#2160 – Left for Dead (7 Aug 2011)

The Message

Dr. Sheila Schuller Coleman

Special Guest

Jay Lowder
Jay is the founder of the Jay Lowder Harvest Ministries; reaching young people through Crossroads School Assemblies, talking to students about the issues they face every day.

The Message

And that’s why we’ve entitled this message series based on the Ten Commandments, Best Life Possible. How many here today, I want to hear, if you’re going to say yes, I believe this. I want to be a little convinced, okay? How many here today want the best life possible?

And the secret to the best life possible is in God’s word. It’s in the scriptures and it’s in the Ten Commandments. And I love God’s law. I love God’s word and that’s what it says in Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the whole bible; a hundred and seventy six verses. And the recurring refrain of this and throughout the scripture is this: blessed, blessed are those of you who walk in the law of the Lord or you can have the best life possible.

The first commandments, the first four commandments, Jesus summarized them positively this way when He said, “Thou shalt love the Lord,” the Lord is all uppercase so we know that means Yahweh, the Lord Yahweh, “your God with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” Or as we sang earlier, Scott’s song, I will worship you with my whole heart. Jesus says love the Lord your God with your whole heart and worship Him with your whole heart and Him alone. That’s the first four commandments summarized as one succinct “thou shalt” what you should do according to Jesus.

And then Jesus summarized the last six this way, and “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” And I love what Gary Smalley said last week when he said honor God. Yeah we can say if you love the Lord your God with all your heart mind soul and strength you are honoring God. And Gary Smalley says the other second part is honor others and God’s creation. And that would be a positive way of summarizing the last six commandments. So if you honor God, you honor others and God’s creation, you can have the best life possible. That’s pretty simple. Don’t you think you could all do that? Honor God, honor others, honor God’s creation? That’s all God asks of you. That’s the secret right there. Very succinct, very powerful but don’t let them get away from you.

Today we are focusing specifically on commandment number six which says, “Thou shalt not kill.” Thou shalt not commit murder, right? You’ve all heard it. But Jesus gives a commentary on this verse and you know there are lots of commentaries out there, but when Jesus gives a commentary on an Old Testament verse, we better pay close attention. And this is what Jesus said, I’m going to read the message from the message paraphrase, it’s in Matthew 5 verse 21 and 22. And these are the words of Jesus and I’m quoting Jesus now.

Jesus said, “You are familiar with the command do not murder but I, Jesus, am telling you that anyone who so much as angry harbors malice against a friend is guilty of murder. Do not, Jesus said, do not carelessly call any one idiot, or thoughtlessly yell stupid because the simple moral fact is words kill.” That’s what Jesus says about this commandment. Reminds me so much of how I was raised by my dad, the power of words. Words have power within them. Oh yes, I grew up with sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me, oh that’s not true. Words hurt, words have the power, words have the power to take life like Jesus just said. That means that words have the power to give life as well.

And so we have heard it over and over and over again here. The Hour of Power and here at Crystal Cathedral, we hear it, you saved my life, you saved my life. How? We didn’t rush out with a tourniquet; we didn’t give them any extra cash to bail them out. All we gave them was a word of life. That’s all we gave them and yet that was enough to save their life.

I just returned from a trip to Australia and New Zealand and I was stunned to meet so many people who said the same thing, heard it again, you saved my life, but there were two stories that just absolutely gripped me; two young mothers, one in Australia and one two days later in New Zealand. Very similar stories and I never heard them before. And the first young mom, she maybe had six children under the age of seven and the youngest was still nursing. And she came up to me in Sydney and she said, ‘Sheila, I just have to tell you.’ All of her girls and her last baby was a boy, were circling around her. She said, ‘I just have to tell you I couldn’t have gotten through the last year with out the Hour of Power as I lost my husband to cancer.’ A young widow, a young widow with children and here she is, the only thing that got her through, she said, the loss of her husband to cancer were words of life from the Hour of Power.

And then two days later, in Christchurch, New Zealand another young woman, another young woman comes up to me and she says, ‘Sheila, I have three children and the oldest is thirteen.’ And she said, ‘I couldn’t have gotten through the last year without the Hour of Power because I lost my husband to cancer this past year.’ Two young widows with children and they said it was the words from the Hour of Power that saved their life, that kept them going at their darkest, darkest hours. So we hear the testimony over and over and over again. Thousands and thousands even millions of people who will testify that words have the power for life. Words of life are what people need when they have been left for dead.

This past Tuesday I had one of the most amazing days I’ve ever had. Matthew Barnett has founded and is giving leadership to the Dream Center L.A. At Dream Center L.A. they are feeding, they give forty thousand meals a month. They have a hundred and seventy five people living there at any one time. Lives that they are rescuing, that they are saving. And I was so excited to be able to meet with Matthew and to see what God is doing through him up in L.A. at Dream Center L.A. Look it up; it’s amazing. It’s a wonderful, wonderful ministry.

But what really, really got me was at the very end, Matthew introduced us to many of the people there who were currently residents, who are currently going through rehabilitation and the first girl we met, she came and she gave us her testimony. She said, ‘I grew up in a Christian home, I went to Christian schools and I started to just use alcohol socially because it helped me relax and feel like I could be myself at parties.’ And one thing led to another until she was on the streets shooting up heroin. She was so upset with herself that she frequently overdosed on drugs. But she said, ‘The Lord saved me! The Lord rescued me when I should have died time after time. And I finally realized maybe God is saving me for a purpose. Maybe God loves me. Maybe there’s a God out there. Maybe He really, truly does care.’ And today she’s sober, today she’s clean. Today you see Jesus in her face and in her eyes and her life. She was given up for dead. Society left her for dead and today she is alive because of the words of life that they’re giving to her at Dream Center.

I met another young man and he was telling his story how he was a young father, a husband and a father and he had no money for his family; desperate for money. So desperate he decided to do something illegal to get the money. And he told his wife about it and she said, ‘please don’t go, please don’t go’ and he said, ‘I have to. I have to provide for you, I have to provide for my family.’ And so he left, he went with his partner. He did not explain what they were going to do illegally but they were going to illegally go and get money.

But you know his wife prayed for him and as he was on his way, before they got to their destination, he had second thoughts. And he stopped and he turned to his partner and he said, ‘you know, I can’t go through with this. I can’t go on. I need to go back.’ And just then he heard a sound, like a gun noise, a cocking of a gun, and the next thing you know the bullet went right through his face. He was dumped out on the side of the street and these are the words I heard him say: I was left for dead. He was left for dead but his wife was praying for him. Somebody found him, somebody rescued him, somehow he found his way back to the Dream Center and his life was restored.

Resurrection power through positive, beautiful words of life. And this young man sits there and he tells the story, ‘I am alive today. In every single way, I am alive because of Jesus Christ.’ But I heard the words he said, ‘I had been left for dead.’ But as he said those words, the same words went through my mind that Jesus said, but “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” Those were the words of Jesus and Jesus did. Those words gave life to this young man and to many, many others.

In fact I had to go back to the bible and look at it because we can’t talk about “thou shalt not kill” or as we’re talking about it today, give words of life, without looking at John 11 and the story of Lazarus. And I’m just going to read to you some selected verses from John 11.

A man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. This was the same Mary who massaged the Lord’s feet with aromatic oils and then wiped them with her hair. It was her brother Lazarus who was sick. So the sisters sent word to Jesus. ‘Master, the one You love so very much is sick.’ Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus, but oddly when He heard that Lazarus was sick, He stayed on where He was for two more days. After the two days, He said to His disciples, ‘Lazarus died and I’m glad for your sakes I wasn’t there.’ What a strange thing, don’t you think for Jesus to say? ‘I’m glad for your sakes I wasn’t there,’ Jesus says, to heal Lazarus because You’re about to be given new grounds for believing.

When Jesus finally got there he found Lazarus already dead for four days. Martha heard Jesus was coming and she went out to meet Him. Mary remained in the house, but Martha said, ‘Master, if You’d been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. Even now, I know that whatever You ask God He will give you.’ And Jesus said, ‘Your brother will be raised up for I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me, even though he or she dies, will live. Do you,’ said Jesus, ‘do you believe this?’

As I was working on this message, I wanted to envision what it must have been like. It doesn’t tell us all the details but it gives us enough clues to know what it must have been like for Mary and Martha. For Mary and Martha. Here they had been with Jesus, a dear friend. He was in their home, they served Him, they saw Him heal the lame. They saw Him heal a blind man, they saw Him heal lepers, and so suddenly when their brother, Lazarus, got very, very sick, they knew what they needed to do.

First thing, you’d do it too, if you were in their shoes, they called for Jesus, right? They called, ‘Jesus, come, Lazarus is sick.’ ‘Jesus, come, we know You can heal him.’ ‘Jesus come, we know You love us.’ ‘Jesus come, Jesus come. Don’t wait, Jesus, come.’

They sent the message and I’m sure they thought He’ll be here; He’ll come running right away. He’ll be here. They looked down the road looking for Him. Where is He? Where is He? Where is He? Gosh, He should have been here by now, you know? And Martha’s probably washing dishes. It says in the bible, she was always in the kitchen doing work like that. I relate to Martha quite a bit. But Martha was probably washing dishes or cooking or doing something and I’m sure she thought where is Jesus? We sent for Him, He should have been here by now. Maybe she went in and she checked on Lazarus, I’m sure she did. She was also nursing Lazarus and seeing him get weaker and weaker. His breathing becoming more and more shallow, more and more labored. Where is Jesus? Why isn’t He coming? What could possibly have delayed Him? Something must have come up. I know He would have come because I know He loves us.

But Lazarus, they see him breathing his last breath and Jesus isn’t there. Jesus didn’t come. Why, they must have thought. Jesus, I thought You loved me. Jesus, I thought You cared about me. Jesus, why? Why would You not come when I asked for You to come? And as they tended Him and they put the linens around Him and they bathed Him with the aromatic oils that we know they did for their dead, it must have just broken their hearts. They must have been so confused. They must have been so wondering why did Jesus not come when I needed Him the most. I thought He loved me.

And as they placed their brother in the tomb and they rolled the stone in front of the tomb, Jesus still had not come. Have any of you ever felt like that? Gotten a notice of foreclosure. I’ve applied for job after job. I’ve prayed and I’ve said Jesus I need You, I need You, I know You love me, I know You care about me and I know You can do this. The eviction comes; you have to leave your house. No jobs are being offered. The marriage is dead. You have to file for divorce. The children that you’ve loved and you’ve raised are in the grips of substance abuse. And you think Jesus, where are You? I thought You loved me. I thought You cared about me. Isn’t that what Jay Lowder kind of felt at the time when he was a young man? He felt disillusioned. Many of you do. Many of you are there today. And then when it’s in the eyes of Mary and Martha, way too late, they get news Jesus is coming. He’s here, He’s here.

By now, Lazarus has been dead for two days, has been in the tomb for two days. But even so, Martha ran out to greet Him and she said, ‘Master, Master anything You say can be done.’ She had that much belief and Jesus said, ‘Yes, I am the resurrection and the life. If you believe in Me, you will live. Do you believe?’ That was the question. Do you believe?

And then He says, ‘take Me to the tomb.’ And they take Him to the tomb. And He says, ‘roll the stone away’ and Martha says, ‘No, no, no, he is dead.’ There’s no question that Lazarus is dead. His body has already begun to decompose. And she says, ‘there’ll be an odor.’ Could it be that this is why Jesus waited? Could it be that Jesus had a bigger plan than Mary and Martha had? That He wanted to make sure that everybody knew that He had raised Lazarus from the dead. Not awakened him from a coma, not awakened him from a deep sleep, not from a huge horrible fever, but raised him from the dead. Lazarus had been left for dead. And yet Jesus goes over to the tomb and He says, ‘Come out of the tomb! Come out of the tomb!’ And out walks Lazarus resurrected.

Resurrection power, words of life spoken into a man who had been left for dead. And so today I say to you, do you feel like you’ve been left for dead? Or do you know somebody whose been left for dead? Society has given up on them, their family has given up on them, they’ve been left for dead.

This commandment tells us to speak words of life. Words of life into their life and to say to them, come out of the tomb! Come out of the tomb! You think everything is done? You think everything is gone? You think you’re dead, you think you’ve been left for dead, you think they’ve been left for dead? Not so. Because Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life” do you believe? Come out of the tomb. Come out of the tomb because Jesus is the resurrection and the life for you today. Words of life, words of life.

Let us pray: Lord Jesus Christ, thank You, thank You, thank You for delaying. Thank You for having a better, more glorious plan than ours. Thank You that You came to give us a hope and a future. Thank You that You came to give us resurrection when we’ve been left for dead. And so Lord, today roll away the stone from the tomb of our lives. Roll away the stone from the tomb of our dreams. Roll away the stone from the tomb of our marriages. Roll away the stone of the tomb of our children. Roll it away. We come out of our tomb today, and we accept Your resurrection power. In the name of Jesus we pray, amen.

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