A recent sermon of mine…
Listen here: Sunday Sermon 9 May 2010
Or read it below:
Acts 14: 8 – 18; Revelation 21: 22 – 22: 5; John 14: 23 – 29
I am not a fan of GPS Stat Nav’s. Too many times the pleasant, but annoyingly unflapable voice insists that you have arrived while you are either still on the free way or turning right into an abandoned lot, which clearly is not Uncle John’s mountain cabin.
Of course Map’s are not always clearer – nor are they always accurate. But the problem is that Stat Nav’s are breeding a generation of people who have become so reliant on the docile tones of a voice that says ‘please turn right in 50 yards’ that they have lost the ability to turn right unless directed to, as well as having lost the ability to read a map if the Stat Nav breaks down or does not work. To be totally reliant on a Stat Nav and unable to read a map, means that if the machine breaks down and you get lost, you are really lost.
Even today with the immense amount of technology available, good sailors, or good captains, alongside GPS and radar navigation, learn how to navigate the way centuries of sailors have navigated, using maps, compass and of course the North Star. For a good sailor, technology is wonderful, but it’s not everything.
The same principle is true with life. We are on a journey navigating through life and we begin to rely on things to help us reach various destinations. We go to school, get educated, decide about jobs, relationships, where we are going to live, how we are going to live, are we going to get married, have a family or not or stay single, buy a house, rent a house etc.
But what if I were to ask the question “What is the final destination of life – and what are we relying on to get there?” The where we live, what we do, with whom we shall live, what we own and what status we have in society are all well and good, but none of them are the final destination.
Some people say that death is the final destination. But the Bible disagrees. The Bible teaches us that our final destination lies beyond death. Our final destination for every human being who has ever lived is to stand before the throne of God on the last day. The large house, good education, nice family, religious practice, church attendance are all good things but will they be of any use before the throne of God on the last day? Do they help us get to the final destination?
In the midst of the every day activity of our life, we need to constantly think about the question “what are we relying on in order to get the to final destination.” We need to think about this question because it can be SO easy, so simple to end up relying on something or someone that does not help us get to the final destination.
Paul and Barnabas experience this is Lystra. They arrive in town and they are preaching when Paul notices a crippled man. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Paul declares this man healed and he is healed. A wonderful miracle which authenticates Paul and Barnabas’ message about Christ.
And yet the people’s response is to put their trust in Paul and Barnabas declaring that the gods have come down to them. They acknowledge the miracle – they accept the miracle – they are a people open to spiritual things but they put their reliance upon Paul and Barnabas and not Christ and this is why Paul and Barnabas are upset. Putting your trust in people to get you to heaven does not work – even men as capable and godly as Paul and Barnabas.
We can elevate people onto pedestals, over0relying on pastors for spiritual input, even making them responsible for our spiritual growth. Pastors are not solely responsible for people’s spiritual growth! A pastors job is to declare the gospel of Christ, help nurture and encourage people in Christ so that members of the congregation can begin to take responsibility for their own spiritual life, having a living and active relationship with God.
Just as dangerous is that we might become over reliant on ourselves. We can place too much confidence in our own ability, or our own piety or moral achievements, thinking that we are doing a good job and that because we are nice, devout and full of good works we are on the right track.
Relying on other people, or on ourselves, goes not get us to the final destination. People, no matter how good they are, will let us down. And how often do WE let even ourselves down?
We are not even to rely on the Church, or on religious ceremonies to get us to our destination. Church is important. It is meant to be an encouragement, a blessing to us, a joy for us as we gather together for worship. But we must not RELY upon THE CHURCH to get us to our final destination.
This is why the image that John gives us in Revelation is remarkable. What John is seeing here is not in heaven but the new earth – it is a look into the city of God at the end of time when the heavens and the earth have been transformed. What we have here is a glimpse beyond death into the new creation.
And what we see would be utterly shocking to any Jew who read this. For in this city of God, in this new Jerusalem there was no temple. The very center and foundation of all Jewish life and faith – the very thing the Jews relied upon for their religious life and worship of Yahweh and what they believed was an indicator of the future messianic age is not in the city of God. There are no churches in the city of God. Why? They are NOT NECESSARY. Even the sun and moon, what we relied upon for warmth, and seasons, and tides are not necessary in the city of God.
There is only one thing that we are to rely upon. There is only one thing that can take us to the final destination. Jesus Christ – the Son of God, who died for us. He is the only thing which will get us to our destination because he IS the destination. Jesus Christ is all we need now, and Jesus Christ will be all that we need in the new transformed creation.
Everything else that we may thing is important today, will not be there. All those things which we may have relied upon on in this life will be gone. They are useless when it comes to eternity.
This is point of John chapter 14. The context to our reading this morning is eternity and the way we get to this final destination. John 14:1 begins with the words of Jesus Do not be troubled. Why? In my Fathers house there are many dwelling places. He then says in 14:6 I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the father except through me. Jesus is the way to eternity.
And then he reveals the very thing that will help us, guide us and get us to the final destination – the Holy Spirit – the presence of Christ dwelling in each of us. Jesus does not go back to the father without leaving us with the very thing we need to rely on for our journey. That is HOW we can rely on Christ – because we have a tangible relationship with Christ through the Spirit of God dwelling with us. It is through the Spirit that we love Christ by doing what he asks of us – it is by the Spirit that God can make his home with us – it is by his spirit that we can understand the Scriptures. And it is by the spirit that we must live our life day by day.
We are to be a people, a community who are completely reliant upon Jesus Christ in and through the Spirit of God that dwells in us.
And one of the most remarkable gifts that Jesus gives us through the Spirit is his peace. Jesus says “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you.” It is a spiritual peace that looks beyond what we can see physically. It is the same peace that took Jesus to and through the Cross. For the world, peace desires the absence of conflict and pain, and when there is conflict and pain on the journey of life we struggle to comprehend why. The peace of Christ is a peace that in spite of the pain and conflict we may experience, allows us not to be troubled, or afraid, because our trust, our reliance is not on what the world has, or on what we lack in the world, but because we know our ultimate destination and we know how to get there – Jesus Christ.
It is IN HIM that we must be reliant upon for our life, and for our future. All else may be tools, or luxuries on our journey, but ultimately Jesus has to be the one and only thing we rely on.
This morning, let us consider what it is that we really rely upon for our life. What do we think our true destination is? Do we rely on Christ and do we acknowledge and long for Christ as the ultimate destination? If everything were stripped away from us tonight, if we lost everything would people find us still clinging to Christ? Or would we be trying to cling to or rely on something else; something that will not last; something that cannot take us to the true destination of eternity?
For it is ONLY when in our hearts and minds we know that we ONLY need Jesus Christ, that we can live our life with the Peace that Christ has given us through the Spirit. Yes, we may enjoy and use many of the comforts and gifts of modern life but we do so knowing that we do not NEED them, and that nothing we have, or that we are, or that we can do takes us to the real destination of eternity with God – for that can only happen when we are reliant completely upon Jesus Christ, the Lord and perfecter of our faith.