Monday, May 24, 2010

The Ultimate Hard Thing, Part 2

This is the second installment of the message I gave during the SDG Youth Camp at Camp Alano, Toril, Davao City on May 23. (Here's the first part).

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Doing Hard Things

Now that we are alive in Him, Jesus calls us to follow His example. He calls us to do hard things for Him.

Let's read Matthew 16:24-27:
24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life?
27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.
Here Jesus is saying that following Him isn't a relaxing walk in the park. It is uncomfortable. It is painful. It is costly. It can cost even our lives.

Jesus is saying that anyone who wants to follow Him must "take up his cross." And what is our cross? It is our sinful desires. A child of God must say no to his sinful wants and embrace God's will, no matter the cost. And that, friends, isn't easy.

Let's translate that in practical terms. Do we attend the youth fellowship, even if it means sacrificing a couple of hours of rest? Or do we make our studies or exams an excuse not to? Do we prioritize our daily devotions over Facebook? Do we say "no" to cheating in our classrooms? Do we refuse to look at pornography or spend idle moments in the Web? Do we reject non-Christian suitors and pray for purity and wisdom in pursuing relationships? Do we share the gospel to our unbelieving family members, classmates, and even our teachers, even if it means a lot of embarassment or rejection on our part?

Let's jump to verse 27: “For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.”

God will come down from Heaven on the Day of Judgment. And when that happens, we will be held accountable for the lives we have lived. He will reward those who have obeyed His will, and He will punish those who have rejected Him. He will give blessings to those who did hard things for His glory, and He will curse those who have wasted their lives. Let's pay attention to that warning.

We must lose our lives to find it. It's a beautiful play of words here. When we lose our lives, we will find life. Every day, by the grace of God, let us die to ourselves and live for God.

Three R's

How do we do that?

We must rely on God's grace. We have a tendency to forget that not only have we been saved by grace, we also live by grace. The Christian life is a life dependent on God's grace through and through. We have a tendency to do do hard things for God without asking for His strength, and this happened, too, in the early church. Paul rebuked the Galatians, “Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?” (Galatians 3:3). Everyday, we must pray, “Today I ask for your grace, Lord, to help me live a life that honors you!”

We must rest in God's promise. Didn't the Lord tell Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakeness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)? God also promises heavenly rewards for those who faithfully do His bidding. That should encourage us to do hard things for the Lord!

We must rejoice in God's commands. 1 John 5:3 says, “This is love for God: to obey His commands. And His commands are not burdensome.” We shouldn't grumble when we obey God. We find peace when we joyfully follow what God says. It's for our own good and His glory.

My Testimony

I thank the Lord for this rare opportunity of speaking with you all. Before I end, however, let me encourage you with my personal testimony. Every time I tell this, it fills me with renewed thanksgiving for Jesus Christ who did the hardest thing for me.

Mine is a story of the little Sunday school boy born into a good Christian home. I heard the gospel at a very young age, but came to truly understand it much, much later.

You could say I was a very good boy. I prayed. I went to church. Plus, I did extremely well in class. Externally I was also very moral. I never cursed, hardly violated any school rule, and I was kind, thoughtful, and polite.

Internally, however, I was corrupted. I was reeking with pride, contempt, lust, and hypocrisy. Although I knew practically all the Bible stories that were taught in church and could even conveniently recite them from memory, I had no grasp of the gospel. Although I knew Jesus—the parables He taught, the messages He preached, the promises He gave, the miracles He performed—I really did not know Him on a personal basis. Although I could argue against the false beliefs of other religions, I could not dispute with the wrong beliefs I harbored in my heart. I was, as Paul puts it in Ephesians 2:1–3, dead in trespasses and sins…carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and was by nature a child of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

But Christ drew me to Himself.

I could not pinpoint exactly when I actually received Christ as my Lord and Savior; it was probably in my fourth year in high school.

By the grace of God, I came to truly understand who God is. I also realized that man in sinful—by nature and by choice. The just punishment of sin is eternal death in Hell. But the good news is that God, by His mercy and grace (and not by any good thing in us or that we have done), provided the means to save us from this death and bring us to Himself. That means is Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, who freely chose to die for sinners like us and be the propitiation for our sins. Christ’s offer of salvation is free and undeserved, and can only be received by grace through faith alone in Jesus Christ.

From a purely human perspective, my conversion was nothing spectacular. And yet, I think it is one of the greatest miracles God has performed. I, a sinner, was radically changed. I became alive in Christ. I found a burning passion and love for God. The things I learned about God in my childhood suddenly became precious truths I held on to. Sunday worship services became the pivotal point of my week. Meditation on God’s word became the most exciting part of my day. Praying became the sweetest chore.

When I went to college in UP Diliman, I became involved in the Dormitories Christian Fellowship where I met Christian friends from all over the country. We shared the gospel to our other dormmates, and by the grace of God, many of them came to Christ. I also made it a point to pursue membership at Higher Rock Christian Church in Quezon City. Being away from home, I needed to be accountable to brothers and sisters in Christ. During Saturdays, I would endeavor to attend the youth fellowship. Eventually God opened doors for me to serve Him as a youth worker. The Lord has taught me many things, and I praise Him for any measure of spiritual growth that I have experienced thus far!

Closing

Now that you are young, so much is in store of you. You can qualify into the best universities in the country; you can pursue your dreams; you can become successful in your craft—it can be in engineering, law, medicine, or molecular biology. But all these are nothing compared to having a personal relationship with the Lord, a vibrant relationship that causes you to do the hard things for the glory of our Master. I encourage you to give your best time for the Lord. Read and savor the Word of God. Help out in your youth ministry. Pray for your pastors. Share the gospel to your community.

Can we now say with Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me, and the life I live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” ? (Galatians 2:20)

If we can, then let us do great things, hard things, glorious things for the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 comments:

  1. Praise God kuya Lance! I'm blessed and encouraged to read this. mike

    ReplyDelete
  2. Kuia lance, tnx GOD for giving you wisdom.. I am blessed.. - jaja

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