Lifting Up Jesus
John 12:28 Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again. 29 The people therefore, that stood by, and heard it, said that it thundered: others said, An angel spake to him. 30 Jesus answered and said, This voice came not because of me, but for your sakes. 31 Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. 32 And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. 33 This he said, signifying what death he should die.
The purpose and duty of every believer, every pastor, and of every church of the Lord Jesus Christ can be summed up in just three words- Lifting Up Jesus!
In our text Jesus said that if He were lifted up that He would draw all men unto Himself. In the providence and purpose of God, Jesus was lifted up on the cross of Calvary by the hands of wicked men. Because Jesus was lifted up on the cross to die, because He was buried in the tomb, because He rose again the third day, and because He was highly exalted to the right hand of the Majesty on High, Jesus is drawing all men unto Himself. That is, He is drawing all kinds of men from every nation, every class, every age, every sex and color. Jesus is drawing all of His chosen ones whose names were written in the Lamb's book of life from the foundation of the world.
Jesus is still being lifted up today and He is still drawing His elect unto himself. The implication of our text is that all of God's saints, from Adam and Eve to the very last soul that will be saved, are drawn to Jesus through the cross. This includes both Jews and gentiles, which the later were the primary object of our text. Jesus was lifted up on the cross to draw all of His people to Himself- past, present and future. The only way for any person ever to enter into heaven is through the cross of Christ. As Jesus has been lifted up by His people over the centuries, He has been drawing His elect unto Himself. Now we want to observe: 1) What it means to lift up Jesus; 2) Who is to lift up Jesus; 3) How do we lift up Jesus and; 4) What happens when Jesus is lifted up.
1) What it means to lift up Jesus.
The Greek word for the phrase "lift up" in our text is translated "exalt" 14 times and "lift up" 6 times in the New Testament.
The word means…
1) to lift up on high, to exalt
2) to raise to the very summit of sufficiency and prosperity
3) to exalt, to raise to dignity, honor and happiness
The Lord's words in our text mean that Jesus would be lifted up to die on the cross, by which He would destroy the power of Satan and purchase salvation for His people. The cross means victory over Satan, sin, death, hell, and the grave. It means the completion of the mighty work of Christ on earth in the ultimate sacrifice of the Lamb of God for the sins of His people. For Jesus to be lifted up logically implies His exaltation back to glory. It spiritually implies that Jesus would be lifted up through the preaching of the cross, by which He would draw all of His chosen people to Himself.
We lift up Jesus today when we exalt His Name, His person, and His work on the cross for the whole world to see. We lift up Jesus for every soul to see His perfections, His mighty works, His amazing grace to sinners, His glory, and His soon return. Jesus was lifted up on Calvary as the mighty Prince and conqueror of Satan and of sin. He was lifted up from the grave as the risen Savior, and He was lifted up to glory as the exalted King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Today we lift up Jesus as the exalted Savior Who is mighty to save all who will look to Him by faith, and believe on Him as their own personal Savior.
2) Who is to lift up Jesus?
Wicked men lifted up Jesus when they crucified Him on Golgotha's hill (Acts 2:23). In a very real sense the sins of every blood bought believer lifted up Jesus and nailed Him to the cross (Col.2:13-14, 1 Pet 2:24). The will of God lifted up Jesus to accomplish the great plan of salvation for His people.
But who is to lift up and exalt Jesus today. It is the redeemed who must lift up Jesus and exalt His precious Name, especially the Lord's New Testament Baptist churches. The question might be asked; if Baptists do not lift up Jesus in this world, who is going to? The lost world is not going to lift up Jesus. They are the ones who so desperately need to see Him lifted up. Most religions in the world don't lift up Jesus. They are more concerned with lifting up their "works of righteousness", and their sacraments, and their ceremonies, and their programs, and their idols. If any people in this world must lift up Christ, it is local New Testament Baptist Churches!
Ephesians 3:21 Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.
3) How do we lift up Jesus?
There are several ways in which we as God's people lift up Jesus. For Jesus to be lifted up and exalted, there are certain things that we must do.
First, we must have a Christ-like spirit.
a) To have a Christ-like spirit means to have a humble heart:
1 Peter 5:5 Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. 6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:
If there is one sin that God hates above all others, it is the sin of pride- especially in His own people. Pride is called the snare of the devil, because it started with the devil. Pride is the first on the list of things that God hates in Proverbs 6:16-17. If Christ humbled Himself to be lifted up on the cross, then we must humble ourselves if we are going to lift Him up for this world to see.
Matt.5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Psalms 51:17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.
Thus, to truly lift up Jesus we must abase ourselves in humility before God, and walk humble before God and before our fellow man in this world.
b) To have a Christ-like spirit means to have love and compassion for others:
Romans 12:10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;
1Peter 1:22 Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:
John 13:35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
To lift up Jesus in a lost and dying world, Jesus said that we must have love one to another. By this men will know and be convinced that we are His disciples. We must be like Christ who was a man full of compassion on the poor, and on the multitudes, and on the sick and afflicted, and especially on vile sinners who were sick with sin. We likewise must be compassionate toward the poor and needy, and toward lost sinners in this world.
c) To have a Christ-like spirit means to serve the Lord in unity.
Ephesians 4:3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
1 Corinthians 1:10 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
If we are going to lift up Jesus in our churches, we must be in one accord. Disunity will destroy a church and its witness in the world. We must have unity in the Spirit and in the Truth of God's Word (Eph.4:3-16). The Holy Spirit of God is the Spirit of unity, of mutual love and compassion, of kindness and gentleness, of forbearance, of comfort, and of truth. This last element is so neglected among professing believers. Spiritual truth is the very ground on which the superstructure of Christianity is built. Should not this be evident when we consider that one of our Lord's names is "TRUTH"? To have unity without truth, is to have unity without Christ. The only kind of unity that will lift up Jesus is a unity founded and grounded in the truth of the Word of God. We must have this kind of unity if we as New Testament Baptist churches are to lift up Jesus.
Secondly, to lift up Jesus we must be faithful to the Lord.
a) To lift up Jesus we must be faithful to the Lord's house:
Hebrews 10:25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
We must be faithful to the services if we would lift up Jesus, for as we already read, it is in His Church that He receives glory.
b) To lift up Jesus we must be faithful in prayer:
Acts 4:29 And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word…
We need to pray for boldness to witness in this wicked, rebellious world.
2 Thessalonians 3:1 Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you…
We need to pray for God's ministers that the word will have free course- not just to be able to speak, but that the Spirit of God would use the Word of God to accomplish His purpose in the lives of both the saved and the lost:
1 Timothy 2:1 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; 2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour…
We need to pray for our leaders and all those in positions of power and authority, that we might continue to lift up Christ without fear of persecution:
Romans 10:1 Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.
We need to be like Paul, and pray for our kinsmen according to the flesh that they might be saved. That means our loved ones, our friends and acquaintances, and all those before whom we have opportunity to lift up Jesus. We need to pray for all men, and to pray without ceasing. Truly if we desire to lift up Jesus, we need to be steadfast in prayer. Oh how we fail to lift up Jesus with a life of prayer! We need the Lord and the Spirit of God to pour out God's blessings upon us and upon those within our sphere of influence. We need to pray for the power of heaven to come down and work mightily in our midst.
c) To lift up Jesus we must be faithful in Bible study and meditation:
2Ti 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
Heb 5:12-14 For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. 13 For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.
If we want to lift up Jesus in a way that will convince the gainsayers, we must be students of the Word of God. May we as believers, and Baptists in particular, be grounded in the Word. Beloved, this takes work! It doesn't just happen. It is a day by day process that must continue throughout our lives. And the older we get, the more difficult it is to remember those verses that we once knew. But we must not quit, just because our memories are failing. It has been shown that continued exercise of the memory actually preserves and improves it. So lets keep studying the Word of God, that we might lift up Jesus in knowledge and in wisdom to a dark world stooped in spiritual ignorance.
d) To lift up Jesus we must be faithful in witnessing
Matthew 5:13 Ye are the salt of the earth…14 Ye are the light of the world…16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
Philippians 2:15 That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; 16 Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain.
May the preparations of our hearts and the answer of our tongues be from the Lord (Proverbs 16:1)! May we be ready always to give an answer to every man who asketh us a reason of the hope that is in us with meekness and fear (1Pet 3:15). In doing so, we will lift up Jesus. May God give us the boldness to lift up Jesus with our voices. How timid we are when it comes to telling others about the Lord Jesus Christ. Is He not the most precious One in all the universe. Isn't He the wonder of wonders? Can He not do more to help sinners than any other helper? Then why are God's people so timid? Why won't we tell needy sinners about the Who is mighty to save and to supply all their needs?
e) To lift up Jesus we must faithfully give to the work:
Romans 12:13 Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.
Galatians 6:6 Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things.
There are many things, many good works that could be done in our communities and in our world to lift up Jesus. But it takes resources to do these things. Supporting a pastor, sponsoring a radio broadcast or church newspaper, supporting missionaries, and many other such things are great ways to lift up Jesus- but these take resources. The Lord gets pleasure from using the resources of His people to support His works, and not the resources of the world. May we give all that we can give to the Lord's work as the Lord prospers us. In doing so, we lift up Jesus.
f) To lift up Jesus we must be faithful in using our talents that the Lord has given us.
1Co 12:28 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.
Eph 4:11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ…
1Pe 4:10-11 As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
This is such an important function of the church, that each member use the gifts and talents that God gave us to lift up Jesus. These could be God given talents such as preaching, teaching, writing, music, singing; or learned skills such as computer, cooking, and the various trades. I encourage each member of our church to use your gifts and talents to lift up Jesus. God forbid that pastors would rob God's people of the blessings of serving the Lord with their gifts and talents! Each church member needs to find his or her respective place of service that would lift up and glorify Jesus. "But I don't have any gifts or talents", I hear someone say. Not so. God put you in one of His churches, then He has given you gifts and talents. Find what these are and use them for the glory of God. By denying our gifts and talents, we not only rob God and despise His blessings, but we are failing to lift up Jesus with our God given abilities.
g) To lift up Jesus we must be faithful in good works, for we are "saved unto good works" (Ephesians 2:10).
1Pe 2:12 Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.
Tit.3:8 This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.
There are so many good works that we as God's people must do outside the realm of our regular church services. We may have a brother or sister or neighbor who needs our help; needs visited in the hospital; needs something to eat; needs our prayers; or just needs someone to talk with. We are to be kind, gentle, and compassionate to those who are without as well as those within the household of faith. We also must live lawfully, honestly, and respectfully among our lost neighbors. We should fulfill our civic duties, and be a source of blessing to our neighbors and to our communities as a whole. By doing these things we will lift up Jesus. We must "maintain good works"; that is continually and diligently throughout our Christian lives. It is so easy to grow slack in our good works. It is so easy to get caught up in self, and in our own lives, and neglect this exceedingly important and necessary aspect of our Christian service. Herein is a great opportunity to lift up Jesus. In this selfish, self-centered society we can truly be different. Like Jesus, we can be more concerned about others that we are about ourselves. In this way people will see Jesus in us, whereby He is lifted up for a dark world to see.
Thirdly, we lift up Jesus by living pure and holy lives.
Romans 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
1 Thessalonians 4:7 For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness. Heb 12:14 Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:
1Pe 1:15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation…
We will only be able to lift up Jesus if our lives are free from the pollutions and corruptions of sin and of this world. Our lives must back up what we preach and teach. We will lift up Jesus when we live Holy lives before God and before this wicked world. Rest assured that people will not regard our testimony if we lead sinful, unholy lives. The "Jesus" that they see in us will not be the Holy, sinless Son of God, but rather a "Jesus" who takes pleasure in sin and wickedness. What a serious thought, worthy of our undivided attention and consideration. When people see a foreigner commit acts of corruption, we say "they're all that way". We associate the acts of the individual with the whole group, and especially with the leadership of the group. No less do lost people in this world associate our actions, good or evil, with our church and with our Lord Jesus Christ! May we the people of God lift up Jesus with our Holy lives.
4) What happens when we lift up Jesus?
God is not unrighteous to forget your work of faith and labor of love, which ye have shewed toward his name. When we lift up Jesus, God will bless us who are His children, and He will bless the lost sheep with the salvation of their souls.
a) The saved will be drawn closed unto the Lord!
There is no experience on earth that compares with the fellowship that God's people know, who in the unity of the Spirit and the truth of God's Word, are striving together to lift up Jesus. We can just feel and know the presence of God manifested in the worship services. We can experience the energy and power of God as we go about our daily lives in service to the Lord. It is like Isaiah said in Isaiah 40:31:
But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
For all us who are saved, we know that experience in our lives. This will be our experience when we lift up Jesus.
b) The lost will be drawn to the Lord for salvation.
Jesus said that He would draw men unto Himself. We do not draw lost souls to Jesus, but it is Jesus Himself Who draws them. Thus, it is a sure thing that if Christ is lifted up, He will draw His people. He will draw them with cords of love by the Holy Spirit. He will draw them by the power of the Gospel through the testimony and lives of His people. He will draw them to Calvary to see Him suspended between heaven and earth, dying for their sins. What a great work. What a wonderful honor to be a part of this Master plan of salvation. To think that the Lord would use us to lift Him up, that through our efforts He would draw His elect unto Himself.
The question is; have you ever seen Jesus lifted up? Have you ever seen Jesus by faith, lifted up on the cross of Calvary dying for your sins? Have you ever seen Him by faith being buried in a tomb, and in three days rising from the dead as your risen Lord and Savior? Have you seen Him ascended to the right hand of God, exalted as the King of glory. Our prayer is that you will see Jesus high and lifted up, and that you will believe on Him as your Lord and personal Savior!
(Sermon Preached by Pastor Burke at the Faith Baptist Church of Lawtey, Fl)