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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Got a Forever Companion? - Who Is That?

Pastor Shim's Sermon from November 28.
( Gen. 5:21-24; Heb.13:8-9,12-15; Rev.21:1-5)
“In a world of rapid change, we seek stability and permanence.” But change and impermanence is what we get. There is one exception. Change is our friend, if it connects us to Jesus our Forever Companion!
The desire for eternal life or immortality is a universal wish. Over the centuries, many philosophers and religions have come up with sayings and ideas they sell their followers on, but only one has the path that leads to heaven—Jesus.
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me...Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalms 23:4-6); “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will never die” (John 11:25,26-5:24); and “If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body...And just as we have borne the likeness of earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the Man from heaven:”(I Corinthians 15:50).
Jesus, our Forever Companion, came from heaven to offer us eternal life and to invite us to live with him in that beautiful place. To what can we compare heaven? Perhaps with the most beautiful place we have ever seen.
For instance, three hundred teenage tourists gathered in the Swiss Alps, 7,100 feet above sea level. Rising even higher on one side were craggy, snow-capped peaks. A huge glacier stretched out on the other side; seemingly unaffected by the warm July day. The group gathered for outdoor worship, which began with a trio of alpine horns echoing hymns across the valley. The minister shared the Good News of Christ. Then voices joined together to close the service with familiar choruses of praise to God.
The day passed quickly, filled with hugs, songs, shouts of pleasure, helping hands, huge smiles, and incredible sights. As the teenagers waited to return to Grunewald on Europe's longest chair lift, several girls talked about the experience.
"I hope heaven's like this," said one of the girls.
"Heaven's going to be even better!" said another.
God's promise of eternal life in heaven is even better! Read the promise in Revelation 22:12-14, “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.”
What are the requirements to go to heaven? How do we qualify? How can we be sure? (1) Jesus tells us in John 3, (2) The Bible gives us an example faithfulness in Enoch- he walked with God, (3) Jesus promised us (John14:1-6).
(1) What are the requirements for entrance into Heaven?
(a) Jesus’ answer to Nicodemus shows us what God requires from each one of us to enter his kingdom, John 3: Nicodumus was a teacher of Israel, yet Jesus told him he must be born again. Nicodemus asked, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”
Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”
“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
(b) Jesus himself is God’s means to enter into God’s Kingdom.
The new birth is God’s gift because it is made possible by the Holy Spirit and faith in Jesus Christ who gave his life for the forgiveness of sin. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life, for God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” Jesus paid the ultimate price to save us from hell.
(2) The Bible gives us an example of walking with God, Gen.5:21-24.
We all know that faithfulness is one of God’s characteristics and he requires it from his children. Enoch loved and walked with God and ended up with God forever. “When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. After he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked faithfully with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Enoch lived a total of 365 years. Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.”
(a) Enoch made it a habit to walk with God daily and built a lasting relationship. Love is an investment of time and one’s resources.
b) God liked Enoch’s effort and he joined him and they walked together - and God said it’s time to stay at home—Heaven.
(3) Jesus promised to prepare a home for us, John 14:1-4, 6: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going. I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
(a) “Jesus is the Way” means we can’t be lost. Jesus is the way to God because he is God’s way, not make believe, and he is the way to all.
(b) Jesus is the truth, no need for confusion—He is God’s truth for all.
We can count on Jesus’ Everlasting arms for our comfort as we walk with him into our eternal home like Enoch, never to depart again. Until then, let this song, “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,” remind us about our Forever Companion Jesus Christ. The idea for this song came from Anthony Showalter, principal of the Southern Normal Musical Institute in Dalton, Georgia. Showalter took a personal interest in his students and enjoyed keeping up with them as the years passed. One evening in 1887, he was leading a singing school in a local church in Hartselle, Alabama. After dismissing the class for the evening, he gathered his materials and returned to his boardinghouse. Two letters had arrived, both from former pupils. Each of the young men was heartbroken, having just lost his wife. Professor Showalter went to the Bible, looking for a verse to comfort them. He selected Deuteronomy 33:27, "The eternal God is your refuge, And underneath are the everlasting arms...." As he pondered that verse, these words came to mind:
“Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from alarms; leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.”
Showalter set it all to music, and ever since, these words have cheered us in adversity:
“What have I to dread, what have I to fear, leaning on the everlasting arms? I have blessed peace with my Lord so near, leaning on the everlasting arms.”
Let us remember, Jesus Our Forever Companion and our changeless Savior will lead us to our Eternal Home, where we will be free of suffering. Rev. 21:3-4 says, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’”
Together, hand in hand, we can walk with Jesus our Forever Companion. We can count on him to be with us always, because Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Jesus has this title because he is God who became a man to give his life to save your life from Hell. No other religious leader died for the sake of humanity, only Jesus did that. Thanks be to God, Jesus is not in the grave. He arose and went to heaven, where we will end up if we walk with him. You can trust Jesus because he died in your place.
Pastor Shim Habte - Willows United Methodist Church
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