The Way

On the Journey with Jesus 4:

Introduction

The popular approach to the theme of being On the Journey with Jesus emphasises Christ as a loving companion and guide to me on my life journey.

Jesus is someone who listens to my prayers and satisfies my deepest needs.

This approach reflects the self-centeredness of our age.

The biblical truth about the human journey is that it not my journey with a place for Christ but Christ’s journey with a place for me.

Jesus is someone who answers our prayers and satisfies our deepest needs because his prayers and needs were first of all met by the Father.

John says this about Christ; “Jesus, knowing…that he had come from God and was going back to God” (John 13:3).

Jesus own personal journey was a trip from being with the Father in heaven entering into our world and returning back to the Father (cf. John 1:1, 18; Phil 2:5-11).

On our journey with Christ:

HE IS LEADING US OUT OF TIME INTO ETERNITY.

Whereas today’s popular spirituality has more to say about the trip than its destination, Jesus was focussed on the goal of his life journey as returning to the eternal glory of his Father (John 17:5).

All the works of Jesus, his saving presence and healing and delivering power were designed to illuminate the character of the Father and motivate men and women to join him in his journey back to the fullness of the Father’s love in heaven (John 5:19-20; 10:38; 14:11)

The Way to the Father

In words which are unpopular today Christ said, ““I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

ONLY JESUS IS:
“THE WAY TO THE FATHER”, “THE TRUTH OF THE FATHER” and “THE LIFE OF THE FATHER”.
The song we heard from Keith Green (“You Are The One”) is an authentic expression of his own life journey. Green, who came to Christ from a background that mingled Judaism, Christian Science and hippy love, authentically testifies that every human being has been totally lost, repeatedly lied to and spiritually dead (Eph 2:1).

It is only Jesus who brings us complete guidance, absolute truth and eternal life by being the Way back to God. I was walking in the park the other day and I struck up a conversation with one of the “dog people”. After a while of sharing her many painful needs she said, “I am dying inside”. This lady was once a church-goer and Bible reader, she had no problem talking about Jesus, but when she kept talking about “God”, “God”, “God” I knew her great need for comfort and strength would only come when she joined with Jesus in his return to the Father. She was lost because she was Fatherless. With his sole desire to obey the Father and lead others to the Father Jesus is the Way. The paradox of the gospel is that for Jesus to put us on the Way he must lose his way.

Christ said he had come “to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10).

To save us all and set us on the path to the Father Jesus needed to do more than mighty miracles and marvellous words.

He needed to take upon himself all our lostness and disorientation; this is the work of the cross.

Jesus’ terrible cry; ““My God, my God why have you forsaken me?”” (Mark 15:34) is the crisis point of his human journey, and it is a crisis about where he is going.

Bearing all our sinful confusion Christ loses all consciousness of himself as the Son who is the Way to the Father, his life journey seems bereft of all purpose and identity (2 Cor 5:21).

But the climax of the cross is not lostness, when Jesus prays these words with his final breath we know he has recovered his place as the Way to the Father; ““Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” (Luke 23:46).

The following resurrection and ascension of the Son back to the Father completes the journey he came to make on our behalf (John 20:17; Rom 1:4).

The claim that Christ is the Way to the Father is fiercely opposed by non-Christian spiritualities.

   HOW MANY WAYS   

People today love stories about self-discovery because that’s what they long for themselves.

Eat,_Pray,_Love_–_Elizabeth_Gilbert,_2007After a painful divorce, in 2006 Elizabeth Gilbert[1]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Gilbert wrote her memoirs of a journey around the world called, “Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia”[2]http://www.elizabethgilbert.com/books/eat-pray-love/. It quickly sold 10 million copies was on New York Times best sellers list for nearly 4 years and became a motion picture. It was a great hit because it promised “the path to the vibrant, fulfilling life you’ve dreamed of.”

One-Way

As the word “Pray” in the title of her book indicates Gilbert is a very spiritual person, but her spirituality is an expression of the popular pluralism which says there are many ways to God.

John Yates

To illustrate this let me quote some words from an interview between Canon Frank Sheehan[3]http://www.claremont.perth.anglican.org/community/clergy/canon-frank-sheehan/ the chaplain at Christ Church Grammar and a RC nun.

Sheehan cites her words with approval;

“There’s no one way (to spiritual realisation) as far as I am concerned. From the top of the mountain you can look down and see many paths (to the summit) it’s the journey that matters. I start with my own experience.”

Canon Frank Sheehan

This form of spirituality is totally back to front because it puts ‘ME’ rather than Jesus at the centre of everything.

The True journey of life is not my experience with a place for Jesus but Jesus’ experience with a place for me. Only as we share Jesus’ journey can he reveal to us our true identity.

What about this image of a spiritual mountain from whose summit we can see the many paths to God.

There is a spiritual mountain but only one person has ever reached its peak; only the resurrected Jesus could say, “‘I am ascending to my Father and…my God…’”” (John 20:17).

Founders of other religions point people to a “way”, perhaps in the Koran, or the noble eight fold path of the Buddha and so on; but only God’s only Son pronounced he was the Way to the Father (John 3:16).

The way to God is not an abstract theological discussion.

Debate has been raging recently in America where a lecturer in a Christian College (Wheaton) was stood down for stating that Christians and Muslims “worship the same God”. Christians and Muslims both believe that there is one Creator God who speaks through his prophets will raise the dead judge all people and send some to paradise and others to hell.

But do they worship the same God?

The Dome of Rock in Jerusalem (Al-Aqsa mosque) is the third holiest site in Islam, inscribed on its walls are words drawn from the Koran; “The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was only a Messenger of God….So believe in God and His messengers, and say not ‘Three’ – Cease!…God is only One God.

Far be it removed from His transcendent majesty that He should have a son.” It makes no sense to say that the followers of a religion which denies that God is Father and Jesus is his Son worship the same Lord as Christians.

Anyone who denies that Jesus is the Way to the Father is not on the same journey as we are.
I-Am-the-Way-Truth-Life

Jesus warned about the popular wide and easy way that leads to destruction and the unpopular hard and narrow way that leads to life (Matt 7:13-14).

The apostles took Christ at his word.

When preaching to the followers of other faiths in Athens Paul explained why we must believe in Jesus as the Way to heaven; v.30“God overlooked people’s ignorance…in earlier times, but now he commands everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and turn to him. v.31 For he has set a day for judging the world with justice by the man he has appointed, and he proved to everyone who this is by raising him from the dead.”” (Acts 17:30-31).

The stamp of divine approval on every aspect of the human journey is on the life of only one person, Jesus of Nazareth, only Christ so totally pleased the Father as to be raised from the dead into everlasting life. So far this sermon sounds very individualistic, but there are community dimensions to being on a journey with Jesus.

   AGREED   

There is a scene in the TV series The Tudors[4]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tudors where King Henry VIII is standing in the grounds of one of his palaces and says to a companion, “Walk with me.” When the king says “Walk with me” we would expect every one of his subjects to obey him and allow him to set the tune of conversation on the journey.

Our King is Jesus and we should expect that Christians on their journey together with Christ would function as a tight knit community. Churches however are often known for power plays, internal politics and personality clashes.

The prophet Amos says, “Can two people walk together without agreeing on the direction?” (Amos 3:3).

Moving in the same direction is not a matter of agreeing about every point of theology, morality, ministry or liturgy; the non-negotiable point of agreement is mutual submission to the will of Christ.

His words are clear, “if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.” (Matt 18:19).

If the members of a church are agreed in their submission to Christ his promise will be true in our experience, ““anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.” (John 14:12).

If we are not seeing Christ’s works in our midst; healings, salvations, deliverance from demonic powers, it must be that we are not in close agreement in our journeying with Jesus.

I am reminded of a scene from a film where a group of warriors in scattered formation was approaching a rival troop and one by one the soldiers on the outside of the pack were being picked off by enemy arrows.

When the soldiers closed ranks and joined shields the arrows could not get through.

Spiritual warfare is like natural warfare. Paul exhorts the Church; “In all circumstances, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.” (Eph 6:16).

It’s time to take the shield of faith for others and clump together on the journey with Jesus recognising that our enemy is never another Christian but always the devil (Eph 6:12).

Early this morning the Lord started to speak to me about these things with some clarity.

There are two father figures in the Bible, God the true Father and the false father who is the devil (John 8:44.)

In the presence of the true Father these words come true “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” (Col 3:13).

In the presence of the lying father (Satan) there is gossip, rumour, innuendo, accusation and condemnation which give birth to embarrassment, shame, fear, anxiety, a muted spirit, depression and confusion.

All these very earthly things paralyse the power of the presence of the kingdom of God (James 3:14-16).

Where the presence of the true Father is manifest from heaven there is always love, joy, peace, victory and boldness in the things of God (James 3:17-18; 1 John 5:4).

Week by week in our service we say together;

Send us, we pray, in the strength of this meal, to tell the Good News to neighbours and strangers with creative words and compassionate service, walking the way to Christ.

These are great words, but how many unchurched people are being drawn in to join us “walking the way to Christ”? 

As a total community we are struggling to walk closely together in spiritual fellowship because we have yet to learn the true meaning of “fellowship”.

The New Testament word for “fellowship” (koinonia) does not mean “sharing”, but “having a common share”.

The common share we have is not being of the same race, gender, social, educational or economic status, it is not being Australian or Anglican, it is not moral character, spiritual gifting or Bible knowledge, the one eternal thing we have in common is a joint share in the life of Christ (Rom 8:17).

The Christ in whom we share has travelled the human journey on our behalf and brought it to successful completion for us all by returning to the Father.

In Christ there are no spiritual superiors or inferiors.

Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand. (Rom 14:4).

Only in the light of this revelation of a God-given equality in Christ can believers stay close together on the rough road that leads to eternal life. If the journey is so difficult and so opposite to all our self-centred desires how do we get others to join us on the journey?

   TESTIMONY   

We must have confidence that at the end of the journey we will share in the everlasting joy of the Father; Hebrews exhorts us, “let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb 12:1-2).

Every person knows that their earthly journey will end in death; but then what?

In the last week the topic of life beyond death has come up with people repeatedly so it must be something the Lord wants to speak to us about.

The apostle Paul approached death with boldness and excitement; “So we are always confident, even though we know that as long as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord… v.8 Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord.” (2 Cor 5:6, 8 cf. Phil 1:21-23).

It is not that Paul had a miserable life from which he wanted to escape, but the thrill of reaching the end of the journey by being with Jesus and his heavenly Father was overwhelming. This is our call too.

Our authority to speak about the journey of the Christian life to others, including going to heaven, flows from our own desire to depart from this life and be with Christ.

The goal of the spiritual journey is the key to every aspect of the journey.

But not everyone is on the same journey.

   CONCLUSION   

The Bible speaks of two eternal destinies at the end of life’s journey; the goats join the devil in hell and the sheep of Jesus share heaven with his Father

Matt 25:31-46.

Friends, when was the last time a neighbour, relative, workmate or friend said, “I want to go where you are going”?

At the level of our church, when was the last time a totally unchurched person asked to join with us on the Way?

To the degree that an individual or a congregation manifests the triumph of love over hostility, of Christ over Satan, of heaven over hell, to that degree people will join Jesus on the way to heaven and be added to the church (Acts 2:47; 1 John 3:8).

Tragically, Satan has successfully disabled the gifts and presence of God amongst us so we are not regularly seeing people turn to the Lord.

What then can we do?

It is time to take our eyes off earthly things/people and be united in pressing on “to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” (Phil 3:14).

No one can arrive at the destination where Christ is in heaven unless they have personally heard and responded to his call to receive him as Lord and obey him in whatever he says.

The human journey out of time into eternity is not about a personal path of self-discovery nor even about discovering who we are as St Mark’s/Church on the Rise; it is about the revelation of Jesus as the Way to the Father.

This must be our sole passion and this must be, for Christ’s sake, our united prayer.

Preached at St Mark’s 24th Jan 2016

References

1 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Gilbert
2 http://www.elizabethgilbert.com/books/eat-pray-love/
3 http://www.claremont.perth.anglican.org/community/clergy/canon-frank-sheehan/
4 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tudors

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