One of the things that I started to really enjoy since moving to Arizona, is going out shooting. Growing up in California, my dad would go hunting, and I would sometimes go with him. A couple of times he would even let me shoot his side by side double barrel twelve shotgun, but it never really peeked my interest. But since I moved to Arizona, and especially in the last couple of years, I have become increasingly interested in shooting. And when I get interested in a subject I try to learn everything I need to know about it. I’ll listen hours on end to different points of view on a subject. Trying to understand what people think on different sides of an issue. My thinking is, if I’m going to do something, I want to be able to understand every aspect of it.
So it's has been with shooting. A little over three weeks ago I attended a class put on by a company called Arizona Defensive Firearms Training. They cover anything from basic firearms training, to concealed carry classes, and to dealing with active shooters. It’s a company owned by a veteran police officer, and taught by veteran police officers. After I attended the class, I started to read through the articles they publish on their Facebook.
One of those articles stuck with me, it was an article by a website called task and purpose.com. The article talked about war and the NFL. Back in the 1990s, the NFL was conducting evaluations of how the fear of playing at the top levels of athleticism effected the player. They wanted to figure out just how the brain worked, so that they could better work with their players to get the most out of them, by getting past their fear.
Well this research caught the attention of a West Point Dr named Lt. Col. Dave Grossman. He wanted to use the information from the NFL and see if it could be used to analyze soldiers. At first his superiors laughed at the idea. In their minds, and I would agree with them, the fear of a game where you might sufferer a carrier ending injury, couldn’t possibly be the same as the fear a soldier would experience. But that didn’t stop Grossman. In the Lt. Col. own words, he says, “on a physiological level, there’s no difference between preparing to free fall from the edge of space and preparing to kick down a door in an insurgent-held sector of Ramadi. In both scenarios, the brain and body kick into survival mode. And in both scenarios, even the most capable minds almost always experience fear.”
In the end, what the NFL and Grossman came to realize is that our brains are wired in a way that when we are put to the test, and pushed to our limits, everything shuts down except our ability to respond. And our response is based off how we train. The more a football player or a soldier trains his mind and body to react in certain circumstances, the better the outcome of the player or soldier.
I was always told growing up, “the way you perform in a game is based on how seriously you take your practice time.” This is a psychological truth. And we can transfer this truth from the football field, and the battlefield to our lives.
The way in which we pursue God when we are not challenge in our life, is the way we will pursue God when hard times come. The way we experience God’s life in the peaceful times, will show just how determined we were to know him, to the best of our abilities, when our faith is put to the test.
Now we have been talking about the last aspect of the vision that God has given us here at the Alliance Church for the last 2 weeks. This last aspect is to point people back to the life God has for them. Not the life of a pastor, or of an organization, but to the life that God created that person to experience in relationship with him. In week one we talked about how this life we are pointing people back to, is God’s life. That means that the life God has for us is rooted in who he is. He is the God that desires life to happen, he is the God that fights for that life to continue, and he is the source of life. And if we’re not connected to him, we cannot actually experience the life God created and saved us to live.
That led us into last week, where we talked about how God’s life is found through Jesus. Jesus claimed to be God on earth, that means the way in which Jesus lived his life, is the way in which God intended us to live his life. And it was in Jesus’ life that we talked about four aspects of the life God has for us.
First we talked about Jesus being our teacher. We must realize that learning about God, means we need God to be instructing us. We can learn from people, but at the root, are we pursuing God’s knowledge or man’s? Are we desiring God’s wisdom, or man’s knowledge?
Second, we talked about how Jesus showed us how to live God’s life by giving us examples. Jesus didn’t just teach on love, he showed what it meant to love. Jesus didn’t just serve, he showed how to serve. And Jesus didn’t just sacrifice, he showed what sacrificial living looked like. So when we ask the question, how do we live this life, we can literally answer it by looking at how Jesus did it.
Third, Jesus brought us into God’s family. He showed us our need and place within the family of God. And it’s in the family of God where the life of God comes alive, because when you’re around people, they are naturally going to challenge you and through that challenge we can grow together. Without the challenge of living the life of God out with others who are doing the same thing, we can easy become complacent in the life God wants us to live.
Finally, We talked about how it all centered on one point. We must live this life next to Jesus. We must live this life through Jesus. And we must live this life with Jesus living through us. We cannot help to experience God’s life if we have not experienced putting our trust into Jesus as our Savior. That above everything else must happen, or else the rest of what we have talked abbot, and what we will talk about is meaningless.
Last week I said that this week and next week, I was going to give you some concert ways to live God’s life. But if we have not put our trust in Jesus as our Savior, then this week and next week is legalism. It’s trying to please God by what we can do, but in the end just doing this stuff will not get us to heaven. And if we do these things without Jesus as our Savior, then what we’re will building up in our lives will not be the life of God, but rather the life of self-focus, and self-righteousness.
That is the warning I want to give you today, do not try these at home, unless Jesus has found a home in you.
So are we ready? We’re going to hit each of the four aspects from last week and look at four ways to make them concert in our lives. So here are four challenges we can put into our lives to live out the life God has for us. For each of these we’re going to give a Scripture to reference so that you can look back on it.
First, let’s talk about Jesus as our Teacher. Here we’re gong to look at 2 Timothy chapter 2 verses 15. Listen to what the Apostle Paul says to his apprentice Timothy in the second letter he writes to him.
15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.
I like how the King James Version states verse 15, “15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
What’s that mean? Well, we need to study God’s word. And what I’m going to give you now, is not just read your Bible. No. We need to rightly divide the word of truth. How can we do that? Let me show you by literally dividing verse 15. When we study we need to approach every passage, every verse, every word, as if we know nothing about it. We need to ask the questions: what, where, who, why, how? Looking at verse 15, what does the word study mean? If I’m reading out of the King James Version, what does shew mean. Who is the thyself being talked about here? What does approved mean? What does unto God mean? What is a workman? What does ashamed mean? Why wouldn’t a workman need not be ashamed? What does divide mean? What is the word of truth? What does it mean to rightly divide the word of truth?
When we approach studying the Scripture like this, we will mine deeply for God’s intended purpose. And through this, we will be taught vast amounts of understanding. This week, I challenge you to take 2 Timothy chapter 2 verses 14-21 and study them by asking questions of each and every word and phrase. First ask the questions, and once your done with a verse answer those questions, and then, move onto the next verse and repeat the process.
Following that, let’s look at Jesus being our example. In the Gospel of John chapter 14 verses we see a great interaction between Jesus and a man named Philip. And it’s in this interaction in John chapter 14 verse 12, that we can understand Jesus as our example. It reads…
“12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”
Last week we gave three examples that Jesus gave us to do: love like he loved, serve like he served, and sacrifice like he sacrificed. Now I’m going to give you an option for each. The first option is the love option. Here the challenge is to write a note or just tell someone something that you appreciate about them. It might be a wife who cooks, or husband that takes out the trash, or neighbor that quiets their dog from barking. Find someone who can express appreciation for, and do it by sharing with them, that you want to follow Jesus’ example of showing love.
The second option is for serving. Here the challenge is to ask a neighbor if you could help them with something. Or you could volunteer down at the Isaiah 58 project. This option is to find somewhere, where you have never helped, and help there. Serve in the most lowest position, just as Jesus has showed us to do.
The third option is a sacrifice. And there is a lot of sacrifices you could give, but the specific one I’m challenging you to do is to give a donation to a group that is doing God’s work. I’m not asking for money for us, but rather, find a group on your own that God says, this one, and give to them. Sacrifice a meal, or a new shirt for this group, taking that money and giving back to God.
Now understand this, the challenge here is not to do all of these, but rather pick one of these.
Following that we have the family of God. Here the Scripture passage is found in the book of Galatians chapter 6 verse 10. In this passage Paul gives us instruction about what it means to live beside others. Galatians 6 starting in verse 1o says,
“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”
This challenge has to do with the Church. Now you can approach this in two ways, giving you two option to fulfill this challenge: Either you can do something for the community as a whole, like come here and paint that ugly front entrance, or one of our many other projects, or you can find an individual person and help them. Either by encouragement or to do something they need. Help with groceries, or an electric bill, or cleaning up a yard. Whatever it is, you have to find someone that is a part of God’s Church and hep them. Which means, you don’t have to pick someone from this group right here, but rather anyone that confession Jesus as Savior.
This brings us to our last one, having Jesus at our Core. This passage comes from 1st John chapter 1 verse 3. And this is the simplest thing, I think we can do. John is speaking to the Church that he has become a father figure of sorts to and this is what he says.
“We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.”
This challenge can only be done once every other one has been completed. At the end of the other three challenges, I challenge you to find one person and tell them how you experienced God through all of it. How have these challenges of, studying God’s word, living the example Jesus lived, and helping the family of God, impacted you this week?
Have you come to a deeper knowledge of God? Do you see Jesus fuller in his teaching, in his example, and in his family? Do you walk closer with him and him alone? Share with someone else your experience through these challenges, and then tell them where you see God working his life in you.
There is no final challenge this week except to say this, are you willing to do these? I just gave you a host of ways to live out the life that God has called you into. He has called you into his life, the life he died to give you. And now, are you willing to take these four challenges and live out his life in a concert way?
If we want to get busy living, this is where we start.
Now may the Lord who descended from his throne to us. Who took on our flesh, showed us the life of God and how it was meant to be lived. May he grant you the strength by the Holy Spirit, to walk in his teaching, share in his example, love his people, and speak his truth. And may you grow ever closer to him. Amen.