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James Merritt - Mission Accomplished

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    James Merritt - Mission Accomplished
TOPICS: Mission, Purpose

There are certain days in life that you just never forget. And I'll tell you one day in particular I'll never forget. It literally is like it happened yesterday, and it happened gosh, almost 40 years ago. It was a May morning, midnight, a little after midnight, in a little, small house, and a little rural community called Butte Grove Kentucky. Tracy had already gone to bed, and I was sitting, doing something that for three years had consumed my life. For three years, I had been researching, and studying, and collecting material, and working on, and living, and eating, and breathing, and sleeping with a document called a dissertation. After three years, I finally could see this light at the end of the tunnel, and it wasn't a train coming my way. I said, "Man, I'm about to finish".

I had renewed vigor. I had renewed energy. And I can still remember, I'm telling you like it happened last night. I can still remember writing that last word and putting that last dot at the last sentence. I threw my pen down. Pushed away from the desk. Raised my hands. Looked up to Heaven. And said, one word that was the sweetest word I said to myself in three years. "Finished". Done. Now, when I said finished, it really didn't change the world. When I said finished, it didn't make the newspapers. When I said finished, it didn't get on the evening news. As a matter of fact, if I had not finished my dissertation, it wouldn't have changed anything for anybody except maybe me. And if I had never finished my dissertation, nobody except maybe for me and my sweet wife would have ever noticed.

The three years ago, I mean, the 2,000 years ago, there was a man named Jesus. He was hanging on a cross outside of Jerusalem. He said one word in the Greek language. Three words in English. And it changed everything. That one word has the potential to change everybody. That one word in the Greek language radically changed my life. That one word in the Greek language radically changed the life of my dad. If you're a guest of ours today, we're in a series we're calling, "The Bucket List". Because, everybody has a bucket list.

If I were to say to you, "Hey I just found out that in the next year, you're going to die," there would be a lot of things that would come to your mind right now. There are things you want to do you hadn't gotten to do. There are things you want to see you've never gotten to see. There are people you want to meet, you've never gotten to meet. There are things you want to experience you've never gotten to experience. And there are certain things, we all have them, we know what they are, we've all said at some time or you know, or another to someone, "Hey, before I die, I want to do this. Before I die, I want to go there. Before I die, I want to see this".

Now, there are a lot of things we may want to accomplish before we die. But there are seven things we better accomplish before we die. As a matter of fact, these seven things, you better make sure you accomplish before you die, or you're not ready to die. Now, I didn't come up with these on my own. I didn't pull them out of thin air. I didn't get them off a website. Didn't hear them from another pastor. They actually come from Jesus. They were on the bucket list of Jesus. And they actually come from the seven last things he said in the last six hours of his life. He said, "There are seven things I'm going to make sure as the son of God that I check off my list before I check out of this life". And one of the things we better be able to make sure we've done and can do before we die, we'd better be able to say, "Mission accomplished". We'd better be able to say, "Finished".

Now, let me tell you before you read these words and where we're going to find them, let me tell you what's going on in this story. And by the way, if you brought a copy of God's word, or you brought an iPad or a Smartphone or whatever you use, I want you to turn to John 19. There are four Gospels. Mathew, Mark, Luke, John. I want you to turn to John 19. Jesus has been hanging on a cross for six hours. For six hours, he's been the victim, not the victor. He's been the victim. He's been the victim of the sins of the entire world. So, kind of put it this way. For six hours, Jesus has been climbing a mountain. It's called the Mount Everest of Sin. It's a mountain that is made of every sin of every person that's ever lived or ever will live. And every sin that's ever been committed. He finally reached the top of that mountain. He has now painted the flag of forgiveness on the top of the mount Everest of Sin, and he cries out these words. When he had finished, "When he received the drink, Jesus said, 'It is finished.'"

One word in the Greek. Three words in the English. For six hours, Jesus has been worked over. Now, his work is over. He dies with mission accomplished. And in those words, at that moment, as you're going to see next week, just before he took his last breath, he shares with us some things that we better make sure we have finished before we're finished. There's some things that we need to finish in life, before we're finished with life. And I know exactly what those are, because Jesus and the word of God tells us what those things are. Three things we better make sure, we ever look back on and say, "You know what? I finished that before life is finished with me". Here they are.

Number one, finish your walk with God. Finish your walk with God. Now, I know something that's true about everybody that's listening to me right now. It's true to me. If you were to die right now, you would die with some unfinished business. If I were to die right now, I would die with some unfinished business. I mean, we all would. As a matter of fact, if the world ended today, you would see unfinished business everywhere. I'll give you an illustration some of you are familiar with. Several years ago, I was in South Dakota, and I was doing a men's conference. So, we were not far from Mount Rushmore. And I'd never seen Mount Rushmore. And so the guys that grew up, that went up there with me, we rented a car, and we drove over to Mount Rushmore. Many of you have seen the portrait there of Mount Rushmore.

Well, I learned something that day, didn't know it before. The sculptors, the man who carved that out of rock was a man by the name of Gutzon Borglum. Now, who he was really is not that big a deal. But what he didn't do is a big deal. He never finished his work. You may say, wait a minute, it looks finished. No. He meant to do all of that down to the chest, but he died at the neck. He never got there. I mean, he, right there, got to the neck, died. He, life's gone. Had it in his mind, "This is what I want to do". And I got, and when I learned that, I thought to myself, there are millions of people just like me that will go there and visit that monument every single year and never know they're looking at unfinished business. They'll never know they're looking at an unfinished work of art.

Let me ask you a question. If you were to leave planet earth today, what would you leave unfinished? There's only one person in history who ever died with no unfinished business, and that's Jesus. Jesus is the only one that literally could say, I mean from A to Z, it is finished. How did he do that from the time he was born to the time he died, he followed the path that God laid out for him to walk. And he walked it to the last step of his journey. Now, here's the good news. God has laid out a path for every one of us. From the time that you were born to the time that you die, God has a path he wants us to walk. We don't have to wonder what that path is. We know exactly what that path is. You say, "Really"? Yeah. It's in a very famous psalm. As a matter of fact, it's in the most famous psalm ever written.

Psalm 23. "He leads me in," say this with me, "Paths of righteousness for his namesake". That's exactly the path God wants all of us to walk. He said, "James, I want you to walk a right path. And I want you to walk a path of righteousness. I want you to stay on that path until the path runs out". Now, let me just kind of be honest with you. If you walk God's path, it will lead you to different places. Yeah, sometimes it will lead you to success. But sometimes it will lead you to suffering. Sometimes it will lead you to sacrifice. And don't let that surprise you. Because the path that Jesus walked on this earth was paved with suffering and sacrifice.

I mean, think about the suffering Jesus had to undergo in his life. There was the social suffering of being rejected by his own family and his own people. There was the physical suffering of crucifixion, the cruelest form of dying ever known in the history of the world. There was the spiritual suffering of bearing the world's sin and being totally separated from his heavenly Father. But whether the path was smooth or rocky, whether it was uphill or downhill, whether it was easy or hard, from the time that Jesus was born to the time that Jesus died, he finished walking on the path of righteousness. He always walked in the right direction. He always walked in the right way. He always walked with a right heart. He always walked to the right path. He never got over in this ditch, or in that ditch. He always stayed in the path of righteousness.

And I tell that to say this. I'm on the path of righteousness. I've been on it for 54 years. And I have to tell you, there's some things I want to make sure I finish before I die. I want to finish a faithful marriage. I've been faithful to that woman right there for 41 years. I want to die faithful to her. I want to die, if it's with my last breath, I want to die being able to say to her, "I have always been faithful to you". I want to finish a fruitful ministry. Now, I won't always be the pastor of this church, you know that, and I know that. But I will never, ever get out of ministry. I always want to be doing ministry somewhere for somebody somewhere. I want to finish a fulfilled mission. No, I'm not going to accomplish everything I want to do. I realize that now. That doesn't matter. I just want to make sure I've accomplished everything that God wants me to do. So, I've just made up my mind. I'm going to stay on my path. God, you've given me a path of righteousness to walk. I'm going to finish my walk with you.

Second thing, finish the will of God. Not just your walk with God. You want to finish the will of God. Now, let me ask you a question. When you read those words when Jesus said, "It is finished," what is "it"? I mean, what does that mean? It is finished. I mean, if I walked up to you today and I said, "By the way, it's finished," what would you say? Well, great. What's it? Well, what is it. What did Jesus mean? What is finished? We don't have to wonder. He tells us in two different places what he finished. In John 4:34 Jesus said this, he said, kind of put it really in an interesting way. He said, "'My food,' said Jesus, 'is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.'" By the way, that word "finish" is the same word Jesus used on the cross.

Now, here's kind of interesting. Jesus said, you know, from the time I was born till this moment in my life, I've only had one thing on my plate. The will of God. My food, is to do the will of him who sent me. And you know what Jesus was saying on the cross when he said it is finished? He was saying, "I have cleaned my plate. I have finished the will of God". Jesus, when he said, "It's finished," he said, "Father, my food was to do the will of him who sent me". This is what you sent me to do. Father, I have cleaned my plate. And when we die, here's the question. Did we do God's will or our will? Did I do with my life what I wanted to do with my life, or do with my life what God wanted me to do with my life? Did I really finish what He wanted me to do, or what I wanted to, or what He wanted me to do?

See, God's will for us is to do His will until our last will is read. You, as a matter of fact, you remember the words Jesus said to the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane? He said this. He said, "Father, if you're willing, take this cup from me, yet, not my will, but yours be done". Jesus' will want to do the Father's will no matter how high the cost, how steep the climb, how great the sacrifice, how hurtful the pain. Because there's one thing that mattered to Jesus. Nothing else mattered. What is your will for my life? Father, what do you want me to do? I want to do what you want me to do. Whether it was God's will for him to save his people. It was God's will for him to die on the cross. And he did it.

Now, I guarantee you this. When Jesus cried out on that cross that afternoon, when Jesus said, "It is finished," I'm sure there were some that were standing around there, and they thought, this was a cry of defeat. I guarantee you the Pharisee's thought, "You better believe you're finished. Don't have to put up with this Galilean troublemaker anymore". I guarantee you the Roman's thought, "Yeah you're finished. Don't have to put up with another pretender to Caesar's throne anymore. This is what happens to people like you". We know the disciples thought he was finished. They thought to themselves, "Well it was a good ride and a good run, and it was fun while it lasted, and we sure will miss him". They were wrong. Jesus didn't say, "I am finished". He said, "It is finished". Jesus didn't say, "Well, I gave it my best. I gave it my best shot, but I failed". Jesus said, "I've done everything that God called me to do, and I have succeeded".

Now listen carefully. Nobody was put on this planet to be a failure. There's not a prosperity deal I'm getting you to, just stay with me. Nobody was put on this planet to be a failure. You were not put on this planet to be a failure. I was not put on this planet to be a failure. However, you're under the age of 21, listen to what I'm about to tell you. Success is not defined by Wall Street. Success is not defined by Hollywood. Success is not defined even by Washington D.C. It is God that defines success, and here's what success is. Success is finding and fulfilling the will of God for your life. That is success. And when Jesus said, "It is finished," he didn't mean He was finished, because in reality, he was just getting started. Because, when you finish your walk with God, and you finish the will of God, then you finish the work of God. Then you finish the work.

Now listen to this. Just before Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, he prayed a prayer in John 17, the longest prayer he ever prayed. I think it's the greatest prayer in the entire Bible. And in the middle of that prayer, Jesus said this, he said, "Father," talking to God, he said, "I have brought you glory on earth". That's what we all want to do. We're were put here to glorify God. Right? Say yeah. Here's how you do it. By finishing the work you gave me to do it. By the way, same word there, one word in the Greek, same word that he used on the cross. God had given Jesus work that only Jesus could do, and Jesus did it. Only he could redeem us and pay for our sins. Only he could satisfy the wrath of God against our sin. Only he could save his people from their sin, and Jesus said, "Father, I finished my walk with you. I finished your will for me, and I'll finish the work that you've given me to do".

Now, let me tell you something about that Greek word. It's one of the greatest words in the Bible. Because it was used both in legal circles and in financial circles. Legally, here's what would happen. It's very, very important word. If you committed a crime, you went before a Roman judge. If that Roman judge found you guilty, he would write out what was called a certificate of debt. And on that certificate, it was kind of your guilty document, on that certificate on one side, he would write down what you did and why you were condemned. And then on the other side of that document, he would write down the punishment that you were given for that crime. You would then be taken to prison. And what they would do is, they would lock you in prison. They would then nail that certificate of debt to the door, or the jail cell, wherever you were put in the prison. So anybody that wanted to could come along anytime, and they could look on that door. They would know who you are. They would know why you're in there. They would know what you've done. And they would know exactly the punishment that you incurred for doing what you did.

Now, if you did your time, and you paid off your debt to society, or even better, if somebody came along and say, maybe paid the fine that you owed, paid off the debt that you owed or whatever, those same legal authorities would then take that same document. They would take it back to the judge. They would tell the judge, "His debts been paid off. His debt's been paid to society". And then the judge would stamp on that document that one word. And it literally meant "paid in full". They would then take that certificate, roll it up. They would seal it. Then they'd give it to that prisoner so anywhere he could go, he could always show and prove he was an absolute free man, that the demands of the law had been met, and his debt was paid off. He was free, never to be tried for that same debt again. Or, if you borrowed money from a bank, or you borrowed money from someone, and you paid that debt off, same thing. When you paid that debt off, they would print, they would stamp that with that one Greek word, and it would say "paid in full".

And here's what Jesus meant. When he said, "It is finished," he said, "Father, the debt of sin that the entire world owes to you has been paid off. Every sin every committed by every person who ever lived or has lived. Every sin committed today by every person that is living, and every sin that will ever be committed by every person that lives tomorrow, every single sin has been paid in full". Now here's the thing, God's given all of us work that He wants us to do. And we should finish that work until He's finished with us. But, Jesus finished his work. I don't know if you know much about the Old Testament Tabernacle. If you don't, you don't have to know much about it. But, maybe some of you do. And if you don't, it's a really interesting kind of fascinating to go back and see that, you know, the Tabernacle and how it was built.

We talked about it a little bit last week. When God was so concerned about the Tabernacle that it be done right, He designed it. Gus, he was the architect. He said, "This is so important to me. I'm not leaving this to anybody else. This is exactly how I want it built. These are the dimensions that I want. And this is the furniture that I want. And this is where I want the furniture to go". Now, what's fascinating is, when you read about the Tabernacle, you read about all this furniture that's in there. There's the Bronze Laver, and there's the Altar of Sacrifice, and there's the Arc of the Covenant, and there's the Mercy Seat. You got all this furniture. But if you, you may have never thought about this. There's one piece of furniture missing in a tabernacle. There's no chair. Well, why isn't there a chair? Because the priest could never sit down. Because his work was never done.

There was always another sacrifice to make. There was always another lamb to be slain. There was always more blood to be shed. There was always somebody else that needed to be forgiven. And so, priests who worked 24 hours around the clock, who worked in shifts, they never got to sit down when they were doing the work, because their work was never done. Now, let me just tell you something. Priests get tired. I'm telling you right now. And don't I'm not complaining when I say this. When I walk, I'm usually the last person that leaves, walks off this campus, when this service, when we leave. I'm usually the last. I was the last person that walked to my car last week.

Can I tell you something? I'm worn out. I'm tired. I mean, I, you know, I've about tripled the number of words I say in a given day. And I've got such a wonderful wife. She does me such a big favor. You know what happens? We go home, you know what she does? She goes to bed. She takes a nap. It's wonderful. It's blessing. It's such a blessing. Now she doesn't know that I put sleeping pills in her coffee. She doesn't know that. Because when I get home, can I be honest, I don't want to talk to anybody. I'm talked out. I'm just, I'm drained. Ministry takes it out of you. And so, maybe for an hour, a couple hours, I don't really nap. I just want to just, comatose. I don't know if that's a word or not, but you know what I'm saying. I just want to veg out. Because I get tired. Priests get tired. But they could never sit down. Because their work was never done. But then you go over to Hebrews, and then you read this unbelievable passage.

"But when this priest," that is Jesus, "had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God," because he work was finished. 2,000 years ago, sin nailed Jesus to a cross. And death got Jesus in a strangle hold. And sin and death looked at Jesus and said, "You are finished". But Jesus took the sting out of death, and Jesus sapped the power out of the grave, and Jesus looked at sin and death and said, "I'm not finished. You're finished. It is finished. Now and forevermore". And what Jesus did in the last minutes of his life, we can do as well. So make sure when your life is over, you can look up to a father that loves you and called you to finish your walk, and to finish his will, and finish your work, and you can say, "Mission accomplished".
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