Transforming Power of Christ’s Love – Teaching

Innocence, Gentleness, Peace

Transforming Power of Christ’s Love – Introduction

Must we change before God will love us? Or, is it His love that inspires us to change? As Christians, Scripture is our guide – and Scripture is clear. God loves us – period. And when we choose to truly follow Jesus, we experience the Transforming Power of Christ’s Love.

Spiritual Quote

“Legalism says God will love us if we change. The gospel says God will change us because He loves us.”
~Tullian Tchividjian

Thoughts

Many professed Christians hold to their faith very deeply, and they truly desire everyone would come to know Jesus. Unfortunately, their words and their actions don’t match their professed faith. They take a legalistic view of Christianity. They seem to say, “unless you change, you’re not worthy of God’s love. And, since you’re not worthy of God’s love, you’re certainly not worthy of mine.”

My view is that this legalistic approach is the antithesis of Christ’s teaching. And, it does very little to inspire others to come into a relationship with Him. However, if we truly strive to model Christ in our lives, if we live as He lived and love as He loved, not only will we be happier, healthier, and more at peace – we may just inspire others to seek and develop a relationship with Him. My hope is that others will look at how we live our lives, and how we treat others, and say, “wow, that’s what being Christian is about? I can do that – sign me up!”

Are we all “there” yet? No…but with time and conscious effort, His love WILL transform us, if we continuously strive to live and love as He did. And what would that look like? There are four ways we can demonstrate the Transforming Power of Christ’s Love in our lives: Speak as He Spoke, See as He Saw, Love as He Loved, and Serve as He Served.

Speak as Jesus Spoke

In the hours before His arrest and crucifixion, Jesus was with His disciples. The disciples were scared, and He knew it. He knew that when the time came, they would leave Him, and even claim never to have known Him. Did He deride them, put them down, or call them names? No. His words were words of peace and love. They were words that were meant to calm, and to heal. In John 14:27 He says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

When we’re confronted with those we consider to be adversaries, ideas or viewpoints that are different than our own, or behaviors we might not approve of, do our words express peace and love; do they calm and heal? Or, are our words mean, nasty, vulgar – full of hate and venom?

Think of all of Jesus’ interactions we’ve read about. What’s just about the worst thing Jesus ever said about anyone? He called the Pharisees and the Sadducees hypocrites – because they understood the letter of the law, but not the spirit of the law. Contrast that with what we see and read today, words spoken and written by people who profess to be Christian. Here’s a list of some of the words associated with social media comments attached to just one article I read yesterday made people who proudly and loudly proclaim their Christian faith: Stupid Libtards, F’ing Democrats, Bullsh*t, A**holes, Dipshi*t, F*ing Loser, F*ing Faggots. Do these words uplift? Do they express peace and love? No. But when this is the message that professed Christians put out, is it any wonder that non-Christians describe Christians has haters and hypocrites?

To me, if we’re going to profess to be Christian, and if we’re going to inspire others to follow the Christian path, we should strive to live by Christ’s example. What did Jesus think about our speech? Matthew 15:10-11 tells us,  “And He called the people to Him and said to them, “Hear and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” And consider Paul’s advice in several of his letters:

  • Colossians 3:8 – “But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.”
  • Colossians 4:6 – “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”
  • Ephesians 4:29 – “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
  • Ephesians 5:4 – “Let there be no filthiness (vulgarity) nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place…”

Do our words live up to our proclaimed faith? Do they inspire and uplift others? Are they words of His peace and love? We don’t have to change the way we speak, or the words we use when we write, in order for God to love us. God loves us – period. But, when we choose to follow the path of Christ, we should desire and strive to let the Transforming Power of Christ’s Love change us so that we speak as He spoke.

See as Jesus Saw

How do we, as Christians, see others – especially those who are different? Do we label and place judgments? Do we look at the homeless, the addicted, or those who don’t live up to our standards as “less than”? Or, do we view them as brothers and sisters? Do we treat them with scorn and ridicule, or do we treat them with dignity and respect, regardless of their situation? Do we tell them they must change in order to earn our love? Or, do we show them love; and pray that they, too, will come to know the Transforming Power of Christ’s Love?

Let me give you an example. We provide a place of spiritual respite, food, clothing, and shelter to those who, for whatever reason, find themselves homeless. Are some suffering from addiction? Yes. Are some trying to improve their lives? Yes. Regardless, we view everyone as one of God’s children, and we try to extend love and support to those in need. When a friend of mine asked a friend of hers if he would donate to help us in our efforts, he said that he would only donate if everyone we served submitted first to a urinalysis. In other words, he was demanding a change before he would extend help and support. His expression of God’s love was dependent upon change occurring first. Contrast this with how Jesus saw others:

Jesus expressed compassion to those deemed “less than” by the religious culture of His time. Matthew 9:36 tells us, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners (Mark 2:13-17 & Matthew 9:10). He looked beyond the exterior and saw the spiritual in those seen as unclean and worthy of love: a prostitute (Luke 7:36-50), a leper (Matthew 8:2-3), a Samartin woman (John 4), and an adulteress (John 8:11). Jesus didn’t demand they change their ways or become clean before He extended love, kindness, and compassion. He simply loved them, and it was through the Transforming Power of Christ’s Love that their lives were changed.

Love as Jesus Loved

When we speak as Jesus spoke, and we see others as Jesus saw, we are well on our way to Loving as Jesus Loved. How did He love? He loved completely, unselfishly. John 15:12-13 tells us, “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” And 1 John 3:16 reminds us, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” In our day to day lives, this need not be a literal sacrificing of our lives. In a spiritual sense, it can also be doing things for and showing love to, others – even when it costs us. Not out of a sense of duty or sacrifice, but because we want to uplift them. And, not because it makes us feel good, because that’s not real love. Real love is about giving, not receiving.

Remember, in Acts 20:35, Luke tells us that Jesus said, “…It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

Many pastors use this to entice and encourage people to make financial contributions. And, certainly, that has its place. But, to me, this has a much deeper spiritual meaning. It is more blessed to give of ourselves, our time, our talents, our compassion, our forgiveness – our Love. Through the Transforming Power of Christ’s Love, may we Love as He Loved.

Serve as Jesus Served

Finally, our speaking, seeing, and loving culminate in living our lives in service to others. Each of the four Gospels tell of Jesus serving others:

  • Matthew 20:28 & Mark 10:45 – “…just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve…”
  • Luke 22:27 – “For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.”
  • John 13:14-15 – “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.”

Notice in the last passage above, Jesus didn’t say that because He had washed their feet they must now wash His feet. That would be self-serving. No, Jesus’ point was giving service – I washed yours, now you go wash theirs, and they will go and wash.

When we speak as Jesus spoke, see as Jesus saw, and love as Jesus loved, the Transforming Power of Christ’s Love will fill our hearts and minds with a desire to serve others as He served. Again, not out of a sense of duty or sacrifice, but out of a desire to live and love as He loved. And not because we want the recognition or accolades, but because it has become part of our very nature.

Closing Thoughts

Scripture tells us that when we accept Christ we are made new. In 2 Corinthians 5:17, Paul tells the church at Corinth, “Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” And in his letter to the church in Rome, Paul advises, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2) When we choose to follow the path of Christ, we should strive to allow those changes in us to occur.

1 John 2:6 tells us, “…whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which He walked.” To walk as He walked means we ought to speak as He spoke, see as He saw, love as He loved, and serve as He served. As we travel this wonderful and exciting journey, we experience the Transforming Power of Christ’s Love. Not only are our lives transformed, but those who see us are inspired to transform as well. It is through this transformation that, as our prayer states, we become examples to each other and to others of Jesus’ love, hope, and promise.

Acknowledgements

I’d like to acknowledge Pastor David Parks for his outline on today’s subject.

Scripture

  • John 14:27
  • Matthew 15:10-11
  • Colossians 3:8
  • Colossians 4:6
  • Ephesians 4:29
  • Ephesians 5:4
  • Matthew 9:36
  • Mark 2:13-17
  • Matthew 9:10
  • Luke 7:36-50
  • Matthew 8:2-3
  • John 8:11
  • John 15:12-13
  • 1 John 3:16
  • Acts 20:35
  • Matthew 20:28 & Mark 10:45
  • Luke 22:27
  • John 13:14-15
  • 1 John 2:6
  • 2 Corinthians 5:17
  • Romans 12:2

Join the Discussion

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Is Our Faith Blind? – Teaching

Innocence, Gentleness, Peace

God’s Not Dead: Is Our Faith Blind? – Introduction

Today we’ll continue our series based on the movie God’s Not Dead. If you haven’t seen he movie, it deals with a scenario which plays itself out on college campuses all over our country – the debate about God, His relevance in our lives, and whether or not He actually exists. In the movie, Josh, is forced to defend God’s existence in his philosophy class at the insistence of his professor, who considers Josh’s faith nothing more than blind superstition.

Last week, we took a look at the question, “Where is God when everything falls apart.” Today, we’ll examine a second question with which Josh was faced – Is Our Faith Blind?

Spiritual Quote

“A God who let us prove his existence would be an idol”
~Dietrich Bonhoeffer

To begin, let’s view the movie trailer.

God’s Not Dead – Movie Trailer

Thoughts

This movie raises some very good questions for all of us as Josh begins to defend his faith publicly, something many of us might be reticent to do if faced with the same challenge. Hopefully, after this morning you’ll feel emboldened to imitate him.

So let’s dive in. Our second question in our series today is this, Is our faith blind?

Or…are there truly rational supports for believing in Jesus Christ, God in the flesh? Honestly, I think there are a lot of reasons to be confident in His reality, but let’s examine just 5 of them.

1.  The Bible

This is by far the most important support for our faith because it is all based on this revelation, so we’ll spend a majority of our time this morning on the Bible.

A frequent argument against the Bible, and our faith being based upon it, is that it can’t possibly be historically accurate. It’s been told and re-told, copied and copied too many times. Now, it’s true that there is still debate over interpretations, literal vs. metaphoric (Jewish Midrash), etc. For now, though, we’ll examine the Bible’s historical accuracy.

First, let’s examine the New, and investigate its viability as a reliable historical document; and later on, if it really is supernaturally inspired…God’s living Word.

A Reliable Historical Document

For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” (Matthew 5:18)

There are tremendous reasons to be assured about the authenticity of the New Testament. If we use the same criteria as “pure scientists” and scholars, it’s easy to make a sound, reasoned conclusion that the Bible is historically accurate. As a matter of fact, using the criteria, the Bible is more accurate than any other ancient manuscript; but to fully appreciate this we first need to understand the two primary questions that guide linguistic scholar’s textual criticisms:

•  How many copies are there to examine and compare?

•  How close in time are the oldest copies to the originals?

The reasoning is, the more copies that exist, and the closer in time the copies are to the original, the more accurate the results. So how many do we have to work with?

1.  There are over 5,664 Greek manuscripts and over 19,000 other copies in various other languages besides Greek for a total manuscript base of over 24,600! *

To get an inkling of how significant this number is, we need to see how other ancient manuscripts add up in comparison; works like Josephus or Thucydides, that are rarely questioned as being authentic in authorship or content.

The next closest document in significant copies would be Homer’s Iliad with 643. That’s it. The New Testament trounces that by over 24,000 copies! This is very significant. All the other major works of note from ancient history such as Plato, Caesar, Pliny, Euripides, Tacitus, and Herodotus are 20 copies or less each, and usually much less! Only two have more than 20: Sophocles (193) and Aristotle (49).

2.  The entire New Testament was written within 70-100 years of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.

In other words, there were a lot of people still alive when New Testament documents were being penned…witnesses who could have easily contested their authenticity and accuracy, but never did.

The significance of this can be seen when we compare the next best ancient manuscript copies and its original, Homer’s Iliad, as being within 500 years. Conversely, one New Testament piece of John 18 is dated to within 25 years after the original was written! Ironically, none of these other manuscripts are ever seriously contested, despite most of them having an 800-2000 year gap from originals to copies.

So when someone challenges the historical veracity of the New Testament, they probably have never actually investigated their charge.

Sir Frederic Kenyon, former director of the British Museum, said:

“In no other case is the interval of time between the composition of the book and the date of the earliest manuscripts so short as in that of the New Testament. The last foundation for any doubt that the Scriptures have come down to us substantially as they were written has now been removed.”

3.  These New Testament copies have a whopping 99.5% accuracy rate!***

New Testament specialist Daniel Wallace notes that although there are about 300,000 individual variations of the text of the New Testament, this number is very misleading. Most of the differences are completely inconsequential–spelling errors, inverted phrases and the like. A side-by-side comparison between the two main text families (the Majority Text and the modern critical text) shows agreement a full 98% of the time.

Of the remaining differences, virtually all yield to vigorous textual criticism. This means that our New Testament is 99.5% textually pure. Homer’s Iliad contains 15,600 lines, 400 of which are in doubt. The New Testament, however, contains 20,000 lines, only 40 lines of which are in doubt (about 400 words), and none affects any significant doctrine.

Greek scholar D.A. Carson sums it up this way: “The purity of text is of such a substantial nature that nothing we believe to be true, and nothing we are commanded to do, is in any way jeopardized by the variants.”

Given the New Testament stands up to the scrutiny of science and scholars, the “thinker’s” argument simply doesn’t hold up.

A good follow up question to ask is: if God did author the Bible, and He meant it to be His primary communication device to us, do you think He would, as the all-powerful Creator of life, supernaturally protect its contents?

As John Adams once famously said, “Facts are stubborn things.”

A Supernatural Document

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

1. Prophecy

“Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure’.” (Isaiah 46:9-10)

The main distinction between the Bible and other religious writings is in its ability to predict the future accurately, which only makes sense if the author is truly the Creator and wanted to prove its veracity. Therefore, fulfilled prophecy makes the Bible completely unique.

According to The Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy there are 1,239 prophecies in the Old Testament and 578 in the New Testament; for a total of 1,817 future predictions.

But this claim of divine inspiration is no idle boast. We see in Deuteronomy that anyone claiming to speak for God, if not 100% accurate, would be put to death. Now, so we don’t go too far down a rabbit hole, given many prophecies came true long after the prophet’s natural death, remember this could also mean spiritual death.

“’But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’ “You may say in your heart, ‘How will we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?’ When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.” (Deuteronomy 18:20-22)

Knowing the severity for a fake prophet not only eliminated charlatans, it also made God’s prophets uniquely qualified as His anointed messengers. Let’s look at just one prophecy from Ezekiel, and remember there are over 1,800 other ones!

The city of Tyre 590 B.C. **

“Therefore thus says the Lord God, ‘Behold, I am against you, O Tyre, and I will bring up many nations against you, as the sea brings up its waves. They will destroy the walls of Tyre and break down her towers; and I will scrape her debris from her and make her a bare rock. She will be a place for the spreading of nets in the midst of the sea, for I have spoken,’ declares the Lord God, ‘and she will become spoil for the nations’.

For thus says the Lord God, ‘Behold, I will bring upon Tyre from the north Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, king of kings, with horses, chariots, cavalry and a great army. Also they will make a spoil of your riches and a prey of your merchandise, break down your walls and destroy your pleasant houses, and throw your stones and your timbers and your debris into the water. I will make you a bare rock; you will be a place for the spreading of nets. You will be built no more, for I the Lord have spoken,’ declares the Lord God.

‘Then all the princes of the sea will go down from their thrones, remove their robes and strip off their embroidered garments. They will clothe themselves with trembling; they will sit on the ground, tremble every moment and be appalled at you’.” (Ezekiel 26:3-5, 7, 12, 14, 16)

Ezekiel prophesies Tyre’s destruction with these specifics:

1. Nebuchadnezzar will conquer Tyre

2. Other nations will take part in its destruction

3. Tyre will be flat like the top of a rock

4. Tyre will become a place to spread nets

5. Tyre’s stones and timber will be laid in the sea

6. Other cities will fear because of Tyre’s destruction

7. Tyre won’t be rebuilt

It all came to pass when Nebuchadnezzar laid siege in 586 B.C., and then Alexander the Great finished it off 241 years later.

According to Dr Peter W. Stoner in Science Speaks:

“Tyre was a city on the northern coast of Palestine inhabited by the Phoenicians, a strong maritime people, greatly feared by their enemies. (The king of Tyre supplied timbers of Solomon in the building of the temple.) In 586 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, laid siege to the city of Tyre. The siege lasted for thirteen years; and when Nebuchadnezzar took the city in 573 B.C., he found that the Phoenicians had moved everything of value to an island about one-half mile off the coast. Though the city was taken, Nebuchadnezzar profited nothing, and the Phoenicians were not conquered. Nebuchadnezzar could not pursue them to their island position, so he returned to Babylon. Thus the first item of the prophecy was fulfilled: (1) Nebuchadnezzar shall take the city of Tyre.For 241 years the mainland city of Tyre remained very much as Nebuchadnezzar left it.  Later, Alexander the Great started his great conquest. His field of campaign lay to the east, but he feared that the fleet of Tyre might be used against his homeland, so he moved south to take the city of Tyre. In 332 B.C., Alexander reached Tyre, but he was unable to take the city at once. So he captured other coastal cities and took over their fleets, but with these combined fleets he was still unable to take Tyre. Alexander finally built a causeway from the mainland to the island. In building the causeway he used all the building materials of old Tyre, and that was not enough. He scraped up all of the soil in and around the old city and with it completed the causeway.After seven months, by a combined attack of land forces marching in over the causeway, and the fleets of conquered cities, he took Tyre. Thus items 2,3, and 5 of the prophecy were fulfilled: (2) Other nations are to participate in the fulfillment of the prophecy, (3) The city is to be made flat like the top of a rock, and, (5) Its stones and timber are to be laid in the sea.Other neighboring cities were so frightened by the conquest of Tyre that they opened their gates to Alexander without opposition and fulfilled another item: (6) Other cities are to fear greatly at the fall of Tyre.Today, visitors at the old city of Tyre find it is a very popular place for fisherman; they are spreading their nets on this very spot. Thus prediction 4 has been completely fulfilled: (4) It is to become a place for spreading of nets.The great freshwater springs of Raselain are at the site of the mainland city of Tyre, and no doubt supplied the city with an abundance of fresh water. These springs are still there and still flow, but their water runs into the sea. The flow of these springs was measured by an engineer, and found to be about 10,000,000 gallons daily. It is still an excellent site for a city and would have free water enough for a large modern city, yet it has never been rebuilt. Thus item 7 of the prophecy has stood true for more than 2,500 years: (7) The old city of Tyre shall never be rebuilt.”

The odds of this happening are 75 million to one!

2.  Our Experience

Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13)

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

As Christians, our own testimony is proof that God is alive because He has changed our life, our values, our habits, and our destiny.

Of all the evidences of our faith being real, our experience of having the Holy Spirit literally inside our own bodies is the most powerful proof of all. When we allow the Holy Spirit to change us, to make of us a new creature, our very lives become a living testimony to the power of God, and of His Son, Jesus, living through us.

Our conscience is alive, God speaks to us in the depths of our hearts, and we have a peace that we never knew before because we have a clear conscience that comes with the assurance of Heaven.

The effect that Scripture has upon a willing heart is evidence in and of itself, but despite over two millennia of changed hearts as possibly subjective evidence, let’s ask ourselves one other question – would the original disciples and Apostles, who were eyewitnesses to the events around Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection give up their lives as martyrs if they knew it was all a lie? A man may give his life for what he believes, but no man would die for what he knew to be false. Nevertheless, there is more objective evidence than changed lives to prove this book to be the very words of God.

3.  Answered Prayer

“Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:12)

This is something that is equally powerful to the previous point about our personal experience because God has graciously granted our prayer requests. And as in God’s Not Dead, we know that He does not always say yes right away. Sometimes the answer is to wait. Sometimes it is denied altogether, but we all have examples in our life where God came through for us…sometimes miraculously!

4.  Creation

“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20)

According to Paul, everyone knows that God exists because of the amazing things we see all around us every day–the wings of a dragonfly, a baby’s birth, a snowflake, a rose, the cedar tree outside our front door, or the Milky Way on a clear night.

We all know that these intricate designs in creation imply that there is a Designer. Everything that ever was, is, or will be had, has, or will have a creator. Did your house build itself? Did your car appear in your garage out of thin air? Or did your iPhone just appear in your pocket overnight? Of course not – nothing appears from nothing. It’s not so hard, then, to believe that our entire universe and everything in it must also have had a Creator.

5.  The Church

I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” (Matthew 16:18)

Despite the Roman’s persecution in the First Century, and surviving over 2,000 years of global persecutions thereafter, the Church continues to exist…even in deadly Communist and Islamic countries right up to today.

In other words, not only have our lives been changed, but millions of others also testify to this same transformation by God’s Spirit. The permanence of the body of Christ is a strong testimony to the divine protection Jesus promised to Peter.

In closing, let’s look at a scene from God’s Not Dead where a son evaluates his mother’s faith, and concludes after comparing it to his life, that it’s been a wasted and misplaced venture…a blind faith.

Movie Clip*: God’s Not Dead 2

Closing Thoughts

Every one of us have had those who doubt come across our paths. There are those who doubt God, which we discussed last week. There are those who, even if they believe in a god, they don’t believe the Bible. If we listen to them long enough, we hear the echoes of our original question in the back of our minds – Is Our Faith Blind?

As we’ve seen today, our answer is a resounding NO! The evidence backs up our claim. That said, it is not our responsibility to get into shouting matches over who’s right and who’s wrong. Our job is not to beat people over the head with the Bible. Our job is, quite simply, to state our case objectively – with passion tempered with humility. Our job is to truly live our faith, and through our example, pray that we lead others into the deep, incredibly beautiful relationship with God; living by Christ’s example, and inspired by the Holy Spirit.

*Depending on your browser, the movie clip may play or download, or you may be asked whether you wish to play or download it.

Scripture

  • Matthew 5:18
  • 2 Timothy 3:16-17
  • Isaiah 46:9-10
  • Deuteronomy 18:20-22
  • Ezekiel 26:3-5
  • Ezekiel 26:7
  • Ezekiel 26:12
  • Ezekiel 26:14
  • Ezekiel 26:16
  • Acts 4:13
  • 2 Corinthians 5:17
  • Hebrews 4:12
  • Romans 1:20
  • Matthew 16:18

Resources

Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry

C. S. Lewis Apologetics

Science Speaks

Stand to Reason

Join the Discussion

If you would like to share your thoughts, please feel free to respectfully comment. And, if this message resonates with you, please fee free to share it.

Support Our Ministry

We are a very small church doing wonderful things within our community. In order to continue doing the work God has put before us, we need your help. Please consider making a donation, or sign up as a monthly pledge donor. All gifts large and small are greatly appreciated. Simply click the Donate link in the upper menu. Thank you, and may God bless your generosity.

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!

Fans or Followers – Teaching

Innocence, Gentleness, PeaceFans or Followers – Introduction

Those familiar with Facebook are familiar with terms such as “Fans” and “Followers.” In the Facebook world, “Fan” has been replaced by “Likes” – someone who “Likes” your page, your business, what it is you do or offer. But, as a Fan you may not see all of the posts. You’re not that invested. On the other hand, a “Follower” is someone who, after “Liking” your page, is interested enough in your page, your business, what it is you offer, to receive your content. After “Liking” a page, you can turn off the “Follow” aspect, thus minimizing the impact to your News Feed or Pages News Feed. In essence, you can then like a business and then choose not to pay attention to what they have to say.

For many Christians, we treat our relationship with Jesus the same way. We’ve clicked the “Like” button in our hearts, and then we’ve turned around clicked the “Unfollow” button. The question before us is, “are we fans or followers?”

Spiritual Quote

“Following Jesus isn’t something you can do at night where no one notices. It’s a twenty-four-hour-a-day commitment that will interfere with your life. That’s not the small print—that’s a guarantee.”
~Kyle Idleman

Thoughts

Our discussion today involved sharing some thoughts from Pastor Shannon Blosser. You can read his thoughts for yourself in his sermon.

We also spoke about Kyle Idleman’s question posed in Pastor Blosser’s sermon:

“If following Jesus cost you everything, would it be worth it?” If following Jesus and accepting the invitation to “come and see” cost us our plans, our desires, our hopes, and our dreams, would the Lord’s grace and salvation be worth it?”

That’s the question I’d like for us to ponder, pray over, and answer. Scripture, especially The Book of Acts (9:2, 18:26, 19:9, 19:23, 22:4, 24:14, and 24:12), uses the term “Followers of The Way” to describe the first Christians. These weren’t people who simply liked what Jesus had to say. They were people who were deeply devoted to His teachings, understood Him to be the Son of God, the Messiah for whom they had been waiting, and who were willing to give up everything, including their lives, in pursuit of a relationship with Him.

Scripture also tells us: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Closing Thoughts

Are we truly changed? Have we allowed our faith in Jesus to transform us? Are we, as those first Christians, Followers of The Way, true Jesus Followers? Or, are we simply Fans – liking much of what He has to say, but not really willing to truly let His teaching change us?

Following the message, we had a very fruitful discussion of what it means to each of us to be Followers rather than mere Fans. I invite readers of this message to think about it,  read Pastor Blosser’s message, and discover what your heart tells you about your relationship with Christ.

Scripture

  • Acts: 9:2, 18:26, 19:9, 19:23, 22:4, 24:14, and 24:12
  • 2 Corinthians 5:17

Join the Discussion

If you would like to share your thoughts, please feel free to respectfully comment. And, if this message resonates with you, please fee free to share it.

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We are a very small church doing wonderful things within our community. In order to continue doing the work God has put before us, we need your help. Please consider making a donation, or sign up as a monthly pledge donor. All gifts large and small are greatly appreciated. Simply click the Donate link in the upper menu. Thank you, and may God bless your generosity.

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!

Way of Life 2 – Teaching

Innocence, Gentleness, PeaceWay of Life – Introduction

What if everything we do and say was a prayer? Would that change our thoughts, words, and actions?

In essence – it is. Everything we say or do is either a blessing or a curse.

Spiritual Quote

“Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence – is the key to unlocking our potential.”
~Winston Churchill

Thoughts

In 2 Corinthians 5:17, Paul states, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

As we strive to live Christ-filled and Christ-guided lives, more and more, it becomes our way of life. And, the more it becomes our Way of Life, the more peaceful and joy-filled our life becomes; and the more beautiful the world around us becomes. As we discussed last week, our faith, our “Christianity,” must be more than simply a faith or belief. We must allow it to permeate every aspect of our lives. Our faith, indeed, this Way of Life, literally changes us. It transforms our thoughts, our words, our actions. It also changes our perceptions of, and how we respond to, the world around us.

When we embark on the Christian journey, we will, at times, struggle and stumble. That’s okay. We’re not expected to be perfect. But, adopting this Way of Life should create in us the desire to change. And we should be passionate about that change. The more passionate we become, the more living our faith becomes a Way of Life. Oftentimes, we don’t even have to think about it – we just automatically think, act, and behave in ways that demonstrate our deep, abiding faith in Him, and our relationship with Him.

Last week we talked about being mindful of our thoughts, words, and actions in regards to anger, jealousy, greed, rudeness, unkindness, unforgiveness, etc. And, we spoke of the importance of being kind, generous, loving, forgiving, etc. There’s something else we can do to let our faith change us so that it becomes our Way of Life. That something is Pray.

Praying for specific things, or for changes we’d like to see take place in the world around us is important. But, I’m talking today about a different type of prayer. I’m talking about living our lives as if absolutely everything we think, say, or do is a prayer. The more we focus on that which is loving, good, and beautiful, the more love, goodness, and beauty we’ll experience. And, the more we put this Way of Life into practice, the more it becomes a habit.

The more habitual it becomes, the more our life is transformed. And the more our life is transformed, the closer to God, our ultimate destiny, we become.

Prayer Through Affirmations

In 1 Thessalonians 5:16, Paul said, “pray without ceasing.”

More and more frequently, people say to me, “You’re always so [calm, happy, at peace, etc.]…how do you do it?”

Now, the Lord knows, I still have my moments. I struggle, as some of you can attest. I have to say, though, that I’m glad that others see the transformation that Christ has made in my life. How? By making a conscious choice to let Him transform me, to change my outlook and my choices.

One of the ways is by constantly affirming good. This is a lesson I started to learn from my father. While I was growing up, when Dad was asked, “How are you,” he would respond with something like, “Well…not as good as some, but better than most.” As he, and I, got older, his answer changed to a simple, “I’m wonderful!” He would proclaim it emphatically – regardless of what was going on in his life. Even while he was undergoing cancer treatment, if I asked, “How are you doing, Pop?,” he would answer, “I’m Wonderful!”

I’ve learned to respond the same way. I generally respond with Wonderful, Fabulous, Fantastic, Joyful, or Blessed. I don’t have just one set answer, I mix it up. But, with that affirmation, I am claiming, and proclaiming, my good. I am affirming God at work in my life. It changes my perception of outside circumstances, and allows me the opportunity to offer a blessing to others instead of cursing them. As a result, I am more relaxed, more at peace, and more in tune with my connection to God.

Simply adopting the mindset that you’re wonderful, joyful, etc. changes your outlook. It changes the way you feel, it changes the way you respond to people and challenges around you, other people notice the change, and they, in turn, are changed. Their day becomes just a little brighter, and the next person they interact with is similarly blessed. It’s a kind of pay-it-forward.

There are so many ways we can state our intentions and affirmations as prayers. Simply add, “Lord, I want…” or “Lord, I pray…” in front of the affirmation.

  • Want more joy and beauty in your life? Simply state, “Lord, I want joy and beauty in my life.”
  • Want to drive more peacefully? “Lord, I want to drive safely and peaceful, I want others around me to do the same, and I want to arrive relaxed and calm.”
  • Want to have positive interactions? “Lord, I want to attract only those who bless and uplift me; and I want to be a blessing to them in return.”
  • Faced with a less-than-desirable interaction? “Lord, no matter what happens, I want to respond and act with love and kindness.”

You get the idea. Just like developing the habit of answering, “How are you?” with, “I’m Wonderful,” let your affirmations become habit. The more you say them, the more you’ll attract what it is you desire. And, before long, all you see around you is that which you attract.

I’ve been practicing using these affirmations for several months now. It’s been amazing to witness and experience the changes in my own life. Like I said last week, I freely admit that I’m not all the way there yet. But I can honestly say my life is much more calm, and – truly beautiful. Do things still happen? Sure. Are people around me still rude or mean or unkind? Sure. The difference is how I choose to respond. When these “negative” people or events happen, they simply don’t affect me the way they used to. And, I find I’m more forgiving and loving. I can bless them on their way, instead of curse them. I no longer wish them ill or harm, or desire vengeance. As a result – Life is Good!

Prayer in Action

Just speaking our intentions, affirmations, or prayers isn’t all we can do. We can fully embrace and live a Christ-filled life by also letting our actions speak for us. In that way, or actions also become prayers. Simply put, our prayers and are actions are in sync.

We’ve all heard things like, “Actions Speak Louder Than Words” or “You have to give in order to receive.” When it comes to prayer, this is also true. Our actions are living manifestations of our prayers. And, what we put out, we get back.

Want to develop financial stability? Actions could include making a budget, spending wisely, avoiding going into debt, identifying wants versus needs, and being sure to include giving in your budget.

Want better health? Actions might include eating healthier foods, exercising more and, yes, giving up unhealthy habits (this would help with financial stability, too!). And yes, I know, this is one of those areas that I, personally, need to work on.

Want better relationships? Be kind, generous, loving, and forgiving to everyone with whom you come in contact.

Want to improve your career or work environment? Regardless of what’s going on, be enthusiastic; be the best employee you can be; demonstrate joy and gratitude for the work and the income it provides.

Want a better relationship with God? Spend time with Him; let His Spirit live in and through you by helping others and being a constant source of peace, joy, and love in the world around you.

When our actions are in sync with our prayers, our desires, we are, in effect, saying, “Lord, this is what I have, this is what I’m thankful for, and, Lord, I’d like more of it.”

What we put out, in thought, word, or deed, becomes our reality. Remember, Scripture tells us:

  • Proverbs 23:7 – “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.”
  • Luke 6:45 – “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart…”
  • Proverbs 27:19 – “As water reflects a face, so a man’s heart reflects the man.”

Closing Thoughts

We can truly change our lives, and the lives of those around us, through prayer. Prayer of intention, and prayer in the form of action. Changes may not seem noticeable at first, and we may be tempted to give up. But, don’t give up…just keep praying – keep stating your prayers of intention, and let your actions speak, too. Like our quote says, we don’t have to be the most intelligent or the strongest – we just have to continually make the effort. It will, because it can’t not, unlock our potential of being so much more than we were. Our thoughts, words, and actions shape us, and the world around us – and they become our reality. And when that reality is truly living in the Spirit of Christ, not only are we transformed, our faith is transformed. It becomes more than religion, belief, or faith – it, quite simply, becomes our Way of Life.

I’d like to close with these words from Chinese Philosopher, Lao Tzu:

Watch your thoughts; they become words.

Watch your words; they become actions.

Watch your actions; they become habits.

Watch your habits; they become character.

Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.

Scripture

  • 2 Corinthians 5:17
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:16
  • Proverbs 23:7
  • Luke 6:45
  • Proverbs 27:19

Join the Discussion

If you would like to share your thoughts, please feel free to respectfully comment. And, if this message resonates with you, please fee free to share it.

Support Our Ministry

We are a very small church doing wonderful things within our community. In order to continue doing the work God has put before us, we need your help. Please consider making a donation, or sign up as a monthly pledge donor. All gifts large and small are greatly appreciated. Simply click the Donate link in the upper menu. Thank you, and may God bless your generosity.

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!

Back To Church Sunday 2013 – Teaching

BTC Facebook Image 2Back To Church Sunday 2013 – Introduction

Today we have a special service to celebrate National Back To Church Sunday 2013. To begin today’s service, I’d like to play a short video titled, “What Is Church?

Like the video said…Welcome to Church! Some of us are back from summer vacations, some of us are back just to be back, and some are here today just because we’re giving Church another try. Regardless of why you’re here, I’d like to welcome you, and thank you for taking the time to join us this morning.

We are all on a beautiful journey into a relationship with God, the Source of All Being. Especially during this special event, we welcome those who are just beginning their journey and giving thought to what Church might mean to you.

And, we welcome back those who, for whatever reason, might have taken a break from Church; but who continue on your journey none the less. As with all journeys, our spiritual journey begins with the first step.

Spiritual Quote

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
~Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Thoughts

One reason we’re celebrating Back to Church Sunday 2013 is because a lot of us have chosen to take a break from church — some for a few weeks, some for a season, and some have pretty much given up on the church altogether. Studies are telling us that young people are leaving the church in droves. In fact, according to Barna Research, 70% of church-going high school students will leave the church when they graduate, and only a small percentage will ever return.

Why are so many leaving? Honestly, for a lot of reasons. You can probably fill in the blanks. Some leave simply because they’ve made a change in their life and never really got back to it. Some left because they’ve seen too much hypocrisy, some because they felt judged, some because they were bored, and some because they felt like they’ve not been allowed to think and ask difficult questions. Mostly, people leave the church because they don’t see what difference it really makes.

So that’s the question for this morning…“What difference does it make?” If I were to ask you that question, the answers would probably be all over the map? If we’re being honest, over the course of history, often in the name of Jesus, the church has done a lot of good – and, to be sure, it’s done a lot of bad.

But what about Jesus? He’s certainly made a difference, hasn’t He? This morning, I want to ask you three questions. How we answer these three questions can not only transform our perspective on why we’re all here this morning, but also give us hope for the sort of church we can become and the kind of life we can live.

What difference did Jesus make in history?

Without much argument, believers and non-believers alike would agree that no one has had a greater impact on history than Jesus Christ. This man, who spent the first 30 years of His life in relative obscurity would leave a greater mark on history than any man before or after Him. Now, 2,000 years later, in spite of all the attempts to silence His message, more books have been written, more pieces of art have been created, and more songs have been sung about Jesus than anyone else in history. This man, a carpenter’s son from humble beginnings, who never traveled more than a few hundred miles from the town He was born in, has impacted billions of people in every corner of the world.

Napoleon said, “I know men, and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man. Between Him and every other person in the world there is no possible term of comparison.” Napoleon went on to say that all great empires had been built on force  – except for the Kingdom of God, which was built on love. And ultimately, it would be the only kingdom to last.

Though he never met Jesus, let’s take a look at what the Apostle Paul said about the influence of Jesus. In Ephesians 1:21-23 we read, “Now He is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come. God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made Him head over all things for the benefit of the church. And the church is His body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.”

Before we go on, let’s talk briefly about the word “church.” We speak of coming “to church.” In that sense we use the word “church” to mean the physical meeting place. But that’s not how Paul is using the word “church.” Remember, at the time, there were no “churches” as we think of them today. There were no grand buildings with tall steeples, no pews, no stained glass windows. Yes, the original Christians were Jews, who met in synagogues. But, when the Christians were kicked out of the synagogues, there were no great buildings in which to gather and worship. The church was literally the people. And, when we examine Jesus’ messages and writings such as Paul’s, that’s what we have to remember. It’s not about buildings large or small, denominations, dogma, rules, and regulations – it’s about the people.

Getting back to Jesus and His place in history, John Knox said it well when he said, “No one else holds or has held the place in the heart of the world as Jesus holds. Other gods have been devoutly worshiped; no other man has been so devoutly loved.”

It’s not as though Christianity has had an easy run. For centuries, indeed millennia, emperors and rulers and societies have tried to silence the church, destroy the word of God, and minimize the impact of Jesus. Ancient Rome made it illegal to be a Christian. In many parts of the world, at various times in history, it was a crime not to be the “right kind” of Christian. Bibles and books have been burned, people imprisoned, tortured, and killed, church buildings bombed and set on fire, all in an effort to silence His message. It has never worked.

Even people who don’t identify themselves as “Christian” live by Christ’s principles. A famous Russian novelist, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, famously said, “Even those who have renounced Christianity and attack it, in the inmost being still follow the Christian ideal.” Even the great writer and professed atheist H.G. Wells admitted the impact of Jesus when he said, “I am a historian. I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is the dominant figure in history.”

Think about this for a moment. Socrates and Aristotle taught for 40 years each, Plato taught for 50 years, and Jesus taught for only three years. How many of Socrates, Aristotle, and Plato’s teachings come to mind. How many of their teachings are talked about, debated, taught, and lived out in virtually every part of the world? And yet the influence of Jesus’ short three years has been and continues to be, without question, more influential than the combined 130 years of three men who are arguably the greatest philosophers of all time. The difference Jesus made was much more than just philosophical.

The difference Jesus made in history can be seen in the way He transformed nearly everything and everyone around Him — young and old, men and women, black and white. During His three years of public ministry, Jesus humbly and without fanfare or concern for personal glory, went about healing the sick, caring for the poor and loving the loveless. Much of what He said and did, we pretty much expect today; but in Jesus’ day, it was pretty culture-shaking. He befriended those who, in the Jewish culture, would be seen as unclean or unworthy. He interacted with undesirables such as the “half-breed, heathen” Samaritans. He broke Sabbath law to heal people and to feed the hungry – because people were more important than “the Law.” He didn’t care about a person’s past, what color they were, whether they were considered “good Jews,” etc. He simply cared about people – all people.

Who didn’t Jesus have much regard for? He had great disdain for those who used religion as a weapon of control, and as a means to personal wealth and power. Jesus didn’t care much for “religion” – He cared more about having a relationship with God.

Jesus was all about the people – regardless of “who they were.” In Luke 4:18 & 19 Jesus echoed the words of Isaiah when He said, “The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, for He has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the LORD’s favor has come.”

Think of the culture in which Jesus lived. Did you know the average age of a child in Jesus’ day was only 8 years old? Children who were sick or illegitimate were often just cast aside and left to die. Jesus taught his followers by His words and actions that all children were precious to Him. This was big news back then. He healed children, gathered them to Himself, and even said that “unless you come to me like a child, you cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” The early churches took Jesus’ command seriously; and began a movement to value and take care of the “least of these.”

In fact, by the Middle Ages, churches had developed such a reputation for caring for children that it became a common practice for people who couldn’t take care of their own children to leave them on the front steps of a local church. The first orphanages were founded by the Orthodox Church in the 1st century. The largest orphanage in the United States was founded in 1740 and followed the model the Catholic Church had used for over 1000 years!

In addition to children, Jesus also set the example for human rights for women as well as people of all ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. From the Woman at the Well to the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus broke societal and cultural barriers, and began a revolution of love and freedom that extends right up to today. Jesus’ impact on human rights was only just the beginning. His mark on medicine, education and art can’t be ignored, either.

Did you know that during the Council of Nicaea in 325, it was determined that wherever a church was built, a hospital for the poor should also be built? This is the same meeting of the early church leaders that expressed the importance of the nature of Jesus, established the date of Easter, and created the first Biblical canon. From the beginning, the church realized that part of Jesus’ very nature was to care for the sick and the poor. Up until this time, hospitals, such as they were, were reserved primarily for the rich. But Jesus changed that.

Collectively, the church is the largest provider of health care in the world? That’s how it should be. Jesus, known as the Great Physician, set the example by caring for people’s physical needs and then caring for their spiritual needs. In Luke 9:11 the Bible says… “But the crowds learned about it and followed him. He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.” Remember, the sick were considered impure, unclean. It was a violation of Jewish law to touch the unclean. Jesus was the first to break those barriers. How many millions of people have been treated, cared for and cured because of the advancements in medicine? We can thank Jesus for much of that.

Of course, the impact of Christianity was echoed in the very formation of America. Though they worshipped differently, many of the early fathers of this country were deeply devout and wanted to form a country that reflected Jesus ideals.

At the moment of George Washington’s inauguration, he knelt and kissed the Bible and then, after the inauguration, he led the members of the House of Representatives to a local church for a two-hour worship service.

Most people know that the very first book ever printed was a Bible. This began a massive wave of education for the masses that up until that time had been unheard of. The vast majority of all education for the first 200 years of American history was Christian, including most of the first 100 universities formed —including Harvard, Yale, Princeton and William & Mary. These schools were all originally founded so that young people could seek to love God with all of their heart, soul and mind.

Jesus’ impact can be clearly seen simply by walking through the streets of the great cities of Europe or the great museums of the world. From soaring cathedrals built to the glory of God, to works of art set behind bulletproof glass, painters, architects and sculptors throughout history have told God’s story. Many of the great composers, from Bach to Vivaldi, were impacted by Jesus’ life. Even movies like Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Braveheart, and many, many others use metaphors and symbols of Christianity.

In human rights, medicine, education, art and even politics, Jesus’ impact can be clearly seen and felt in history. Were there times when “the church” got it wrong? Yes! But that doesn’t negate the positive impact the church has had. But, what about today? Some say the impact of the church has slipped recently. That might be true in some places. But what is being done around the world in the name of Jesus’ is as powerful today as it ever was. And that leads us to the second question:

What difference can Jesus make today?

Two thousand years ago, Jesus stood before His disciples and gave what has become known as the Great Commission. He said, “Go and make disciples of all nations.” When He said that, personally, I don’t think He was just saying, “Go tell people about Me.” For three years, His followers had watched Him heal the sick, embrace the hurting, clothe the naked, feed the poor and love the unlovable. Essentially, what Jesus was saying in Matthew 28:19 was, “You’ve watched me…now it’s your turn. Now, you are my hands and feet.” Our hands are to become His hands, our feet become His feet, our actions become his actions and our words become His words. And that’s what following Jesus is really all about.

And, all too often, that’s what is forgotten about Jesus’ message. Unfortunately, many people get so caught up in “telling” others about Jesus that they forget this essential part of His message. When the church stops being like Jesus and gets too caught up in the business of church that we begin to lose our way. And I think that’s when people begin to walk away. On the other hand, when we realize that we have the incredible privilege of announcing Jesus’ Kingdom, that’s different. I’ve spoken about this before…we must stop “telling” people about Jesus and start “showing” people Jesus. We must live His message, not simply talk about it. When we can do that, when we can turn our focus from ourselves and to Jesus and His mission on earth, things get exciting. And people will say, “Oh, that’s what being Christian is all about? Sign me up!” – they’ll want to be a part of it.

Let me give you a few examples of people who, without getting caught up in the “religion,” have lived Jesus’ message and made an impact in today’s world.

In 1999, Matthew Barnett moved to the famous Skid Row area of Los Angeles, determined to be part of God’s plan to make a difference to the “least of these” in the City of Angels. He began with 39 people in his inner-city congregation; most of them drug addicts and prostitutes, and today nearly 40,000 people are fed, clothed, and ministered to in the name of Jesus. Not only that, but he led a sort of revolution as hundreds of other churches have launched Dream Centers in their cities.

Scott Harrison, is a Christ-follower who wasn’t exactly excited about what was happening in church. He was working as a nightclub promoter in Chicago when he decided to take time to volunteer for a non-profit. While spending time as a photojournalist in Africa, he learned that 80 percent of the world’s diseases could be traced back to bad water. Determined to do something about it, Scott did what he knew best and threw a party when he got home. He charged $20 per person, and 700 people showed up. He used the money to dig three wells in Uganda. Those three wells have turned into more than 3,000, and now Charity Water has raised $95 million for clean water projects all over the world.

Let me tell you one more story. In 2008, Christine Caine was tired of hearing about young girls trapped in slavery, and so she started a movement to abolish injustice in the 21st century through a comprehensive system of preventative measures, victim protection, prosecution of violators, and strategic partnerships. Today, the A21 Campaign is bringing hope and help to thousands of women all over the world. There are other amazing organizations and people are taking up the charge to be the Church Jesus desires. World Vision, Compassion International and others bring hope to millions of children through their advocacy programs. Organizations such as the YMCA, Alcoholics Anonymous, and, here locally, the Gospel Rescue Mission which provides food and shelter to hundreds of men, women, and children each year were all founded on the principles of Jesus’ love to others.

There’s a bit of a misconception that the Church is shrinking. In fact, the opposite is the case. Around the world, the church is exploding. According to a recent study, by the year 2050, nearly every continent will grow by hundreds of millions of Christians. In fact, today there are over 300,000 Christian churches in America and nearly 6 million churches worldwide. That’s a lot of impact. In Matthew 16:18 Jesus says, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” For centuries, kings and kingdoms have tried to thwart the growth of the church and to silence the Jesus’ message, but the church has continued to grow and thrive.

Do Jesus and His church make a difference today? Without a doubt. It’s easy to focus inward and forget God’s call on us as His church, but today I just wanted to remind us all that we are part of a much bigger movement. And as often happens when good things are happening, people try to take the credit and build their own empires. That’s not a new thing.

It can be argued that history has always tried to contain Jesus. The Romans built an empire around Him, the Europeans built a culture around Him and Americans have built a business around Him. But He cannot be contained.

Much as many would try, He cannot be reduced to a formula or set of rules or a campy song. Jesus is more than the most influential figure in all of history. There is simply no way to contain Him.

Here, today, we are part of revolution 2,000 years in the making, a revolution of love and hope and peace.

So, we see that Jesus has made a remarkable difference in history, and we see that many of Jesus’ followers are making a difference in the world today. But here’s the nagging question still left:

“What difference can Jesus make in my life … right now?”

Again, we can all see what sort of difference Jesus and the church have made in history and the difference that Jesus is making in the world today. But what does that mean to us, right here, right now, in our everyday lives? Here’s the secret – the larger impact of the church is only what it is because of the transformational power of Jesus’ in the lives of individual people — people just like you and me. It’s not the church – it’s the people!

I don’t know how you came in here this morning. Some of you probably came in and everything is going pretty good. That’s awesome, and we love that. But there are probably some of us here this morning that need Jesus to do something in our lives. There are probably a lot of us here today that need God to make a difference in a very real, very personal way. Please know that Jesus sees you today right where you are, exactly how you are.

Maybe you’re here this morning and you’ve never made a decision to follow Jesus, and you’re wondering if He can really make a difference in your life. Or maybe you’re here at church but there‘s someone else, someone you deeply love, that you wish were here with you, and you’ve almost given up hope, and you’re really wondering if God can make a difference in that person’s life.

Maybe you’re here for the first time — or for the first time in a long time — and you’re just sort of holding on, wondering if you’re going to be hurt or disillusioned by church or church people like in the past. Maybe you’re wondering if things can be different in church this time around.

Maybe you’re here this morning and you feel like you’re on the outside looking in. Perhaps you did someone a favor by showing up, but you don’t think that this “Christian” thing is for you. Or, maybe you feel like your past is just too complicated and too messy for Jesus to fix.

I don’t know how you came in here this morning, and it doesn’t matter because I do know this — Jesus is here and He’s absolutely able to make a difference in our lives today.

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

Think about that. Jesus wants to take us, just as we are, and do the sort of thing in us that no one else can do. He wants to work in our lives to make things right. No matter what you’re going through today, the same power of God that has transformed history can transform your life – and that’s pretty amazing.

Conclusion

So, let me ask you a few questions…

  • How many of you believe Jesus has done amazing things in history?
  • How many of you believe the teachings and message, indeed, the Spirit of Jesus is still making a difference in people and in places around the world?
  • And finally, how many of you believe Jesus can make a difference in our lives, here, now, this morning?

Awesome! We are all in the right and perfect place at the right and perfect time. I invite you to continue your journey, strengthening and deepening your relationship with God. And I hope the love, teachings, and message of Jesus is an instrumental part of your journey.

In a moment, we’re going to take some time in prayer. First, though, I’d like to show you two short videos. The first speaks to some of the reasons why people don’t come to church. But, it also speaks to the ideals to which we should strive, and to the kind of church I hope we are – supportive, open, affirming, accepting, and loving. The second is about inviting someone to join us. Inviting folks to join us is important – more important to me is the subtle message. (Watch the Videos: Reasons     Invite A Friend)

Let’s start with that last video – the Invite. Like I said, inviting others to join us is an important message. The subtle, and to me, the more important message is about preconceived notions. How many thought, at first, the “Christian” speaking was the clean-cut, studious fellow trying to figure out how he would invite this scruffy guy with a mohawk to “his church?” I think most of us probably thought that. And that, my friends, is why its message is so important. As a church, we must be cautious of forming those kinds of preconceived ideas about who would and would not be interested…even who and who would not “fit in.” And that brings me to the first video titled “Reasons.”

How many people feel they have to “get their lives together” before they would be welcome. It’s up to us to be a community that helps people get their lives together – to have new beginnings.

Are churches filled with imperfect people? Yes…and there’s always room for one more. We’re not perfect. We should be afraid to let people know that, and that even if they’re “imperfect,” they are welcome.

Do some churches over-emphasize money…the “business” of the church? Sure. Is money important? Yes – without it the “business” side of the church can’t survive. But that can’t be our primary message. But it’s got to be about more than that – people have to come first.

You know, I’ve actually had people ask me if we have a dress code. My response is pretty much the same as in the video – yes, you have to wear clothes…Come as you are…we don’t care what you wear, or if you have tattoos, or a Mohawk, or how many piercings you have, we care about what’s in your heart.

Are some people nervous? Sure. I hope that we make people feel at home.

If someone says, “I’m not sure I believe what you believe,” we should remember we don’t necessarily all believe the same either. That’s okay, this is the place to work through our questions and our doubts.

And we need to help others know that we don’t care about their past. We all have a past; Jesus teaches forgiveness – none of us are perfect, and we welcome everyone regardless of their past. Regardless of their background or faith-history, they’re welcome here.

We believe it’s not about religion, it’s about a relationship. That was one of Jesus’ main points when he broke with many of the Jewish traditions and customs. We’re all on a wonderful journey into a deeper, stronger relationship with God; and we’d like to be a part of that journey with you. We’re not perfect. You may just be embarking this journey. We don’t care about what you wear or how you look or about your past. We are dedicated to being a place of Love, Peace, Healing, Compassion, Forgiveness, and Acceptance. It is my hope that we are living examples of that dedication, and of the wonderful and powerful message we find through Jesus.

To those who are regular attendees – thank you for your continued support and dedication.

To those who are returning after an absence – welcome back!

And finally, to those who are joining us for the first time I’d like to say welcome, and thank you for joining us this morning to celebrate Back To Church Sunday 2013 with us. Oftentimes in church we tend to feel like we need to believe in Jesus, then we need to become the person that God intended us to be, and then, maybe, just maybe, we can belong to God’s family. Perhaps some of your previous experiences with church have left you feeling that way. Well, I’ve got good news. That’s not the way it works at all. Today, here, now, I want you to know that no matter where you are on your faith journey, you belong to the family of God. And, we want you to feel that way here, in this church, too.

Scripture

  •     Ephesians 1:21-23
  •     Luke 4:18 & 19
  •     Luke 9:11
  •     Matthew 28:19
  •     Matthew 16:18
  •     2 Corinthians 5:17

Join the Discussion

If you would like to share your thoughts, please feel free to comment. And, if this message resonates with you, please feel free to share it.

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!