Saturday, June 28, 2008

Sermon Manuscript: Jesus Rules

Jesus Rules

If you could believe any religion, which one would you choose? That’s kind of a stupid question, isn’t it? I mean, we’re all here at Heritage CHRISTIAN Church. Most, if not all of you, have already made your decision. You are a Christian.

But why? Why do you choose to be a Christian? It’s not exactly the most popular religion available to you. It doesn’t get good press, particularly the evangelical brand of Christianity.

If religions were nightclubs, Christianity would be where all the awkward people who can’t dance go. The cool people tend to stay away. So if you’re trying to get ahead in this world, if you’re trying to make a name for yourself, you may want to find a new place to dance.

But you know, deep inside, that there’s something different here. It may be awkward and weird at times, filled with people you wouldn’t want to be seen with, but it’s got something that no place else has, something that you would hate to leave behind.

Sometimes this thing that makes Christianity so different gets lost in the noise and clang of politics. Sometimes it’s discarded altogether and replaced with something inferior. Sometimes the very core of our belief gets trampled or trivialized. It gets glossed over. It gets forgotten. We close our eyes to it, or we roll our eyes at the sound of it. We cling to something more popular. We champion something that makes us look better. We raise the banners that play to the cameras and we turn our backs on that which makes us truly Christian.

But it’s the gospel that tells us who we are. It’s the gospel that makes us Christian. No one else has this. No one else believes it. You can’t find it anywhere else on earth but in this funny little dance hall with the awkward people that you’re embarrassed to introduce to your cool friends.

And it’s this funny little message that doesn’t make any sense on earth, but you’ve bought into it along with all the weirdos and crazies and human embarrassments. And you come to this funny little dance hall with all these people you’d never call friend but you call them brother and sister, and you dance and you sing because it’s the gospel that ties you together. It’s this funny little message that changed your big important life and now you see that it was never you who was big and important, but it was Jesus who was big and important all along. And it’s his gospel, and it’s his funny little dance hall, and it’s his people that come here to sing and to dance for his glory instead of for the cameras, and the pub, and the status, and the hollow hand-clapping of human admirers.

The gospel itself is easily mistaken for an imposter. After all, there are lots of “good newses” in the world. You’ve just won the lottery! Hey, that’s good news. I’m pregnant! That’s good news, most of the time. The Buckeyes are going back to the National Championship game! Well, I don’t know if I can handle that again.

The true gospel, the truly good news that defines Christianity, hasn’t changed since it was first preached. It’s a message that’s even older than the writing of the New Testament. It has stood the test of time. It has withstood countless attempts to change it, twist it, reshape it, repackage it, and outright deny it. It is the rock upon which men and women have broken for twenty centuries. It has offended and comforted, angered and pacified. It has been laughed at, made mockery of, and derided by kings and critics. And millions who believe it have willingly given their lives for it, refusing to deny it despite the fire, the blade, or the beasts. It is the gospel of God, and on it I take my stand, in it I find refuge, and through it I find salvation.

Listen to what Paul writes in I Corinthians 15.

1Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

3For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.

This is the message that makes Christianity unique among all the religions of the world. Jesus died for our sins. He was buried. And he was raised again on the third day. That’s something that you don’t find anywhere else. Nobody else died as an atoning sacrifice for your sins. Nobody else was raised from the dead. The gospel is our message. If you believe it, you’re a Christian, no matter your background. If you don’t, you’re not, regardless of how often you go to church.

The formula that I had always heard for the gospel, and the one that is probably the most popular among evangelicals, goes something like this: Jesus died for your sins so that you can go to Heaven when you die. Or, Jesus died for your sins so that you can have a relationship with God.

Now, that’s good news, right? But is it the good news? Is that the gospel as it came to Paul? It’s not, is it? Going to Heaven and having a personal relationship with God are true and good, but they are theological addendums to the gospel. They are the result of the gospel. Those things are possible because the gospel is true.

The gospel itself is news. In other words, it’s a report of the facts of what happened to Jesus of Nazareth on the days we now call Good Friday and Easter Sunday. And it is verified by the prophecies of the Old Testament, as well as by the eyewitness accounts of more than 500 people.

Jesus died. “Oh, that’s too bad.” He was buried. “I heard that.” He rose from the dead. “Wha?!?!” Let’s look at this a little more closely, and then I want to talk about what it means. Let’s look at the scripture again.

3For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.

First, Jesus died for our sins. I’m not sure if you’re aware of this or not, but there is a lot of evil in the world. To put it simply, evil is what God calls sin. Most of us agree that there is a lot of sin out there somewhere, but not necessarily in our own lives. But, the Bible tells us that we’re all born into sin, and we’re all sinners from day one.

This wouldn’t be a problem for us if God were just cool with sin. Unfortunately for us, he’s not. God’s not okay with sin because he has never sinned. He is perfectly good, holy, righteous, and just. And because he is who he is, he has to judge us for our sins. We must be punished, and that punishment is death, and even eternal death in hell.

There is so much more to say about this, but I want to get to the good news. Jesus stepped between us and the judgment of God. That’s what his death on the cross was all about. Because he is the Son of God, and never sinned in any way, in his death he took all of God’s punishment against all of our sins, for all of us.

The second part of the gospel is this: Jesus was buried. In other words, he really died. He wasn’t mostly dead, he was all dead. He was dead, embalmed, and buried in a tomb with a heavy stone rolled over it. He was dead.

So far the gospel is good news for us, but bad news for Jesus. Our sins are forgiven, but he’s dead. But really the last part is the best part: On the third day Jesus rose from the dead. He died, but he was too strong for death to hold him down any longer.

The resurrection of Jesus is the victory that gives all of us hope that death does not have the last laugh. In Jesus, death died, and it doesn’t haunt us anymore because we can stare it in the face and smile, knowing that as Jesus rose again, we too will rise again.

This is the gospel. Jesus Christ died for our sins. Jesus Christ was buried. Jesus Christ rose from the dead on the third day. Receive this. Believe this. Take your stand on this. Be saved by this.

But what does it all mean? What has changed in the world because Jesus died for our sins and rose again? How does the gospel change everything for everyone? Most importantly, what do these facts tell us about Jesus? If the gospel is the story of what happened to Jesus on Good Friday and Easter Sunday, then what does that story tell us about Jesus?

I think the gospel tells us three things about Jesus. I’m certain that there are more, but for our purposes, I want to look at the following three things: 1. Jesus rules. 2. Jesus rules. 3. Jesus rules. It sounds complicated, I know, but let’s just start with the point about how Jesus rules. Flip back a book to Romans 9, and we’ll look at verses 1-5.

1I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit— 2I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, 4the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. 5Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.

Jesus is God over all. Did you see how Paul just kind of slipped that in there? He was going on and on about Israel, then he mentions the name of Christ, and, oh yeah, he is God over all, forever praised! It doesn’t get any bigger than that.

Jesus rules. He is God over all. He is forever praised. He is the King of creation. No power can prevail against him. No plan can prosper against him. His reign is universal. There is nowhere you can go where Jesus is not king. Now there are plenty of places you can go where he is not recognized as king, but there is nowhere that he does not reign as God over all, right now.

Are you allowing Jesus to rule in every area of your life? Have you handed everything over to him, or are there things that you’re holding back? Is there anything that you’re unwilling to let Jesus change about you?

Being a nerd, I didn’t date much all my life. But I always seemed to have a crush on some girl. I always wanted to be in a relationship, but it just didn’t happen for me very often. So I started to wonder if I had “the gift.” Have you heard of “the gift?” The gift of singleness? That thought scared the heck out of me. I didn’t want the gift. I don’t like the gift. I’ll give the gift back. I’ll regift the gift.

But I came to a point where I had to say to Jesus, “If you want me to be single for the rest of my life, I’ll do that.” Thankfully, five years after that I got married. But I had to surrender that to the rule and reign of Jesus, just like I have to surrender everything else to him.

Maybe it would be helpful for you to sit down sometime and write out where Jesus does and does not rule in your life. I’m sure there are plenty of places where you have submitted to him. But if you’re human, that means you’re inconsistent, so there are plenty of areas that are not submitted to the rule of Jesus.

Once they’re down on paper then you can be reminded to submit those things to Jesus. You can look at your list and say, “Jesus, I have surrendered my television watching to you, but I haven’t surrendered my spending. I surrender my money to you Jesus.”

Jesus rules. He is God over all. He is God over all of you [plural], and he is God over all of you [singular]. You must acknowledge his rule in every aspect of your life. You must submit everything to him. You are not God. He is God. Jesus rules.

Now, on to my second point. Jesus rules. Let’s slide over a chapter to Romans 10:9.

9That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

In the Roman Empire there was only one Lord, and that was Caesar. Caesar was the emperor. He was sovereign. There was no other ruler. He was it. He was the only Lord, and to claim otherwise was an act of treason. To publicly claim that somebody else is Lord could very well get you killed, or at least thrown in prison.

So that’s how you have to approach Romans 10:9. We can’t understand this verse until we understand the price you could pay for saying something as dangerous as “Jesus is Lord.” That statement doesn’t put us in any danger. But for our 100th-great grandfathers and mothers of the faith, believing this and confessing this, was likely to get them killed.

The Christians claimed that Caesar is not Lord, and that, in fact, a Galilean crucified outside of Jerusalem is Lord. Caesar is not Lord, Jesus is Lord. And there can be only one Lord, because Caesar wouldn’t share his throne with anyone, and neither will Jesus.

Jesus rules, and nobody else. There is no other Lord but Jesus Christ. Nobody else died for your sins. Nobody else rose from the dead. No other savior lives and reigns today. He alone is Lord.

Have you ever heard of syncretism? Do you know what that means? According to the Encarta World English Dictionary, syncretism is “the attempted combination of different systems of philosophical or religious belief or practice.”

When I was in college they started making this music called rap-rock. Have you heard of it? It’s rap and rock combined. Syncretism is like rap-rock for religions. You take two or more things that seem like they wouldn’t go together and you mash them up into one new thing.

Do you know who the premiere rap-rock religion artist is of our time? Oprah. Yeah, she rap-rocks, religiously speaking, of course. The religion you find on Oprah’s show is part New Age and part Christianity. It’s syncretism. She mixes spiritism, meditation, poisitivism, reincarnation, and all the palatable things of Christianity, and she offers it to millions of women every day. And it’s infectious. It sells. But it’s not Christian.

This sort of syncretistic Christianity is the religion of the day in the West. It’s palatable. It’s fluffy. It urges you to go out and do good things. It tells you to be positive. It teaches tolerance and acceptance. It teaches anti-judgmentalism. It’s easy to embrace and doesn’t demand anything from you.

It sounds great, except that it’s completely hollow. It makes no account for human sin. It rejects God. It tells you that you don’t need Jesus. It rewrites Scripture. It tells us that Jesus was a great teacher whose example we should follow every day, not the crucified and risen Lord before whom we should bow and to whom we must give an account for every careless word and deed.

Your Christianity is not Christian unless Jesus is your only Lord. Beware of the teachings of Oprah and others like her. She may do good deeds, but she does not recognize that Jesus is Lord. Before God all our righteousness is as filthy rags. You can’t do enough good to get rid of the evil inside you. You can’t out-righteous your sin.

Jesus alone is Lord. If you have invited someone else to share the throne of your heart, it’s time to give them the boot. Jesus rules, by himself. He does not share power with Caesar. And Caesar can be anyone or anything. It could be a celebrity, or a politician, or a cause, a philosophy, a desire, money. Caesar can be anything. But Jesus will not share power with Caesar. Caesar has got to go. Jesus rules.

Now, on to my final point. Jesus rules! Let’s look at Romans 11:33-36.

33Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
          How unsearchable his judgments,
          and his paths beyond tracing out!
34"Who has known the mind of the Lord?
          Or who has been his counselor?"
35"Who has ever given to God,
          that God should repay him?"
36For from him and through him and to him are all things.
          To him be the glory forever! Amen.

Jesus rules! He is amazing! He is awesome! He is worthy of praise. Few things in this world are truly praiseworthy, but Jesus surpasses them all. He is great and glorious. He rules!

There is nobody like him.

He is holy.
He is merciful.
He is just.
He is righteous.
He is loving.
He is kind.
He is strong.
He is glorious.
He is understanding.
He is untamable.
He is unconquerable.
He is unassailable.
He is uncompromising.
He is unchanging.
He is all-powerful.
He is all-knowing.
He is all-forgiving.
He is all-encompassing.
He is all-surpassing.
He is all-seeing.
He is all-hearing.
He is all-being.
He is all-doing.
He is all places.
He sees all faces.
He knows all hearts.
He heals all wounds.
He answers all prayers.
He is with the lonely.
He is with the downcast.
He is with the rejected.
He is with the outcast.
He is with the prisoner.
He is with the sinner.
He is with the slave.
He is with the weak.
He is with the rejected.
He is with the broken.
He is with the weeping.
He is with the mourning.
He gives strength to the weak.
He gives hope to the hopeless.
He gives faith to the faithless.
He gives love to the unloved.
He chases the runaway.
He runs to the prodigal.
He protects the orphan.
He provides for the widow.
He houses the alien.
He clothes the naked.
He feeds the hungry.
He shelters the homeless.
He heals the diseased.
He hates cancer.
He hates AIDS.
He hates malaria.
He hates the sex trade.
He hates the slave trade.
He hates the drug trade.
He hates drunkenness.
He hates adultery.
He hates divorce.
He hates pornography.
He hates addiction.
He hates deception.
He loves truth.
He loves grace.
He loves mercy.
He loves healing.
He loves patience.
He loves kindness.
He loves gentleness.
He loves faithfulness.
He loves reconciliation.
He loves humility.
He loves redemption.
He loves sacrifice.
He loves obedience.
He loves trust.
He loves longsuffering.
He loves honesty.
He loves charity.
He loves love.
He loves me.
He loves you.
He loves us.
He died.
He rose again.
He rules.

Let’s pray.

1 comment:

Corey said...

Amen and Amen