Monday, January 22, 2018

Vision Series, Week 2 of Life - God's Life through Jesus

Have you ever had something so important to you that everything about your life was poured into it? I used to think that baseball was that for me. I’d workout almost every day for at least twenty minutes. Rain or shine, I would go out to my backyard pitching hill and backstop, and throw two buckets of balls. Then once a week I would go to a pitching coach to refine my technique. During the season I would add practice with my team to my training schedule. I thought that this would get me to the big leagues. How naive I was. I quickly realized my senior year, that my training was subpar at best. I went to a scout camp, where you paid to have major league scouts come out and tell you what you needed to do to make it, and what colleges you could play at.
I was told I needed to grow at least two inches and increase my fast ball by about eight miles per hour. That’s when I started realize just how lacking I was to make it to the big leagues. Soon after, I started to read stories of other athletes and what it took them to make it to their big league. I read how olympic athletes had to set out specific training regiments four to eight years out from their shot at a medal. Some athlete’s parents even revolved their whole lives around this goal, starting them extremely young, homeschooling them so that school wouldn’t interfere with their regiment.
How some olympic athletes like Wilma Rudolph from the 1960 summer games in Rome, over came things like polio, learning to walk again at age 12 and by the time she turned 20 had worked hard enough to achieve her goal.
I realized that if I wanted to become a professional baseball player, my world would have to stop being the way it was and I would have to have that goal as my only focus. Sacrificing everything that wasn’t conducive to that goal. And I decided that the cost was not worth it. 

Last week we dove into our first week of a four week sermon series about the last aspect of the vision of the Alliance Church here in Quartzsite. In the last few years we have been asking the question, where is God taking us. We answered this by looking at the whole of Scripture and discovering what he has for us, is what he has for his Church as a whole. First we are to experience and be motivated by God’s love, this leads us to lift him up in our daily worship. We are also to be motivated to locate the needs around us, and as God leads, to meet those needs. We have talked about these three aspects in the past years, and last week we started on the last aspect of the vision which is, to point people back to the life God has for them.
Last week was kind of an introduction. Where we talked about how the life God has for people is his life. He is the God of life, meaning he is the one that desires life to occur. He is the God that fights for life, meaning he makes works out things that in may continue. And he is the only source for life, meaning we can’t experience life apart from him. And I asked everyone to take a challenge; to circle one of two phrases that came from a movie. Those phrases were, get busy living or get busy dying. And overwhelmingly people circled get busy living. None of us want death, because death is antithetical to who we are. Death scares a lot of people because, to me, it’s the most unnatural thing in the world. God created us to live eternally, that’s why death scares us, because we know, deep down it’s wrong.
One of those papers that came back, had on it some questions. These questions were great, because they asked the very things that we’re going to be covering in the weeks to come. The first question that was asked was what does it mean to accept Christ?  A perfect question, because today we’re going to look at the life God has for us through Jesus. We’re going to cover four aspects of Christ life, that lead us into a deeper understanding of the life of God. The reason Jesus’ life leads us into a deeper understanding of God’s life, is because Jesus claimed to be God. So if that is true, then his life and the way it plays out, is the perfect encapsulation of what we need to understand. And I hope by the end of today, not only will you understand the life of God better, but how and why we need to accept Jesus into our lives. 

So let’s dive in. We are going to stay mainly in the Gospels today, but we will branch out every now and then to other New Testament books. These are the books that hold Jesus’ life. So if you have your Bibles, we’re going to start in the Gospel fo John chapter 13 verse 12. 
Here Jesus is beginning to wash his disciple’s feet, something that is weird for us today, and was unbefitting a person of Jesus status at this time. At this time, only the lowliest servants washed a person’s feet. But Jesus wasn’t a lowly servant, he was the Master, and that’s were we pick up Jesus’ response to his disciples who didn’t want him to wash their feet.
12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

Jesus was a teacher, a person who’s goal was to relay the words of God to humanity, and help them understand. In fact, Jesus is called teacher more than anything else. 46 times Jesus is called teacher, because he taught the word of God. What was this word? The word was God’s life. Jesus said in John chapter 6 verse 63, “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you--they are full of the Spirit and life.”

These collection of books and ancient manuscripts that we call the Bible, is not just another book. It is not just another ancient text on religion. Instead it is life.
The words contained in the Bible have been spoken to help us realize how to live this life. These words were spoken so that we could understand ourselves, this world, other people, and God himself. And when these words and brought into the life of a person and acted upon, life flourishes. No matter what the circumstance, no matter what the trial or temptation, these words will bring life to the situation, because they come from the God of life himself.
And when we put ourselves under the tutelage of Jesus, we will find life. So the first aspect of God’s life in Jesus is Jesus must be our teacher, so that we can experience life.

Next, have you ever had someone say that old phrase, do as I say, not as I do? That’s not Jesus. Jesus’ whole life was to be an example for you and me, to let us know how God’s life was to be lived out. 

In John chapter 13 verse 34 Jesus says, “34 A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Jesus showed his disciples what it means to love, he was their example of how it was to be done. 

Just a few verses before that in verse 15, which we already read once, but here it is again. Jesus said, “15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”
Jesus didn’t just say hey, serve each other. Jesus took the lowest servant position, wrapped a towel around his waste, got the water, and actually washed his disciple's feet. Then Jesus said, now that you’ve seen it done, that’s how you serve.

And in the 20th verse of the 2nd chapter in the first letter Peter wrote to the Church, he said this of Jesus, “20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.”

Jesus suffered, and that suffering gave us an example of the lengths that we are to love and serve other people. The love that Jesus shows, leads to the serving of others, and no matter how hurtful the suffering may be, it is worth it, because we are following the example laid out to us through Jesus.
All this is gigantic, because Jesus doesn’t ask us to do anything is his life, that he has not already done. Which brings us to our second aspect of God’s life, it has already been lived out, so we can now see it in action, because Jesus is our example. Jesus is our example, and when we follow that example we can have confidence in knowing that we are walking in-step with the life of God.

This past week I shared with our Wednesday night apologetics class how the writer of most of the New Testament Paul, had four views on what God’s salvation is. Each view spoke to a different aspect of this human life. Finances, Freedom, Laws, but it was the final one that I had never fully understood, because it wasn’t something that I had experienced. And that was adoption. Growing up, I had never thought about it, never really encountered it. True my oldest sister was my half sister, but I never thought of her as adopted. In fact that language was never even brought up in my family, as far as I knew.
It wasn’t until my wife and I adopted our first two kids that I began to understand God’s family and my place in it.

See Jesus says in John 1:12, “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” 
In Mark 3:33-35 he says, “33 ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ he asked.
34 Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.'”
And the writer Paul sums this up in Ephesians 1:5, where he says, “he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.”

The third aspect of God’s life through Jesus is that God is our family. Recently I was watching a video online that was philosophizing about humanity and who and what we are. The man made this statement, "if God walked among us, then he would definitely be indifferent to us.” But that is not the God of the Bible. Not only does God walk among us as Jesus, he calls us his family. His adopted sons and daughters. Those he loves, and died for.
It’s not enough for God to give us life and the to shoo us away. No, the God of the Bible says, I created you to have life, and that life is in me. I have created you to be family. And that is an awesome exclamation mark on who God is. The vast, eternal being that is God, who creates galaxies for fun, calls us family. Amazing.
This brings us to the final and probably the most important of the aspects of the life of God in Jesus.

I want to read for you this analogy that Jesus gives in the book of John chapter 15. Jesus says this, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.”

This life that God has for us, can only be experienced in close proximity to him. We can’t live by just putting Jesus’s words into action. We can’t just live by emulating Jesus’ example. And we can’t live only be thinking we’re his family. We must live right next to him. Because it’s all about him.
Paul echoes this very idea in the book of Acts chapter 17, verse 28 when he is talking to the philosophers in Athens. Paul says, “For in him we live and move and have our being…”
If we truly want to live the life that God has called us to, we must come to the realization that we cannot rightly live it without being in close relationship with him.

This brings us back around to the question from the very beginning, “What does it mean to accept Christ?”

The answer is to trust him entirely. That means to trust his words, that you and I fall short of God’s perfect standard. You and I are not perfect beings like God is. We tend to stand in opposition to where God stands. And even when we do agree with God, it’s more for our benefit, than for his pleasure. This is what God calls sin, and each of us is tainted by it. And we have to recognize and agree with God that this is the reality of who we are.
And that sin, well, it leads to eternal separation from God in hell. Not because God desires that outcome, but by our actions we do. And God, being the lover that he is, allows us to go our own way, even if that way leads to death.
But God doesn’t give up, that’s why God the Son came to earth, wrapped himself in the flesh of humanity and said, I will live the life you could not. I will be the example that you can follow. I will give you the words of life, so that you may life. I will bring you into my family. I will live within you. And I will die the death that you deserve, so that you will not be away from me. 
And because he died for our sins and not his own, God raised him back to life, and that life that now resides in Jesus is offered to us. But that life is life, that is only found by being found in Jesus. We not only live like him, we live through him.
See Jesus is not just the teacher of life, our example of life, or our family of life, he is life, and our life line. Without him living through us moment by moment we have nothing. That’s what it means to accept Christ. That we are sinners in need of God’s life to restore us. And that life only comes through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.
And when we trust God in these truths, all we need to do is accept the gift of life that God offers us. Not by anything we have done, but only through what Jesus has done for us.
This is summed up in Paul’s statement in Romans 10:9, “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
Belief is trusting in God’s word, and declaration is acceptance of his free gift of everlasting life.

This is the full life that Jesus said he was bringing us in John 10:10. Life where he is our teacher. Life where he shows us how to live. Life that brings us into God’s family. And life that can only be experienced by being close to him. This life begins when we put our trust in Jesus for salvation, and lasts into eternity with him.

Next week, we’ll talk about how we are to live out this life in concert practical ways. Because many of us have put our trust in Jesus, but the question becomes how do we live it out a real way? Next week we will cover this aspect of God’s life. 
As we close, here is the challenge for this week: My challenge for you is to take each of these four aspects of God’s life through Jesus. Jesus’ teachings, his example, his family, and his proximity, and ask the question of each, am I experiencing Jesus’ life through each of these. Or are there ones that I am lacking in. Then seek God, reading these passages for guidance, and asking God to have that area of lacking become more full through God’s power. To experience his life today.

If we can do this, we will be digging into the life of God in a new and deeper way. And that is the point of his salvation, to know him better and fuller day to day. 

       May God show you insights into your life, so that you may experience his. Amen.

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