Pastor Cal's
Weekly Message

These messages
contain the manuscript
that the Pastor uses to
prompt him as he
preaches each Sunday
morning at worship.

The actual sermon may
vary but this will give
you an idea of what he
said if you missed the
service.

We hope to have audio
or video clips of his
messages and the
special music we enjoy  
available on this site  by
next fall.
Central Baptist Church of Westerly
16 Elm Street, Westerly, RI   02891
Phone: (401) 596-4929     

Check out our blog at Central Baptist Life
The Journey Begins: Walking with Jesus

March 13, 2011                                                                                                John 14: 5-6

Are you ready? Today an historic journey begins. I wish I could tell you where we are going, but I can’t. You see
that's the thing with Jesus. He doesn’t always let us know up front where he is taking us, but he assures us that the
way will lead to God. You’ve just got to trust and obey. I’d like to talk about that for a few minutes this morning as
we begin our ministry together.

One of my favorite all time shows is Star Trek. In the opening moments of the program, the narrator lays out the
mission. He says it is to “go boldly where no man has one before.” I like that. It suggests doing things differently. It
suggests following a course that will lead us deeper into our walk with the universe and ultimately, for us as
Christians, with God. It suggests going forward in a way that will be unique to this congregation. It suggests that we
will try things that have never been done before. It sounds a little scary but are you up for that?

If you are not, you stand in good company. Just ask the disciples. That’s what is happening in our text today. Jesus
just gave them a glimpse of the future. He told them that he must follow a course that will leads to his suffering and
death and that many of them will follow him. Then he urged them to trust him. He promised them that in doing so
they would see God.

Now the truth is that as individuals, and as a congregation, we like the idea of following God, but we would rather
have a copy of the map for ourselves. That way we can decide if Jesus is leading us too far off the course we think
will serve us best.

Anyone who has taken a long trip with their spouse, knows that “back seat drivers” always know the best way to go.
But let’s be honest about it: It is hard to sit still and trust the person who is driving when you think you know the
best way to go. But Jesus says that if we want to go where he is going, we need to focus on him and let him be our
guide.

Jesus says “I am the way, the truth and the life.” If you want to get to the Father, you’ve got to follow me. There is
no other way. There is no short cut. No one else can get you there. “I AM IT,” So follow me.

In saying this, Jesus builds a bridge between the past and the future. You see, with the old Jewish way of life – the
way to God was through obedience to the law and regular sacrifices at the temple. But it wasn’t working. Sin had a
stronghold in people’s lives and they could never please God. That’s just as true today as it was then. Most of us can
identify with the Apostle Paul when he says for every two steps forward he takes, he ends up taking one step back.
If the only way to God was through the law, we’d still be left out today.

So Jesus taught them the way God wanted them to live. He invited them to watch and follow his lead. He
demonstrated a more excellent way to show their love of God. It was through action. It included prayer, worship, and
glorifying His name. You see God never wanted the sacrifices. He’s always wanted our hearts. He declared to
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that “I will be your God and you will be my people.” That was the plan, to walk hand in
hand but somehow that got lost.

What’s more, in that day the priests were guilty of abusing the system that was in place. They ended up turning
away people who had repentant hearts, but empty wallets. The temple itself excluded many who wanted to walk
with God. Divided into multiple courts, only a precious few could ever hope to gain access to the Almighty. If you
were poor, lame, a child, a woman, a non Jew, you had no hope of ever being good enough to be with God. So in the
minds of many, God had become distant and unapproachable.

So Jesus uses the magic words. He says “I AM”… Jesus uses these words to get the attention of his disciples, who
were discouraged and feeling lost. The words immediately conjured up the image of Moses standing in front of God at
the burning bush.

We’ve lost it today but for the Jew in Jesus’ time, God was the Great “I AM.” Jesus begins a statement with these
words seven times in the Gospel of John. Each time he makes a connection that the Jews would clearly understand.
That is why the Pharisees got angry.

(Let me just pause here for a commercial break. We will look at all of these statements in the weeks leading up to
Easter. This is just week one so I hope you will be here to explore the rest of them with us.) Now Back to the
program.

Do you remember the burning bush episode in Exodus 3? God appears to Moses in that burning bush and sends him
out to liberate his people from Egypt. Moses says, but “who shall I tell them has sent me?”

God says, Tell them you were sent by the great “I am” or as many translations put it “I am who I am” or “I will be
who I will be.” This is the same one who said “So fear not, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

This is the one who said, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When
you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For
I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”

Yet even though the Jews had developed the image of God as distant and aloof, the “I am” statements brought them
back to the image of the God who walked with Moses and Elijah and Isaiah, a God who cared for his people. Those
who encountered Jesus saw that spirit in him.

John actually highlights these statements to convince his Jewish audience that Jesus was God, and that he was
offering them a personal relationship with God – the same personal relationship that Jesus offered all who would
follow him.

Jesus says I AM the WAY – he is the way to God, the way to a happy, satisfied and fulfilled life and the way to
eternal life when it is all said and done

If you look in Acts chapters 9, 19, 22, and 24, the early Christians were called the followers of the Way- They lived
the life that Jesus showed them. They were literally following in his footsteps and let him lead the way.

I believe that if we did the same thing today, we would be blessed in ways we can’t imagine.

I want to give you an example. Most of us handle stress by either getting angry and going off on someone, by eating
everything in sight, (that’s me), by getting depressed and withdrawing from everything and everyone, or by going on a
spending spree and racking up credit card bills. You could probably add a dozen more things to the list. But do you
know what Jesus did? When the crowds were pressing in on him, when the sick and troubled came to him in
overwhelming numbers, when life seemed to get out of control, the Scriptures tell us that time after time, he went off
by himself to pray. He spent time with God.

The disciples noticed that. So they asked him to teach them how to pray. Show us the way, they were asking
him. I can’t tell you how many times I forget that message.

So part of our journey together may be to spend some time in prayer so we can get up close with God and then learn
how to serve him better. I found an article on line that really spoke to my imagination. The article was titled, “8 things
that will change you and your church.”

It said do you want change? Then PRAY BOLD PRAYERS for your church! (There’s that star trek word again.) It
read, The early church prayed for boldness…we pray for safety. The early church prayed for people to come to
Christ…we pray for Sister So-and-so’s hangnail! The early church prayed for the church to expand and the Gospel to
advance…we pray that we can keep our churches small and safe. Let’s BEG God for things to happen in our churches
that are UNEXPLAINABLE and UNDENIABLE so that HE can receive ALL the glory!

The way of Jesus leads to God He is the TRUTH – Jesus says that believing him means that we will know the truth
and this truth will set us free. Free from sin, death, corruption, and legalism. People don’t know what the truth is
today. Everywhere you go you hear about the relativity of truth. Our culture says that we can each have our own
truth and that is fine. I might not believe that my neighbor’s truth is ‘for me’, but I should respect it as ‘their truth’.

Well, as Christians, our faith tells us that Jesus is the only truth that will get us to God, and we need to stand up for
that truth. (“But be warned! If you stand up and say ‘this is wrong’ you might suffer for it.

I saw an article this week about a couple in England who were rejected in their bid to adopt a child because
their religious faith held that marriage should be between a man and a woman and they refused to denounce that
belief. They were considered unfit to raise a child.

In reality too many of us try to fit in and are afraid to share our faith with others. We don’t want to offend or
embarrass someone. Yet Jesus told Pilot that the truth would set him free. It goes for us too.

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard people share their stories about the way God used them to reach other
people. They happened to be in the right place at the right time. When they shared the gospel it changed people’s
lives. Some of you are here today because someone stood up and told you the truth. They shared their testimony.
That’s the truth Jesus was talking about.

My aunt Connie, who is here today and who grew up in this church, will tell you that God led my father to her
when he was in the midst of a divorce. Her faith touched his heart and it convinced him to send my brother and
I with her to Sunday School. I’m here today because of her willingness to share her faith with him.

The thing that sets the church apart from other organizations is that we can share the love of God in Christ. Whether
it is through truth trackers, Vacation Bible Schools, serving at the Warm shelter or in new ways we haven’t even
thought of, we need to find bold new ways to walk with Jesus and share the truth with friends in the community
outside the church. Once we connect people to Jesus, the truth will set them free and give them a whole new life.

Which brings me to the life: Jesus said I am the life. Now I know that Charlie Sheen thinks he is living the life, but his
world is falling apart all around him. He can deny it, but it doesn’t change a thing. The sad thing is that an awful lot of
people we know are living that same lie. They believe if they have enough things, if they have enough money or if
they are liked and admired by enough people that they will have it made. Yet, their marriages are falling apart, bill
collectors are knocking at their doors, their kids are getting in trouble and they wonder why.

Jesus said in Matthew 6 that the pagans run after all these things but God knows what you need and if you follow
him and seek his righteousness, that you will have everything you need and more. Jesus said he came so that we might
have life, and have it abundantly. If you follow him and seek to serve him, if you let him live through you, you will
find blessing after blessing. Real life, satisfying life can only be found in Christ.

For the last four years I have been blessed to travel to Mexicali, Mexico on a short term mission trip. The
people we met were poor and they lived very, very modestly. Yet they were as happy as any people I have ever
met. I asked one man how he could be so happy despite all the troubles he had faced. You know what he told
me? He said “I am happy because I have Jesus in here.” Now that’s the life.

I pray that all of us might be able to claim the same thing and that as a church we might model that life to the world.
For in Christ we have the victory over death that allows us to walk in courage and to act in boldness and to live life to
its fullest.

For us, as pastor and people, a bold new journey begins today. Jesus is leading the way. He has the vision. Let’s agree
to follow him and get started. For he is the way,the truth and the life.

Amen.