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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Mike Novotny » Mike Novotny - Don't Give Up on Jesus

Mike Novotny - Don't Give Up on Jesus

Mike Novotny - Don't Give Up on Jesus
TOPICS: What Was I Thinking?

Like, Jesus would tell crowds of people, "Hey, before you follow me, before you're all in, before you surrender your heart, do you know the cost"? Now, Jesus didn't mean that you had to pay him like, to get into the Christian club you don't buy your salvation. Nor did he mean if you do enough like really good things, and you become a good enough person then you'll be a part of the heavenly father's family. Jesus was simply saying like, "I'm going this way in the direction of my father and if you follow me this way, you can't go that way. And so, whatever was over here, if you're keeping in step with me, if you're following me as a Christian, you're not going to be able to have me and that at the same time".

And the more I think really honestly and candidly about that, about the stuff you have to give up to become a Christian, the more I get why lots of people would rethink their total commitment to the name of Jesus. Jesus commanded, he insisted, and he clearly taught, that we should love God more than anything else. Like, not just have this relationship with God on the side, but love God so much that if God said something, that would matter more than all the other things that are said. Like, what I feel, what I think, what I desire, where my friends are at, what my culture said, what my parents taught me. Jesus had this very clear teaching, I want you to love God with your whole heart, your whole mind, your whole soul, and your whole strength.

So, if there's ever a conflict pick God, repent, change your mind about the order, and seek first the things of God. And that might sound like, "Sure, yeah love God," but think what that means. That means when you're in a relationship and like there's been nothing catastrophic, or traumatic, or abusive, you're just not happy. And yeah, God brought you together in one, and you took the vows, but you just have no passion, no desire, no connection. To love God, and to trust his word means, it means that you stay. It means you don't just follow your heart, and you only got one life to live. What God has joined together, it's just a couple specific circumstances, what God has joined together let no one separate. That's the high cost.

If you're a husband in a marriage right now and you don't feel very respected like just the intimacy is gone, and things are un... Do you know what loving God means? It means you love her today like she was a perfect wife. Right, husbands love your wives as much as Christ loved the church. Doesn't say love your wives if they're being great to you today. He said, "Love them". It doesn't say "love your wives if," you know, you've had really great kind of physical connection recently, you just love them. Give, sacrifice, serve. It is much, much easier to be like, "You know, I'll meet you halfway let's kind of compromise". But like total handing over myself to love you. Or when there's tension with someone at school or at work and all of your friends are like, "They're such an idiot, and they're so stupid. I can't believe they did those things".

You know what loving God looks like? You love your enemy, like their sin doesn't become an excuse for your sin, you turn the other cheek, you serve them. You let your light shine, just like Jesus did for his enemies. And if you've ever had someone who's like annoying you in class, or someone who's not very kind to you at work that just, that is so not what your heart feels and wants. And just every day to try to humble yourself and serve someone who simply does not deserve it. So, here's the question, when the full total of that cost hits you, maybe for the first time in your life where the cross of following Jesus feels so heavy that you just, you think like you can't, what will you think? Or maybe if you're thinking of someone you love right now who used to go to church, but now they don't, or they used to be passionate about Jesus and now they're not. It's like if you talk to them this week what would you say to them to get them to think again?

As you ponder those questions there's something I need you to know today. Did you know that there is an entire part of the Bible, an entire book of the Bible that is written about this very thing? There's one of the 66 books in the Bible that was specifically written to a group of people who were Christians, but were like this close from rethinking their relationship with Christ. That book is in your New Testament, and it is called the book of Hebrews. In the book of Hebrews, we meet a group of Christians who were fired up when they first heard about Jesus, but now things were getting really hard. It was costing them socially, it was costing them relationally, it was costing them financially. The book mentions like, "Yeah, you might have to shed your blood and actually die and be a martyr for your faith". And these Christians were thinking, "I don't know if I want to do that".

And so, the author of the book of Hebrews, we don't exactly know who it is, some people think the apostle Paul, or Barnabas the early Christian, but we're not sure who. He writes this letter and it's 13 chapters of one persuasive case to get people to stay Christian. Now today I'm not going to be able to read all 13 chapters to you. It's amazing, if you're struggling with your faith, you should read it. But today I just want to study one verse and give you one big idea, for that moment when you feel the weight, the cost of discipleship. So, you don't make Christianity part of your past, but part of your present, and your eternal future. So, let me give you the big idea up front, if you're taking notes, write this down. The book of Hebrews essentially says this, "When you are rethinking Jesus, think about Jesus".

When you are rethinking Jesus, think about Jesus. When you're rethinking Christianity because you're focused on, you know, sexuality, or marriage, or divorce, or forgiveness, or when you're caught up in all that stuff and you're about to bail, you're about to leave that is the moment that we need to think, think, think, think, think about Jesus himself. And I want to try to teach you all of that in a single verse from the glorious book of Hebrews. Hebrews 3:1 here's what it says, "Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest". He doesn't just say, you know, "Think about Jesus on occasion or if it's Christmas or Easter go to church and think about Jesus". No, they said, there's like an intensity and an intentionality, fix it, if you're struggling, you're about to bail, fix your thoughts on Jesus.

Don't act like Jesus is just another thing you're just scrolling through, no, stop the scroll, click on the link, and stare at that screen. So, let's practice this together, look up at me for one second. On the count of three I want you to glance at that cross over there. Let's pretend that's Jesus, I want you to glance at that cross as fast as you can and the look right back at me, alright you ready? One, two, three Right, the author of the Hebrews knows that if that's what your faith is like, you're in trouble. If I wanted to be a cheesy pastor I would say, "If all you got is a glance, you don't stand a chance". But I'm not a cheesy pastor so don't write that down. Alright, like if all you have is, "Oh, yeah, you know, I pray when someone has cancer". That's not enough. Or, "I say a prayer, I say grace before Thanksgiving dinner". Hmm, that's not enough. Or, "I go to church on Mother's Day, or Christmas Eve, or Easter".

Like, how you... you're getting a little bit of Jesus, but you're not going to get enough of Jesus to like help you endure and persevere when the difficulty comes. "So instead," the author says, "Holy brothers and sisters fix your thoughts on Jesus". So, let's try again, this time on the count of three I want you to look at the cross of Jesus and we're going to stare at it for 15 straight seconds, no blinking allowed, are you ready? Alright, let's do it together, one, two, three... fifteen. Did something happen when you did that? Like, you blinked? Thanks for being honest, bud. I think when I looked at that cross for fifteen seconds, when I didn't just glance at it, I think I noticed things about it. Right, that I noticed the nails, I noticed the stains of blood, I noticed the crown of thorns. When you don't just glance, when you fix your thoughts, you see things you didn't see before, moving things, beautiful things.

And here in this passage the author is doing the exact same thing he said, "Holy brothers and sisters, fix your thoughts on Jesus whom we acknowledge as our apostle and our high priest". His friends are about to leave the faith, they're about to bail, he's like, "Hey, when you think about Jesus don't forget, don't forget Jesus is our apostle and our high priest". I want you to write this down, these are two things I don't want you to forget today either. Number one, that we think about Jesus as our apostle. It's actually kind of an odd phrase, now maybe some of you have heard of the 12 apostles, the 12 guys, Peter, James, John and the company that Jesus sent out. The Greek word apostle, you might want to write this down, just literally means sent out. It's a Greek word, Apostolo, Apo means out, Stolo means sent. Apostolo, apostle means sent out.

So, what are we going to call these 12 guys that Jesus sent out? Someone who wasn't good at marketing or very creative said, "Sent out guys". In Greek that's apostle. So, we think of the 12 apostles, but it's kind of a unique title for Jesus that he is our apostle. It's like the capital A, Apostle. Because think of Jesus, he's the son of God, he's up in heaven with the father and the spirit. Life is perfect, there's no suffering, there's no crown, there's no cross, there's no nails, but what does the father do? He sends him out. Jesus was sent out on this great mission out of great love and compassion for you and for me. Seeing our desperate situation that we could not fix, Jesus was apostled, He was sent out in love. And what exactly was he apostled to do?

Well, that's the second thing I want you to write down, that we think about Jesus being sent out to be our high priest. This is maybe the biggest idea in the book of Hebrews. There are, I think, four entire chapters of the 13-chapter book devoted to this one thing, "Before you give up your Christianity, think, think, think that Jesus is your high priest". Now, warning, full disclosure what I'm about to say is like the AP level Bible class so, if this is your first time in church, if you're one of our guests we love you. If you're watching at home and you stumbled across this online or on TV, we love you too. If this goes a bit over your head that's totally okay, this is really contextual, but the Hebrews were Jewish, so, they totally got this. Many of us are not Jewish, so we might not totally get this, but let me try my best.

What is a high priest? If you start from the beginning of the Bible and read it straight through, you would come pretty quickly to this church that God himself designed called The Temple. A few years ago, my friend Tom created his own picture of the temple. It looks like this. So, in Jerusalem, in the days of Jesus there was this massive, massive structure, massive courtyard, many football fields like wide, It's in the Bible and you might find this like the boring part the first time you try to read it, you know, God is saying, "I want you to make this room and that room. And it's supposed to be, you know, this wide and this tall, and this deep. And I want you to have this candlestick over here, and this table over here". And you're reading it wondering, "Whoa, why is God building a church"? And the reason God had designed this church was essentially so that you and I could see things, and believe things that we couldn't otherwise see.

So, let me show you a second picture and tell you what I mean. Inside the temple in the first room, God has this giant candlestick that was constantly lit because he was trying to teach people, "I'm your light. I'm constant, I'm never extinguished. People come, people go. Your dad's there for you, then he's not. You're best friends, and then she moves away. Like friendships, relationships are extinguished, but I'm God. I'm constant, I'm eternal, I'm ever-present and I bring warmth, and life, and love. You can see, you're not stumbling in the dark, you're not afraid. I am the light of the world," Jesus would say. And there was this table where they would put out stacks of fresh bread every single day, it was like a physical way of God saying, "Just like your body needs daily bread to survive, I'm your spiritual food". Right? "Every single day my mercy is fresh and new. You want forgiveness, you want to get along, you want a place in this world. That's what I'm providing for you day, after day, after day".

And there was this golden altar of incense in the back, some of you remember this, right? And it would burn incense and the smoke would waft up to heaven and smell sweet. Why did God want that in his church? Well, because you can't see it, but your prayer reaches him and it's sweet to him. And each of those things is a whole sermon in and of itself, I'm not going to go there because what I want to talk to you about is that big, big curtain, angels stitched into it. Purple, and gold, and red, that hung right behind that altar of incense. And there was a reason, a very good reason that God hung the curtain. It was a physical way of God saying to you and to me, "We're different. Like back here is the most holy place where I, the most holy God live, but you, you're not most holy or more or less holy, you're people, not God. Back here in my presence there is no sin, because I am the sinless God. I am 100% holy, but out there are not sinless people, they're people who sin in so many different ways".

In those same chapters of the Old Testament God said, "I want you to appoint one man who on one day every year," called the day of atonement, "Will bring the blood of an innocent sacrifice behind the curtain". No one else could do it, no other day could it be done. One day, one man, innocent blood was shed, and it was sprinkled in the presence of God and that was God's way of saying, "If you can do that, the sacrifice brought by a high priest you and I don't have to be separated, we can be at one". Think of the word atone, at one. No separation, no division, sinful people, sinless God can be at one if a high priest brings the blood. Is the light bulb going on just yet? "Fix your thoughts on Jesus whom we acknowledge as our apostle and our high priest".

What would that have meant? It meant Jesus is the one. Two thousand years ago there was one man, Jesus of Nazareth who on one day, a day that we call Good Friday, went behind the curtain. He went into the presence of God with an offering to give innocent blood, but it wasn't the blood of a lamb, or a bull, or a goat, it was his own blood. Jesus was willing to shed his blood, to give up everything that he had to be the ultimate sacrifice to pay for all of our sins. It was his way, by the shedding of his own blood to make you and God one again. "He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins," the Bible says, "For the sins of the whole world". So that you don't have to wonder, "If God is far away or if God is mad, or if there's division, or a separation. Are you going to make it to heaven? Is God in my life? Is he walking with me? I feel like he's..."

If you have the blood of Jesus, the ultimate sacrifice, you have God, and apart from Jesus, you do not. Only Jesus can shed his holy blood to make those who believe in him holy. Think about that. If you hold on to Jesus, you have God now and forever. If you let him go, you don't. And you might get the trinkets, or the treasure, or the easier life that's here if you leave Jesus behind, but without Jesus, without the high priest, without the blood, there is no God. It's the promise that Jesus made to his friends, "You're going to have to leave stuff behind. You're going to have to carry a cross, this will be hard, but if you follow me to my cross, I will bring you into the presence of God". You can have him now, today, tomorrow, on your deathbed, and forever. This is what I'm offering to you.

"I am the way, Jesus said, And the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father except through me". And on the day that Jesus died do you know what happened to that curtain? The Bible says that, "The curtain itself," the moment Jesus died on the cross, "Was ripped and torn from top to bottom". A miraculous way of God saying, "There's no separation, there's no division. Through the blood of Jesus, you and I are good again". Or maybe I could demonstrate it this way. Here's my friend Chad, I'm going to try not to get hurt, one, two, three... yep, ooh. Nailed it.

Let's imagine for a second, we were worried that that was going to go terribly wrong. Let's imagine for a second that it's a mop handle, this is Jesus, let's imagine that this part is all the stuff about Jesus that is really hard. Like being part of organized religion with complicated people, and imperfect pastors, and you get hurt, like that's the hard part. Or Biblical sexuality, or forgiveness for someone who hurt you, or stuff about marriage, gender, money, whatever it is. Like, this is the really hard part. And this is the part you really like, forgiveness of my sins, shame gone, guilt's gone, not afraid to die, know that I'm going to heaven, know that God is my heavenly father. Like there's a hard part to Jesus, there's a beautiful part to Jesus.

And here's what you can't do with Jesus. You can't snap Jesus in two and throw out the hard parts and just hold on to this nice part. You either have Jesus or you don't. But have you ever tried to balance one of these on your hand? Do you know what happens if you look here? I'm going to try my best, three, two, one, go. I was trying. Do you know what happens? Same guy, same arm, same Jesus, if I don't look there, but I look there. Three, two, one, go. How about that, huh? Alright. Alright, it's not easy, but you can do it. In fact, you can do it for a long time. Friends, this is God's way of saying, "Don't just focus on the law of God, focus on the love of God. Don't just focus on the hard parts, focus on the holy and beautiful parts of following Jesus".

If you think about what you're giving up, you'll give up Jesus. If you think about what you're getting, you'll have Jesus and you won't let him go, alright? This is essentially what the book of Hebrews is about, like it's going to be hard I'm not going to lie to you. No, you can't get rid of the hard parts, you can't cross out Bible passages. You either have him or you don't. But if you think about what he's giving to you, like you just have to look in the mirror and try to convince yourself you're a great person. You can be honest and know, "But I'm holy, and I'm forgiven, and I'm loved, and I'm going to be with God". And there is no doubt, if you fix your thoughts on Jesus, as your apostle, your high priest, your savior, you won't give him up because it's Jesus. Let's pray:

Dear God, I know the devil is so good at his job. I see it everywhere in our culture today, just small reasons on a scale of eternity become reasons that people walk away. And they lose touch, and they drift, and they don't even know it. And they embrace sin, and they think they're good, and they're not. And so, God I pray that we could resist the lies of the enemy today. I pray that you would help us to believe, and to think, and to know that these words are true. Help us to fix our thoughts on Jesus. Lord, I know there are people right here, right now who aren't followers of Jesus just yet. I pray that today's honesty will draw them a step closer, and I pray that the beauty of the name of Jesus would cause them to cross that line and become followers too. God help us to be honest as a church. Help us not to lie, or deceive, or skip important parts of the Bible just because they're not popular. Help us not to be people who try to please others instead of pleasing you and your will. And heavenly father, more than anything, I pray that we could encourage each other, to remind one another in this place that this life is not the point. The point is seeing the face of our heavenly father, getting through the curtain, and rejoicing in his presence forever. It's possible because of Jesus. It's guaranteed through Jesus. So, God help us always, always, always to hold on to Jesus. It's in his name that we pray, (and all of God's people said) amen.

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