We are approaching Good Friday and Easter Sunday …
Today is the start of Holy Week in many mainline denominations
We are approaching the Cross of Good Friday where God’s plan to rescue the least, the lost, and the last climaxed with the death of Jesus, His Son
A death that paid the price of our sins
A death that removed the penalty for our sin
A death that defeated the power of sin in our lives
And, this death on the Cross of Calvary would have no meaning without the resurrection of Jesus bodily from the grave on that first Easter Sunday
Those famous words spoken to Mary as she faces the open tomb and looks in:
“Why do you look for the living among the dead. He is not here. He is risen!”
Earlier in His three years of ministry Jesus had said something looking backward to the past and forward to this event
Forward to the future…
John 12:32 “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die (Good Friday)
Backward to the past…
John 3:14 “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man (Jesus) be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”
This is with reference to a true story told in Numbers 21:5-9
God’s people had rebelled and not followed His commands
As a result a plague of snakes came into the camp, bite and killed thousands
Moses pleads with God for the life of his people and God tells him to take the form of a snake and lift it high on a pole in the midst of the camp
Those that looked at the pole and believed were physically healed Medical symbol today
Jesus is saying that just as Moses lifted up the snake on the pole so that all who looked upon it and believed might be healed and live physically
Those who look to Christ, who was “lifted up” on the Cross of Good Friday and believe will live spiritually and eternally
Healed of the price, penalty, and power of sin
Be born again, have a personal relationship with God, and go to Heaven when they die
Our task now … 2000+ years after the Cross is to continue to “lift Jesus up” in all that we say and do
Draw attention to Him in our lives … attitude, behaviour, thoughts, words, actions, relationships, values, morals, purpose, plan
He is “lifted up” in our lives when we live a Bible-based lifestyle as disciples (followers) of Jesus who believe
Living vastly different from the ways of the world
So, Jesus sends us into our world – neighbourhood, work place, family, town – to live life differently and draw people’s attention to Jesus – – – the reason we are living life differently so that we lift Jesus up
In the hope that they will see how different we really are – that we love the lost, the last, and the least – and inquire about why we live so differently
1 Peter 3:15 “Through thick and thin, keep your hearts at attention, in adoration before Christ, your Master. Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy.” (The Message version)
So, people will be drawn to Jesus “lifted up” on the Cross and raised from the dead – alive and changing lives … transforming all who come to Him – by the way we live our daily lives
Of course, often this does not happen
People do not see the Living Jesus in our lifestyle
People do not see that we are different than others who don’t know Christ
People fail to see the love of God through our words and actions
And, as a result, we fail to fulfill The Great Commission … Jesus’ command to His followers, the Church, and thus to us
We fail to fulfill the only thing He asked the Church to do … “go into all your world and make disciples…” (Matthew 28:18-20)
Influence people – Impact communities – change the world
We become so involved in “side issues”
Majoring on the minors
So, I sat recently and thought through the many places – the numerous churches – that I have worked with in the first first three months of this year…
And with the help of three other leaders we have a list …
We came up with some basic and sometimes simple things that we might think about changing so Jesus can be “lifted up” this Eater season and every day of our lives
Key things and attitudes that we need to cut out of our lives
1> Quit expecting the world to like you. Jesus said it would hate you
Matthew 10:22a “and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake…”
See also: John 15:18-27
We are afraid to live radically as believers because people may hurt us
God loves you and even likes you … desires to spend time with you
Believers are to love one another …
Those who are in the world – they will persecute you, hate you, kill you
Unless they are hungry for what you have – peace and contentment
2> Quit throwing your own teammates under the bus.
We’re called to build each other up, not tear each other down.
In fact, Jesus said that our love for each other proves to the world that we are really His true disciples
And “God is love” so when they see His love in us then they see Him (1 John 4:8)
John 13:35 “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
When dealing with each other we must not be critical, judgmental, angry, unforgiving, resentful …always supporting, encouraging, and building up
Loving, accepting, forgiving = The LAF Principle
1 Thessalonians 5:11 “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”
3> Quit gossiping.
This includes sharing “juicy prayer requests” with no intention of actually praying
The best rule: Don’t talk about someone who is not present in the room with you
Gossip: If you go to share something and the person you are about to talk to is not part of the problem or part of the solution … that’s gossip
Psalms 34:13 “Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit.”
Psalms 101:5 “Whoever slanders his neighbour secretly I will destroy. Whoever has a haughty look and an arrogant heart I will not endure.”
Repent and don’t repeat
Ephesians 4:29 “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
4> Quit replacing prayer with “good vibes” and “positive thoughts.”
I get so tired of “our thoughts are with you…” Like we are Mork and Mindy
Luke Skywalker and the force be with you….
Real prayer moves the hand of God and the hand of God moves the world.
Prayer is much more effective than making someone feel warm and fuzzy inside.
I’m not saying positive thoughts and good vibes are wrong (and they do make you feel good)
I’m just saying prayer trumps them both
2 Corinthians 1:10-11 “And he did it, rescued us from certain doom. And he’ll do it again, rescuing us as many times as we need rescuing. You and your prayers are part of the rescue operation—I don’t want you in the dark about that either. I can see your faces even now, lifted in praise for God’s deliverance of us, a rescue in which your prayers played such a crucial part.” (The Message Version)
See also: Philippians 1:19, Ephesians 6:18, James 5:16
5> Quit saying repentance isn’t necessary. It is. Jesus said so.
And just so you know, there are 53 references to repentance in the New Testament.
“Without repentance there is no salvation” (2 Corinthians 7:8-10)
Without repentance there is no forgiveness of your sins each day
Now go repent (Matthew 5:17, Acts 3:19, Romans 2:5,, 1 John 1:9)
2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”
See also: Acts 3:19, Romans 2:5,, 1 John 1:9
Repentance … in response to the conviction of the Spirit
Repentance … not necessarily involving your feelings
Repentance … a change in the way you think (Proverbs 23:7)
6> Quit saying that the “portions of the Bible that make you feel uncomfortable” are irrelevant and nothing more than dated writings
All 66 books, 1,189 chapters, and 31,102 verses are the inspired Word of God.
Often I think: We need to look at the parts of the Bible that we don’t underline
We tend to underline the parts that we like and that justify the way we live
You cannot pick and choose which verses apply and which don’t
God’s Word is truth
God’s Word releases life
God’s Word feeds your inner spirit
God’s Word changes people
John 6:63 “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.”
See also: John 1:1-4, John 1:14; 2 Timothy 3:16
7> Quit expecting unbelievers/non-Christians to understand the Bible and/or to live like Christ.
People cannot live like Christians until they are Christians
Even then – many of the things we believe are biblical are cultural so careful how you ask people to beh ave, to live…
Drinking – smoking – dress code – beachwear – tattoos – piercings – cards, movie theatres – Sunday best clothing
They cannot and will not understand the Bible until they are born again
2 Corinthians 4:4 “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.”
The cannot live according to the Bible until they are born again – new creature in Christ
2 Corinthians 5:17 “Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! (The Message Version)
See also: Galatians 5:24-25 – the fruit of the Spirit
8> Quit acting like the Great Commission (Go into all the world to preach the gospel) is the Great Suggestion.
It’s a command – – – Go already
It has become “the Great Omission”
Matthew 28:19a “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…”
The Message version: “Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life…”
See also: Mark 16:15
9> Quit thinking that it’s okay to be silent about your faith
“Yes, it’s just as important to represent Jesus by how we live, but someone can’t respond to the Good News without hearing it … and they can’t hear it if no one opens their mouth
Romans 10:14-15 “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’”
The Message version: “But how can people call for help if they don’t know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven’t heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them? And how is anyone going to tell them, unless someone is sent to do it? That’s why Scripture exclaims, A sight to take your breath away! Grand processions of people telling all the good things of God!”
10> Quit using the Bible to beat the “hell” out of people.
That doesn’t work. Ever.
It doesn’t matter if you’re right—if you’re a jerk, nobody is listening.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3 “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
11> Quit your legalistic rants, knee-jerk reactions, emotional reactions, and judgmentalism
You’re turning people off – They feel rejected
You’re making good news, bad news.
Jesus befriended sinners.
Try it and great things will happen
Mark 2:16-17 “And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
See also: Luke 5:27-32, 1 Timothy 1:15-16).”
12> Quit calling yourself a Christian if you believe there are multiple paths that lead to salvation.
Jesus said that He’s the only way to heaven.
If you don’t believe Him, you’re not a Christ-follower
John 14:6 “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
See also: 1 John 2:4
13> Quit living like everybody’s going to heaven and nobody’s going to hell.
Jesus died so the whole world could be saved, but He said the path to heaven is narrow and few find it.
And for the record, He preached more about hell than heaven … but He did it without using a bullhorn and manipulative scare tactics … He did it in love
Matthew 7:13-14 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
14> Quit acting like you’re better than those who don’t know Jesus. You’re not
Luke 18:19 “And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone”
Acts 10:34 “So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.”
See also: Romans 2:11-13
15> Quit criticizing loving believers who take a biblical stand for godly morals
Jesus didn’t call us to be politically correct
Develop some backbone as most Christians are simply wimps
And yes, I said wimp.
And yes, I will repent for calling you a wimp
Acts 4:18-20 “So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”
16> Quit pointing out the speck in your neighbour’s eye while ignoring the plank in your own eye.
By the way, I could hardly see my computer as I typed this because of the log in my own eye
A second side to this: Don’t be critical of the way your brothers and sisters in the Lord live …
Matthew 7:3-5 “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
17> Quit being a jerk, period.
Whatever your position is (on anything), if you can’t communicate it in love, you’re a clanging cymbal and your message is worthless.
So yeah, I probably shouldn’t have called you a wimp in No. 15 and a jerk in this point and in number #10 that you missed…
Ephesians 4:15a “…speaking the truth in love…”
See also: 1 Corinthians 13
18> Quit defending sin in your life – – Quit hating sinners
These are equally important
Lose your critical lens
Psalm 97:10a “O you who love the LORD, hate evil (sin)!…”
Matthew 22:37-39 “…You shall love your neighbour as yourself…”
19> Quit using the phrase “he who’s without sin cast the first stone” out of context
In other words … when someone points out a sin in your life and you say, “you should not point out my sin because you have sin in your life…”
You are using this point out of context
Note, the next thing Jesus said was, “Go and sin no more”
Believers need to stop justify the sin in their lives and stop hating those in sin
We are not called to be God’s police force pointing out ‘the breaking of the law” in others
See: John 8:1-11
20> Quit using grace as a license to live however you want (extreme grace)
Yes, Jesus is full of grace (John 1:14)
Yes, when we sin by grace He forgives
But this does not mean we can live as we want (in sin) and Jesus will forgive
But this does not mean we can live as we want (without sin) and be forgiven
Romans 6:1-2 “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?”
See also: 1 John 2:4, Hebrews 10:26-31
21> Quit using the phrase (when inviting people to church) “come as you are” if you’re going to complain when they start showing up ‘as they are’
Mark 2:17 “And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners”
See also: Luke 5:27-32
So, Jesus said: “
John 12:32 “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
And, again He said:
John 3:14-15 “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”
And, today, it is up to us to “lift Him up” by the way we live and what we speak
And, when we lift Him up “He draws people…” so they can come to believe
Or, as He draws them, we repel them … by one or more of these 21 things
People who are hungry for something different
Searching for the answers to the two basic questions everyone is asking (last week)
1> Who am I?
2> What is my purpose?
John 3:16-18 (right after His comment about being “lifted up” and drawing people…)
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”
So, as we approach Easter Sunday and the resurrection of Jesus from the dead
May we examine our lives and see if the way we are living “lifts Him up” so that He can then draw people to Himself
And if, as a church, we lift Him up or simply push people away
We need to “lift Jesus up” in all that we say and do…
So that they can come to believe in Him as a direct result of the way we live and the way that we treat people