At Gateway Church in Austin, we concluded our series called More Than Words.
We can’t change a person’s heart, but we can challenge them in love. And God tells us that as followers of Him, we are called to challenge others to seek God. Although there are great rewards that come from such a challenge, guiding others in this way can be difficult. Are we willing to love people enough to overcome all self-focused fear?
Work through the following questions and Scriptures on your own, and get together with your running partner, life group, or friends and family to talk through what you are learning.
MESSAGE AUDIO FROM GATEWAY IN SOUTH AUSTIN:
MESSAGE NOTES FROM THE TEACHING TEAM:
Today we’re wrapping up this series, More than Words.
- We’ve been talking about how powerful your words can be.
- They can literally change the trajectory of a life.
- God partners with us to love people back to himself.
- God takes our words and makes them so much MORE than words.
- It’s the power of God working to redirect a human destiny—an eternity.
- But do you realize that? Do you realize what’s at stake? Just how important your words can be?
Have you ever thought about eternity?
I can’t fully even grasp the concept, because we only know time as Now and always moving forward.
Eternity is not like that.
It’s more like a line extending infinitely in both directions (maybe in all directions if eternity is multi-dimensional time), but either way, this life is just a Dot on that eternal line
You and I may live 78 years, statistically speaking, but it’s just a tiny blip on the line of eternity.
Yet think about how many people only live for the dot.
They don’t live for the line, they don’t even think about the line.
Popular culture preaches and sings “Live for today ONLY!”
But if today is only a Dot on the Line of forever—is that really smart?
I want to ask you today, are you living for the dot, or are you living for the line?
Are you living only for the short term or the long term?
Are you living only for a life that ends, or a Life that’s eternal?
Heaven and Earth
I used to be afraid of death. For some reason I feared I would die young. Obviously that fear did not come true. As a kid, I just knew I wouldn’t make it into adulthood. Then I just knew I wouldn’t make it to the year 2000. It wasn’t so much that I feared what happened after we died, the truth is I had not given it much thought. I was afraid of missing out on some of the greatest parts of living this life!
It wasn’t until I came to Gateway and began hearing more and more about the life after death as shown in the Scriptures and as described by people with Near Death Experiences that I have become more intrigued. I learned so much from Imagine Heaven, the book and the sermon series by John Burke and through the Bible Project which has a helpful podcast and lots of videos that the message of the Bible became clearer.
You and I were created for a relationship with God.
Humanity began in God’s presence in Eden and throughout the story you see God entering into humanity’s space at the tabernacle, at the Temple, and ultimately in the person of Jesus.
Now those who follow Jesus bring God’s presence everywhere we go. That’s why Jesus taught us to pray, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Followers of Jesus, we are the Body of Christ on planet earth! And we don’t represent Him alone, we have the Spirit of God within us!
And the end of the Scriptures tell of a new Heaven and a new Earth in which all who have “called on the name of the Lord” are in God’s presence for all eternity. And at the center of this new heaven and earth is the tree of life – just like in Eden. One day God will make all things right.
The story of the Bible is not about heaven and hell and how to earn your way into one and how to avoid the other. The story of the Bible is about heaven and earth – God and humanity. The story is about a loving God who has pursued us and who pursues you that you might know Him as He knows you.
Last year I was having a conversation with a new mom whose husband had just started following Jesus. She was fascinated, intrigued, and uncertain about faith. She admitted though: “if this is true, then nothing else is even remotely as important.”
What was she saying? You see, life will quickly come and go, but what will last is what’s done for eternity.
So the things that are worth really investing in are things that last for eternity.
3 things last eternally–God, his Promises—which he says will never pass away or change—and People.
That’s what goes with us after this life.
No matter your background or your career, you can live for the line. You can live for the eternal.
I was visiting John Lockhart recently, you’ve probably seen him with us at some point playing guitar. He’s known around Austin playing in the band Suede. He got baptized here several years ago and found our church through this campus in South Austin.
This past year he got diagnosed with cancer. Right now, we’re praying for a miracle because the medical community has done all they can, it’s stage 4, and he’s on hospice for pain management.
But when I visited him to pray with him, I was blown away by his attitude. Tons of people are coming to see him, but they’re not comforting him, he’s comforting and encouraging them, and telling all his friends how Real God is to him, and tangible God’s presence and peace have been–it’s just blown him away. And He feels God gave Him a message: “We’re going to be ok.”
We can trust God with everything – with our lives, with the lives of others we love, and with all we hold onto and with all we fear.
He also felt like God was doing something significant this year, and we can experience it as we trust Him.
John is living fully on the Line already. And as a result, all his friends are blown away and really thinking about the line—not just the dot.
He’s living out what the Apostle Paul wrote, when faced with death in a Roman prison:
I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. 21 For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. 22 But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. Philippians 1:20-21
Living for the Line is a win-win/no lose situation.
So here’s what I want to challenge you with today if you follow Jesus—you don’t have to change anything career wise to make an eternal difference. All you have to change is your view of what you’re living for—the dot or the line.
Paul says it this way:
I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth. 20 But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives…He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control. Philippians 3:18-21
If you have trusted in Christ, you are a citizen of Heaven—your destiny is the line—it’s the life we long for, so live for the line.
We’ve been giving you and our whole city glimpses of the reality of eternity through this citywide conversation.
I hope you’ve been sharing the short social media clips from WhatsafterATX.org as well as giving away the free What’s After Life books.
Easter we will dive deep into seeing How Real The life to come is.
John Burke and I will teach on it. We will have live interviews with people who were clinically dead, experienced a glimpse of heaven, and came back to tell others about it. Scientists and doctors cannot explain what happened to them, and in fact, many scientists and skeptical doctors now believe because of them.
So invite people. They will see it’s what every human longs for.
A Relationship with God
And it’s a free gift.
Jesus made a way for every person to know they are right with God, forever.
Forgiven, adopted into God’s family, a citizen of the Kingdom of God.
That’s the Gospel—Gospel just means Good News.
God is for you, not against you.
Everyone is invited to God’s party, into God’s family, all you have to do is say “Yes”.
Have you done that?
Told Jesus “I want what you did to count for me—I want God’s forgiveness and leadership?”
If so, that begins a relationship with God forever. But we are temporarily here on the Dot called earth for a purpose, and we get distracted from that purpose which is To love God and to Love people in all we do. So notice how Jesus addressed this in Matthew 9.
When [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. 38 So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.” Matthew 9:36-38.
The problem is not that there aren’t any people hurting, isolated, alone, addicted, struggling, suicidal, wondering if their lives matter at all. They are everywhere. The harvest is great. Jesus says that there are many people who will respond and come into God’s family. That’s not the problem.
The problem is that God uses people to do his work in the world, and we are often too busy living for the dot—the workers are few.
So Jesus asks you to pray “God send more people to love people and tell them about you.” And will you let him send you?
We have made it incredibly easy—people are seeing these videos all over the city, reading books, conversations are happening.
People are very open to this message!
After hearing our message on following those God promptings, a Gatewayer named Greg was making coffee at 5:30am when his coworker Dan comes to mind. Now Dan had sarcastically said one time, “God wouldn’t want anything to do with me after all I’ve done.” It made Greg nervous thinking about it. He said, “I sensed God leading me to give him a book which made me nervous. Knowing what I do of him, I thought he’d be sarcastic or make me feel like I was less than him. I grabbed a book and held it for about a week because I was scared. I honestly didn’t think he’d be very open.” Dan’s this big, burly kind of tough guy. But Greg told him, “This morning at 5:30am you came to mind. I remembered when you jokingly said “God wouldn’t have anything to do with me.” I know this sounds weird, but I think God brought you to mind because it’s not true.” Greg explained a little about the book and gave it to him. Dan shocked him—he not only thanked him and hugged him. Last thing Greg expected.
That’s why we’re empowering you to share it—you’ll find people are more open than you think. Or at least want to be. I love Ricky Echeona’s approach, he’s our South student pastor. He handed a book to his physical therapist saying: “Hey, I know you are an open-minded person. I thought you would love this book!” How can he say “no” to that! No one wants to admit they are closed-minded!
This message resonates, because all people secretly wonder—what happens after the dot?
Is life really just about the stress, anxiety, fear and struggle on the dot—then nothing?
Or is there hope, is there a bigger perspective, a love that overcomes all and makes it all meaningful?
What’s After Life is scientific evidence that it’s real—the Line’s real—God’s real, and it’s wonderful.
So what can hold us back? Well, like one of our leaders said to John Burke, our senior pastor, “What if people think I’m a Jehovah’s Witness passing out books?” I told him, “How do you think I feel—hey read this awesome book I wrote—how arrogant.” John has also had to overcome all those thoughts of “What will people think of me.”
But, here’s the thing—people might think things.
But it’s not about me, or you—it’s about God—it’s about the reality of the Line.
Yes, on the dot, some people will scoff, ridicule, persecute, but some are seeking Truth, and if they are, they’ll find the truth.
Our pastor in Los Angeles named Erwin McManus used to say: “We are not trying to convert anyone or proselytize. We are just trying to help people who are spiritually searching, and they are everywhere!”
A Conversation with Pontius Pilate
We have been learning from the life of Jesus how to have meaningful conversations that move people forward on their spiritual journey.
The day of his crucifixion, Jesus had a crucial conversation with Pilate, the roman governor.
It was the pivot point of Pilate’s life, maybe his eternity, we don’t know.
But think about it, why do we know the name of Pontius Pilate today?
He was a governor of Judea, you know the names of any other governors from 2000 years ago? Some of you don’t even know the name of our Governor now!
Yet we know Pilate’s name today because of this one conversation and the decisions he made. It reminds us how pivotal these conversations and decisions can be.
So let’s look at John 18.
28 Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor… Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?” 30 “If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.” 31 Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” “But we have no right to execute anyone,” they objected. 32 This took place to fulfill what Jesus had said about the kind of death he was going to die. John 18:28-32
This is fascinating. “We have no right to execute anyone,” they say. One of the things that has helped many people here realize Jesus really was the Messiah, the Son of God, was how many verifiable historical events were foretold by God. This is one of about 60 fulfilled prophecies.
The Jewish leaders wanted to execute Jesus—why? Because he claimed equality with God, making himself God’s Messiah, and he healed people as proof so that the whole Jewish nation was talking about him. But he insulted the religious leaders. He saw through their phony acts of piety to their greed-motivated, power-hungry obsession, and Jesus called them on it. They feared they would lose power and authority the more that people started following Jesus.
4 They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.5 Everything they do is for show…What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces. You won’t go in yourselves, and you don’t let others enter either. 15 What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you cross land and sea to make one convert, and then you turn that person into twice the child of hell you yourselves are! Matthew 23:4-15
Maybe you’ve known some church people like that?
Have you ever heard Jesus on a rant?
Read the whole chapter—he keeps going. He spoke hard words because they pretended to follow God, but they were playing god. Power and wealth were their gods, and they wanted to kill Jesus because he was threatening both. Remember last week we saw that Jesus used hard words on those who persistently had a hard heart because this was the most loving thing to do as it may be the only thing they would hear.
BUT, even the way they went about crucifying him proved Jesus was God revealed in human flesh. In the book of Genesis, nearly 2000 years before Christ, Jacob declares this prophecy about his son Judah:
“The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his.” Genesis 49:10 1500-2000 B.C.
For 2000 years before Christ, the Jewish people understood this to be a prophecy about the Messiah.
The scepter, like a King’s Staff, stands for authority or Kingly Rulership.
The Messiah would have authority over all the nations (the obedience of the nations—belonged to this Messiah).
This prophecy says the Messiah’s lineage would be through Judah, and Jesus was descended from Judah (that’s why you see those genealogies in the Bible), but they also understood it to mean that the Messiah would come before Authority was taken away from the Jewish people.
Now, here’s what’s amazing—In 7 A.D. Rome got sick of Jewish uprisings and took authority for capital punishment away. In the Talmud, the Jewish historical commentaries, the Jewish Rulers write:
“Woe unto us, for the scepter has been taken from Judah, and the Messiah has not appeared!” Talmud, Sanhedrin, 7 A.D.
Did you catch this? The Jewish Religious Leaders of 7 A.D. in writings outside the Bible, bemoaned that this prophecy had occurred, authority had been stripped from them, yet the Messiah had not come.
But he was growing up among them—yet their own dot-focused-self-centered pursuits blinded them.
Seeing Jesus do miraculous healings, they couldn’t deny it, so they called it demonic, sorcery.
So they had to go to Pilate to get him to hang Jesus on a cross. That’s why they record in the Talmud:
“On the eve of Passover they hung Jesus of Nazareth for sorcery and leading Israel astray” Talmud, Sanhedrin 43a
This is history, outside the bible, but God foretold all of it. Psalm 2:
Why do the nations conspire…2 The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his [messiah] anointed…4 The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them…6 “I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.” 7 I will proclaim the Lord’s decree: He said to me, “You are my son; today I have become your father.8 Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance….” Psalm 2:1-8, 1000 B.C.
So the Jewish and Roman rulers Caiaphas, King Herod, and Pilate all worked together to crucify God’s Messiah, the Son of God, who paid with his life to adopt people, his inheritance, from all nations.
Now there is an evil lie that was prevalent in the middle ages that led to anti-Semitism—that The Jews are responsible for Jesus’ death.
The Jews are not responsible for Jesus’ death.
The Romans are not responsible for Jesus’s death.
Jesus willingly gave His life. He willingly sacrificed His life for all who have sinned – and that’s all of humanity!
God foretold all he was doing in history out of love for all people.
The Line of eternity is real, so are you living for the line or just the dot?
Living for the dot is what caused Pilate to make a fatal mistake. The Jewish Rulers tried to manipulate Pilate to kill Jesus for claiming to be a King–a traitor against Rome.
33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”34 … 36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” 38 “What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him. John 18:33-38
Jesus is the King of all Kings, but his Kingdom is not of this world.
That’s why those who follow Jesus are not to fight for power or control like the kingdoms of this world do, but to fight with love–FOR our enemies, to fight FOR our marriage, to fight FOR people to be reconciled to God, to fight FOR people to reconcile with each other.
That’s our fight—evil tries to divide people, from God, from each other.
And Yes, evil is going to threaten, intimidate, and try to bully you into not telling others about Jesus’ love, forgiveness, free gift of eternal life.
Jesus promised this:
Since I, the master of the household, have been called the prince of demons, the members of my household will be called by even worse names!26 “But don’t be afraid of those who threaten you. For the time is coming when everything that is covered will be revealed, and all that is secret will be made known to all… What I whisper in your ear, shout from the housetops for all to hear! 28 “Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Matthew 10:25-28
If you’re living for the dot, this doesn’t give much comfort. But if you’re living for the line—you realize the real enemy is Evil itself—trying to bully you into not loving people enough to tell them of the love of God. God wants people free, Evil doesn’t. The choices and decisions are ours.
Notice, Pilate isn’t seeking what’s true, only what works for him. He’s dot-focused. Jesus came to tell us what’s true from the perspective of the Line, not the dot.
If you truly want to know what’s true about God, which greatly affects how you view yourself and others, you should carefully consider what Jesus said.
Pilate scoffed, “What is truth?” because he was seeking self-interest rather than seeking truth, so he made a huge pivotal decision that made him infamous to this day.
He knew Jesus was innocent, yet he made a decision based on his career and public opinion “What will people think, what will they do, how will it affect me?”
I want to ask you a hard question: do you make your decisions based on public opinion, how those around you will think about you, what’s best for me dot-wise?
Or do you think with the long-line of eternity when you make your decisions?
God cares for and loves all people–including Pontius Pilate, so He tried to give Pilate a warning. We see it in the book of Matthew, who also recorded Jesus’ life and teachings.
15 Now it was the governor’s custom each year during the Passover celebration to release one prisoner to the crowd—anyone they wanted. 16 This year there was a notorious prisoner, a man named Barabbas. 17 As the crowds gathered before Pilate’s house that morning, he asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you—Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” 18 (He knew very well that the religious leaders had arrested Jesus out of envy.) 19 Just then, as Pilate was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent him this message: “Leave that innocent man alone. I suffered through a terrible nightmare about him last night.” 20 Meanwhile, the leading priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas to be released and for Jesus to be put to death. Matthew 27:15-20
God gives Pilate’s wife, Claudia, a vivid dream about Jesus, warning her that Jesus is innocent and that this decision to crucify him is a decision that will lead to much suffering.
God is warning Pilate to seek Truth, not expediency, to see the Line, but Pilate’s focused on the dot.
Claudia seeks truth and finds the line. Origen, one of the early church historians, says that Claudia, Pilate’s wife, became a Christian because of that dream. She started seeking truth about the risen Jesus, and she found the truth about Jesus.
Pilate wanted to protect his own self-interest most, and made a pivotal decision based on the dot, not the line. He wanted to appease the people so he could get promoted—even by killing a man he knew to be innocent.
This conversation reminds us, some will respond like Pilate, they will decide against Jesus though they have no good reason.
Some will respond like Claudia, who realized something bigger than the dot is going on and she needs to understand it.
You can’t tell which is which. So we tell people, and entrust them to God.
Jesus said, For the time is coming when everything that is covered will be revealed, and all that is secret will be made known to all… What I whisper in your ear, shout from the housetops for all to hear! Matthew 10:26-27.