Scripture at the Crossroads:
Verses that Brought Me to Christ

March 8, 2009

 

The Rev. David Housten

Montgomery United Methodist Church

 

John 21:15-17

 

 

 

    I have been impressed whenever Pastor Tony has given a sermon series because I have always felt that it was a pastor’s duty to teach our faith.  I particularly felt good about his recent

series on the 3 General Rules of the United Methodist Church. Don’t worry, I’m not going to give you a quiz this morning, but I will be preaching in the context of Pastor Tony’s current series on the Bible.  When Pastor Tony asked me preach in his absence this Sunday, my question to him was whether or not he wanted me to continue the series or diverge from it allowing him to determine the contents of the series.  His answer to me came in a preaching assignment wherein I might share a pivotal passage that was instrumental in my turning to Christ.  I discovered that this assignment would be shared by Rev. Marion next Sunday and by Pastor Tony on the Sunday after that.

 

I was relieved because I assumed that this would be an easy sermon to prepare and deliver, but I was wrong!   I struggled intellectually and spiritually this entire week because I had a problem.  I never had a conversion experience in the classical understanding of that term.   I realize that I know intimately several colleagues in ministry who can tell about the exact moment, exact day, exact situation, and the exact spiritual state that they were in when they discovered the grace and salvation that they were given in Christ.  I never had that experience, and that’s why I was teasing several of you just before worship by asking for a sermon idea.  Actually it is a good idea for pastors to ask that question of members.

 

I grew up in a small, rural community Methodist Church in an atmosphere of support, nurture, and simple faith.  I went to Sunday school, vacation Bible schools, youth fellowship, and joined the chancel choir.  By the time, I was well into my teen years, I have to say that I assumed that I was saved by Jesus. It was not emotional or heartfelt assurance.  It was entirely intellectual, and I believed it with my whole mind.  I left the fellowship of the church in my college and graduate school years, and I stayed away during my years in the horticulture business world.

 

It was in my late thirties that I met my spouse, Marion, an ardent Roman Catholic Christian.  She never missed Mass on Saturday nights, and I was always there with her.  In time, feeling God’s presence urging me, I returned to my home United Methodist Church for weekly Sunday morning worship.  I was given the job to plant a hedge in the parking lot area.  The day I completed the job, I went into the church sanctuary to pray a bit.  It was then that I felt a powerful urge to step up into the pulpit where I felt that ‘strange warming of the heart’ that John Wesley had.  The pulpit felt like ‘home’ to me.  I was not being brought to faith, but I was being called to leave everything behind and to enter ordained, pastoral ministry.  To further understand my calling I did the Wesleyan thing and searched the Scriptures and ultimately turned to John 21:15-17.

 

There the resurrected Jesus speaks to Peter concerning his call to pastoral ministry.  Recall that the Roman Catholic Church believes that Peter was the first Pope, pastoral leader of the whole Catholic Church.  Let me share with you John 21:15-17:

 

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”  He said to him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”  He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”  A second time he said to him, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”   He said to him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”  He said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’  He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”   Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord; you know everything; you know that I love you.”   Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”

 

This passage simply defined Peter’s call to discipleship as a call to pastoral ministry and leadership, and I saw my own sense of God’s calling in the passage.  However, it occurred to me that even though  I understood my salvation and my calling, I didn’t love God!

 

So, this passage, John 21:15-17 was a turning point in my life when I consciously sought to love God.  And it is this point that I wish to share with the congregation today.  I have intellectually always known that our purpose in life is to seek God, to find God, and to come to love God and bend our lives to God’s purposes for creation.  It was this last point that I lacked.  I understood God’s purposes, and I believed that in hearing my call to ministry I had found God, but I didn’t love God.

 

I changed forever and sought then to find out how to fall in love with God.  I recall that I liked my wife Marian and I respected her, but it was in my immersion into my relationship with her that I came to love her.  The same must be true about God and myself.

 

So, my dear friends in Christ, here’s how to fall in love with God:  prayerfully reflect so as to know yourself; and do what you are doing right now-being in worship, immersed in the hymns, liturgy, readings, anthems, prayers, and the preaching of the Word so as to allow the love of  God to saturate your life.  Then you will come to love God.

 

Search the Scriptures with God’s help.  The Bible is the light of God shining in the darkness.  Take Holy Communion as often as it is available to you.  Sing the hymns of the church in the company of other believers and seekers after God.  What hymn speaks most loudly to you? For me it is No. 369 “Blessed Assurance”

                 “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine,

                  O what foretaste of glory Divine.”

 

Again, the pivotal passage of Scripture for me, John 21:15-17:

 

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”  He said to him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”  He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”  A second time he said to him, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”   He said to him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”  He said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’  He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”   Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord; you know everything; you know that I love you.”   Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”

 

Search the Scriptures for yourselves and discover how the Word of God does speak to you in special and personal ways.

 

And, remember that if no one has told you today that they love you, allow me:  God loves you!

 

© 2009 David Housten