
This morning we are attending a memorial service for a man in our community. He died very suddenly last weekend from a heart attack. He was not a close friend, but someone we have known for many years. We are again confronted with the shortness and uncertainty of life. We all know death is real and will come to each of us. The Bible calls death an enemy. This doesn’t mean that we have to live in fear. We take reasonable precautions, but we do not have to seek every means to hold death off for as long as possible. Jesus said that life is more than food and the body more than clothing. Or, we might add, the latest pharmaceutical offering. The source of all life is in Jesus Christ. We rest and find our peace in Him. We share together and comfort one another in a time of loss. But above all we know that true life is far more than a beating heart. When the time come of us or someone close to step over the boundary we call death we rely on the life we have in Christ which has no end.
According to our church liturgical calendar we are in the Easter Season. This coming Sunday is the fourth Sunday of Easter, though every Sunday is a celebration of the resurrection of our Lord. Christians have the very center of their lives in the God-given events of Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Nothing surpasses these events in the history of mankind. St. Paul will speak of the “unfathomable riches of Christ”(Ephesians 3:8); a gift that He “lavished upon us”(Ephesians 1:7-8); and the “surpassing, (or exceeding) greatness of His power toward us who believe.”(Ephesians 1:19) We are talking about the difference this one event makes in our personal lives, the difference between being in the eternal presence of God’s love, or the unfathomable darkness of being separated from Him forever. Our God has redeemed us from sin, death, and the power of the devil, giving us a new and eternal life in Jesus Christ. In that truth every day is an Easter celebration.
The word Gospel is used over 90 times in the New Testament. It is the Gospel or the Good News of Jesus Christ. When the angels announced the birth of Christ to the shepherds they said “I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people…”(Luke 2:10) Almighty God had broken into the midst of human life. God came into our world in the person of Jesus of the Galilean town of Nazareth. God knew our need, our failures, our separation from Him, and our inability to do anything about it. He came in the midst of our helplessness and did for us what we could not do for ourselves. We have just shared the truths of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the glorious resurrection on Easter Sunday. The whole life of Jesus Christ is the Good News of a new life for us in Him. We began yesterday with the greeting “He is risen! He is Risen indeed!” No matter what happens in this broken world, we have the truth that Jesus Christ is alive. And because He is alive we also have life in Him. That is really Good News.
Live up to who you are. That is the message of St. Paul. In his letters written to the churches he declares that we have been saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ; that we have been made His children, members of His household. He will then say, “be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you…” (Ephesians 5:1-2) Because this is who we are, then this is how we are called to live. It is not an unusual message. We hear it in the world at large. You are a member of the local Lions club, therefore make the Lions proud. You are an employee of a great company, therefore do your best to serve that company. You are an American, therefore live by the ideals of our American heritage. These are messages we hear. How much more, then, when we hear this word from our Lord. “You are my beloved child. You are a part of My eternal household” Our desire now, by God’s grace and the work of His Spirit within us, is to live out a life of love that is pleasing to our Father.
The majority of the applications we use on the internet make a lot of money with advertising. I find it an irritation when most screens come up with an ad for something or other stuck on the side. I did see one, though, that asked the question, “What do you live for?” I don’t even remember what they were selling, but it was an interesting question for the start the day. How would we answer it? “Just the effort it takes to get through another day.” “To earn enough money to pay bills and have some fun at the end of the week.” “To be part of family and friends that make life worth living.” I guess we feel all of these at one time or another. But as Christians, we are continually reminded of Jesus words in John 10, “I have come that you may have life, and have it to the full.”(vs.10) It is our relationship with Jesus Christ that is a part of everything else we do. Our times in a fallen world are not easy, but Jesus is with us in all of our times. Our gracious Lord uses all things to strengthen and build us up in life. The question is not so much what we live for, but who lives His life in us? The answer is Jesus, and He makes all the difference.
Secular and sacred? Are these two different parts of life? We are in the secular all week. We read the secular in the news, and listen to it in the broadcast media. Then we set aside separate times, be it a morning devotion or a Sunday worship, and we call that sacred. I think we tend to compartmentalize our life in this way. But Paul wrote, “It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives I me.”(Galatians 2:20) For Paul, and for all who take the name Christian, life cannot be divided. Their identity, my identity, is in Jesus Christ, and all the world is viewed as a Christian. Our faith becomes the lens through which we hear, see, and read about all things. We don’t separate secular and sacred. Whether we are having a meeting at work or singing a hymn in church we are doing it as people who live in Jesus Christ. Our understanding of all life is through Jesus, through His work for mankind, and through His eternal purpose for mankind’s creation.