Christmas Special:
The Success Journey(14/12/02)

By Dr. Robert H. Schuller

As we approach Christmas, we're continuing our series of messages based on the title of my autobiography, "My Journey" The writing of my book took about three years, and now the publishers have sent me on a journey traveling to the cities of America speaking about it. A few days ago I was in the beautiful city of Birmingham, Alabama. It's called the "magic city" and I had a wonderful time there. But it was difficult to fly into from New York where I was speaking, so the publishers rented a private plane. Our plane ran into the worst storm I've ever been in, in my life. The airport was closed for two hours, but when it opened it still was not safe to travel. The last twenty minutes of that airplane flight was the only time in my life that I thought the plane would crash. I've had an experience close to that only once before - in a Russian helicopter over the Great Wall of China. When we arrived in Birmingham, many hours later, I called my wife who was anxiously waiting to hear if I had arrived safely. I said, "Well, I lived." As I told her what happened.

She said, "Were you scared?"

I said, "Not at all. Amazingly enough, not at all."

She said, "Did you pray?"

I said, "No, I didn't have to. I really felt I was in God's hand."

She replied, "Well, I prayed! I knew about the storm and when I didn't hear from you, I prayed harder."

For me there was not a bit of fear at the thought that maybe in ten minutes I'd be gone. It was a wonderful feeling. Amazing. I've never before faced what I thought was a possibility of a fatal airline crash and I wasn't afraid!

Now that was an ultimate new refreshing test of my faith, it's fantastic. And I know many of you don't have my faith, so my prayer today is, "O God, help me to say something this morning that people will grasp and it will do for them what my faith does for me.

Jesus is my Savior! He saves my soul. So I don't worry about eternity.

Jesus saves my role in life so I don't get self-centered on ego trips, but instead I'm into service for Him.

And Jesus saves me when I set my goal and make it. I can succeed because, "I can do all thing through Christ who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13)

In the Christmas season we look at the different journeys surrounding the birth of Christ. There was the journey of the angels. Where did they come from? Heaven. Where's heaven? I don't know. But the gospels tell us the angels appeared to the shepherds with the message:

  "Be of good cheer for there is born to you this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:11)

That's a wow!

Then the shepherds made their journey from the shepherd's hills to the manger in Bethlehem. Now it's not too far, but we stood on the shepherd's hills on Christmas Eve 1999, as I led seven hundred people in a most memorable Christmas Eve service. And as we sang the Christmas songs and I read the Christmas scripture, we looked up and down the hills, across the canyons to Bethlehem. It must have been a difficult journey, but the shepherds heard the invitation from the angels and they believed it.

And the thought I share with you today is that the greatest journey of all happens when you do what the shepherds did ... hear God's message ... follow His invitation and ... go ... look at what is in the manger.

The greatest journey in life is when you accept an invitation to meet Jesus Christ. That's what Christmas is all about!

1) Jesus Christ saves your soul

The first thing that happens when you meet Jesus Christ is that your soul will be saved! What does that mean? Well, all major religions believe that the human being is immortal. The soul is immortal. It is true of Judaism, Roman Catholicism, the Muslim faith and it's true for Protestant Christians, and it's probably true for other religions. The soul is immortal! It is eternal. And it will either go eternally to heaven or it will go to hell. That's what the major religions teach.

Now I don't preach much about heaven or much about hell, but I believe in the truth of the gospel. This week I was very interested in reading Mohammed Ali's testimony in the December Reader's Digest. Mohammed belongs to the Islam faith and is a wonderful positive thinking member of his faith. I respect him and we have exchanged letters. In his testimony he said that in his faith, "you live one lifetime and God keeps a record of all the bad things you do. And God also keeps record of all the good you do. And when you die God puts it all on a scale. If the good outweighs the bad, you go to heaven. And if the bad outweighs the good, you go to hell forever more."

Then the article quotes Mohammed saying, "You need to be careful that you don't do the bad things." So he said, "I carry matches with me. I think all men should carry matches with them." He said, "When I see a girl and I'm tempted, I pull out the matches. I light a match and I put my finger over that flame."

"I think, do I want to feel that for eternity? When I can't handle the pain anymore, I blow the match out and the temptation is gone."

I have never discussed with Mohammed Ali the difference between his faith and mine, but in the New Testament I read that Jesus came to be our Savior. So to be saved means He pulls you out of the bad and redeems you! Wow!

"We're saved," I believe, "by grace through faith, that not of ourselves, it is a gift of God " (Ephesians 2:8)

I wouldn't dare to add up all the good that I may be able to do in my life and trust that it outweighs the bad because the bad is also that which I have not done. But I'm saved by grace through faith! Jesus is my Savior. That's fantastic!

Also, I don't know if I could live that good a life. I don't think I could live a good enough life so that when I got to heaven I could say to God, "You have to let me in, look at my record, I'm a pretty good guy."

I don't think it works that way. I think when you get to heaven and you think you did enough good works to get in, I think you might be disappointed. Because none of us discover our full potential. None of us discover all the possibilities and a lot of us sin by not believing, not trying, not giving it all we've got. By grace we are saved. It is a gift of God!

There is a wonderful Bible verse where Jesus says, "The one who comes to Me, I will never cast out. (John 6:37) He did not say, "Anybody who comes to Me I'll check the record. If it's good enough, I'll let them in. If it's not, they're out."

Jesus invites each one of us, "Come to ME. I'll never, never, never cast you out.

Do what the shepherds did. It's all you have to do. Come to Christ and you'll save your soul.

2) Jesus Christ saves and redeems your role in life

Secondly, it's not just the salvation of your immortal soul for eternity. That's what is proclaimed in some churches. But this church is different. We believe that Jesus Christ also saves us in the role we are called to in our earthly life. Your lifestyle changes when you come to Christ. Yes it does. Hundreds of you could have that kind of testimony. I hear it all the time.

"Dr. Schuller, you don't know what a difference Jesus Christ made in my life. I started watching the Hour of Power. You don't know what kind of a life I was living. I don't even want to tell you, but I came to Christ and, wow, that changed my life."

The answer to our social problems all over the world is through Christ.

On Friday night we had a wonderful dinner to salute Juan Carlos Ortiz who has retired from our ministry. I first met him in Luzon, Switzerland at a Billy Graham evangelism conference. I was so impressed with him that a few years later I invited him to come here to be our Hispanic minister on staff. I invited him to use this Cathedral, the church, the gardens, the grounds, the pipe organ to provide a beautiful church service in the Spanish language on Sunday afternoons.

And for the last ten years Juan Carlos was our Hispanic pastor here and so nearly 1000 people filled the Arboretum in a glorious tribute to him. One of the tributes to Juan Carlos was an anecdote about Juan Carlos. Juan Carlos is from Argentina and was preaching all over South America. In one place the communists were moving very heavily into the village where Juan Carlos was preaching. And the communist leaders came to him saying, "You've got to stop preaching on Sunday mornings unless you preach Marxism."

And Juan Carlos replied, "I preach Christ."

They said, "If you continue those messages about Christ, we will kill you, your wife and your children."

Juan Carlos said, "I need to have a few days to think about that." So a few days later a meeting was set up with about ten or eleven communists. As Juan Carlos faced them alone, they asked, "Have you stopped preaching this Christ stuff?"

He said, "No. I cannot."

Then the leader repeated, "Then we will execute you, your wife and your children."

And Juan Carlos said, "Well, then execute me here and now."

They were preparing for that when one of the communists stood up and said, "Wait a minute. I know this man. I know how he has these meetings. And I remember one meeting in a village where there was a poor man who had no shoes and this man, Juan Carlos, took his shoes off his feet, gave them to that man and preached barefoot. And I remember another time where there was somebody who was very poor. And it was chilly and cold and this person didn't have any warm clothes and Juan Carlos said, 'Aren't you cold?' He said, 'Yes.' And Juan Carlos took his garment and put it on that man. This man loves people. He does what we do. He helps the poor. We must not kill him."

So Juan Carlos continued his fantastic ministry and lived for the big party this Friday night.

1) Christ saves your soul.

2) Christ saves and redeems your role in life and ...

3) Christ saves you so you can set goals and succeed in the role God needs for you to accomplish.

Wow. What a difference that makes.

When I was in Birmingham I preached in the 16th Street Baptist Church. That's one of the famous churches of the world because it was the church where white racists came and killed four little black girls. It was a horrific hate crime.

But when I came, they planned a special evening for me with a wonderful church service. And their Boys Choir - known as "The Magic City Boys Choir" sang. There were about thirty boys. So good looking and all were wearing tuxedos. Immediately after the church service, I was greeting the people. And I was shocked when one of the choir members, a little back boy in his tuxedo wanted to meet me, so I asked, "Hey, what are you going to be when you grow up?" And instantly he replied, "An engineer." It shocked me because I ask that of children everywhere, "What are you going to be when you grow up?" And if they say, "I don't know," then I say, "Maybe you can be a preacher like me."

But here in Birmingham, at this church that suffered such a horrific crime, instantly this boy knew. His eyes were so sharp, so bright and so sparkling. He's obviously going to succeed. No doubt about it.

Then another little boy, in his tuxedo, came to me and I asked the same question of him, "Hi, what are you going to be when you grow up?" He said, "I'm going to be a lawyer." He knew immediately. He didn't say, "Well, maybe this, maybe that." No. He knew immediately.

It shocked me to hear one boy after another from that Boys Choir answer immediately, "I'm going to be a doctor." "I'm going to be a dentist." "Why are you going to be a dentist?" "I'm very interested in the mouth." That was his answer. It's phenomenal!

They were Christian boys in their Baptist church choir. Jesus Christ is their Savior. Yes, Jesus Christ makes a difference in the kind of goals you set. And when you set impossible goals, Jesus Christ saves you from fatigue and low achievement.

St. Paul summed it up,

  "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13)  

Yes, with Christ as your Savior, your soul's in heaven forever. Your role in life turns from being selfish, greedy and egotistical to unselfishly carrying for people. And you set a higher goal. You dare to think big. Wow.

As I was writing my book, My Journey. I remembered stories that I'd forgotten. One was when I was just a student in seminary. I remember how I was assigned to a little tiny church in Muskegon, Michigan. I was told to start a brand new church there. As I preached those first services I stood outdoors to shake hands with people as they arrived. There were about 50-60 people and children who came. The children would go downstairs to Sunday School. One little boy about five stood outside but he didn't come to the church door. Finally I said to him, "Come in." And I'll never forget the tears in his eyes. He said, "Mister I can't come in."

I said, "Of course you can. Anybody can come in."

He said, "I can't come in. I ain't got no money."

I thought he was thinking about maybe an offering in Sunday School so reaching in my pocket I got out a nickel, I said, "Here's a nickel for you."

"Oh thanks." He broke into a smile, came up, grabbed the nickel and walked in.

While I was preaching to the congregation upstairs, he was in Sunday School in the basement of that little church. After the service ended I went down to the basement to take my robe off. A curtain separated my room from the children's Sunday School room. Suddenly that curtain parted and there was that little boy, with his head sticking through. And he said, "Hey Mister, come here."

I thought, I don't have another nickel. But I went to him and he was grinning from ear to ear. Then he stuck his hand out and opening it, he said, "Hey mister, here's your nickel back. I didn't have to pay to get in after all."

Some of you are going to come to stand before Jesus in that day in which there's no sunset and no dawning, and you'll find out you didn't have to pay to get in after all because once you came to Jesus. The greatest journey in the world is when you accept an invitation from God to come and meet Jesus.

Where's your journey at today? What is your security? Are you afraid? If you are in a place like Schuller was and you thought the plane was going to crash, would you be afraid? You don't have to be. I can take care of that right here and now. Forever. Everyone can simply come to Jesus Christ. Whatever way you can and say, "I want to be one of your followers, Jesus. I want You to be my Savior. Save my soul and save my role to serve others. Save my goals by helping me to think bigger than ever before.

Jesus paid it all. Now, come. Just come right now and come to Jesus Christ. Find Him in the Bible. Find Jesus Christ living in people who will tell you what He's done for them. And when you meet Jesus Christ, I must tell you, you won't find a babe in a manger. You'll find a handsome young man on a cross.

  "There is born to you this day, in the city of David, a Savior who is Jesus Christ, the Lord." (Luke 2:11)  

Thank you, God. Thank you, Jesus Christ, for saving my immortal soul. By grace, by love, with Your forgiveness, simply because You love me. Oh what a difference You make in life, Jesus Christ. You give me assurance that I never need to live in fear, guilt, jealousy, hatred or anger. You save me from all of that. Thank you, Jesus. As Savior, you stand with Your arms open to embrace me. You hug me as I come to You. I trust Your promise: "The one who comes to Me I will never cast out." Hallelujah. This is the day of salvation. Thank You, Jesus Christ. Amen.

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