What Christ Says to MDPC: Don’t Settle For Less Than The Best
Pray with me, please.
Give me Jesus, Lord. Give me Jesus. You can have all the rest. Just give me Jesus. Amen.
Well, did you hear about the preacher in Texas who had run aground with his congregation? Year after year, the people in that church prayed that he would get a call somewhere else. And year after year, he prayed the same thing. And then one day, he received a call from the State Department of Corrections. They invited him to come be the chaplain at the State Penitentiary in Huntsville. He immediately accepted, concluding that that was a message from on high. He announced it to the congregation. They were ecstatic. They decided they would give him a big send-off. And so they beat the bushes, and they urged everybody to come out on the last Sunday that the preacher was going to be in the pulpit. And sure enough, on that Sunday, the place was packed. The preacher stepped up into the pulpit, looked out at the congregation, and announced the text for the sermon. “I go to prepare a place for you.”
Well, on a more serious note, the Bible does make it fairly plain that there is a place prepared for us, and that there, we shall have to account for the manner in which we have responded to the call of Jesus Christ in our lives and in our church. Certainly, I believe that to be the basic message of the last of the seven letters Jesus wrote in the Book of Revelation. This letter was addressed to the church at Laodicea. And frankly, that church did not come off looking too good. Laodicea was indeed a very prosperous place, not unlike Houston, Texas. And the Christians at Laodicea enjoyed that same prosperity. In fact, they had it easy. They had it too easy. They had it so easy that they fell into an attitude of apathy and indifference. And as a result, Jesus delivered to them, devastating words of judgment. “Listen carefully. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other. So because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” The apathy and indifference of those Christians at Laodicea quite literally nauseated the Son of God.
I looked the word apathetic up in the dictionary. It means spiritless, heartless, sluggish, unconcerned, unmoved, uninvolved, unexcited. Now, can you imagine seven more harsh words than those could be applied to any church? What made that church at Laodicea so deserving of the stinging rebuke of Jesus was not the fact that they failed in the work of the Lord. No. It was that they just didn’t care enough even to try. Here in this church, we may not always be right. We may not always do right. But please, God, never let it be said of us, “They didn’t really care.”
That’s why I believe that Jesus is calling us at MDPC to constantly guard against the deadening poll of apathy, constantly engaged in pursuing a burning passion for Jesus Christ in this world, in this church, in this city, and above all, in our own lives.
Now, of course, Jesus, as always, is our pattern. Jesus was anything but apathetic, indifferent, lukewarm. I remember being in the British Museum in London and seeing there, two great artistic masterpieces displayed almost adjacent to one another. One of them was Peter Paul Rubens’ painting Christ and St. Peter, a painting which delivers a harsh, stern, forbidding representation of the master. Almost adjacent was Rembrandt’s painting called The Laughing Cavalier, a painting of a buoyant personality, radiant with joy. Now, Peter Paul Rubens never saw Jesus, and neither have I. And therefore, I have just as much right to guess what Jesus looked like as he did. And I can tell you that I believe that Jesus looked more like Rembrandt’s Laughing Cavalier, filled with a radiant joy in his face. And to be perfectly honest, I believe that we are called to be just like Him.
You know, advertising experts will tell you that the greatest slogan ever created for an American company was Nike’s enduring three-word slogan, “Just do it.” Well, if I had my way, I would devise an even better three-word slogan for MDPC. “Just like Him.” Yes. We are to be just like Him. We are to be just like Jesus and have a passion for life. You know, Jesus was the brightest, sunniest, happiest, most compassionate, most exciting person to ever walk the face of this earth, and we should be the same. Jesus understood right from the very beginning that His faith was a bold and robust faith. His was a confident believing. He knew that God was always planning what was best for Him in His life. He knew that. And that’s why the sunshine of the Spirit was always shining from His soul.
Oh, mind you. As He made His way through life, He endured the blows of life just as we do. Sometimes it’s a staggering thing to read about the blows that He endured. And yet, none of that could ever shape His confidence in His heavenly father. He was not apathetic or lukewarm or indifferent. Instead, He moved through life because He knew the truth that comes from God. He knew the reward stored up for the children of God. He knew the power that God can invest in a human life. And because He knew that, He could move through life with a passionate, overflowing sense of purpose and joy. How do we know that’s true? Well, because the Bible tells us that the common people heard Him—how?—gladly. Catch that. Gladly. They came to Him with joy. Why? Because there was, about Him, a magnetic joy of His own. And also, the Bible tells us that children loved Him. They flock to Him. They longed to be in His presence. In fact, the disciples actually regarded them as a bit of a nuisance. But Jesus loved children. So do I.
I have to tell you, I love seeing the children who are a part of this great church. And as I spend more and more time around them, I am aware of just how deeply the faith is being planted in these children of ours, and that is a thrilling thing to behold. Of course, children, they do have a great gift for telling it like it is, don’t they? I remember one Sunday, a young family passed by me after church. The parents were radiant. They said to me that their young son had just completed his first worship service, making it from beginning to end. Well, wanting to encourage the young fellow, I leaned down to him, and I said, “Well, what did you think of it?” He looked up at me, and he said, “The music was really good, but your commercial was sort of long.” Children, you see, have that unabashed freedom and joy to be able to say what’s in the heart. And children, therefore, I believe, were drawn to Jesus because they experience that same freedom and joy from Him.
Now, Jesus saw life as it ought to be, as it could be, as it should be. That’s why Jesus said, “I have come that you may have life and have it abundantly.” Mind you, I’m not suggesting here that Jesus was some kind of a clown or a jester. No. No, no, no, no. I’m simply saying that across the vast, spiritual depths of His life, there always moved, the ripples of a great joyous humor. As a matter of fact, so many of the teachings, sayings, and parables of Jesus left the people LOL, laughing out loud. Jesus knew what life is all about, but He also knew who His heavenly father is. And therefore, He was never apathetic, never indifferent, never lukewarm. He relished every living, breathing moment of life, and I believe that we are to be just like Him. Just like Him, we are to have a passion for life. And just like Jesus, we are to have a passion for service. Jesus found His greatest joy in offering Himself in service to the people of this world, and we ought to do the same.
Let me ask you something. Tell me who said this. “I’ve had more fun in my life than anyone who has ever lived.” Who said that? It wasn’t some great entertainer, some noted athlete, some world traveler. No. Those words were spoken by Dr. Frank Laubach, the great missionary who spent his entire life teaching people how to read for the glory of Jesus Christ. Laubach said, “When people discover that they can read, women start to weep and men go hysterical, and it is a ball to watch it all.” That’s what he said. You see, he had this burning passion for service to Jesus Christ, and that filled his life with an unbridled joy. That’s why I believe that in this great joy-filled church of ours, we must be constantly calling people to serve Jesus Christ in every way, in every day. That is so critical these days.
You know, the fact of the matter is, many people today are having a hard time making sense out of this world of ours. I understand that. I mean, I grew up at a time when we taught children to adopt the values of the wider culture. Now, we’re living in a time where we teach children not to succumb to the values of the wider culture. It isn’t that people don’t have any principles anymore. It’s just that those principles so rarely have a moral form or base. America, dear friends, is a nation in danger of losing its faith. But what’s more, it is a nation in danger of losing its faith in itself. And consequently, there is a discontent. Sometimes a seething discontent marking nearly everyone and every place. That’s why I believe that Christ is calling us at MDPC to provide the intellectual framework of the faith so that people can begin to make sense out of this world of ours. He’s calling us at MDPC to create the spiritual scaffolding people need in order to build significant, faithful lives in the midst of this word. He’s calling us to have a passion for service. Yes, we are to be just like Him.
Pope John the 23rd was a short, rotund, homely little man, had a big nose, big ears, had a gravelly voice, walked around like his feet hurt. There was nothing about him that spoke of the aura of greatness. But oh, he was great. And he was great because his heart was great. He had a burning passion for the work of Christ in the world. Today, in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, there is a monument to Pope John the 23rd. It is most unusual in its appearance, but it is unforgettable in its impact. For there, in St. Peter’s, there is this great, enormous block of solid steel, wide, thick, high. And carved around that great block of steel is all the ugliness and brokenness and hatefulness and hurtfulness of this world. Dying children. Bodies with bayonets in them. Barbed wire, grasping hands, broken buildings, sickness and torment, abuse and addiction. And because it’s carved into that steel, it seems so cold and hard. And then suddenly, your eyes drawn to the figure rising up out of the side of that great obelisk of steel. The figure of Pope John the 23rd, stretching out over all the ugliness, brokenness, hurtfulness, hatefulness, bending down, his face radiant with joy, hands and arms extended, ready to lift all that hatefulness and hurtfulness up into his own heart, there to soften and change it all. It’s an unforgettable thing to see.
You know, when you stop to think about it, look at us. I mean, when you look at us as individuals, there’s not much that smacks of the greatness of God now, is there? Come on, be honest. Oh, but when you begin to fold us all together in this great God-empowered church of hours, and when we begin to offer what we are and what we have in the service of Jesus Christ, then we discover that we can reach out to all the ugliness and the brokenness, all the hurtfulness and the hatefulness. And we can draw it to our own hearts, and there, to have it soften and healed and changed by our Jesus. Yes, just like Him, we are to have a passion for service.
Back in the early days of the 1700s, a judge was holding a trial in a courtroom in New England. And suddenly, there was a total eclipse of the sun, and the whole place was plunged into darkness at midday. The people in the courtroom panicked. They began to cry out, “The world is coming to an end.” But the judge rapped his gavel and cried out, “If this is indeed the end of the world, then at least let us be found doing our duty. Bring in the candles.” I love that. “Bring in the candles.” One day, Jesus is going to return. Count on it. One day, this world is going to come to an end. Count on it. I don’t know when, and that doesn’t even matter. No. All that matters is that you and I and MDPC will be found doing our duty for Jesus Christ. Bring in the candles. Here in this church, we are going to shed the light of the gospel with such power and radiance that the people around us will begin to have a new awareness of the power of God in human life.
You see, Christianity is not just a matter of attending worship and Sunday school. It’s not just living a decent life and mouthing the words of the Apostle’s Creed. No. No, no. It’s a matter of a personal, profound commitment to Jesus Christ in life. Nothing else will do, and nothing less will do. For, you see, when you open up your life and invite Jesus Christ into the center of your life, and then put Him first in your everyday experience and seek His pleasure in everything you do, both public and private, well then you begin to discover that His passion for service becomes the very best part of your life. Oh, yes. Just like Him, we are to have a passion for service. Just like Him.
Elie Wiesel, in his book Souls on Fire, writes, “When you die and go to heaven, and you stand before the judgment bar of God, God will not ask you why you did not become some kind of messiah. God will not ask you why you did not become some great leader or some prominent person. God will ask you only this: ‘Why did you not become the best possible you?'” Dear friends, don’t settle for less than the best in your life. Don’t settle for having less than the best in your life. Claim Jesus Christ as your very own, and don’t settle for being less than your best in life. Live for Jesus every day. Live just like Him.
Those who have ears to hear, let them hear what Christ is saying to the church at MDPC.
Soli Deo Gloria.
To God Alone be the Glory.
Amen and amen.