On these first three Sundays of 2023, I want to talk to you about some things that are close to my heart and of vital importance for all of us.
This is the second week of a series we are calling Pastor Says. The idea was that over the four weeks of this series I would share some final thoughts as my ministry here at The Point comes to a close. On Sunday, November 27, I delivered the first in a four-part series focused on listening to the voice of God. Then we took a four week break for Christmas Playlist. Now we are back to it for three more Sundays before the Passing of the Baton service which will take place on Sunday, January 22, at the SHS auditorium.
At first today’s topic might seem a little heavy for the first day of a new year. But please bear with me as we shine the light on truth that has eternal significance. Whenever we are exposed to a new truth, it is like walking out of a room that is filled with darkness, into the bright light of the noonday sun. There are typically two primary ways we respond when we walk out of darkness and into the light. We may cringe, squint, or look away from the light. There might even be a tendency to return to the darkness when the light is so bright.
The second possible response is to stand still in the light and allow our eyes to adjust. And as you know, Jesus invites us to leave the darkness behind and decide to consistently walk in the light. He is the light. We are called to be children of light. Regarding the light of truth Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching (remain, abide, hold steady, stand still), you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – John 8:31-32 (NIV)
I want to shine the light on some eternal truth today that I hope you will not only embrace right now, but that you will live out for the rest of your life. I want to look to the future and consider two facts we must all face at some point. This is nothing new. Most of you have heard these truths before. Some have already accepted them, but others have not. That is what makes them worth sharing again today.
These are truths that can begin changing your life the moment you accept them. Both of these truths are found in the Bible. Before we get to these two important truths, I think it is important to acknowledge the fact that all of us have chosen a FOUNDATION to build our lives on. This foundation is what informs your decision making. It helps you determine your values, establish your priorities, and it speaks into daily decisions about faith, family, and finances. This foundation will determine how you think, act, and live.
All of us, either consciously or unconsciously, have chosen a FOUNDATION for our lives. The Word of God is the foundation of truth that I have chosen to build my life upon. I made that decision a long time ago. It has served me well. I have no regrets about my decision to put God first and to embrace His Word as the foundation that I would build my life upon. That’s why I can recommend it to you with no reservation. Perhaps you never thought about it like this, but you have chosen a foundation for truth too. This foundation is the basis for how we live life, and it is far too important to leave to chance.
Today I want to talk about Two Undeniable Truths from the Word of God. I believe there is something deep within each of us that will affirm these truths, whether we embrace them or not.
TRUTH #1 – TIME is running out.
You don’t even need a verse for that. We all know that is true. We say time flies. At this point in my life, days, weeks, months, and years pass by at lightning speed. In just 364 days we will be ringing in 2024. It seems like it happens faster every year. It is hard to believe that Y-2K was 24 years ago. Some of you weren’t even born then and you have no idea what I am talking about. You will have to Google it (which was the word of the year three years later in 2002). The phrase, time flies, may be more palatable. But there is an urgency when we admit that time is running out.
Regardless of your background or religious experience, this is an undeniable truth. You can’t argue with it, and you can’t get away from it no matter how hard you try. You may not like it, but you know it is true, even if you try to go on living like it is not. Some people try to avoid it. They tend to act like they are going to live forever. Some people are simply unwilling to focus their attention on the brevity of life. Others want to check out or try to avoid the subject altogether. But when has ignoring the truth led to anything good? There is no benefit in that.
At funerals I often speak about how foolish it is to go through life unprepared for something that is inevitable. It is unwise to ignore the fact that we all have a time limit/expiration date. You would think this reality would govern our lives, dictate our decisions, and be on our minds every day. But some people continually try to push this truth to the circumference of their lives, and they will do whatever they have to do to keep it out of the center. They avoid thinking about it and they certainly don’t want to talk about it.
The truth is that our lives are ebbing away and one of these days we will all die.
Happy New Year! 😊 What is surprising is the fact that even as believers we are sometimes hesitant to face this truth. But when this truth comes front and center in our lives, it changes everything about how we think, how we act, and how we live.
In Psalm 90:12 David prayed, Lord, “Teach us to number our days and recognize how few they are; help us to spend them as we should.” – Psalm 90:12 (NIV) By counting our days, we are in a better position to make our rapidly decreasing days count.
Several years ago, we did a series that we titled “Live like you are dying”. In that series we asked, if you had 30 days left to live, how would that change things? How should we live in light of the fact that time is running out? Your answer to that question depends on what you think is next.
1) If you think death is the end, that will impact how you live your life on every level.
2) If you believe everyone lives on someplace, that will change the way you live too.
When it comes to the question of what happens when we die, I find it interesting that most people do believe in heaven, but only a few believe in hell, even though the same Bible speaks about BOTH heaven and hell. But that is a message for another day. Truth #1 – Time is running out!
Truth #2 – All of us will stand before God in JUDGMENT.
When you face up to the fact that time is running out, and life on this earth has an expiration date, that naturally leads to this second reality if you believe the Bible. All of us will stand in judgment before God. You will get to give an explanation for what you did with the gift of life.
So, with these two certainties before us, we are faced with two possible questions. The first question is the wrong question: “How much time do I have left?” The right question: “What will I do with the time that I have?” What we do with the time that we have determines what happens when life on this earth finally comes to an end.
Both of these truths are summed up in one verse of scripture. “People are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment…” – Hebrews 9:27 (NIV) Two huge events that are in everyone’s future: DEATH and JUDGMENT. Man is destined to die once. Nobody argues with that. Then we will face the judgment. Everyone will give an account for how they lived their life. Lots of people want to argue with that.
If all this is true, and the Bible says that it is, shouldn’t that significantly influence how you live your life? The Apostle Paul talks about the brevity of life…“Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.” – 2 Corinthians 5:1-4 (NIV)
Paul is very aware that these bodies are dying. In Romans he writes that we are in bondage to decay. These physical bodies are going downhill. You might slow it down, but you can’t stop it. There are physical ailments, infirmities, and difficulties that come our way. “Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” – 2 Corinthians 5:5 (NIV)
The Spirit within you is a reminder that there is much more to life than this life.
Life here on earth is just one chapter in a continuing story. It may sound like a play on words, but it changes things when you realize that you are more than a body with a soul. You are in fact a SOUL WITH A BODY. There is a difference! Our BODY is temporary, but our SOUL is eternal.
“Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.” – 2 Corinthians 5:6-9 (NIV) WHY should we do this? Why should we allow our day to day lives to be impacted by One we cannot see? Part of the reason is in that very next verse. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” – 2 Corinthians 5:10 (NIV)
If you believe the Bible, and if you believe time is running out, and if you believe we will all stand in judgment before God, you will begin to focus less on how much time you have left, and more on what you will do with the time you have. It may sound threatening to think that you will one day have to explain what you have done to a holy and perfect God. But for a believer, there is no reason to fear. That is because the sin issue has been dealt with through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Romans 3:23 really sums things up.
“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” – Romans 3:23 (NIV) Nobody argues with that. In fact, sometimes people kind of laugh it off. But before you laugh too hard you need to jump ahead three chapters. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 6:23a (NIV)
The blood price must be paid for our sin. Jesus can pay it for you, or you can pay it yourself. It is up to you. “In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” – Hebrews 9:22 (NIV) When I stand before God, as a believer, I am not being punished for my sin.
The blood of Jesus paid for my sin. In the words of the old hymn of the church – Jesus paid it all. All to Him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain. He washed it white as snow. Jesus paid our sin debt. The issue for a believer at judgment, is not sin, it is faithfulness. We will not only be punished for sin, but we will be rewarded for faithfulness in this life.
Paul talked about each person receiving what was due to them, good and bad. If you are not a follower of Jesus Christ, you aren’t going to like what I am about to tell you. I think most people would like for God to grade on the curve. We want everyone to win. We would like for God to say, guess what? There is a loophole. Everyone is in! You all made it! Everyone is going to Heaven.
I think most of us would like that. I would love to see everyone make it to Heaven. If you have even the slightest understanding of what Hell is, nobody would ever wish it upon their worst enemy. But the Bible makes is clear that one day we will all give an account for the life that we have lived. It is all about personal choices.
The Scripture makes it clear that EVERYONE won’t make it to HEAVEN, but everyone can be SAVED! Let that sink in. EVERYONE won’t make it to HEAVEN, but everyone can be SAVED! “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” – Romans 10:13 (NIV) Jesus didn’t believe that everyone is going to make it to heaven. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 7:21 (NIV)
Jesus didn’t say, pray a prayer and then go on living like the devil, and you will go to Heaven. We have been called to do the will of our Father in Heaven. We have been called to be holy because He is holy. That is God goal for all of us. He wants us to be like He is. I know what some of you are thinking. You are thinking, I have tried. I can’t do it. I am not perfect. I will never measure up. And you are right! You can’t live a holy life on your own but hear this!
God will ENABLE you to live the life He is CALLING you to live.
Do your best and He will make up the difference. The Bible teaches that one day each person will be judged. You give an account for your life, and I will give an account for mine. Those who have not placed their faith in Christ must pay for their own sin. The Bible indicates that it will take all of eternity to pay for our sin because it is a debt that no one can fully pay on their own. I admit, that is troubling, upsetting and disturbing on every level. Nobody feels good about that! How could you?
God was so troubled by this reality, that He sent His Son, not to simply teach or model for us how to live. He sent His Son into this world to die for our sin because it troubled Him so much and because He loves us so much. We have all sinned. The price tag on that sin is death. Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. Since I have accepted Christ’s offer of forgiveness, that means His blood was shed for me. He died in my place. He paid my debt. My sins can be forgiven.
Jesus paid the debt, and He offers me a gift. All I have to do is receive the gift He makes available to everyone. I can get into Heaven on His ticket. Jesus is the only One who can cancel your debt because He is the only one without sin. He didn’t deserve to die. Since He paid your sin debt, you can get into heaven on His ticket! All you have to do is accept the wonderful give He offers each of us.
This is the gospel truth. This is a better way to live. We all come into this world with only so much sand in the hourglass. Eventually, unless the Lord returns first, time will run out for every single one of us. Then we will all die and then we will face the judgment.
I have started the new year as the pastor of a church 37 times. I have pastored churches with an average attendance of as little as 15, and as much as almost 800. Not one of those 37 years did we go 12 months without losing anyone. The hourglass ran out for people in the church every year. It happened to people of all ages and stages of life.
Some were people we knew we would probably lose at the beginning of the year. They were in bad health. We were not surprised. But there were others that nobody expected. There are people hearing this message today, who won’t be here on January 1, 2024. If time runs out for you before you find forgiveness in Christ, then you will be called upon to pay for your own sin and that equates to an eternity separated from God.
Jesus plainly taught GOOD people don’t go to Heaven. FORGIVEN people go to Heaven. Jesus came to offer the gift of eternal life. He came so that you and I could be forgiven. The sinless Son of God shed His own blood as the payment for our sin. You don’t have to pay for your sin because He already did. If you conclude that what Jesus taught is true, the wisest thing you can do is place your faith in His death on the cross as the means for your salvation.
You can choose to receive the gift of eternal life today. Then every day in 2023, you will have the opportunity to live faithfully for our Savior. Each day in this new year can mean one more day of faithfulness to our Heavenly Father. And everyday matters because one day you will be recognized for your faithfulness, your kindness, your service, your generosity, unseen deeds, etc.
You may not want to be recognized…but it is not up to you. Recognition may not be your motivation but it is going to happen according to the Bible and the teachings of Christ. What this really means is you CAN’T make a sacrifice for your Heavenly Father. When you give up something short term to gain something long term, that is not a sacrifice. That is called an investment. You are laying up treasure in Heaven. Because God is keeping a record and He is taking notes. And one day, He will reward you for your faithfulness.
Which brings us to the preeminent defining moment in your life and in your eternity. One decision determines where you go when life on this earth is done…What will I do about JESUS? Two Options – ACCEPT or REJECT – Wait (which is rejection for the moment) THEN COMES THE REALIZATION – Eternity is coming! What you do now, today, in 2023, for the rest of your life, that will determine what it will be like when you get there.
Imagine what it will be like to one day take your Heavenly Father on a tour of your life. Imagine what it will be like to hear Him say, “well done my good and faithful servant. Welcome home! I am proud of you. Don’t live your life wondering how many days you have left. In this new year you can live your life leveraging the days you have for His glory
Two undeniable facts: We will all die. We will ALL stand before God in judgment. It is my prayer is that every single one of you will be ready for each of these inevitable realities of life.