Summary: This sermon is about preparing for eternity.
PILGRIMS AND THE PILGRIMAGE
Text: John 14:23-30
This morning, you are making a big and important step in your lives as get confirmed and become members of the church. Jesus has already prepared for your future. He gives you the Holy Spirit to guide you, He gives you His peace and He prepares for your eternity with Him in heaven until the day He will take you to the place He is preparing (John 14:2-6).
This morning I want to share with you a story about a man who prepared for his future as a retired French lawyer. I read about something that this lawyer had considered with much thought. “Under French law, if you want dibs on someone's apartment, you can pay the owner a certain amount each month until the owner dies. It'll get you a nice apartment. But it's also a gamble, as Andre-Francois Raffray found out”. (http://www.gospelcom.net/rbc/cj/cj-06-24-96.html). Who is Andre-Francois Raffray you ask? He is the French lawyer I want to tell you about.
“Andre-Francois Raffray, a retired lawyer in Arles, France, made what any reasonable businessman would say was a sound financial decision. According to the Chicago Tribune, for a five-hundred-dollar-a-month annuity, he bought the right to take over the apartment in Arles, France on the death of its current resident. The woman living in the apartment was Jeanne Calment, age ninety. Actuarial tables predicting the mathematical probabilities of Jeanne Calment’s life span were clearly on the lawyer’s side.
“Thirty years later and $180,000 poorer, Raffray still had not moved into the apartment. On Tuesday, February 21, 1995, Jeanne Calment celebrated her 120th birthday. She was variably the oldest person in the world. Each year on her birthday she sends Raffray a card that jokingly says, “Sorry I am still alive”.
“How little control we humans have on the future”. (Craig Brian Larson. Contemporary Illustrations For Preachers, Teachers & Writers. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1996, p. 77). But, wait the story does not end there. It is said of Raffray that “He died more than a year ago [then, in 1996] at age 77 after paying $184,000, double the apartment's market value, for the property; his family was required to keep making the payments”. (According to -- Reuters, San Francisco Examiner, 1/1/96, and contributor to info about Mrs. Calment to CNN on August 4, 1997). A reporter (Reuters) had said that Raffray was 47 in 1965 when he first agreed to this arrangement. Jeanne Calment was born on February 21, 1875 and died on August 4, 1997.
By ourselves we cannot prepare for our future for eternity which is why Jesus is the answer to all of our problems because He has prepared for our eternity. Jesus has also conquered the things that otherwise would have conquered us---sin, death and the fear of death. While we as Christians are in the world but bot of the world, we are on a journey that lasts a lifetime---a pilgrimage. Jesus gives us what we need for this journey.
Jesus tells His disciples that those who keep His word are those who love Him. What Jesus is talking about here is obedience. Dietrich Bonhoeffer once described obedience like this: “Only those who obey believe and only those who believe can obey”. (Roy B. Zuck. Ed. The Speaker’s Quote Book. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1997, p. 268). Jesus was also talking about loyalty. As Christians we will sometimes find ourselves at odds with having to make a decision between doing the right thing or the popular thing. Jesus wants us to be faithful, loyal each of which are a part of what it means to be obedient.
I read the story of about a German citizen, named Martin Niemoeller who was a pastor during World War II. He lived in continuous solitary confinement in the captivity of the Nazis, for over two years, allowed only 45 minutes of exercise a day. Many times, he was offered his freedom at a price. The price was to preach only as they told him to preach to which he refused. (Walter B. Knight. Ed. Knight’s Master Book Of New Illustrations. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., [reprinted], 1986, p. 203). Martin Niemoeller was obedient to God’s way because he was faithful and loyal. He chose to do what was right as a Christian, not what was popular.
Jesus wants His disciples to be obedient and have discipline. Jesus wants us to have the discipline of self-control. Proverbs 25:28 says, “Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control” (NIV). Martin Niemoeller ourselves this question: “What would Jesus do?”
Jesus gives His disciples the kind of peace that only He cane give. Someone (William Barclay) has labeled the kind of peace that Jesus gives us as the “Peace of conquest”. (William Barclay. The Daily Study Bible Series: The Gospel Of John. Volume 2. Revised Edition. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1975, p. 171). This is the kind of peace that sustains us in hard times. This is the kind of peace that enables us to face our problems and hard times without fear. We have no reason to fear when we have the peace that Christ gives to us. Martin Niemoeller had this kind of peace because he did what God would have him to do. He did the right thing, not the popular thing. That is why Martin Niemoeller had no reason to fear----he was obedient. He therefore had the kind of peace that only Christ can give. That is why it is only the wicked who have reason to fear because the Bible tells us that “There is no peace for the wicked” (Isaiah 57:21).