4-20-2014 message by Pastor Rich Doebler

New Life: New heart…new start.

Matt 16:21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. 22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”

1 Cor 15:3 …Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 …he was buried, …he was raised on the third day according to the Scripture

Rom 1:4 (NLT) …he was shown to be the Son of God when he was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. He is Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the centerpiece of our faith. The Bible says if there were no Resurrection, we’d be the “most miserable” people on the planet. (1 Cor 15:19-20)

  • NLT …if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world. […worse off than anyone else (CEV); …most miserable (KJV)]
  • MSG 19 If all we get out of Christ is a little inspiration for a few short years, we’re a pretty sorry lot. 20 But the truth is that Christ has been raised up…

God (who is all-powerful) does, in fact, do miracles! And the best miracle of all history was bringing Jesus back from death. The Resurrection is why we’re here today. It’s what we remember and celebrate. The Resurrection gives us hope — both for now in this life as well as for all eternity.

This last week I was having lunch with a friend, and he asked me a question. He said: Do I have to go to church to get to heaven? How would you answer him? Technically, of course, we can’t do anything to earn our salvation. Whatever we do — even going to church — is totally inadequate to pay the penalty for sin.

We can’t do enough to earn God’s grace and forgiveness. In fact, we can’t do anything that could make God love us more than he already does.

So we come to church; we gather together. But what does God really want us to get out of time spent with him? Encouragement? Spiritual strength? Blessings? Challenge? Motivation? New life?

Yes — all that, and more!

Later, I asked my friend’s question to several others, and one answered the question with another question: Do you have to go home to your wife everyday to be married?

I like that. It shifts the point of the question from a legal technicality to a relationship! But we can’t have a relationship without the Resurrection! You can know about history. You can know about famous historical figures — Christopher Columbus, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill. But you can’t have a relationship with any of them because they’ve all died. Jesus Christ, however, is alive! You can know him initimately and personally because of the Resurrection.

So we come to church. If we have a loving relationship with God, why wouldn’t we want to be with him? If we’ve experienced his love and grace, why not be part of his family? Why not worship him with others?

A relationship with Jesus means we will have a relationship with others.

You know, we often say we’re here to help each other take the next step on our spiritual journey with Christ.

This is the “heartbeat” for everything we do. Behind all our activities and ministries and programs is this simple idea — to help each other grow closer to God…to help each other fulfill God’s call…to help each other become more like Jesus.

This pulse beat is behind everything we do — our goal is to encourage each other to love God more and serve him better, helping each other along the way — no matter where we are along the path of that journey, no matter what stage we may be at. As the Bible says…

Heb 10:24 …let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds…

Now…we see how that could happen in a worship service or in a Bible class or a discipleship class — or even in a marriage or parenting group.

But also happens in ways that aren’t so typical. Your next step may come by sharing in a free-for-all (reduce your attachment to things and help others in need)…some might take a step closer to God by walking through these doors to use the playland…others might take the next step in a hockey or basketball team where Bible truths are discussed or prayers are given…

We help each other take steps on the journey — by becoming a community, people who love God and others, people who live the “Jesus” life, people who are growingbecoming more and more what God intended for them to become.

So on this Resurrection Sunday, let me share three simple reasons why we take this journey together:

1st, Everyone is on a spiritual journey.

Most of us know this intuitively. Most of us recognize there is a Power in this universe bigger than we are. There is an innate desire within us to know God. We look at creation — mountains, oceans, at the pristine beauty of a Boundary Waters lake surrounded by pines — and we know. We look up at the stars or gaze at a blood moon, and we instinctively know there is a Creator.

Everyone is on a spiritual journey, and there are no exceptions. Even those who say they are not are on a spiritual journey. Some who consider themselves 100% secular — totally non-religious — are on a spiritual journey.

We could say they’re simply on “a journey” and leave out the word, “spiritual.” But in actual fact, no matter what people choose, there is a spiritual dimension to their decision.

Atheists say they believe in no god. Agnostics say it’s too hard to know for sure — too many questions and mysteries, they say, to find an answer. Others are called the “nones” (in polling by the Pew Reseach Center): ask them what their religious affiliation is and they say, “none.”

But these are all on a spiritual journey — the “nones,” the agnostics, and the atheists.

Because if you say there is no God, you’re making a spiritual statement. If you say we can’t really know for sure, you’re offering a spiritual opinion. You can’t opt out. Refusing to make a decision is in itself a decision!

For example, if a vegetarian says, “I don’t eat meat; I don’t believe in eating meat,” he hasn’t opted out. He still eats food! Even a meatless diet is still a diet. Perhaps you’re on a gluten-free diet, but you still eat! You’re not on a food-free diet.

In the same way, if someone says “I don’t believe in God,” he still believes something. Even the atheist has a belief system. He makes certain assumptions — assumptions about life, which he takes on faith. Even with no faith in God, he still has faith — faith in science, perhaps, or faith in humanity or faith in his own logic.

So everyone is on a spiritual journey. Because we are human, we are all on a spiritual journey.

2nd, Traveling on a journey means discovery.

A “journey” is about traveling from one place to another. It’s about entering new territory, gaining new experiences — discovering new sounds, new sights, new smells, new tastes. A “journey” means new discoveries.

At 20 months, life for our grandson is a series of new discoveries, every day there are exciting new things to learn. Recently he learned how to chase away the family dog from being a nuisance: “Go away.” New words. New vocabulary. Then he discovered he could use the same words on people. When Daddy is annoying, for example: “Go away.” When he doesn’t want to pick up his toys: “Go away.” Now he’s discovering some words should be used with discretion…or there will be consequences. We were Skyping with him Friday, and he told me two new words he had learned: “Time out.”

A “journey” means discoveries. When I traveled to India… to Africa… even to North Dakota, I discovered new things. Last year when Randy and Fred visited Pemba Island, part of Tanzania, they made many new discoveries about the place, the people, the Muslim culture. (BTW, be watching for “Project Pemba,” a fresh challenge rolling out in about three weeks. We’re taking on the challenge to help people in Pemba discover Christ since they’ve had no Christian witness in their culture.)

Like life’s experiences, a spiritual journey is a series of new discoveries. As long as you are breathing and conscious, you should be discovering — learning, growing, experiencing new things spiritually.

We all have more to learn. Much more. And it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been on your spiritual journey, you haven’t arrived yet. We don’t arrive at our destination until this life is over…and even after we get to heaven, I suspect God has more for us to learn and experience.

So we are in a process of discovery.

3rd, Discovering Jesus will redirect (refocus) your spiritual journey.

There are many “defining moments” in our lives: a life-changing event, meeting that special someone, surviving a near-death experience, getting hired for one job and not another, and so on.

The ultimate defining moment is when meet Jesus Christ! He was a teacher, a rabbi, a great philosopher, but he was and is so much more!

Jesus is the Son of God — resurrected, alive! And when the living Jesus, the Messiah, crosses our path, that encounter will redirect our journey. It will refocus us in a whole new direction.

Imagine someone hiking through the woods. He thinks he knows the way, but he gets disoriented. He’s climbing up hills and down into ravines. He walks around clumps of trees and follows a meandering creek. And pretty soon he loses all sense of direction. He can’t tell which way he came from, and he can’t tell which direction he wanted to go. He has no reference point. He cannot find his way. He is lost.

But now suppose this person sits down, opens up his back pack, and discovers (lo and behold!) a compass inside his pack. And the needle on the compass always points north. Suddenly he has found a reference point. In the midst of his chaos and confusion, the compass gives him direction. It tells him where north is. He knows he entered the woods from the west, aiming to walk two miles to the east. So if he keeps the arrow on the compass pointing to his left, he can stay on a track heading east. Even if he goes over hills or down into ravins or around thick brush or along a meandering creek, he has a point of reference.

Jesus is our compass. Jesus is our reference point. He points the way. Everyone is on a spiritual journey — all of us: atheists and believers, agnostics and veterans of the faith, church-goers and those who never darken the door of a church.

We start out like the guy in the woods. Lost. Unable to find our way. But when we find our reference point (no matter how lost and messed up we may be, no matter how far we are from the path) — when we turn to Jesus, suddenly our spiritual journey has a credible, reliable point of reference. Jesus is like the arrow pointing true north. Jesus helps lost people find their way.

Jesus said, “I am the way…the truth and the life…” (John 14:6) But he didn’t just say it; he proved it. How did he prove it? By coming back from the grave, by being raised from the dead.

Rom 1:4 (NLT) …he was shown to be the Son of God when he was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. He is Jesus Christ our Lord.

Jesus redefines and redirects our spiritual journey. Without him, we are lost. Without him, we cannot know the truth. Without him, there is no hope for eternal life or heaven.

In the Bible we see people — all kinds of people — on their own spiritual journeys. And though their journeys were each unique, when they encountered Jesus, they were given new choices.

  • Some were fishermen, washing and mending their nets, when they met Jesus. And they became fishers of men.
  • Others were tax collectors, hated because they worked for the Romans. But they met Jesus and became workers for God’s kingdom.
  • Some were prostitutes needing a fresh start — a hopeless impossibility for them until they met the One who could wash away their shame and set them free from their past.
  • Some were struggling widows, perhaps single parents, needing support and comfort — and then Jesus spoke peace into the storms of their life.
  • Some were proud, religious leaders needing humility, grace, and love; some were out of their minds, possessed by demons; some were physically sick, needing healing.

Jesus met them all. Each one was on a different spiritual journey, but Jesus crossed paths with them all. From all walks of life. From all kinds of experiences.

  • A blind man was sitting by the road one day when Jesus came by. The man called out loudly, begging for mercy and Jesus gave him sight…
  • A leper, afflicted with a horrible disease that caused his skin to rot away and left him disfigured with missing body parts, ostracized by society, separated from everyone — but Jesus touched him — and that touch transformed his life!
  • Jesus met a woman by a well, her life a mess, but he gave her hope…
  • Another woman was dragged before him, condemned by the authorities. But Jesus offered a second chance: “Go,” he said, “and stop sinning.”
  • As a carptenter, he built furniture and wooden tools for customers. As a Savior he built new lives for sinners. And he was criticized for eating and drinking with his sinner friends.
  • Jesus met common people and powerful leaders. He met sinners and religious zealots.
  • Jesus met King Herod. He met the Roman governor, Pilate. He met a Roman army officer. He met the High Priest, Caiphas. Jesus met Pharisees and Sadducees, Jewish hierarchy.

All were on a spiritual journey; their paths all intersected with Jesus’ — as ours do today.

  • Some of us are hurting — we need a healer.
  • Some of us are confused — we need an answer.
  • Some of us are lost — we need the way.
  • Some of us are struggling emotionally — we need peace.
  • Some of us are self-sufficient and proud, maybe even religious — we need his humility.
  • Some of us have suffered unimaginable loss — we need his comfort.
  • Some of us are lonely, maybe divorced or separated from a meaningful relationship — we need his love.
  • All of us are human — sinners who need grace, forgiveness…who need his new life.

Wherever you are on your spiritual journey, Jesus Christ meets you and calls you to take a step toward him. To redirect your life to follow him more closely. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been a believer for decades or if you’re just for the first time grappling seriously with the whole idea that God could wants a relationship with you. It doesn’t matter if you’ve already taken a thousand steps on this journey or if you’re just taking your very first step. We all need to take our next step toward Jesus.

New Heart…New Start