Important Responses
Various Passages
By Paul Robison

Does everybody have a bulletin this morning?  If you don't, please raise your hand, and you'll get one.  I'm going to ask you fill in some blanks, and if you will, I think you'll agree that you will have some valuable information.  Does the name Paul Harvey ring a bell with any of you?  Yes, he was that famous newscaster from Chicago who would usually broadcast during the noon hour.  One of his trademarks was telling us "The Rest of the Story".  He would take some current issue and then to an in-depth analysis while one element or personality would remain unknown.  Then at the end of that analysis, he would reveal that missing element or personality, and then would come his famous tagline: "And know you known the rest of the story."  This sermon is going to be kind of like Harvey's presentation.  You can see that this lesson is entitled "Important Responses", and we're going to be looking at about a dozen passages.  So let's begin.
The first passage is Matthew 19:20-21, a response that Jesus gave to a rich, young ruler: "The young man said to Him: 'All these things I have kept from my youth.  What do I still lack?'  Jesus said to him: 'If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.'  But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions."  "If you want to be perfect ..."  What did Jesus mean?  This is not the first time the word "perfect" has been used in Matthew.  Remember in the Sermon on the Mount how Jesus challenges his listeners to be perfect as God is perfect (Matthew 5:48)?  And do you recall how that sermon is designed to show us how one can have a righteousness that exceeds that of the Pharisees?  So, if this ruler wants to have that kind of righteousness, a righteousness that touches one's character and will, then this ruler had to do things.  First, he had to sell his possessions, then he had to distribute the income generated to the poor, and third, he had to join disciples and follow Jesus.  Now does this mean that people today must give up their possessions in order to become a Christian?  Let's let the Bible answer that question.  In Acts 10:24, did Cornelius, a Roman centurion, own his own home?  In Acts 12:12, did Mary, John Mark's mother, own her own home?  In Acts 21:8, did Philip, an evangelist, own his own home?  This shows that one doesn't have to sell all their possessions in order to become a Christian today.  But what does it teach?  An even more profound lesson.  Where was the rich young ruler putting his trust?  What was the god of his life?  His wealth.  Isn't Jesus teaching here that a person must give up whatever his or her god is in order to be His disciple?  The modern gods of fame, worldly pleasure, power, technology, status must be abandoned in order that Jesus alone can be followed.  So, Jesus' important response here is: "Give up your god and follow Me!"
Now look at Matthew 25:40: "And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."  This is the closing of a revelation given by Jesus about what will happen on Judgment Day.  Jesus is going to separate all mankind into two groups, which He calls the goats and the sheep.  The goats have lived their lives wickedly and selfishly; they did what they wanted and ignored others.  The sheep lived their lives righteously and unselfishly; they did what God wanted and served others.  God, a god Who is a righteous god, will accept forever those who have been righteous, but He will reject forever those who have been wicked.  Jesus says that the goats will hear these words: "Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels for you did not help Me."  What a sad, discomforting, and hopeless response that is!
The next passage is Luke 10:26-27: "And Jesus said to him: 'What is written in the law?  What is your reading of it?  So he answered and said: 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.'  And He said to Him:  'You have answered rightly; do this, and you will live.'"  Jesus' interesting response reveals several things: 1) Jesus turns this lawyer to God's word.  Our answers to our greatest questions can be found in God's word.  "Your reading of it" shows that Jesus wants all people to read God's Word, to interpret it properly, and to be unified in their understanding of it.  The inspired Scriptures can make a person perfect or complete, thoroughly furnished or equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16).  So the lawyer's response was basically: "Love God supremely with your whole being and love your neighbor as yourself."  "You have answered rightly."  In fact, on another occasion, Jesus used these same passages calling them the greatest commandments of the Old Testament.  Jesus and the lawyer had read the same Scriptures and come to the same conclusion.  God's will is not vague and difficult to understand.  We can all be unified by turning to the Scriptures!
Another response is seen in John 3:-14-15.  This is a response that Jesus was giving to a Jewish leader: "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up [an unmistaken reference to Jesus' crucifixion], that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life."  Moses points back to that incident in the Old Testament where the Jews grumbled, and God sent poisonous snakes to bite them.  Their only hope of salvation was provided when Moses placed a brass serpent upon a pole.  When the people looked upon the snake, they were healed.  This is why in the medical world, we often see a snake on a shaft.  In a similar way, Jesus was going to be lifted up on the cross.  Here people could see His love for God and His devotion to doing God's will, no matter what cost and suffering that might entail.  Here was the sacrificial Lamb of God that could take away the world's sins.  Looking at Him on the cross won't save us!  It didn't save the Pharisees who looked upon Him.  You see, we must believe that Jesus really is God's Lamb Who was sacrificed to bring about our purification!
Now look at John 6:53-54: "Then Jesus said to them: "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.  Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day."  When Jesus' first listeners, the Jews, heard these words, they were very difficult to understand.  In fact, they call is "a hard saying" in verse 60.  We, as Christians, know exactly what Jesus is talking about don't we?  Why?  Because we know that Jesus later took unleavened bread and wine and made these the physical elements that would be eaten and drunk during a meal which would commemorate His death, burial, resurrection, and second coming.  The early Christians partook of this meal each Sunday when they gathered to worship (Acts 20:7).  What strength we draw as we unite around this table every Lord's Day to honor and to worship Jesus!  You've been good listeners.  Keep hanging in there!
Another interesting response of Jesus is heard in John 12:25: "He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life."  Isn't what Jesus is saying here the same thing that He did?  Did He love His life in this world and spend a lot of time on pampering himself, on filling his back account, on gaining power, on attaining fame?  No, Jesus did not love the world nor the things of this world.  He traveled very, very lightly, with almost no possessions.  He hated His own life and submitted Himself to doing God's will, to obeying God's desires.  Have you ever thought of the shame associated with the cross—the beating, the mocking, the chiding, the tempting, dying as a criminal to the State along with other lawbreakers.  Jesus shows us how to hate our lives in this world as well.
Look now at John 17:3 where Jesus prays: "And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent."  "That they may know you".  The word "know" does not mean "to be acquainted with".  "Oh, yeah, I know Paul Robison."  To "know" here means "to understand in a deep way".  If you talk to Melinda and my children, now they really "know" me.  And this is how we must "know" the "only true God".  Why does Jesus say "the only true God" here?  Yes, because there were many gods and goddesses in existence when Jesus spoke these words.  From Grecian, Egyptian, and Oriental religious groups, there were about 25 pagan divinities that one could worship.  But Israel's God is unique.  He was not created, He was not immoral, He was not limited in any way.  There is no pagan god like Jehovah God (Isaiah 45:6)!
Now look at Peter's response to penitent Jews in Acts 2:38: "Then Peter said to them: 'Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."  What a wonderful response this was!  A person can change the direction of his or her life.  One can have all his or her passed sins forgiven when they are immersed into Jesus.  God's Spirit could now take up residence in the life of the believer!  And these promises are valid for all generations.  We see in verse 41 that about 3000 Jews took Peter at his word, and they were baptized in order to have their sins forgiven.  Have you been baptized for this reason?
Now look at Romans 2:7: "... eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality."  In the verses right before this, Paul talks about the day of God's wrath or the Judgment Day.  And then he points out also that there will be two kinds of people: the righteous and the wicked.  He describes two actions of the righteous.  First, they patiently continue to do good.  These are Christians who live in gratitude for what God has done for them, so they serve, and teach, and encourage, and bless others.  Their good deeds cause others to glorify God.  Second, they seek for glory, honor, and immortality.  These are the rewards that they will receive after this life; these are the rewards of heaven.  Their new existence will be glorified with God's glory, their service will be honored, and their bodies will be made immortal!  What a hopeful future they have!
Another important response is seen in Galatians 6:8: "For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life."  We are sowing in one of two camps.  We are either living to please our flesh or to please God's spirit.  Those who live for the worldly, the fleshly, the ungodly, the wealthy, and the seen will bring themselves to eventual ruin and destruction.  But those who live for the spiritual, the godly, the holy, the unseen heavenly realms above will reap a reward beyond this life!  The law of the harvest is inflexible: a person will reap later what they are sowing right now!
Only three more passages to go.  Look now at 1 Timothy 6:12: "Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses."  The good fight of faith or the bad fight of evil?  In whose army are you enlisted?  The good confession that Jesus made before Jewish religious leaders and Pilate was that He was God's Son.  Likewise, everyone who becomes a Christian confesses before others, before "many witnesses" that he or she also believes that Jesus is God's Son and intends to live by His teachings.  That confession gives one a new direction in life.
The next passage is 1 John 3:14-15: "We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren.  He who does not love his brother abides in death.  Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him."  What have we done?  John says that we have passed from death to life.  We were in Satan's kingdom, but now we are in Jesus' kingdom.  John is very categorical.  You are either in the camp of death, darkness, and hated or you are in the camp of life, light, and love.  If we claim to be a Christian and don't love our brother, however, the transition becomes void, and we are just like murderers.  And there will be no murderers in heaven.  Let's keep loving one another.
The last passage is 1 John 5:20-21: "And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ.  This is the true God and eternal life.  Little children, keep yourselves from idols.  Amen."  Was John speaking to Christians who were returning to paganism or to those who were being bombarded with false teaching that created an "idolatrous" outlook on life?  The later idea fits the context better, but the literal idea fits as well.  Whatever we make an idol in our lives, whether it be a literal idol to some god, or whether it be a false teaching, or whether it be some modern philosophy, material object, or social organization, if that replaces Jesus, then we are in danger of losing our eternal salvation.  Christ must have our supreme loyalty throughout all of our lives!
Now these are important responses.  There is a progression that we can see.  Where you find the number 1, please write: "Know true God", then in number 2 write: "Love God" (see below).  Now in number 3, write: "Believe in Jesus" and in number 4 write: "Follow Jesus."  Now you will notice, that all of these responses deal with relations.  Our personal relations with God and with Jesus.  So write the word "relations" in the blank after the first 4 numbers.  Now in number 5, write: "Give up your god", and in number 6, write: "Hate your life."  Then in number 7, write: "Repent", and in number 8, write: "Confess", and in number 9, write: "Be baptized or baptism."  Now these 5 responses deal with transition.  This is where we make the transition from being in Satan's kingdom to coming into Jesus' kingdom.  So write "transition" in the blank after these 5 responses.  Now let's do the last section.  In number 10, write: "Love neighbor."  In number 11, write: "Love brothers."  In number 12, write: "Worship Jesus."  In number 13, write: "Keep from idols."  In 14, write: "Do good."  in 15, write: "Focus on things eternal".  In 16, write: "Be righteous."  In 17, write: "Honor the Spirit."  All of these responses deal with transformation, so now add "transformation" in the blank.
Now these are important responses, but they are responses to what?  They are responses to the greatest question ever asked: "What must I do to have eternal life?"  Our reading, Ecclesiastes 3:9-11, showed that God has put eternity in the heart of each person.  We realize that life is brief, and we desire to have everlasting life.  All of the passages read this morning has one thread that combines them together—they all mention eternal life and what a person must do to have and keep eternal life.  Now many times when we answer that question on the spur of the moment, we'll tell others about relationship and transition.  But we fail to tell them what they must do to keep eternal life.  When we explain what's involved in transformation, we tell them "the rest of the story".  So now you are equipped.  When someone may ask you, "How can I live forever?", you have all the passages that provide the New Testament's answer.  You can explain to them that gaining eternal life involves relationship, transition, and transformation. 
If you are not a Christian this morning, you have heard what the Scriptures teach to have eternal life.  If you are a Christian, but have become negligent in practicing the responses of a transformed life, please confess that weakness and determine to be more diligent by asking Jesus' forgiveness and help.  Jesus is the only being that can give people eternal life.  Don't pass up this opportunity.  Leave this assembly today knowing that you also have eternal life!                
Now note the progression:
1.                                                             2.
3.                                                             4.
----- These deal with ____________________.
5.                                           6.
7.                                           8.
----- These deal with ____________________.
10.                                         11,
12.                                         13.
14.                                         15.
16.                                         17.
----- These deal with ____________________.
These are important responses for the most important ______________________ (Ecc. 3:11; Mt. 19:16; Acts 2:37).