Our OVERARCHING THEME:
We would like to see Jesus!
I want you to see Jesus. The message this week was to see Jesus model a particular way and then respond as Jesus teaches that way to his followers. That way is the most distinctive, essential core of Christianity—it is the sacrificial love of God that redeems, saves, and transforms the world for the better.
In the temptation in the wilderness, Jesus chose to of surrender to the will of his Father in heaven to embrace a mission of sacrificial love for the sake of the world. Jesus certainly had choices, commitments, and consequences on his mind during his wilderness temptation and the Garden of Gethsemane prayer (also see Hebrews 12:2 and the JOY that Jesus saw on the other side of the cross).
The Sunday message focused on Mark 8:34-37 with some references to Luke 4:1-13 (the Temptation of Jesus); Matthew 7:13-14 (the Two Roads); Proverbs 14:12 (a way that seems right but is not); Galatians 6:7-10 (sowing and reaping); and 2 Corinthians 6:2 (the time of God’s favor).
Choices lead to Commitments. Commitments lead to Consequences. The Way of Jesus is all about you making good choices, the right commitments, and experiencing “blessed consequences.”
Even when Jesus says very challenging things to you, it is always for one purpose—that you would flourish as you abide in his grace and love. Jesus came that you might have life and have it abundantly (to the full).
I referred to the book Decisive by Chip and Dan Heath, which is the science and psychology of decision making. It is quite good. A bit long, but very readable with insights on every page.
To be a disciple of Jesus means you make three commitments.
First, to deny the self-centered tendencies that our culture has been relentlessly telling you are GOOD. We all now simply assume that a self-dominated, self-determined, self-driven, self-serving way of life is a good thing. Self has become supreme in our time. It is not that self is bad, but SELF in the driver’s seat of your life —that is a bad thing. A life devoted to serving the needs of your SELF—that is a bad thing. The irony is that as you do this to advance your self, you actually lose your SELF.
Second, to take up the cross. That is a symbol, metaphor, shorthand for saying live a life of generous, sacrificial love for the sake of others. Such love will always serve—and when necessary suffer—for the wellbeing of the other person. Which, by the way, is something that a SELF centered, absorbed, fixated person would never do.
Third, to follow Jesus daily, which means you do #1 and #2 every day and every hour of every day.
The past is forgiven. Jesus is redeeming and repairing your old bad choices and wrong commitments. Jesus is setting new good consequences in motion. It is called GRACE.
The Devil would prefer you waste a lot of energy focusing on regrets and have little attention to faith, hope, and love.
Every time you make a choice you are turning the center part of you into something that is a little different from what it was before. And taking your life as a whole . . . you are slowly turning the central thing into either a heavenly creature or a hellish one (Mere Christianity, Book 3, chapter 4).
There are two kinds of people: Those who say to God, “Thy will be done.” And those to whom God says, “Thy will be done.” Or paraphrasing the last part – “All right then, have it your way” (The Great Divorce).
You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending. This is attributed to C.S. Lewis, but I did some more research on this and while it is often cited, it is never sourced. So, fact checking, let’s say this one is NOT Lewis. And as I mentioned in the message, if Lewis did say it, I would have preferred one change.
You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and allow God to change the ending.
Financial Peace University is a 10-12 week intensive course that illustrates this reality. People may have made bad financial decisions for years or even decades and have reaped horrible consequences. But in a remarkable time, a very different set of consequences (for the better) can be set in motion.
FPU is a concrete illustration of God’s transforming grace at work as we surrender and embrace his will and his way.
And a final word for this Monday looking back at the sermon reflection.
Saying yes to God, saying no to self, embracing the mission of Jesus to serve the world with sacrificial love—if Jesus had to sweat blood to do that, I am quite sure you and I will also have to:
sweat some blood for the sake of others.
Remember, Jesus did say, “As the Father sent me, I am sending you” (John 20:21). We want to see Jesus so we can become like Jesus and work alongside Jesus in his great mission.
God’s Word Matters / Truth Matters