Determination, Termination, Restoration
Michael Zigarelli wrote a very interesting article in Christianity Today magazine. Dr. Zigarelli is an university professor. He is married, and God has blessed him and his wife with four children. As you can imagine Michael Zigarelli is a very busy man. One day the hectic pace of life hit Dr. Zigarelli when he ordered new business cards. Instead of reading, "Dr. Michael Zigarelli, Associate Professor of Business," his new cards read Ė because of a typo Ė "Dr. Michael Zigarelli, Associate Professor of Busyness." He had to chuckle. Maybe the new business card was closer to reality. In his article this "professor of busyness" went on to show how important it is not to be "too busy for God."
Nevertheless, today, the average Christian in our community is constantly tempted to be "too busy for God." Sleeping in or working on the yard is preferred to worship. Television watching or internet browsing leaves no time for Bible reading and prayer. Longer hours at work are sometimes necessary. But often they are really whatís required to buy a newer car or a better house. Of the one hundred and sixty eight hours in each week, there are many Christians who donít have even one hour for God. Yet all of these people hope to be continually in the presence of God in heaven forever. Somehow thereís a huge contradiction here. (If youíre guilty of thisÖ please continue reading!)
You who are here in worship or are reading this sermon are devoting time to God. I commend you to it. This is time well spent. God should be the priority of our life. Yet, we are not exempt from the temptations mentioned above. Weíre thankful for the ways God has worked in our lives, but we donít look down our noses at those who rarely darken the door of a church. We struggle with a lack of consistency. We always know thereís so much more that can be done. Perhaps if we were doing all that we could, more people would be in worship! We are still far from the perfection that God demands and that we also look forward to in heaven.
Iím here to tell you that Jesus came to save all of us who are "professors of busyness." He came to bring new life to souls that were dead on arrival and have lived constantly for themselves and their own needs. He comes to keep that new life going, to increase the consistency of faith, and to bring out the good fruit of faith. Today we are all we are revived by Jesusí determination, termination, and restoration. Turn with me to John 12.20-33Ö
NKJJohn 12:20 Now there were certain Greeks among those who came up to worship at the feast. 21 Then they came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him, saying, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus." 22 Philip came and told Andrew, and in turn Andrew and Philip told Jesus. 23 But Jesus answered them, saying, "The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified. 24 "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. 25 "He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 "If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor. 27 " Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? 'Father, save Me from this hour'? But for this purpose I came to this hour. 28 "Father, glorify Your name." Then a voice came from heaven, saying, "I have both glorified it and will glorify it again." 29 Therefore the people who stood by and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, "An angel has spoken to Him." 30 Jesus answered and said, "This voice did not come because of Me, but for your sake. 31 "Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. 32 "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself." 33 This He said, signifying by what death He would die.
12.20Ö "There were some GreeksÖ"
As we come into St. Johnís account of Jesus things are heating up. Looking back in chapter eleven, Jesus raised a man from the dead Ė Lazarus. Jewish leaders were laying plans to kill Jesus and Lazarus. Jesus enters Jerusalem as people from all over are coming for the Passover. A large crowd wave palm branches and shout, "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel." John tells us in verse nineteen that the Pharisees say, "Look, the world has gone after Him." Then, in our lesson today, some Greeks come to the disciples and ask, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus."
Those are the words that God wants to hear from all of us! God is a jealous God in the right sense Ė He wants all people to look to Him for salvation, and He brings that salvation through Jesus, His Son.
12.23Ö "And Jesus answered them, ĎThe hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified."
Jesusí popularity has reached a peak. Many, many people in Jerusalem welcomed Him as the Messiah, the long promised King of Israel. Jesusí fame had been spreading ever since He began to His public ministry. Now even foreigners were coming to listen to Jesus. It would have been easy for Jesus to become distracted. He could have easily had all the earthly comforts He wanted at this point. There is even a later account by a Christian historian that a foreign king sent a letter to Jesus offering to provide Him protection in his kingdom.1 The account goes on to say that Jesus would not come but that one of His disciples would come later. We donít know if this is true, but we do know that Jesus was absolutely determined to accomplish the work that God the Father had sent Him to do. Turn the page to John 13.1, "Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end." In St. Mark Jesus said, "The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many" (10.45).
Jesus had complete and perfect determination to do Godís will. My determination to follow Jesus is not nearly so perfect. I do get distracted, and I step off the path of Godís will. I waste time. I have bad thoughts. Iím not the husband, father, and pastor that I could be. And then I say, "Lord, please help me. Forgive me, and put me back on the good path again." Iím like the hiker who gets lost in the woods. I lose my compass and map. I forget my flashlight. I wander away from the main trail. The more I keep going the farther away I get from home. The rescuer is not lost. The rescuer does the right thing for the person who did the wrong thing. Jesus has been doing all the right things. He has perfectly obeyed Godís commandments, and now He is determined to keep the last and most difficult of all Godís commands. Where I couldnít trust God that His ways are better than my ways, Jesus will trust. Where I couldnít put my life completely in Godís hands, Jesus does. The hour has come. In just a few days Jesus will be praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, "Father, not my will, but Yours be done" (Luke 24.42). Thatís the determination that comes to rescue us.
12.24Ö "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and diesÖ"
Quite a few years ago I took a group of college students to Corpus Christi, Texas for a servant event in growing Hispanic church. They needed help with a new building they were constructing. This church had a very interesting story. The pastor said when he first came there he was so discouraged that he didnít even unpack everything. He didnít plan to stay very long. The roof of the church leaked. The members were fighting with each other. He didnít think there was much hope. He dreaded the thought that his first call into the ministry would end by a church closing its doors. One night he prayed and poured out his heart to God. He asked to to help him do whatever it would take to turn this congregation around. As he rose up from that pray he realized that he had to stop trying to be a survivor. He had to stop trying "just to get by." He had to give up worrying about whether this church would fold up. He became what he called a "Non-Survivor."
What a contrast to our culture today. We even have a popular TV show called "Survivor." What is that about Ė Itís about people who will do anything to get something Ė lie, cheat, and stab friends in the back. Jesus teaches and does just the opposite. He says that those who love this life will lose it and that those who hate their lives in this world will save it for eternal life. What does He mean by "hate their lives in this world?" He means that we hate the idea of living our lives just for ourselves. Jesus once told a parable of a rich farmer who had everything a person could want. He told himself, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink and be merry" (Luke 12.19). This is the way many people live today. This is the way we are all tempted to live. Live just for this life and itís pleasures. But such a life, so un-devoted to God, is a fast ticket to destruction.
Jesus He knew the ruler of this world Ė Satan. He had to be terminated. But how do you fight the ruler of sin and death? He is not destroyed by anger, wrath, and violence. These things feed right into his methods. He is destroyed by sacrifice, self-sacrifice. Satan has power as long as he can keep you convinced that you have to take care of yourself first. Because as long as you are doing that, you are not trusting in God. Heís is not afraid of you, but he is terribly afraid of God. So what is his number one method of destroying you Ė keep you distracted, keep you away from God, keep you from trusting God against all odds, keep you from surviving by being a non-survivor. Job confessed so beautifully, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him" (13.15). Jesus did just that, and He gave up everything to destroy the power of Satan, to release the grip of selfishness and self-centeredness that he brought into this world.
Iím tempted to say, "If Jesus can do it; I can do it too." But thatís not right. Rather we can say, "Because Jesus did it for me; I can do it too." The Bible says that our repentance and baptism is a termination Ė a termination of sin made possible by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.
John 12.28Ö "Then a voice came from heaven: ĎI have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.í"
The determination and the termination of Jesus is followed by the restoration. Three times during Jesusí life there was a voice from heaven: First at His baptism, again at His transfiguration, and now at the Passover celebration in Jerusalem. Each time God the Father affirms His Son and encourages us to believe that what He is saying and doing is for us and our salvation.
What is the "it" that is being glorified here? It is the name of God. We have a commandment dedicated to the name of God. The second request of the Lordís Prayer is "Hallowed by Thy name." What is Godís name? It is the Word of God. It is all truth that comes from God to us and it opposed to all that is false and evil. God wants us to know that His Word is true and reliable. What He says happens. Here He tells us that what Jesus is talking about will indeed take place. He who trusts in God and loses His life to God will save His life. You can count on it despite all appearances to the contrary. Jesus, who is about to die, will by this death conquer Satan and all the evil over which Satan rules. Jesus says, "When I am lifted up, I will draw all men to myself." He sees the glory that God promises. He sees beyond the ugliness of the cross to the resurrection and the ascension. The glory of God will be restored again in Jesus.
The man struggling with an addiction wonders, "can Jesus help me?" The woman trying to improve her relationship with her husband hopes that her faith in Jesus will help her to love a sometimes unlovable man. A teenager faced with temptation asks, "will I be happier if I follow Jesus or the crowd?" A young adult first experiencing the pressures of life as they try to live on their own says, "somehow I still have to make time for God." Will their faith in Christ be glorified? Godís answer is the empty tomb. Godís answer is the Word of the Holy Spirit in the Bible that never misses. Godís answer is a magnificent creation that begs the question, "Where did it all come from? It came from God." Godís answer is "Yes! A thousand times Yes!" Jesusí determination for termination is completed in perfect restoration. Paul says, "Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him" (Romans 6.8).
Thereís only one thing Ė you canít put yourself ahead of God or beside Him. You canít even cooperate with Him. You have to admit that canít save yourself. This is all about God. Jesus says, "I will draw all me to myself." The Greek word here for "draw" is the common word used when fishermen would "draw" a boat onto shore. The boat doesnít put itself on the shore. It has to be dragged up. That is what is going on in the life of every true believer right now. God has pulled them ashore. When I stop trying to survive, when I stop trying to take care of everything one my own, when I simply turn everything over to God and realize that He is at the top of my life, then Iím saved.
Is it really true? Can I really trust God? Can I give up my busy life for the promises of God? Despite all appearances to the contrary, despite all the falsehoods of Satan, it is true. Never, never under estimate the ways of God. The cross seems like the most unlikely way of salvation. Repentance and faith seem so ignoble and so beneath us. But this is exactly what Jesus was talking about when He once prayed, "I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes" (Matthew 11.25).
A river needed to flow through a desert to get to the sea. But it was afraid. "The desert will destroy me. Iíll dry up. Iíll turn to mud. Iíll die." But the Creator said, "Trust Me, that desert wonít destroy you." The river trusted the Creator and began to flow through the dry desert. Just as it thought the heat began to dry it up. The more water it poured forth, the more it evaporated. It was struggling to believe in the Creator. Finally it gave itís last drop, and disappeared into vapor. But the wind picked up and carried this vapor across the dry and barren desert. She formed into large clouds on the other side, and down poured the rain. A fresher, more beautiful river than ever formed and rushed down to the sea.
What desert has you worried? What is there in this life that keeps you so busy and so afraid to trust God and to sacrifice everything for Him? Jesus crossed that desert for us. Even as we die to sin in repentance the waters of our life are being purified. Even as we dedicate our best time to Him our stream is being carried over the deadliest difficulties. Even as we put our complete trust in Him, we can give the last drop of life to Him and know that He wonít disappoint us. If He gave His own Son for us, what would He not do for us now that we are again His children? Amen.
1) Check it out in Paul Maierís book Eusebius, (Kregel, Grand Rapids, 1999, p. 47ff).
Pastor Michael P. Walther
Second Sunday in Lent, April 2, 2006
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 1300 Belt Line Road, Collinsville, Illinois, 62234
618-344-3151 / fax 618-344-3378
The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod
Michael P. Walther, Copyright, 2006
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