WHAT I WANT MY KIDS TO KNOW - ABOUT THE SAVIOR
by Pastor Mike Fortune
April 23, 2011
- God loves you like crazy and has a plan for your life [Revelation 1:4-6; Acts 20:24]
- God is concerned with the quality of human life [Romans 1:19-20; Romans 2:14-15]
- God wants to spend time with you in a personal way [John 18:11; Romans 10:9-10,12]
ESPN featured this week on their newsmagazine show E:60 the story of Francisco ‘Paco’ Rodriguez, a promising Mexican-American boxer from Chicago, who always wanted to be a champion and hero. That’s what he told his wife Sonia after they married in 2006 and what he would later coo to his infant daughter Ginette. And when he entered the ring in Philadelphia on a fall night in 2009, his first shot at a title belt, what happened made ‘Paco’ a hero, but not in a way he ever expected. After a ten round fight, Paco suffered a deadly brain injury in the ring and hours later his organs were donated to save the lives of four women and his uncle. [for more see http://sports.espn.go.com/chicago/columns/story?id=6382633]
Twenty-six year old Alexis Sloan needed a pumping device to help her heart. Now, Paco’s heart beats for hers. Fifty-seven year old Vicky was a diabetic for 20 years and was on dialysis for three and a half. But on November 23, 2009, she received a kidney and a pancreas from Paco and every day, she thinks of Paco’s sacrifice so she could live a normal life again. When Ashley Owens was 10 months old, doctors diagnosed her with cystic fibrosis, which affected her lungs to the point she needed a transplant. Years after she was supposed to die, Paco’s lungs provide the air she needs to continue swimming, playing tennis, and living life to the fullest. Twenty-five year old Meghan Kingsley dreamed of swimming in the Olympics, but the medicine she took to battle nonmalignant tumors in her brain and on her spine ruined her liver. Doctors told the family after receiving Paco’s that only 10 percent of Meghan's liver was still functioning and that if she had not received his new organ, she would have been dead within 48 hours. Before Ramón Tejada became so sick that he was forced to go on dialysis in 2003, his family and Paco's family often spent time together. At 30 years of age, he had developed kidney stones and cysts that indicated he was in the beginning stages of kidney failure. In 2004, Tejada—whom Paco and his brothers called "Uncle"—was put on the transplant list and Paco's kidney was a perfect match.
Since then, Alexis, studying to become a nurse anesthetist, has gained her freedom from the pumping device for her heart. Vicky, who loves to bake, is now free to sample her goodies and live like Paco's uncle Ramón outside the confines of diabetes. For the first time, Ashley can take a deep breath with lungs her doctors describe as "pristine." Ashley now calls Alexis her "best friend," and they have scheduled speaking engagements together on behalf of Gift of Life. They keep in close contact with Meghan. And Vicky, a mother of two sons, said she now considers the three girls “the daughters I never had.” Together, they will all attend Ashley’s wedding June 25.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website, there are more than 110k people waiting for an organ donation but eighteen people on that list will die each day before they get one. But as Paco’s story illustrates, each person’s decision to become an organ donor has the potential to save many lives. I’m an organ donor. And I hope my church family will consider joining me since April, in addition to hosting Easter this year, is also donor awareness month. The bottom line is God made us from dust and to dust we shall all return with or without a coffin. But as we’ve previously discussed in this series, one day in the twinkling of an eye, God is going to recreate our bodies and give them immortality when Jesus returns. The Creator doesn’t need our old organs to do so. So we might as well give them to someone on that list who still does! This is one way we can show concern for the quality of all life—just like God does as we shall see. For more information or to sign up to be an organ donor, visit the organdonor.gov website. Additional resources are available at Donatelife.net.
Stories like these remind me that God loves us like crazy and has a plan for our life—even after sin threatens and sadly sometimes takes it—which is point number one I hope you catch as we conclude this series called What I Want My Kids to Know. Today, we’re specifically focusing on what I want my kids to know about the Savior. Turn with me to Revelation 1 to begin. Revelation 1:4-6 says, "4This letter is from John to the seven churches in the province of Asia. Grace and peace to you from the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come; from the sevenfold Spirit before his throne; 5and from Jesus Christ. He is the faithful witness to these things, the first to rise from the dead, and the ruler of all the kings of the world. All glory to him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by shedding his blood for us. 6He has made us a Kingdom of priests for God his Father. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen."
As we’re learning on Wednesday nights, Revelation is a book primarily about Jesus. The content comes from him and is about him and his return. It’s not just for those seven churches near modern day Turkey. It’s also for Toledo and the people in the province of northwest Ohio. Rightly understood, it’s about grace and it gives us peace because Jesus is faithful even when we aren’t. In a clear reference to his crucifixion and resurrection, this passage also says Jesus loves us like crazy and has freed us from our sins by shedding his blood for us. You saw that in verse 5 right?
But he didn’t have to die. He could have said no. In fact, three times he wanted to! Matthew 26:38 says his soul was “exceedingly sorrowful” to the point of death. During this time of year celebrating the Jewish Passover, celebrating the Exodus and freeing of Hebrew slaves from Pharaoh in Egypt, isn’t it ironic that the pre-incarnate Christ who led them in a cloud by day and fire by night according to 1 Corinthians 10:1-4 was now pleading for his own Exodus and deliverance? Three times Jesus pleaded with the Father in Gethsemane to “let this cup pass from me.” But three times, there was silence followed by his willingness, “Not my will, but thy will be done” [cf. Matthew 26:39]. One commentator describes the scene this way. “The awful moment had come—that moment which was to decide the destiny of the world. The fate of humanity trembled in the balance. Christ might even now refuse to drink the cup apportioned to guilty man. It was not yet too late. He might say, ‘Let the transgressor receive the penalty of his sin, and I will go back to My Father” [Ellen White,The Desire of Ages, p.690].
Have you ever wondered what would have happened if Jesus had ascended to the Father before He died instead of after? What would have been the consequences if there was no resurrection since Jesus had not died? Carmen Siebold in a thought provoking article I read recently considered these questions and she concludes there would have been at least four ginormous consequences if Jesus didn’t die [see “What If Jesus Had Said No?” in the April 2011 issue of Signs of the Times]. First, without the salvation he provided, there would be no eternal life. Why? Because Romans 6:23 says the wages of sin is death. Specifically, the wages of our sin is the Second Death according to Revelation 20:14. Go to our website toledofirstadventist.org to read, watch, or listen for more info about what I want my kids to know about death. Second, if Jesus hadn’t died, our lives and relationships would lack meaning and purpose. 1 Corinthians 15:14 says our faith would be futile. We wouldn’t exist to let our lights shine as we talked about last week. We would exist for meaningless pleasure but no real purpose. Third, grief and suffering would be unrelieved by hope. When young fathers die too soon there would be no consoling their widows and children with the hope of the Second Coming and the twinkling of an eye and of eternal life. Essentially, number four, we would have no irrefutable proof that God loves us like crazy. Instead, we would be crazy for saying so! Revelation 1:5 would lack the power to convince anyone that they are precious and of infinite worth.
But thank God, Jesus did not say no! He said yes! He said, “Not my will, but thy will be done!” And because he did, he launched a new Exodus that can free us from our addictions and hopelessness and insignificant lives. He has also fulfilled the promise he made long ago to the children of Israel to make all of us a “kingdom of priests.” You have to be familiar with the Exodus language to see the significance of the rest of Revelation 1:5. Two months after the Exodus, the children of Israel arrive in the wilderness of Mt. Sinai. Moses climbs the mountain to appear before God and when he does God says, “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians. You know that I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Exodus 19:5-6 says, “‘Now if you will obey me and keep my covenant...you will be my kingdom of priests, my holy nation.’”
But we all know they failed miserably at that [cf. Galatians 2:21]. They should have known they needed a Savior. Because they kept falling short. That was and still is the point of the law [cf. Romans 7:7]. Isaiah would describe that their best attempts at obedience as graphically as one can in Hebrew saying their righteousness was like filthy rags or in English used tampons. But 65 years after Jesus died on the cross, John writes to the churches to tell them that now they are a kingdom of priests. Revelation 1:6 says, “He [Jesus] has made us a Kingdom of Priests for God his Father. All glory and power to him forever and ever!” Do you see the difference? Not “you will be” but after the cross, you already are! 1 Peter 2:9-10 says it this way, “For you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God's very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.”
What does a kingdom of priests do? We do what Israel of old was supposed to do. We sincerely but not perfectly worship God for He is worthy. And we lead others to do so by showing them the goodness of God. We let our lights shine in a very dark world. Isaiah 60:1 says, “Arise, Jerusalem! Let your light shine for all to see. For the glory of the LORD rises to shine on you.” This has always been the plan for your life. Whether you realize it or not. According to Ephesians 2:6, Christians have died to themselves and have been resurrected with Christ and made to sit with him in heavenly places. Like the priests of the Old Testament, we have immediate access to God. That’s why Hebrews 4:16 says we may now come “with confidence to the throne of grace” that we may “receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need.” We are sinners saved by grace but simultaneously saints of God’s household.
You are not a mechanic. You are priestly saint disguised as a mechanic! You are not a teacher. You are priestly saint undercover as a teacher! You are not an engineer or a nurse. You are priestly saints posing as engineers and nurses! Your real job to sincerely worship God and lead others to do so by showing them the goodness of God and by letting your light shine in this sinful and broken world. This has always been the plan for your life whatever you major in or finish with!
Point number one. This is what I want my kids to know about the Savior. He loves you like crazy and has a plan for your life! To show people the goodness of God. He’s the one bragging about making your paths straight [cf. Proverbs 3:5-6] and giving you hope and a future [cf. Jeremiah 29:11]. But first you have to say yes to the plan and pray the same thing Jesus did in Gethsemane “Not my will but thy will be done.” Until you do that, your life won’t make much sense wherever you go and whatever you do. That’s why I want Acts 20:24 on my tombstone. Acts 20:24 says, "24My life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God."
Moving on, what I also want my kids to know about the Savior is he is concerned with the quality of human life. Not just the lives of his professed followers who agree with his plan. But also the lives of those who don’t even know about him or his plan. We know the Savior cares about the quality of all human life because Romans 1:19-20 says, "God has made it obvious to them. 20For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God."
We don’t agree to the plan and let our lights shine like the resurrected priestly saints we are so others can be saved. No, Jesus said the saving is finished. We share because that’s the normal logical next thing that happens to a life that suddenly has meaning and joy and hope. His divine nature and invisible qualities can be found long before we share anything even among people who do not profess to follow Him. I’m indebted to David Kawakami for reminding me of this most recently in the news. By now I’m sure you’ve heard about the so-called “Fukushima 50.” There are actually 300 courageous workers who, since the devastating tsunami struck Japan on March 11, have been working around the clock in shifts of 50 at a time to contain the radiation leaking out from the stricken nuclear reactor. One of them is Hiroyuki Kohno, a 44-year-old plant worker, who's been employed in the nuclear industry since he was a teenager. He promptly answered the emergency call issued by his employer, a subcontractor for the Tokyo Electric Power Company. And when he did, he knew what the consequences of heeding the call would be. “To be honest, no one wants to go,” Kohno told a reporter. “Radiation levels at the plant are unbelievably high compared with normal conditions. I know that when I go this time, I will return with a body no longer capable of work at a nuclear plant.”
But Kohno said that as a single man with no children, he felt obligated to answer the call and join the team that the media has dubbed the “Fukushima Fifty.” Better that he face the risk, he explained, so as to spare his colleagues who have dependents counting on them. Besides, he added, the workers in the plant are his brothers and sisters, and he feels an allegiance to them. “There's a Japanese expression: ‘We eat from the same bowl.’ These are friends I shared pain and laughter with. That's why I'm going," he explained. Other workers have apparently discussed the dire prospects ahead fairly openly. As the unidentified mother of a 32-year-old plant worker explained in a tearful phone interview, his colleagues have discussed it at length and they have committed themselves to die if necessary to save the nation” [see http://tinyurl.com/3mh8ybu for more info].
Does that sound familiar to anyone? It should! Even Caiphas, the high priest who rejected Jesus, knew that it would be better for the nation for one man to die [cf. John 18:14]. And isn’t that what the Savior did? Romans 2:14-15 says, “4Even Gentiles, who do not have God's written law, show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it. 15They demonstrate that God's law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right.”
So who will be saved and who be lost? I have no idea! What I do know is God is concerned with the quality of all human life not just yours. One commentator says it this way, “Those whom Christ commends in the judgment may have known little of theology, but they have cherished His principles. Through the influence of the divine Spirit they have been a blessing to those about them...though ignorant of the law of God, they have heard His voice speaking to them in nature, and have done the things the law required. Their works are evidence that the Holy Spirit has touched their hearts, and they are recognized as children of God. How surprised and gladdened will be the lowly among the nations...How glad will be the heart of Infinite Love as His followers look up with surprise and joy at His words of approval” [Ellen White, The Desire of Ages, pp.682-683].
So if God is concerned with the quality of all human life not just yours, don’t you think his professed followers should be too? But we need not wait for our death beds to show others the goodness of God. In addition to donating our organs some day, we can also share the resources God has given us and as I told you weeks ago, that’s what’s what we’re going to do again today. After church today, on your way out, you can place your gifts in the offering plates by the door or in the box at the foot of the cross. All loose offerings in those plates and monies marked ADRA or ACS will go to those organizations. You need to know the Adventist Development and Relief Agency only works outside the United States whereas Adventist Community Services only works inside the United States. So if you want your money to help Japan, you must mark it ADRA. If you want to help Ohio flood victims, you must mark it ACS. Everybody understand? If you didn’t come prepared to give today, you can drop it in the mail or Google their websites and give online. If you don’t have extra cash, perhaps you can sell some stuff on Craigs List or eBay or have a garage sale. Acts 2 says the church even sold property if necessary. Donna collects cans. Bobby scraps metal. A saintly kingdom of priests does whatever it takes to show others the goodness of God.
And finally, what I want my kids to know about the Savior is God wants to spend time with you in a personal way. In John 18:11, Jesus tells Peter, “Put your sword back into its sheath. Shall I not drink from the cup of suffering the Father has given me?” Matthew’s account adds that Jesus also said, “Don’t you realize that I could ask my Father for thousands of angels to protect us, and he would send them instantly?” What he meant was: “I don’t need you to save me. I’m here to save you!” Why? Because I want to spend eternity with you! And eternity is a long, long time! Our Savior has a plan for your life. One that will not only make you happy, but one that will also help others know the goodness of God. He didn’t want to drink that cup. Who would? But he did. To give you eternal life. To give your life meaning and significance now. To give you hope in your grief and suffering. To provide irrefutable proof that God is love. Do you get it yet? Jesus would rather die than spend eternity without you! In fact, he already did.
Rightly understood, the question has never been: “Does Jesus want to spend time with you?” The question is, “Do you want to spend time with Jesus?” The only logical response to such a question, in my opinion is absolutely, positively, wild horses couldn’t hold me back yes! Richard Rohr pens that response so much more eloquently. Listen to these words. “I thank you, Lord Jesus, for becoming a human being so I do not have to pretend or try to be God. I thank you, Lord Jesus, for becoming finite and limited so I do not have to pretend that I am infinite and limitless. I thank you, crucified God, for becoming mortal so I do not have to try to make myself immortal. I thank you, Lord Jesus, for becoming inferior so I do not have to pretend that I am superior to anyone. I thank you for being crucified outside the walls, for being expelled and excluded like the sinners and outcasts, so you can meet me where I feel that I am, always outside the walls of worthiness.I thank you for becoming weak, Lord Jesus, so I don’t have to be strong. I thank you for being willing to be considered imperfect and strange, so I do not have to be perfect and normal. I thank you, Jesus, for being willing to be disapproved of, so I do not have to try so hard to be approved and liked. I thank you for being considered a failure, so I do not have to give my life trying to pretend I’m a success. I thank you for being wrong by the standards of religion and state, so I do not have to be right anywhere, even in my own mind. Into your hands I commit my spirit” [Adapted from Hope Against Darkness, p. 38].
Romans 10:9-10,12 concludes, "9If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved. 12Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him."
My hope and prayer for you my church family, is that like the folks getting baptized next week, that we will say yes to a Savior like that again and again and again. Is that your desire? If it is, I invite you to participate in communion. Not because you’re worthy. But because Jesus is. And because you’re saying yes to Him.