Saturday, February 23, 2008

Jesus Words - Free Grace John 2:12-23

The Railrodder

They once made movies that had no sound. They were black and white, and they would have a piano player sitting there playing along with the images. Men with names like Buster and Chaplin and Lloyd would entertain people with stand-up slapstick comedy of a sort that is rare today. Buster Keaton was a very physical actor, often called “The Great Stone Face” because of his stoic deadpan look. Remember the story of the “Railrodder” made by the National Film Board of Canada? He starts in England and ends up in a cross Canada trip on a powered open rail car. He is just going through his everyday life when suddenly “Bam!” all this starts happening. That is what happens in our story today of Jesus. He is starting out in ministry and doing stuff with His family when, “Bam!” life jumps out and grabs Him. It’s not even an event that grabs Him, it is people. Let’s look at the context…

Context – Everyday kind of living

Vs 12 Family: Ministry starts with family. It is neat to see Jesus in this context. We see Jesus 3 times in His life: His birth, His dedication (at age 12), and His ministry (at age 30). What did He do for the first 30 years? I think it was spent with family – learning and growing and enjoying fellowship. Focusing on family is focusing on God, as He calls us to be faithful stewards of the things in our life. For me to honour my wife and spend quality time with my kids is a God thing. If my father threatened to disown me if I didn’t deny Jesus, that’s different. Jesus later says I came to separate father from son (Matthew 10:335), but that context focuses on having to choose between family and God.
Vs 13 Fulfilled spiritual disciplines. Jesus did what was important. He went to each Passover in Jerusalem as a good Jew. There was a deeper reason why He went. Why were the Jews to go in the first place? It was about the temple, about dealing with sins, about meeting God.

Conversation – Everyday focus

Vs 15 – zealous for God – 2 things upset Jesus:
Self-righteous leaders – Pride in self and works is a dangerous thing. It grows like a disease.
Leaders seeking personal gain. Cheating the masses – Temple doves were 4 times as much as “regular ones” which always seemed to have a blemish (law of supply and demand – Can you really put a price on grace?)
Vs 19 God’s plan will not be thwarted - destroy the temple and in 3 days I will raise I up. We don’t always understand in the present (misinterpret) but God will make it plain to see in His own timing. There was much change in Jerusalem in the early church. God directed people to divest themselves of personal stuff. People liquefied all their assets and gave it to the church, and everybody had all things in common. Why? People would have been saying, “what is this all about? It doesn’t make sense.” At the time, it didn’t, but in 70 AD Rome had had enough of the Israelites, and they laid siege to Jerusalem. If you had property, it was gone. If you had a secret stash, it was useless as you were dragged off to slavery. God prepared the church before hand and put the money and resources to use before the Romans came and took it all away.
So how does this story, this context and conversation speak to us today?

Calling – Free grace

God calls us to our families: There is the balance between ministry and stewardship. To neglect children or spouse or family for the sake of the ministry is no Godly. If a man or women takes on the responsibility of a marriage or family, that is a ministry in and of itself and should never be treated lightly.

God calls us to give grace freely: The synagogue had become a place of bad commerce. How horrendous that the Proclaimers of Grace should be more concerned with making money. To charge for grace is an affront to God. What is a soul worth? Jesus died for whoever would believe. What are we willing to give up for the sake of the Gospel? Your neighbor needs help? Give it freely.

God reminds us that He is sovereign: Who are we to demand of God an explanation? What have we done that deserves His notice? Our relationship is one of Grace. We need to walk in the way we know of, trusting Him all along the way. He has promised His presence and His Spirit. He has given us free grace, and we need to extend that to others

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Jesus Words - Follow Me

John 1:37-42

If you read Return of the Jedi from the Star Wars series you find the hero Luke Skywalker being challenged by his father to follow him, to join him in his quest to rule the galaxy. His father claimed it was Luke’s destiny! As we look at the world around us we see a lot of people and companies asking us to follow them. Politicians want your support based on their social platforms. Companies want the loyalty of your business for your dollars. Organizations want your volunteer hours to help them with their cause.

We as a church do not want you to follow us. I don’t want you to follow me. I want you to follow the One whom I am following. Jesus has called us into community. He has gifted you and me, and in the context of this community He calls us all to follow Him. My role as pastor is not in isolation of the rest of you. I have the same challenge to reach the people in my life with the gospel as you do. I am to grow closer to Jesus just as your are—it’s our destiny! Let’s look a bit closer at this calling in our lives together.

Context - The buzz is out!

John recognizes who Jesus is and proclaims it. Look at the names of Jesus in this chapter: Word (1), Creator (3), Light (7), only begotten God (18), lamb of God (29, 36), Son of God (34, 49), Messiah (41), King of Israel (49), Son of Man (51)

Two of his disciples hear him, and then start following Jesus. They stayed with Him that day. One of these 2 was Andrew – Peter’s brother. Andrew goes and gets Peter.
Then Philip gets called. Philip goes to find Nathanael and tell him the news.

2 Timothy 2:2 “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”

Conversation – The Son of Man calls out to us, “Follow Me!”

Right at the beginning of His ministry, before anything else has gone on, Jesus is proclaimed the Messiah, the Christ (anointed One). This is all about fulfilling the Old Testament.
Jesus called people to follow Him. To spend time with Him, walk with Him, eat with Him. With Peter He affirms his name and then promptly renames him, foreshadowing his conversation with Peter in Matthew 16. With Nathanael He starts with a character trait “in whom there is no guile.” When Jesus meets these people He interacts with them on an individual level loaded with discernment.

Jesus calls us as individuals. He wants you to bring all that you are and aren’t, as you are. He didn’t come to save the found, but the lost. It is only those who come with authentic faith, with all their imperfections that receive His gifts of grace. In that calling is relationship, and in that relationship is life change.

1 John 2:6 “the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.”

Calling – Focus on what He has called us to, not what He hasn’t called us to.

Jesus calls you to the Good News. The message of salvation is that eternal life is found in Jesus. I met with a group of men on Friday. Three of them were district superintendents, and 2 were pastors, all representing different denominations. We met to talk about Saskatchewan, and how to help one another connect enough to share this mission. The fact is we are all trying to help people get to know Jesus, and to become more like Him in their life. The Pentecostals, the Baptists, the salvation army… we are all doing the same thing, we are all part of the same church. If I have a chance to lead somebody to Christ, I will do it whether they end up in our church or the one down the road. I am not here to build the kingdom of the Nazarenes, but the kingdom of God. He calls all of us to share the Good News.

Jesus calls you by name. We are called to follow Him, individually. He calls you as you are, knowing His Spirit in you will turn you into a revelation of Himself. He speaks to your life, your character. He calls you to a task that is fit for you. He equips you and uses you in your strengths, and where you are weak, His strength abounds. You have a place in this world, and Jesus is calling you today to it.

Jesus calls you in your relationships. Did you notice Andrew? He hears John talk of Jesus, and goes and finds his brother once he knows where Jesus lives. Philip went and got Nathanael. The reality of Jesus in your life should drive you to talk to those around you. If you don’t, you need to go see where Jesus lives yourself. You need to draw close to Him, to understand He is the Savior. When you really get a hold of that, you’ll want to share it. Don’t try to get better before you follow Him, just start following Him with all your heart, and soul, and mind, and He has promised that He will refine you into something priceless. As you step out and follow Him, who can you go and tell about your encounter with Jesus?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Jesus Words - Temptation Matthew 4:1-11

I am talking about temptation. I mention this to Bonnie and I say there are 3 things you have to watch out for. She immediately lists 3 things: the devil, a man with blue eyes named Steve, and her mother. Now, they weren’t the 3 things I was thinking of, but 2 of those 3 spell danger- I’ll leave that decision up to you…

Context: temptation is especially (found) effective in the low places of life

Jesus is in a place of need – hungry and thirsty, defenses are low. There is a strategy here by Satan. He adds layer upon layer of stress. There is a principle in wrestling: Get on top, and stay on top. Let the guy on the bottom do all the work. Satan comes alongside and tries 3 times to get Jesus to sin when He is tired and hungry and worn down. Let me digress a minute.

My brother Dan loves to fish in New Brunswick. He is very good at it. He can pull in 8 good size smallmouth bass while I am still working on my first one. Same boat. Same side of the boat. Same lure.

James 1:13-15 "13 Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. 15 Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death."
Temptation here is pictured as a fisherman and the lure, or the hunter and the decoys; drawing the prey away from their place of safety. Temptation is the start of something that will end in sin if we are not careful.

There is also a pattern here: Desire (lust) – sinful desire – sinful action = death (Romans 6:23)
Hunger – wanting more than you need - gluttony
Money – wanting more, pulled out of proportion - greed

Conversation: Found in the temptations

There are three main area of life we are tempted in according to 1 John. It is interesting to note that they match up with what was said in the Garden of Eden, and with what jesus experienced in His encounter with Satan. They also line up with 3 things in the world today! They are listed below.

Gen 3:6, “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.”
1 John 2:16 “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.”

1) verse 4: Lust of the flesh: stones to bread/the tree was good for food/money
2) verse 7: Lust of the eyes: Kingdoms of the world/delight to the eyes/sex
3) verse 10: Pride of Life: Fall from the temple/desirable to make one wise/power

Adam and Eve disobeyed the revealed will of God, believed the lie of Satan, and placed their wills above God’s.

Calling: Found in Jesus’ responses - How do we deal with temptation?

Get connected. Temptation is much stronger when we are distracted, out of routine, out of support. A study done of pastors who have had a moral failure found that almost every one of those people surveyed did not have anyone they were responsible to personally. You can’t do it alone, get connected. Many churches provide small groups for this purpose, to at least give you an option of plugging into a place where you can connect regularly.

Matthew 4:4: Know the Word of God. Hebrews 4:12 – “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” 2 Timothy 3:16 - “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;”
Study it, memorize it, and meditate on it.

Matthew 4:7 Walk in the Spirit. Romans 8:14 – “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.”
Pray without ceasing. Always have in the back of your mind that you are a son or daughter of God. That’s who you are.

Matthew 4:10 One focus. Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”
It’s all about Jesus. It’s all about pursuing why He created us. We all have a “purpose”.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Is the term "Unbeliever" wrong?

This is a reponse to another blog where the question was raised that "unbeliever" may be offensive and wrong, and why do we need labels.

The guys in “Unchristian” use the term “outsider”. He admits it is not that great. It is a bit funny how a generation can get so uptight about a word like “unbeliever”. When it was first used it was pretty apparent that it referred to people who did not trust in Jesus’ work on the cross for salvation. It has nothing to do about a mental state or some broad comment on a peoples’ intelligence. Would I call an “unbeliever” an unbeliever to his/her face? Well, that’s not the point, because I am not one who can judge rightly whether he/she has done that or not - that is between them and God. They can be my friend, obviously, whatever they believe. Do I pray for someone who has decided to follow Jesus that he/she will? Absolutely.

Salvation is the real word that needs to be discussed, I think. Does it mean heaven? Well, yes in the same way that having a car means you get to drive - there is a whole lot more to it than that. Heaven is only the final step of the journey to become more like Jesus in our words, thoughts, and actions. Salvation involves some positional stuff which allows us to go into the throne room sprinkled with the blood of the Lamb; but there is also a progressive sanctification of the Spirit working in our life - kudos to the holiness movement guys that believe that salvation is this process (and have for the last 250 years).Is everyone saved? No. Jesus died for everybody, but we are responsible for a response to grace. The predestination the Bible refers to is that we become conformed to His image. That is what being a Christian is all about.It is God who does that in us, as we respond to Him in faith. It is a gift - and He offers it to all. Unless you reach out and take, it, though, it is not in your hands.

Why is salvation needed? Well, it is the issue of sin. The two are inextricably connected. That is the thrust of Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus and why John 3:16 is such a well-known verse. Again, God deals with each of us as individuals. What my salvation looks like could be somewhat different than what yours looks like. The traditional church does reach the lost - but their way of proclaiming the Good News is a cultural thing. The facts are the same, but people need to hear it in their own words to really hear it well. That’s why people translate the Bible into unwritten languages.For those who are big on original language, why are you even worrying about the word uneliever. Go back to when it was first used and how it was used. It’s English. In the context it makes perfect sense. If it has become passe, fine, let’s find another that makes a distinction between what a person puts their faith in.

I personally believe that sanctification (salvation in a broad sense) is also tied closely to the surrender of our will to God’s. The picture I have in my mind is a throne, and it relates to my life, and whoever and whatever is sitting on it. This relates to the kingdom of God - which I think is simply all those people who are under His will. That’s what a kingdom is about. Jesus said we cannot serve 2 masters.

Our ministry is always to come alongside people and be used of god to help them grow closer to Him, regardless of what point on the journey they are at. Whether they are and unbeliever or a believer, and innie or an outtie. We are to love all people - that is how people will know we follow Jesus.Right now the church is crap - just like America. The fiasco of the sub prime stuff has affected the world. Do we give up on America? I don’t think so - there is still so much good. Do we reorganize how they do finances? I hope so. Do we give up on the church - It is what Jesus is coming back for, so I think not.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Jesus Words 2 -Redemption

Choices – we are faced with choices everyday. Sometimes we make good ones, sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we make bad choices by choosing not to make a good choice. You’re driving along in your vehicle. Suddenly a little light comes up on the dash. It is yellow, and it looks like an engine. You get home and hope when you start the car the next day it won’t be there… It is. All week long you drive and that little light is there. Maybe you take a little piece of electrical tape and put it over the light. Problem solved – you can’t see the light any more. The next day you have to peek, and as you’re driving down highway 11 on your way to Winnipeg for a wedding the little yellow light is now red and flashing…

That evening you phone the sister of the bride and apologize for missing the wedding as your car broke down on the highway – such a tragic accident. Well, not really an accident, but a series of bad choices.

We’ll come back to choices in a few minutes.

Today is the second step of our journey to look at Jesus together. We laid some groundwork last week, and today we are going to start where we first see Jesus as an adult. Let me set the context for you:

John is baptizing followers, calling them to repentance. Baptism was a public statement about your beliefs, your faith. It still is. There is still room for baptism today! As Canadians, we don’t like to be showy – we would rather sit around a pot of coffee and solve all the world’s problems quietly. Baptism, though, is a bold statement. I was baptized on Easter Sunday, 1976. I stood up in a tank of warm water and told the people watching that I was a Christian and not ashamed of the Gospel. I was watching America’s funniest videos last spring, and there was a pastor introducing a boy about to be baptized. Suddenly this guy jumps in from off camera and does a cannonball right beside the pastor. After the waves and the people watching quieted down, he said that was the first… and last time that would happen.

So here is John baptizing on the edge of the desert, and suddenly One comes and it is all different. He tells Jesus He is not worthy to do it, but Jesus says He must. Jesus is baptized and here at the start of His ministry we see the Trinity all sharing in the moment: God speaks, the Spirit descends, and Jesus stands. We are informed by this interaction, that repentance is a God thing. It is also a defining moment in Jesus' ministry. One lesson we take home is that we need God and His Spirit at work in and through us for vital ministry to happen. Jesus needed it - so do we.

Let’s move to the conversation:

This conversation is really spoken by John, but it sets the stage for Jesus. John says that holiness is the fruit of repentance. What this means is that we are saved to become more like Jesus in our attitudes, our words, and our actions. That is what holiness is. That is what being a disciple of Jesus is all about – about becoming more like Jesus. That’s why we do church.
So here is John baptizing, calling people to repentance. Who is there? It is the church leaders. They come, and he tells them, "Wait a minute. Hold your horses: This is the deal. You get baptized, you change your life."

Verse 9 – it’s not about heritage
Verse 10, 11– fruitless trees are cut down and burned
Verse 12 – winnowing fork - God is in the business of clearing the chaff out of our life. Not unlike the song Refiner's Fire

John wasn’t prepared to baptize those people who come to God unwilling to let go of their baggage, unwilling to let God control their lives, unwilling to follow Him. John was making a distinction of going through the motions, versus a change in your heart. Why were they coming in the first place? It was the thing to do. It seemed everyone was going to John and they didn’t want to miss out on the free promotion and the leverage they thought it would be to help them get ahead. A prophet hadn’t been seen in Israel for a few hundred years – John was a big deal! Consider the guys who cheat in University. They buy their essays online. They right notes on their hands for the exams and text one another answers. They try to get credit for nothing. They don’t learn the material; nor how to research, nor how to write and assemble their ideas. They graduate with an empty degree, learning nothing but how to bribe and lie – and it catches up to them in life.

In this context, the conversation is repent and be baptized. Give the deed of your life to Jesus, and let everyone see.

And here is the calling. It comes back to choice, a decision we all have to make. Repentance is a response to god’s initiative, to His grace; and it is a choice. It is not just a nodding of the head, it is a commitment to turn around 180 degrees and head in the opposite direction, away from sin. And you have a choice: to accept the claims of Jesus on your life, or to push Him away; to allow Him to change your life, or to remain in the driver’s seat yourself. Many of you have made good choices; but there may be someone here who has been ignoring that little light on the dash. You have maybe covered up with a tape of busyness, or the tape of pride. If you dare peek, though, you will find it is red and flashing.

Jesus Words - Introduction

I want to give you this thought about Christianity. It is all about Jesus, and our relationship with Him. It is not about church, it is not about doing stuff in and of itself, nor not doing stuff. The essence of our faith is what we are doing with Jesus today. The fact is, that relationship is going to reflect in what we are doing and saying today; not the other way around. I can’t talk myself closer to God, I can’t act myself closer to God. God is always right there, offering a wonderful, free gift to me. All I have to do is reach out in faith and accept it. As I yield my will to Him, it is going to change me from the inside out. So, as we start this journey, let me first set a foundation.

Conversion - it has to do with how close people are to God. Evangelical means we believe that people need to have an encounter with Jesus. In that encounter there is a recognition that we can’t do it, only Jesus can (and did). We can’t do it because we have a sin problem. It is only a faith in Jesus’ grace that allows that sin problem to be cleared up. That is choice, the moment of conversion. It is at that point you have assurance of salvation because the Holy Spirit has been given to you as a “guarantor”.

The unfortunate thing we have done in church is to say, “That is all!” Holiness churches have always understood there is more, that following Jesus is a lifelong commitment to discipleship that will change your life. Perhaps the whole responsibility is also not just on the church or its leaders. How many people come to Jesus and then don’t want to be changed? How many of us as youth made a commitment that didn’t affect our actions or attitudes or speech in any discernable way? The church is made up of vast amounts of these people. We used to call them carnal. Romans 7 and 8 reflects both people trying to live the Christian life in their own strength as well as those who are led by the Spirit. Maybe it is not so much church structure that needs change from time to time but a revival of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. That will change how and why we do church.

Over the next few months we are going to focus on looking at the life of Jesus, His theology, His words. It is a bit of a journey for us to take together. Church and Christianity: they is not just a dry set of rules to live life. It is a vibrant, living thing; for it is a relationship with the Creator. Every journey starts with a first step, and the step today is to just introduce this journey. As we walk along a forest path we notice many things if we choose to. We look at the flowers, and trees, the bugs and animals.

I was walking along a path with a friend at camp when I was 13. All of a sudden he starts yelling and dancing around. Quite quickly he unzips his pants and out jumps a mouse… it had run across the path just as we walked by , and then up his leg inside his pants. Now, I don’t expect we will have any experiences quite like that on our journey, but keep your eyes open, you never know.

As we walk:
1) Notice the context around Jesus
i. He made Himself of no reputation (Israel, a small troubled country under Roman rule, son of a carpenter, conceived out of wedlock)
ii. Places – Samaria, temple in Jerusalem at the Passovers, lake of Galilee
iii. Rural, along the roads (Emmaus)
We will have a chat at some point about the land of Israel. Look at a Bible Handbook once in a while and see pictures of what it looks like. Has anyone here been in Israel? What were your impressions?

2) Notice the conversation – I grew up with a red letter edition of the bible and loved it – I still do. It is where the words of Jesus are highlighted in red. This series of sermons, then, are titled Jesus Words!
i. Parables are usually a result of a question posed Him. He used parables an awful lot.
ii. You will also notice that people were in the midst of life when the conversation happened (lady at the well, eating dinner, walking along the way, in a boat, Zacheus was up a tree)
iii. Points are often about who we are before God. Jesus talked a lot about the kingdom of God. What is a kingdom? It is where the influence of the king is felt. A simple definition of the kingdom of God is everyone who allows themselves to be ruled by God the King.

3) Notice the calling of Jesus
i. Called people to a process (out of life, then sent them back into life (period of discipleship)). He didn’t call them to just a task.
ii. Called a variety. Look around at our city. He is calling each person; He is calling you.
iii. Called them where they were at (not necessarily go to college and seminary, then follow me).

4) Application
i. Calls us in our context (look around you, where do you find yourself?)
ii. Calls us in our conversations (who are you talking to? All your conversations are connected to who you are in Jesus. That is exciting!)
iii. Calls us to Himself, to become more like Him. You may be the only Jesus some people will ever see. We need to accept the responsibility of being His ambassador. It is what salvation is all about (It’s time to leave your nets by the boat, and follow Him)
Oh, and watch out for big rocks in the way...
Luke 24:13-35