Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Vision Series, Week 3 of Life - Let's Live It

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 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.

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.

Vision Series, Week 1 of Life - Get Busy Living, or Get Busy Dying

One of my all-time favorite moves is the 1994 movie, the Shawshank Redemption. If you haven’t seen it, the story basically goes like this: Andy Dufresne is sent to prison on the charge that he killed his wife and her lover. It’s a false imprisonment, but every one claims to be innocent at the Shawshank prison. Andy meets a man named Red who can get you things, and over the course of the movie they become really close friends. About a quarter to half way through the movie, an older character named Brooks is released from prison and goes back to life outside of the walls. But living most of his life in Shawshank, he can’t adapt to life outside and eventually commits suicide.
Towards the end of the movie, after Andy had been at Shawshank for almost two decades we get a quiet moment between him and his friend Red. Andy talks about getting out of prison, and how he would head to Mexico where he would run a hotel and fix up a boat. He tells Red that he should come with him, because Andy could use a man like Red who knows how to get things.
But Red is having none of it. He knows Andy is serving out two life sentences for the murders. And Red tells Andy to stop dreaming of those things. And plus, Red states how he couldn’t live on the outside. He’s an institutional man, who’s lived behind bars most of his life, and couldn’t function in normal society.
Andy ends the conversation with this line that has always stuck with me. “I guess it comes down to a simple choice really, get busy living, or get busy dying.”

It’s a powerful movie of pain, suffering, friendship, betrayal, and of course redemption. But that line, “get busy living, or get busy dying,” to me encapsulates the state of humanity. Two years ago, as we here in the Alliance church began to look toward the future of what God is doing through this congregation, we began to talk about the vision that God has given us. This vision is simplified in the four words of Love, Lift, Locate, Life. We have talked about Three of these words in past. First love, it’s the love God has shown to us through everything he does for us, and hits it’s pinnacle in the sending of Jesus to die for us. We see this in Scripture with Jesus words in John 15:12, “love each other as I have loved you.” The Love of God towards us should then motivate us to love. It’s that same love that should then motivate us to move further into the vision.
The lift aspect of the vision is the worship of God. Jesus says in Mark 12 that we are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. In other words, we are to worship him with everything that we have at our disposal.
But it doesn’t stop there, we are to be motivated to no only love God, but to love people. Following the greatest command of worshiping God with everything, Jesus connects loving other people with it. Which brings us to the third aspect of the vision, locating the needs of the people around us and meeting them. Jesus says, to love people as we love ourselves. We love ourselves by wanting the best for us, well, that means we should love people by wanting the best for them as well.
These three aspects are summarized like this, We are loved by God and should be motivated by that love to life him up in our daily worship, and to locate the needs of others, and meet them as God leads. 
All of this brings us to the final aspect that we will be talking about for the next four weeks. This last aspect is life. And it is rooted in Jesus’ words in the book of John chapter 10 verse 10. Jesus says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
This last aspect is stated as, pointing people back to the life that God has for them. Today, I want us to dive into this life of God, and spend the next four weeks looking at different sides of it. 
Usually I like to dive into one passage of Scripture and analyze it, but today I want us to grasp the full view of what it means to point people back to the life God that has for them. So We’re going to be jumping through the pages of Scripture from Genesis forward. And we’re going to be moving on fast forward, but don’t worry if you can’t keep up flipping through your Bible, everything will be on the wall.
So let’s begin at the beginning, Genesis 1-2 shows us God creating everything. But it’s in chapter 2 of Genesis where I want us to begin with verse 9. Previous to verse 9, verses 5-8 give us the context of what is going on. Scripture takes us to a barren section of God’s creation. A place he hasn’t developed yet, and it’s in this place that he forms man, verse 7. In the next verse we learn that God then creates a place to put man, this place is called Eden, verse 8. And then we come to verse 9 where it says, “9 The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”
We know later on in verses 16 and 17 that God gives a command to this first man to not eat of the second tree. But do we realize what that means? By God emphasizing two trees, yet only restricting one, it means that the other tree is free to enjoy. In other words God’s intent for humanity is to have life and enjoyment thereof.  Which is really the entire point of the first two chapters of Genesis. God is a God of life giving. But what this one point in Scripture relays to us, is that God is not just a God of life, but a God who wants his creation to experience that life. We get this understanding a chapter early in Genesis 1 verse 28, where God tells humanity to be fruitful and multiply. 

But then Genesis 3 happens, where humanity chooses to disobey God, choosing the tree that is restricted and in turn choosing the opposite of the life God has for us, and that’s death a part from him.

But we don’t stop there. If we turn over to the 45th chapter of Genesis and look in verse 7 we see God’s life still at work. In the life of Joseph many bad things happened. He was sold into slavery by his brothers. He was falsely imprisoned by his master after the master’s wife accused him of sexual advancements, and he had been forgotten by a man he had helped. But it was all for a purpose, and Joseph recognized this with his statement in verse 7. “But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.”
Evil compounded evil in Joseph’s life, but God was working through it all to bring about life. If God didn’t take Joseph through all of that hurt and pain, then Egypt wouldn’t have been prepared for the famine, and his family would not have survived.

I want us to look in one more place here in the Old Testament, the book of Ezekiel chapter 37. Here God speaks to Ezekiel in a place were a great battle had been fought years before. The flesh from fallen warriors had been weathered away and laid barren. In verse 3 God speaks to Ezekiel, “Son of man, can these bones live?” To which Ezekiel responds, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”
Ezekiel understood what we have been talking about today, that God is a God of life, and his intent for humanity is that they may live. God’s question of can these bones live, can only be responded by Ezekiel pointing back to God. Ezekiel is saying, only the one that can give life can answer that question. 
To this God instructs Ezekiel to call these bones back to life, and they do. Not because of Ezekiel’s power, but because the God of life works through him.

Let’s go back to Jesus’ words in the book of John chapter 10 verse 10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
The life that Jesus has come to give us is his own. And it’s in Jesus’ life that our lives can be found. And this is the point of the life aspect of the vision that God has given us here. We are to point people back to the life God has for them.
That means we’re not supposed to point people back to a church. This church congregation has been here for almost 40 years. Will it be here another 40? I don’t know, but congregations come and go. Right now, about 3,500 churches nation wide close this year. That means if we are pointing people back to a building as if that were the point, then we are pointing them to a place that might not be there next year. Instead, we are to point people to the life that is found in connection with the Body of Christ, the true Church. 
This also means that we’re not supposed to point people back to a pastor. People tend to attend churches where they like the preaching, or the music, or this or that. And many Christians have their favorite big name preacher, or teacher. But did you know that only 1 out of every 10 pastors will retire from the ministry? That means 90% of pastors will leave their role before retirement age. If we are pointing people back to a pastor, we’re setting them up to fail. Instead we are to point them back to God the Shepherd, the one that will always be with them.
Finally, this means that we are not supposed to point them back to our idea of Christian life. Let’s take a look at our own lives. What are the experiences, circumstances, jobs, life choices we have made that are different than other people? Some of us have served in the military, some in combat, some not. Some have owned businesses, some haven’t, some worked in construction, others in an office. Some have been single their whole lives, others have had 10 children. Some of us have lived our whole lives on the west coast, others have traveled the world.
Each of us have lived lives that might be similar, even intersecting at some points, but are vastly different. It is the same in our spiritual lives as well. I became a Christian at around age 16, my wife was about 4, some are 60. Some of us have followed Jesus closely for years, some are renewing their walks, still others are beginning their search for God. I can’t point you to the life I have, and you can’t point me to the life you have. Instead we are to point people back to the life that God has for them. We can share experiences of how God has worked, and how we have learned, but we must encourage and extend grace to others so that they can experience God the way that God intended them to.

Paul says this in the book of Colossians chapter 1, starting in verse 16, “16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.”

Jesus says this about building his church, his people, in Matthew 16:18, “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”
God is the God of life. He spoke life into existence, he breathed life into our lungs. Even when we fight against his life, he continues to bring that life to us. 
In the beginning of the book of John, where we started today, the author gives this little paragraph in his introduction, “9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”

Jesus brings the life of God to humanity, and gives us the choice that he gave the first man and women: to eat of the tree of life, or to eat of the tree that leads to death.

And this is where we come to the statement that Andy Dufresne makes in the Shawshank Redemption, get busy living, or get busy dying. 

The life that God has for us is right before us, it is a life that is only found in him. Not in this building, not in a pastor, and not in looking towards ourselves, but only in Jesus.

The question is, what are we going to get busy doing? If you have accepted Jesus as your Savior, then you need to get busy pointing people back to his life. Because he has given you life, and that life must be shared.
If you haven’t accepted Jesus as your Savior, I would like to talk to you about what that means. But if you’re still hesitant, come back again next, week, because will be talking more about this life that is only found in Jesus.

So today I want to leave you with this challenge, on your seat there was a little paper with the Shawshank phrase. My challenge is to decide right now, which will you choose: get busy living, or get busy dying. If you choose living, that means you're choosing God's life. If you choose dying, you're choosing your own. In Jesus' own words in Matthew 10:39, "Those who try to gain their own life will lose it; but those who lose their life for my sake will gain it."

Each of us is called to the life of Jesus, and when we gain that life, we are to spend the rest of it pointing others to the life God has for them. And that life, is only found in Jesus.

       Now may the God who creates and sustains life, bring you deeper into his life today. Amen.