Focus - Focused Faith in a Blurred World
What was it like to die?
I admit it. I’m really excited to see you this morning. We’ve been praying for you and we welcome you to this place we call the Westerville Christian Church. Four words sum up this church – Love God, Love People! And I mean all kinds of people. All of you for instance. I’ll just label you all good looking! We love people - rich, poor, white, black, Hispanic, or Asian. We love Michigan fans but we tolerate Pittsburgh Steeler fans. We love you even if you did not pick one final four team! NOT ONE! Honestly, did anyone here pick Butler to be in the Final Four?
We love the highly intellectual and those who prove they are not. One man walked up to a minister right after Easter Sunday services and said, /“Preacher, you're in a rut! You preach about the resurrection every time I come here.”[i]/ I wonder why! Maybe because Jesus is alive and that good news is worth shouting about day after day, month after month, year after year! Tim Keller said, “Here's the gospel: you're more sinful than you ever dared believe; you're more loved than you ever dared hope.” So loved God willingly gave up his only Son to die! But God did not leave Jesus in the tomb. When it comes to Jesus there is no cemetery to visit or grave to mark! He’s not there – he’s alive!
Now there’s one group of people we especially love at this church and that would be teenagers! We really do love teenagers. If you are a teenager – raise your hand! If you don’t mind let’s give all our teens this morning a big round of applause. I’m curious – how many adults here this morning remember what it was like to be a teenager? Would you go back? Would you want to relive your teen years? My teenage years marked some of my highest highs and my lowest lows. But one time was enough for me!
I know this sounds obvious, but how would you describe a typical teenager? A teenage girl receives her allowance on Monday, spends it on Tuesday, and asks her Dad for money on Wednesday. A teenager girl does not talk to her Mom as much as she texts her Mom. A teenage boy never stops eating AND he can pick out his girl friend’s voice three blocks away, but can't hear his Mom calling from the next room. [ii] Now those things are generalizations, but I don’t want to paint a negative picture when it comes to teenagers. Teens often get labeled lazy and rebellious and some are. But some adults are also lazy and rebellious. Teens can also be God fearing – Jesus honoring – servants. Many teenagers are way clever especially when it comes to technology. Let me show you a lip dub video clip entirely written, directed and produced by a teenager named Javier Caceres. (LIP DUB #1)[iii] Javier was able to involve his entire Shorewood High School in Shoreline, Washington State. Ben Stiller & Ashton Kutcher watched the video and said, “We’ll be working for him someday!” Teenagers have more opportunities today than ever before. They face many more temptations and those temptations include doubting the existence of God. It is a fact many teenagers often leave God physically in college, but many leave their faith mentally in Middle School and High School. We want to do something about that at WCC. Several months ago our Student Minister, Nick Ballard asked our Middle School and High School students five questions. What are your questions about God? What are your questions about the Christian faith? What is the purpose of life? Are their any benefits in living the Christian life Are their any benefits in NOT living the Christian life? Nick received 241 responses. You can see all the responses by going to our website and clicking Teen Survey Results. From those 241 answers or questions we sifted out eight. Please locate one insert entitled Focus! Here are the next eight messages - you have the dates and the message titles. I don’t think these questions are just for teenagers. We all need answers to these questions. Let’s begin with – What was it like to die? I’m assuming this teenager meant – “Jesus, what was it like to die?” I believe the Apostle Paul best answers this question. Turn in your Bibles to 1 Corinthians 15. Do you need a Bible today? We are NOT ONLY a Bible believing church, but a Bible giving church! M, M, L, J, A, R, 1st C-only nine people wrote the entire New Testament. One being the Apostle Paul. Paul writes his 1st letter to the Corinthians in AD 54.[iv] These folks had problems and questions. One question concerned the resurrection of Jesus. Here’s Paul’s answer. Find verse 3. Now the Scriptures for us are both the Old & New Testament. But the scriptures for them would primarily be the Old Testament. Jesus said in Matthew 26:24: “The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him.” What was written about him? Isaiah tells us. Listen to what Isaiah says will happen to the Messiah. Read Isaiah 53: 2b, 3a, 4-5, 7, 8a, 10a. In one word – “Jesus, what was it like to die?” Excruciating. Excruciate comes from the word crucifixion. Jesus suffered! Jesus was beaten, mocked, humiliated and he ultimately died of asphyxiation. He suffocated to death! Now either you never knew that – or we sometimes forget the price he paid! So let’s take a moment to remember – Jesus’ suffering was intense – Jesus suffering was for me! Ushers, let’s prepare for communion. Each week we focus on Jesus torn body and shed blood represented in the bread and cup. Pray to Jesus and give him thanks for enduring such an awful death! (Pray for communion)
Now there’s something else about Jesus’ death. It wasn’t final. But honestly, what does that mean? There’s another question that needs to be asked this morning? Watch the screens. (“How can the empty tomb change my life” video clip)
If you know me – you know my all time favorite question is “so what?” Every sermon you ever hear – ask that question, “So what” “So what? Jesus died.” Well, if he stayed dead I would agree. But he didn’t. Do you still have 1st Corinthians 15 handy? I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of talking about death. Find verse 4. (4-7) We answered the question – what was it like to die – it was awful – excruciating. But another question begs an answer. “Jesus, what was it like to live?” Jesus knew how to live. Are you really living life? Wouldn’t you think Frank McCourt is really living life? After all – he’s the owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers. However he and his wife Jamie are getting a divorce. Frank thinks he should get the rights to the team, the stadium and the surrounding land and his ex-wife should receive their six homes plus one condominium. One of their homes is used exclusively to store furniture. But apparently Jamie McCourt wants much more – she’s seeking nearly $1 million a month in spousal support.[v] Don’t kid yourself. That’s not life. That’s not freedom. There’s no happiness or reassurance. There’s no purpose. Life must have purpose to make sense. I was made by God. You were too. But we sinned. For sin to be paid in full God sent Jesus to die! He did. Jesus not only died but God raised him up never to die again. The empty tomb means death is not end. The empty tomb means forgiveness. The empty tomb shouts “reduced stress” – the Bible calls it peace. The empty tomb means I can take my irritations and frustrations to God and call that prayer! The empty tomb means change is possible. Tell me – who is this? That’s John Chilcote! Talk about a change/new creation – but it isn’t so much John’s appearance that’s changed – it’s his heart! The Apostle Paul went from church persecutor to church planter. The empty tomb means grace is amazing; mercy is real and hope is faith in a real Jesus. Where do you need grace, mercy and hope today?
Have you ever played a board game called The Game of Things? It’s really fun. The tag line is “you won’t believe the things your friends will say!” That’s so true. The idea is to give an answer to a question without people guessing that it’s you. For example: Things you shouldn’t do at your wedding. Things you shouldn’t say to get out of a ticket. Things that would probably keep you out of heaven. (My son Sam said – “Don’t die!”)
Sorry, that’s not an option. The question to ask isn’t – are you prepared to die. The question to ask is – are you prepared to live? God did not raise his Son back to life to keep you out of heaven, but so we might experience heaven!
[iv] H. Wayne House, Charts of the New Testament, 16-17
[v] Columbus Dispatch, Legal Note, March 31, 2010