Friday, September 16, 2016

Sermon for 'Church at the Park' 9/18/2016

Matthew 10:32-33
The ONE WORD God longs to hear

32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.

Ted was five years older than his girlfriend, Janet.  He finished college before her and started work in the city hundreds of miles away.  But STILL they managed to carry on an exclusive dating relationship.
Ted loved Janet with all his heart – always had. So every Valentine’s Day that rolled around, Ted proposed to Janet.  But every Valentine’s Day, Janet had the same answer – “No.”

After she finished school, her new job took her to the SAME city as Ted. Needless to say, it was wonderful to be able to see each other so often.  

But Ted was reaching the end of his patience.  

Valentine’s Day came and Ted had made reservations at the nicest restaurant in town for the purpose of proposing one last time.  He had decided that if she turned him down again, he would go on with his life – without her.

After a romantic meal, it was time.  Ted summoned his courage.  But before he could ‘pop the question,’ Janet said, “I have a gift for YOU.”  “Oh?” said Ted.  “What did you bring me??”  She handed him a box the size of a book.  He opened the package slowly… it was framed cross-stitchjust one word that would forever change their lives.
The Word??  “YES!”

Did you know that “Yes!”  is the one word that God, in His tireless pursuit of YOU, longs to hear?  Have you said ‘Yes!’ to God?

I don’t know why you are here today.  

  • Maybe you stopped by to see family and out of courtesy you came along with them.  

  • Maybe a good friend invited you to ‘church at the park’ so you might find out what we are all about in a casual setting.  

  • Or Maybe you came here searching – knowing that something is missing from your life but not quite sure what it is.  

Whatever the reason, your being here isn’t an accident.  God has been working in the circumstances of your life to bring you to this place – because He wants you to know that He longs to have a personal relationship with you.  He wants to give you a fresh start – a new beginning.  He has determined to fill your life with joy, peace, and love – HIS love.  And the ONE WORD God longs to hear that will make all of that happen - is “YES!”

But what does saying “Yes” involve?  What does it mean?  According to His own words in our text, it means that you must confess Him openly, unashamedly as Lord and Savior of your life.
Again and again, Jesus challenged would be followers to Confess their faith openly.  Our text is one of those occasions.  According to what He says here, there are three different things to consider as you contemplate your own decision concerning Christ:

1.  First we see the Conditions of Confessing Christ in verse 32,So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven.”  What does it mean to "acknowledge” Jesus?  2 things...
First, it means that you must ACCEPT Him as Savior of your life.  

It is not enough to know ABOUT Him.  It’s not enough to do good things or go to church.  You must have a personal relationship with Jesus if you would have new life.  

There IS a difference, ya know, in knowing someone personally and simply knowing about them.  

It would be entirely accurate if I said that ‘I know President Obama.’  I see him on my TV just about every day.  I know where he lives, what he believes and what he does from day to day.  I know what he looks like and the hobbies he enjoys.

But I don’t have a personal relationship with him.  Not at all.  

That's how a lot of people are when it comes to Jesus. They presume to know Him because they've heard a few things about Him. But if you press them on it, there's no real relationship there; just a few random facts they’ve gleaned over the years from others.
Do you know Jesus - personally?  Better yet, does He know you?  It matters.  Because Jesus said:Many will say to me (on judgment day), Lord, Lord, (we did soooo many great things in your name) But Jesus will say to them depart from me for I never knew you.

In other words - “I didn't have a personal relationship with you.”
When a person invites Christ into their life, they enter a relationship with Him, whereby He takes all their sin away, gives them eternal life, and fills them with His LOVE and PEACE.  When you ask Jesus to save you - He will!

He isn’t just Savior, however.  He must also be your Sovereign – the LORD of your life. When you become a Christian, you follow Him. You surrender CONTROL of your life to Him.  There was a time when you lived for self.  But when you entered a relationship with Jesus, your sins were washed away and you were given new life.  NOW you live for Him.

But confessing Christ as Lord is more than personally accepting Him, you must also Publicly Acknowledge Him.  What did Jesus say in verse 32 of our text?  “32So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven.”  The word “acknowledge” means - “to declare OPENLY.”

So HOW does one openly “acknowledge” Him?  There are at least two ways:
  • The first way to make your relationship with Christ public is through Christian Baptism.  

We are commanded to be baptized in order to confess our faith and obedience to Christ openly before our church, our families, and our world.  Any person who is truly born again, not only SHOULD be baptized, I believe he will WANT to be baptized.  It is a public expression of a personal faith.

Just as we see in Acts chapter 8 where the Ethiopian Eunuch heard the gospel from Philip and his very first question wasCan I be baptized?  
That’s God’s plan.  Once we are convinced in our hearts that Jesus is the answer to our sin problem, we have an opportunity to Publicly announce our faith in Him before our friends and family.

I don’t know what it was like for YOU, but when Debbie and I got married, we put an ad in the paper… we had a ceremony in front of 200 or so of our friends… our pastor even put our names on the church sign, congratulating us.  

It is only fitting for newlyweds to announce to the world their love and commitment to each other.  

Just like newlyweds, Christians should announce to the world their love for Jesus.  Baptism does that.

But not only do you have the opportunity to acknowledge Christ through Christian Baptism

  • you also have the opportunity through Christian Behavior

As you share with others what the Lord has done for you, as people see the change that has come over your life, as they feel your love and witness your kindness - they will realize that your profession isn’t just words or a passing phase, but a life commitment that is changing you.   

Our beliefs must show up in our behavior!  

Does yours???  Listen, it takes more than WORDS to prove you are a Christian.  There are millions of people who SAY they “know” Jesus but their lives show no desire to honor and obey Him.  

I hope that’s not you.  Have you determined to live differently, to leave the old life behind in pursuit of the new??   

These are the Conditions of Confessing Christ.

2.  THEN after the Conditions, Jesus shows us the Costs of Confessing Christ.  

I RECEIVE so much when I put my faith in the Lord it is hard to imagine that there are COSTS.  I received His love and forgiveness …a new heart … a new start… I have heaven as my home and my church as my family who will love me and help me grow.  I have joy.  I have purpose.  I have a Father Who hears my prayers and has promised to meet my needs.  

I receive so much that it is easy to forget that confessing Christ also has a cost.  

Jesus specifically mentions three such costs:
  • First, you will experience Opposition when you follow Jesus

When a person begins following Jesus, he finds a sobering change in his world.  The church loves and embraces him.  On Sunday, everyone celebrates his decision to follow the Lord.  

But on Monday???   You find a world that is hostile to your faith.  Some of your so called “friends” will suddenly have other things to do when you come around.  People at work won’t understand why you no longer want to go out with them and why you keeping talking about Jesus.  

Don’t be surprised friend, if your decision to follow Jesus costs you some old relationships.
  • Not only will you suffer opposition, you will also suffer Defamation.  

Expect it - People will say bad things about you because of your relationship with Christ. In verse 25 of our chapter, Jesus prepared his disciples for this by saying in so many words, “if they said bad things about ME, they will ALSO say bad things about YOU.”  And in his very first sermon in Matthew 5, Jesus said, Blessed are you when people insult you, ... and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.

Defamation. .. it's gonna happen.

  • And third, Christians throughout the centuries have also had to face Persecution.  

This very day - in other countries around the world - Christians are being murdered for their faith in Jesus.  It may not make OUR evening news, but EVERYDAY - your brothers and sisters around the world are having their lives destroyed, their children raped, their homes burned to the ground - because they have chosen to follow Christ.

Make no bones about it… there ARE costs to following Jesus.  And the Lord wants you to know this up front.

But it’s not all bad news my friend,
3.  For not only do we see the Conditions and the Costs of Confessing Christ, third Jesus speaks of the Consequences of Confessing Christ. In verse 32, Jesus said that those who confess Him before men, HE will confess before His Father in heaven.

I know that most of us don’t just sit around thinking about death.  We are too caught up in life to dwell on what happens AFTER life.  But then we hear of the passing of a loved one and we are reminded once again that eternity IS coming.  

When OUR time comes, according to Jesus, we will face our holy and righteous Judge… Who knows everything we've ever said, thought, or done.

When THAT day comes, knowing the Lord Jesus will be crucial … for two reasons:
First, those who Confessed Christ in THIS life will be PRESENTED TO the Father.  Jesus said,him I will confess before my Father.”  

Try to picture that moment:  

You are escorted into the throne room of God by Jesus Christ.  Instantly, you are overcome by His holiness.  Gathered all around Him are the angels of heaven. Your loved ones who knew Jesus will be there too. And the Lord introduces you to the Father.  

What will that be like??  I imagine that Jesus will call out the names of those who confessed Him in THIS life:  “Father, this is Mike… he received me and confessed me before men.  I cleansed him of every sin and filled him with my Spirit. Father, I have prepared a place for Mike.”  

I am so glad, that, when I stand before God, I won’t be standing on my own merit… Jesus will be with me.

But not only will I be Presented TO the Father, I will be Promoted BY the Father.  Because I accepted Christ as my Savior, the Father will say, “Well done good and faithful servant!  Enter into the joys of your Lord!”

Jesus once told a story about a rich man, who, prior to going on a long trip, put all of his business affairs in the hands of three men.  He told them he was going away for a time, and while he was away they were to conduct business in his place.  When he returned, they would give an account to him of how his business fared under their management.
Two of the men did exactly what the rich man asked them to do - they were faithful to manage His affairs… and after sharing what they had done, the master said to them,Well done, good and faithful servants… you have been faithful in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things.  Enter into the JOYS of your Lord. 

On their day of reckoning, they were promoted.
But what of the THIRD servant?  He was NOT faithful to do what his Master required… and the Bible says he was led away from the presence of his master… to everlasting punishment.
The POINT of the story???

One of these days, each one of us will be summoned to appear before the Throne of God, and we are going to be judged according to what we have done with Jesus.  SOME will hear “Well done.”  If YOU confess Christ as Lord and Savior in THIS LIFE, you will be promoted by the Father.
But what about those who don’t confess Him?  Jesus said in v. 33,but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. 

For the sake of illustration, consider those in that group for a moment.  On the day of reckoning, there will be:

  • those who thought there was no truth to the bible, or God, or Heaven and Hell.  Some never gave God or eternity a passing thought.  They might have been fine, moral people.

  • Others probably heard the gospel many times, and may even SAY they “believe” and attend church every Sunday. .. But their lives bare NO FRUIT of that supposed “faith.”  Their lives were no different… people couldn’t see Jesus in them. For all their “faith” there was no life change.  

There will be people we KNOW in that group. Maybe some seated HERE... family - friends… and on the day of judgment they will hear “depart from me… I never knew you.”  

I cannot think of a more horrible verdict than THAT.  And to think, it all hinges on One Word – the word “Yes!”  For them, eternity will be fixed, because they didn’t say “yes” to Jesus.

Have YOU said “yes” to Jesus?  

Looking back over your life, can you remember a time when you opened your heart’s door and invited Jesus into your life?  

In Revelation 3, Jesus said,20 Behold, I stand at the door (of your heart), and knock: if any man hears my voice, and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will fellowship with him, and he with me.”  He’s knocking on your heart’s door, waiting for you to answer.  

Will you say - YES?

I began the message today with the story of Ted and Janet.  After years of rejection, she finally said ‘yes.’  But Ted was only going to ask one more time.  

Who knows … who knows how long the Lord will continue to ask us to be saved.   

Say ‘yes’ to Jesus this morning!  We are going to give you that opportunity right now.