This morning I am on Holmes Beach, Anna Maria Island, Florida at the beginning of a wonderful vacation. The sun is shining, there is a cool ocean breeze and everything is right with the world. Well, not really.
There is a steady stream of people filling the beach: young, old, families with children, singles, surfers, sunbathers and a myriad of others. To that add the billions of people around the world. The thought came to me that one day we will all be together again but in a different setting.
“We shall all be judged one day, not by each other’s standards or even our own, but by the standard of Christ. It is written: ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God’. It is to God alone that we have to answer for our actions.” Romans 14:12
I look at all the people playing in the surf, searching for shells, playing volleyball etc. The majority of people are not even aware that such a event is going to take place! Which leads me to my second thought: Who is going to tell them? Preachers cannot reach those who do not come to church, so it is up to all of us to share to message.
A young ministerial student was reminded by his professor that one of the graduation requirements was he had to preach in front of his peers. He told him that he would be preaching at the next chapel service. He went to his room, got out his study books and began to prepare.
The day arrived for him to preach, he stepped unto the platform and said, “How many of you don’t know what I am going to say?” Hands were raised all over the chapel. “Neither do I. Go in peace, you are dismissed.” His professor met him as he was leaving the platform. “That message was not acceptable. I am going to give you a second chance.”
His second message began, “How many of you know what I am about to say?” Hands were raised all over the chapel. “Since you already know what I was going to say, there isn’t any reason for me to say it. Go in peace, you are dismissed.” His professor met him as he was leaving the platform and once again he said “That message was not acceptable either. I am going to give you one last chance.”
The next chapel service had a standing room only crowd. Everyone wanted to hear the student’s next (and maybe last) sermon. He began his message by saying, “How many of you do not know what I am going to say?” Half the room raised their hands. He continued, “How many of you know what I am about to say?” Half the room raised their hands.
He finished his message by saying, “Those of you that know what I was about to say; please tell those you do not know what I was going to say.” His professor shook his hand as he stepped down from the platform. “Excellent message my boy! Excellent.”
We that know the Good News of the Gospel must tell others that do not not know. Jesus said to his followers, “Go everywhere in the world, and tell the Good News to everyone.
Years ago, my wife and I stayed in a Howard Johnson Inn while vacationing in Florida. As I was walking down the hallway, I past their lounge. I wasn’t particularly surprised that they had a lounge but what did surprise me was the lounge’s name: Saints/Sinners. Being a Christ-follower, I was taken back that “Saints” would be used in reference to a bar. I have pondered that name often but as I was reading the Gospels, that name came back to me.
I guess the name first caught my attention because of the vast contrast between the two names; they are total opposites of each other. Nowhere is that seen more clearly than the attitude of the “saints” and the sinners” of Jesus’ day. No “saint” would ever associate with “sinners” and that was one of the reasons that Jesus was hated by the religious establishment. Jesus not only associated with THEM but He went into THEIR homes and even shared a meal with THEM.
Before we start throwing stones, have you ever been at a party and felt uncomfortable around certain people? We tend to associate with people like US, don’t we? You can almost see the separation in the room between THEM and US. I can visit a church and almost point out to you one of THEM. THEM will often sit by THEM-selves and you can often see they are uncomfortable being in the presence of so many of US.
What are we to do? The “US” must take the first step in tearing down the walls that separate US and THEM. Ask if they would mind if you sat with them during the worship service. Purposely start a conversation with that person that is being overlooked at the party. Invite one of THEM to go with you to a ballgame with you. (You paying for their ticket of course!)
Let’s US do everything possible to make THEM one of US!
This year, I will be 70 years old. I don’t feel it, well, at least, most of the time. But as I get further into the last chapter(s) of my life, a thought keeps popping into my head. Has my life really mattered? Will anyone remember 100 years from now that I walked this earth for X number of years? Or did I just occupy space?
I probably will not leave this earth insanely rich or write a best-selling novel. It is highly unlikely that I will discover a cure for cancer. Very few will reach the level of being a legendary sports figure. While there has been many men and women who have achieved greatness, none have impacted humanity and history like Jesus Christ. His life has not only transformed individuals but it has also changed entire nations!
I know that no person can ever reach the level of influence that Jesus did but as a Christ-follower, my goal in life is to pattern my life after Him. I John 2.6 While on earth, He invested His life into the lives of His twelve disciples and they inturn invested their lives into others. The only way for your life to count, is to spiritually reproduce your life into the lives of others!
While attending Bible college, one of the requirements of the Pastoral Ministries class was to go door-to-door and take a community survey concerning people’s religious beliefs. One of the survey questions was “Is there more than one way to God?” The vast majority said with strong conviction that there are a multitude of ways to God.
If you were to say that Jesus Christ was the only way to God, people would classify you as racist, narrow-minded or self righteous. Several years ago, Oprah Winfrey said, “One of the biggest mistakes a person can make is to believe that there is only one way to God, There are many different paths leading to God.” In our very politically correct world that we now live in this legend is very acceptable. People will say, “When you boil all the religions down they are all saying basically the same thing.” “All religions teach the same thing, treat your brother with respect,”
But what does the Bible have to say about this urban legend? What did Jesus say about Himself? People don’t debate that He ever existed. People don’t debate His great teachings, but what people reject is Jesus exclusive claim to be the only way to God. Jesus said, “I am way, truth, life. No one comes to God BUT BY ME.” This is pretty clear. He is saying there is only ONE way to God and that is through HIM. John 14:6
This is not the only time Jesus said this. He said this often and this is what eventually caused Him to be put to death. Deciding on the answer to this urban legend or issue is one of the most important things a person will ever do in their entire life. This is very, very important and needs to be resolved by each person individually at some point in their lives. Our eternal destination hinges on how we answer this.
Have you ever spoken with a computer tech, doctor, mechanic, or someone who uses words that you have no idea what they are talking about but they take it for granted that you understand? I often drive by churches that have signs in front of the church that use jargon that only those on the “inside” understand. But I wonder if people on the “outside” understand.
But if we are trying to reach people who have not yet accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, we must use terms they understand. To do that we have to ask ourselves, the word I am using, “Does it make sense to a non-believer?” We use words like: born again, salvation, saved, sinner, new birth, Savior, Holy Spirit, testimony, saved, repentance, witness, confess, found the Lord, lost, and my favorite – inviting Jesus into your heart. Confusing?
We must assume that those we contact know nothing about Christianity. John 3:16 in the end zone means nothing to the average person. One of the reasons Jesus’ message was accepted by the common people was He used everyday words people knew. The test for every word, idea, concept should be: “Will they understand this? This is for them, not for us.” Otherwise, non-Christians will quickly come to their own conclusion: “This is for them, not for us.” Think about everything you say from the perspective of the person to whom you’re saying it.
In 1995 there was an humorous ad for pizza that asked a rather serious question,”What do you want on your tombstone?” The question is implying how do you want to be remembered? That is a very important because it summarizes how our life has impacted others.
I am sure I will be remembered differently by different people. But the question is “How do I want people to remember me? It is rather obvious that the way I live my life is the way I will be remembered. Each of us have many opportunities to leave behind a positive legacy. We have the chance to be remembered for how we have impacted others’ lives for good.
Do you want to be remembered as caring, thoughtful, strong, fun and/or fair? Do you want others to remember you as the best husband, best boss, best coach, and/or best dad? Were you giving, honest and/or admired?
Jesus Christ is the most remembered man of all time. So we need to ask ourselves, “Why is He remembered by the entire human race?” This may somewhat simplistic but I think we can summarize His life under two main areas:
1] His love for the Father and doing His will. “ I obey my Father, so that everyone in the world might know that I love him.” John 14:31
2] He loved people and invested His life in them. John 3:16
Loving God and loving others seemed to work well for Jesus. I do not think we can improve on that!