Below is a sermon I preached a few weeks ago at my church. It’s a bit hard-hitting, but totally driven by the Spirit. I spent a lot of time in prayer before delivering it – a lot of sleepless nights. My prayer for myself, our church, and you, is that we make Jesus Christ everything in our life – above everything else we hold dear and above everything else we strive for.
A word of caution. I don’t normally write out my sermons, but I did for this one. Some of the sentences are clear, and some may not make much sense. I always preach differently from what is written down (and first service is usually always different from second service). So … don’t read the sermon as “grammar-perfect”, rather read this and allow Christ to speak to your heart in truth.
“Jesus is _____________.”
This sermon has been weighing on my for the past two weeks. On Friday night, God led me to change my approach about where I was originally headed. Please hear His words to you, and not mine.
In the statement above, who is Jesus to you? He’s risen from the dead, He has defeated sin and death, He has given us victory and a commission. Now what? What do we do and where do we go from here? Jesus is what to you?
Let me give you the correct answer: Jesus is everything. This is what we’re suppose to fill in our blank. This is the only acceptable answer. This morning, I’m going to make a case for why Jesus is everything.
Some background: In this section of Acts, we find the Apostle Paul traveling to Athens. In it’s day, Athens was the central place for literature, politics, philosophy, and science. And it stayed this way after Roman conquered it in 146 BC. By the time Paul came to the city, though, Athens had started to lose it’s flair and the people started leaving the city. However, they still had a great influence over worship and culture – which was pagan.
In Acts 17:16, we see Paul’s reaction to the idolatry of Athens. Paul says that the city had an altar to every god, even the “Unknown God.” Sitting among the elite leaders of Athens, Paul begins to expound on who this Unknown God is.
To the leaders and people of Athens, Jehovah was just another god among hundreds of others. He had no special glory, other than what “he” was formed into by craftsmen. Jehovah was just another idol to worship in a person’s life. Paul’s objection to the council was the way they worshiped, and whom they worshiped. He was frustrated with them, because they used their God-given talents to make idols of other gods – false gods – and placed them in the rightful spot Jehovah God owned.
See, we are all created to worship. It’s apart of our DNA. The struggle for us is worshipping the right Thing (Him). In our life, we each have to decide for ourselves what – who – we are going to worship. As Christians, this decision is hard as we are torn between worshipping God or worshipping everything else that seems better than God.
In this sermon, Paul challenges his listeners to reevaluate their lives – their idea and practice of worship. And he does this by explaining who God is, and how He is supreme over everything that exists. Paul also reminds them that this supreme God – the Lord of Heaven and Earth – does not exist in temples built by man, nor is He served by man as if He needs us to support Him or give Him life.
I’m sure Paul is saying this as he is looking around at the grand shrines built to the many gods of Athens. He’s trying to get the people to understand that God is more than the things before them. God is worth more than the clutter of things in their lives.
For us, we need to understand that when we worship God, we are not so much worshipping Him in this house, which we built, as we are with our lives, which He has created. See, God does not only dwell in this building. Scripture says repeatedly, that the Most High God dwells within His people. Wherever we are, God is with us. Therefore, whatever we do, our actions, our life, should be an offering of worship to God. For as Paul quotes in Acts 17:28 … “For in Him we live and move and exist.”
It’s this verse I want to expound on today. I want us to wrap our lives around this simple truth – as a people and as a Church. In fact, we must wrap our lives around this truth, because this is the heart of what it means to be a follower of Christ – a Christian. This is what it means to worship God, our Creator, and this is the meaning of why our church exists: for Jesus Christ, His Namesake, His Mission and nothing less than this.
As a church, as a family in Christ together, I must ask us – have we lost our passion for Jesus? Have we traded clutter, people’s opinions about us, “other things” we deem more important that Christ, have we traded our passion for Christ for these things?
Acts 17:28 is the main verse our student ministry is being built around. This is my sole challenge to our teens: to wrap our lives around the reality that Jesus Christ, and Him alone, is our source of living, our means of moving, and our entire existence. Everything else in this world is futile and will pass away, but the love God has for us and our relationship with the eternal God and Redeeming Christ will last forever. The things this world offers us are temporal pleasures. Christ offers us eternity – every day. What are we going to choice?
We need to rid ourselves of the idols in our lives. We need to recapture the passion of Christ in our lives. I fear that some of us are filling our lives with everything else but Jesus. The problem is this: we’re trying to fill a need that only Jesus can fill. To use the story of the Samaritan Woman in John 4, we are trying to quench our thirst with things that are temporal, whereas Jesus is the only one that can quench our thirst eternally.
What is our life formed around other than God? Cause the truth is, if God is not the center of our life, and it is in Him that we are to live and move and exist; then without God, we aren’t fully living, we aren’t moving, nor are we existing. We’re just here.
This way of living, Jesus says, comes from the enemy, this is not the life He offers us. John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they (you) may have life and have it abundantly.”
Satan’s job is to keep you from seeking and growing in your relationship with God. And how does he do this? By giving us clutter in our life that soaks up all our time, so that we are worn out, stressed out, overwhelmed with life and too busy to give God anymore than 1 hour a week. In this state, our passion is zapped, our worship becomes more about “receiving” than “giving”, and for many of us, we walk around defeated.
Christ comes this morning to breathe new life into us. But before He can breathe in the “new”, we have to let go of the “old.” If we are simply “1-hour-a-week” Christians – meaning the only place we give God our time is Sunday am – then there is something seriously wrong with our idea and understanding of Christianity. Following after Christ – being a Christian – demands we spend more than 1 hour a week with Him. It demands that our life mold itself around Him, and not around ourselves. It demands that we surrender all in order to receive all that Christ has for us.
Being a Christian is about waking up each morning and saying “God, this day is Yours. Use me as You want.” And then we live in this mindset all day until we fall asleep, and then we start all over again. Likewise, worshipping God is about coming into His presence despite your surroundings, despite the issues you’re facing, despite anything … worship is you and God – nothing else matters, no one else matters. It’s just Him and you.
Worship in song, in prayer, in reading scripture, in carrying out your duties at work, in your car, at home, in the shower … 1 Corinthians 10:31 makes it pretty clear: So whether you eat or drink, whatever you do, do all for the Glory of God.
Are people gonna make comments? Yes. I’ve been the butt of jokes, people have complained to councils about me, I’ve been asked to leave churches because of my “extreme passion” for Jesus … I don’t care. I’ve been set free from the bondages of sin and death, I’ve been forgiven, I have a Savior who died for me – even though I was His enemy, and I have an eternal Father who never gives up on me even when I’ve given up on myself. This is the God I worship; this is the God that I come into contact with everyday. I do not care what other people say about me, or what they think, because nothing is going to stop me praising my Father and Savior – NOTHING.
My prayer is that you are able to say the same things.
On Sundays, we are not here to impress anyone or be entertained by anyone. The band, the choir, the music, are tools to help lead us into God’s presence … they aren’t the presence, God is, and they aren’t the focus of our worship, God is. We’re not here to watch a show, we are here to enter into the presence of the One who made all of life, the entire universe, who sent His Son to die for us so that we may live eternally with Him.
You know, if everyone let go of their fears, if everyone was willing to go against the flow, if everyone uncluttered their lives and allowed God to take full control of them and their households, this church would be an unstoppable force. How do I know? Cause this is what the First Church looked like. This was the Acts 2 church; this was their DNA. Is it our DNA? Do we even desire to have this DNA? I know we do … so let’s start living it out!
If our lives are wrapped around Christ, then our time is His time, and His passion is our passion. True Christianity is not about “doing” more things, but about “being” in God’s presence, wherever we are, and enjoying His presence more than any thing else life offers.
What are the idols in our life that we worship more than we do God?
Do the things around us hinder our worship, or is our worship to God unhindered?
Can we say, with everything in us, that Jesus Christ is everything? That in Him we live, move, and exist, and that anything that tries to hinder this type of life will be thrown out so that our lives are fully in Him.
My deepest prayer for us all is that we recognize the idols in our lives, that we allow God to take them out, and that we allow Him to take His rightful place in our lives.
And in doing this, I pray that we – as a people and as a church – recapture our passion for Jesus, that in Him we live and move and exist, and that we can honestly say from deep within: