Where Are You Headed?
November 1, 2009
MARK 10:32-34, 11:1-10
On January 20th, Henry Blackaby, in Experiencing God Day by Day, wrote about “Royal Priests”. He began by quoting 1 Peter 2:9 But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are a kingdom of priests, God's holy nation, his very own possession. This is so you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.
If you are a Christian, you are a priest, chosen by God. As a member of the royal priesthood you have constant access to the King. If there is ever a need in your life, you don't have to find an intermediary or enlist another priest in order to gain a hearing from the King. Your position as a royal priest allows you direct access. This privilege describes your position as a priest.
However, priests also have a function. It is the responsibility of a priest to work within a priesthood. Scripture does not promote the practice of individual priests, each with a separate ministry. Rather, priests function together (Lev. 9:1). An unbiblical sense of individualism can isolate you from functioning within God's royal priesthood as He intended.
The priest represents God to the people, but he also takes the people's concerns to God. Is there someone around you who desperately needs the intercession of one of God's priests? Perhaps someone will only come to know God by seeing Him in your life. Our world hungers for an expression of Christ as He really is, living out His life through His people. It is dangerous to put our job above our calling by God. We are called to be priests first, and to hold a job second. When we get these out of order, everyone around us is denied access to the Father through us. God may have called you into a secular job as a vocation, but more importantly He has appointed you to be one of His royal priests.
A few years ago, a neat movie came out that caught the imagination of many who saw it. City Slickers, starring Billy Crystal and Jack Palance among others, was about three middle-aged, upper-class guys who decided to work out some of their midlife crises by going to a dude ranch out West for a couple of weeks.
One of the three was Billy Crystal. While he and his friends were on a cattle drive, he struck up a conversation with an old cowboy, played by Jack Palance. This is the way the conversation went.
Palance said, "Yeah, you guys come out here every summer at about the same age and you have the very same problems. You spend fifty weeks out of each year getting knots in your ropes, and then you think that two weeks out here will untie them for you. None of you get it." He pauses a long time and then says, "Do you know what the secret of life is?"
Billy Crystal says, "No, what is it?"
Palance holds up one finger, his index finger, and says, "This." "Your finger?" exclaims Crystal.
Palance replies, "One thing, just one thing. You stick to that and every-thing else doesn't mean a thing."
"One thing?" Crystal says, "Well, that's great, but what is that one thing?"
Palance throws his head back and laughs out loud and then says with a little wry smile, "That's what you've got to figure out."
I'm not sure that "one thing" is the same thing for everybody at all. In one sense it's a very different thing for each one of us. Yet, when you look below the surface, the "one thing" is the same for each of us after all. What is it, this one thing we've all got to figure out, this one thing that's the most important thing of all in each one of our lives? It has to do with our purpose, our basic reason for being here in the world. Unless and until we get that figured out, we don't have much of a life.
"They were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, Jesus leading the way; and the disciples were filled with awe" (Mark 10:32a).
Jesus got it figured out, didn't he? Jesus' life was enormously powerful. Because he knew what his purpose was, his life made a huge difference in the world.
Let’s take a look at today’s Scripture; please turn to Mark, chapter 10, verses 32 – 34 and chapter 11, verses 1 – 10 And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, "See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise."
Now when they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples and said to them, "Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, 'Why are you doing this?' say, 'The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.' " And they went away and found a colt tied at a door outside in the street, and they untied it. And some of those standing there said to them, "What are you doing, untying the colt?" And they told them what Jesus had said, and they let them go. And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!"
Jesus made a decision when he was up in Galilee that he needed to go to Jerusalem. And he did so, fully aware that going there would cost him his life, and yet also fully aware that that was the only way God's salvation would come to the whole world. So he gathered his disciples together and off they went on the ninety-mile journey from the north shore of the Sea of Galilee down the Jordan Valley to the great city of Jerusalem. The Gospel of Mark gives us a fascinating glimpse of this journey. It says, "They were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, Jesus was leading the way; and the disciples were filled with awe" (10:32). Other translations of the Bible say that his disciples were amazed or astonished, or in a daze, but I think the word awe best captures what the Greek word was really wanting to convey. What is so significant about that? I think the disciples were awed because Jesus wasn't holding back the slightest bit. Rather, he was out in front of the pack! He was walking way up ahead of all the others! He was almost eager to get to Jerusalem, though he knew full well that he was going to be killed when he got there! Why was he so eager? Because of his basic purpose in life, his basic reason for being, the one thing for which he felt he had been put in the world — and he knew that if he didn't fulfill it, he really wouldn't have much of a life at all!
The same holds true for you and me. There's a basic reason and purpose for which each one of us is here in the world. Our lives are not an accident. Maybe our parents thought that our coming was an accident, but no life is ever an accident. Instead, our lives are an investment — a divine investment. God made each one of us ever so carefully and ever so wonderfully and put us in the world at this precise time and in this precise place. God had a reason for doing that, a deep reason that lies inside the heart and soul of each one of us in this room. If we never discover that reason, never honor and live out that purpose, we really won't have much of a life!
Maybe you feel a little bit like Charlie Brown. I mean, you hear these big and lofty ideas about having a reason and a purpose in your life, and you wonder what in the heck yours might be. Charlie Brown went to see his friend Lucy. She had her famous booth set up, the one that says "Psychiatrist" on the front. Charlie pays her five cents for her expert advice. "Lucy, I need your help," he says. "I don't feel a sense of commitment to anything. I can't seem to find my direction and my purpose in life."
Lucy looks at Charlie Brown and says, "Oh, don't worry, Charlie Brown. It's like being on a big ocean liner out in the middle of the sea. Some folks put their deck chairs to face the front of the ship, and others put theirs to face the side of the ship, and others put their chairs to face the back of the ship. The real question, Charlie Brown, is this: Which way do you face?"
Charlie Brown has this absolutely blank and bewildered expression on his face. And then he says, "You know, Lucy, I can't even get my deck chair unfolded!"
I suppose all of us feel like that from time to time. We don't know what to do with such big and heavy questions about our purpose in life, our des-tiny, our basic reason for being. We shy away from questions like those, push them to the side and don't really deal with them at all. But Jack Palance is right isn't he? If we can't answer that one basic question about our life that is, why we're here and what we're all about — then nothing else will really fall into place for us at all and we'll never have a life that's very deeply satisfying. David Jeremiah, in a recent devotional online, says “The Spirit bears witness with our spirit, that we are children of God (Rom. 8:16)”. He goes on to say, “When Princes William and Harry of Wales were born to England's Prince Charles and his then wife, Lady Diana, the cheeky British press lovingly referred to them as "the heir and a spare" -- William being "the heir" and Harry being "the spare." In other words, Prince William, being the firstborn son of Prince Charles, stands directly in the line of succession to the British crown. And should he be unable to become king, Prince Harry would step in. When one is born to royalty, one's identity and destiny are fixed simply by being born.” God has a purpose for each of us. He created us to be worshippers not wasters. In Galatians 3:29 we read And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and now all the promises God gave to him belong to you. And in Revelation
I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, "Look, the home of God is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will remove all of their sorrows, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. For the old world and its evils are gone forever."
I came across a story some years ago that illustrates this point about what makes life worthwhile. Alfred Nobel, the great Swedish chemist, made a fortune developing explosives and selling his secret formulas to governments so that they could make bombs and land mines and all kinds of weapons of destruction. One night his brother died in an automobile accident. But the papers got the report mixed up and thought that the one who had died was Alfred. They published this long and impressive obituary about Alfred, calling him the dynamite king of the whole world. They told about the incredible fortune he had amassed, the millions of dollars he had made through developing explosives and other means of mass destruction. The next morning when Alfred read his own obituary in the paper, he was shocked and stunned beyond belief. But he was also saddened, deeply saddened, when he realized what his life had amounted to and how he would be remembered when he was gone. Right then and there he made a decision that he was going to turn his life around and live whatever years he had left creating an entirely different legacy for himself.
I believe you would agree with me in saying that Alfred Nobel did a pretty good job in that regard after his brother's death. He set up a series of major and very prestigious international awards given to people who made positive contributions to the human family. We know them today as the Nobel Prizes, one of which is the Nobel Peace Prize. They exist because Nobel didn't like the way his life had gone or the kind of legacy he was leaving the world, and he wanted to do something about it before it was too late. He found his ultimate purpose.
How about you? Are you pleased with the way your life has been going up to this point? Are you pleased with the kind of legacy you are creating, the kind of memory you're leaving behind? Are you pleased with what you have done with the one life that's been given to you, the only life you'll have to live in this world? If not, what might you do at this point to change all of that and to put your life on an entirely different course? That decision is really what the Christian life is all about, isn't it? Oswald Chambers puts it this way. We must continually remind ourselves of the purpose of life. We are not destined to happiness, nor to health, but to holiness. Today we have far too many desires and interests, and our lives are being consumed and wasted by them. Many of them may be right, noble, and good, and may later be fulfilled, but in the meantime God must cause their importance to us to decrease. The only thing that truly matters is whether a person will accept the God who will make him holy. At all costs, a person must have the right relationship with God.
Do I believe I need to be holy? Do I believe that God can come into me and make me holy? God has only one intended destiny for mankind—holiness. His only goal is to produce saints. God is not some eternal blessing-machine for people to use, and He did not come to save us out of pity—He came to save us because He created us to be holy. Atonement through the Cross of Christ means that God can put me back into perfect oneness with Himself through the death of Jesus Christ, without a trace of anything coming between us any longer.
Never tolerate, because of sympathy for yourself or for others, any practice that is not in keeping with a holy God. Holiness means absolute purity of your walk before God, the words coming from your mouth, and every thought in your mind—placing every detail of your life under the scrutiny of God Himself. Holiness is not simply what God gives me, but what God has given me that is being exhibited in my life. 1 Corinthians 6:19 tells us “Do you not know that … you are not your own?”
A very successful and highly respected attorney tells about the greatest Christmas gift he ever received in his life. He was a youngster when, one Christmas, he discovered a box under the Christmas tree with his name on it. The box was from his dad. "It was so light," he said, "about the weight of the box itself, and I couldn't imagine what might be on the inside. At first I thought it might be some money, but then I knew better, because we were very poor at that time and didn't have any money to share." He could hardly wait, he said, until Christmas Day when he could open up the gift from his dad and see what it was. Finally Christmas Day came. Inside the box he found a note, just a simple note, that's all. But what that note said meant everything in the world to him.
This is what the note said, "Dear son: This year I will give you three hundred and sixty-five hours of my time and my undivided attention, one hour every single day right after dinner. It's yours! We'll talk about what you want to talk about. We'll go where you want to go. Or, if you wish, we'll play what you want to play. But it will be your hour and my hour together, and it's what I want to give you for Christmas this year." "My dad not only kept that promise," the attorney said, "but he renewed it every year. It's the greatest Christmas gift I ever received, and now that he's dead and gone, it's more precious to me than ever."
His father had found the one thing that was really important — his relationship with his son. We must find the one relationship that is important to our relationship to God. We were created to know Him. Isaiah 43:10 puts it this way. "But you are my witnesses, O Israel!" says the LORD. "And you are my servant. You have been chosen to know me, believe in me, and understand that I alone am God. There is no other God; there never has been and never will be.
We need to realize that this is the only life we'll ever have, and the time to begin living it well is right now! Again, the questions: How do you want to be remembered? What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind? How do you want to direct your life from this day forward and for the rest of your days? If you can't answer these questions, then undoubtedly you haven't found your purpose, the reason for which you've been put here on earth at this time and place. You are majoring on the minor things in life. If that's true, then someday you'll be very sorry. You’ll be like the guy John Piper uses an example in his book, “Don’t Waste Your Life”. "I will tell you what a tragedy is. I will show you how to waste your life. Consider this story from the February 1998 Reader's Digest: A couple 'took early retirement from their jobs in the Northeast five years ago when he was 59 and she was 51. Now they live in Punta Gorda, Florida, where they cruise on their 30-foot trawler, play softball and collect shells. . . : Picture them before Christ at the great day of judgment: “Look, Lord. See my shells.” That is a tragedy.
Jesus headed toward Jerusalem with a deep sense of purpose. Where are you headed? What's your purpose? There's a `Jerusalem" some-where up ahead for all of us to face —Why? Because we are all called to be God’s children. John 1:10-13 tells us: But although the world was made through him, the world didn't recognize him when he came. Even in his own land and among his own people, he was not accepted. But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn! This is not a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan—this rebirth comes from God.
In Luke 18:22, Jesus says, “Come, follow me”. Again I will quote Oswald Chambers from “My Utmost For His Highest”. This devotion is called “Getting there” One of the greatest hindrances in coming to Jesus is the excuse of our own individual temperament. We make our temperament and our natural desires barriers to coming to Jesus. Yet the first thing we realize when we do come to Jesus is that He pays no attention whatsoever to our natural desires. We have the idea that we can dedicate our gifts to God. However, you cannot dedicate what is not yours. There is actually only one thing you can dedicate to God, and that is your right to yourself (see Romans 12:1). If you will give God your right to yourself, He will make a holy experiment out of you—and His experiments always succeed. The one true mark of a saint of God is the inner creativity that flows from being totally surrendered to Jesus Christ. In the life of a saint there is this amazing Well, which is a continual Source of original life. The Spirit of God is a Well of water springing up perpetually fresh. A saint realizes that it is God who engineers his circumstances; consequently there are no complaints, only unrestrained surrender to Jesus. Never try to make your experience a principle for others, but allow God to be as creative and original with others as He is with you.
If you abandon everything to Jesus, and come when He says, “Come,” then He will continue to say, “Come,” through you. You will go out into the world reproducing the echo of Christ’s “Come.” That is the result in every soul who has abandoned all and come to Jesus.
Have I come to Him? Will I come now?
How about you? Where are you headed? Your eternity depends on your answer!