This is Pastor Shim's sermon from Nov. 21, 2010.
Heb. 13:5-9 & Colossians 1:15-20
This question was posed by a sincere young Jewish student who attended evangelistic meetings conducted by the author and composer of “He Lives,” Alfred H. Ackley. In his book, Forty Gospel Hymn Stories, George W. Sanville records Mr. Ackley's answers to this searching question, which prompted the writing of this hymn. Mr. Ackley's answer, together with his subsequent triumphant effort to win the man for Christ, flowered forth into song and crystallized into a convincing sermon in “He Lives!”
In his rereading of the resurrection stories of the Gospels, the words “He is raised” struck Mr. Ackly with new meaning. From the thrill within his own soul came the convincing song, “He Lives!” The scriptural evidence, his own heart, and the testimony of history matched the glorious experience of an innumerable cloud of witnesses that He lives, so he sat down at the piano and voiced that conclusion in song. He said, “The thought of His ever-living presence brought the music promptly and easily.”
It is estimated that Mr. Ackley wrote over 1,000 gospel songs and hymns. In recognition of his contribution to sacred music, he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Sacred Music Degree from John Brown University.
The Bible says, "He (Jesus) came to his own country, but his own people did not receive him; some, however, did receive him and believed in him, so he gave them the right to become God's children." (John 1:11-12.) By the virtue of our faith in Jesus, we are the children of God the Most High. Our God is unchangeable. We can depend on him. Our text Hebrews 13:8 says, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." The difference between Jesus and famous people is, what people give they can take away. President B. Obama in October 2008 had 8.5 million supporters on Barrack Obama.com; this September only 664,000 visited his website, according to Newsweek, on November 15, 2010.
Jesus Christ is still influencing and changing lives by the millions. Not bad; He only taught for 3 years and was crucified and buried—but God raised Him up from the grave. He is our ever-living Savior and Lord. He promised never to leave us or forsake us (Heb.13:6).
How is Jesus Christ present with us today? How can he help us today?
1) Through His church and His word and the Holy Spirit; let’s look at each one of them.
Jesus Christ is with us today through his church. "For where two or three come together in My name, there am I with them" (Matt. 18:20). "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another all the more as you see the Day approaching" (Heb. 10:25).
Jesus Christ is present as we assemble in his name. The benefits are: 1) To experience His presence and blessings (Heb. 10:25); 2) To draw near to God and grow (Heb. 10:25); 3) To increase in our Faith (Heb. 10:23); 4) To encourage each other and to show love (Heb. 10:24);
5) To minister God’s healing grace. (James 5:13-15). To live by the five principles listed above, it means choosing God’s ways than our own. When we honor God’ he will honor us, as He did with Eric Liddell (Chariots of Fire). Eric was a distinctive rugby player for the Scottish national team and a missionary. He was the winner of the men's 400-meter and a bronze medal for the 200-meter events at the 1924 Summer Olympics held in Paris. Even though Eric Liddell had fame and riches within his grasp, he chose to live a dangerous and humble life in China. People of faith everywhere have been inspired by the giving heart and unwavering conviction of Eric Liddell. He considered Sunday to be sacred, a day set apart for the Lord. Honoring his convictions, he refused to run his best event on a Sunday in the 1924 Olympics. Eric won Gold Medal later on.
Those who neglect God's instruction to assemble together are putting earthly things above heavenly things. In due time we will all give account to God about how we lived our lives. "It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Heb. 10:31), because, "our God is a consuming fire" (Heb. 12:29) for those who reject him. But for those who trust him, He is a hiding place and a refuge (Psalm 91:1). "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty." For further understanding read Hebrews 12: 14-15.
Jesus Christ is with us today through his Holy Spirit! "When I go, you will not be left all alone, I will come back to you" (John 14:15-18). "I will be with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). Since Jesus Christ is present among us by His Spirit and His promise, He is inviting us to come to Him in worship and in an obedient walk. "Come to me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads and I will give you rest" (Matt. 11:2-8). Are you burdened with guilt and shame or depression and anxiety or loneliness and unmet needs? If you are burdened with guilt and shame, Jesus promises complete cleansing and purification (1 John 1:9, Rom. 8:1). If you are burdened with depression and anxiety, the Bible says cast your burden on Jesus (1 Peter 5:7). Psalm 68:19 tells us that God carries our burden daily for us.
3) Is Jesus enough for us today? Some theologians ask why there is so much concentration on Jesus. After all, we have other religions and people who belong to those religions. We should be sensitive? Yes, of course. We have to love all people without exception. All people deserve to hear the message of the cross, which is a self-giving, self-sacrificing love for all humanity. In Adam and Eve all people inherited the sinful nature. All people who are without Christ are separated from God. Christ is God's answer to redeem humanity. We all have that obligation to offer them Christ. Christ is the answer to the sin question and a life of eternal joy. We cannot afford to ignore him. George Macdonald says, "We look upon God as our last and feeblest resource. We only go to Him when we have nowhere else to go. And then we learn that the storms of life have driven us not upon the rocks but into the desired haven." The God who is enough has unlimited resources to meet all our needs and wants. Let's turn our hearts and minds to Him.
Would you let Jesus come into your life and help you? He is offering Himself to you now, TODAY! "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come and eat with him and he with Me (Rev. 3:20). Let the spirit of Christ use us to lift the spirit of the downcast. Just open up. Let God do the rest. That is how Christ manifests himself today.
Here is a story of Pastor Alistair Begs. He was in a hospital for cancer treatment; a black kind-hearted nurse sang, “We have thus far by Faith.” Alistair said that he felt like God lifted him up and gave him a hug. God is manifested in loving kindness (1 John 4:12).
How does this apply to me? If you have never invited Jesus Christ to be your savior and Lord, ask him NOW. He is waiting for you to invite him to come in (Rev. 3:20). If you want Jesus to help you with the problems you are facing, ask Him to help you. He has promised to respond (John 14:12). If you want a joyful tomorrow, settle all your past and present issues with his help. Forgive, ask for forgiveness, and let go and let God (1 John 1:9). If God allows you to suffer in spite of your prayers, remember what God said to St. Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you" (2 Cor. 12:9). Paul was enabled by the grace of God to accomplish great things for God. Here are Paul's last words: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing." (2 Tim. 4:7-8) “I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades (Rev.1:18).”
This is a blessed assurance in my heart! May it be true in your heart as well!
Christ’s servant, Shim Habte
Willows United Methodist Church
544 North Shasta
Willows, CA 95988