What do you Want?

July 7, 2013

The Palestinian sun beat down on the two friends as they
listened to John exhort the crowds to repentance.  For the past few weeks they had followed John
everywhere he had gone, listened to his message, and watched the crowd’s
reaction. 
At first they were sure that he was the one that the
prophets had pointed to.  The one who
would deliver Israel from the hands of the Romans.  This guy even looked like a prophet, that
long wild hair, a beard that reached down to the middle of his chest and the
eyes, his eyes shone with a zealots rage.
But as he preached he said things like, “I am not the Christ”,
and  “After me will come one more
powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and
untie.”
Who would it be? Who could be more powerful then John the Baptist?  And then today, a day that really had nothing
special about it John said, “Behold the lamb of God”.   He was the one, the one they had waited so
long for the one who was going to change the world, the messiah, the Christ,
the son of God.  They were so stunned
that they just turned and followed him, 
thinking that he didn’t look so special as a matter of fact John looked
more like a messiah should look then this man.
But they didn’t say anything they just followed wondering
what they should do next, what they should say, how they should approach
him.  And then it happened he turned
around and saw them following and asked them point blank, “what do you want?”
This is week four of our Red Letter Summer series.  For something to be marked in Red Letters
means there is a certain importance or significance attached to it.  The practice began over 500 years ago when
they started marking Holy Days on the Calendar in Red.  They were Red Letter Days.  And then, just a little over a 100 years ago
the first Red Letter New Testament and Bibles were printed with the words of
Christ printed in red.  I would suspect,
although not a hundred percent certain that the majority of bible printed today
would be Red Letter editions.
And these are the first words of Christ as recorded by John,
obviously not the first words of Christ, simply the first written down in John’s
Gospel.
  
The question is asked in John’s gospel Chapter 1 verse 38,
and was asked almost 2000 years ago by Jesus of Nazareth.  But it is a question that is timeless.  It is a question that remains, the question
of the day, the $64,000 question.  The
question that Jesus Christ still asks everyone who seeks to follows after
him.  “What do you want?”   “What are you after?”  And it is a good question. 
Jesus Christ wanted to know what these two men wanted, why
they were following him and what they were looking for.  Notice that he didn’t ask, “Who do you want”  but instead he asked “What do you want?”
Were they the legalist who wanted to indulge in
conversations about the law?  You know
the Pharisees?  They’re still around
today.  You know the ones if Christ
returned tomorrow they would proudly tell him “We didn’t let anyone call
themselves a Christian if they weren’t Wesleyans, or they smoked or drank, or
wore their hair too long or went to the movies or danced, or had any fun at
all.”
Or maybe they were just ambitious time servers, they were
after power and position and were just seeking 
to use God for their own means, and they’d follow whoever they had to
follow.
Or maybe they were fierce zealots who were looking for a
political demagogue or military commander to overthrow the pagan Romans and
restore Israel to her proper greatness.
Or perhaps they were just humble men of prayer  looking for a light to point them toward God
and the higher calling.  Or then again
maybe they were just puzzled bewildered sinners who were stumbling along
through life and were looking for a light on the road.
Whatever and whoever they were Christ recognised one thing
in them, and that was the fact they that wanted something.  And however noble or base their motives were
they were after something.
And as we come to Christ two thousand years later we have to
recognize the truth of the fact that everyone who comes to Jesus is looking for
something.  Good, bad or indifferent it
doesn’t matter the fact is that you are looking for something.
Everyone of us is striving for something as we plod through
this life, from day to day, week to week, month to month and year to year.  You are looking for the one thing that makes
you tick, the thing that shakes your tree, rattles your chain, floats your boat
or scratches you where you itch.
There are those who seek security, you know a house, a job,
a family, and when their life approaches those twilight years a pension.  And there is nothing wrong with seeking
security but it is a low goal.  A basic
goal of survival.
Others are looking toward their career, the power, promise,
position and prestige.  They pour their
heart and soul into their work.  And if
it is directed to good it can be a high aim, but often it has a price that must
be paid.  And if that price is
sacrificing family and enjoyment, and sometimes God then it becomes a distorted
aim.  And of course it is limited by the
horizon of time and health.
The thing that most everyone is seeking is peace with God,
and when we find that then he directs our aims and points us in the right
directions.
If Jesus Christ was to tap you on the shoulder this morning
and ask you “What are you after from me, what do you want?”  what would your answer be?
Perhaps it’s time that you thought about it, “what do you want?”
Matthew 16:9-10 Jesus saidDon’t you understand even yet? Don’t you remember the 5,000 I fed with
five loaves, and the baskets of leftovers you picked up? Or the 4,000 I fed
with seven loaves, and the large baskets of leftovers you picked up?”
1) Some Were Looking
for Stuff.
 I wonder how long it was
after Jesus started feeding the multitudes that some people only came for the
sandwiches?  
There are those today who have commercialised the gospel and
are trying to make a buck from it.  Now
you may think that is a new problem but one of the reasons that Martin Luther
left the Roman Catholic Church was their practise of selling indulgences,
profiting from grace.  You could pay now
and sin later. 
And Paul wrote in Philippians 1:15 It’s true that some are preaching out of jealousy and rivalry. But
others preach about Christ with pure motives.
Paul saw that there were those who preached for
themselves.  And really if we think of
those who preach for monetary gain we don’t have to look very far to find the
excesses.
The problem is that we often focus on the major excesses,
but if we ignore the Benny Hinns and Joel Osteen, we discover that some of
those very people who were hurling stones at the TV evangelists need to examine
their own lives.
Some of the TV Evangelists are earning ten time what an
average Canadian family makes and probably fourteen or fifteen times what the
majority of their supporters make.  But
if you can’t admire these men for anything else admire their ambition and
dedication to the task.  If nothing else
you have to admit they preach well.
Some of the poorest preachers in the world are preaching for
the very same reason that the Copelands and Jakes are preaching for.  And the difference between 1.6 million
dollars a year and twenty thousand dollars a year is minute if the dollars are
the reason why the person is preaching.
The bottom line is not how much you make in marketing Jesus,
it is the fact that when you preach to simply make a living, or because it’s a
job, or to drive a rolls Royce you are simply pawning the blood of Jesus Christ
to make a few bucks.  And that applies
equally to the millionaires as to the pauper who preaches because he has neither
the talent or inclination to do anything else.
And this doesn’t just apply to preachers, there are lay
people out there that are just as guilty, they see Christianity as an
investment. Years ago I had a friend in Amway and you could always tell when
the speaker at a weekend rally had been a Christian because Bruce was in church
on Sunday hoping that this was another step to success.
There are people that say “Well if I give God this amount of
money then he will double it.”  or “ If I
go to Sunday school, morning worship, and mid-week services then God will see
to it that I prosper.”
What do you want? Be honest, if it’s material blessings you
want then at least be honest enough to admit it.
But that’s not all people are looking for, Mark 3:10 He had healed many people that
day, so all the sick people eagerly pushed forward to touch him.
2) Some Were Looking
for Healing 
There’s nothing
inherently wrong with that.  The reason
that the sick people eagerly pushed forward to touch Jesus was because Jesus
was healing sick people.  You’d have to
be  fool to be sick and see people being
healed and not want to be healed as well.
But for some that’s all Jesus is.  A healer.  When they are sick, or their children or
family member is sick they remember that Jesus healed the sick and they begin
to pray and they contact Karen and ask to be put on the e-prayer chain. 
It kind of reminds me of the story of the two old guys who
were talking the day after a hurricane went through and the first one said,
“Quite the storm last night.”  To which
his friend replied, “Yep, God probably heard a lot of unfamiliar voices.”  It’s unfortunate that some people only talk
to Jesus when it’s storming in their lives.
And I believe that Jesus healed people two thousand years
ago, and I believe that he still heals people today.  But he is so much more than a healer, he
didn’t come to heal our bodies he came to heal our souls.  I sometimes wonder how God must feel when we
never have time for him until we need a favour.

Jesus came to bridge the gap between us and God, to allow us to enter into a
relationship with the King of the Universe, Master of all Things, and there are
those who treat that relationship like a giant vending machine.  Put your prayers in, pull the handle and wait
for a blessing to pop out. 
You think of all the people that Jesus healed in the Gospels
and we never hear from them again, they don’t appear at the cross, or at the
resurrection.  At no time in the book of
Acts or in any of Paul’s letters is someone described as the blind man that
Jesus gave sight to or the cripple man whose legs were healed. 
Two things that we should never forget when we talk about
Jesus and the accounts of those he healed, he didn’t heal everybody, and
everybody he healed eventually died.  It
wasn’t a forever healing.  Although there
is a forever healing, and that is the healing of the soul that Jesus
offers.   
But not everyone who comes to Jesus is looking to become
wealthy and or healthy. 
 Mark 10:37 They replied, “When you sit on
your glorious throne, we want to sit in places of honor next to you, one on
your right and the other on your left.”

3) Some Were Looking for Power   Jesus had just gotten through talking
about his crucifixion and what happens? The Sons of Thunder, John and James,
want to get dibs in on the power and the influence.  Kind of like Ashleigh
Brilliant who said “All I want is a warm bed
and a kind word and unlimited power.”

Where had they been, had their minds been on vacation?  Christ has just finished saying that he would
be mocked, and scourged and spit on and killed and they say “ Yeah yeah, oh by
the way when you get your power can we be your vice-presidents?”  Come on guys give your heads a shake and see
if they rattle. 
They had come to Jesus believing he was the Messiah but not
necessarily knowing what type of Messiah. 
They obviously pictured him overthrowing the Romans and establishing an
earthly kingdom.  He was saying one thing
but they were hearing another thing.  He
must of felt like Foghorn Leghorn who said “I keep pitchin’ ‘em and you keep missin’ ‘em. Ya
gotta keep your eye on the ball.”
Today there are men and women who come to Christ because it
is the political thing to do.  And that
has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with what people think.
If the reason you come to church each Sunday is because of
what people would say if you didn’t then you are looking for the very same
thing James and John were looking for.
If you are hoping that people will say, “Oh what a good
person, they go to Cornerstone” then you are looking for power and
position.  In one community I pastored
there was a politically correct church, if you wanted to be seen by those who
counted then you went to that church.  And
the only thing some of those people wanted was the political and social
benefits that could be reaped from the name of Christ.
Luke
10:25
One day an
expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher,
what should I do to inherit eternal life?”
4) Some Were Looking
for Eternal Life. 
And that’s valid, that’s part of what our salvation
offers.  However there are a lot of
people out there who are taking Jesus Christ as nothing more or less than a
fire escape from hell.  They don’t want
to suffer the torment of hell so they say the magic words and Allah kazzam they
are on their way to heaven.  And all they
have to do is come and sit in church every Sunday to keep the promise current.
Hold unto your seats, Jesus didn’t come just to save you
from hell.  And Jesus doesn’t want you to
accept him just to escape hell.  The
sincerity of the person who comes to Christ simply to get into heaven can only
be compared to the child who performs for his parents so he can receive a candy
or some other treat.
Do you remember in the Eighties when Oral Roberts told the
world that he had a vision where God told him if he couldn’t raise eight
million dollars for medical missions that he was going to die?  Jimmy Swaggert responded to that by saying “God is not a
terrorist.”
And yet there are many people who come to Christ as hostages
under the threat of hell.  There is no
joy in their Christian life, because even though they have been given the
promise of eternal life through repentance and forgiveness they live under the
constant fear of losing that which God has given them.  And no wonder some Christians are so
miserable, they think they are paying a ransom of their fun so they can get
into heaven.
If your primary reason for coming to Jesus Christ is to
achieve eternal life then your aim is like the person who only wishes to be
secure in this life, not wrong but it is low and it is base.
There is more to Christianity then a hell to be shunned and
a heaven to be gained.  There is a life
to be lived, a God to be worshiped, a Christ to be served, a joy to be
expressed and a world to be changed.
What do you want ? 
Eternal life?  Ok that’s fair, but
there is so much more than that.
John
21:15
After
breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than
these?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.” “Then feed my lambs,”
Jesus told him.
5) Some Were Looking
to Love Jesus.  
I don’t know why Peter followed Jesus the first time, I
really don’t.  Perhaps he saw an
opportunity to pick up a few extra coins, maybe he knew that Jesus could heal
his Mother-in-law  or perhaps he saw the
opportunity to become more than a fisherman. 
Or maybe he was looking for eternal life.
I don’t know why Peter followed Jesus the first time, but
the second time around Jesus made sure that his motives were pure.
If you are in this for the money then there is a good chance
that you will die broke, if it’s a healing you are looking for it will only be
temporary.  If you’re here for the power
and position don’t be surprised if you are humbled.  And if eternal life is your only goal, well
fear can only keep you faithful for so long.
When it comes right down to brass tacks, right down to where
the rubber meets the road the only answer to the question “what do you want?”  can only be “Jesus I want to love you and
serve you.”  no more, no less.
It was John F. Kennedy who said “Ask
not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”  Perhaps it wouldn’t be a
stretch to rephrase that and say “Ask not what God can do for you, ask what you
can do for your God.”
And it’s when we come seeking to enter into that
relationship with Jesus, when we offer him our love that so often those other
things happen.  I truly believe that
there is prosperity in the gospels.  Not
a magic genie in the bottle type prosperity but when grace gets a hold of us it
makes us better people, better parents and better employees and those things
pay dividends. 
The person who comes to Christ and gets their addictions
under control, the liar and thief who come to Christ and become honest people, people
who can be trusted.  The employee who
becomes a person of integrity and provides his employer with all that he is
paid for and more.    And there are tangible benefits to being a
changed person. 
And Jesus does offer healing in this life and Jesus does
offer healing in the next life and that is the promise of eternal life.
And here is the promise, 1 John 4:9-10 God showed how much he loved us by
sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life
through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and
sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.
And so today, as we come to the communion table, Jesus is
still asking “What do you want?”