Jesus. Jesus. Jesus.
He is why we are here. He is why this building is here. When we leave here, my hope and prayer is that, when asked what happened here this evening, we would say, "Some gentlemen got up and said something. I don't remember who they were, but the name Christ was lifted high."
May I ask you a question?
May I ask you many questions?
Why are we here?
In the larger sense of our meaning of life?
And what about in the more immediate sense of our gathering this evening?
Can it be that both purposes are closely related, if not the same?
Why am I the one speaking now?
Is it to introduce myself to you, the body of believers of Jesus Christ who gather at this place in Vero Beach, Florida called King's Baptist Church?
If I told you I am the son of two, the brother of one, the husband of another one, and the father of two, does that tell you who I am through the key relationships in my life? What if I told you I have had 42 birthdays, but I am not 42 years old?
If I told you my past is a great shaper of my future, would you think me sentimental? Or perhaps fixated on what has been? What if it's not sentimentality, but that my past was shaped by God the Father, and that his son Jesus saved me, and that his Holy Spirit inhabits my heart today?
If I told you my father and mother, who are both now deacons in the church where I grew up, were the primary conduit through which God revealed himself to me, would you believe me? While it is common for parents to be the most influential evangelists in their children's lives, is it possible that their actions decades ago affect me even more now that they did at an early age?
If I was convinced at the age of 13 that I had to stop the struggle of my childhood of resisting the Lord's call to belong to him wholly, without reservation, removing all pretense, did He really take hold of my life and infiltrate my heart? Didn't he promise that he would?
And if I were raised in a Southern Baptist church, shouldn't I know all the scriptures well, like John 3:16, John 10:10, Romans 8:28, and Colossians 2:5-6? And can you understand that God's work in my life through that church has had lifelong effects to shape me and guide me and provides guidance to give my children?
And is it possible that our Lord's presence in my life, with His word in my ears and His prayer in my mouth and his Spirit in my heart direct and steer my life like a rudder on a ship? Is there anyway that is could not?
Would my story sound like yours if I told you that during my formative years the Lord guided me, protected me from life-damaging decisions, surrounded me with guardians, friends, imperfect people who serve a perfect king? And that his work was, no doubt, to protect his weak child who didn't have a clue as to what was going on around him? And though I was naive, can you believe that his presence was, as C. S. Lewis wrote, like the sunshine in the sky--not only because I saw it, but because by it I saw everything else?
And if I told you I struggled through doubt and my own abilities as I grew, would you nod your head in agreement? Have you ever read Jim Elliot, the Wheaton College graduate and missionary who was killed while sharing Jesus with tribes of native South Americans? If you did, did you feel both inspired and inadequate? Would you think less of me if I did?
Is it possible that the Lord taught me through seasons of inspiration and seasons of doubt? And that he was present through it all? And that I praised him then, and that I praise him now for he is always faithful? That in 15 years of marriage, ten years of parenthood and two sons I am still God's imperfect child, and He still teaches me?
And what about today? In my daily life do I strive to honor him? Do I succeed? And how do I manage to do it? Do I have the gift of perspective that time provides?
Perhaps, as the pastor told the children this morning,
26In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.
So do I have a choice in this matter of how to pray and how to act and how to live? Did not the Lord tell us in Deuteronomy 30,
19 This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live 20and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Do you share the hope of the Lord that Paul wrote to Titus when he said,
3At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.4But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. 8This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.
And so I am surrounded by God, surrendered to Him, joyful in the knowledge that he has saved me, and there is no question about that.