Dallas Burdette: January 3, 1998
Thrust statement: We have embarked upon a momentous expedition -- traveling a road on which the Lord has set us in His purpose.
Scripture Reading: Deuteronomy 30:19
Do you ever stop and think about your life as a journey? Are you conscious that you are on a journey now? You have either chosen to take the broad way that leads to eternal damnation or you have chosen the narrow way that leads to eternal life. I ask you today to decide which road you are on. Everyone is on a pilgrimage through life. If we are Christians, then, we are no longer enslaved and captive to sin but are on our final destination of eternal salvation. Since this is so, I encourage you to renew your commitment to the new life in Jesus Christ. Whether you are Christian or sinner, I appeal to you to make a resolution to serve the living God with all your heart, with all your strength, and with all your mind.
As we begin a New Year, I implore you to meditate upon the words of Joshua as he approaches the end of his life.
This sermon emphasizes the exercises of the will, the heart, and the mind, which things are necessary for the Christian to appropriate the redemption given to us in our Lord. This exhortation wrestles with one of the most troublesome theological difficulties of the Christian faith: the relationship of our works, as men and women already redeemed by the cross and resurrection, to our salvation. Do we still have something to do? Can Christians accept or reject Gods grace through their life style? Can ones continuing unfaithfulness and disobedience cancel ones salvation?
Whatever answer you give, that answer must be measured by the teaching of Gods Word. There is much in the New Testament that leads one to believe that the benefits of salvation in Christ can be lost. For instance, Paul addresses the Galatians with these stern words: "You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace" (Galatians 5:4). Holy Scripture abounds with exhortations to faithfulness. Paul charged Timothy:
But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses (1 Timothy 6:11-12).
Many Christians rely on what Bonhoeffer called "cheap grace." It is not uncommon for Christians to relish in the benefits of redemption made available by God through Jesus Christ, without responding to Gods grace through good works the number is legion. Our indifference becomes apparent when we assure ourselves that God accepts us even when we disregard His Gospel and His teachings, or when we assume that we can love God and at the same time hate our brother or spouse or acquaintance with impunity. Apparently this attitude existed in Pauls day also. He left Titus on the island of Crete so that he might "straighten out what was left unfinished" (Titus 1:5). In this epistle to Titus, Paul deals with proper conduct for Christians, those who had been saved by Gods grace. Paul grounds right conduct upon what God has done for us through Jesus. He writes:
This sermon proclaims that there is a response that must be made to Gods mercy. We must never forget that God is working in us, in spite of all the trials and tribulations that we undergo. For instance, while Paul languished in a Roman jail, he, nevertheless, could write the Philippians that
Let us return to the Scripture reading in the beginning of our message. You recall that Moses admonished the Israelites to respond to the blessings of God. When Moses made his final appeal, he was one hundred and twenty years old. He offered them life or death. He vigorously pleaded with them,
Israel had reached her destination at a moment in time between bondage and a future fruitful life. She had now moved in a direction in her pilgrimage away from enslavement toward her salvation. To some extent, this is also a description of our own day to day lives. At times our lives can seem pointless, unimportant, and insignificant as if our lives are measured out in "coffee spoons at home, or in production figures at the office." But the truth of the matter is that we have embarked upon a momentous expedition, traveling a road on which the Lord God has set us in His purpose. And we got started on this journey by being rescued out of slavery through the atonement of Jesus Christ.
Prior to our conversion, we were enslaved to the power of death. And, try as we will to escape its clutches, we never can outrun its grasp or loose its cold fingers from encircling our lives and the lives of all whom we love. All one has to do is just walk to the cemetery to visit the graves of those who have preceded them in death. Death still hangs over the human race like some great phantom from the beginning of our first disobedience. The words of the Hebrew writer still ring in our ears: "man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment" (Hebrew 9:27). We never can escape the fangs of death, but God accomplished this feat for us in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. On that Easter morning, as we sometimes refer to the resurrection, deaths tyranny was broken. There, in the resurrection, human flesh and blood was delivered from the graves captivity and death lost its power to claim humanity as slaves. This wonderful news of victory over death is what caused Paul to shout:
"Death has been swallowed up in victory."
A new power invaded history God became flesh. John, the apostle, speaks of this manifestation in glowing terms: "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14). This One who came from the Father was "full of grace and truth." Jesus reveals to Nicodemus that
On another occasion Jesus responded to the Jews who tried to kill Him: "just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it" (John 5:21). To these same Jews, He also said, "Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come outthose who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned" (John 5:28-29). God has come intruding into our own personal lives, through Jesus Christ, changing our state of affairs. He retrieved us. He sanctified us. He purchased us back. In Christ our Lord, He claimed us as His own. And so the road we travel is now His road, leading from redemption toward the future. This is the reason that Paul could write: "It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from Godthat is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 1:30-31). Paul says it is because of Him that men can boast, not because of our works. "This righteousness" writes Paul, "from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe" (Romans 3:22).
We as Christians often deceive ourselves into thinking that because Christ died and rose from the dead that we have nothing else to do. We, for some reason, think that we will simply drift into the benefits of our salvation. But a word of caution is pertinent here in our journey. Jesus encouraged His disciples to "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it" (Matthew 7:13-14). What does "only a few find it" mean to you? Having been redeemed by the cross and the empty tomb, we can still fail to realize the full benefits of our redemption.
Can you imagine the benefits to our society if Christians were clothed with the "fruit of the Spirit"? What are they? Paul enumerates them as "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Paul also reminds those in Corinth to live godly lives. He, through the Holy Spirit, captures the mind of God in His demands upon the redeemed.
We live in an age and a society where anything goes. If it feels good do it. But this is not Gods way. God says, "We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?" (Romans 6:2). Since we are dead to sin, then, Paul exhorts,
In concluding our sermon -- Journey Through Life -- I encourage each of you to begin to love once more as God loves you. We need to forgive others as God has forgiven us through the sacrifice of His Son on the cross. In this journey, we are to "Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God" (Romans 15:7). To love Him means to wipe out the evil past in our closeness with those around us the past bitterness you have against your spouse, the past falling-out you have against a relative, the past altercation you had with a friend that has shattered the togetherness between you. To love God means to love those whom God loves. To love God means to care for those whom God cares. There are a lot of people in the world who irritate our sensibilities. There are people who are totally obnoxious to us. Since we have embarked upon a momentous expedition, traveling a road on which the Lord has set us in His purpose, then, I encourage you to reflect time and again upon the words of Isaiah:
And a highway will be there;
Grassy Church of Christ (Arab, Alabama), January 4, 1998, 11am (service)