Can You Defend Your Faith?

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I love to learn new vocabulary. Especially words that end in “phobia!”

Kine-morto-phobia – This has been growing very rapidly the last few years.   Any guesses – it’s a fear of zombies, where the person is petrified by the sight of zombies and scared that they might turn into a zombie.

(Hold on – You’ll understand the why I mention this in in a moment!)

Being a Christian is hard dedicated work.  Especially in this period of time that Social scientists have labeled “Post-Modernism.”  Simply put, it means we live in a time of individualism, where our society demands individual needs more than community, and less dependence upon God, if at all.

Times are changing, but the difficulty of being a Christian is not new.  We’ve just gotten spoiled.  We live in a country founded upon Judeo-Christian ethics.  Those ethics, the notion of a Christian morality, that stuff does not fit well in Post-Modernism.  In today’s world, only the individual can decide what is morally right for themselves.  As a society are slowly regressing to a time similar to when Christians were persecuted.  Some say it is already here.

How did it happen?  Unfortunately, we got blindsided and didn’t see it coming. But we were warned!  If there is one theme that is consistent in scripture is that being a Christian is hard.  Jesus said it best when he sent out his disciples:

16 “See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. (Matthew 10:16)

It is reported that right now in China, Christians are being sent to reeducation camps.  In North Korea they are put into concentration camps.  In Egypt, Coptic Christians are being slaughtered.  In Syria and Sudan, Christians are targeted for extermination.  In these countries it takes a lot of faith to be a Christian?  But, even in France, a catholic priest had his throat slit in his church near Normandy.  Just yesterday, the North Carolina Pastor imprisoned in Turkey was formally charged on a terrorism related charges called “Christianization.”  The persecution is spreading.

“See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves”

 

Here in the United States I have not heard stories of Christian killings, but we all know Christian’s are under attack.  I know that many people, perhaps some of you here, who avoid saying Merry Christmas at work.  Some avoid saying “God Bless you” to a stranger.  Christianity is under attack and if you haven’t heard the news, we are losing the battle.

In a world that is becoming less, and less Christ centered, it takes a lot of Faith to declare your love for Christ.  “See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves”

How did this happen?  In our country, we’ve gotten lazy and too comfortable in our Christian faith.  But, Faith is not about being comfortable – it’s about publicly pronouncing Christ as redeemer.

Sometimes wonder if folks come to church to feel safe in numbers rather than recharge their faith.   Even the name Sanctuary has morphed from meaning a “Holy place” to a “safe haven.”    Hasn’t it!

But, what do we do here, in our “sanctuary,” that prepares us for battle out there?  Once we exit the doors are we prepared to be uncomfortable?  Are we battle ready if attacked?

Let me take a moment to make you all a bit uncomfortable.  My personal belief is that church is not a place to be comfortable.  Its where we learn and strengthen our Faith in Christ.  So, let me ask you some questions that are being asked.

How do we know Jesus was really raised from the dead?  There are no other books from that time that discuss it except Christian books.  Even the Jews say it did not happen.  Why should I believe in Christ?

The Egyptians have a mythical god named Horus. He was born on December 25th, to the virgin Isis-Meri. He healed the sick and walked on water. He was crucified, buried for 3 days, and resurrected. Isn’t Jesus a copycat story of an earlier Egyptian myth?

The bible has thousands of errors and contradictions – if it was truly God inspired why would it have so many mistakes?

The oldest known copy of the bible was written in 350AD.  Why should I believe a book written so long after this Jesus guy died?

Why do Christians hate scientist?  Why should I believe any religion that killed Galileo just for proving the earth rotated around the sun?

Everyone knows the earth is billions of years old, but Christians think it all started six thousand years ago.  Why don’t Christians believe in the proven science of Darwin’s theory of evolution?

If God loves all his creations, then why does he only promise heaven to those that hear about Jesus?  I can’t love a God that discriminates.

If God is so all powerful, all knowledgeable, and everywhere at the same time, why does he allow evil to exit?  Why would you worship a God that would let children suffer and let other innocents die?

Uncomfortable yet?  And I was being nice.  These kinds of questions are being asked both maliciously by atheist, and sincerely by confused non-Christians.  Do you have answers for them?  Who here could have knocked away each of those questions.  And those were softballs.  Paul warns us we will be attacked with flaming arrows of evil.

1 Peter 3:15 tells us we are to sanctify Christ and to Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you;”

Are you ready?  More importantly, how secure is your own faith?  Do you have these same questions?  Do you wonder about the obvious mistakes in the Bible?  And yes, there are thousands of errors – most are scribal.

Being a Christian is hard – Our faith can waiver if we don’t understand everything that is tugging at our beliefs.  The Apostle Paul understood this problem first hand.  He explains how to manage it in his letter to the Ephesians.  In fact, this letter equips all of us to be God’s people in the world.  If you read Ephesians, and learn to live as it instructs us, your Faith will not waiver.

Yet, even Paul closes out his letter by advising the Christians in Ephesus to “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” (Ephesians 6:1—11)

Who here have a set of armor?  How many have a belt of truth or a breastplate of righteousness.  Is your shield of faith strong enough to defend flaming arrows?  When I was a kid one of my playmates had a toy roman helmet with a red plume.  I was so jealous of him.  Paul tells us we all need a helmet of salvation and sword of the spirit.  I used to cut my sword out of cardboard and cover it with aluminum foil.  It looked cool, but not as cool as that helmet.

Paul says we all need armor, so we can defend our faith.  But defend it from what?

Let’s take a moment to look at part of his letter to see how Paul explains our predicament.  Turn to Ephesians 2:1-10 and follow along with me.

2 You were dead through the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient.

There is a popular show on TV called the Walking Dead.  The premise is that some disease has hit the world and people are turning into zombies.  Once dead the people walk around in packs looking for other people to bite – and then they become zombies.  In the show there are more zombies than there are living people.   This is similar to the world Paul is describing.  But here’s the catch.  Everyone in the world is a Zombies and only Christians are the ones living.   Everyone is in a trance state, wandering the world, following some dark need to satisfy the flesh.

In verse 2 Paul described this dark force as “the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient.”  He is talking about Satan and his evil forces feasting on those who sin.  “Sin” is the disease that made us zombies, and we are all born with the Original Sin.  Therefore, we were all born to hear the dark forces of evil.

Paul continues: 3 All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else.

Those who refuse the gift of Grace from God, continue to live in sin.  They are lured by “passions of our flesh.”  And we were by nature children of wrath.

Let me ask this question.  When our kids are being horrible, perhaps beyond horrible, maybe into drugs or legal problems, do we get mad at them?  You bet we do, and we try to move them away from whatever is corrupting them.  Our wrath is based in their predicament and their decisions – but we still love them. Paul says God is the same.

4 But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us 5 even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved

 Even when we were nothing but Walking Dead Zombies, God sent his Son to lift the curse of sin from us – and if we believe in him we are Born Again into the light of Christ.  If we don’t, then we will continue to live under the wrath of God.

We heard this same message in John’s Gospel.  36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God’s wrath. (John 3:36).

Grace is free, Faith is not!  Faith takes Knowledge, Assurance, and Trust!  We develop our Faith and then spend our lives preserving and strengthening our love for Christ.

Our salvation starts with our Faith! Our Faith becomes our shield.  What happens if our Faith waivers or is weak?  The flaming arrows of evil will strike us.  Yet, Paul says that because of Grace we are both saved… 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

God lifts us up to be with the Son through the Holy Spirit.  And what is our reward for our unwavering Faith?  We receive have immeasurable riches of God’s kindness.  How much is immeasurable?  Never ending.   I saw somewhere a Lotto scratcher that pays the winner $1000 dollars a day for life.  I’d rather have immeasurable kindness from God!

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— 9 not the result of works, so that no one may boast.

This is a warning.  We cannot let Pride, a Sin, detract from our Faith.  In 2 Corinthians Paul even talks about his thorn in the side he received to prevent him from boasting.

Finally, in this last verse is very important to understand Paul’s intention.

10 For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.

 Paul wrote, “created in Christ Jesus for good works.”  This is to be our life – our calling – our purpose in life.  What is the meaning of life?  To do Good Works for God!

But be careful.  When read in Greek, the translation here does not mean “Work” as in we have to prove ourselves to get into heaven.  Instead it means, we are to become like a beautiful poem, or a melodic symphony.  Everything we do should have a beauty about it that adds to the beauty of the world.  Later in Chapter 3 of this letter, Paul describes our individual callings that we are to obey so that we all are creators of “Good Work” for God’s plan.  Each of us an instrument in the orchestra that is making celestial music.

In these ten verses, Paul has described for us the world we live in and how we’re supposed to exist in such a dark place.  This age of Post-Modernism is nothing more that the spotlight being shined upon the Walking Dead.  Yet, this is what the world has always been.

Sadly, less people are leaving the dark side to join Christ.   And, there are those that who have spent their entire lives as Christians, but doubt has lowered their shield and let flaming arrows of evil penetrate their faith.  The famous author Flannery O’Conner famously called these people Christ haunted! Their faith has been shaken.

Someone asked them, “Why does God let evil exist?”  And they were not prepared to explain the consequence of Free Will and original sin.

Maybe someone asked them, “why are their different lineages of Christ found in Matthew and in Luke?”  But they didn’t know that one lineage is of Joseph and the other is of Mary.

These lifelong Christians may sanctify Christ in their heart, but they fail to “Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you;

I will say it again, being a Christian is hard.  Defending you Faith is not.  That’s not to say it doesn’t take effort.

You must know why you believe what your asking others to believe.

Before you can make disciples of Christ, you have to be a disciple of Christ fully adorned in the Armor of God.

When you leave the door today you are no longer in a “safe space.”  You are entering the world of the Walking Dead where everyone not saved is controlled by the dark forces in the world.  As Paul says, they crave the things of the flesh.  Money, Power, Success, Sex, Greed, Glory.

As Christians, our job is to spread the Good News and make those in darkness understand that God’s Grace extends to them too.  But remember the more successful you are, the more Satan will conspire to first stop you, and then consume you.

Is your faith safe?

Jesus warned his disciples: “See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves”

And Paul tells us to “Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.”

Ask yourselves, Are you ready to defend your faith?

 

 

Shh! God’s Talking.

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Most people say they would like to hear God talking.

Who wouldn’t right.  Some of you are old enough to remember that TV commercial by EF Hutton the stock brokerage house.  Two ladies are in a noisy restaurant and one person says to the other person, “My broker is EF Hutton and he says…”  Suddenly, then the entire room gets quiet and everyone is straining to hear what the lady is going to say next.  Remember that commercial?  Their slogan was – “When EF Hutton talks, People listen.”

What if you were in a noisy place talking to a friend and you said, “I was just talking to God and he said…”  Would the whole room suddenly get so quiet you could hear a pin drop?  Everyone leaning over and straining to hear what God had to say?  I don’t think so.  Sadly, many people don’t seem to care nor believe what God might have to say.

1 Corinthians 2:14 tells us why.  14 “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness…” 

Paul told us that, we as Christians, have the Spirit and that’s our hotline to God.   If you want to hear God – simply listen to the Spirit inside you.  That’s all there is to it.

Jesus even said it himself, “…I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever 17 the Spirit of truth… he lives with you and will be in you.” – John 14:16-17

Isn’t that reassuring.  Christ says that through the Holy Spirit he is right inside each of us.

But what else is that scripture revealing to us?  I think it means that if we don’t hear God, then either we aren’t listening or it’s so noisy we can’t hear the Holy Spirit talking.

Many people have that problem?  They try real hard to hear God.  They pick up that hotline but all they hear is static?  Or maybe the line sounds dead.  Their thinking, God’s not home, or that he’s not talking to them?  Or, maybe you that there’s no such thing as hearing God?  Maybe they consider it foolishness.

Today I’d like talk about how to hear God.  I didn’t say talk to God – I suspect most of you have that down pretty good. My question is, do you know how to listen – to God?   Do you give God his turn in the conversation?  Are you stuck in monologue, instead of a dialogue?

Let’s get one big question out of the way, Does God really talk to us?  After all, what’s the point in listening for him if there’s nothing to hear.   Well I’m happy to report that, besides my own personal experience, there is overwhelming evidence that God does indeed talk to us and it’s well documented.  Here’s some of the evidence:

Psalm 32:8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.”  God will teach and counsel us.  To do that he must talk to us.

Proverbs 3:6 “in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.  Pay attention when he’s talking, and he will keep you safe.”   There’s an Old Testament tip for you –  Pay attention.

And Jesus tells us – My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.John 10:27.

Jesus is talking about us.  We are his sheep.  We listen to his voice and follow him.

Don’t we?  Sadly, many Christians never hear God.

Maybe in the past they heard the Lord, but now it seems he’s no longer speaking to them.  They might be working really hard on their relationship with God, but all they hear is silence  That silence can be disheartening, frightening, confusing and even agonizing.  I know first-hand what it’s like to be waiting on God for answers, and hear nothing? I did it for decades!  At one point, I even decided that maybe there really isn’t a God.  Eventually, through some hard work I learned how to have conversations with God.  And it turned out to be rather simple – for me anyway.

What is it we are taught to do if you catch on fire?  What’s that little saying we use to remind us of what to do?  Who knows it?  “Stop, Drop and Roll. Right!”

Well here is what I learned to do if I want hear God.   Stop, Be Quiet, and Listen!

Here is step-one to hearing God.  You need to STOP Talking. If you’re worried God’s not listening, STOP – because he is.  STOP chasing God.   He’s right beside you.

When I was as little kid and out shopping with my mom I used to play a game that aggravated her.  When she was looking at dresses and shirts and such on the large racks I would hide down inside the clothing racks.  I could see her feet, but she couldn’t see me.  I would scramble from rack to rack right behind her.  When she realized she’d lost sight of me she’d start calling my name.  Sometimes, I could tell she was getting a bit frantic and called my name with an urgency.  I would giggle and scamper under the clothing racks to follow her feet.   Eventually, my mother would stop calling out and would instead listen.  When she got quiet she could hear me giggling deep inside the clothing rack.  I never left her side – but she was so busy looking for me and calling out for me that she couldn’t hear me.  I think too often that is what we do when we pray.  We are trying to have a conversation with God, but we do all the talking! We keep waiting for answers but are not really listening.

When I first started to pray as an adult I never shut up.  I prayed for this and prayed for that.  I got good at asking and asking and asking. And when I didn’t see results I’d ask it differently.  “Ok God, here’s the deal… if you’ll just grant me this I will ….”  Anyone here do that?  Try bargaining with God?  It doesn’t work to well does it?

Here’s how I finally learned the second part of this lesson.  I literally took a college class on the how to pray.  I’m strange like that – I like formal training.  I figured I must have been praying “wrong.”   In that class, we learned eight maybe ten different ways to pray.  And they were all great.  I would practice these different styles in 30 to 45-minute sessions.  But guess what – regardless of the style, I did not hear God talking.  Finally, I think the Holy Spirit either got fed up with me, or felt sorry for me, because during this one prayer session, as I was going through my “technique,” I heard the Holy Spirit say, “Maybe you should just stop talking!”  And I did.  You should see my journal entry for that day!  God started talking and I was writing down everything as fast as he was telling me.  I didn’t think he was ever going to finish.  That when I realized that having a conversation with God has many parts.

 

Stop Talking was step one.  “Be Quiet” was step two.    But I don’t mean just closing your mouth – being quiet.  Being quiet is much more difficult that not talking.  Being quiet means, you have to shut out all the clutter in your head.

In the Old Testament, we hear the story of Elijah looking for God in the Wind and could not find him.  Then in the Earthquake, and then in the fire.  He looked for God and could not find him even though he knew he was close by.  Finally, after the fire stopped – and everything got real quiet, and Elijah was no longer looking for the lord, there came a gentle whisper.  (1 King 19:13) When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

How many times has God tried to answer you and you didn’t hear it because he speaks in a whisper and your making too much noise.  Perhaps, your mind’s to distracted or there’s too much noise and confusion going on in your life.  And, I’m not just talking just about loud external noises.  I’m talking about the noises in your head.

Here are a few examples of the noise I mean?  How about when your pride steps in and says I can do this on my own – I don’t need God’s help – and your head fills with confusion.

Or maybe you have bitterness inside and your holding onto a grudge or resentment towards someone.  That can be a loud clanging in your head, and heart.

Or maybe, you’re physically hurting and it’s making you close your mind to everything except the anger getting louder and louder.

These are the sounds I’m talking about.  We have to turn off, not only your own voice, but also all that clutter in your head.  It’s not easy.  But it only takes hearing God once and you’re changed forever.

The first step?  Stop Talking.  The second step?  Be Quiet.  Remember not talking is not the same thing as being quiet.

Lastly, is step-three, we need to listen for his voice.  Now, I hope you all don’t think this is a crazy segue but, I’m going to talk about goats for a minute.  Several years we bought three goats. We named them Nanny, Billy, and Randy.  When we got them home we would try and call them, but they would never come.  The dogs would come, the donkeys would come, even our chickens.  But, the goats wouldn’t.  Eventually we learned a trick – that if we shook a box of corn flakes – they would come running.  They knew what that sound represented – something that they loved.  Corn Flakes were a voice of love to them.  And soon after, we could call out and they would come running to see if we had corn flakes.

It’s the same way with God.   When he calls to us we may not know it’s God speaking because we don’t know the sound of his voice.  And if we don’t know his voice, we don’t know to go towards it.  That he’s waiting there with love – and Corn Flakes.

God is always trying to get our attention – sadly many people don’t recognize his voice.  We need to learn to listen for God when he’s talking.  His reply to us may be audible, or visual, or emotional.  It may be in a kindness we observe, or an unexpected presence that gladdens our heart.  It could be the cry of a baby.  God speaks to us with a voice that we each learn to recognize.  But first we have to Stop Talking, Be Quiet, and listen.

From the book of Samuel, we read how Samuel heard God calling his name, “Samuel, Samuel.” He was confused, he thought it was Eli calling him.  Samuel didn’t know God’s voice.  We’re the same.  We too need to learn to listen for God, to recognize his voice when he is speaking to us.  I bet almost everyone here can answer their home phone and know in an instant who is calling by the sound of that person’s voice.  Hearing God is no different.  Just like that person on the phone, you need to build a relationship with him, you need to get used to hearing his voice.  In Psalm 46:10 – He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;

Stop, Be Quiet, and Listen.

Let me conclude this morning with one last ingredient.  There is one more thing to do if you want to build that relationship with God.  And this for me was the hardest.  We must obey God when he speaks to us.

God speaks to those that he knows are going to listen and do what he tells them to do.  Psalm 119:33 “Just tell me what to do and I will do it, Lord. As long as I live I’ll wholeheartedly obey.” 

We’ve been told from the very beginning that God wants us to pray to him with our needs and desires.  He wants us to make big plans!  He is standing ready to answer all of them.  “Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” (Proverbs 16:3).  It’s when you obey, that God knows, that you know, you are listening!

God talks to willing minds.  How do you make your mind willing and learn to listen to God?  Stop.  Be quiet.  Listen.  And obey!

Amen

 

Eternal Life – It’s not what you might think.

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Who would like to live forever?  But what if you had to live forever in this same shell of a body?  Then probably not so much, right?  But, most Christians don’t really worry about this because they’re convinced that once they finish up this life they’re GOING to have an “Eternal Life.”

For God so loved the world…

Most all of us have heard this scripture, 16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”  What verse is that?  John 3:16 right!

This is a beautiful message. Jesus repeated that to all that had ears to hear.   It’s a message we can easily tune into.  I see that verse plastered all over the place.  Tim Tebow had it under his eyes when he played a national championship football game.  Do you know that during that game 94 million people Googled John 3:16?   That message really resonates with people.

Now, here is how most people interpret that verse.  Something like this – “I believe Christ died for my sins, therefore I will live forever.  And on my day of deliverance I will be with the lord in Heaven forever for an “eternal life”  That sound about right?

Most believe that is what John 3:16 is telling us.  16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.  I’ve looked real hard and I don’t see in this verse where it says we’re going to live forever?  Maybe people got confused by the verse just before that one. 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.

But, I don’t see anything there about living for eternity.  Let’s go all the way down to the bottom of John 3 and see if it’s there. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.”

Nope, not there either.  Wait, I know what you’re thinking.  David, you darn fool.  It says right there “eternal life.”   Really?  Is that what it says, or is that what you have heard?

The mistake people make when reading this scripture is that somehow, they conclude that “eternal life” means that you live forever?  The reality is, everyone has lives forever.  You either go up, or you go down – for eternity.  Adolf Hitler is living an eternal existence.  It’s just that his zip code starts with 666.

This is where we make the mistake – the phrase about “Eternal life” is not about the duration of our life, it’s about quality of life.  In the original biblical text eternal is referring to the time needed to accomplish the purposes of God.  However long that may be.

The Greek translation for “Eternal Life” is “aeōnios zoé ” (ai-ō-ne-ōs + zoé).  The word for “eternal” here is aeōnios and translates to something like “age lasting.” You have probably heard the root word “Eon’s.”  When we think of Eons, we don’t think of it as forever, it’s more like “that dogs been gone for eons.” A duration of time.

And the word for life is “zoé.”  In this context it does not mean life in the biological – coming into existence context.  It’s more like, “the way we should go through life” “our demeanor,” the way of life.  Zoé is the vigor or vitality of life in truth.

Eternal life means quality of life, not a duration.  Does that make sense for you? The larger point here is, Jesus’ is telling us to live through him in abundance.  In fact, in most places where you find the phrase “Eternal Life” you can substitute “abundant life.”

In John 17:3 we find a definition provided by Christ.  This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. 

This would read: “This is an abundant life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”

As Christians, when we are reborn in New Birth through our faith in Christ alone, Sola Fide.  WE don’t have to do anything for it – it is a gift given by Christ on the Cross – and we are to have a life of abundance.

In John 10:10 Jesus says,  The thief  [that would be the devil] comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”  This gift of “abundance” is not something to save for the future.  It’s for now!  To have “Eternal Life” is to know Christ in your life and to live today as the Holy Spirit guides you.  To live with an abundance of life here in Gods Kingdom here on Earth.

Let me ask you this one simple question.  What is the difference between a Christian and a Non-Christian?   The one physical – and I will call it physical – difference?  Here’s a hint.  Remember that Jesus, the man from Galilee did not have the Holy Spirit until he was baptized by John and the dove descended.  When Jesus received the Holy Spirit – THAT is when he began his mission to return all of us in flesh back to God the Father.

A Christian literally has something non-Christians do not.  The Holy Spirit!  We have the escape from death card!  And all we need to do to get one is to believe that Christ is our savior!  You see. That my friends, is the secret to knowing your living in the Kingdom of God right now. God expects us to be living our lives on Earth – just as they do in Heaven.   Isn’t that how Jesus taught us to pray!  “On Earth as it is in Heaven!”  God expects us to be learning right now the appropriate behavior for life in Heaven.  We are supposed to be using this “eternal life” stuff to prepare us for Heaven.

Right here you might be saying, “OK, I get the abundance part, but how can we know how they live in Heaven?” That’s easy.  Jesus told us when he created the 11th Commandment.  Who knows the 11th Commandment?  Turn to John 13:34-35 – it is right there in red letters.

John 13:34 “A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so also you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.”

The eleventh commandment!  “you must love one another.”  Jesus is telling us that the language of Heaven is Love.  Christ came down and took human form to show us what love looks like. Why?  Because that is the language we need to learn to speak.  That is the language that reflect God’s image back upon him.  That is the language of our true character.  That is the language of how we are to treat one another and all creation.  We must learn the language of Heaven before we arrive.

Back in the late 1990’s I moved to Brussels Belgium to work.  I rented an apartment and had to go to the government office and get my electricity turned on.  Here’s the problem, I didn’t speak French very well.  Me no parlez-vous that francais.

When I got to the office, I was waiting in line nervously and watched as a young lady was processing applications.  Next to her was a big burly Germanic looking dude.  He was obviously training the new girl.  When it was finally my turn the first thing I did was to apologize for my bad French. I said “Je ne parlez pas Francais tres bien.”  I don’t speak French very well.

The big dude looked up and shouted at me – “Why?”  It was obvious he was trying to impress the young girl.  He started pointing at me, “In our country you can choose three languages, French, German or Flemish.  We give you three choices and you can’t speak none?”

Well, I was in a pickle.  This guy was between me and having lights on my apartment.  In typical David fashion I responded.  “Can I tell you a joke?”  He said “Ya!”  I said, “If you can speak three languages that’s called trilingual!” He said, “Ya.”  I then said, “If you can speak two language you’re bilingual.”  He said “Ya!”  Is said what is it called when you can only speak on language?”  He wrinkled his face and shook his head.  I said, “American!”  He busted our laughing, Ya, Ya, Ya!   And I managed to get my electricity turned on.

Here’s the moral of that story.  Who was I to go to another country and expect to live there and not know the language.  If we plan on taking up residence in Heaven someday it would behoove us all to learn the language we need to speak before arrival.   The eleventh commandment “Love one another. As I have loved you, so also you must love one another.”  You may not have any other chance but now to learn the language.  St. Peter may not like dumb American jokes.

I know most of us are very loving and we try to obey all the commandments.  But here we are, living in the Kingdom of God, with this abundance of life given to us, and we might not speak the language very well.  God was nice enough to turn on our electricity, but he expects us to become fluent in the “language of love,” ASAP!

What is the best way to learn a language.  By immersion.  Right – jump right in.  We need to learn the language of love, so we are fluent before we get to Heaven.  Perhaps we can find an immersion program right here in our community.  The trick is finding the right teachers.

Each year Tim Tebow promotes the Night to Shine event?  This is an event for “people of special needs.”  It is literally a Prom and every person was named King or Queen of the Prom.  My wife was a volunteer last year and told me that every person at the event was permanently affected by the love that was present.  It was a big ol’ barn overflowing with love and compassion for those in need.

But here is the immersion part I was talking about – the love was returned to the volunteers by more than ten-times what they each gave.  How ironic is it that, those who we call “of special needs” were the teachers?  When it came to Love – the volunteers were not nearly as fluent!

Those at that event had an immersion course in the language of love.  Jesus told Nicodemus “Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen” (John 3:11).  Everyone at that event is still testifying to what they saw and felt.  Those that attended have harnessed those emotions, and the love for God that was inside that barn, and have taken it outside the barn door into the community.

That was just one event.  How many other persons of need could we find that will teach you the next lesson of love?   John 5:24: “Very Truly I tell you anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life.”  Jesus does not say “will have,” but uses the present tense. “has eternal life.”  The quality of our lives will change forever!

Who wants to live forever?  Who cares?  I want Eternal Life?  You can choose to go one of two ways.  But the Lord Jesus Christ said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). 

And here is the kicker – you don’t get eternal life when you die – you get it right now. If you do not have a relationship with Christ – or maybe it is not where it should be.  This morning – this exact moment – is a good time to let Christ be fully present in your heart, soul and mind. The only way to the Father is through the Son.  Let him in!

Amen