Summary: Discover the six things Jesus left behind before he ascended into heaven.
During the past 2 Sundays, we’ve looked at who Jesus was and why Jesus came. We concluded that Jesus was more than an influential religious leader and a moral teacher, but that He was the Son of God, equal to God. We found the purpose for his coming was to free mankind from the poverty of living for the present, to free us from the prisons of sins, and to free us from the payment for sin. And He did all this, because of His great love for us.
This morning, we’ll look at what Jesus left behind. During the Christmas season, one might answer, “Jesus left behind Christmas trees, Christmas lights, nativity scene and church musicals.” If we were not in the Christmas season, a person might answer, “Jesus left behind a religious movement, the church, moral teachings and a tremendous amount of influence in the arts, literature, and in our public and private lives.
These are all true. Had Jesus not come, we would not have the effects and products of his influence. From a letter written by a child to God, “Dear God, please put another holiday between Christmas and Easter. There is nothing good in there now. Signed, Ginny.”
Had Jesus not come, we would not have Christmas or Easter. But what we want from God and what God intended Jesus to leave behind is very different. We are people easily satisfied with holidays, decorations and festivities with family and friends.
What I want to do is offer more than observations of how Jesus influenced mankind and civilization over the last 2000 years. I want us to look at what Jesus left behind to those who lived during his time rather than what we’ve gleaned for personal gain within our lifetime. By looking at what Jesus left behind initially, we will have a better chance of coming away knowing what Jesus truly intended to leave behind.
Our text comes from Paul’s letter to the Galatians. We’ll look at the main themes of this letter, which I believe gives indication of what Jesus intentionally left behind. Let’s look together.
First, Jesus left his message behind. We see this in Galatians 1:6-24.
Soon after Jesus’ ascension into Heaven, people began to alter the message Jesus left behind. The Jews were the first to become followers of Christ, but some also held onto the Jewish requirements, such as circumcision. When the Gentiles began to follow Christ’s teaching, they too added their beliefs, such as Gnosticism, which sees matter as evil and spirit as good.
Jesus’ message, and what Paul was trying to reclaim here, is a message of grace or undeserved favor from God to mankind. John the Baptist’s testimony about Jesus reads, “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (John 1:17).” And the Apostle John wrote in 2 John 1:3, “Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, will be with us in truth and love.”
Religion is mankind’s effort to reach God; Jesus’ message is God’s effort to reach mankind. Yet, many people claim to accept Christ’s message, but they add angels, saints, promises and superstitious rituals. Like the Christians in Galatia, people today have turned Jesus’ message into another man-made religion that requires ineffective and burdensome efforts.
I was recently talking to the Mom of a girl for whom I did the funeral. The Mom claimed to be a Christian, and in our conversation, she comforted herself by saying, “I know Sally (and that’s not the daughter’s real name) is an angel now. She has always done good deeds.”
I thought to myself, “It’s not about Sally’s good deeds. It’s about God’s great deed through Jesus Christ on the cross. It’s not about angels, it’s about a restored relationship with God through Jesus.”
Jesus left us his message of good news. Jesus’ message is about grace. We must never change Jesus’ message into a message of self-effort, religious discipline or promised reward for deeds and rituals.
Second, Jesus left his freedom behind. We see this in Galatians 2:1-21 and 5:1-15.
Jesus was never an institution or people-pleaser. He spoke the truth in all settings, confronting sinners, religious leaders, political powers and demonic powers. Paul had the guts to confront Peter, the leader of the first church, because Paul received his freedom from Jesus.
All of us are slaves to sin, to man-made religious laws and to the need for people’s approval. And Jesus came to set us free. Jesus said in John 8:31-32, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Several weeks back, someone called me and said, “I’m not sure I agree with your interpretation of a certain passage in the Bible.” So we opened up the Bible and studied over the phone for about 15 to 20 minutes. The next morning, I told him I was glad he called to tell me what he told me. After all, I’m not the authority. The Bible is the authority.