“You’ve Got a Ticket to Ride”

Confirmation Sunday

June 2, 2019

 

Romans 12:1-2

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

 

So, there was this singing group—maybe you’ve heard of them—they were called the Beatles.  They wrote this song called, “She’s Got a Ticket to Ride.”  The band has been playing it all morning.  It is about a girlfriend who is breaking up with her boyfriend and who is going away.  The chorus goes like this; “She’s got a ticket to ride (off into the sunset, away from her man). She’s got a ticket to ride.  She’s got a ticket to ride, but she don’t care.”

 

Today is confirmation Sunday and I want to talk about a different kind of ticket.  This has nothing to do with a girlfriend breaking up and leaving.  This is the ticket of salvation.  This is the ticket to heaven, if you will, and the ticket to a new and wonderful life here on earth.  You confirmands learned about that ticket for the last two years The ticket is free.  Grace, Jesus dying on the cross for you, is a free gift which you cannot earn or deserve.  “You’ve got that ticket to ride.”  But, you’ve got to put it to use.  It is like if you were given a ticket to go to the movies, that ticket didn’t cost you anything.  It was a gift.  But, you’ve got to take that ticket in your hot, sweaty little hand, and use it.  You’ve got a free ticket to salvation but you need to put it to use.  Sadly, some have had the ticket to ride, but, as the Beatles sang, they don’t care.  They don’t put that ticket to use.  Confirmation is rejoicing that the ticket is yours—“You’ve got a ticket to ride”-- and now confirmation is about putting that ticket to use from this day forward.  So, today, I want to talk about what that ticket is all about and putting that ticket to use.  —“You’ve got a ticket to ride” and I want to say, “and you do care.”

 

  1. What’s the Ticket About?

 

  1.  What went before

 

The passage from the Bible that I’ve chosen for today is just two short verses from the 12th chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans.  That passage begins like this;

 

“Therefore…” 

 

Say that with me; “Therefore…”  Back to English class, the word, therefore, is a conjunction. It joins two things.  There is a cause and effect relationship going on, like, “I lost my keys, therefore I cannot get into my car.”  Or, “I root for the last place Orioles, therefore I am constantly depressed.”  It joins what was with what was to come. Paul tells us what went before;

 

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy…”    

 

God’s mercies, that’s what went before.  What went before in the first 11 chapters of Romans was Paul’s theology about God’s mercies.  What went before In Paul’s theology is sin, that all people are sinners, sinners to the core and that that sin condemns them to eternal death—“the wages of sin is death.”  In and of themselves, they have no way out of that sin.  But, as Paul said it, “the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus out lord.”  God sent Jesus to die a despicable death so that you can have eternal life.  And, what went before the “Therefore” is that God has a wonderful plan for your life, that “all things work for good for those who love the Lord.” 

 

  1.  The ticket for confirmation

 

That’s the ticket, confirmation students.  God did all of that for you.  You know that.  Think of how that ticket got worked out in your lives.  You all have good Christian parents who fulfilled the vows they made at your baptism and made sure you were raised as a Christian.  They brought you to church and Sunday School.  They showed you their intense love and that Jesus loves you and died for you.  You spoke of these things in the confirmation witness you wrote.  You spoke about how you were raised in a Christian home and that you always knew about Jesus.  Then, you spoke about how Jesus became real to you especially when you went through something bad.  You spoke about how God was there for you when your grandmother died or your grandpa or your great grand-parents.  You spoke about how God was with you when your father was in a car accident or when your sister became ill.  You know about the ticket I am talking about, that there is a God who loves you, sent Jesus to die for you, and is always with you.  All of that is what comes before the “Therefore.” That is what went before in your life.  Those are how God’s mercies became real to you. 

 

Now, just as “Therefore” is a conjunction combining what went before with what is to come, confirmation then is what comes after.  You see, confirmation is not so much an end or a beginning but it is a transition.  It is your “Therefore” moment.  A lot of what went before your parents did for you.  They made a lot of decisions for you.  Some of the decisions were what to wear and what to eat.  They made religious decisions about coming to church and attending Sunday School.  Now, with confirmation, you will be making a number of those decisions.  For the most part, you already make a lot of decisions like what to wear—within reason—and what to eat, except Jamie Gullo wants to make you drink that nasty Kombucha.  Also, now you will be making religious decisions. 

 

Now, your parents can still make some religious decisions for you.  They can make decisions about going to church or Sunday School or youth group.  Parents, let me help you with that.  As our son Matthew was growing up, we had this rule.  I’m going to give it to you, parents.  The rule is simple; “If you live in my house, you WILL go to church.”  It was an expectation.  Matthew was expected to go to school during the week and he was expected to go to church.  He didn’t have a choice about going to school and he didn’t have a choice about going to church.  It was an expectation. “ If you live in my house, you will go to church.”  Even when Matthew went away to college and he would come home at Christmas or Easter or over the summer, guess what, he was still expected to go to church.  And, he went.  He knew the expectation.  Parents, why don’t you make that your rule.  “If you live in my house, you WILL go to church.”  Parents, next Sunday, you make sure these 5 teens are in church.  How about it?

 

So, your parents can still make some religious decisions for you but they can’t make them all.  They can’t make the decision for you to accept Jesus as your Savior and Lord.  You have to make that decision.  And, they can’t make the decision for you to follow Jesus each day.  Each day when you walk out of the house, you have to make that decision for yourself.  You have to decide if you will live this day for Jesus or not.  Those decisions are on you, now.  The Beatles sang, “She’s got a ticket to ride, but she don’t care.”  You’ve been given the ticket to ride and the question you must answer from this day forward is, will you care? 

 

  1. What Does it Mean to Care?

 

What does it mean to follow Jesus?  Paul gives us three things.  The first is this;

 

  1. Offer yourself as a living sacrifice to God

 

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God…”  Romans 12:1b

 

The Christian life is about offering your bodies to God as living sacrifices.  You don’t offer a part of your body.  In the Old Testament, when they offered a sacrifice, they didn’t lop off an ear and throw it on the altar and take the rest of the animal home.  They gave the whole thing.  A Christian doesn’t offer her or himself to the Lord half-heartedly.  They give it all.   

 

Also, in the Old Testament, all of the sacrifices were dead.  They killed the animal and then sacrificed it on the altar.  Paul speaks of the Christian being a living sacrifice.  Of course, the problem with putting a living sacrifice on the altar is that it can crawl off of the altar.  But, this much is true,

 

  1.  With a sacrifice, something has to die

In the Old Testament, the animal did die.  What dies when you offer your bodies to God is your old self, your selfish self.  What does a baby say?  They say, “I want.  Mine,” and they scream bloody murder if they don’t get what they want.  The Christian says “Jesus wants.  It is His.  How can I serve?”  The part of you that needs to die is that part that says you want to do what you want to do regardless of what God says, regardless of what the Bible says.  I want to cheat on a test, even though the Bible says don’t.  I want to tell a lie rather than face the consequences.  I want to share some juicy gossip rather than defend a friend like the Bible says.  That is what is sacrificed.  Paul is telling us that Christians are to offer their bodies as living sacrifices, that each and every day, in situation after situation, whenever we are confronted with a choice to do things our way or to do things God’s way, we choose God’s way, we die to ourselves.  We let the selfish part of us die and let Christ in us live.  And, realize this,

  1.  It will cost you

First, it will cost you doing something sinful that you want to do.  It is a whole lot easier to just give in to a temptation rather than resist it.  It is so hard and many times we will fail.  When that happens, repent of it, bring that sin, that failure, to the cross, and receive forgiveness.  Then, go back and try really hard to resist doing that thing you know Jesus doesn’t want you to do.  Offering yourself to God as a living sacrifice will cost you doing something sinful that you want to do.  Also, it could cost you your friends.  If your friends want you to do something Jesus wouldn’t want you to do and you die to self, you say, No,” it could cost you your friends.  Also, if you stand on what God’s Word says rather than what is popular, it could cost you your reputation.  You could be bullied for being a Christian.  Why, offering yourself as a living sacrifice could even cost you your life.  It did for Rachel Scott and Cassie Bernall.  They were high school students at Columbine High School when those two boys came into the school shooting students with their guns.  It is reported that, with a gun pointing at them, Rachel and Cassie were asked if they still believed in God and they said, “Yes.”  They were shot to death.  Offering yourself as a living sacrifice could cost you your life.  That is one of the questions you will be asked in a moment; “Will you suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from your faith in Jesus?   

Around 320 AD, there was a group of elite Roman soldiers called “The Emperor’s Wrestlers.”  They were the strongest and the best, the bravest of the land. In the great amphitheater they would fight for the emperor. Before each contest they stood before the emperor's throne and would cry out: "We, the wrestlers, are wrestling for you, O Emperor, to win for you the victory and from you, the victor's crown."  One day, the Emperor Licinius, who rejected Christianity, made a decree to his generals, "If there be any among your soldiers who cling to the faith of the Christian, they must die!" The decree was received in the dead of winter. The soldiers were camped on the shore of a frozen inland lake. One general, Sempronius by name, read the emperor's message saying "Are there any among you who cling to the faith of the Christian? If so, let him step forward!" Forty wrestlers instantly stepped forward two paces, respectfully saluted, and stood at attention.  Sempronius ordered that the 40 men be stripped and marched out upon the lake of ice, and left to die in the cold.  The forty wrestlers marched toward the center of the lake of ice singing, "Forty wrestlers, wrestling for you, O Christ, to win for you the victory and from you, the victor's crown!"

 

Through the night Sempronius stood by his campfire and watched. As he waited through the long night, the wrestler’s song became fainter and fainter. As morning drew near one figure, overcome by exposure, crept quietly toward the fire; in the extremity of his suffering he had renounced his Lord. Faintly but clearly from the darkness came the song: "Thirty-nine wrestlers, wrestling for you, O Christ, to win for you the victory and from you, the victor's crown!"  Sempronius looked at the figure drawing close to the fire. His heart was moved by the dedication and devotion the Christians shared. Off came his helmet and clothing, and he sprang upon the ice, crying, "Forty wrestlers, wrestling for you, O Christ, to win for you the victory and from you, the victor's crown!" [1]

 

Paul said, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”  That is the first thing it means to follow Christ, to offer yourself each and ever day to Him.  Second, Paul says

 

  1. Don’t conform to the world

 

Do not conform to the pattern of this world…”  Romans 12:2

 

It is so easy to conform to the world.  All your friends are doing it and you want to be liked by your friends so you want to do it, too.  When I was a teenager—yes, there was a time—when I was a teenager, a whole lot of the guys let their hair grow long.  It was a part of the hippie movement.  They grew their hair long and let their sideburns grow, too.  So, I let my hair grow longer and I had these big, bushy red sideburns called muttonchops.  Golly, I am really dating myself.  Everybody wore bell bottom pants so I wore bell bottom pants.  It was the pattern of the world.  There was nothing wrong with that.  You may dress like other teens are dressing or play the same video game your friends are playing or watch certain TV shows that everyone is watching and there is nothing wrong with that. 

 

But, if everybody is going to a party where there will be alcohol, or everybody thinks the theory of evolution is right or everybody thinks a certain way about a moral issue and that way is against what God wants, then Paul says don’t conform to the pattern of the world.  Paul says to go against the flow.  I saw this T-shirt that illustrated this.  On this T-shirt, all of the fish were swimming in one direction except for one.  That fish was a non-conformist.  That was a Christian fish.  Listen,         

 

  1.  The culture of the world is not your friend

 

The Bible says that this present age is evil.

 

“Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age,” Galatians 1:3-4

 

“The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”  2 Corinthians 4:4

 

This age is evil.  It is not your friend.  Don’t be conformed to this world.  Don’t allow yourself to be poured into the mold of this world so that you come out shaped into the patterns and configurations of this world.  Don’t give in to the world’s standards.  Don’t give in to the world’s teachings when they oppose the Bible.  Don’t give in to the world’s morals and ethics.  Why?  Because the world is evil.  So, anything in the world that seems too comfortable, you’d better let that be a red flag, a warning, for you.  The paraphrase of the Bible called, The Message says;

“Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking.  Instead, fix your attention on God.”  So, part of what comes next after the “Therefore” of God’s mercies is to become a living sacrifice and a second thing is to not be conformed to the world.  The last thing is;

 

  1.  Be transformed

 

be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”  Romans 12:2

 

The word in the original is “metamorphosis,” like the caterpillar becoming a butterfly.  That’s what you are to be, little Christian butterflies.  Gee, Simon, how do you feel about that?  Be transformed, Paul said.  Paul would know. At one time, he was an enemy of Jesus and tried to kill off Christians.  Then, Jesus appeared to him and changed Paul from a persecutor of the church to the greatest evangelist the church has ever known.  Be transformed.  Be changed.  Be different from the world.  Take every situation you walk into and try to determine if your actions are according to what Jesus wants.  Paul says to be transformed

 

“…by the renewing of your mind.”  Romans 12:2

 

Be transformed by renewing your mind.  Allow yourself to see everything through cross-colored glasses, see everything through the eyes of the cross.  In your witnesses, you wrote about the change that Jesus has made in your lives, how you know that He is always with you.  Now that you know about amazing grace, that Jesus died for you to forgive you and give you eternal life, you can see all of life through that filter.  You will see all of life that way.  God made the world,  not that it came about by some big bang.  I am made in God’s image, not I am nothing more than an animal.  I serve the Risen Savior, not I serve myself.  I see all of life through the eyes of the cross, through the words of the Bible.  God will judge right and wrong and it is found in the Bible, not I will judge what is right and what is wrong based on what I want to do.

There was a professor at a seminary, where people learn to become pastors, who was making an assertion from Scripture about God.  A student in the class interrupted him and said, “Excuse me, Sir, but I like to think of God as wise, but not meddling; compassionate but not overpowering; resourceful but not interrupting. That’s how I like to think about God.”  The professor said, “Thank you Bill for telling us so much about yourself, but we’re here to learn about God from the Bible.”  A lot of people, even Christians, want to tell God what is right and wrong.  They don’t like what the Bible says about God, so they come up with an “improved” version. [2]

No, Paul says to be transformed.  Renew your mind and when you do that, you can “test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

 

The Beatles sang, “She’s got a ticket to ride.  She’s got a ticket to ride.  She’s got a ticket to ride but she don’t care.”  So, dear confirmation students, each and every one of you has a ticket to ride.  You are saved by grace through faith.  Now, on this your confirmation day, it is time to decide if you will care.  It is time decide if you will put that ticket to use and enjoy all of the blessings that ticket has for you.  Now it is time to use those gifts, to redeem those tickets.   So, from now on, the encouragement is to take that ticket to ride, and ride it, ride it, all for Christ’s glory. 

 

In Jesus’ name.

Amen. 

 

[1] From the sermon, “Living Sacrifices” by Stephen Sheane, found at sermoncantral.com

[2] From the sermon, “Reforming Our Lives” by Freddy Fritz found at sermoncentral.com.