This sermon is translated from German into English. You can find the original videohere
A few years ago, when we were out and about in a houseboat on the Mecklenburg Lake District, we experienced how quickly thunderstorms and storms can sometimes arise.
We were in the middle of a lake when the clouds began to gather in the sky. So we made sure that we quickly got to the shore with our boat to drop our anchor there.
I stood at the wheel and Ben, Jasmin and my brother-in-law tried to lower the anchor chain as quickly as possible. It was like a bad movie, you could see the line of rain coming in across the water.
One moment they were dry and the next moment they were soaked through. The wind was so strong that our boat finally broke free and we had to make sure that we weren’t pushed too far in the direction of other boats.
Of course, this is not comparable to a storm on the high seas, but it is still an experience, like the whole trip on the houseboat.
At the beginning you get a briefing of several hours and was also important for us to follow what we were taught in the process. If we wanted to go through a lock, for example, everyone had to lend a hand and work together as a team.
This was the only way we could manage the journey and really enjoy the time.
In the Bible, Paul compares our life with such a ship journey. And I read the Bible text from Ephesians 4:14-16:
For we shall no longer be underage children; we must no longer let any lesson throw us off course like a ship tossed by wind and waves, and no longer fall for the deceptions of deceitful people who want to mislead us with their false games . Instead, we are to hold fast to the truth in a spirit of love, that we may grow in faith and become more and more like Him who is the Head, Christ, in every respect. The body owes its entire growth to him. It is joined together by all the various joints, held together and supported by them, and each part of the body contributes according to its assigned task. This is how the body grows and is built up by love.
For two years we studied in Bible classes. We compared our life with a sea voyage and dealt with the great ship’s manual, the Bible.
During this time you have grown from children to teens.
That’s always the case and it’s really exciting for us employees to see how children become teenagers in terms of behavior and appearance.
And part of growing up is detaching oneself from one’s parents bit by bit, gaining one’s own convictions , questioning one’s belief for oneself and making it firm, and like such a ship leaving the safe haven of one’s parents’ home and setting sail.
There are many beautiful things to discover, adventures that await us, and some storms too, that too is part of life.
During the two years in the BU we looked at how God actually intended life.
That he created a beautiful paradise for us, where we humans should have the best time with each other and with God, in such a way that he himself is there, visible and helps people with his power and his possibilities to shape their lives.
But we humans ruined it, we broke away from God, wanted to decide for ourselves and thought we knew better, that destroyed our character, our togetherness and this world.
The Bible calls this path without God sin. The Greek word behind it actually means something like “missing the target”. Our life misses the mark.
But now God is a God who does not simply say: See for yourself what you get from it and leave us alone, but he says in Jeremiah 29:11:
Because my plan for you is clear: I want your happiness and not your misery. I will give you peace and free you from suffering to give you a future and hope.
That says a lot about God and the way he thinks about us. And so God himself comes in Jesus Christ, to show us humans in the first place, despite all our distrust, how he really is.
And he is so great and wonderful that he bridges the gap between him and us by dying on the cross himself for our guilt, because:
The gap between us and God is so great that we cannot bridge it by our good deeds.
But God does it himself and he offers us forgiveness and reconciliation so that we can live in fellowship with him again.
And after our life on this earth, for the people who want that and choose to live in fellowship with God, to invite him into their lives, to live with him, there will be a new world where we can once again be in visible fellowship with God will live as he originally intended, where all that makes life difficult for us now will no longer exist and our goal is to get there.
Now, when I buy something a little more expensive, most recently a new cell phone, I like to look at a few tests and reviews on the internet.
But with many products you will find so many different opinions that differ so widely. And then sometimes you don’t even know what to think.
Paul writes that there are also many different teachings and philosophies in our life, things and people that want to pull you in and take you in and even deceive and cheat you.
It then feels like a storm, that I am tossed about by opinions and views and ultimately lose my way.
It is our wish that you are no longer children but mature so that you get to know the goal of our life and then also not stray off course.
Paul gives us 4 instructions to arrive safely at our destination and not be tossed about like in a storm.
1. Hold fast to the truth
We encourage you to read the Bible regularly and :
to discover the common thread
to learn to deal with it
to recognize that God still speaks to us today and we can read what is good for our life and what is not, because:
God loves us and he has good thoughts about us, so we can trust him with what he says and then put that into practice in our lives,
He has a better overview than we do of how life succeeds.
And that’s true even when we don’t understand things.
You will notice that more and more people today are questioning what is in the Bible.
That they no longer accept truths about themselves.
That people pick apart the Bible as it fits into their lives.
That people try to make us believe that all religions are the same or that there is no God at all, that Jesus did not rise from the dead and much more.
Paul says: Hold fast to the truth.
Keep busy with God’s word so that you know your way around.
And finally, hold fast to Jesus.
He makes the difference.
Jesus says of himself: I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6
Our faith is never just about a right doctrine, but about a person we follow and with whom we live in friendship.
If we do that and listen to him, then he is the helmsman who will bring us to our goal and still want to give us a fulfilling life.
Therefore: if you have not yet taken this step: Then invite Jesus into your life so that you can reach your goal.
Hold on to the truth
The 2nd is our attitude, because truth alone is not enough
2. Live (in a spirit) in an attitude of love
We are to live in an attitude of love.
First of all in the attitude and the knowledge that I am God’s beloved child.
He loves me so much that Jesus paid for me with his own life,
even before I wanted to know anything about him.
He loves me without me having to do or do anything for it.
He loves me even when I’m guilty again.
I am sure that nothing can separate us from his love. Romans 8:38
I wish you this certainty.
And that’s another truth you should hold on to.
That nobody else can tell you otherwise, not even your own bad conscience and other voices inside you that want to keep you away from God.
You are and will always be loved by God.
This love of God dwells in us through the Holy Spirit, says the Bible
And this love should also shape our dealings with others.
That I tell them about God’s love.
That I help them, meet them with love and do good.
Encouraging others in love.
Correcting the other in love when he obviously goes wrong ways that lead him into the abyss.
But everything should happen in such a way that God’s love can be felt in us and through us.
So we are to hold fast to the truth in a spirit of love, writes Paul.
What is the goal, the meaning of your life? Do you ask yourself that sometimes?
Maybe you say:
I want to have a family.
Yes but why do you want to have a family?
I want to have a career and earn a lot of money.
Why do you want to make a lot of money? To buy you this or that? Why do you want to buy this and that?
Do that in your life. Ask the why, and the why behind and then behind. At some point you come to the real why or you realize that there is actually no real why that you live for.
We have already spoken about the goal after this life, to arrive with Jesus in eternity. But what is the goal, the meaning of this life?
Paul writes that the goal in our life is:
3. Aim to grow in faith and become more like Jesus
I had several role models as a child and I emulated them and wanted to be like them.
And that’s what Paul means here. We are to become more like Jesus.
We don’t do this by making an effort and trying to change ourselves, but by living in connection with Jesus.
Yes, we all, with unveiled faces, see the glory of the Lord. We see her as in a mirror (precisely because we are still on this earth and cannot yet see him face to face) and by looking at the image of the Lord our whole being is transformed in such a way that we become more and more like him and get more and more of his glory. This transformation is the work of the Lord; it is the work of his spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18
So when we look at Jesus, when we read his word, when we talk to him, he shapes us with his thoughts and changes us through his Holy Spirit. Then we will become more and more like him in our character, in our whole way of thinking, and as a result we will live more and more like Jesus did. And then we grow in faith.
Of course, that also means that we know more about the Bible, about what Jesus says about how life works, but ultimately it’s about trust.
Because the word ‘faith’ in Greek always means trust.
So it’s about growing in trust in Jesus and I do that too by being close to Jesus.
And I’m not doing this alone, but now Paul is using the image of a body where everyone has their place and everyone contributes.
4. Travel together as a team
In the allusion we saw that everyone in the boat had a different task.
If you imagine a cruise ship, it also needs the captain, technical staff, hotel manager, cleaning staff, cooks, bakers, waiters, animators, etc.
Everyone does their part to ensure that the cruise is a success. And it only works if they pull together.
And so it is in the community.
God has put you in a team so you won’t be alone. Life is more fun together and you can support each other.
God has given you skills and talents and a place for you that only you can fill, and I encourage you to discover what God has put in you and use that for the good of all.
You are unique and you don’t need to compare yourself.
That’s why I encourage you: Go to the teen group or the youth in your church, attend the services and get involved with what God has entrusted to you.
Unfortunately, TEAM means more and more these days: Great, someone else does it .
But then it just doesn’t work. If you don’t fill your place that God intended for you, then it remains empty and that means the ship, and in that case the church, is not progressing as God intended. We travel together as a team.
And finally my last thought, which Paul does not write here, but what is also part of a shipping trip and life and that is so important that you don’t forget it:
5. If you capsize, Jesus will pull you out
We have already heard that nothing can separate us from the love of Jesus.
We have seen that he was even willing to give his own life for you.
During our free time in May we made a radio play about the story where Peter walks on the water and then he is overcome by fear, he no longer looks at Jesus and sinks and how Jesus pulls him out.
And just like when Peter betrays and abandons Jesus before the crucifixion and Jesus still approaches him, does not accuse him and gives him a new chance.
Jesus knew beforehand that it would happen. Whatever will happen in your life, Jesus knows it beforehand.
You can’t let him down, even though you might let him down, get caught up in guilt, don’t trust him, take your eyes off him.
He also prayed for you that your faith will not fail. he follows you His door is always open.
Whenever and no matter how often:
When we confess our sins, God is shown to be faithful and righteous: He forgives our sins and cleanses us from every wrong we have committed. 1 John 1:9
There is still a lot ahead of you in your life with Jesus.