Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Beyond Series, Week 3 - Beyond…Sunday’s Fill Up


I want to tell you about John. John came from a family of 16, had hard upbringing during the beginning of the 1900s. John met a preacher’s daughter who he knew was too good for him. He left her behind when the second great war required his service. But by the grace of God that preacher’s daughter was set aside for John. By the grace of that preacher’s daughter and God’s Spirit, John became faithful to God throughout the rest of his. He owned a skating rink, where every once-and-awhile a kid couldn’t pay to participate, but John made sure they did. The winters where John lived were tough, and sometimes the churches in his area, churches he wasn’t an attender of, couldn’t afford to keep the heat on. Well God had blessed John and so he was faithful to God and helped keep those buildings warm so that the people could keep meeting throughout the winter. 

John sought God from the big things to the small details of life. There was once a time, when John sold off enough furniture to fill a house, but instead of paying, the people took off and John never saw them again. John struggled with that, as we all would, and when he gave it over to God and forgave the thieves, God brought a blessing back to John and he recouped his losses. 

John won’t go down in the history books as a titan of the world, but his faithfulness to the work of God makes him a titan of the faith. And through his faithful clinging to Jesus, he left a legacy of what it means to walk as a godly man for his children and their children. John passed away this past September, I didn’t know him well, but he is a beacon of what it means to cling to Jesus and not live our lives as if Sunday was the only day of the week where we have a relationships with the Lord.

John’s story is like countless other faithful men and women who have come to experience the new creation life Jesus saved us to live. One of the travesties of the modern Church is that we have regulated the life of God to a simple prayer, and experience on Sunday. Too long we as the Church have been okay with living for heaven on Sunday and hell for the rest of the week. 

This duality in our relationship with God, I believe, has led to what our country is experiencing now. As people moved west, one of the first communal buildings that was built was the place where the Church met. It was then used as a seat of government, community gatherings, schools and a of course a place of worship. Yet as we have regulated our faith to Sunday, not only has the Church lost its influence in the communities we live in, we have stopped living the new creation life that Jesus has called his people to. 

It would seem, when we look at men and women like John, who have a robust faith that permeates every part of their life, they must be more spiritual, or they have unlocked some deep held secret that those of monks and pastors could only achieve. But the reality is, the new creation life that God has called his people into, is for everyone of his children. So this week, we are going to look at the Gospel of John chapter 15 and look at what it means to go beyond Sunday’s fill up, and live an abiding life in Jesus, which is the basis for new creation living.

And as we open to John chapter 15, where we’ll start in verse 1, let us look back over the last two weeks and refresh our minds on where we are in this series we are calling Beyond.

In our first week of our Beyond series, we talked about what the beyond is. The beyond we’re talking about is that, if we have put our trust into Jesus as our Savior, then the Scriptures say that we are a new creation. In fact, Paul states in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”

We who have put our trust into Jesus have had our old sinful lives put to death and now are to live in the newness of being a new creation. And so the first beyond we talked about was living beyond trusting in tomorrow. We must move beyond making plans that exclude God’s change. We talked about how making plans is fine, but trusting in those plans is where we can go wrong. Instead, God calls us to a daily trust in him, leaving all plans in his hands, and being willing to have those plans change as he directs.

Then last week we focused in on the idea of going beyond legalistic relationships. We tend to require others to meet a certain standard in our relationships to receive our love and attention. But God calls us to grace-filled relationships that loves without the expectation of getting anything in return. This doesn’t mean there is not correction or rebuke, but rather we are to have God’s desire that every relationship restored to full fellowship.

Now that we have those last two weeks clear in our minds, let us look at what it means to go beyond Sunday’s fill up, and live daily the abiding life.

As we open to John 15, we need to recognize something. Where the other three Gospel accounts of Jesus’ ministry give us a large overview of Jesus’ work, John gives us more a specific view. Unlike the other three Gospels, John begins to deal with the last week Jesus’ life almost halfway through his writing. John 13 gives us the last supper, which is right before the crucifixion, and then we are given several chapters of Jesus’ teaching prior to his arrest, that are singularly focused on following Jesus closely, even in the face of the suffering that was ahead. And within this teaching we have John chapter 15. Let us read through it together, starting in verse 1.

“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. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.”

With the imagery of the the vine, Jesus relays to us several aspects of how we are to live as new creations, and move beyond simple Sunday faith.

First, in verse 1-3, we’re told that God prunes those that are his. The Hebrew writer, reaching back into the book of Proverbs writes this in Hebrews chapter 12, verses 5 and 6, “And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, ‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, 6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.’”

Now no one likes being disciplined, but it is the discipline of God that brings in new creation living. Therefore we should welcome the discipline of the Lord. James writes about finding joy in hardships when he states, “2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:2-4).”

But why must we be disciplined in the first place? This leads us into our second aspect, which is the most basic reality of who we are created to be. We are created to live in full reliance of God. Paul notices that a couple of Greek poets see this reality, and quotes this poet in Acts 17:28, “'For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’”

This is why Jesus tells us things like, "As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me…apart from me you can do nothing… If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you.”

We cannot hope to live in the new creation life, where joy, peace, patience, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control are our default, if we are are trying to do things on our own. We must live fully in the power of the Holy Spirit. This is why the New Testament writers write things like this in Colossians 1:27, “To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

Or one of the verses we started out this whole thing with, Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

The imagery of the vine gives us the understanding that apart from the active work of God in our lives, we will never experience the life he has called us into. And we will live struggling with the hurts of this life, constantly questioning, why me Lord?

But Jesus doesn’t just tell us that God disciplines us, nor does he just leave us with the understanding that without him we can’t do this new creation living. No, Jesus gives us actual application. The answer to the question, okay how to I live in reliance of God, comes in verses 9-17.

In verse 10 Jesus says, “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.”

Four times in the book of John (14:15, 21; 15: 10, 14) Jesus tells his disciples that keeping the commands of God, is how we remain in the life of God. Now I want to make a disclaimer here: We are not talking about salvation. There is a tension in Scripture that we must address. There’s this idea that either God calls us to a grace based relationship, or to a works based relationship. This is seen in comparing words form Paul and those from James. In Romans 3:28, Paul writes, “For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.” Yet James writes this in his second chapter verse 24, “You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.”

Old El Paso Tacos used to run a commercial years ago where these two siblings were arguing about what was better, soft or hard shelled tacos. That’s when a third, and younger sibling shrugs her shoulders and says, “Why not both?” She is then lifted onto the shoulders of her family with a hurray is heard. The reality is this, we are saved by grace through faith alone in Christ for salvation, yet to abide in Christ, to actively experience his new creation living, we must act on the commands of God. The trap is thinking, well I said a prayer I’m done, or, I went to church, I’m done. 

No, we must implement God’s word daily into our lives. We must take the commands of God seriously, and go before him and say something like, “I know your grace covers me, now as I walk in your grace, help me follow closely your commands.”

And so we look to Scripture and say, God calls me to love him, how do I do that? We look at Scripture and say, God calls me to love my neighbor as myself, how do I do that? And then we seek God and rely on the Holy Spirit to achieve what he has saved us to achieve. And as we grow in it, we experience the new creation life he has for us, where we start seeing the old self truly die, and the new truly come into being.

Sometimes we take major strides, sometimes it’s half-steps, but God’s desire is that we move closer to him as he transforms us into the image of Jesus, one who abides in God as Jesus abides in the Father. 

This is why I challenge you every week on what we talk about today. It’s not that I like giving you homework, no one likes that, but we need to implement the words of God in our daily lives to draw close to him.  Sunday should be a catapult for the week, not simply a one and done experience.

In James’ 4th chapter he writes, “Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded ( v.8).”

To live beyond the Sunday fill up, to really start living in the new creation life that Jesus has saved us to live, we must accept his discipline, living in full-reliance on him, and seek to carry out the commands of God as he has called us to.

When we do this, we accomplish what Jesus told us to do in Matthew 5:16, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

So my challenge for you this week is this, take the 10 commandments as found in Exodus 20:1-17, move your way through them daily and ask of God, how can I abide in you today, by keeping your command? In the morning read the passage, seeking abiding in God, and in the evening, if you failed at anyone that you were challenged with that day, ask for forgiveness and strength, because then we are living in the restorative relationship of God, by seeking to abide, not for salvation, but because we love the God who has saved us, and want to follow him where he calls us.

Let us each move beyond using Sunday as a fill up for the rest of the week, and instead live daily abidingly which leads us to experience the new creation life of Jesus that we were saved and called to live. Amen.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Beyond Series, Week 2 - Legalistic Relationships

  I am going to be honest with you, I don’t want to do this sermon. Because by having to do this sermon I have to practice it in my own life. And after this past week, I don’t want to practice it at all. This week started off great. Sunday was a great day of worship, and afterwards I had a nap, and then a great sermon discussion with fellowship afterward. Monday started off good as well, especially since I had been working on installing a faucet in a sit down bathtub for a couple of weeks and it finally clicked how to do it. Sure I ran into another problem after that, but at least progress was being made. 

But then something happened. A situation broke out and I was called into help in the matter. Though I tried to deescalate the situation, the whole thing blew up. After that, another situation happened and something snapped in me. Even as I prepared to deliver this sermon, it was not fixed. By nature I am a loner type. I like to be alone, I like to work alone, I like to accomplish things on my own. I have had to work exceedingly hard to move past that desire to be alone. And what progress I had made, felt like it broke this week, and now I feel myself wanting to return to that loner world. 

And as I prepared this week, I tried to change the order of the sermon topics in this series as to avoid this week’s, because I knew it was exactly what I was dealing with. And I can see clearly the cure for what was broken in me, but I don’t want to purse it. I know exactly how God has planned for us to talk about our subject today, because he foresaw my need to work through it as a living example for you. And so, it is not the knowledge of what needs to be done, that I need, but rather the actual carrying out of that knowledge. 

Having the knowledge and putting into practice are two parts to a whole, and literally what Jesus spoke about in Matthew 7:24 where he said, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.”

And so let’s get into the knowledge part and then apply it together, by opening our Bibles to the Gospel of Matthew chapter 4 verse 18.  And as we open to Matthew 4:18, let’s recap our last week to see where we are in our Beyond series.

Last week we talked about God’s desire for us to live as new creations. That if we have accepted Jesus as our Savior, we are to no longer live in the old ways of sinful living, but move beyond the power of sin in our lives and live according to the Spirit of God. And with that understanding we looked at moving beyond trusting in the things of this world for our security of tomorrow. We zeroed in on understanding that God has called us to trust him for today and to let him take care of tomorrow. That we are not to put our hope into the plans we’ve made, but be willing for those plans to change as God leads.

Now, with that fresh in our minds, let's look at several points of interest in the life of Peter, as we look at his life to see our our topic today, which is going beyond legalistic relationships. Now, we’re not going to spend too much time on anyone one passage, but instead I want to paint a picture of Peter for you, so we’ll move through these passages pretty fast. The first point of interest I want us to look at, is in Matthew chapter 4, starting in verse 18, where it reads,

“18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will send you out to fish for people.’ 20 At once they left their nets and followed him.”

So we have at our first point of interest, Jesus calling Peter, and others, to come and follow him. The second point of interest will be in Matthew 14:25-30. We pick this moment up at a point in Jesus’ ministry where he has sent off his disciples in a boat and stayed behind to pray. Let’s read in Matthew chapter 14, starting in verse 25, 

“25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. ‘It’s a ghost,’ they said, and cried out in fear. 27 But Jesus immediately said to them: 'Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.' 28 ‘Lord, if it’s you,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.’ “29 ‘Come,’ he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ 31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’ 32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’”

A monumental moment on the lake that day, Peter walks on water. Next let’s turn to Mark 8:31-33, where Jesus is speaking to his disciples about his eventual death.

“31 He (Jesus) then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. 32 He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. ‘Get behind me, Satan!’ he said. ‘You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.’”

Ouch, that’s gotta hurt. Finally, let’s turn to John chapter 13 starting in verse 36, where Jesus is again speaking to the disciples about his eventual death. 

“36 Simon Peter asked him, ‘Lord, where are you going?’ Jesus replied, ‘Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.’ 37 Peter asked, ‘Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.’ 38 Then Jesus answered, ‘Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!’”

After going through those four passages, do you see a pattern here? Peter is called out of his regular job of fishing and is catapulted into the work of Jesus, and he becomes zealous in his faith. He is on fire! It is Peter who wants to walk on the waves as his master did, it was Peter who believed that Jesus could not die, and it was Peter who was willing to go to death for Jesus.

Now I like to joke that Peter is one of my favorite people in the Bible. Because I see a lot of myself in Peter, especially the foot in mouth act that he seems to like to do. Not only is Peter the most outspoken of the disciples, but he also gets the most flack from Jesus. 

Though Peter was the only disciple that wanted to go walking on water with Jesus, he is also the one that is told by Jesus, “You of little faith.”

Though Peter believed that there was no way Jesus could die and spoke up about it, Jesus scolded him by saying, “Get behind me, Satan!…You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

And though Peter proclaimed his willingness to die, Jesus revealed that he wouldn’t actually do it, when Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!”

Several times throughout Peter’s time with Jesus, Peter gets shut down in what he thought was the right action. But the reality is, Jesus was right in every situation. Though Peter got out of the boat and walked on water, his faith was small, because he couldn’t fathom that Jesus would have to die for the sins of humanity. And Jesus was right when he called out Peter’s pride, which showed he had more faith in himself rather than God, when Jesus revealed that Peter wasn’t going to lay down his life, but rather walk away instead.

Again, and again, and again in Peter’s life, he was corrected for his lack of trust in Jesus. But story doesn’t end there.

Let’s move over to John chapter 21 and drop down to verse 15. Here we get the aftermath of everything. Jesus was indeed arrested, Peter indeed denied him, and Jesus was indeed crucified. And after all of this what does Peter do. He goes fishing.

And it’s not, I want to go to a relaxing place to fish type of situation. No, it’s a return to life before Jesus. Did Peter think that the last three years were a waste of time, was it a foolish way of spending his life? To me, Peter fishing was his way of returning to the only thing he got right. Sure he walked on water, sure he cast our demons, sure he saw people healed and feed in miraculous ways, but he wasn’t faithful. So the only place for him was the sea. Something broke in Peter, and he returned to what was most comfortable for him. And it’s in this state that Jesus shows up, and has a conversation with Peter in verse 15 of John chapter 21. Let’s read it together,

“15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” ‘Yes, Lord,’ he said, ‘you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Feed my lambs.’ 16 Again Jesus said, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He answered, ‘Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Take care of my sheep.’ 17 The third time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ He said, ‘Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.’

“Jesus said, ‘Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.’ 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, ‘Follow me!’

“20 Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, ‘Lord, who is going to betray you?’) 21 When Peter saw him, he asked, ‘Lord, what about him?’ 22 Jesus answered, ‘If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.’”

This is a wonderful moment of Peter’s life, it’s his restoration. The three times Jesus asks Peter if he loves him, mirrors the three denials of Jesus that Peter professed earlier in the Gospel. Jesus is restoring Peter to their right relationship. Peter, corrected time and time again by Jesus, and finally coming to a realization that he really was who Jesus said he was, is restored to who Jesus saved him to be. And Peter walks away from this with a better, fuller understanding of who Jesus is and what his relationship with Jesus is based upon. 

It’s not based on what Peter can do for Jesus, but rather who Jesus is and his love for Peter. It’s a grace based relationship. No act that Peter did, no attitude that Peter held, would separate Peter from Jesus. There was only one thing Jesus needed to know, Peter “do you love me?”

Why did all come down to this? Because it was all based on God’s grace and not Peter’s work. Grace is the fixer of relationships. Grace is what allows us to deal with our own short comings.

In his book, The Way of the Heart, Henri Nowen writes, “Only in the context of grace can we face our sin; only in the place of healing do we dare to show our wounds; only with a single-minded attention to Christ can we give up our clinging fears and face our own true nature (pg.17).” 

The grace that flows from God to us is the answer to the question. And this might be what you need to come to know. You might be wondering what you need to do, it’s to follow Jesus in his grace based relationship structure. Can we correct, can we rebuke? Yes, but there needs to be grace that follows it. God calls us to move beyond legalistic relationships where people have to reach a certain standard in order for us to love them, and if they do not we feel it’s acceptable to totally rejection them. Instead God wants us to move beyond this understanding of works based relationships and into a grace-filled relationship structure.

When we don’t live in these grace based relationships, we get what’s happening right now in our culture. Right now, if you do not say the right things or think the right thoughts you could be censored, or canceled as it’s being called. You might have said something dumb in your youth, and now your whole world could fall down around you because of it. 

In our political discussions, if a person disagrees with us, or says something we don’t like, then a-pox on them, they are anathema, rejected, silenced, excommunicated from us. What used to be common middle of the road stances, are now being viewed as hate speech. And it’s easy to fall into the trap of not extending grace, because that so-and-so doesn’t deserve it. And that’s probably true, but that’s not what grace is, grace is what we do not deserve, not what we deserve.

But for me, this understanding is not what I struggle with. The understanding of God’s grace needing to cover me and the call on my life to share that grace in my relationships is not where I am faltering. It’s the actual doing it.

It’s me accepting the grace of God to mend my relationships. It’s sitting with those that have wronged me, and working through the hurt. It’s the doing, that is hard, not the knowledge. Yet Jesus calls me to follow him, as he called Peter, and as he is calling you today. We are to follow him in grace, poured out to others.

For the most part I have been successful, political talks, sharing my faith, even interpersonal relationships with my friends and family have been grace based as much as I can, though I have not been perfect. But when something breaks within you, it’s hard to move forward. That’s why I thank God for the conversation between Jesus and Peter in John 21. It could have been so easy for the Gospel writer to not worry about this restorative, grace-filled conversation, it could have been easy for Jesus to just skip it, but by God’s grace it wasn’t left out. 

And it’s in that restorative, grace-filled conversation that we can see a couple ways that we are called to extend grace to others in a real way. 

First, we need to be personally restored in our relationship with God. We need confession in our lives, we need prayerful lives, we need a strong relationship with God. Second, we need to feed others. Meaning, we need to extend what God has given to us. We need to share the transformative work that God is doing in us, with others. We need to extend grace to people.

Finally, we need to keep our eyes on Jesus. Living in grace based relationships, rather than comparing our walks with other people for better or worse.

Does that mean that we shouldn’t keep people accountable? No. Does that mean we shouldn’t stand for biblical truth? No. What it does mean is that we call people to God on his terms, all the while extending godly love that is not based on what a person does, but because we want to be conformed to the image of Jesus, and Jesus is grace-filled, and he died for that person so they might know him. He gives us the perfect example in how he deals with Peter: Jesus rebukes and restores; that conversation shows how we are to both call people to the way of God and at the same time extend grace.

The reality is the application is the hardest part of this, not the understanding that it needs to be done. So my challenge this week is for us to go before God and ask, where haven’t I extended grace that I need to do it? What relationship needs to have more grace in it, and how best can I go about it. And that means there might need to be some forgiveness asked, and forgiveness extended.

God has called us to go beyond requiring people to meet a standard before we will extend the love of God, it’s time to put all things aside that keep us from being grace-filled people, God’s people. Amen

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Beyond Series, Week 1 - Tomorrow’s Trust…

The world around us is crazy. There’s a lot that is happening, where it feels like we’re on the brink of something major. Whether that be civil war, economic collapse, or who knows what next. Now, I know there is a lot of pastors talking about prophecy and how what we’re experiencing now is fulfilling that prophecy, I will not being do that anytime soon. Not that I do not believe that there are not prophecies being fulfilled, but rather, I have shared with you that I can only speak on things I have been led to speak on. As I have been seeing what God is leading us to talk about so far this year, the overarching theme has been eyes focused on Jesus, making sure we stand on what he has called us to and shedding off anything else.

This brings us into our next series where we’re going to be talking about going beyond. What that means, is that there are a lot of things we deal with that we need to get over, or go beyond in our life. Sin is the center of this.

See Paul states in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

There is an understanding in Scripture that we who have accepted Jesus as Savior, no longer live as other people do in the world. Because of that, we must move beyond what this world has for us. We are to live differently, speak differently, love differently, trust differently. 

As Paul states in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 

This new is both here today, and a future reality. In Romans 8:23, Paul tells us that, “Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.”

So though there is a future state where all things are anew, we who now follow Jesus are to begin to live in that future state, because we have the firstfruits of it by the Holy Spirit who indwells in us.

And so, we’re going to spend the next several weeks looking at different topics that we are called to live beyond what we are now. 

The first of these are routed in how we are to live for today and how we are to trust in God for tomorrow. Let’s look at two passages to give us an understanding of this. First, let’s turn to the Gospel of Luke chapter 12, starting in verse 16. As we open up to Luke 12:16, we find that someone has asked Jesus to help solve a dispute between two siblings. One sibling feels that they are not getting their rightful inheritance. Jesus then warns that person that “…life does not consist in an abundance of possessions (12:15b).” 

It’s from there that we get this parable, that people have titled, the Parable of the Rich Fool. Let’s read starting in Luke 12:16.

“16 And he told them this parable: ‘The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, “What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.” 18 Then he said, "This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, ‘You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’” 20 But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” 21 This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.’”

This parable tells of a man who increased his wealth immensely. Such an increase of wealth in fact, that he had to restructure his entire storage system to accommodate it all. But not only that, this dramatic increase in wealth led to him saying to himself, that he no longer had to work hard, and he could relax for the rest of his life.

Isn’t that what we all would like? So many times in my own life, the thought has crossed my mind, “If only I had money, I wouldn’t have to do this.” I remember growing up and knowing, that my parents had a nest egg; that we were rich and they were just waiting for the right time to spring it on me.

A life of ease is always a desire, because then we would’t be living to survive, but rather to live as we want to. The man in the parable is hopeful, but then there’s a twist, his life ends before he can have his “happy ending”. And Jesus poignantly reveals that when we seek to store up material goods for our future benefit, there’s the possibility that are lives will be cut short of experiencing what we had built up. Instead, Jesus points us to being rich in our relationship with God, rather than material possessions. To trust God with our future, rather than the things we acquire.

I want to juxtapose this parable against the historical story from 1st Kings chapter 17, starting in verse 7. In 1st Kings 17:7, we find ourselves not in the New Testament, but the Old. And instead of a parable in answer to a question, we find a struggle between those that follow the Hebrew God, and those that follow after idols. The prophet Elijah proclaims to the Israelite King Ahab that God has said that there will be “…neither dew nor rain in the next few years…(17:1).”

This is because Ahab is worshiping false gods, and the lack of rain, points to the Hebrew God’s power over these false gods. But Elijah isn’t immune from the lack of rain, and it’s in the midst of this drought that we pick up in verse 7.

“7 Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land. 8 Then the word of the Lord came to him: 9 ‘Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have directed a widow there to supply you with food.’ 10 So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, ‘Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?’ 11 As she was going to get it, he called, ‘And bring me, please, a piece of bread.’

“12 ‘As surely as the Lord your God lives,’ she replied, ‘I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.’

“13 Elijah said to her, ‘Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. 14 For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: “The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.”’

“15 She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. 16 For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.”

17 Some time later the son of the woman who owned the house became ill. He grew worse and worse, and finally stopped breathing. 18 She said to Elijah, “What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?”

19 “Give me your son,” Elijah replied. He took him from her arms, carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his bed. 20 Then he cried out to the Lord, “Lord my God, have you brought tragedy even on this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?” 21 Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried out to the Lord, “Lord my God, let this boy’s life return to him!”

22 The Lord heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived. 23 Elijah picked up the child and carried him down from the room into the house. He gave him to his mother and said, “Look, your son is alive!”

24 Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth.”

A widowed woman with her last food, in the midst of a wide spread drought; she and her only son, prepare to eat their last meal and die. There is no hope for the woman, and she has come to terms with her own death. She has no hope, because there is no god to turn to save her. See the greater cultural situation that we find this widow in, is that she is not a Hebrew woman. Her god is not the Hebrew God, but rather the Canaanite god Baal. Baal was the god of thunder and rain, and with the drought, it meant that Baal was in his slumber cycle, and he wouldn’t be able to help. And so, this woman was lost in despair.

There is a stark difference between Jesus’ parable in Luke 12, and the real situation we see right here. 

In the parable, the farmer has optimism for the future, in this woman’s life, there is only pessimism. Yet in the parable of the farmer we see tragedy, and in the widow’s story, we see victory. The farmer has everything, yet loses it all, and the widow who has nothing, gains everything.

Why? What is the difference between the two? Why does the one lose, while the other gains? It comes down to one word, trust. 

In the parable, the farmer trusted in his own abundance. He says things to himself like, “…You have plenty of grain laid up for many years…” And, “Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”

The farmer trusts in his wealth, he trusts that it secures his future, he trusts that his tomorrow is taken care of and that he has nothing to worry about. 

In the story of the widow, she has nothing to trust in. Her whole life has come to an end and she sees no way out. But when this prophet comes along she places her trust in the word that comes from his God. She trusts in that word that her jars would not run out. She trusts in that word when Elijah asks for her dead son. She trusts, when nothing about tomorrow is hopeful. This trust solidifies when she says, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth.”

For us, it’s really easy to fall in to the trap of trusting in the things we have for our security. We want to capture the unknown of tomorrow and make it serve us. Is there anything wrong in preparation? No, but that’s not what the farmer did, he wasn’t preparing for tomorrow and trusting God that whatever happened God was in control. No, he was trusting in the wealth as his god. Paul shows us what it means to prepare, and give our tomorrow over to God. In Acts 16, Paul talks about wanting to go to Galatia, but the Holy Spirit kept him from it and instead moved him to Macedonia. 

Plans about tomorrow are not sinful, but trusting in them, trusting in what we can put together ourselves is the problem. We must have the trust of the widow. We must recognize that all that we have is dying and all we can put our hope in is the Word of God. We must fully trust in him for our tomorrow, because then we recognize all we have is this moment. 

Tonight, our life may be demanded of us, like it was of the farmer, but if we trust in the Lord now, that won’t scare us. If tomorrow is our last day, it will not faze us, because our hope is not in anything less that the living God who has dominion over all things. 

No sickness we face, no financial crises we have, no governmental edict that is imposed, will ever trouble us, because we have not put our trust in the things of this world, but in God himself.

This is what we must go beyond, we must move beyond trust in the things of this world to anchor us, and instead we must anchor ourselves only in Jesus. 

I love these words from Isaiah 26:3-4, “You (God) will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. 4 Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal.”

My challenge for you this week is to go before God with a simple morning and evening prayer: God help me trust in you for my today and tomorrow and not in the things of this world.

Let us engrain in our lives, the trust in the only secure thing in this universe, the God who created it.

As disciples of Jesus, our lives are his. When we confessed Jesus as Lord and Savior, our lives were bought by him. We are his. We are new creations, no longer looking to false gods and idols to secure tomorrow, but now we are to trust in Jesus for every moment that we are given. In this moment we must trust in Jesus, and if we are given tomorrow, then we must trust him there. Because we are promised nothing in this life, expect what God gives us. Let us then trust only in him, and in him we will always be satisfied. Amen.