“Jesus Is All That Matters”
By: Ken Sauer, Pastor of East Ridge United Methodist Church, Chattanooga, TN eastridgeumc.org
We read this Psalm on a Sunday evening when most of us probably have that grim anniversary in our minds.
It happened on a Tuesday morning in September when our soil, and our people and our America was violated by terrorists who were bent on killing as many Americans as they could…
…men, women, old, young, rich, poor…
…in one terrible, violent act!!!
And also to destroy our governmental facilities in Washington, D.C., trying there, as well, to kill as many as possible including the President and his family.
It was a shocking crime that we will never forget.
It has caused pain in America ever since.
So as we are here tonight, remembering, praying, seeking God, and worshipping God our nation is different than before that September morning ten years ago.
We are fearful.
A plane ride overseas now requires extraordinary measures of security.
And ridership has suffered; many folks won’t fly ever again.
ID’s are verified and verified again and again.
And the trust we once knew amongst our own people has been deeply affected.
You might say that a lot of American innocence has been mortally wounded.
We fear our world and we know taking care of, or getting rid of terrorists in not an easy job.
Osama bin Laden might be dead, but many who think like him live on.
So shall we give in to fear, and get back to war and revenge, war and revenge, war and revenge?
Shall we become terrorists as well?
It has been said that the opposite of faith is not doubt, but fear.
The writer of Psalm 27 reminded himself that there is no reason to fear because God is here!!!
“The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?”
The writer of 1 John Chapter 4 reiterates this truth when he says, “we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love…
…There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.”
It is so awesome that love is the most powerful force in all the world!!!
Praise God for that!!!
It’s been said that it seems that many of us, in our hearts “want a John Wayne Jesus, an Arnold Schwarzeneggar…
…a ‘Make my day’ Clint Eastwood Jesus.’”
These kinds of figures are all so popular in our Western minds.
But Jesus isn’t a Schawarzenegger, an Eastwood, a John Wayne…
…even though He did know all about the Osama bin Ladens!!!
They were around in His day.
Instead, Jesus taught us to forgive, and to love our enemies, and to pray for those who persecute us.
And Jesus was very serious when He gave us these commands.
Jesus wasn’t being flippant.
Jesus realized more than anyone else that it’s hard to love your enemies.
He realized that it’s difficult to love those who seek to harm us, those persons who say evil things about us.
Jesus knows that it is painfully, pressingly hard.
But Jesus was serious about it, nonetheless.
And Jesus didn’t just give us this command and then head back on up to heaven—leaving us to sort it all out on our own.
We cannot love without the very power of God.
And the only way we can even know what love is…is by coming to a knowledge of the love God has for us through Jesus Christ our Lord!!!
“God is with us; we are not alone!”
Jesus came and died in order that, through Him we might be able to overcome hate with love, evil with good and fear through faith in Him and the power of the Holy Spirit.
For Jesus is the Stronger of the strong and the Mightier than the mighty!!!
You know, hate really does distort the personality of the hater!
We usually just think about what hate does to the person or persons who are being hated.
But hate is even more tragic, even more ruinous and injurious to the person who hates!
If we begin hating somebody we will start to do irrational things.
We can’t see straight when we hate.
We can’t walk straight when we hate.
Our vision gets distorted.
There is nothing more tragic than a person whose heart is filled with hate!!!
It has been said, “For the person who hates, you can stand up and see a person and that person can be beautiful, and you will call them ugly.
For the person who hates, the beautiful becomes ugly and the ugly becomes beautiful.
For the person who hates, the good becomes bad and the bad becomes good.
That’s what hate does!!!”
Hate really does destroy the very structure of the hater!
But there is still hope for those who hate.
Again, Jesus tells us to “Love our enemies.”
Only love has the power to transform individuals.
And when we follow Christ, we are able…
…we are privileged to play a part in God’s redemptive story!!!
From a sermon on love, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had this to say, “If you love your enemies, you will discover that at the very root of love is the power of redemption.
You just keep loving people and keep loving them, even though they’re mistreating you.
Here’s the person who is a neighbor, and this person is doing something wrong to you and all of that.
Just keep being friendly to that person.
Keep loving them.
Don’t do anything to embarrass them.
Just keep loving them, and they can’t stand it too long.
Oh, they react in many ways in the beginning.
They react with bitterness because they’re mad because you love them like that.
They react with guilt feelings, and sometimes they’ll hate you a little more at that transition period, but just keep loving them.
And by the power of love they will break down under the load.
That’s love, you see.
It is redemptive, and this is why Jesus says love!”
Yes, the opposite of faith is not doubt, but fear.
And fear is where most hate derives from.
“But perfect love drives out fear…”
“Very well,” we might say, “but I am not perfect in love.”
And none of us are…
…but God is.
God is Perfect in Love!!!
And the Writer of Psalm 27 knows this.
Therefore, he can say with confidence, “The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?”
He reminds himself of this again and again and again.
How do we remind ourselves of this?
How do we remember that God is with us, and that even if people with evil intentions want to destroy us…even if mighty armies surround us…even if they attack…
…we can remain steadfast and confident because God will shelter us?
We remind ourselves of this by shifting our attention away from evil and armies and shifting it to the most important thing in this life—our relationship with God and our life of worship, humble service, study and prayer!!!
After the Psalmist consoles himself with the faith and recognition that God will never abandon him, he says this, “One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.”
When this is our hearts desire, truly our heart’s desire and we seek this with all our might—we will not have the time nor the inclination to fear or to hate!
When we are consumed by love there is no room for anything else.
The Psalmist finishes out the Psalm with these words, “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”
Since 9-11 our country has been chasing one enemy or another, and current events indicate this will continue for quite some time.
Millions of families are dealing with the economic shockwaves that continue to reverberate across this nation.
How can anyone wait patiently in this kind of an environment?
Without diminishing or trivializing the tremendous losses that so many people have been forced to endure or the potential threats that may lie ahead, we, like the Psalmist, are blessed with the great opportunity to re-examine our priorities.
What is the most important thing in each of our lives today?
Think about that.
This anniversary of 9-11 provides us with an excellent opportunity to remember the things that have been lost, and to gain strength from a deeper relationship with God.
For when all is said and done, all we have left is Jesus.
And Jesus is all that really matters, and all we really need!!!