Even More: Moving On!
Ephesians 3:14-19 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) 14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,[a] 15 from whom every family[b] in heaven and on earth takes its name. 16 I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, 17 and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. 18 I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. For the past two weeks we have talked about God’s grace. For the past two weeks I have tried to explain the unbelievable, incredible nature of God’s grace. Today we will wrap this series up with a sermon titled “Moving on” where we are focusing on God’s sanctifying grace. This fancy word, “sanctifying” means the needs to be holy. God wants to make us holy. God wants to start with us right where we are and transform us into fully devoted disciples of Jesus Christ.
When Alexa and I were kids, our daddy used to call us with our nicknames. My nickname that daddy liked to call me was “mink.” I remember this nickname but couldn’t remember the reason he called me that way, so I asked Alexa last night about the reason. She remembered it. The reason Daddy called me ‘mink’ was because my skin color was dark. The fur of mink is dark brown or black. I didn’t remember the reason of my nickname. Well. Then I asked her about her nicknames. Alexa had two nicknames. One was tank. Just like a tank, she gets so stubborn. And her other nickname was Koala, the animal living in Australia. It is because just like a koala, once she sits at one spot, she never moves. And she moves so slow like a koala does. After we talked about this nickname thing, Alexa bitterly said, “Our daddy must not love us.” Well.
It seems strange, doesn’t it? that we have such titles for ourselves. We have nicknames or titles that describe our characteristics somehow. And do you know that God also has a nickname for us? God calls us saints. God has a habit of doing this, right? God gives us at first which seems like they don’t fit, calling us after all “children of God”, “royal priesthood”, “beloved.” These are the names God has for us. First they seem strange but once we put them on, we begin to wear them, we feel so good, right? The reason pastors wear this kind of robe is this robe means the grace of God, that I cannot be pastor with my own power and ability, but by God’s grace, by being covered by the grace of God, I am able to stand in pulpit to deliver God’s words. I’d never forget the first time I put the robe on. I felt so good and actually I liked the way I look, too. And that’s what God wants us today to grow into this title God gives us, called saints. This is what God wants us to be and calls us to be. In the letter to Romans, Paul write a group of early Christians that “who are loved by God and called to be saints.” Saints, we are called to be these people. Holy, pure, blameless before God and the process by which we become saints is called that fancy word, sanctification. Which basically means becoming like Jesus and this is the lifetime journey that God calls everyone of us on by God’s grace. ———-
Pastor Mike, the author of “Youth specialty”, was a preacher mainly for youth. He started an organization called “Youth specialty” in North Carolina. At age 54, he preached his last sermon just few days before he died. He stood before a crowd and here is what he said, “If I died right this minute, I would be able to say, “God, What a ride! What a ride you had me on!” I want to say that on my last day of my life. Don’t you want that too? Don’t you want at the end of your life to be able to look back to your life with Jesus and say, “What a ride!” What an adventure that we had been on together! The greatest adventure of faith, something that longs to be set free in this way in my soul. That is what this journey of discipleship is all about! And yet my experience has been many of us get off the ride of Christianity too soon! We think we are done when we experience God’s ‘even there’ grace, prevenient grace and God’s ‘even now’ grace, justifying grace. People just think that is enough and get off the ride!
I think I once told you that I have a fear of heights. To me, riding a rollercoaster is the least thing that I want to do in my life. About ten years ago I went to Disney World in Florida and I kicked all my friends who attempted to make me ride the roller coasters. But you know what? On the last day of the Florida trip, I finally gave in to my friends and rode a roller coaster. I was shaking all over, trembling like a leaf in the waiting line. I finally got to ride. You know what? It was not too bad. Actually at some level I even really enjoyed it! Of course I didn’t open my eyes during the whole ride, so I am not sure if I can say I enjoyed the ride, but anyway it was way better than I every thought it would be! That day I ended up riding at least 4 more roller coasters. I didn’t open my eyes during all the rides, but! I ended up liking that. Sometimes the journey that I have with God is just like this.
There are so many people give up on this journey even before they start, even before they get the taste of it. That is what many of us do when it comes to Christian life. There’s a lot of reasons for this. Maybe sometimes I think, “Well, I’ve already arrived.” It is sad to say, but maybe it is our pride. Maybe we’ve already arrived that I don’t need to go any further. Maybe that’s what the problem is. Sometimes there are people who think following Jesus is some kind of cosmic fire insurance.
My friend who was born and raised in a Christian family talked about his parents who taught him how to pray when he was a kid. He is so grateful for his parents for teaching him prayers, but there is one prayer that he is not so much grateful for. It goes like this: His parents would come to his room, they would say, “Now, it’s time for bed, and we are going to pray our prayer.” Then they would pray, “Now, God lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep if I should die. Before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.” And then his mom would say “Good night” and she would go, and turn out the light. And my friend lay there, eight years old, wondering “What disease do I have?” “what does she know that I don’t know?” “I should die before I wake?” What’s going on!
Maybe that’s why pastoral sociologist, Tony Campolo says, that we, especially North America, would do well to teach our children this prayer, “Let me wake before I die” What then? Isn’t that the question? We Christians don’t have to worry about if we die tonight, because this issue is settled when we invited Jesus into our hearts. It is settle once and for all. We are not worrying about this! We don’t have to worry about our death, but this is what we have to concern. How can I live tomorrow? What then? Thankfully Jesus has the answer. Jesus can help us.
Look with me the question on your soul feast. I believe this is the ultimate question. (slide 1) The ultimate question of the Christ -following life is not just how do I get to heaven but also how do I get heaven into me. That seems to be the ultimate question of Christian life. We realize many are missing out on this, adventure of faith, just waiting to get into heaven when God is wanting all along right now beginning today at this moment to put heaven inside of our heart.
Look with me at this verse from Colossians. Here is what Paul writes. (slide 2) “As you have therefore received Christ, [even] Jesus the Lord, [so] walk (regulate your lives and conduct yourselves) in union and conformity to Him Have the roofs [of your being] firmly and deeply planted [in Him, fixed and founded in Him], being continually built up in Him, becoming increasingly more confirmed and established in the faith, just as you were taught, and abounding and overflowing in it with thanksgiving. (Colossians 2:6-7)
This is the life that God has for us! It is the life of absolute fullness! Do you catch the progressive nature of this? Remember what Paul says, it is on the screen. (slide 3) “Continually built up, increasingly more confirmed and established in the faith.” That is the life that God has designed for us to live. And in this, we seek more and more to please God. Thomas Merton says, “desire to please God.” That pleases God.
But there is another level, even deeper level than pleasing God. It’s loving God. It is saying that God, I love you. I love you with all my heart, my soul, my mind, my strength. It is because I am going to love my neighbor as myself, it is where my motives and your motives, they become one in union with Christ Jesus. This is sanctification. This is spiritual maturity. But it just takes more than just our motives. It takes some resolves, some efforts on our parts for us to be disciples. You know the disciples comes from the word, that I don’t like much, discipline. Probably not one of your favorite words as well. Yet that is the reality because nobody else can plant this deep roots. We’ve got to take the responsibility to allow God’s grace to move us into fully devote discipleship. So for this, we want to be very practical. And answer this question together. (slide 4) “How do I move on with Jesus?” If this is an invitation to a great adventure, how do I cooperate with God’s grace? To dig into this, we are going to use the passage of Scripture from Hebrews chapter 12. And the theme of this book that was written to the first century Jewish Christians. Because they were facing obstacles, disappointments and persecution, the theme was “Don’t stop!” That’s the theme. Because they turned on the TV and what they saw? Nothing but bad news. That sounds familiar with anybody else? Can we possibly relate to this? I bet we can because we can find us grow even in the midst of this circumstances. How do I move on with Jesus? Look with me number 1. (Slide 5) For you and I to move on, we need to listen to your fans. That is what Hebrews paint this picture of a stadium. The writer of Hebrews describes a stadium in those days, which is a lot like the stadiums today. Where there are seats that cascaded up looking down on the plain field or the arena. Look with me at this verse. Let’s read it out loud together. Hebrews 12:1 (slide 6) “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses…” We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses of those who have gone before us, and the writer of Hebrews is telling the followers of Jesus to remember those who are faithful, and finish the race, finish the journey. Are there some people who you have known have finished this race of faith? I think of my parents when I look up in the stands of heaven, I picture them there, I see them there looking down cheering me on as I make my way in this race of faith. I picture my mom standing in the stands cheering me on. You also have your fans looking down on you, cheering you on, They would say to you, “Don’t stop, move on!” We must remember who is cheering us on and it’s not only those who stand in the stadium of heaven, but also our church are the cheering team for you to move on, not to give up. We are cheering you on! We want to cheer you! We are your fans. Listen to us, “Don’t stop!”
(slide 6) Number 2, Get rid of the weights! Have you ever had those angle weights on your ankle? When you take them off, it feels like you can fly, right? This is the image of this. (slide 7) The writer writes, “…Let us throw off everything that hinders us.” One of the translations for this word is encumbrances. It is the idea of getting rid of those thing that are basically we are pass those now, those immature behaviors. We need to grow up, we need to move on! So what is it that we need to perhaps take off those things that are weighing us down. Maybe it is an old anger. We need to ask God to take that away. Maybe it is some attitude that we have toward someone. Maybe God can take that away for you. Maybe its an old fear. Maybe it is a TV remote controller that hinders us from God. Now I am preaching to myself. This week I watched an entire series of a show that has 16 episodes on Netflix in three nights in a row! Yes, I am terrible and Netflix is evil. I need God’s grace. Let us throw off everything that hinders us.
(slide 8) Watch out for huddles. Have you ever walked on a spider web? We get all tangled up with the spider web and it feels not good, right? It’s gross, it’s nasty. That is the image. That’s there. The truth is that on the way that we walk with Jesus there is sin raise its ugly head. In Hebrews, the write says, let’s read it out loud together, (slide 9) “…and the sin that so easily entangles…” You see mature, sanctifying Christ followers, we take sin and grace seriously. If you have some compulsive sins that hinder you, maybe it’s time for you to get help from other Christians. Join Bible studies or small groups, ask people to pray for you. “Move on!” God has created you to be like Jesus.
(slide 10) 4. Train for a marathon. Remember, this journey from sinner to saint is a marathon, not a sprint. I tell you one of the hardest things that every pastor would agree that we see people start out so strong and then at some point they come away. Before coming to the States, I was a youth pastor when I was in Korea. I loved my students as if they were my kids and they loved me and even called me mommy because they said they were able to meet God because of me. They were just amazing. But you know what? Now I know many of them have left Christ. Not all of them. Some of them still have strong faith and even have grown stronger in Christ, which I am so thankful to God, but some of them have left Christ. I know God’s sanctifying grace will keep drawing them back to God, I really believe that, but still it hurts me seeing that my children wandering out in the world not knowing God’s wonderful love for them. That is why this verse is so important. (slide 11) Let’s read it together, “…and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” We need to remember this is a marathon, not a sprint.
And finally and the most importantly, we need to (slide 12) focus on the finish line. Let’s read out loud Hebrews 12:2-3. “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Circle “grow weary and lose heart.” Those are the danders in our lives. Those are the ones that take our eyes off Jesus. If the first century Christians, they took their eyes off Jesus and then they would begin to focus on their circumstances where they were being persecuted by Caesar. We also have the same situation, don’t we? There are so many bad stuff surrounding us that hinder us from keeping our eyes on Jesus. Focus on Jesus. Keeping our eyes on Jesus.
It was 1968 at the Olympics. When a race was finished, about an hour after the race, there came one lone individual limping into the stadium. His name is John Steven Aquari. He was coming around that last lap one hour after everyone finished. He was blooded and he was in pain. People there were in the stands packing up, they stopped and they began to cheer him as he made his way finally to the finish line. A reporter asked him, “Why didn’t you quit? After you fell, why didn’t you stop?” And let’s see what his answer was to that question. (video) “My country didn’t send me 5,000 miles to start the race. They sent me 5,000 miles to finish the race.” The entire race Acquri focused on the finish line. We need to remember that one day, we are all going to finish this race. The question is how we are going to finish this? We will finish this sitting in the waiting room? Or we will finish this as something else? Or we will finish it as saints? That’s God’s design for us to live this great adventure with God, by God’s sanctifying grace. So this end of it all, we will be able to look Jesus and we say, “What a ride!” Thanks be to God. Amen.