“COME WITH ME TO THE OTHER SIDE”
Over the past couple of years, and I am sure the same has occurred to most of you, certain stories/accounts of Jesus’ earthly ministry seem to repeatedly come up in various sermons, books etc. One of these for me has been the stories of when the disciples are in a boat crossing over the lake and a storm comes up. I see many rich truths in these portions of scripture and tonight I would like share a perspective that God has repeatedly brought to my mind, especially over the past year or so. Barry gave me this opportunity to share something that is on my heart, so I jumped at it.
I got saved/re-born in October 1999 whilst I was attending an Alpha course (no punt for Barry intended!) along with the culmination of a couple of events in my life. God used various avenues to reach into my life to call me back to Him. Alpha Video: ‘Maybe God is talking to you tonight’. I KNEW He was which led to me praying the sinner’s prayer, acknowledging my sin and that Jesus Christ was my Lord and Saviour – I came to understand that that was SALVATION! Jesus had called me ‘out of the darkness into His wonderful light’ (1 Peter 2:9).
As we mature as Christians, God calls us to move from ‘milk to solids’ and to me that is where sanctification, the process of becoming Christ-like, begins. Enter the war between the flesh and the spirit, our plans versus God’s plans and our losing our ‘control’ – it’s a tearing away from what we hold onto so tightly. The battle does become frustrating and the Bible says that many disciples left Jesus as it was ‘hard teaching’ – John 6: 60 - 70. It does say that Jesus knew they would turn away as they didn’t truly believe.
I would like to read a familiar (too most) portion of scripture, in particular Jesus’ words, that as mentioned took hold of me over the past year or so. (Luke 8: 22-25).
It says: ‘Let’s go over to the other side’ – another version I read was ‘Come with me to the other side’
Jesus initially called the disciples to follow Him and they did. I see this as Salvation. As they journeyed with Him, He taught them, and they became more Christ-like – Sanctification. It wasn’t easy and we see in scripture that they had a lot of questions and as said earlier, many turned away as Jesus’ teaching was hard.
Jesus is continually inviting us (me) to go with Him to the other side but we tend to hold too tightly to our ‘earthly anchors’ which are familiar and comfortable. We are in good company as the Jews, after having been freed from slavery in Egypt, moaned and complained bitterly during their journey even wanting to go back to Egypt (Numbers 14: 1-9). This caused them to wander around in circles in the desert for 40 years – they didn’t fully accept the invitation to ‘go to the other side’. Whenever I face a situation now that requires a decision between God’s way and my/world’s way, to me, Jesus is asking me to go over to the other side ie: leave with Him permanently.
The invitation will always require a step of faith NB: Not ‘blind faith’ but faith built on more than enough evidence. Faith is what pleases God and it involves a step into the unknown. Hebrews Chapter 11 is commonly referred to as the ‘Hall of Faith’ and lists, among others, Abraham, Moses, Joseph and Rahab. Many times, the people of the Bible did not even know where they were going, they just obeyed.
Question: How do you build faith in someone/something?
We were recently at the Oribi Gorge at the world’s highest gorge swing – and my son, Devon, jumped or swung J. Why did he do it? He knew that Warren and I had done it and we survived. Why did we do it? We checked it out – staff, equipment, how many years with no accidents, letting the other people go first (just good manners J) etc. It is the same with God. We have more than enough evidence/stories in the Bible of what God did for His people. We hear testimonies of what He did in the lives of fellow believers. We have seen His promises come true for us and others. We also hear sermons, receive teaching and read books. God wants us to ‘check Him out’.
This is what God has been doing in my life over the past 3 to 4 years starting with the Daniel series. He has shown me His sovereignty and that He loves me and wants to be in a relationship with me. He has created in me an absolute certainty around the authenticity and trustworthiness of His Word (Bible) and most importantly, an appreciation of His awesome gift of grace through His Son Jesus Christ. We must intently seek Him and He will be found. This builds our faith.
The hymn, ‘Turn your eyes upon Jesus’ says ‘…and the things of the earth will become strangely dim’ and this is happening to me. I am becoming increasingly dissatisfied with earthly things/pursuits and to me this is the beginning of letting go of my earthly anchors. Paul says in Phil 3: 4b-14 that all he held onto so tightly and which was to his profit, he considered as loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus Christ. He considered them rubbish.
For me, the primary way that God gets us to move ie: accept His invitation, is that He gives us something better and slowly, we loosen our grip on those earthly anchors and we more readily accept the invitation. We must however be open to see the ‘something better’.
I am reminded of the story of Joshua and Caleb, who were a part of the group of spies sent to check out the land of Canaan. Only the two of them reported that the land was ‘exceedingly good’, a land flowing with ‘Milk and Honey’. They were not afraid of the enemies as the Lord was with them. They were ready to enter the land/accept God’s invitation to ‘go over to the other side’!!
Back to Luke Chapter 8 – So the disciples accepted the invite and got into the boat and set out BUT a squall came down, the boat was swamped, and they were in great danger. They woke Jesus saying ‘We are going to drown’. Note that it says that Jesus was sleeping amidst this turmoil – He was in charge! Taking that step of faith doesn’t mean it is going to be easy – accept it. Jesus said that in this world we will have trouble but that we must take heart, as He has overcome the world. We must not turn away when the going gets tough. As Paul says, running the race requires perseverance.
As I said earlier, the war starts and your inner battle begins when you accept the invitation and make no mistake, satan does not want you to take that journey. I sometimes get exasperated by this constant battle within and the pulls of the world that divide my attention but I draw encouragement from the Word, most notably Romans Chapter 7 : 15, where even Paul said that what he wanted to do, he did not, but that which he didn’t want to do, he kept doing. He said ‘What a wretched man I am’.
We face hardships/challenges in life but we have to fall back on God’s Word and His promises which will put us back on solid ground. Some verses which have meant a lot to me are:
2 Corinthians 4: 17 – “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all”. It’s difficult to accept ‘light and momentary’ when you are in the thick of the situation but I have in hindsight seen this truth in my life.
Jeremiah 12: 5 – “If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets of the Jordan?” - We need the hardships/challenges to grow spiritually. What use is a ship that stays in the harbour? To reach its potential, it must head out to sea.
Romans 8: 28 – “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Also a difficult one when you are in the situation but Paul was stating a fact.
Proverbs 3: 5 & 6 – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” My mind sometimes runs away with me when it comes to potentially negative future scenarios/outcomes but if you do not rely on what you think you know, and trust God, He will straighten your paths.
Jeremiah 29: 11 – “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Nothing to add J. God is good all the time.
It is also in the storms/hardships that you see the miracles eg: Jesus calming the storm, Jesus walking on the water and God’s love. For our family, we saw this with my dad where our trials were severe however we saw God perform miracles in the hospitals, the medical treatment he received from the doctors/staff and then at home. We can testify that you will never be disappointed when you rely fully on God.
Most important for me right now is Phil 1: 6 – “…being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you, will (not maybe/could/can) carry it to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (God will, not you or I) and Proverbs 4: 18 – “The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day” – we have a tendency to be impatient and hard on ourselves. Remember that it is a process, with the changes being brought about through the power/work of God.
We attended the Passion World Tour on Friday (12/02/2016) and Louis Giglio shared a wonderful yet familiar piece of scripture from Isaiah. Isaiah had a vision of God on His throne and immediately felt unworthy, saying ’I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips’. He then saw a seraph fly toward him with a live coal in his hand which he had taken with tongs from the altar. He probably thought, as the glowing coal came towards him, that his life would somehow be snuffed out and he would be remembered no more. Instead, the seraph touched his lips with the coal and said ‘Your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.’ He then heard the voice of the Lord saying ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ Isaiah said ‘Here I am. Send me!’ – he didn’t even know where he was going but was so overwhelmed by God’s mercy that he jumped at the invitation. God is merciful, so never let your guilt, shame or sins hold you back from accepting the invitation.
WE DO NOT BELONG IN THIS WORLD
Besides understanding/accepting that the journey to the other side will not be a ‘walk in the park’, it is important to remember that earth is not our home. We are citizens of heaven, merely passing through, a mist which appears for a short while. The Bible says, and as we sang, that one day in the Lord’s house in better than a thousand elsewhere. Do you believe that? I do.
I recently attended a service at the Baptist Church in Margate, and the Pastor shared that his son had got to a place in his life where he felt Jesus was asking ‘Do you belong here?’ - an indirect invitation to come with Him to the other side. The Pastor addressed the young adults in the congregation, challenging them that if they ever found themselves in places/situations they should not be in, they should ask themselves ‘Do I belong here?’
I would like to challenge you in the same way in that when you find yourself tangled among the weeds or consumed by the worries of this world, or any other situation, to ask yourself the same question.
I am going to play a song, at the end of this service, which was played in the Margate service and which left a lasting impression on me (by Building 429 – ‘Where I belong’).
Why would be hold on so tightly to the things of this world when it will all be left behind in any event?
THE DESTINATION- Briefly
Let’s go back to Luke Chapter 8 for the last time. It says that Jesus rebuked the wind and raging waters and the storm subsided and all was calm.
What is Jesus inviting us to? A life filled with His peace which transcends all human understanding. It involves a life lived by faith and being content/at peace in all circumstances as we fully rely on God and live lives that glorify Him and Him alone.
Check God out – study His Word and remember His promises.
Listen for Jesus’ invitations to go to the other side.
Hold loosely to the things of this earth.
Don’t give up/turn away when the going gets tough
Always ask yourself – ‘Do I belong here?’
I would like to end off with Joel 3: 14 which says: ‘Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision. For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision!’ and challenge you:
WILL YOU ACCEPT JESUS’ INVITATION TO ‘GO TO THE OTHER SIDE’ WHENEVER HE CALLS YOU?