Following After Christ
1“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. 2In My Father’s house are many £mansions; if it were not so, £I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. 4And where I go you know, and the way you know.”
5Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?”
6Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
In the long ago the biblical psalmist cried, “Show me, O Lord, my life’s end” (Psalm 39:4). That is a good prayer for our times. For a person to make life’s journey meaningful and worthwhile he must have at least two things in sight: a destination, somewhere to go; and a direction, a way to get there. Jesus speaks of both in our text.
I. The Destination—“to the Father.”
A. Any journey that is worthwhile must have a destination.
1. To depart without a destination is to doom oneself to aimless wandering.
2. One of the great tragedies of our times is that we do not know where we are going. When we move into the future, we leave no forwarding address.
3. We would do well to heed the words of Moses to a people wandering aimlessly in the wilderness, “If only they were wise and would … discern what their end will be!” (Deuteronomy 32:29)
B. A journey that is worthwhile must have the right destination.
1. “There is a way that seems right to man, but in the end it leads to death” (Proverbs 14:12).
2. Not all goals we pursue in life are the right ones. Many of the things we seek most really are not worth the effort.
3. Such, Jesus said, is the case with the man who lays up treasures on earth (Luke 12:13-21).
4. According to Jesus there is only one destination that is truly worthwhile—the Father’s house.
II. The Direction—“no one comes to the Father except through me.”
A. Some people who have the Father’s house in their sights never get there because they get lost on some side street.
1. Some people try to get there by living the “good, moral life.”
2. Some people try to get there by following their own “gospel.”
3. Some people try to get there by being “religious.”
B. But, according to Jesus, there is only one way to the Father’s house.
1. In our pluralistic society we do not like exclusiveness. We like inclusiveness. We like to treat every religion as good, every philosophy as worthwhile.
2. For us the ultimate virtue is toleration. We are quick to brand those who preach the “one way” as bigoted and intolerant.
3. Yet we have these words of Jesus, “No one comes to the Father except through me.”
C. The exclusiveness of Christianity comes from its founder.
1. It is not our intolerance, it is His. It is not our narrowness, it is His.
2. Just as we have no right to make the way narrower than He does, we have no right to make it broader than he does.
D. It is the exclusiveness of Christianity that makes evangelism essential to the church.
1. It is why Christ commissioned His followers to preach the gospel to every creature.
2. It is why Paul was driven to take the gospel to his world.
3. It is why the church still confronts an often indifferent world and boldly preaches that Jesus saves.
Living For Christ
Christianity is not a noun. It is a verb. It is about what God has done, is doing, and will do. It is about what we were, are, and shall be. It is more than an institution; it is an action, a state of being.
In our text the author explores the three tenses of Christianity. Three times he quotes from Psalm 95:7—“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts”—in an effort to motivate his readers to live for today in light of the lessons of the past and the promises of the future.
I. Learn from the Past (3:8).
A. These Christians, like all of us, came to Christ out of a “past.”
1. A past is a hard thing to shake. It is something you are always trying to live up to or to live down.
2. Some of us are proud of our pasts, but most of us are prisoners to them.
B. The only proper way to deal with the past is to learn from it.
1. You can try to live in the past or you can try to run from the past; but you can never truly forget the past.
2. Since we cannot leave the past behind, perhaps at least we can learn from it. This is exactly what the author tells us to do. “You are your fathers’ sons,” he says, “but you do not need to repeat your fathers’ sins.”
II. Long for the Promised (4:9).
A. There is a sense in which Christianity is a religion of the “by-and-by.”
1. Nothing is more basic to biblical Christianity than what it hopes for hereafter.
2. The second-coming, heaven, hell, punishment, reward—all are major tenets of a faith that proclaim, “This world is not my home.”
B. Christians live their lives expectantly, awaiting the fulfillment of God’s promises.
1. “Hope” and “trust” are future-tense verbs. By them we anticipate the promises of God.
2. For the Christian the past is forgiven and the present empowered by what is to come.
3. According to our author our labor for the Lord will be consummated by a “Sabbath rest.” The career of faith has an end of finished work, fulfilled hope, and realized destiny.
III. Live in the Present (3:14).
A. Ours is a religion of the present tense, a “here-and-now” religion of what is.
1. It is about conviction and conduct, believing and behaving in response to God’s call.
2. Christianity is a process. There is a sense in which we are ever “becoming” Christian.
B. God is concerned about more than what we have done for Him. He is concerned about what we have done for Him lately.
1. “Today,” insists our author, “today, if you will hear his voice do not harden your hearts.”
2. Refusing to let us “rest on our laurels,” God continually confronts us with some moment of truth to which we must respond. In our response we demonstrate our faithfulness to Him.
Praying Like Christ
Luke 11:1-12; 22:39-42
His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, ….”
A surprising number of Christians never do develop a healthy prayer life. Prayer is often reduced to little more than a polite formality before meals, or a hasty word at the end of the day, or a last resort, when they have nowhere else to turn.
This is quite a contrast to Christ. His was a life of prayer. His disciples took note of it and asked Him to teach them to pray.
In Jesus’ response to their request we can learn at least two things about prayer.
I. Prayer Requires Effort.
A. According to Jesus, it is when prayer is persistent that it is effective.
1. In this humorous story of a man pounding on his neighbor’s door at midnight, Jesus presents prayer as a profound, persistent exercise (vv. 5-8).
2. Some Christians might seek to use prayer as a substitute for Christian duty and responsibility.
B. True prayer can be an agonizing work experience.
1. It is something that pulls out of one’s soul the great resources we have and attaches them to the even greater resources of God.
2. Meaningful prayer expects things of the one praying as well as anticipating things from God.
II. Prayer Requires Faith.
A. Effective prayer requires faith that there is Someone listening.
1. I’m convinced that some people, even some Christians, do not pray because they really do not believe anyone is listening.
2. They see God as distant, aloof, and unconcerned with what is going on in the insignificant little lives of individual people.
3. The Bible, however presents a different picture of God. He is portrayed as responsive and most interested in what His children have to say. In comparing the Heavenly Father to their earthly fathers, Jesus asks his disciples, “If you know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”
B. Effective prayer requires the kind of faith that can accept God’s answer.
1. The Bible makes great claims for the power of prayer.
a. Abraham prayed and God healed Abimelech.
b. Hannah prayed and she received a child.
c. Elijah prayed and it did not rain.
d. Hezekiah prayed and his life was extended fifteen years
e. The disciples prayed and Peter was released from prison.
2. Yet some of us are not so sure of this. We have prayed for things and not received them, leaving some of us to wonder if God really answers prayer.
3. But just because we do not always get what we want in prayer does not mean that our prayers go unanswered. There are other answers besides “yes.”
4. God said “no” to the prayer of Paul that his “thorn in the flesh” might be removed. He also said “no” to the prayer of his Son that He be allowed to escape the cross. Yet God was able turn those “no’s” into even greater, unexpected blessings.
5. The real challenge of prayer is not to demand things of God, but to submit ourselves unto God; not to try to use Him, but to be used of Him.
Following After Christ
If you get where you are going, where will you be?
Living For Christ
“Believe” and “obey” are present-tense verbs. They are what we do between Egypt and Canaan, between redemption and final rest. “Today, if you will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”
Praying Like Christ
There is no limit to what God can do to an individual Christian or to a church who will exercise this form of disciplined, believing, persistent prayer. Jesus said, “My house shall be called a house of prayer.” When it is, it will be a house of power.