“ARE YOU WITH HIM?”                                        By Pastor YAU

Luke 23:39-43                                                            February 11, 2007

 

INTRODUCTION:

1)   A cartoon story: In a cartoon strip, a sheep walking on his two legs is addressing to a hungry wolf who is barring the sheep’s passage through the gate. Standing by the sheep is the shepherd, a tall and muscular man holding a long and strong shepherd’s staff. The sheep speaks to the wolf as he gestures toward his shepherd, he says, “I am with him.” The trust the sheep has on his shepherd gives him the confidence in the face of imminent danger.

2)   A historical story: On the day Jesus died, three crosses were raised. Jesus was hung on the center one between two criminals. One of them mocked Jesus but the other said to Jesus, “Remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” Jesus replied him saying, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:42-43) What is more than when Jesus promises to be with us? We don’t have to wait till we died to be with Jesus. He promised to be with us while we are still alive all the way to the end of the world. (Matt. 28:20)

 

WHY DO WE WANT TO BE WITH JESUS?  Because. . .

1)   It is the desire of Jesus: In the parable of “the vine” in John 15, Jesus asks that we “be in him and he will be in us.” (15:4-5) In the years of his earthly ministry, Jesus loved to have his disciples stayed close with him. On the road to cities and villages, in the boat crossing the stormy sea, in the wilderness when he addressed the 5,000. Even when others had left him, Jesus wanted to make sure his disciples will stay with him. (John 6:66-67) In the conclusion of the Great Commission, Jesus promised to be with us even to the end of the world.

2)   It is for our own good: When Jesus asked that we “stay in Him and He stays in us” in the parable of the vine in John 15, His purpose is for our own good---to bear much fruit, to be productive, be useful and be able to glorify God. It is never for any selfish purpose that Jesus wants us to stay close with him. Our staying with Jesus can never give Him anything He doesn’t have but everything we don’t have. He is everything we need. We can do nothing if we stay away from Him. (John 15:5b)

3)   It is for us to know Him better: You can not know someone well if you don’t spend enough time with that person. Same is true about knowing Jesus. The Twelve disciples knew so much about Jesus and were so courageous in spreading the good news because they had been with Jesus for so long. Even the non-believers recognized that they had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13) They had seen him performed miracles, divided the simple lunch of a little boy to feed the 5,000. They saw him calmed the roaring sea and opened the eyes of the blind man. They heard him preached in the public and listened to him in small group discourse. They knew He was the Messiah because they had been with Him.

4)   It is for us to have eternal life: It is good to stay with prominent people to receive benefits: famous music teachers, achieved artists, successful businessmen, powerful politicians and many others. But all the things we may get from staying with these people are in no match when compared to what we may have when we stay with Jesus. On behalf of all the disciples, Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68) This has to do with your purpose of life: to stay on earth and have no hope of the future or to stay with Jesus prepare for eternity. Nothing you may gain in this world may buy you eternal life once you earthly life is terminated. (Luke 12:16-21, the Rich Fool)

 

OBSTACLES THAT HINDER US WITH JESUS:

1)    Some mix up their priorities: Everyone has his or her priority list which will direct his/her pursuit of life. We always will spend most of our time and energy in things we deem as very important. We will rank things in their sequence of importance and make arrangements on how much of our time and energy we are willing to spend on them. When we determine that spend time with Jesus is not on top of our priority, we won’t do that. When we mix up with the priority list, we will channel our time and energy on other things instead of on Jesus. The problem of a mix up priority is a serious one. We may spend so much time and energy in things that are of little or no eternal value.

2)    Some have a different purpose of life: In the best selling book, Purpose Driven Life, author Rick Warren sums up the 2 different purposes people have for their life: one is human purpose and the other is the purpose of God. Vast majority of men pursue their own purposes and end up either never make it or making it but have no meaning at all. Warren presents a purpose of life that will draw us close to God and stay with Him to ensure its fulfillment. When people choose their own purpose of life, seldom will they want to spend either time or energy with Jesus because their purpose of life is so different from what the purpose God wants us to have.

3)    Some lacks the sustaining power: Most, if not all, new Christians have set their goal of life to stay close with Jesus when they first made their decision to be baptized, at least from my 38 years of  experience with new believers. But that initial decision got tangled up with too many worldly affairs and little by little was buried and forgotten. We see some once fervent and dedicated Christians got so busy with their worldly pursuits and slowly but surely drifting away from staying with God. Paul warned Timothy of this danger in his letter to him in 2 Timothy 2:4. “No one serving as a soldier gets tangled up in civilian affairs when he wants to please his commanding officer.” That’s why persistence in finishing what we first pledged to God is so important and admirable when Paul talked about his own experience. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race and I have kept the faith.” (2 Tim. 4:7)

4)    Some surrendered to temptation and sin: Temptation and sin are like roaring lions seeking to destroy God’s people. (1 Peter 5:8) “Be self controlled and alert. Your enemy, the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” Like sheep run away from the shepherd will certainly become victims of merciless wild animals, Christians run away from God will certainly become victims of temptation and sin. The Bible portrays temptation like snares used to catch birds with seeds. Birds who are tempted by seeds in the snare will get caught and can never escape from it. Be careful of all kinds of temptations from the devil. Peter encouraged us, “Resist him and stand firm in your faith.” (5:9)

 

WAYS TO STAY WITH HIM:

1)   Stay with Him in quiet place: This is the foremost important way to stay with Jesus. Just you and Him alone with each other in that quiet place and time each day. There you read his love letters, words of love and comfort in time of trouble and grief. Voice of encouragement to your heart in time of distress. Comments on things you did right and soft corrections when you did wrong. No where else you may get to know Him more and deeper than your private time with Him each day. Set it a priority to be with Him each day and you will see the changes of life in you for the better.

2)   Stay with Him in worship: In all the things we are asked to do as Christians in the Bible, nothing is more noble and important than worshipping God. From the day the first church was formed in Acts chapter 2 to the end of Revelation, we see the importance of congregational worship to our Lord. This is the second best way we can do to stay with our Lord. Through out the 2,000 years of Christian history, the name of the Lord is exalted and glorified when people of God gather in worship, in praises of His name and in learning of His words. Come to His house on His day.

3)   Stay with Him with your resources: When Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart is also,” (Matt. 6:21) He pointed out the true way to stay with Jesus: let our treasure stay with Him. When our hearts are tied to our treasures, we need to let it be with Jesus so our hearts will be there as well. This is the test of faith and genuine commitment. How much we really want to stay with the Lord shows on how much we are willing to bring our resources to Him. No one is truly with Jesus when his heart is with his treasures.

4)   Stay with Him with your love: In answering a question what is the greatest commandment, Jesus quoted Deut. 6:5: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.” (Luke 10:27) Because it is linked to the following verse: “And love your neighbor as yourself,” the first part of this verse is oftentimes neglected. The first and foremost way to show our love is to show it to our God with all our heart, our soul, our strength and our mind. Place God on the top of all the things we love and devote to Him our highest loyalty and homage. Paul gave us a good example on how to love the Lord more than anything else in Phil. 3:8 when he said, “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For whose shake I have lost all things, I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ.” That was the way he loved Jesus. We stay with the Jesus when we love Him more than anything else.

 

CONCLUSION:

1)   Facing the future with Jesus: No one may know what future may hold but we need not be afraid if we stay close with Jesus. With Jesus by your side, you may be confident to say to the whole world, “I am with Him.” Just as Paul said, “I can do all things with Him who gave me strength.” (Phil. 4:13)

2)   Take steps to be with Him:  Being close with Jesus is not just a wish but an achievable goal. Have daily quiet time with Him. Worship Him with the saints each week and bring your love and possessions to Him and ask Him to watch over you and all you have. No one is more secure for you and yours than stay close with Jesus.

3)   Stay with Jesus forever: I am talking about eternity life after your journey on earth is done. While you still have the opportunity to make that choice, do it for yourself now. Confess your sins to Him and ask for forgiveness. Ask Jesus to enter into your heart and become your Lord and Savior. You will have confidence to face all things in this life and to be with Him in the life to come.