Sermon: Fighting the Good Fight of the Faith

This message was originally given at Bishop Noa Home, in Escanaba, Michigan on 1/24/2016. 

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“Every now and then I guess we all think realistically about that day when we will be victimized with what is life’s final common denominator–that something we call death.

We all think about it and every now and then I think about my own death and I think about my own funeral. And I don’t think about it in a morbid sense. And every now and then I ask myself what it is that I would want said and I leave the word to you this morning.

If any of you are around when I have to meet my day, I don’t want a long funeral. And if you get somebody to deliver the eulogy tell him not to talk too long.  Every now and then I wonder what I want him to say.

Tell him not to mention that I have a Nobel Peace Prize–that isn’t important. Tell not to mention that have 300 or 400 other awards–that’s not important. Tell him not to mention where I went to school.

I’d like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King Jr. tried to give his life serving others. I’d like for somebody to say that day that Martin Luther King Jr. tried to love somebody.” -Martin Luther King Jr.

Paul wrote in a letter to his young apprentice, a young man who he inspired, named Timothy… that he had fought the good fight.  He had finished the race.  Paul was elderly at this time in his life, yet continuing his work.  He wrote in his second letter to Timothy:

In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
 
For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

Today I’d like to urge you, as you are now, to keep the faith.  Don’t turn away, don’t turn to the left or to the right.  But stay the course, to the end.  One day at a time, Jesus Christ is Lord.  One day at a time, trust in Jesus.  

You, O Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light.
Psalm 18:28.

The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble.
Proverbs 4:18-19

Do you feel left behind?  Do you feel useless?  Or do you feel blessed?  Do you feel the joy of closeness with God?

Jesus Christ will judge the living and the dead it says.  This is true.  Once you pass away, you will come face to face with the mystery of life itself: Jesus Christ.  

Are you ready to meet Jesus?  Are you ready to see him in all his glory?  Do you long to be with him?  

It’s a foundational truth of Christianity that all people will be judged by God on the last day.  Are you ready for that day?  The truth is we’ve all fallen short of God’s perfect standard.  On judgment day, if I came before the Lord with my good works, that would not be enough.  Because he would see my sins.  And I would be sent to outer darkness.

That’s the situation all of us find ourselves in.  But, thanks be to God, because God has made a way for us to be perfect, holy before him.  He has come as Jesus Christ.

 In Colossians chapter 1 it says that Jesus Christ is exact image of the invisible God.  One of the many names in the scriptures for Jesus is Immanuel.  Immanuel means: God with us.  The formula is this: God became a man, Jesus.  He came to offer himself as a perfect sacrifice for the sins of his people.  We all have many many sins.  And Jesus Christ paid the price for those sins on the cross.

Jesus Christ went to the cross for us.  He had nails driven through his hands.  He had nails driven through his feet.  Do you remember what happened on the cross?  It was toward the end of the terrible ordeal.  Jesus had whipped, forced to carry his own cross, jeered by the crowds, and the nailed to the cross.  Then he was mounted on Calvary.  That wasn’t the worst of it though.

As Jesus slowly died on the cross, a terrible moment came when Jesus cried out, “Father, why have you forsaken me?”  It was at that moment, that God turned away from Jesus Christ, his own son, and left Christ alone.  And Jesus died alone, having been forsaken as a sinner.  He was made sin itself for us.  

But death couldn’t hold him.  Three days later he resurrected from the dead.  And this was a message from Jesus to us: I have overcome death itself.  Have you ever seen someone overcome death itself?  Death comes to us all.  But there was one man who overcame death: Jesus Christ.  He gave the evidence in his resurrection that he can and will resurrect all of us from the dead to live in eternity with him forever.  

Believe this.  Believe in Jesus.  Believe Jesus died for you, personally on the cross, and confess with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.  It’s the truth.  Jesus is no myth or legend, he’s real.  I can testify to this personally.

I used to be lost.  I suffered depression, I was drinker and a drug addict for many years.  My sins kept piling up on my shoulders, more and more guilt.  But my mother started praying for me, my grandparents prayed for me, and God the Father led me to his son Jesus Christ.  I thought it was all a stupid legend.  I was wrong.  Jesus Christ is real, he’s alive and he’s really God.  He’s really the savior who will connect us to God.  But we have to come through Jesus.  Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.  Jesus is the way.  We have to come to the Father through the perfection of Jesus Christ.

It’s written in the scriptures that once we believe in Jesus, trust in Jesus, and confess Jesus as our savior, that through this judicial arrangement, this exchange, we receive the righteousness of Jesus Christ as a “garment.”  Meaning we wear the righteousness of Jesus Christ.  Then when God the Father looks at us, he sees the perfect righteousness of his son Jesus Christ.

What is the righteousness of Christ?  The righteousness of Christ is the perfection of Christ, how he lived, how he cared, how he spoke the truth, and how he died a perfect death.  Jesus loved with a full heart.  He kept all 10 of the commandments fully.  He healed the sick.  He spoke the truth and challenged those who were hypocrites.  He lived a life of total service to others.  He lived humbly.  He was a servant of all.  He never sinned, not even once.  He told the truth.  And he died for his friends.  Us.  And on the cross as they spat upon him and laughed at him, he prayed,” Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing.”  That’s the perfect life.  That’s why the righteousness of Christ is our garment.  That’s why Christ’s life is enough to save us.  He was holiness, perfection, mercy, love, and grace.  

Do you believe that Jesus has died for you?  Do you believe he lives for you?  Do you believe Jesus is coming again?  And do you long to be with Jesus?

If you’ve never committed your life to Jesus Christ, then do so today.  Call out to Jesus to save you.  Pray to him.  It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, or what you haven’t done.  It doesn’t matter, as long as you are willing to turn from your old ways and embrace Jesus.  And dedicate your life to him.  It’s a beautiful way to live.  Because it’s living in the truth, in a world full of lies.

We are the body of Christ on Earth.  We are the church.  I encourage all of you to be prayer warriors while your here in Bishop Noa.  Maybe you think you can’t help, you can’t do much of anything: Your wrong.  Prayer changes the world.  Please pray for the Salvation Army of Escanaba.  Pray for me.  Pray for the lost in Escanaba.  Pray for the children led astray.  Pray for young people to see the glory of Jesus Christ.  

You may think you can’t contribute much.  But let me tell you something: Coming into Bishop Noa, week in and week out, has changed my life in a very real way.  There is something about many of you that I can’t help but love.  You draw compassion out of me.  Listening to your stories, and becoming friends with many of you has been an honor and a privilege.  It’s touched my heart.  So thank you.  

In closing, Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 2:8-12 Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained. Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.
Here is a trustworthy saying:
If we died with him,
    we will also live with him;
if we endure,
    we will also reign with him.

Jesus Christ of Nazareth, born in Bethlehem was and is God come into the world to save us.  Keep up the good fight of the faith.  Difficult times come, but never give up your faith in Jesus.  Always trust in him, no matter what.  Jesus is the resurrection and the life, all who believe in him will live forever.  That’s a fact of life itself.  Believe in him.  Be in relationship with Jesus.  And finish the race.  Keep the faith.  

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