The Gospel of King Jesus
Tony delivered this sermon at Crystal Cathedral Hour of Power in Garden Grove, CA on November 27, 2011
Two thousand years ago, Jesus was born. You know that. Two thousand years ago, God broke into history and He lived among us. And we beheld His glory.
At Eastern University, where I teach, I often ask my students, “Can you explain why Jesus came?” I get a multiplicity of good answers. One that comes up first and foremost is that He came to reconcile us to God, to go to Calvary’s cross and take upon Himself the punishment for all the sins that we committed. He came to give us salvation, even though we don’t deserve it.
I love that play by Lorraine Hansberry, “Raisin in the Sun.” In the story of an African American family, set in Brooklyn during the horrible days of Brooklyn, the father dies and he leaves a small legacy, I think it’s about $10,000, and everybody has plans for the money. Beneatha, the daughter, wants to use the money to go to medical school. The mother has ideas about buying a little house over in New Jersey and she always imagined flower boxes in front of the windows. And then there’s the son who said, “I’ve never had a chance. Could you give me the money? I have a friend and we’ll go in business together, and we’ll make something of ourselves. With this money, I will have a chance to be a businessman and make something good for everybody in the family.”
Against her better judgment, the mother gives the boy the money. Of course his so-called friend is not a friend, and leaves town with the money, leaving him behind with nothing. When he comes home and announces his failure to his family, Beneatha yells at him and tells him what a loser, what a ne’er-do-gooder he is.
He’s a failure in every respect, but the mother speaks and she says to her daughter, “I thought I told you to love him.’”
Beneatha responds, saying, “Love him? There’s nothing left to love.”
And the mother says, “There’s always something left to love, and if you ain’t learned that, you ain’t learned nothing. When do you think it’s time to love somebody? When he’s done good? When he’s made things easy for everybody? You think that’s the time? Well that’s not the time at all. The time to love somebody is when they’re at their lowest because the world’s done whipped him so. Mark yourself, child, mark yourself.”
We’ve got a God who loves us, not just when we’re riding high, but when the world has whipped us. When we’re feeling lower than can be imagined, He comes to us in our hours of need, and He tells us that He loves us. And you say, “You don’t understand, Tony. The things that I’ve done, the life I’ve lived, it’s not possible for God to love me.”
When I was a student at Eastern University where I now teach, I had an English teacher, J. Wesley Ingles. I remember running across campus because I was late for class. I rushed in and I took my seat in the front row, trying to catch my breath. Dr. Ingalls looked at me and said, “Mr. Campolo, would you please lead us in prayer?”
Still gasping for breath, I said, “Dear Lord, I thank You that You love us in spite of the fact that we are so worthless.”
My professor broke into the prayer, saying, “Just a minute! Mr. Campolo, you are not worthless. You are unworthy. You are not worthless. Jesus loves you so much that if you were the only person who ever lived in time in history, He would have died just for you. You are infinitely valuable. Though unworthy, you may continue the prayer.” Somehow it took the edge off of it for me.
I have a friend in Philadelphia; he was one of the most prominent Pentecostal ministers in the city. He had built a huge congregation, and at the peak of his career, he became sexually involved with some woman and everything fell apart. I called him shortly after that and asked, “Would you like to have lunch together? I’d like to talk to you.” He agreed, we met, and I asked said to him, “Well, Bill, do you go to church?”
He said, “No.”
“Do you pray?”
“Do you read the bible?”
“Not really, not very often.”
“Well, where do you get any help for your spiritual life in these dark days?”
He said, “The truth is, I listen to the Hour of Power. I listen to Robert Schuller.”
I was stunned at that and I said, “You watch Robert Schuller?”
He said, “Tony, when you’ve been where I’ve been, when you’ve messed up like I’ve messed up, you don’t need some preacher to condemn you for your sin. You need somebody who can tell you there are still possibilities.” And that’s the Good News of the Gospel.
I don’t care where you’ve been, I don’t care what you’ve done, Jesus came into the world to assure you that it’s not over till it’s over. He came into the world to tell you that there’s a new life waiting for you. There are always possibilities because we’ve got a God who specializes in taking what is broken and fixing it again. On Calvary’s cross, He took care of your sin. And He expressed His love on Calvary because “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” He calls us His friends. As we celebrate Christmas we remember that he also came to give us joy. We sing “Joy to the World!”
Not far from the Crystal Cathedral is Disneyland. I took my boy there when he was eight years old, and we spent the whole day having a marvelous time. When it was the hour to leave, he said, “I want to take one more ride on Space Mountain.”
I said, “It’s late and it’s time to go.”
He said, “God wants me to go!”
I asked, “God wants you to take one more ride on Space Mountain?”
He said, “Yes. The last time I was on the ride, I was really happy, and I was screaming for joy. And you know, I think that Jesus was screaming for joy right along with me. So, I think He would like me to have one more ride on Space Mountain.”
Indeed, that’s the truth, isn’t it? God wants you to experience His joy because He is so empathetic with you. When you’re sad, He’s sad. When you suffer, He suffers. When you’re full of joy, He’s full of joy. And that’s why He says, “I have come that My joy might be in you and that your joy might be full.”
He came for joy but very seldom do my students ever come up with this answer, which is the best answer. Interestingly enough, He came to fulfill His promises to the people of Israel. Check it out. Read these sermons that the apostles preached. All through the book of Acts, you’ll read their sermons and in every one of them, they say He came to fulfill the promises made to the children of Israel. He promised them a Messiah. He promised them somebody who would come into the world and set the world right. He promised them a King who would reorder things and make things as they ought to be.
We need Christ to be King. We need to surrender to His kingship. He came to establish a people who would establish a kingdom.
If you study the Bible, you’ll find that all through the Bible God was trying to establish His kingdom. With Adam and Eve, He wanted a people who will be obedient to Him, who would live out His will to bring justice and love into the world, but Adam and Eve failed. Out of the human race, He chose Abraham and asked him to start a new nation of people who would live out love and justice and bring love and justice to the world that is lost, but Israel failed. He chose out of Israel what Jeremiah called a remnant to do the same thing. They failed.
But then, it gets down to Jesus and in Jesus the kingdom comes. In Jesus, we find one who lives out the will of God perfectly. Jesus creates a new Israel, which is the church, and it’s the church’s responsibility to transform the world in the name of Jesus.
How is He going to do it? How’s God going to change the world? He came into the world to establish His Lordship over all that goes on. How’s He going to do it? His answer is an answer that puts great responsibility on us. He decided to do it by creating a people, a kingdom people, who would live out His love and justice, who would bring His plans for humanity to the rest of the world. These people would, first of all, be people who would take His Son Jesus seriously, and take the teachings of Jesus seriously.
One of my students from Eastern University, at the national youth workers convention, stood up and said, “You’re about to hear the greatest sermon ever preached.” Needless to say, the fifteen thousand youth workers that were there looked at each other skeptically, thinking, “The greatest sermon ever preached? We’re going to hear that right now?” Then my student opened the Bible and read the Sermon on the Mount. When he finished, he said, “We all agree, don’t we? That was the greatest sermon ever preached.” He paused and continued, “But we all thought He was only kidding. We’re not going to take Him seriously.” You say that’s shocking.
How many of us take the words of Jesus seriously? Sell what you have. Give to the poor. Show mercy. Do you really think we should love our enemies? Jesus said, “Love your enemies,” didn’t He?
You think that this is radical stuff, that it’s dangerous stuff. It’s about time we face the fact that Jesus never played it safe. It’s about time that we realize that they didn’t put Him on the cross because He said nice things, but because He said dangerous things. Dangerous things include loving your enemies, forgiving those who have hurt you, forgiving those who made life hard for you. Are you ready to take the words of Jesus, the teachings of Jesus seriously? A people that would do that are kingdom people.
The second thing is that they are people who will be able to find Jesus in those who are called the least of these. In the twenty fifth chapter of Matthew, He says, “Whatever you do to the least of these, you do to Me.” Are you able to find Jesus in the least of these?
A friend of mine is a pastor of a church in the Midwest. It’s an inner city church, and they run a soup kitchen every day of the week. The people in the soup kitchen started coming to worship on Sunday. It’s a very a wealthy and prestigious church, and one of the deacons of the church said, “Pastor, I think we need to have a separate service for those people. You know, they are dirty and smelly and I think we need a separate service for them.”
And my friend said, “I don’t think so, because I believe everybody should have a chance to meet Jesus face to face.”
The deacon said, “I believe that, too, but can’t we have a separate service?”
He said, “I’m not talking about them, I’m talking about you.”
When you look into the face of those who are in need, if you are filled with the presence of Christ, if you have surrendered to Christ, if Christ is a living presence in you, when look into their faces, you will see Jesus staring back at you, and you won’t be saying in the depths of your being, whatever I do to this person, I do to Him.
Andrew Young, the onetime mayor of Atlanta, Georgia, decided to dress up in raggedy clothes, go out on the streets, and be homeless for three days to see and experience what the homeless experience. The people on his staff said, “It’ll never work. They’ll recognize you. You’re so well known they’ll recognize you. It won’t work.” Three days later, he came back and they asked him, “Well, how did it go? Did people recognize you?”
And with great sadness, Andrew Young said, “Nobody recognized me because nobody looks into the faces of the homeless.”
I look at my own life and I think of how I also turned the other way. I don’t want to see them, I don’t want to confront them, I don’t want to meet them, and Jesus encourages us that, if you don’t want to meet them and love them and minister to them, don’t think you can have a relationship with Me. “Whatever you do to the least of these, you do to Me.”
The last thing is this: “As many as are led by the Spirit of Christ, they are the children of God.” That’s what it says in the book of Romans. So we’re talking about kingdom people. Kingdom people who take the words of Jesus seriously and live them out. Kingdom people who look into the faces of the lost and the last and the least and sense that Jesus is waiting to be loved in them. Kingdom people who are led by the Spirit of the resurrected Christ. He is alive. He is alive.
Are you willing to do the things that Jesus would have you do? Do you feel Him leading you? Do you sense Him prompting you? Do you feel Christ as a living presence directing you?
I was speaking at Ocean City, New Jersey at the great tabernacle there, and two days later, a 68-year-old woman called me on the phone and said, “I heard you speak and you talked about the need for missionaries to go and work in your programs in Haiti. I’m volunteering.” The team I have down there are a bunch of young guys and women in their twenties and thirties, and an elderly woman was not exactly their cup of tea.
I called down and I said, “What’ll I do? She wants to come and be with you.”
They said, “Tell her that we’re back in the hills and the only way we get around is on a motorcycle. We each have a motorcycle and that’s the only transportation to the villages that we need to get to, so tell her it won’t work.”
So I told her that she would have to be able to ride a motorcycle to be able to volunteer. Six weeks later, she called back, all joyful and said, “I just finished my last motorcycle lesson.” And the good news is she went to Haiti and served faithfully for Jesus Christ, prompted by the Spirit.
Do you ever have urges that say, “This is what I ought to do? This is what I ought to give. This is how I ought to sacrifice.” And something within you counters that urging, calling you to play it safe. Play it safe. Play it safe.
Don’t play it safe.
Soren Kierkegaard, one of the greatest philosophers and theologians of a couple generations ago says we’ve interpreted the parable of the talents all wrong. It’s the parable where a certain man goes on a journey and gives to one ten talents, to one five talents, to one only one talent. The guy with the ten talents invests it and comes out with ten talents more. The one with five talents invests it, and makes five talents more. The guy with the one talent doesn’t invest, but buries it in the ground. When the master returns, he is the one who is punished.
Now I always thought that parable was about utilizing the gifts that God has given you. Soren Kierkegaard says we’ve missed the point if we think that.
What if the one with the one talent had taken the talent and invested it, trying to use it effectively so as to bring benefit to the master. What if when the master returned he said, “Master, I took what you gave me and I spent it all, hoping to do something wonderful for you. I risked everything you gave me for you, and for your kingdom, and it didn’t work out. I failed.”
Kierkegaard said, “Do you think for one moment that the master would have punished the man? Don’t you see,” asks Soren Kierkegaard, “the punishment for the one-talent man was not that he didn’t do anything with the one talent, but he refused to take the risks on behalf of the master?”
There’s something God wants you to do, there’s something God wants me to do, and there are risky things that God calls us to do. Unless you’re willing to risk it all for Jesus, you’re not a kingdom person. These are the teachings of the Scripture.
One thing more: The Sermon on the Mount ends with these words: Jesus says, “If you hear My words, and if you obey them and live them out, you will be like a house planted on the rock. And when the winds blow and the storms come, you won’t collapse. But if you don’t listen to Me, if you don’t become one of My people, the house will collapse.”
I am here to say that what Jesus promises is not that the winds and the storms won’t hit you. Please read the words of Jesus. The storms hit both the house that’s built on the rock and the house that’s built on the sand. The difference is this: The house that’s built on the rock has the strength to endure. To endure. To triumph over the tragedies that life offers us. All of us will face tragedies. Don’t give up. If you trust in God, if you live out His will, if you do what He calls you to do and be, when the winds blow and the storms beat upon you, you won’t collapse because your house, your life is built on the rock and the name of that rock is Jesus Christ.
Keywords: Andrew Young mayor, Atlanta, Bill, Brooklyn, Disneyland, Eastern University, elderly woman, Friend, Gospel, greatest sermon ever preached, Haiti, homeless, J. Wesley Ingles, Joy, King, Kingdom, Lorraine Hansberry, love, Matthew 25, motorcycle, National Youth Workers Convention, New Jersey, Ocean City, Parable of Talents, Pentecostal, Philadelphia, philosopher, Raisin in the Sun, Risk, Robert Schuller, rock, Romans, Sermon on the Mount, Soren Kierkegaard, theologian, unworthy, worthless
Reference ID: 11272011 Video