Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
October 25, 2015
What It Means to Really Live
A man loved his beautiful red Cadillac. He loved it so much that he arranged to be buried in it. Another man, observing the dead man behind the steering wheel as the car was lowered into a huge grave, remarked, “Man, that’s really living!”
Jesus talked about living but he had a different quality of life in mind when he said, “I have come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). For Jesus, abundant living, really living, had nothing to do with possessions. It had everything to do with knowing and loving God and loving people.
In the New Testament Book of Hebrews, the “preacher” explains how to really live in the way God recommends. The 13th chapter of Hebrews, for example, offers practical guidance for great living – the kind of life that Jesus was talking about. This is plain talk, not platitudes or suggestions but urgent exhortations for living a life that pleases God.
These exhortations are based on one eternal truth – the unchanging nature of Jesus Christ. The writer’s words are well known: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). The changeless Christ is the one reality, the only reality, in a world characterized by constant change.
The Native Americans whose weapons were arrowheads never dreamed of the automatic weapons of our time. The pioneers who went west in covered wagons could hardly imagine spaceships flying to the moon.
In the forties our family had a crank telephone on a “party line,” sharing the privilege with other people. Now there are 96 cell-phone service subscriptions for every 100 people in the world. Yet in a world where everything is always changing, one thing remains unchanged. That one thing is Jesus.
Jesus Christ is our Rock. He is Life, our Source of life. He is Truth, and his truth is not affected by the changing tides of pagan culture. He is the Way, not just today but always. He is Love, and the Source of the agape (self-giving) love God calls on us to practice. Jesus is everything! Without Him life simply does not work right. With Him all things are possible. He is the Wind that propels us to do God’s will.
His presence within helps us, despite our shortcomings, to live fully a life that honors Him. Because he is “God with us,” he empowers us to live so that people can see “Christ in us.” Many songs are wonderful prayers. For example, “Have Thine Own Way, Lord.” The last verse is a great prayer to pray daily: “Have thine own way, Lord! Hold o’er my being absolute sway. Fill with thy Spirit till all shall see Christ only, always, living in me.” I have prayed that prayer thousands of times.
Now look with me at the practical guidance for “really living” found in the 13th chapter of Hebrews. There is no mention of being buried in a Cadillac. Instead we are shown how the strengthening presence of the eternal Christ helps us:
1) Love one another. (Verse 1) Because of our sinful nature, and our sometimes sharp differences, only Christ can create “mutual love” within a church. Christ helps us love people we might otherwise despise.
2) Show hospitality to strangers. (Verse 2) Our culture has become strangely impersonal. We often fear strangers, supposing one might be the Boston Strangler or a serial rapist. Christ helps us discern the persons to whom we should offer kindness and assistance. Now and then we realize we have entertained an angel God sent our way.
3) Reach out to those in prison. (Verse 3) Many churches assist inmates as they are released from prison. Christ helps us to identity with people who are suffering, share their suffering and help them make a new beginning.
4) Honor the sacred bond of marriage. (Verse 4) Marriage is the sacred union of a man and a woman. God’s plan is that sex be reserved for the marriage bed. Two become one basically through their sexual union. People suffer when God’s plan is ignored or replaced by the pagan customs of a hedonistic society. The eternal Christ helps a husband and wife remain faithful to each other.
5) Be content with what you have and refuse to let the love of money ruin your life. (Verse 5) Money is not evil; it can be used in good or bad ways. It is the love of money that is a problem. Money can become a terrible taskmaster. Christ helps us resist and overcome greed. Selfish greed destroys people. Christ teaches us to enjoy and be satisfied with what we have.
6) Give thanks for your spiritual leaders and imitate their faith.
(Verse 7) True spiritual leaders teach us to trust Christ and follow his teachings. False leaders mislead us with “strange teachings.” True leaders inspire us to worship, serve and follow Christ. The faith of such teachers is worth imitating. No other sacrifice than the blood of Jesus can save us from our sins. No other sacrifice is necessary. The eternal, changeless Christ is all we need, now and forever.
7) Continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God. (Verse 15) God no longer asks for the sacrifice of the blood of animals. There are other sacrifices he delights in our giving. One is the sacrifice of praise with our lips. We can learn to complain less and praise more. When our energy is devoted to criticism, we are unable to offer praise to God. There is a lovely song titled “Give thanks.” The song invites us give thanks to God “with a grateful heart” because “He’s given Jesus Christ His Son.” Because of all God has done for us, this should be the spirit in which we live each day.
8) Remember to do good and to share what we have. (Verse 16) Obviously God wants us to do more than praise him with our lips. He also wants us to praise him with good deeds that benefit people in need. The people in whom I “see Christ” are constantly doing good; they are unselfishly taking food to people, visiting the sick and encouraging those who are hurting. Sharing what we have with the needy pleases God and honors the Christ who abides in our hearts.
The world is continually changing; nothing we can see and touch is eternally dependable. The eternal Christ is the only lasting reality. He alone is real. So real, authentic living flows from the abiding presence of the Rock of Ages. We need not fear. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He makes “really living” possible – with or without a Cadillac! + + +