You don’t have forever to make a decision about forever.
Series: “The Rope”
Title: “Timeline of your Life”
Morning. My name is David Sorn. I’m the Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church. Morning to you.
We all have this thing, where we tend to think time is on our side.
We think that we have more time than we do.
It’s one of the main reasons we’re so good at procrastinating.
Think about all the things we’re “supposed to get done” in life.
Like “save for retirement”
And yet, 30-40% of us have 0 dollars saved for retirement.
And it’s not like we think, “Saving for retirement, what a TERRIBLE idea!”
In fact, I want to work until I’m 80! I could greet at Walmart!
The reason we don’t save for retirement is…well, because…we feel like we’re busy right now…and there are more pressing things we need to do and more pressing things to spend on our money on
This is true with a whole host of things.
Health is another good example.
I read this week, according to the Mayo Clinic, less than 3 percent of Americans live a healthy lifestyle
Which the Mayo Clinic defines as: A person who exercises enough, AND eats a healthy diet, AND keeps a healthy weight, AND doesn’t smoke.
3% of Americans do all 4 of those things.
And it’s not like we’re not aware of those Culver’s.
When I go to Culver’s and get a cheeseburger, fries, and mt dew, it’s not like I’m thinking, “I’m so glad I made a healthy choice today” ☺
But change is hard…so I just figure…I’ll do that…LATER. ☺
Plus, there’s another aspect of this that keeps us from changing things in our lives
It’s that…hardly anyone else is doing anything about it either.
We are “creatures of the pack”…which is good and bad.
I can remember when I first got into long-distance running.
A group of my college roommates and friends said they were going for a run.
And I said, “Like for a fun? Is someone chasing you?
But I went with…and now, I like it
But while there are plenty of nice examples like this, we have plenty of negative ones too.
One of the reasons it’s so hard for 97% of us to live a healthy lifestyle is that 97% of the people around you don’t ☺
But what if you moved to the healthiest place on earth…Okinawa, Japan… (Where, ironically my mother-in-law is from…so of course I feel super unhealthy) ☺
But what if 97% of people around you were healthy?!?
What if you were the only person in your entire town who wasn’t going on walks 7 days a week and eating green things from your own personal garden every day?
At minimum, you’d definitely start thinking about it if 97% of people around you were.
See, I want to submit to you today, that in many similar ways, this is how Americans stopped thinking about spiritual things over the past 25 years.
Americans in the generations before us were significantly more spiritual.
For them…“thinking about God”…thinking about eternity, about heaven, was much more common place in society.
But things have changed…quickly.
In fact, Church attendance in America has dropped more in the last 10-15 years than any other time in the last 100 years.
And so, for a lot of people nowadays, thoughts of Jesus, of heaven, and the big questions like: “What comes after this life?” simply aren’t in front of people like they used to be.
And again, just like with other things, it’s not that people don’t care.
It’s not like you’re going, “Well, when I die…I don’t really care what happens. If I go someplace and I have to be tortured by listening to country music for 1,000 years…than so be it”
We care…we just…well…not a lot of other people around us care…so we just put it off.
And besides, it feels like we just have so many other pressing things to do.
This fast-paced, performance-based culture puts so many demands on us.
There’s this script we’re supposed to live out, right?
Not only are we supposed to get healthy and look great and all that stuff…
But you’re supposed to “go to school, go to college, get a fulfilling job, buy your dream house, find the love of your life, have kids, make money, get rich, take instagram-worthy vacations, and be happy!.”
And guess what…checking all of those boxes…is probably not going to happen in your life.
And yet, that message is still coming at us from so many places…
From every blog, billboard, Netflix show…
Goodness, even the Super Bowl couldn’t resist from telling me how I’d be happier if I owned a jeep, or had Amazon’s Alexa, and vacationed in Australia.
And what happens…to the typical American in 2018…is that we get SO focused on finding LIFE right here on earth…that we forget that our time on earth is actually…unbelievably short.
And we forget…because no one else around us remembers either.
We’re all staring at the dirt of the earth together, and no one’s looking up at heaven.
But isn’t “the timeline of your life” much longer than just the time you spend on earth?
Even though Americans don’t think much about God anymore, 90% of us still believe in Him.
And over 90% of people believe that something else comes after this life.
And if there is an eternal life (one that lasts forever) that comes after this life…then (just by logic…I’m not even talking spiritual things here)…
Logically…shouldn’t we be thinking about what comes next?
When you read the Bible, one of the things God often tries to get across to us…is that our life here on earth…is incredibly short…in the grand scheme of things.
Which again, logically, is totally true, right?
James, who was the brother of Jesus, writes this in the Bible about our time on earth
(James 4:14) – NIV
Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.
On the timeline of human history, we’re just a quick blip, and then it’s over.
There’s a Psalm in the Bible, (a Psalm is like a song), from King David (of David & Goliath fame)…
…and it goes like this:
(Psalm 39:4-6) – NIV - Leave up for 30 seconds on verse 6
“Show me, Lord, my life’s end
and the number of my days;
let me know how fleeting my life is.
5 You have made my days a mere handbreadth;
the span of my years is as nothing before you.
Everyone is but a breath,
even those who seem secure.
6 “Surely everyone goes around like a mere phantom;
in vain they rush about, heaping up wealth
without knowing whose it will finally be.
Wow, that last verse! Isn’t this us??
“In vain, they rush about…heaping up wealth…without knowing whose it will finally be.”
Someday, someone else is going to live in your house.
Someone else…will have your money.
Because you won’t be alive on earth anymore
Maybe we don’t think about all that because well…it seems kind of drab…or daunting to think about.
And yet, even logic tells us that we must…we must think about it.
Think of it this way.
Let me get out a rope.
By the way, we’re calling this 3-week series “The Rope,” because I think our culture so desperately needs to start thinking of things from an eternal perspective again.
So, we’re going to work out of Scripture and this metaphor for 3 weeks…be here…for all 3 weeks.
You’ll be glad you kept coming back.
This is an illustration used by Francis Chan (who’s a famous pastor/author) and many others over the last generation…and it’s been so helpful for me, I pray it’s helpful for you.
(Pick up 100-ft. rope from stage)
Imagine that this rope is a timeline of your existence.
You see this red part right here??
This red part represents your time on earth.
You’ve got a few short years here on earth
But the rest of this rope…represents the rest of your existence.
It represents eternity somewhere else.
Which the Bible says will be in 1 of 2 places: heaven or hell.
Most of us, as Americans, we spend all of our time thinking just about this red part.
What will I accomplish here?
How can I be HAPPY…here?
How can I save and save and save, so I can for this itty, bitty last part of the red section…I can relax, retire, and play shuffleboard?
And again, from a logical perspective, it’s almost silly that we don’t spend hardly any time thinking about getting ready for the millions and BILLIONS of years to come.
And yet we ought to!
The Bible says what we decide during this red part determines how we’re going to spend the rest of eternity.
In reality, you don’t have forever to make a decision about forever.
That maybe feels like a weighty thing to say…but I assure you, the only reason it feels weighty…is because everyone else around us lives focused on the red section.
It’s as if one of the cultural norms has become, “Don’t talk about the rest of the rope”
But this is not a crazy thing to think about.
Even if you’re sitting here right now thinking, “This guy has lost his mind!”
I guarantee you, there is not a person in this room, 1,000 years from now, when you’re “here” on the timeline of your life, that will think that this talk was crazy
So even though this might not be the type of thing you usually think about, I encourage you, to think about it.
Here’s another way to think about it:
It’s a bit hard to do since eternity goes on forever, but let’s try and quantify the rope.
Let’s say that this life on earth (the red part) represents just 1 minute, and eternity represents 1 million years…
If it seems like I made the earthly part too short to you, my math tells me, that if anything, I should have made it shorter!
If life on earth represents just 1 minute, and eternity represents 1 million years…
It would seem kind of silly to spend that 1 minute focusing on how I can be the happiest I can be during that 1 minute...when as soon as that minute’s up…I’m going to be in either heaven or hell for the next million years.
You’d want to spend that minute making sure you know where you are going!
Again, I know this language and these concepts are sort of heavy (especially if you’re not used to thinking about them)
(put down rope)
ETERNITY IN YOUR HEART
But I really do believe, that even logic tells us, that this is the most important question of your life:
Do you know what happens next? After this life?
And if you don’t, does it make sense, logically, that finding that out, is the most important quest of your life?
In just a minute or so…I want to tell you how the Bible answers this question…but whether you agree with the Bible’s answer today or not, I hope you can at least agree with the idea that finding that answer to this question is really the most important thing you’ll do in your life.
And my guess is that you feel a pull towards this already…
Everything on earth is pulled towards something.
Take the small bird called the bar-tailed godwit.
This little bird resides in Northern Alaska, but every Fall, they fly nearly 7,000 miles to…NEW ZEALAND!
And fascinatingly, when the young birds go on their first journey to New Zealand, there is something wired within them to make this journey by themselves.
They’ve never been to the Southern Hemisphere, never seen the Southern stars, they can’t even fish or rest on the sea…
…but they can fly to exactly where they need to go…7,000 miles away…in 8 days…flying non-stop!
And then, the same homing signal within them, somehow leads them back to their mother and father in Alaska in the spring.
And I want to tell you, that your Father in heaven, God, has put a homing signal within you.
The Bible says, “God has set eternity within the human heart.”
God puts this “homing device” within us…that despite the rat race of the American dream, there is something inside of you that keeps BEEPING!
As if to say, “There’s got to be more than this!”
You know what I’m talking about??
We have these moments where we think: “There’s no way this is all there is. There’s no way I was supposed to feel like this.”
Friends, that’s God!
And He’s calling you home!!
This is why Jesus came 2,000 years ago.
To tell us how to be in relationship with God…
And not just that…but to show us the way to be with Him forever…in heaven.
And I believe some of you are ready to take that step today…to start an actual relationship with God today.
And to find out how to know you can for sure be in heaven…for all the rest of the rope!
Or maybe for you, you’re just ready to start investigating this…to start taking the “question of the rope” seriously
If that’s you…I want you to take that Bible under your chair today on your way out (that’s our gift to you)
There’s a reading plan in there…that shows you were to start in the Bible…start reading it. Start investigating this important question.
I did this when I was 18 years old, and went from someone who used to mock Christians…to, well, I’m a pastor now ☺
But again, remember, we don’t have forever to make a decision about forever…so start looking into it
So what does it look like to start following Jesus…instead of just living all of your life for the red section of the rope?
It starts with acknowledging who we are in comparison to God.
That you and I are just 1 of billions of people to ever live…and HE is God…who controls all of space and time ☺
And so therefore, we…haven’t done anything to EARN our way to heaven…to the rest of the rope.
The Bible is SO clear that none of us will be able to meet God and impress our way into heaven by listing off our good deeds.
Because we all sin
The Bible says that even a single sin is enough to keep us out of heaven.
Because all sin is wrong, and therefore justice must be done for every sin.
The Bible explains it this way:
(romans 6:23) – NIV - Keep up until next verse
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
What does that verse mean?
It means that what we get/deserve for our sin…is death.
And by death, the Bible means hell. Eternal separation from God.
An eternity of despair, and anger, and regret
Hell is basically what eternity looks like without God in it.
But it says, “The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus.”
What does that mean?
This is the Good News of Christianity.
That God is so big and so powerful and so just…and yet, so in love with you.
That He sent Jesus to take the punishment that you deserved for your sin.
And Jesus, when He died on the cross, was dying in your place…FOR YOU!
And so the Bible says, “If you truly believe that Jesus Christ died in your place for your sins, and you commit your life to follow Him, God will forgive all of your sin”
He’ll put all of it on Jesus on the cross.
So that when your judgment comes (after the red part of the rope is over)…and you meet God face to face…you will have no sins to pay for because Jesus took them all…and you can go to heaven…and be with Him forever!
THAT’s how much God loves you!
This is what Jesus says in the Bible
(John 5:24) – NIV
“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.
Very similarly, Jesus also says this:
(John 3:36) – NIV
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.
The punishment for their sin is still on them, and not on Jesus on the cross.
And so this is the choice before you…and honestly, it’s the most important choice you’ll ever make. Seriously.
Do you want to believe that Jesus died for you, so you can be forgiven?
And not just that…but to follow Him.
Cuz you can’t let someone else die in your place, shrug it off, and go back to normal life, right?
To make this choice (to follow Jesus) will change, not just your week, but the next million years of your life.
What you decide on this question effects the location of your eternal destiny
And if you decide to follow Jesus, and truly believe He died for you, I guarantee you, you will never be the same.
8 years ago, this was a church of 2 people…my wife and me.
Over the last 8 years, we’ve seen hundreds of people…that are sitting amongst you now, make this decision…to let God into their life.
To say, “this life is about You…not just this little red section and me…I want to live for YOU…”
And their lives have been forever changed…both in the present…and in the future.
So I encourage you to make a decision for Christ.
You don’t have forever to make a decision about forever.
Life is short.
If you’re not ready, that’s okay.
Just don’t brush a decision of this magnitude off.
Start investigating. Start reading the Bible for yourself. Keep coming back here. This is a safe place to ask questions. Even hard ones.
But I suspect that some of you are ready.
Some of you have maybe even been coming here for a while now…and you’ve been putting this off.
But you know…you see it with your own eyes today…it’s time to give your life to the one who died for you.
In fact, for some of you, I want to give you an opportunity to start that relationship with Him right now.
Let’s just have everyone bow their heads and close their eyes as I want this to be a special moment between you and God.
If that’s you…and you do want to tell God for the first time today that you believe God sent his son for you, and that you want to start a relationship with Him…and you want to spend forever with Him in heaven…in a minute…I’m actually going to ask you to respond in a minute by quietly standing up right where you are.
It’s a symbolic way to say to God, “God, I know this life is about more than just my life on earth…I want to start following you. I believe you died for me.
This is how you can be forgiven, go to heaven, and have a relationship with God…it’s by making this decision.
NO ONE will be looking at you…no one (don’t even think about that!). This is about you and God.
So wherever you are, if I’m talking to you.. and you’d like to become a follower of Jesus Christ, to enter into a relationship with Him, and accept his gift of forgiveness, I want you to stand up wherever you are. (you can stay standing for a minute as others join you)
If God is nudging your heart in this…that means He’s talking to you. That means…it’s TIME. If you feel it in your pulse…in your heart…that’s God. Accept His forgiveness. Start a new life with Him. It’s amazing!
If you’re standing up, would you pray this prayer with me?
This is not a magic prayer…but just a prayer to tell God where you’re at… the Bible says, we 1) believe in our hearts and 2) confess with our mouths.
So I want you to say it out loud with me. Repeat after me
IN fact, there are a lot of other believers already in the room, and this is what we believe.
So, let’s all say it together with these new believers.
Repeat after me
I confess to you, that I have sinned against you.
But God I believe, that you sent your Son Jesus, to take my place
And God I thank you, for forgiving my sins.
And now I commit, to following you, with my life.
As everyone else still has their eyes closed, I want to talk to those of you who are standing for just a moment
I need you to do one more thing for me.
It will only take a few small minutes, but I believe these are a few of the most important minutes of your life.
You’ve just made the most important decision of your life, and I believe in any scenario, that requires some more information…
So here’s what we’re going to do…In just a second, one of our leaders is going to pray, but right before he does that, I need you to quietly sneak out of your row, and head towards the hallway where it will be quiet.
I’m going to go out there with you…(w/ some members of our follow-up team), and we want to give you some extremely important resources & next steps to get you started on the most important journey of your life.
I promise you’ll be able to sneak right back into the service & back into your seats in just a few moments.
All right, one of our leaders is going to pray
But for now, would you please had out there with me.
Go ahead. We can all go together.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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