Sermon delivered July 16, 2011 by Norman Bassett

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Life in a Look

John 3: 14,15

(RealAudio Version available)

There is no hope, there is no purpose, there is no meaning and there is no life apart from Jesus Christ.  Do you believe that?  There is no hope, there is no purpose, there is no meaning and there is no life apart from Jesus Christ.  There is a trend in Christianity today that reduces Jesus Christ to an advisor or a coach.  I pray that never happens in the Adventist church, and that Scripture becomes just an instruction manual. 

We find instruction, that is true, but the Scripture is about God and what he is like.  It is about his plan to save his people who are dying.  This is the planet of death.  This is the planet where there are graves.  Death, he says, is my great enemy.  It is our great enemy, is it not?  And yet there is this trend to make Jesus into some kind of an advisor or some kind of a coach, and that if you will do these things, then you will have a prosperous life.  That's what we're being told.  You will be a success.  Prosperous and successful, if you will only follow these steps, and you can become a better person.  You have it in you. 

Well I have bad news for you.  You cannot become a better person on your own.  Sure, you can do some things, right?  You have a strong will, and you can do some things, but you can not become a better person.  You cannot redeem yourself.  There is only one who can redeem us and that is Jesus Christ.  Isn't that right?  You see, the bad news is that sin is a condition and we are in a sinful condition.  It doesn't make any difference how much I try, how hard I try to overcome sin.  I cannot overcome it.  You see, what sin is is a condition.  If I can say, yes, I have overcome this and that, but we are in a sinful condition.  No matter how much I say that I have climbed the ladder of perfection, that I I'm doing pretty good now, I'm really working harder at it; I am still in a sinful condition. 

Because you see, no matter what I do with my hands, the sins that I have committed with my hands, the sins that I have committed in my mind, no matter what I do.  There are sins of omission, things that you don't do that you should do.  And ministers,  we do a lot of that.  At least I did.  There's things that I should have done that I didn't do.  I have failed people.  Failed family members.  How about you?  You see that I am still in a sinful condition and who will deliver me from this sinful condition? 

When Adam and Eve sinned, our first parents, they chose a new reality, and that reality is the realm or the domain of sin and death.  They chose not to trust God.  Sin is a trust issue?  Salvation is a trust issue.  So there we are.  Sin is the condition that we find ourselves in, and no matter how hard we try, no matter how hard we want to be more spiritual, we find ourselves still in a sinful condition. 

Who can get us out of this mess?  It is none other than Jesus Christ.  Isn't that right?  It's Jesus who can deliver us.  Who can change us.  You see, this is the good news, dear people.  This is the good news, but we're being told, all you have to do is to accept this list of things to do and you will become more prosperous.  You'll become more successful.  You'll become a better person because it's all within you.  God has planted this inside you.  I tell you, there is nothing planted in us except God has wired us for communication with him.  That's all.  But we are in a sinful condition.  You see, I am a mixture of good and evil.  All of humanity, we are a mixture of good and evil.  Who can get us out of this mess?  I can't deliver myself.  I can't redeem myself, but only one can redeem me, and that is Jesus Christ. 

Listen to what it says in Jeremiah 13:23.  He says, can an Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots?  Neither can you do good who are accustomed to do evil.  I have heard tele-evangelists say that, you know, if we are really doing all that we can do, and we're trying the hardest we can to do what's right, in the end God looks at our heart and that's what he judges us by.  Listen, I don't want God looking at my heart.  I want him to look at Jesus' heart.  I don't want him to look at me and what I have done, but I want him to look at what Jesus has done for me.  That is the key.  Look at Jeremiah 17:9.  What does it say?  The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can understand it?  There's only one way out and that is to look to Jesus Christ. 

Look at numbers 21:8 and 9.  You know the story.  The Israelites were going around Moab on their way to the land of promise, and there were serpents that began to bite them because they rebelled against the Lord.  They began to complain.  Why have you led us out here?  We have no food.  We have no water.  We're starving to death.  We have nothing to drink.  Complainers.  Then God sent the poisonous serpents and they bit them and many of them died and they came to Moses and said, Moses, we have sinned against God.  Please intervene for us.  Speak to him about this problem.  We promise we won't do this again.  Then in verse eight, the Lord said to Moses, make a snake and put it up on a pole.  Anyone who was bitten can look at it and live.  So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole.  Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived. 

This, dear people, was not just a thoughtless glance, but it was a long look at that serpent on the pole that brought salvation.  There were many who said, this is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard.  Do you think I'm going to believe that?  That I'm going to look at a snake on a pole and believe that God is going to save me.  That he's going to cure me.  He's going to heal me.  Some of them chose not to look, and they died.  But there were those who looked upon it and they were healed.  If we look to Jesus, we will be healed.  He is our salvation.  He is everything to us.

Look at John 3.  You're all very familiar with this story of Nicodemus.  Nicodemus came to Jesus at night.  I know that you must be someone sent from God because of all of these miracles.  Jesus came right to the point.  What Nicodemus's problem was.  He was a religious leader.  He knew the Scripture, and Jesus said, I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.  Jesus answered, I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and of the spirit.  Verse 10.  You are Israel's teacher, said Jesus, and do you not understand these things.  I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony.  I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe.  How then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things.  No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came down from heaven, the Son of Man.  Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.  Jesus must die on the cross.  That's what he was saying.  The Son of Man must die that you might have eternal life.  That's what it's all about.  Jesus has to be lifted up in order to bring life. 

Look at John 1:10.  He was in the world and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.  He came to that which was his own but his own did not receive him, yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become the children of God.  Children born, not of natural descent nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.  This is the power of the gospel.  This is the good news. 

You see, it's not, well what WOULD Jesus do?  It is what DID Jesus do?  Our morality comes from him.  It doesn't come from within ourselves.  We have nothing good in us.  Nothing.  You could take the most perfect human being you can find, Mother Teresa, whoever it was, she was still in a sinful condition.  She needed Jesus Christ as her savior, and all we need today is Jesus Christ.  That's what we need.  I can't change myself.  I can't.  Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots?  Well hey, I've got the potential to turn purple.  I can make myself purple.  You want green, I can make myself green.  It's ridiculous isn't it?  We can't change ourselves, but this comes from God. 

We don't go looking for him, he comes looking for us.  We are born under the curse of sin.  The decision was made in the garden of Eden and that decision was set and nobody could change it.  Death was ours.  We live in the domain of sin and death, but thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord, we have salvation.  We have the promise of eternal life, do we not?  We have it in Jesus Christ.  It doesn't come from my effort.  It doesn't come from my good works.  It omes all from Jesus Christ.  It is his righteousness that covers us.  It covers me.  I don't want God to look at me and see my righteousness, because Isaiah 64:6 says that all of my righteousness, all my good works are, what?  Filthy rags.  It's all they are.  That's all they are. 

I want Jesus' righteousness to cover me.  I want his righteousness to cover me.  Not just to cover me, but I want it to come into every fiber of my being.  The depths of my heart.  I want his righteousness.  I want his goodness.  When I look at Jesus I am indeed motivated.  I am motivated to live for him and to do his will, because you see, something happens when we give our life to Jesus. 

I want to look at Matthew 16.  As I said before, this does not come on our own volition.  We don't go looking for Jesus.  How is it that we believe in Jesus Christ?  Do we come by that because of our own study?  Because it's our own intellect and, yeah, it makes sense to me.  It doesn't make any sense.  It is foolishness to the world.  It is foolishness to the domain of sin and death.  Look what it says.  Matthew 16:13.  When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, who do people say the Son of Man is?  They replied, some say John the Baptist.  Others say Elijah, and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.  But what about you, he asked.  Who do you say I am?  And Simon Peter answered, you are the Christ, the son of the living God.  Now listen to what follows.  Jesus replied, blessed are you Simon son of Jonah for this was not revealed to you by man but by my father in heaven. 

You see what it is?  It is our heavenly father who loves you.  Who has revealed this truth to you.  Think of that.  Do you think that God doesn't love you?  Give it up because you can't escape the fact, God loves you.  He loves you.  That's why he has come and revealed this truth to you.  I want you to be with me, he says, through all eternity.  I love you so much  I want to save you.  You are so precious to me.  I cannot give you up. 

So he sends the Holy Spirit, Jesus says, and he will convict the world of what?  Of sin, and of righteousness.  We are convicted of sin.  What we are doing, the way we are living is not right.  There is something that is missing.  Who is doing that.  Do we come by it on our own?  No.  It is God who sends the Holy Spirit and he moves upon our hearts.  He convicts us of sin, but at the same time he convicts us of a way out.  Jesus Christ.  He reveals to us that Jesus Christ is who he said he was.  That he is the son of God.  He is Lord and Savior.  Some will say, well you must make Jesus Lord.  Jesus already is.  We can't make him Lord.  He already is Lord.  He already is our Savior.  We have to accept it.  It is a free gift. 

What we do is because we love him.  Anything that we do, any good works that we do is tainted with our selfishness.  You think I'm wrong?  Self.  That's what came into existence in the garden of Eden.  Selfishness.  That's what my Bible says.  It says that all my righteousness, my good works, are nothing more than filthy rags.  It doesn't mean anything. 

Look what happens, what does God do.  Look at Ezekiel 36.  Look what God actually does for us.  He does something very special when we respond to him.  When we give our life to him.  When we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior.  He does something.  He does something that is supernatural within us.  Look at Ezekiel 36:26.  I will give you a new heart and I will put a new spirit in you.  I will remove from you the heart of stone.  I will take it away, and give you a heart of flesh, and I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.  God does it all.  Notice what it says.  There is a re-creation that takes place, that is supernatural.  He puts a new spirit in you.  He says I've put MY Spirit in you. 

Doesn't God love us?  Don't question the fact.  Don't let the devil whisper in your ear, well God really doesn't love you.  Look at all the mistakes you keep making.  Look at the sins in your life.  God still loves you.  He knows that we are in a sinful condition.  He knows we are in trouble.  That's why he says, it is my righteousness that will cover you.  It is my goodness that covers you.  It is my good works, not your good works.  It is not what Jesus would do, but what Jesus actually did do for us, right?  It's all about Jesus.  It isn't about us. 

There is too much circulating in Christianity today and maybe even among some Seventh-day Adventist Christians that we are the gospel.  We are the gospel.  We are not the gospel.  I don't want people looking at me as an example, do you?  We've gone too far if we believe that one.  But Jesus is the good news.  I'm not good news.  This isn't about us.  It's all about the character of God.  That's what the great controversy is all about.  We are involved in it, but we are to help people to understand salvation.  This is the great gift. 

Now you can have that assurance.  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation, the old is gone and the new has come.  Second Corinthians 5:17.  We are a new creation.  God is involved in redeeming us.  Redemption.  That's what it's all about, and yes we do something every day.  We choose. 

I used to stand in the pulpit and I assumed that my people had already accepted Jesus.  So what was my mission.  What was my purpose?  What was I supposed to do now?  Well, I was to help them to live a more spiritual life and have a deeper and closer walk with Jesus.  To be more spiritual people.  Sermons like, you've got to get ready because Jesus is coming.  Get ready.  Should we not be in a state of readiness all the time?  If you are in Christ as he says in John 15, he is the vine and we are the branches.  If we are connected, we are in him.  Right?  We are in Christ and he is in us.  Why do we fear?  Why do we have anxiety? 

I remember as a young pastor, theologically I had it all right, but I did not have it inside.  Did not really understand.  Did not really grasp what the gospel was really, really about.  So I would preach sermons.  I'd say, all right, do you want to have a closer walk with Jesus?  Then I have five steps.  Five things for you to do.  I'd go through those.  But you know what?  I found myself trying to do that and I said, you know, I don't feel any more spiritual than I did before.  What's wrong?  Well, I guess I just need to try harder, right? 

You see, it's all becomes about us.  It isn't about us.  It's about Jesus Christ and what he has done for us.  We as Adventists have all kinds of programs, probably more than anybody else, programs and methods and steps and how to be a better Christian.  It's all in the Scripture. 

But if you're concentrating on that, you're concentrating on the wrong thing.  You need to behold Jesus.  Constantly, continually, keep looking at Jesus.  Fight the fight of faith.  Give up the fight of sin, because you will lose.  Fight the fight of faith.  Keep looking at Jesus.  Keep looking at him.  Believing in him.  Trusting in him and knowing that his righteousness covers you continually, all the time. 

Look at John 12:32.  But I, when I be lifted up, Jesus says, from the Earth, will draw all unto myself.  He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.  He will draw us to him.  What actually happened at the cross?  What really happened at the cross?  Mel Gibson, several years ago had the film, The Passion of Christ, and I've never seen it, I just read reviews.  I know some people who went to see it and they said it was just horrible.  The physical torture that Jesus went through.  People were moved by that, and rightly so.  But that wasn't what killed him.  What was it that killed him?  Did you know that there are people who are physically tortured more than that even today.  Not just for a day or two but tortured day in and day out.  Just begging to die.  Wanting to die. 

Listen, what happened at the cross was that Jesus was separated from his father.  He experienced the wrath of God.  That's the wrath of God.  Of being separated for eternity.  He felt that horribleness, so much so that he could not see through the portals of the tomb, but he trusted his father.  He felt such horrible separation that he said, father, father why do you forsake me.  My God, my God, why, why, why, do you forsake me, and he died. 

That death was your death and it was my death.  It was the death for all humanity.  Jesus died for every man, woman and child who has ever lived on this planet.  You understand this?  Think of it.  You love Jesus.  What would it be like to feel him separate himself from you.  For all eternity, and you are lost.  You don't exist anymore.  How horrible a scene it must have been if we had been there and seen that.  Jesus dying for us.  Taking upon himself the penalty of our sinful condition.  Our sins that we have committed, everything. 

Jesus did at all, and he made it possible for human beings to make a decision again.  And this time we can make the decision, we don't want to be in the domain of sin and death, but we want to be in the domain of life and of righteousness for eternity.  Think of that.  This is a free gift.  God gives it to all freely, and he is the one who comes and convicts the world of sin, he says, of individuals and he is the one who brings life and righteousness.  Jesus is the only one who had a pure heart.  He is the only one who was righteous.  We all are sinful, and we have no hope apart from Jesus. 

Look at John 3:16.  You have the assurance that God loves you and that God will be with you.  God loves you so much.  This is what it says.  For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  What's the next verse say?  For God sent not his son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.  You're not under any condemnation from God, dear people.  Not at this point.  If you are in Christ Jesus, then eternity is yours. 

Do you realize when you give your life to Jesus Christ, eternity starts for you.  Eternal life starts for you.  Not immortality, no.  Because we only receive immortality when Jesus comes and he gives us a new body, and then sin is completely destroyed and we are in Christ forever.  What a God we serve.  What a God we worship.  What a God he is.  It's all about him.  It's not about us.  We are not the gospel, but Jesus is the good news.  This is what we need to be about as Seventh-day Adventists.  We need to be proclaiming that to men and women and children all over.  There is good news.  There is hope for everyone. 

Look at First John 5.  I want you to know that you can be secure in Christ.  You should not be anxious about whether you're going to be saved or not.  You see, life is not yesterday.  It isn't tomorrow, but life is right this very minute.  Understand what I'm saying.  That is a very deep statement.  Life isn't yesterday.  You can't go back and redo yesterday.  You cannot go back into the past.  You cannot go into the future.  But life is right now.  None of us know what the next minute is going to hold.  None of us know what the next hour, the next week, the next month, the next year.  We don't know.  But life is right now. 

What did John say?  First John 5:13.  I write these things to you who believe in the name of the son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.  It says, that you might, what?  KNOW that you have eternal life.  If I were to ask you, right now, if you were to die would you be saved, how would you respond to that?  Would you say, I don't know.  Well maybe.  Could be.  I don't know, I'm going to have to wait until the investigative judgment is done, and then I'll just have to wait to see what resurrection I come up in.  The first resurrection unto life or the second unto death.  I don't really know. 

Do we really believe what Jesus said?  Do we really believe it?  If God said, do you really believe that you have eternal life when you accept Jesus as your Savior, would you say, well I don't know, or I hope so.  I'm really working very hard on it.  I know you're going to judge every act I've done.  Every work that I've done, you're going to be looking at it. 

Listen dear people.  The Scripture is plain on this.  That you might know that you have eternal life, Jesus said, in me.  Do you believe that?  Do you really believe it?  I'm not talking about tomorrow.  I'm not talking about next week, cause it's possible for us to be lost.  Don't take that away.  It is possible for us to make that choice to be lost. 

I want to look at John 10:27.  This is beautiful.  My sheep listen to my voice.  I know them and they follow me.  I give them eternal life and they shall never perish.  No one can snatch them out of my hand, Jesus says.  No one.  My father who has given them to me is greater than all.  No one can snatch them out of my father's hand and I and the father are one.  WHAT?  The father loves you.  Jesus constantly says, don't be afraid, does he not? 

Why are we so anxious?  Sometimes we are anxious about this.  Well I don't know whether I'm going to be saved or not.  Maybe I might be saved.  I'll just have to wait and see. 

This is not the kind of response that God wants.  If you are proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ, the good news is salvation in Jesus Christ.  It is eternal life through him, and only through him. 

If that's not the kind of assurance we have, then maybe we ought to be preaching a different kind of a gospel.  Maybe we ought to be saying, well you know, God might save you.  This is the good news.  God might save you.  Maybe he will.  We don't know.  We just ought to try really hard at it.  Is that the kind of good news it is? 

No!  Jesus is our Savior.  He is our righteousness and he boils it all down in John 17:3.  And this is life eternal, that they might know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.  You see, it is knowing God.  Understanding him, and yes, we come to an agreement with him that he is right.  He is right about his judgment against sin.  He hates sin, but he loves the sinner.  It's hard for us to distinguish the two, but he does.  He hates what sin has done to his children, and he says, this is eternal life.  To know God and Jesus Christ whom he has sent. 

How much clearer can that be?  Blessed are they, he says, who hunger and thirst after righteousness.  Do you know what that is?  How do you hunger and thirst for righteousness?  It's a hunger and thirst for God.  That's what it is.  A hunger and thirst for him.  He is everything.  This whole great controversy is more about him than us.  We are not the gospel.  He is the gospel.  We shouldn't be asking, what would Jesus do, but what DID Jesus do?  What did he do?  You are so precious to him.  You are so precious to Jesus that he cannot bear the thought of going through eternity without you.

Hymn of Praise: #36, O Thou in Whose Presence
Scripture: John 3: 14,15
Hymn of Response: #412, Cover With His Life

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Sermon at McDonald Road transcribed by Steve Foster 11/13/11