Sunday, November 16, 2008

Emmanuel - God With Me


1 Corinthians 3:10-17 “10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. 11 For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each man's work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work. 14 If any man's work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. 15 If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. 16 Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17 If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.” (NASB)


Sometimes we live life “out there”. Things are in motion and we just “go with the flow”. It is as if life is lived outside of us, and we have little input. Often this happens when we become driven by goals – and it is not always our fault. Consider the person who is deeply in debt and trying to pay things off. Life for them consists of a lot of work and scant money available for any “extras”. Life becomes “work long, eat simple, watch T.V. and sleep”.
For the one dealing with serious health issues life becomes consumed by doctors appointments, diets, drugs, hospital visits, and the like. For the one getting married… well, the focus is on The Day until it arrives. Sometimes we just let life begin to happen, and we, without realizing it, draw back from actively pursuing life and become much more passive. Life begins to dictate to us what we do, and when we do it. Then a big “out of the blue” event happens and we wonder where that came from, but often it came from our inattentiveness to life and health. It is that whole seagull at Niagara Falls story… Remember?
We need to stop regularly, though, and make sure we tune in to the life that is not “out there” but “in here”, in our hearts. 1 Corinthians 3:16 states this emphatically: “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?”
So, we have accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior and the Holy Spirit dwells within us. What does that mean for us? It should mean that we understand our purpose in life much better. It should mean that our course in life has some very definite direction.


Let me suggest 3 priorities that should invade our day to day life because of who we are in Jesus, and then unpack one of them.


1) Strengths: God has called us to a purpose and equipped us for that purpose. Look at 2 Timothy 3:16-17 “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” God has given us both general things like the Word and His Spirit to guide and direct and empower us for ministry, but He has also given us gifts. In Ephesians 4:12 we have that same word “equipping” used in relation to all of us in our ministry. My favourite part of Bonnie’s book Your Best You: Discovering and Developing the Strengths God Gave You is the following picture: “God gazes down at a child (let's say the child is you), a big grin on His face. His eyes twinkle at the sight of you. An angel stands behind Him, holding an enormous book filled with every good thing. Page after page of strengths, talents, and breathtaking abilities. Qualities that are found in The Creator of this child. The angel thumbs through the book. "Most Holy One, which gifts will You give this child?" God's eyes dance with delight as He ponders the wonders He can bestow upon you. He doesn’t want to rush this moment of joyous contemplation. He peers down at you, His smile growing. Suddenly, God throws his head back and laughs with pure joy. The sound is like every bird on earth singing all at once. Oh, He knows you so well. He knows what will bring you joy. The angel laughs with God. "Will you give this child courage? A love of nature? A sense of humor? Creativity?” The Lord of Heaven and Earth touches your cheek. "To this child I’ve already given the greatest gift of all. I have given my Child, so that we can forever be connected, in relationship." Then God, overflowing with happiness, throws His arms over His head and dances around you. "But even still, I have every good gift to give. I’m generous beyond all human measure. The joy it brings me is uncontainable." The Almighty God, Creator of heaven and earth, bends down and whispers in your ear, "Here my child. These are for you. I give you these gifts. Grow in them. Explore them. Use them to bring glory to My name. Let them be a constant reminder of My great love for you." "Pursue that purpose… go after it with all your heart.


2) Salvation: People in your life who need to hear the Gospel. There are so many ways to picture life. Think of truth. You are following Jesus because in Him you found truth. THE truth. The truth that provides the answer to the question, “Why?” Maybe we can’t articulate it perfectly, or explain it well to someone who is antagonistic to us, but you know in your deepest places that the God who created the ends of the earth created you and wants a relationship with you. It is wonderful! It changed your life. Now look at your neighbour, the mechanic who works on your car, your financial advisor, maybe a child or parent or sibling, and they don’t know. You have this wonderful truth, and they don’t. What are you gonna do? What does God want you to do? There’s a song by Larry Norman that goes like this:

When you know a pretty story you don't let it go unsaid

You tell it to your children as you tuck them into bed

And when you know a wonderful secretyou tell it to your friends

Because a lifetime filled with happinessis like a street that never ends


Sing that sweet sweet song of salvation and let your laughter fill the air

Sing that sweet sweet song of salvation and tell the people everywhere

Sing that sweet sweet song of salvation to every man and every nation

Sing that sweet sweet song of salvation and let the people know that Jesus cares


Look around you as you sing it there are people everywhere

And to those who stop and listen this sweet song becomes a prayer

'Cause when you know a wonderful secret you tell it to your friends

Tell them that a lifetime filled with Jesus is like a street that never ends


Sing that sweet sweet song of salvation and let your laughter fill the air

Sing that sweet sweet song of salvation and tell the people everywhere

Sing that sweet sweet song of salvation to every man and every nation

Sing that sweet sweet song of salvation and let the people know that Jesus cares

1 Peter 3:15
“…always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you…”

3. Sanctification: People in your life who are your brothers and sisters in Christ. They need to be encouraged. They need someone to come alongside and challenge them to keep close to Jesus. We are a community here. It’s not about who’s better than the next one, or who has a more up front position. It is about working together as we all walk on this pilgrimage to Christ-likeness. Some of us may be further along than another. The only thing that means is that we have more responsibility to model and lead the way for those that follow.

3 priorities: Strengths, Salvation, Sanctification. These are not things to just talk about, they are priorities Jesus wants us to focus on in life.

Let me unpack the second one quickly. What does a person need to know to be saved? How do we lead someone to Jesus. There are three things, so they are easy to remember.

1. Recognize that you can’t “do it”. Do what? Do life – be good enough-deal with sin. The question to ask is this, “If you were to die tonight, would you go to heaven?” No one is strong enough, or good enough to do it. Think Grand Canyon – it is just to big to cross. There is that issue of sin, and most people will admit it. Read Romans 3:23, and Romans 6:23. In fact, the first 7 chapters of Romans is all about us not being able to do it. You have to give up – give up trying to do it all yourself.

2. Realize God “did it” for us. Jesus did what you and I could not. He dealt with the sin problem, and died for your sins personally. Romans 8:1 says there is now no condemnation for those in Jesus. Romans 6:23 says that the free gift of God is eternal life. And when Jesus does something, He does it all the way. There is nothing more to do, the work is done. Remember the Grand Canyon, He is the bridge. You have to accept what He did for you. How do you do that?

3) Release your hold on life, and give it to Jesus. We do that by confess our sin, and seeking God’s will. It is about surrender. The answer is simple – Christ in us; but it is hard, because it means we have to surrender our life to Him. When we accept Jesus we accept Him as both Savior and Lord, as Forgiver and Leader. It is not just a prayer and then life is all good. Romans 10:9-10 says “9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.”


Do you see how it involves both the decision of your mind as well as the focus of your heart? It is not just about a prayer we said 20 years ago. It is about what you are doing with Jesus today. What are you doing with Jesus today?

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