NEW ORLEANS (BP)–Because of his worth, identity and power, “Jesus is worthy of your life,” said John Sullivan, executive director of the Florida Baptist State Convention. “If you haven’t pinned that down, you will end up spending your life on someone or something.
“Knowing that you are going to spend it, spend [your life] in the right place … in Jesus Christ,” Sullivan, former pastor of Broadmoor Baptist Church, Shreveport, La., told students and faculty Feb. 10 at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
Introducing Sullivan as being “on anybody’s short list of people in Southern Baptist Life who have done more for theological education than anybody else,” NOBTS President Chuck Kelley explained how Sullivan had made it possible for NOBTS to have extension centers in Shreveport and Florida. In cooperation with the Florida Baptist Theological College, the seminary has Florida extension centers offering graduate courses in Graceville, Orlando and Miami, and associate degrees in Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa and in the Miami area, encompassing 114 graduate students and 275 undergraduate students.
Sullivan had also led his church to give NOBTS the Broadmoor Chair of Discipleship, an endowment earmarked for a professor to help students learn spiritual disciplines and habits, Kelley said.
“It is that professor who is now coordinating our new spiritual mentoring program, whereby all our new students are divided up into groups of six or eight and walk with a faculty member for a year, an hour a week, walking with God together, and learning to live. That would not have happened if it had not been for Dr. John Sullivan,” Kelley said.
In Sullivan’s chapel sermon from the Book of Revelation, in what he calls the story of the identification of Jesus as Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, the question is asked, “Who is worthy to open the book?” Calling Revelation the “Book of Destiny,” Sullivan shared how John, the disciple, receives the book and tries to find someone to open it, to reveal what is in the book.
Sullivan reminded there was a good crop of second-generation believers who had been through some difficult times. “They had given their lives and they had watched others give their lives for the calls of Christ, but there was none of them worthy to open the book,” he said.
“John said, ‘I looked upon the earth and there was no one. I looked beneath the earth, and there was no one. I looked in the heavens, and there was no one,'” Sullivan restated from the Scripture.
“Moses was in heaven by this time,” Sullivan pointed out. “Moses could open the Red Sea, but he couldn’t open the book of destiny. He could open up the ground and let the rebellious sons of Korah fall into the ground, but he couldn’t open the book of destiny.
“Elijah could stand on the top of Mt. Carmel and see the skies open and the fire fall and consume the sacrifice in the presence of the prophets of Baal, but he could not open this book.
“Simon Peter could pray and the jailhouse doors would open, and he would be set free. He could open the doors of the prison, but he couldn’t open this book.
“Paul and Silas could sing at midnight and turn that jailhouse into a concert hall, and they could open up all of the vistas of freedom, but they couldn’t open this book,” Sullivan said.
“When John realized that there was no one on the earth, there was no one in heaven or there was no one beneath the earth worthy to open this book, he started to cry,” Sullivan said.
As John cried, he was introduced to the Lamb of God. Sullivan theorized that John’s identification of Jesus as the Lamb of God is significant because it is the integrating theme of the entire Bible. “It is the thread that runs through from Genesis to Revelation,” he said.
For example, he said, in Genesis 22 the Lamb of God was symbolized with the story of Abraham and Isaac. Like the ram in the thicket, Jesus Christ is God’s provision of the lamb of sacrifice, he said.
In Exodus, the passover lamb was God’s provision for saving his people. In Leviticus, the lamb for sacrifice was to be without blemish or spot. “Jesus Christ is the very best that can be given to God,” he said. “His glory was God’s glory.”
In Isaiah, Sullivan said, “Suddenly you realize that God is no longer talking about a four-footed furry creature. He is talking about a person.” John the Baptist points to this person as Jesus, the one from Nazareth, in the Gospel of Matthew. “Now we know which man it is, Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God, the righteous one,” Sullivan said.
“And now, in Revelation, the Lamb of God is identified.”
Sullivan pondered, “With this name of Jesus, can you imagine the difficulty he must have had in identifying himself to people?”
Sullivan suggested that the conversation might have gone something like this:
“Son, what’s your name?” “Well, on my mother’s side, my name is Jesus; but on my Father’s side, my name is Emmanuel. My name is the Lily of the Valley. My name is I AM.”
“Well, Son, how old are you?” “Well, on my mother’s side, I am 12; but on my Father’s side, I am without beginning and I am without end.”
“Son, where do you live?” “Well, on my mother’s side, I live in Nazareth; but on my Father’s side, my home is glory.”
“Well, Son, do you have other brothers and sisters?” “Oh, yes, there is James and there is Jude, and there are others on my mother’s side; but on my Father’s side, I am the only begotten Son, full of grace and full of Truth.”
“Well, Son, what kind of work do you do?” “On my mother’s side, I am an apprentice carpenter; on my Father’s side, my work is redemption.”
“Well, Son, what’s your father’s name? Who are your parents?” “On my mother’s side, my parents are Mary and Joseph, the ones from Nazareth; on my Father’s side, his name is Jehovah, the living God that comes down to touch our lives.”
Realizing Jesus’ identity as the Lamb of God calls for celebration and praise, said Sullivan, as does realizing Jesus’ power.
Explaining a time that he felt he could not get an answer from God, Sullivan shared how he had gone to a pastors’ conference in Dallas, where a question was posed: “If you decided to destroy the power of Jesus Christ, what would you use for power to destroy his power?”
“Don’t you know that if you use fire, he will refuse to burn?” Sullivan asked, pointing to the passages involving Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. “Jesus became the thermostat in the fire,” he said.
“If you try to use a mighty wind, he’ll stand up in the boat and say to the wind, ‘Peace, be still,’ and it will lie down at his feet and lick his hand.
“If you tried to use water, he’ll walk on the water,” Sullivan said. “If you tried to use death, he’ll clean out the grave and make it a decent place to wait until the Resurrection.”
Sullivan reminded his listeners: “Jesus said, ‘All power has been given unto me in heaven and on earth.’
“Now, you take the same power and go out into the world and tell others that Jesus Christ is alive,” Sullivan said. “He is the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. With the Lamb of God there is life, and without the Lamb of God there is death.”