The Francis Asbury Society

FACE TO FACE: Intimate Moments with God 01/13

Posted on | January 13, 2016 | Comments Off on FACE TO FACE: Intimate Moments with God 01/13

Scripture reading: Philippians 3:7–15

Lift Off!

Then what shall I do with Jesus? (Matthew 27:22)

 

When I was a boy, the launch of a manned rocket from Cape Canaveral was a big event. I still remember February of 1962 when our class at O’Neal Elementary School in Cordele, Georgia, was cancelled so we could go to the library and watch John Glenn be fired into space aboard his Mercury-Atlas rocket Friendship 7. By modern standards the quality of the images on that black and white television set were poor, but it didn’t matter. We were watching history! Our eyes were glued to the screen as the final countdown began: T-minus 30 seconds and counting . . . 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0, ignition . . .” Then, after a pregnant pause: “Lift off!” John Glenn was on his way to be the first American to orbit the earth.

Fast forward twelve years to 1974. I was a new Christian, not quite 21 years of age. I had been invited to preach for a youth meeting at a Methodist Church in Fitzgerald, Georgia. Though I had spoken a few times in Bible study settings, this was my first real sermon. As I stepped onto the launch pad (aka, the pulpit), I think I felt a bit like John Glenn, all alone in his space capsule atop a tower of raw power ready to ignite. The congregation (about 47 people) became quiet as I stepped to the lectern and opened my Bible. Will the engines fire properly? I wondered. Will the launch succeed or will it be aborted? Do I have what it takes? Will I crash and burn? My knees shook, and my voice quivered as I read Matthew 27:11–26. I explained that although Jesus was the one on trial, it was really Pilate who was on the witness stand being examined. Knowing that Jesus was innocent, Pilate wimpishly tried to avoid taking responsibility for his execution. Placing Barabbas before the crowd, he asked the people to decide: “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” In unison the crowd shouted, “Barabbas! Barabbas!” In desperation Pilate asked, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” The remainder of my sermon went something like this:

Pilate had a problem: what to do with Jesus? He had to choose. Neutrality was impossible. A decision was inescapable, and there were only two options: reject Jesus or accept him. Unfortunately, Pilate chose to reject the Lord of life. What about you? What will you do with Jesus? Tonight you must choose. Not to decide is to decide. Will you accept Jesus as your Savior and Lord? Or will you let him be crucified? What will you choose?

The entire sermon lasted about nine minutes. Though I invited people to come to the altar and pray, no one responded. I sat down. My first sermon was over.

Many years have passed, and I’m sure no one today remembers that sermon except me. Not much happened in the pews that night, but something significant happened in the pulpit: lift off! Through God’s incomprehensible grace, a launch occurred that thrust an immature, idealistic young man into a life of ministry. Fired by the rocket propulsion of the Holy Spirit, I have never looked back. And perhaps the most amazing thing of all is this: I still think my first sermon as my best!

 

Not to decide is to decide. —Harvey Cox

 

point to ponder What will you do with Jesus?

prayer focus Someone you know who has not made a decision to follow Jesus as Lord.

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