In Paul’s day and in our own time, people keep traditions alive and you hear “that’s the way it has always been done”, as proof of their Christian lives and their beliefs as well as the “proof” of their conversion. We see people in church as well as on the street that we know as “church people”, meaning that they are in church every time that there is something going on there. It could also mean that they volunteer in church to drive the bus or to help in the nursery or any number of duties. These people feel sanctified and saved because of their deeds or their work for the church and they may be, but what about the Person that they are serving? Are they working for Jesus or themselves?
In Paul’s day there were many who were “religious”, all of the priests, the Pharisees and Sadducees were religious and yet Jesus condemned them. They were convinced that they were right and everyone else was wrong and they would not listen to any “new” teaching. They were stuck in the past with all of their laws and rules and they had hardened their hearts against anything new.
Do you know people like that? I do, but what can you or I do about it? We can’t change them because they don’t listen or won’t listen just as those in Jesus’ time wouldn’t. So what can we do? Love them, and pray for them daily.
In reference to the title of today’s sermon, there will be many people in hell who are or were religious while they were here and they were that way their whole life. They were convinced that their way was right and that they were doing things right, so what happened? They weren’t shown the error of their ways? Maybe or maybe they just didn’t listen or really hear sermons which they attended. When your ears are closed to Christ and His way of living, your heart is too. So how do you get people like that to listen? By prayer and fasting. Even Jesus said that some problems can only be solved by prayer and fasting.
I am not speaking of fasting for forty days or even two weeks, but if there is someone that you love who hasn’t given their lives and their hearts to Jesus then pray for them and fast for one day! Drink water and juice during that time and pray.
Their life will be impacted and yours will too! God listens closely to those who combine fasting with prayer. The answer may not come immediately after the fast is over, but you can be sure that your prayer was heard!
When Paul wrote most of his letters to the different churches, he was usually in prison at the time. What does that say about his ministry? It says that it was effective for one thing because he was getting someone’s attention! He was striving for the prize, but what was that prize? The prize that Paul was striving for was to be more like Jesus and if it meant that he was stoned or imprisoned for the teaching that he was doing then so be it! The prize that Paul was seeking was also to be considered worthy of being a “good and faithful servant” to his Lord, which is something that we should also be striving for.
To live for Christ and with Him in your daily life is a conscious decision that has to be made daily. It doesn’t automatically happen when you accept Him as your savior. Many people think that once you have accepted Him into your heart, you have done your part. That is not where your part in your new life ends but where it begins! You have to decide every day to take Christ with you everywhere you go! And if you wouldn’t take Jesus there in person, then you shouldn’t be there either!
That is a radical concept for many people to accept even Christians who have been in church most of their lives. You can get up and have a bad day and from that point you may un-invite Christ or decide not to ask Him to be with you that day. Of course He will still be there but you may not know it because you choose not to recognize Him. We are supposed to know and come to know Him daily because of Who He is and what He did for us and yet we sometimes choose not to allow Him to be a presence in our daily life.
Why would you decide such a thing? The Creator of everything wants a relationship with you and everyone else in the world, doesn’t that sound cool?! We are enamored with all sorts of celebrities and sports figures and would enjoy spending time with them so why not be just as excited when the Creator wants to be in your life and share it with you? The disciples had that relationship for about three years and yet they didn’t fully comprehend it until He ascended to the Father. We have the Bible, God’s Word, to tell us all that we need to know about Him and about the Father and we have the Holy Spirit to guide us daily in our walk with Him, what more could you ask for?
Our world and the one who influences people everyday tries to tell us that the things of this world, right now are more important than anything we could have with Jesus in our lives. Money, power, and possessions are all temporary because when our life is over those things won’t mean anything. Some of them may have sentimental value to our family but other than that, nothing in this world makes the trip past death’s door only your soul and spirit do that.
The way that many people see being a Christian is that we live with lots of rules and regulations about what we can and cannot do. That is not the way this works! Following Christ and keeping our eyes on Him, spiritually and physically is the requirement that we should live with every day. It is not hard to follow Christ, once you get the hang of it. The hard part is the tug of war between your old self and the new one that now lives in your heart.
Until your faith in Christ can keep your new self in place and kick the old one out, you will be in turmoil because you can’t serve them both. It is a decision that you have to make every day. Get up with Christ on your mind, not what am I going to do today? But Who am I going to be with today? Am I going to go back to doing the things that I did before I met Jesus? Or am I going to read the Bible a few minutes and pray for strength and guidance from Him to carry me through the day?
We are living this life to get ready for the next but you have to make sure that you are going to have a life, a real life, after this one. Many people think that there is no life after this one and the Bible says just the opposite from beginning to end. Give yourself a chance to experience that life because the alternative is eternal separation from loved ones who are in heaven and from the love of God too. The only chance that you have to make this decision is during this life, now. Once this life ends, there are no “second chances”. Ask Jesus into your life, follow Him every day, learn about Him and the love that He has for you during the time that you have now.
The universe shows us every day the power and majesty of God so we are without excuse when someone asks if there is a God. Isn’t it wonderful that the Creator of everything wants to know you and have a relationship with you? Don’t you want to know Him too? All you have to do is ask Him into your life and your heart and you will have that relationship.