Summary: When we truly believe with our hearts and when we follow Jesus with our lives as best we can, we have the guarantee of living in heaven with Christ forever after we die.
This past week, I heard some rumors that at least a few of you had a hard time in school on Tuesday because of the cross that was drawn on your wrist last Monday night. I wanted to take a few minutes just to talk about what happened.
• How many of you had a hard time on Tuesday?
• What happened?
• What was being said?
• How did you guys feel?
Even if you personally didn’t have a hard day on Tuesday, I think we all can relate to being teased or made fun of. It is definitely not a fun thing at all and I know how difficult peers can be at times. It can very hard to express a relationship with Christ in our culture, granted we have it much easier than some other countries, but still the world seems to be out to get us a lot of the time just because we believe in Jesus.
In the book of John, Jesus speaks about this difficulty with his disciples as they sat around the table enjoying the Last Supper. In the middle of their conversation, Jesus says this, “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I choose you to come out of the world, so it hates you. Do you remember what I told you? ‘A slave is not greater than the master.’ Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you.”
This has been happening since Jesus ascended to heaven as the disciples were beaten, spit on, made fun of, imprisoned, and then ultimately all killed in a number of different ways. There is a great book, that I know was down in the prayer room for a while, called Jesus Freaks that actually has story after story after story of men and women who have been persecuted and even killed because of their relationship with Christ.
The important thing that we need to remember when we face hard days and persecution because of our relationship with Christ is that it needs to be seen in light of what Christ has done for us.
The church’s pastor slowly stood up, walked over to the pulpit and before he gave his sermon for the evening, briefly introduced a guest minister who was in the congregation that evening. In the introduction, the pastor told the congregation that the guest minister was one of his dearest childhood friends and that he wanted him to have a few moments to greet the church and share whatever he felt would be appropriate for the service. With that, an elderly man stepped up to the pulpit and began to speak...
"A father, his son, and a friend of his son were sailing off the Pacific coast," he began, "when a fast approaching storm blocked any attempt to get back to the shore. The waves were so high, that even though the father was an experienced sailor, he could not keep the boat upright! The three were swept into the ocean as the boat capsized."
The old man hesitated for a moment, making eye contact with two teenagers, who were, for the first time since the service began, looking somewhat interested in his story. The aged minister continued with his story. "Grabbing a rescue line, the father had to make the most excruciating decision of his life: To which boy would he throw the other end of the life line? He only had seconds to make the decision. "
"The father knew that his son was a Christian, and he also knew that his son’s friend was not. The agony of his decision could not be matched by the torrent of waves." "As the father yelled out, ’I LOVE YOU, SON!’ he threw out the lifeline to his son’s friend. By the time the father had pulled the friend back to the capsized boat, his son had disappeared beneath the raging swells into the black of the night. His body was never recovered."
By this time, the two teenagers were sitting up straight in the pew, anxiously awaiting the next words to come out of the old man’s mouth. The old man continued. "The father knew his son would step into eternity with Jesus, and he could not bear the thought of his son’s friend stepping into an eternity without Jesus. Therefore, he sacrificed his son to save the son’s friend. How great is the love of God that he should do the same for us! Our heavenly father sacrificed his only begotten son that we could be saved. I urge you to accept his offer to rescue you and take a hold of the life line he is throwing out to you in this service."