Pastor Terry explores a passage from John 11 where Jesus has a fascinating and destiny-changing conversation about life, death, and the resurrection to come.
All right. What a blessing to be able to share this time with all of you, if you’re joining us for the first time. I’m Pastor Terry, Lead Pastor here at Cornerstone Church in San Francisco, and it’s such a blessing to have everybody be a part of what we’re about to share.
So grateful, so thankful. In fact, you may have noticed already, but we’re starting a new series. Thankful. It’s going to take us Lord willing into and through the holidays and then right up to the new year. And you know, for me, I just I just find my heart filled with gratitude.
I know the situations in the country and the nation in the world. It’s not resolved. There might be areas in our own life that are still troubling us, but we still have so much to be grateful and thankful for.
I was reminded of some verses in the scriptures and I just want to read them at the very outset here. Just a couple of quick ones just to set the tone. Psalm, 106 one says this praise the Lord give thanks to the Lord for he is good.
His love endures forever. Psalm 86:12. I give thanks to you. Oh Lord, my god with my whole heart and I will glorify your name forever. And then the first part of Hebrews 12:28. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful.
I mean, what an invitation. And even now, Lord, I. I just pray that you would give us the gift. Of a thankful heart, a heart of gratitude. I mean, we can always. Focus on what’s wrong, we can get ourselves consumed with the flaw and we can allow our fear to run rampant and fill us with anxiety, but
when we choose to cultivate a spirit of gratitude and thanksgiving and we lift up our eyes to you. You will do amazing things, and we will find that our countenance will be lifted up and and we will begin to sense your goodness.
Gratitude produces goodness. And my prayer for all of us is that we would feel and be filled with his goodness in this good day. Yeah, I ask that in Jesus name. So, hey, today I want to steer your heart to be thankful.
I’m not. I just want to go for it. I’m I want to talk about being thankful for the gift of undying life. And so what I want to do, if I can say it this way is I want to talk about life.
I want to talk about death. And I want to talk about life. If you think about it, that’s what we’re all journeying on. That is the promise that Jesus gives us. Life, death, life. It has everything to do with why God sent his son into this world, doesn’t it?
It has everything to do with. With a future that that is better than anything we can imagine, I mean, Jesus told us via a conversation that he had and you can read about it in John three, with a highly intelligent, educated religious leader named Nicodemus.
He out of the context of that conversation, he made the statement that becomes the most famous verse that I think the most memorized verse. The most quoted verse John 3:16 for God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have ever lasting life.
I mean, what a gift we have been given so much. If that was all the we had, then. It’s a gift that is beyond anything that we could ever deserve, as what we call it, the grace of God.
God’s love on full display. Speaking into your life and into my but it reminded me what I was thinking about John 3:16 and what it means to be thankful for the gift of undying life. It reminded me of an interesting exchange that I had.
It was years ago with an author and deep Christian thinker, a man named Dallas Willard. Willard actually, had served as a distinguished professor of philosophy at USC for an incredible 47 years. And he he recently died, but he left us such a wonderful legacy in his writings, and the example he set for so many has been a
real impressive legacy it has. But I recall reading his book that I consider a classic The Divine Conspiracy, How I was just struck. You know, it was a little side piece. The book itself is amazing. It’s deep waters.
It’s and yet it has a pragmatic component to it that is also appealing, but it’s impossible to to read it without being stirred in your soul to want to follow Jesus better. But one of the things that was it was very subtle was a very small thing.
But I I remember reading when I was reading the book The Divine Conspiracy, How I was struck by a unique translation. That was that that word included of John, 3:16. And when I read it, the verse that I had known all my life memorized since I was in Sunday school as a boy, it it caught me afresh
and let me just read it to you, it says. This is what Willard included. He said God’s care for humanity was so great that he sent his unique son among us so that those who count on him might not lead a futile and failing existence, but have the undying life of God himself.
Now I I remember because not long after Willard wrote the book, I heard that he was speaking one evening in the Bay Area, and so I decided to go and I attended, and afterwards I went up to him.
I went up to him and I, and I thanked him for his contribution in my life. I let him know how much I have appreciated him. I actually had a chance to sit under his teaching one time when I was at Fuller Seminary years before, and he was a visiting professor and I just enjoyed him so much
. But I told him how much I also appreciated his book and what he had to share in the evening, and I was just very complimentary. And I told him, you know, that he had been a blessing to me.
And so and then I did. I did something that well, it was like a Colombo movement. Some of you were going, What? What is that? What is Colombo? Well, Colombo was this television show that I remember when I was a boy.
It was in the 1970s and Colombo was. He was played by a man named Peter Falk, who was a detective. And one of his skill sets was that he was always underestimated. He would wear this raincoat. And if I recall, yeah, he would often have a cigar in his hand and he would talk to a lot of
times people who most likely had committed a crime, but they were giving off the aura of of their intelligence and how smart they were, and so they would often talk down to him. This was kind of the way the show was constructed.
You know, I’ve got a lot of detail here, but one of the things that would happen is he would ask them a series of questions and then they would like treat him like he was a non threat. And then he would walk away.
And as he was walking away, he he would he would go, Oh, and this is how I would kind of remember in my mind he’d be walking and he got, Oh, just. Just one more thing. Just one more thing.
And and then he would ask them a question that would knock them off balance. Now I didn’t do the knock off balance part to Dallas Willard, but I did say to him, Oh, well, you know what? one more thing here, if I could ask you, you know, I was reading your book and I saw the translation that
you gave of John 3:16, and I was wondering I because I looked everywhere. I can’t find that in any of the Bible translations that I have. And he goes, Oh, that’s that’s because it’s my translation. And I said, Oh, wow, oh.
You’re translation well. Well, it’s a good one. It’s a good one, and I really like the way you rendered that verse. And and we had a good laugh and I walked away. But I think again, going back to the way that that Willard describes and translates John 3:16, that God’s care for humanity was so great that he
sent his unique son among us so that we might count on him. I love that might not lead a futile and failing existence, a meaningless life, but have the undying life of God himself. That’s what Jesus brought us.
And I think it’s one of the reasons why, when I think of it this way in the beautiful way in which the verse’s promise is communicated, it’s one of the reasons I believe we should all be thankful. And for me, it’s what I wanted to do to kick off this thankful series.
I wanted to focus on God’s greatest gift to us Jesus. And because of him, the gift of undying life that you and I have been given and what that means. Because, you know, we’re told two things in that verse, aren’t we in the way it was, it was given to us in the Willard translation.
one, we’re told that God sent his unique son. No one else like him. His one and only his begotten son. Number one, so that our existence might not be futile and failing. I mentioned that not meaningless, that so that we who count on him.
That’s that. That’s God’s way of saying, and it’s a great way to finding true faith. We who count on him, we who trust in him, we who depend on him. If you haven’t done that, open up your life to Jesus, decide that you are going to count on him and on what he has done.
But think of it this way that we who count on him might live a life that counts. That’s what I’m hearing that we who count on Jesus. Might live a life that count that matters, right, that counts, that matters, that we’re talking about a life that is truly life.
That’s what we’re being offered. And then secondly, that we might have the undying love of God himself. And what is that? But that he might fill us in with life in this life and carry us beyond death’s clutch into the life that is evermore and overflowing the undying life.
Recently, I was listening to a podcast by another man who I greatly admire. Another writer, actually former pastor, a man named Gordon McDonald. And he’s actually a sage. And in the podcast he was being interviewed. He’s now in his early eighties.
So he’s he’s getting getting up there in the years. But I was just impressed as I was listening to him. How astonishingly coherent, he was. And he he was reflecting on life and he was reflecting on adulthood, and he he talked about in his mind how there are three primary stages in life and it is really this
interests me and I like to do this every now and then is just sort of think about where I am in the span of my life. And he this is what this is, what Macdonald said. He said, when you’re young.
He said, when you’re young, when you’re in your twenties and thirties, for example, he says life is mostly about firsts. First things, you know, getting degrees, starting a career build, you know, building something for the first time, buying things like a car for the first time and marrying having a child that this season, that season of our
life is a lot about the big things, our first things. But then MacDonald went on to say then somewhere along the way, in the middle place. And I just love the way he put it, he says life becomes about the sames, the sames.
You do things the same for the most part, he says life is about work and home and and career and rhythms, and especially, he says, if you’re a parent, it’s about, you know, shuttling the kids. It’s a it’s a it just seems to get caught up in these these same things, and days and months and years tend
to be a blur. I mean, I look back on that time in our life with my wife and and pastoring and raising a family, and so many of it had to do with the sames. And I’m thankful for that season and the unique contribution that was made in that in that season of our lives and the joy
that was there. But I agree with McDonald that that middle stage of life, it is characterized a lot by the sames. And then he said, and he kind of skipped away ahead, and he said something profound and touching that caught me actually coming a little bit off guard.
Bye bye. When he said it kind of made me melancholy just for a moment which I really don’t mind. I actually like the feeling of melancholy every now and then it. It. I don’t know. It just makes me feel grateful and.
It’s that that sense that some things won’t last, and it makes them even more meaningful to me. And I guess when I hear that wistful sound in a song that that sadness it does, it does stir my heart in some way anyway.
That’s that’s a that’s a whole other story. He said this about getting older. He said, in contrast to what he called the first of the young adulthood and the sames of the middle years. He says when you edge out of your seventies, so he’s pushing that to the edge of the eighties, he says life starts to be
not about first things, not about same things, but about last things. And. I listened to this man. And he said, you know. He says he start to lose. People, you know, he says, you, you you start to lose things.
Your health, your your vitality, he says, you get used to saying goodbye. And you wonder. When you make a trip or go on a vacation, says you wonder to yourself, this is the last time I’ll ever make this trip.
To this place I’ve loved. You wonder, is this the last time I’ll ever be able to exercise like I have so many times before? He says you start to wonder, is this the last time I’ll ever buy a car or has that time pass me by already.
Is this the last time I’ll ever redecorate the house? Move things around. Change it up. Is this the last year I’ll even be able to live in this house, he said, some of us start thinking at that season in our lives.
He goes, Is this the last time we wonder if I’ll ever, when we say goodbye to someone we love it. We wonder to ourselves, he says. Sometimes, Is this the last time I’ll ever see that person? This friend of all these years.
And then and then he said, and you if you you are. And then he just, I guess, I guess, probe deep. He was an if you’re a believer. If you’ve someone who made a decision to welcome Christ into your life and you have that hope in you, you do start to think, he said about heaven a little
more. And you start to think about it, McDonald said differently as the years stack up. It becomes, he said, not just theoretical, but but something filled with wonder and hope. And you start to ask things to yourself in your private moments like what will it be like in heaven?
Will I really get a new body? Will I really see the people I have loved again. What will it be like? He says you start to wonder to live forever. What is that like and what is what would it?
What will it mean to be in the presence of ultimate creativity, which is how he described part of who God is. And then he said one more thing. He said, and you wrestle with your faith a little bit more.
I mean, you do it in a real way. And I just found that fascinating. Now that got me thinking about another conversation that Jesus had and it’s recorded in John 11. And we’re told of it that what occasioned it was that Jesus had this conversation with a grieving friend and follower whose brother had just died and the
person he was having a conversation with was was Martha. And she was very disappointed in the fact that Jesus’s arrival had been delayed because she was convinced that if Jesus had been able to get there before her brother, Lazarus had died, that well, she she felt that he’d still be alive.
And because. She was convinced that Jesus was a healer and that Jesus would have been able to heal him if he had only come, so she was really disappointed that Jesus had been delayed not only healing the wounds of her loss, but also struggling with frustration with with the Lord.
And this is what we read in verse 20 of John 11. So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and she met him. But Mary remains seated in the house that was her sister, and Martha said to Jesus, Lord, if you if you had been here, Lord, I mean, I see Martha running out to him
, Lord, if you had been here, you know, my brother would not have died. You heard he was ill or how could you have made it sooner? But as if catching herself and if I was spending a ton of time here, I would just dig deep into it.
But it says, she says, but even even now, I know that that I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you right, because I know he would have been alive because God hears your prayers, God moves through you.
Martha was saying. You have the power to heal, I believe that, and so. And Jesus said to her. Martha, your your brother will rise again. And Martha said to him, I know, I know that he will rise again.
Of course, yes. I believe that promise in the in the resurrection on the last day. And it’s basically like Martha was saying, I know Lord someday in the future, at the end of the age, when God brings those who are his back to life in the resurrection, he will rise.
I I believe that promise. I do. Jesus said to her. In one of the amazing statements we call them, the I Am statements of Jesus is something that Lord willing, I’d like to explore before Easter next year. I have been thinking about it, but Jesus said to her, I am the resurrection and the life.
Whoever believes whoever believes in me, though, he die yet, shall he live and everyone who lives and believes in me, I say this shall never die. Do you believe this? Jesus says, in essence, the future this is what he is saying.
The future is present and standing before you face to face. In this moment, the power of life is in me. I am the resurrection and the life. Martha, do you believe this? And a stunned and shaken Martha took well.
She took her faith as far as they could go. She took her faith as far as it could go. And she said to him, Yes, Lord, I believe that you are. I believe that you are the Christ. I do.
The son of God who is coming into this world. And that was a great confession. And although I’m sure she could, not just as we cannot today fully comprehend what Jesus was can was, you know? Well, I guess I would say it.
She may not have fully comprehended actually what she was confessing and what was actually meant by the astonishing and incredible words that Jesus had spoke. Because, you know, she she she had she just she was saying what we often do when we say, we believe, but but we may not really understand the depth of what it is
. We’re actually saying, we believe. And now we know. For example, that Jesus much to everyone’s. Just amazing dismay ended up bringing Lazarus back from the dead, literally called him back to life and that Lazarus life on Earth was miraculously extended, and he evidently lived many more years before dying a second time.
And that is a not so ordinary distinction, I might add, but he did die, and so will we again. Yes, it’s unless the Lord returns first. We we will leave this world. So how thankful loved ones we should be.
I need to say this to you today. How thankful… as a kick off the Thankful series, how thankful we should be for. For number one, we have a promise of of of life beyond this life, if we follow the one who is the resurrection and the life.
That’s an incredible promise. We should never let go of. And then secondly, that between now and then, we can live in the promise of life. Listen. With Jesus at her side. So a promise of life to come and then the invitation to allow Jesus to walk with us in this life, you know that that reminded me of
something that C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity when he said these words and I, I love reading them and they always speak to me. He said, the real son of God, you know, talking about Jesus being at our side, the real son of God is at your side.
He is beginning to turn you into the same kind of thing as himself. He is beginning, so to speak, to inject his kind of life and thought his he’s the Greek word here, Zoe, that his supernatural life into you beginning to turn the Tin Soldier into Alive Man.
And then Louis makes this statement. The part of you that does not like it is the part that is still tin. That’s the part of us that resists God, isn’t it? So what shall we do? What shall we do love once but surrender with a thankful heart to the one who has made a claim on our life
and then choose to welcome him on our own volition to welcome him joyfully into our life? And I don’t think that’s just something we do once and forever. Though that first time means something very special and is catalytic, but I think it’s something we get to do all the days of our lives.
If you’ve welcomed him in. If I’ve welcomed him in, then I want to stay. And I want us to stay close to his side. And staying close to his side. It’s going to take intention on our part. I mean, he will be with us.
The question is, will we be with him? And that’s. That’s an opportunity, that’s a gift. And it’s going to require intention and dedication and and grace and dayliness because a daily devotion, right? Because because we’re prone to wander right, we’re prone to wander to the if I can say it, we’re prone to wander to the tin side
. Of who we are. And what we need to be instead is by his side, close by his side so that we can become like him in the now. As the years go by and then we will walk with him into the life, which is yet to come.
I leave you. I leave us with this. Let the words of Christ dwell in you richly. Teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom. Singing Psalms. So what we do in worship? So much of our worship is built around the Psalms, singing Psalms, songs and hymns and spiritual songs.
But here’s the key with thankfulness in your hearts to God. That’s all we need to do. Sing to the Lord a song of thanksgiving. And yeah, we’re going to do a couple of those things in a minute as well.
After we’re done, I’m going to come back around and share, but we have a song that bears can share, but before we even do that. Speaking of song, I also want to remind everybody about giving and that we may do it.
Thankfully, under the Lord, right? We love we give it just the way it is, and I do want to remind all of you, and I’m appreciative I am of how faithful you have been under the Lord and your tithes and your offerings and so many of you give.
Beautifully so that we can do what we’ve been called to do as a church and make this journey together. Remember, you can give by sending it into our offices, you can give. Oh yeah, you can give online or through our website or to the app.
But like I say, let’s always first give the Lord Jesus our heart, but I have one little thought. It’s a little gem to me that I want to share with you after we finish with the song that the band is going to give to us.
May we gratefully receive it together? Yeah. Lord Jesus, we open up our hearts to you in Jesus in your name. Amen.
It’s so good to be able to sing under the Lord and receive a blessing he has for us. I mentioned to you that I had one more little fight and it’s actually a quote from poet George Herbert.
He said this I was just thinking about Thanksgiving, he said, Thou hast given he wrote this to the Lord. Thou hast given so much to me that was given so much to me. Give me one more thing a grateful heart.
And then he said this, not thankful when it pleases me, as if my blessings had spare days, but such a heart whose pulse may be thy praise, that’s so good because it’s a reminder that God’s blessings never take a day off.
They don’t. He is with us even in the hardest places and the most dangerous spaces. The Lord is there by our side waiting for us to walk with him. He’s our good shepherd. How thankful we should be for the Lord, for the promise of life, for him being with us in this life.
May his grace cover you. May he keep you, may keep you in every way in your spirit and your body and your soul and in your mind. You may he filled you with a heart of gratitude. Yeah, and me too.
In Jesus name.