Sunday, July 29, 2018

The Glorious Road Home: Learning to Suffer for Jesus

Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, cc 2.0
Audio Message


Introduction
As we consider today the glorious road home, we can often feel confused, by the difficulties we face, the addictions, the sorrows, and the challenges. Sometimes we wonder, is this difficult way, really right? This brings to mind a poem by Rosalind Goforth, it goes like this:

“Is this the right road home, Lord? The clouds are dark and ominous,

The stony path is hard to walk, Each step brings fresh pain.

I thought the way would be brighter? And that the sun with warmth would glow,

And joyous songs from play overhead. Is this really the Right Road Home?

Yes my child, replied Jesus: This very path I trod, The clouds were dark for me,

The stony path was sharp and hard. I didn’t walk by sight, but by faith

That at the end, the sun shines bright, Forever, where there is no more night or pain, 


And glad hearts rest from earth’s fierce fight, it is the Right road Home!” -Rosalind Goforth, in Sunday School Times (revised) 

There is a road set before us. But it’s not like the other roads we see, and travel on. This is a spiritual road. It’s a difficult road. It means dogged fighting, it means intense spiritual warfare. It means denying yourself, and serving Jesus. This is the road I call you to today.

As a partner with God in ministry, I beg you to follow this road, 2 For God says, “At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.” Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation.

But I give you this warning: We will have to endure many difficulties along the way. Indeed, all of you are now struggling in various ways, to remain clean and sober, and to pursue a new life.

Trials
Now, at the beginning, will be the hardest time to stay clean and sober. Now will be the hardest time to follow Jesus. We must patiently endure trials, hardships, calamities. Each of these three are slightly different.

Trial – God is testing our faith through a difficulty, and when the difficulty passes, we find our faith purified like a fire purifies metal, and we’re more mature and joyful after the trial is over

Hardship – Hardship is something we have to endure, usually over time. Maybe our baby’s mother is just cruel to us, and won’t let us see our son or daughter. Or we’re afflicted with serious back pain for a season. Those are hardships. And all we can really do is endure them, and cry out to God for help in the difficulty.

Calamity – the dictionary definition of a calamity is ‘a great misfortune or disaster, as a flood or serious injury.’ As a Christian insane stuff will happen. And you’ll be amazed by what you’re having to go through. This is like, losing a family member. Or discovering we have cancer. Or we get fired from a great job. Calamity is a world shaking event.

Being Transformed
But there is another dynamic at work. Over time we begin to see a glorious, beautiful road of recovery open up before us. We see that Christ is slowly but surely transforming us into the likeness of God. And it’s so beautiful. There is peace, and serenity in our souls, after so many years of brokenness, and sorrows, and addictions.

But we have to walk the walk. We have to really live for Jesus, and prove it by how we live.

2nd Corinthians 6 indicates how we show ourselves to be true Christians.

Verse 6 says: “…by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love.

And verse 7 says “God’s power is at work in us.” There is actually God inside us, changing us. That’s amazing. 

The World Doesn't Know Us
The people of the world around us don’t get It. It doesn’t make sense to them. They wonder why we don’t go indulge in sin with them, they think we’re superstitious fools. They don’t understand the mystery of Christ.

Which is why… verse 8 says: “We serve God whether people honor us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us.”

v.9: “We are ignored, even though we are well known.” The world doesn’t want to hear from us or listen to us. They mock us on television and in the news. They call us hypocrites, and take one example, like Westboro Baptist church, or a megachurch prosperity teacher and use it to slander every Christian in America. We’re called bigots because we don’t agree with certain lifestyles. They call us judgmental, because we live by the ethical standards of the Bible.

If you’re a new Christian today, welcome to the struggle. It isn’t easy. But we can still love these people, even if they hate us. We don’t ever have to hate them back. In fact, we return hate with love.

Struggles of this Fallen World
V.9 continues: “We live close to death, but we are still alive.” –All of us in this room know what it’s like to live on the edge of death. I mean, we were parked there. There was a little run down diner sitting on the edge of the earth, right at the face of a cliff and we got up each day and dared that abyss to eat us, when we were in addiction. Now it’s time to leave the diner of self-destruction.

When I was active in addiction I called it the halfway hotel, that little dump on the edge of destruction where I cut myself to pieces with drugs, day by day, piece by piece. One day I had to get up, and walk out that door forever.
“We have been beaten, but we have not been killed.” The Center for Studies on New Religions found in a recent study that Christianity is the #1 most persecuted religion in the world. They found that in 2016 over 90,000 Christians were killed for their faith. Thankfully in the United States we still enjoy religious liberty. But for many in 50 countries, according to Open Doors USA, they can either be arrested for owning a Bible, or face deadly persecution if they profess Christ. Few of us have ever been beaten for being a Christian, like Paul talks about in 2nd Corinthians 6. But who knows what the future holds. Perhaps some of us may be lucky enough to suffer in that way for Christ. 

And verse 10 says: “Our hearts ache, but we always have joy.” As a Christian my heart aches often in this world. I look upon the lostness and troubles in the world, and my heart aches. Yet at the same time I have this inexpressible joy in my heart, as I turn my eyes to Jesus. The Bible says that in the last days the love of many will grow cold. We must continue to have love. Instead of looking at the chaos in the world, return your eyes to the beauty and perfection of Jesus our King. 

Having an Eternal Perspective
V.10“We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others.” Some of us were wealthy in the past. Some of us owned our own businesses, and some of us had houses, cars, and money. But all that wealth couldn’t stop the drugs from taking over. Wealth is fleeting in this life. And there is no way to take a single dollar with us into the next. We do 80 to 90s years at most in this life. It’s very short. So we have to fix our eyes on eternal things. Many of us put as our number one goal in life to get money, to try to get rich. And it’s a dumb goal because we all grow old and die. Better to focus on gathering wealth in heaven, by serving Jesus.

Do you think we’re just faking all this? Do you think we do this just for the fun of it? If I thought it was fake, and Jesus wasn’t really real, I’d be out there partying and doing whatever I want. Jesus Christ is really God and He is really alive, right now. And I know there are only two places I can go, heaven or hell. There is no 3rd option. So I serve Jesus today, because I want to live in paradise forever.

V.10“We own nothing, and yet we have everything.” Everything I have belongs to God. I have nothing. I didn’t join the Salvation Army to get rich, believe me, it doesn’t work like that. I joined the Salvation Army to do God’s will. I’m going to serve Jesus, and be very rich in the next life, in good deeds, and service to the lost. I’ve got a plan here. I’m following Jesus, because God is making a new heavens and a new Earth where we will be immortal.

Do you get that? It’s real. I’m telling you it’s real. I’ve experienced Christ. I’ve seen him change my life, from being near death, in and out of detox, jails, and hospitals, from living years in the blackest depression, addicted, enslaved, body collapsing, suicide always on my mind, and yet Jesus Christ heard me when I cried upon His name, and He saved me. 

The Remaking of All Things
The City of God, the New Earth, it’s all real. There will be golden fields, and grassy meadows, and mansions for each of us to live in, God will be everywhere with us, Jesus will talk to us, and all knowledge will be available to us. We will sing, dance, and praise Jesus, and be filled joy, euphoria, with bliss. And it will never have to end, it will never have to break to suffering or pain. The joy and peace and love and happiness of the City of God will be endless. We will be there with Jesus. We will be conscious. I’ll still be me; you’ll still be you. And if you’ll give your life to Jesus, and turn from all your sins, and fight through the struggles of this life, you’ll be given a crown of glory when you arrive in paradise.

But the other is also quite real, hell. It will be blackest darkness. You will be conscious. You’ll know that being sent there was just of God, because of your sins. You’ll suffer because God is not in hell and fires of His judgment roar. There is only pain in hell, not the slightest good feeling, not even for a moment. And you’ll know, that there is no way out. You’ll know that it’s now too late to repent and believe in Jesus. The window of opportunity will have closed forever.

Which is why I say again: Today is the day of salvation! Today, if you feel the Spirit of Christ moving in you, respond to His voice and take up your place in His kingdom. He is calling you to be part of his holy temple, the body of Christ.

The Temple of God
2nd Corinthians 6:16-18 says, these are the words of God: “I will live in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people.[e]
17 Therefore, come out from among unbelievers, and separate yourselves from them, says the Lord.
Don’t touch their filthy things, and I will welcome you.[f]
18 And I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”

Christ our Lord will make you part of his temple. He removes all of our sins. He causes us to be reborn, but not born of a mother and father, but born of God. Jesus can and will transform you completely. If you feel His grace urging you to call on Him, do so now: Call on the name of Jesus Christ. Believe ‘Jesus can help me!’ He is your Savior, your Redeemer, Your new birth, and your King forever. Turn away from sin and be holy set apart, and God himself will be your Father.

Conclusion
I see the road before us. It’s a high way, with light shining down through the tree tops. We see the road looks difficult and winding steadily upward toward heaven. And we see the other road, the easy road, that leads down into darkness. Come with me, on the road of sorrow and suffering, follow Jesus, onto the steady difficult road upward toward the light. Be brave my brothers, I know what you’ve been through, I know the deep dark sorrows of your hearts and how you’ve suffered in addiction. Now, come with me, as we follow Jesus, one so well acquainted with sorrow. You’ve suffered much in addiction, now suffer in a new way by suffering for Jesus. Follow Him, in joy, in struggle, in wins, in losses, in victories in defeats, in trials, afflictions, and battles, follow Jesus Christ, the one who suffered for us, and obey His call. Learn from Him, for He is the great holy redeemer, learn from the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords! Follow Him as we go, on this bitter-sweet journey home, trudging the road of happy destiny, all the way to the gates of the kingdom of heaven on Earth. 



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