I turned on my cell phone on Tuesday to make a call and an unsolicited ad appeared. It was about a very special camera. The pictures and videos were in the Amazon, Western Canada, Grand Canyon, etc. I was mesmerized by the quality and depth of each picture. Then I noticed a theme developing layered just below the surface. The theme of marvelous photography was punctuated by a calling to be unlike Christ and to be like the world. Phrases like, "This is the reason we are here," "Life is about reaching for the top," "What can make you happier that this?" "We are here to be happy and prosperous."
While not 100% incorrect, the persuasion was to live for the good things of the world, and the honest opposite of that would be to allow very little time for God stuff! Even time to come to worship each week, as it might call for a cramping of one’s fun time.
I began to wonder "Where, in the Bible does God tell us that our main goal is to be happy?" We might confuse the words regarding being content in Christ found in Philippians with happiness at any cost but our goal is not happiness, things, achievements, forever young or all of these commodities.
A lesson was leaned by me in a twinkling of an eye. When we try to distinguish between being in the world and being in Christ we often think of bad versus good. The world has only bad, bad people and those in Christ are good, good people. Neither of these ideas is necessarily correct!
The lesson for me was "Here is what defines worldliness." It was Jesus whom we follow, who said to his closest followers, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me”- Matthew 16:24. He didn’t mince words or allow for misinterpretation. He said it like he meant it! Jesus also pointed out that anything that takes precedence over following Him, making Him and His work secondary, is rejected. He said, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord and do not do what I say?”- Luke 6:46. Jesus heard the excuses of would be followers that included needing more time- “Let me go bury my father..” or thinking it was just another “do-it-on-your-own-time” job like the self-assured man who said to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus knew that this person needed to know what the real price of discipleship was, so he said, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”
Our thesis today is that we must be Christians like they were in Bible times or the outcome will not be pretty. “But,” says one, “that’s old fashioned, and this is 2017. Get with the program. Things get updated you know.”
That is correct, things do get updated. Take a Model A Ford- 1928 to 1931- and compare it to a 2017 Ford Edge. We would expect the new one to go farther on less gas, cost much more that the Model A, go much faster, have a zillion more features than the old one, etc. But, with body, engine, tires, steering wheel, transmission, they are both cars built for the same purpose. The thing the earlier one was made for the newer one does better, but the goal and general makeup did not.
Modern Christianity, as is most often practiced, is hardly identifiable with the original. Today, in the Christian denominational world, the emphasis is on joining a church, going to a building to worship, find a Reverend man or woman to run the affairs on the local level, while they all are under a national or regional committee and local decisions are made elsewhere.
The above may seem picky and not relevant but it is. The entire process of Christianity in Bible times centered in Jesus from the way to become a Christian to what is done at worship to meeting the same demand, in principle, as the early saints did. It still has to be asked, “What would Jesus have me do? Then “What would Jesus do?”
Following Jesus, as in New Testament Christianity, is hard! Modern Christianity seeks to make it extremely easy.
Our task here on earth is to see things through Jesus' eyes, sight that understands the difference that Jesus makes.
Jesus says, "It is more blessed to give than to receive"- Acts 20:35
"Love your neighbor, and love your enemy"-Matthew 5:43-48
"If someone slaps you turn the other cheek to him"-Matthew 5:39
"What does it profit a man if he should gain the whole world and lose his soul?"- Mark 8:36
"Choose the narrow road"- Matthew 7:13,14
"Blessed are you when people insult and persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great."- Matthew 5:12
Jesus is called "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief" -Isaiah 53:3
Yet while dying between two criminals and in the most horrific and unfair way, He is heard to say, "Father forgive them, they don't know what they are doing."
We must learn how to decipher the truth of Jesus and practice it daily no matter what we previously thought and regardless of the cost. Peter helps us connect the dots: “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.”- I Peter 2:22,23
Perhaps the little story, that many of us have heard, with help us realize what Jesus lived, died and lives again to accomplish and cause us to ask one more time, “What would Jesus do?”
In 1896 a religious fiction novel was published called In His Steps: What Would Jesus Do? Written by Charles Sheldon, the book has sold more than 30,000,000 copies, and ranks as one of the best-selling books of all time.
In 1896, for his Sunday night services, Sheldon thought he would write a story, which would continue one chapter a week, about various persons who applied "What would Jesus do?" to their lives. Sheldon was soon preaching to a packed crowd.
In His Steps takes place in the railroad town of Raymond, probably located in the eastern U.S.A. (Chicago, IL and the coast of Maine are mentioned as being accessible by train), and Chicago Illinois. The main character is the Rev. Henry Maxwell, pastor of the First Church of Raymond, who challenges his congregation to not do anything for a whole year without first asking: “What Would Jesus Do?”
The novel begins on a Friday morning when a man out of work, named Jack Manning appears at the front door of Henry Maxwell’s house while the latter is preparing for that Sunday’s upcoming sermon. Maxwell listens to the man’s helpless plea briefly before brushing him away and closing the door. The same man appears in church at the end of the Sunday sermon, walks up to “the open space in front of the pulpit,” and faces the people. No one stops him. He quietly but frankly confronts the congregation—“I’m not complaining; just stating facts.”—about their compassion, or apathetic lack thereof, for the jobless like him in Raymond. Upon finishing his address to the congregation, he collapses, and dies a few days later.
That next Sunday, Henry Maxwell, deeply moved by the events of the past week, presents a challenge to his congregation: “Do not do anything without first asking, ‘What would Jesus do?’”
Some lost their jobs or felt compelled to change jobs, others were unfriended, one church member, a boxing promoter, cancelled his fights making others angry and leaving him without an income.
Going back and picking up the theme of the World and Jesus, let us note:
The Word of God says this about the world, “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever” -I John 2:15-17
“And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world,...remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” Ephesians 2:1,2,12
To be content with being aligned with the world is to indicate that we don’t really know what it means to be in Christ. Here are a few passages that proclaim, exclaim and explain the variety of beautiful blessings to be freely had by one in union with Jesus. Please read and heed:
“God….has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ- Ephesians 1:3
“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come- II Corinthians 5:17
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”- Romans 8:1,4
“That they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory”- II Timothy 2:10
Bible Christians might be identified as having embraced the person, teachings and promises of Jesus. With this in their minds, they live for a better day while “letting their lights shine” in the world so that all may know there is a God, He is alive and He has a Son who is our Savior.
January 1. 2017
INTRO: Four weeks ago I announced that we would have three lessons on THE STORY OF JESUS, with the understanding this it would be incomplete. Last week marked the end of the three. When I looked over my shoulder at very passage of Scripture we began with, I knew we could not stop there. Philippians chapter 2 summarize the bigger picture of the Jesus Story, better than any other place, in my estimation. So we continue on.
EVERYBODY OUGHT TO KNOW WHO JESUS IS and those that do are optimistic about the future. The story of Jesus is found in the first 4 books of the New Testament but it’s impact is summarized well in Philippians 2:1-11. Before Jesus was called Jesus on earth he was in “form of God” in heaven. That is, he was a spirit. The writer continues, “He did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped” (or held on to) but emptied himself.” With the price of our sins hanging in the balance he “emptied himself” and became a human being, bondservant. His humiliation took him to His death, and more, death on a cross. This is significant. Each step downward shows his eternal plan. He died for sinners between two sinners. This sent another clear message: He was a sinner!!! “He was counted with the transgressors”- Luke 22:37. Those watching knew two things: 1)Crucifixion was reserved for the worst, those who were threats, especially to the nation. 2)And three very bad people were dying that day. When Jesus died as a sinner for sinners (although he was sinless) His Father accepted his sacrifice as sufficient for all. Your sins have been paid for!!!
THIS PART OF THE STORY OF JESUS IS FULL OF APPLICATION. All that Jesus did, he did for those outside of himself and that includes us. He was a giver, provider and servant. Does it not seem reasonable, since Jesus lived his life as an example for us to “follow in his steps” (I Peter 2:21) that we should learn to love more effectively, give more abundantly, and prioritize our decisions more consistently? Jesus teaches us in this passage that the way up is down. Our futile attempts to be or become or to gain, so that we can have more, are not representative of Jesus. Let’s all give this some serious thought.
THE JESUS STORY TAKES AN UPWARD TURN. At this point we encounter a huge change in direction and this also affects us. Enter the word THEREFORE! This points to a change of circumstances and is built on the past. It means “for this reason,” and looms large here. We saw Jesus in heaven with His Father, we know of His humiliation and now THEREFORE, “God has highly exalted him…” Jesus has been reinstated!
So Jesus is again in heaven and the Bible says, many times, “He is seated at God’s right hand.” But what is Jesus doing? Just sitting? No!
First of all, while with the Father in Heaven, Jesus is also residing with in every Christian in the person of the Holy Spirit. How do I know? The Bible tells me so- As Jesus was preparing his followers for his departure, He told them he would be with them through the indwelling Holy Spirit whom He would send to them. Jesus is with us all the way, everyday.
Second, Jesus lives(present tense) to intercede for those who follow Him- Hebrews 7:25, Romans 8:34. He makes requests on our behalf and brings our prayers before the Father
Thirdly, we see a beautiful and practical picture in I John 2:1,2. It says “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” Positioning Himself between us and the Father, Jesus Christ now declares our righteous standing because of His sacrifice and our obedient faith.
Christians need an Advocate because of the Adversary, the devil or Satan, who accuses us before God (1 Peter 5:8; Rev 12:10). If Satan is the “prosecuting attorney,” Christ and the Holy Spirit are the legal advocates, the “defense attorneys,” who help, defend, counsel, and comfort us; they plead the Christians case before God day and night, providing a continuing remedy for sin.
CONCLUSION: This is a court scene. A young man has been accused of and now found guilty of a crime. This crime calls for time in prison. The Judge is honest and true to his position. Hearing the verdict he describes the crime and the appropriate time of punishment. However, the Judge is the father of the young guilty man. The Judge rises, takes off his robe and announces that he will be serving the time that his son was given.
In another story that came from the Crusades, Norman Lord Grimbald de Pauncefort was captured by the Saracens. When asked the ransom price for his release the Turkish prince demanded the severed right hand of de Pauncefort's young bride, Eleanor. In a tremendous act of courage and sacrifice, Lady Eleanor complied, and had her left hand amputated and sent to ransom her husband. In a sense, that's what Jesus did for you, but He didn't just give His hand--He gave His life.
18 For you have not come to a mountain that can be touched and to a blazing fire, and to darkness and gloom and whirlwind, 19 and to the blast of a trumpet and the sound of words which sound was such that those who heard begged that no further word be spoken to them. 20 For they could not bear the command, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it will be stoned.” 21 And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, “I am full of fear and trembling.” 22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of [h]angels, 23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.“there is one mediator between God and man the man Christ Jesus”-I Tim. 2:5
15 “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your [j]countrymen, you shall listen to him. 16 This is according to all that you asked of the Lord your God in Horeb on the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, let me not see this great fire anymore, or I will die.’ 17 The Lord said to me, ‘They have [k]spoken well. 18 I will raise up a prophet from among their [l]countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. Deut. 18 acts 3:22ff