The Empty Cross: Purpose
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” “Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.” Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?” Matthew 16:13-15 (NLT)
Let me share an advertisement that is made by Volkswagen. (slide) It seems like some is typing a text on a cell phone and it says, “I’ll be there in a ….” And the autocorrection comes up with two words. “while and wheelchair” and at the bottom of the ad it says “Please don’t text and drive.” Isn’t that an awesome advertisement? You remember that about a month ago I told you during my sermon that I used to text and drive? I know I am terrible. After I talked about that, a week later on Monday I was in the office and I got an email that started with “Are you driving? Don’t read this!” I laughed. And then someone called me so I answered the phone. And her first word was “Are you driving? It is a mother talk. Don’t answer the phone!” And I got two texts that also started with “Are you driving? Don’t text and drive!” What…??? You win. I have given up texting while driving. I tried few times, but every time I tried to do that, I felt like I heard your voice speaking to me, “Don’t text and drive!!”
See all of you who have warned me through many ways have one purpose that stops Sophia text and drive. Right? It is your purpose and you win! Your purpose has been achieved. And do you know that God also has a purpose for all of us? Today, we are going to find what purpose God intends us to have. Like you have been successful to let your pastor stop texting while driving, I hope God can be successful this morning to let us find what purpose God wants us to have in our lives.
Haven’t you asked this question? “What’s the meaning of life?” Today only in the United States more than 30 million people bought a book, “The Purpose Driven Life” written by Rich Warren. 30 million people only in the United States and it has been translated into over 50 languages. I also read this book in Korean when I was in Korea. Even I’ve seen non-Christians bought this book and read the book. People want to know what their one solitary life is all about and what really matters. I mean, it shows that we humans have the desire to find the purpose for their life. What does my life really matter? And they want to know by the time they get to the end of their lives they lived the life of significance.
All of you know that I met God at a youth camp, right? I went to the camp to meet some boys, but I met God instead. I think it was the best deal that I could ever get from a youth camp. After the camp, I felt that I was saved by God’s grace and that I knew that I was now with God. It was a great feeling. And one thought that I had in my mind was that “Wow, this is it. This was what I was looking for! This God is one that I will live for the rest of my life! I still remember that I felt relieved to find the reason for me to live for. Before meeting God, I didn’t know what I am here for. But with God, I really felt that I found my purpose to live for.
Now we are in the sermon series, “the Empty Cross.” I don’t know you ever noticed it or not, every sermon title starts with P. The first sermon was “Pardon” that because of Jesus’ empty cross, Jesus forgives our sins. It is as if God looked at us, we never sin. We are washed white as snow, like the old hymn that we sang together. We are pardoned from our sins. And last Sunday we talked about “power over sin” that the same power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead is now working in us to save us from all the temptations of sins. There is always an exit for us where we could run for God’s help when sin’s temptation threatens us. God promises us that there is always a way out for us!
Today we are going to talk about the purpose for our lives. Because the cross is empty, because Jesus is raised from the dead, we can really answer the question, “What’s the meaning, what’s the purpose of my life?” Can we answer the question? Or do we have something else that we live for? And does that make our lives really meaningful?
Let’s read this passage with me out loud. (slide) When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” “Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.” Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?” (Matthew 16:13-15 (NLT)) Circle the word, ‘you’. It is an emphasis. Who do you say I am? Who do you say Jesus is? When we try to find the purpose of our lives, then maybe we can ask this question. (slide) “Who is Jesus to me?” Right? Who is Jesus to me? Because until we are clear about this question, nothing else in our lives really matters. Who’s Jesus to me? Who’s Jesus to you? I have thought about this question all this week and came to a conclusion that this question actually has only two answers. That’s it. Only two answers. Let’s look with me the first answer that we could possibly have for this question. Look with me number 1. (slide) 1. Jesus is who he says he is! Think about this. Jesus is who he says he is. When Jesus asks this question, “Who do you think I am?” Peter “Oh, oh, oh! I am! I am!” Raising his hands. “Me, me, me, pick me, pick me!” And then Simon Peter answered, “ You are the Messiah and the Son of the living God.” And Jesus replied, “You are blessed.” That means Peter got it right. He answered the right answer that Jesus wanted to hear from him, right? Sometimes when we ask questions to our kids and we kinda expect them to give us the right answer, but often times kids don’t give us the right answer right away, do they? In a school, it is a math test. The question is, “Bob has 36 candy bars and he eats 29. What does he have now?” What is the answer to the question? Yes, it is a math test, but the kid answers, (slide) “Diabetes. Bob has diabetes.” Here’s another good one. The question is “What ended in 1986?” And the kid says, (slide) “1985.” You know what? These are somehow right answers! Bob eats 29 candy and yes, it is more likely he would end up having diabetes at some point. 29 candy bars are a lot. And it is for sure that 1985 ended in 1986, right? But these are not what the questions are asking about. There is something else that the questions really want.
When Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do you think I am?” And when Peter says, “You are the Messiah and the Son of the living God”, Jesus says, “Ding, ding, ding! yes, you get it right! You get the answer from heaven, from my father.” I think Peter never heard this before, but this time he was right!
Now, let me ask you a question. Is Jesus who he says he is in your life? When Jesus asks the same question to us, wouldn’t we answer with some wrong answers instead of what Jesus says he is? C.S. Lewis, one of my favorite authors, wrote the book, Chronicles of Narnia. Have you read the book It’s a great book. Also, there is a movie. You should watch this. This is an amazing one. And C.S Lewis also wrote another book, and its name is “Mere Christianity.” It is a great book that talks about who is Jesus. Now listen to what he writes. (slide) “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying that the really foolish thing that people often say about Jesus. Here’s what they say. “I am ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher but I don’t accept his claim to be God.” But you know what? Jesus never says he is a good teacher, but he always says he is the Messiah, the Son of the living God. But there are people who say Jesus is a good moral teacher and don’t see him as the Messiah. The Messiah means in other words, the rescuer. Jesus is our rescuer. He came to rescue us, not to be a good teacher or just a good friend. He is a good friend and teacher, but that’s not all. He is our Messiah who rescues us from our sins. And there are people who don’t believe who Jesus says he is. How sad this is. See, when you answer what Jesus is to you? What’s your answer?
Let’s move to number 2. (slide) 2. Jesus is who I want him to be! I said there are only two options for the question that Jesus asks his disciples, and here is the second answer. We can believe that Jesus is who he says he is, but we also can believe that Jesus is who I want him to be. Look with me the next verse of the passage. Let’s read it together. (slide) Then he sternly warned the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah. From then on Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, and that he would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law…(slide) He would be killed, but on the third day, he would be raised from the dead. But Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things. “Heaven forbids, Lord,” he said. “This will never happen to you!”… (slide) Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.” (Matthew 16:20-23 (NLT)) Right after Peter said Jesus is the Messiah and the Son of God, Jesus talks about what will happen to him in Jerusalem, that he will suffer and be killed and be raised again on the third day. Then the Bible says Peter begin to reprimand Jesus for saying such things. “Wait, wait, Jesus, let me set you straight. Heaven forbid you!” Then Jesus says, “Get away from me” What? Satan! Jesus is calling Peter Satan! And Jesus says you are a dangerous trap to me. Then Jesus continues to say this. Could you read this with me? (slide) “You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”
When I was a youth pastor in Korea, we had a youth camp. At the camp, one day we had a scavenger hunt. You know kids love those kinds of stuff. We divided kids into teams and gave a map to each team. The map was really easy to read. So we really didn’t worry about anything about the scavenger hunt. An hour later, every team got back to the campsite, but one team didn’t come back. It was getting late and all the teachers and counselors came out to find the team on the mountain. And we found them at the opposite side of the mountain from where the camp building was. We asked the kids, “Why are you guys here?” And they said, “The map!” They read the map upside down. None of them didn’t know how to read cardinal points so they just read the map on their own and went on their own. See, this is what Jesus warns Peter, here. When we need to see things from God’s point of view, we see things from our point of view instead, right? Then we end up going to the opposite side from where God wants us to be and we lost track of God’s purpose for us. Isn’t that terrible? We really need to see things from God’s viewpoint.
Have you ever heard this old saying? God made us into God’s image, and we human beings return the favor and try to make God into our image. We see that a lot in the Bible and also in our lives, right? We say, “Jesus, let me make you in my image.” And when Peter tries to make Jesus into his image, Jesus calls him “Satan!”
Jesus cannot be what we want him to be. Jesus is the Messiah and the Son of the Living God. Yes, this is Jesus. He is our, my Savior and the Savior of the world.
So, what should we do to follow Jesus? (slide) What does it mean to really follow Jesus? Look with me number 1. (slide) 1. Lay down my life! I have to lay down my life. Can we read what Jesus said to his disciples together? (slide) Jesus says his disciples that “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways…” Here is what Jesus is saying. If you really really want to follow me, it’s not about you. It’s about me. It means Jesus’ agenda has to be my agenda. It means we should ask Jesus, “Jesus, you tell me how to live.” But, that’s not the end of story.
Let’s look at the second blank. Let’s read it together. (slide) 2. Take up my cross! Now we lay down our lives before Jesus’ empty cross so now our hands are empty. And Jesus wants us to take up our own cross now. Look with me the next verses. (slide) “…take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” In another translation, it says, “Take up your cross daily.” I like this translation. Jesus asks us to take up our cross daily. This passage says if we try to hang on to our lives, we will lose it. But if we give up our lives for God’s sake, we will save it. And it says “What do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?”
Isn’t that so true? We got everything here on earth, but what if we lost our souls, what benefits do we gain after all? Nothing, right?
See, when we see Jesus’ empty cross, what we see is the purpose of our lives. That we lay down our lives, we lay down everything that we love before the empty cross and take up our own cross for God’s sake. So please have time to think about what cross do you have for God now? What is your cross that you are taking every day, daily for the kingdom of God? I hope and pray that God’s purpose for us, for your and my life is fully achieved through us. Thanks be to God! Amen.