1. Christ is above everything, Tilbury EMC Jan 7. 07
Christ is above everything.
TEMC, Jan 8, 07
We live in a time of confusing messages. There are so many messages coming at us these days from so many directions that we can’t possibly listen to all of them. In all of the chaos, all of the noise we need to be careful who we choose to listen to. We need to ask - Who do we listen to? Who do we believe? What do we listen to? What do we believe?
Sometimes the messages may even sound the same, but the sources are different. Two people can say the same thing, and it makes a world of difference - depending who says it. I have heard little children talking to each other in demanding terms and one will say to the other - “your not my dad”, or “your not my mother”. One is trying to tell the other something and whether or not they are going to listen depends on who is doing the talking.
When we are searching for direction, we need to hear things from a reliable source. There is nothing worse than being lost and getting information from the wrong source. Two people can give different directions. Only one of them is right. When you are lost in the night in a big city, you want to be careful who you approach to ask for directions. Asking the wrong person might get you caught in some alley where they wait to rob you.
Some times in life two people can look at the same situation and come to completely different conclusions.
Illustration: I am by nature a sensitive person to heat. I don’t like to wash dishes in hot water. I very easily think the water is too hot. My hands are just very sensitive. My wife stands hotter water temperatures than I do. So when my wife says the water is hot - it is hot! When our boys were small, and I would help them wash, they would easily say - ‘the water is hot!’ I didn’t think so because I couldn’t feel it. Who was now right? For my sons it was hot, for me it was warm. For my wife it would not have been lukewarm. It all depended on who was feeling it.
When it comes to the bible, and to life, we can’t use that approach. We can’t measure the bible by what it feels like to us, by what we think it means for us. We need to learn what the bible means from God’s viewpoint. In the end God’s opinion is the only opinion that will matter. The bible is our source for what is right and what is wrong, for what is true and what is false, for what is good and what is bad.
We are living in times when we have to be ever more careful who we listen to and what choices we make. If life is going bad, listening to the wrong advice only makes it worse.
Years ago in a welding shop a few guys were working away. One guy was welding something with a stick welder and there was sparks flying and hot drops of metal dripping from the weld. All of a sudden a drop of the hot metal fell right into this one guys shoe. He dropped the welding clamp, and started pulling on his shoe. The other guy thought it was funny and yelled, the other foot, the other foot. This guy in pain and agony got confused and began yanking on the other shoe and pulled off the wrong shoe. Then he still had to pull of the shoe that had the hot metal in it. He should not have listened to what he already knew was the right shoe in the first place.
Are we listening to the right voices in life? There is always a risk that we will begin to listen to messages from people that are not glorifying to God. They may even honestly believe that they speak the truth, but their motives are not God focused and if we follow their example, we will become more confused.
In Manitoba some years ago a woman became sick with a terminal illness, and she didn’t have long to live. It was very hard for the family. The desperately wanted her to get better. One Christian from a church came there and shared a revelation they had had. “ God is going to restore your mother to health” she said. This gave the one person in the family the hope and trust she needed. But the woman didn’t get better, she died. The minister who told me the story said it took this young woman six months to get over that disappointment. She had been told God would restore her mother and he let her die. I am not saying that God can’t restore sick people. I am saying that when we have a need to control the circumstances, we can’t depend on God answering those prayers. It is very easy to listen to messages that are spoken honestly, but very misguided. If we listen, long enough and hard enough, it is possible to walk away from God and away from our faith.
For people who have never been saved, if they listen to all the voices around them, there is a chance that they never will listen to the right voice their whole life.
The bible tells us to focus on Jesus. The world tells us to focus on ourself, on things, on anything and everything except Jesus.
How do we know who is the right one to listen to? How do we know that Jesus is the one we should pay attention to and not someone else?
Early Christians were persecuted and needed a strong focus.
We are not the only ones who have faced this question of who we should listen to. In the early days of the church the Christians were met with persecution for following Jesus. People were punished, persecuted and many were killed for their faith. There were many voices calling to give up Christ, to compromise, give in and go with the flow.
Some who were Christians decided that the suffering and persecution was too much and so instead of living a difficult life, they tried to find a way to get the best of both worlds.
The persecution came from several sources. The Roman government was a government that allowed the Jewish religion to exist. The Jewish religion was not one that the Romans felt threatened by. But this new faith - Christianity, that was different. It spread like wild fire. It invaded every nook and corner of the Roman empire. Everywhere these Christian missionaries went, groups of people sprang up who claimed a different God than ceasar.
The other source of persecution for the Christians were the Jews themselves. Paul himself a Jew, before he became a Christian did whatever he could to wipe out the Christians. On top of that yet, there was corruption inside the church just like there is now. People were becoming Christians for wrong reasons – just to see how they could manipulate it for themselves. Annanias and Saphira were a couple who thought they could get some recognition by pretending to be something they were not.
Tempted to go back
It is not surprising that there are times when people get tired from struggling. We are human and do get tired. So we need to be encouraged from time to time.
In the early church there were those who believed it was best to go back to the old ways. This was not a new idea. In the Old testement when the people of Israel left Egypt, they had not been in the desert for very long and the road became difficult and they had people in their midst who wanted to go back to Egypt. This happened on a number of different occasions.
For us as humans it will always be a temptation to go back to the familiar, to the secure. We would rather be slaves and secure, than free and adventerous. We would rather live predictable dull lives with no future than life on the edge filled with risk and the opportunities that come with living on the edge.
Some people live long monotonous lives that never amount to anything. They have always played it safe, stayed where they were secure and where it was predictable. In the end they are the real losers. But those who lay hold of Christ and follow him, they may not live easy lives, but they live full lives, they may not live comfortable lives, but they live meaningful lives.
One man who had served God well, and died young - this was said of him, he didn’t have many years, but he did more living in the years that he had than many do in a life time. It has been said that it is not the years in your life but the life in your years that count.
Are we getting confused sometimes? Do we hear invitations and encouragements to try something else than Jesus? Is it worth holding to Christ, is he that special?
We are challenged in our beliefs today to question whether or not Jesus is the only one, whether or not he is just one of many. What we respond to that will determine how we live. Today, in 2007 in Canada it is still fairly cheap to say you are a Christian. There is not much opposition. But the price will go up. Sooner than we may believe we will face legal opposition for saying things like “Jesus is the only way.” Or things like, “ Unless we repent and are born again, we will be lost in hell.” People don’t like to be told they are sinners and lost under the judgment of a God who is angry enough over sin to demand the death penalty, but loving enough to take that penalty for us. To the world that doesn’t even make any sense.
It is not surprising that under trial and pain some people begin to look around and ask: Is it worth it? Am I following something I am willing to die for?
There have always been times when we are tempted to go back to the old ways, to the familiar ways because we have become used to the status quo, and we have forgotten how it was before.
Christ is more than anyone else
I want to go through a series of messages where we will see how much more Christ is than anything else, or anyone else in the world.
Hebrews 1:1-14 (NIV)
1 In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways,
The writer to the Hebrews had a concern on his heart that the people, the Hebrew, or Jewish Christians would go back to their old ways. There is no greeting in this book at the beginning. He goes straight to the point. There is an earnestness in how the letter begins.
He writes: “God has spoken.” The Hebrew or Jewish Christians had no doubt as to their past. They knew their past. They knew the stories
- Adam and Eve – God spoke to them.
- Cain – when he killed his brother.
- Noah - when God told him to build the ark
- Abraham – when God promised him descendants and a land.
- Moses when God gave them the ten commandments
- Prophets – when they were warned and reminded to come back to God.
- Angels – numerous times when they fell into sin – also to deliver promises.
All the previous messages were important. The writer to the Hebrews is saying: “You believed all those, you held to all of them and you based your faith on them.”
The early church had only the writings of the O.T and the oral Gospel of Jesus Christ. We know that soon after the death and resurrection of Jesus, things were written down. But as far as being familiar with God’s word, the O.T writings were basically all that the Jews AND the church had. They based their teachings on what Jesus said and how it fit into the O.T prophecies.
God had spoken in the past through various methods, and means – BUT NOW.
2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.
Early on in Genesis, right after the fall, there was a promise from God that one day evil would be conquered. Throughout the O.T. we have many promises that God spoke through angels, prophets and visions that he was going to send someone who would establish a kingdom without end. The Hebrew Christians knew this, but the temptations were their to let go, to give in, to give up. This writer is reminding his readers who Jesus is.
That king is Jesus Christ, God’s son through whom God has spoken. In the Gospels we find that Jesus tried to tell the people who he was. Jesus when he walked this earth said much the same thing, only his listners just got mad.
Mark 12:1-12 NLT
12 Then Jesus began teaching them with stories: “A man planted a vineyard. He built a wall around it, dug a pit for pressing out the grape juice, and built a lookout tower. Then he leased the vineyard to tenant farmers and moved to another country. 2 At the time of the grape harvest, he sent one of his servants to collect his share of the crop. 3 But the farmers grabbed the servant, beat him up, and sent him back empty-handed. 4 The owner then sent another servant, but they insulted him and beat him over the head. 5 The next servant he sent was killed. Others he sent were either beaten or killed, 6 until there was only one left—his son whom he loved dearly. The owner finally sent him, thinking, ‘Surely they will respect my son.’
7 “But the tenant farmers said to one another, ‘Here comes the heir to this estate. Let’s kill him and get the estate for ourselves!’ 8 So they grabbed him and murdered him and threw his body out of the vineyard.
9 “What do you suppose the owner of the vineyard will do?” Jesus asked. “I’ll tell you—he will come and kill those farmers and lease the vineyard to others. 10 Didn’t you ever read this in the Scriptures?‘The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone. 11 This is the Lord’s doing, and it is wonderful to see.’* ”
12 The religious leaders* wanted to arrest Jesus because they realized he was telling the story against them—they were the wicked farmers. But they were afraid of the crowd, so they left him and went away.
What the writer to Hebrews is saying is that Jesus is this son. He is the heir. God sent Jesus in the end time to bring salvation to mankind.
When times get hard and life gets rough, we have to be careful where we place our trust. It would be foolish to put our faith in something or someone only to find out later we had been taken advantage of.
In that time as well as now, there those who peddled false religions. Some who had put their trust in Jesus were being tempted to give up – the road of life was too difficult. There were temptations to compromise, take the easy way – make a short cut.
The people needed to be affirmed in their faith in Christ. They needed a boost in their knowledge and faith in Jesus. So the writer answers a question that is perhaps on the minds of some of us this morning.
Is Jesus worth banking one’s faith on?
Have you ever wondered – who is this Jesus anyway? He was a man – yes, but who was he? The Hebrew Christians needed a reminder. And we do too.
3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.
Often in life when we deal with a person, it makes a difference to us who that person has connections with. In the past when I wanted to find a job, I would try to talk to the employer myself, or have someone else who knew the employer well talk to the employer on my behalf. When we deal with the one who makes the decisions, we stand a better chance of getting heard. The Hebrew Christians needed to be reminded who this Jesus was who they had put their trust in.
Jesus was a man, a human being. The Jews knew that. The Jewish Christians knew that. They knew about Mary and Joseph, the baby Jesus and the story of how he had grown up, became a teacher, was rejected and finally crucified. But all of that was perhaps not enough to give them the complete picture. And it is not enough for us. We need to look at more.
Jesus was a man, but he was also God. We need to look at this truth as one picture. As God’s son Jesus reflected – or shone God’s glory into this world. He is the exact representation of his being. The greatest glory that he revealed was when he overcame the power of death by surrendering to die on the cross for those he loved.
Pain and suffering is uncomfortable for our flesh. There is perhaps in all of us the unspoken fear of suffering, the unspoken desire for recognition, the unspoken longing for safety and comfort. Jesus Christ came to set us free from all of those things that hinder us in our relationship with God.
But Jesus is also God, and as God he also sustained then and does still today sustain the whole universe by his word. It is this Jesus that God sent to speak on his behalf to the people of earth. Jesus is the owner of all things – he holds the title to the universes. He holds the patent on life. He is the life. With him everything begins and ends. In him and through him all things exist.
When we are tempted to give up on Christ, lets look at him closely before we do. He was sent by God. He is not a human invention. He is our creator. He is our sustainer. Our life is tied to him. When we die, we die because he withdraws our breath from our bodies.
What did this God do?
After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. 4 So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.
Imagine for a minute if God had said, ‘no, I don’t want to rescue mankind – I will just send them a perfect human who can do it.” – what if God had just created another perfect human being. And this human being had been given the instructions to die for the sins of mankind. Could he have done it? In other words, was their no other way than that God himself could pay for our sins?
To pay for our sins it took someone who held power over life and death. And only God holds that power. No human holds that power, No human being is that strong, no matter how good. As a man, God himself had to die so he could pay for our sins.
First, he provided purification for sins. Later in the book we will see what he did and how he did it. But for now – he made a way for our sins to be cleaned up – put away. But he did more.
When you pay for something, that gives you ownership of whatever it is that you paid for. When Jesus paid for our sins, he paid for more than just our sins. He bought our lives back. In Acts 20:28 Paul says that Christ bought the church with his own blood. He did more than just pay for the debt of sin. When he shed his blood, he took the title for humanity back from Satan. Jesus is now the rightful owner of you and me.
Owning something gives you authority over it. Jesus is at the right hand of God now. He holds our lives in his hands. Whether we live or die depends on Christ. He is the one who paid for our lives and is now in heaven at God’s right hand.
In Hebrews 7:25 the writer says that Jesus is always making intercession for us. Jesus is in heaven, making intercession for you and me.
Jesus is superior
For the Jewish readers, it was important that they understood what Jesus was. The Jewish Christians were a people who had experiences with angels, and visions and so on. Jesus was far more than any of these ever could be. So the writer uses O.T. scripture to explain to them who Jesus really was.
5 For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son; today I have become your Fathera”? Or again, “I will be his Father, and he will be my Son”? 6 And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says,
“Let all God’s angels worship him.” 7 In speaking of the angels he says, “He makes his angels winds, his servants flames of fire.”
8 But about the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom. 9 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.”
10 He also says, “In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. 11 They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. 12 You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end.”13 To which of the angels did God ever say, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”?
14 Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?
These readers needed to be reminded of who Jesus was. That he was God’s son and he had provided salvation and was in control. By contrasting Jesus with angels, who had been used so much by God in the O.T times, the people were being reminded that angels were just messengers. Jesus was not just a messenger. Jesus was the message. These readers needed to be reminded that no matter what they thought of angels – and Jews thought highly of angels – that Jesus was far more than an angel.
In the lives of these Hebrew Christians things were not going well. They were being tempted to compromise their faith and give in to legalistic rules. There were Christians coming up who were saying things like ‘ yes, Jesus is the savior, but unless you also do this and that, you won’t be saved.’ They were saying; ‘ Jesus + works = salvation’ That was false.
Salvation is never the result of works. But salvation will bring about works. And the only way to have grace and salvation is through faith in Jesus Christ. When that faith is real, it will make a difference in a person’s life. But the voices tempting us to stray are many. We must continue focusing only on Jesus.
Sometimes it becomes easy and tempting to listen to the wrong voices out there. There is no shortage of voices out there that will try to lead us astray. It has always been one way Satan tries to get people away from God.
Before Satan destroys a person, he first gets him away from God through good sounding messages, but wrong messages. As long as a person is close to God, he can’t do anything with that person except give him a hard time. He can’t destroy him. But if the person lets go of Jesus Christ, and walks away, Satan can take that person down.
These people in this letter needed to be reminded of who Jesus was, and we need to remind ourselves too who it is that we are serving.
Who were they going to listen to? Would they give in and go back to the old ways of the law? In the old ways they had to find it in their own strength to please God. But through Jesus they had been given life. But in the old ways was the familiar and the secure.
It was a choice they had to make and we have to make as well.
As I mentioned in the beginning, what we do with what we hear depends on who it is coming from. There is in our day no shortage of messages coming to us from all directions. We need to be careful and test everything with the word of God to see if it holds up to God’s word.
One time the apostle Paul started a church in Galatia. After he started that church and had left that place, there were some people who called themselves Christians who came and tried to teach this new group that – yes, Jesus was the saviour, but unless they also obeyed the laws of Moses, they would not be saved. They were throwing the new believers into confusion.
Paul then wrote the letter to the Galatians. He writes in chapter one that if anyone – even if angels would come and give them any other message than the one he preached to them- to let that person be cursed. He repeated that twice. He says that unless you are saved by faith, you are not saved. He told them that Jesus was the only answer. That everything depends on Jesus.
I am encouraging us today to remember what we have in Jesus. Jesus can’t be added to. Jesus can’t be taken away from. Jesus stands completely by himself. He needs no interpreter. He needs no self help programs to get us close to him. He is not in need of all kinds of fads and gimmicks to help people. He is our creator, He is our sustainer, he is our complete Savior, Lord and King.
As time goes on, the voices are increasing all around us to listen to what others have to say. There are those who are trying to improve on what the bible teaches us about Christ. People today are studying long and hard and come up with all kinds of teachings that are not in the bible. I was in a Christian book store just the other day, and the books that are out there are too many. We need to be careful what we read, and what we listen to.
Through books, television, radio and video we are being invited to a different kind of Jesus, a Jesus that is interested in making this life easy, secure and fun for the flesh. That is not the Jesus of the bible. I will be blunt here for a minute.
There are many who don’t serve Jesus because of any desire to glorify God. It is purely a selfish motive. Almost 20 years ago when I was new in ministry there was a youth pastor of one church I got to know who didn’t like the church anymore where he was serving, and guess what - All of a sudden God had a different church for him. He joyfully shared the news how God was leading him to away from the church he had been serving and to a new place. I found that hard to understand and I still find things like that hard to understand. What kind of God do we serve? Do we serve a God when the going gets tough – he finds us some greener grass? This is not just the local churches, it gets worse when you go into the wider circles.
Take some of the tv preachers out there that run these multi million dollar ministry empires. Many of them are not in it for the concern of your souls.
If someone would put them into a place like China, India, or any other poverty stricken place - they might prove to be real, or they would very quickly find a reason to not serve anymore. Sometimes when I do turn on the radio and listen to some of them, I hear whine stories – “ unless you support us with your funds this ministry will go off the air” They are not all like that. There are some good ones. Listen carefully what they are after.
(If you don’t believe me – I encourage you to do some research. I will stand corrected, if I am given proof to the contrary. But many of these televangelists are people who live in mulitimillion dollar homes, some of them have multimillion dollar salaries. Some even have body guards protecting them, they go on luxurious vacations, and they live infinitely better than the average listener on their radio programs. Religion for them has become big business. My advice to you is to listen to what you know for sure is from God, and not just a money plea, and to give your attention and money to where you know it will honor God I find it ironic how they talk about having faith in God, and the next sentence they tell us unless WE are going to be faithful in supporting their ministry, it will not survive. On who’s faith is their ministry dependant? Mine or theirs?
Ill. I am reminded of a little boy going to the store once to buy some candy. As he was stretching out his little hands to give the money to the clerk in exchange for some candy, the clerk decided to have some fun with the little fellow and the clerk tried to play with his emotions. The clerk said: “ Instead of buying candy with your money, why don’t you just give it to the poor?” The little guy thought for a bit and said: “ Naw, I want the candy, you give the money to the poor.” That is how I feel about some of these mega multimillion dollar preaching industries. Instead of them telling ME to have faith in supporting their multimillion dollar ministry, let them have faith in God to provide money for their multimillion dollar life styles. Instead of you and I listening to their voices over the airwaves, why don’t we put our money to where it is really meeting a need, and where we know it will bring a God honouring blessing. I am not saying this to judge all radio and television ministries. But lets face it. Who are we listening to?
Are we listening to a message from Christ, or are we simply listening to a preacher who has a budget to meet and a lifestyle to support? We need to be on our guard. I trust that we will try to discern who we are listening to.
Our message is simple. Because we love Jesus, and trust Jesus, we will do what Jesus did. That takes no big fancy education. It is simple - Help the single mother down the street. Support a local food drive. Bring comfort to a lonely person who is in need of friendship. And by doing that you and I too will be a representation of the glory of God. That is really what God looks like Jesus says what we do to the least of these we do to him.
I realize we are living in confusing times. There will always be those who will try to twist the teachings of Jesus, even those who are not in it for the money. They are in it for personal power, reputation and fame. On the one hand we have those who would like to tell us that we need to base our salvation on rules and regulations. To those people salvation depends on how well we have lived. It is a “salvation by works” religion. To them salvation is found in do’s and don’ts.
And then we also have the other extreme. Nothing is sin – the teaching goes as long as you believe in Jesus, you are fine. These people forget that what they love is what they follow. Our works don’t matter – they say. It is true that no works will save us. But if we are saved, we will show it by our lives that we are serving a different master.
Jesus is our first and foremost goal in life. Everything we do, everything we are and have is for his glory. We live to worship him. We make everything we have serve to bring him glory.
Jesus Christ is the beginning and the end. In him we have our being. We worship him as Lord and Savior. Lets uphold and serve Jesus because he is superior to all creation. He is our life.