Christmas Makes Us…

PLEASE NOTE: these are the notes I use to preach from, if you would like to hear them in context, please watch our YouTube video.

1 John 1:1-4

-What is your favorite Christmas tradition?

-25 years ago I accidently created what has become my parents favorite tradition because I was too creative for my own good. I found a puppet book at church and created an entire Christmas story play with script, backgrounds, and puppets and forced my sister to do the puppet show with me. 

-The problem was I didn’t expect to be forced by my parents to do it into my 30s, nor did I expect to have in-laws roped into the festivities. 

-For about the last 15 of those 25 years I’ve tried unsuccessfully getting out of it, but this year is finally the year. I have produced enough progeny that I get to watch the play I foolishly made a quarter century ago.

-That’s my least favorite, my favorite has become lighting the candles on Christmas Eve.

-We’re not the first generation of Christians to spend time contemplating what Christmas (Jesus’ first coming) does to us. John, described in his Gospel account as the disciples “whom Jesus loved,” also contemplated the implications of the incarnation (try saying that 5 times fast!) in his first Epistle.

READ/PRAY

  1. Christmas Makes Us Remember (1, 3)

-John is encouraging his readers to think back to what’s really real. This letter was written (as most NT are) to correct an issue, people thinking and believing something untrue about how God has revealed Himself to be. In this case, John is writing because there’s a group of people who didn’t believe Jesus was really God.

-Does that sound like a familiar argument you may have heard before? So many people act as if they’ve uncovered some novel or new idea that no one has thought of before, especially in regards to Jesus. I was recently listening to a podcast that was arguing that modern day atheists are just a repackaged form of Epicurians. I don’t have time to go further on that, so I’ll let you do your own research and thinking on that if you want, but I think it’s an insightful idea! There’s nothing new under the sun, but people will try to come up with new or clever ways of saying the same old thing! I’d rather stick with the true original, God created everything!

-Which is also where John begins. “That which was from the beginning.”

-Do you remember how he begins his Gospel account? “In the beginning was the Word…” This story that we celebrate each year should bring our minds back to the very beginning, before the world was formed, before anyone walked the face of the earth God was. God created everything and it was very good, for 1 page! We know the story of Genesis 3 where sin enters the world, and as Romans reminds us death through sin.

-Some of those realities are the reason Christmas may be difficult for you. Because of sin, because of fractured relationships, because of death Christmas isn’t full of “good cheer.” I know some people in our body have lost loved ones this past year, and Christmas can be difficult when someone who’s supposed to be there isn’t. It’s a reminder that this side of heaven isn’t the way things are supposed to be. We all have a longing for what the Bible calls “shalom,” everything being at peace. That’s far more than the absence of conflict, it’s everything being in its’ proper place. Relationally, in the world, even your tools always being in the right spot!

-John goes on to say that the way we can have that shalom, peace, is because of what they saw with their own 2 eyes.

-Remember, there were people in this congregation who didn’t believe Jesus was truly God. But unlike John, these people weren’t there.

-Think of some significant events in history, the biggest one in my life was 9/11. I wasn’t there, but I watched the news as the planes flew into the WTC. One of my favorite pastors is Timothy Keller who served in NYC for a majority of his ministry. He lived and served in NYC when this event was happening, he saw it. Whose story do you think would be more accurate, his or mine? Similarly here, John saw, touched, heard, and it wasn’t just John, WE, other disciples were there too! There’s a whole group of people you can talk to about what happened!

-Christmas makes us look back, seeing how God has worked in human history, how He sent His one and only Son into the world, which leads us to this second Christmas makes us do:

  • Christmas Makes Us Proclaim (2)

-Christmas is the news that changes everything! Christmas is the reason we can and should proclaim about the realities of what Jesus has done! We’ve spent quite a bit of time over the past few weeks looking at this! 

-We’re caught up in something far bigger than ourselves, we’re caught up in God’s work of reconciling the world back to Himself. John describes this as “eternal life,” and when we read eternal life we have a tendency to only think about life after our time on earth is done, but when the Bible talks about eternal life it talks about something that starts now, the moment when you’re brought from death into life and put your faith , your hope, your trust, your confidence in Jesus’ work on the cross on your behalf.

-But it’s not enough for you to keep that news to yourself, part of being a Christian means sharing the with everyone else what’s really happening in the world around us. It’s so easy to get distracted or caught up in what Jesus describes as “the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches.” Those things seem to matter a lot, don’t they? We need to eat, have a house, have a full life. The problem is all those things are wonderful gifts, but if those gifts become the end itself you can’t really enjoy them.

-Think of your favorite food. Mine is a perfectly cooked steak. If steak becomes your entire focus it starts to lose it’s specialness. Even the best steak in the world is only meant to serve as a small taste of the perfect gifts God has given us. When you’re able to use God’s good gifts without excess or as an end in themselves you’re able to live in a way that demonstrates to the world what God does to you, and how He lets you live life to the fullest!

-But this also should make us question: what is it we’re proclaiming? You naturally share the things that you’re most passionate about and most enjoy. 

-I love coffee, reading, and basketball, but my love for those is miniscule compared to the love of my wife, kids, and that’s even less than my love of the Lord! In conversations with people I’m going to be looking for opportunities to talk about the things I love. Cara has even asked me after we’ve spent time with people why I kept bringing some of these things up. I care greatly about people finding and knowing more about the God! And so should you! Anyone who is now in Christ needs to work out best to proclaim the truths about what God has done in you, and how He loves others. John talks about it, and so should we.

-Christmas makes us look back and remember, Christmas makes us proclaim the truths of what Jesus has done, but we don’t do it alone:

  • Christmas Makes Us Relational (3b)

-One of the things we saw last night is that Jesus’ arrival brings peace. The normal state of affairs in the world and in relationships is conflict and turmoil. It’s difficult to be in relationship with others because it means being hurt regularly, and being willing to forgive. On top of that, it also means you’ll hurt someone else regularly, someone that you love. In order to have a real lasting relationship it requires regular repentance and forgiveness. 

-But notice as well that John talks about fellowship connected to the proclamation.

-As we preach the gospel, it allows and finds its’ fulfilment in fellowship. True, lasting open relationship is now possible because of God’s perfect plan coming to fruition. 

-This also means there’s more to fellowship than enjoyment of the same things. Those who denied the reality of the incarnation were breaking fellowship with the believers. This tells us that we can’t have true fellowship with those who deny orthodoxy. This isn’t something that people like to talk about or admit today, but it’s not a new issue. True, lasting fellowship isn’t possible with those who have abandoned Scriptures clear commands and teachings. They need to be brought back into last fellowship with God and others, but it’s only possible by proclaiming/believing the right things. 

-That’s what John goes on to say here, fellowship horizontally is dependent on fellowship vertically. How can you have fellowship with God? By believing in His Son and then living in light of His coming.

-When our relationship with God is right, it is made visible by our relationships with other believers.

-This also shows us the importance of being a part of a local expression of fellowship. When God saves us He makes us a part of a huge family that is made visible by local churches, local expressions of fellowship where we can demonstrate and live out all the requirements of being in relationship with one another (look up the “one anothers” of the NT if you don’t know what I’m talking about!) Summarized as “love one another.” 

-We’ve seen: remember, proclaim, relational, but when those 3 things are true it will lead to the fourth things Christmas makes us:

  • Christmas Makes Us Joyful (4)

-Joy is different than happiness. Happiness is a fleeting feeling that can change in seconds. Joy is a conscious decision that is far more lasting than a fleeting feeling. Remember how John has through this whole section been talking about the implication of the incarnation, or what happens because of salvation. The final marker of salvation in the believer is that they are a joy-filled person. 

-Paul commands believers to be joyful always in 1 Thess. 5, and he is someone who manifested that perfectly. Paul is the guy who had learned the secret to being content in all circumstances. He learned how to be joyful when he had plenty, when he didn’t have enough to eat. He learned how to be joyful when he was mocked and belittled, or when he had an audience with people in high standing. When Christ is in us, we can choose to keep our eyes on what God’s doing and how He’s continuing to work in you. 

-When God saves you, the culmination of that is joy. But notice the pronoun connected to the joy: OUR. It takes a community to be joyful. You can’t do this on your own, nor does God want you to do it on your own. It takes others to help you express your joy. I heard a quote last week that I really like. It’s a Swedish proverb that says, “Shared joy is double joy; shared sorrow is half sorrow.”

-Isn’t that true? When you’re celebrating you want others to join with you in that celebration. And when you’re struggling you need others to help encourage you to not give up. It’s another way of saying what Paul reminded us of in Rom. 12: “Weep with those who weep, and rejoice with those who rejoice.” By fellowshipping together, we can have that fulfilled joy. 

-All of this is a description of what is true because of the gospel message, author Trevin Wax wrote an article a few years back where he said it this way:

Trevin Wax: “If you excise the gospel community from your thinking about the gospel announcement, you gut the gospel of its purpose. Though the church is not the subject of the gospel announcement (Christ alone is the subject, of course), the church is a necessary object. Christ’s death has a purpose: to save sinners and incorporate them into a community that reflects His glory. . . . I fear that most evangelicals see the church as ‘just an implication of the gospel’ instead of thinking, This is the whole point of the good news—God forming a people for His glory and the good of the world.”

-Christmas changes everything, and causes us to respond by remembering, proclaiming, relating, and being joyful. 

Formally & Informally – Sermon Manuscript

PLEASE NOTE: these are the notes I use to preach from, if you would like to hear them in context, please watch our YouTube video.

-We’ve covered a lot of ground in this series! Basically, what I’ve tried to do is look at the topic of discipleship from a wide variety of angles.

-Your perspective on things can be deceiving! Remember the gorilla we saw (or maybe missed!) a couple weeks ago? 

-Today I’ve got a different picture to show you to demonstrate just how much your perspective changes things. At first glance it appears that dear Prince William is upset with someone, doesn’t it? What do you think he’s trying to communicate? But wait until your perspective changes, what do you think he’s trying to communicate now?

-Perspective matters! How we view discipleship matters. A good summary has been seen by the 4 Ps we’ve mentioned regularly.

-Summary of the previous weeks:

-Defining Disciple (learner): a redeemed sinner learning Christ by increasing worship of God through every area of your life. 

-The Content of Discipleship: God’s Word spoken in a wide variety of ways and contexts, because God’s Word is always applicable. (the way we move up the arrow is by God’s Word) Need to inwardly digest the Bible more, met people with digestive issues, why do so many Christians today have spiritual digestive issues that go undiagnosed or ignored?

-Imitate Me: God has given us a body of people who all have different strengths and weaknesses, but there will always be someone who is more mature than you in some area that you would do well to spend time with and learn how to imitate them. You become like the people you spend time with. SG a good place to do this! (We look back at people further down the arrow to invite them to imitate us)

-The Assembly: Micah reminded us last week that the gathering is integral to the life of a disciple. God literally baked this idea into the created order, and we need to gather because everything around us disciples us one way, but God’s ways are often the opposite of our worldly training so we need to be retrained and have the compasses of our hearts re-magnetized to true north. Sundays serve as the tuning fork for the rest of our weekly discipleship.

-I was reading an article this week that had a line that stood out to me that I thought was helpful in thinking of what Micah preached on: “The audience for worship is God, not us.” Sunday morning is a beautiful reminder that we exist for someone else, not for ourselves. This is part of the reason I think it’s important that we meet on Christmas Day (debate every time it falls on Sunday)

-This week, we’ll be looking at how we put all these various pieces together and pursuing holistic discipleship in every facet of our lives, or being intentional to disciple others one step closer to Christ informally and formally.

-I think Paul summarizes this idea really well in Phil. 4:8-9. Growing as a disciple (learner) of Jesus is learning how to take every thought captive to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5), which is focusing on this list of truths (even toward other people). The most difficult thing to disciple is your thought life. Think about it: who is your biggest critic? Who lies to you more than anyone else? We’re coming up to the time of year where we all make big bold commitments that we know we won’t follow through (they’re called New Year’s Resolutions). If you’ve ever had a gym membership you know it’s packed full in January, but usually by about mid-February there’s plenty of room again!

-One more thing before we read, remember what we are caught up in. The greatest story ever told!

-“Storytelling has been central to Christianity from the beginning, because the Gospel is not a body of teaching, but an account of something done.” Colin Morris. That’s literally why Christmas is such a big deal! The eternal unchangeable God entered into time and space to redeem the whole creation. That’s an historical fact that should cause us to ask a question Jesus asked His disciples: who do you say that I am?

-EFCA SOF: “God has graciously purposed from eternity to redeem a people for Himself and to make all things new for His own glory.”

READ/PRAY (Deut. 6) 

  1. Formally: Right Theology (4-5)

-Notice where Moses’ announcement begins: with a statement of theology.

-Have a tendency today to view this as an academic pursuit instead of the core of discipleship. It’s just talking about God, which everyone does. The centering point that we’re gathering around together is the Bible, God’s inspired and authoritative Word because that’s the measuring stick that we’re commanded to use in our lives. We will only grow more mature as a disciple as we grow in understanding and application of God’s Word in our lives. If God has told us something, we need to obey. 

-This is why we spent a whole Sunday working on the content of discipleship: if we don’t, we won’t be learning the right things.

-There’s 2 ways to interpret this phrase here, hard to translate because there’s no verb. “The Lord our God the Lord one” could be a statement of identity (who God is) or could be basically a catechism statement: The Lord OUR God” 

-All theology is practical or applicable. Theology isn’t just an endeavor for the your minds, remember what I’ve shared before, it’s meant to make the 18” move from your head to your heart.

-Moses knows this: no transition, he goes straight into “love the Lord your God with everything” Because God is one it means something in all our lives, and Moses immediately jumps to the application of God being one! The last word there is an interesting one, literally could translate it as “muchness” or “abundance.” Just a way of saying everything. Then in the NT Jesus doubled down on this statement!

-This is where we see that we’re supposed to worship God with every single thing we do. What’s left out of “muchness”? Nothing! Moses is reminding God’s people that God’s people must represent Him to the world. Church: we have a job to do!

-That’s just the first application!

  • Informally: Right Living (6-9)

-How do we know how to obey God? What is the method God uses to help people move up the arrow? We need to soak and saturate our lives with His commands/words. We saw that when we looked at the content of discipleship.

-Did you know that boundaries, fences actually help instill a sense of security and protection in people? A study done in 2006 compared the activity of children who were taken to a playground with fences vs. a playground with no fence. Those children who had a fence used every available square inch to explore. The children without a fence stuck really close to the teacher to ensure they didn’t stray too far away. 

-The Bible (rules, stipulations, commands) are meant to allow us to experience freedom in Christ instead of living in fear. Think of how difficult it is to keep up with the moral relativism around us today! How do you know if something you say today won’t get you cancelled in the next 5 years? Friends, God has given us a spirit not of fear, but of freedom! All our sins past, present, and future have been atoned for, they’ve been dealt with, they’ve been cast as far as the East is from the West. Can you measure that? 

-Look where these verses begin: words. Remember, it’s not enough to just have a head knowledge about God, it needs to trickle itself down into the very center of your being and drive, your heart. The only hope we have of maturing as disciples is by letting the truths of God’s Word permeate into your heart, the very center of your being, “on your heart.”

-What is it that drives you? What we just saw in the previous 2 verses is for those of use who are in Christ, the driving force behind everything we do should be loving God perfectly, with all our “muchness.” That is literally the whole point of discipleship: learning to love God more correctly. 

-These commands, these rules are so important, God’s people are commanded to teach them, but not just teach, there’s an adverb here: diligently. I was listening to a podcast recently from a pastor who said: if anyone talks to me for more than 5 minutes, they’re quickly going to learn 2 things about me: I love Jesus, and I love my wife. We talk about the things that we’re most passionate about! Which is where Moses goes next:

-Describes how you diligently teach: talk. Once again, this is Moses assuming that God’s people know enough about God’s rules and commands that they’re able to talk about them diligently. 

-Church: don’t miss this! I keep saying it, but I want to point it out as we walk through all the places Moses says we’re to talk about God’s words. Everything we’ve looked at over the past 5 weeks is only possible if we ourselves are studying God’s Word and are then able to apply it to every context we find ourselves in. This gathering isn’t sufficient for you to let God’s Word soak into you deeply!

-The other thing I want you to be aware of is Moses’ overall point in what he lists here. He’s not limiting the teaching to these 8 areas, instead he’s using a literary device common to Hebrew known as Merism. Example: I searched high and low, meaning I searched everywhere (yet I’ve discovered that there’s something called “husband eyes” that still miss things!). Moses is using 2 examples to cover every aspect of life, yet I think these examples are still worth looking at, as a way of encouraging us to bring God’s Word to bear in our whole lives. 

Sit in your house: what things do you talk about when you’re at home? Vikings historic comeback win yesterday? Weather? Stocks? How long would someone need to talk to you before Jesus comes up? How do you create opportunities in your home to talk about what God is doing in your lives? Once again, this assumes that you know enough of God’s Word to talk about it, but when you’re home, inviting others in, how do you love God with your “muchness” in the home? This idea will come up again, so just wait a minute.

walk by the way: Not enough to talk about God when you’re in the house, there needs to be a PDA: public display of affection that’s geared towards God! Maybe today it should say “drive by the way” How can you drive in a way that shows you love God with your everything? 

-This is one of those areas that I worry we may be neglecting today, our culture has trained us that religion is something private that we leave at home, but for anyone in Christ, we’re supposed to have every area of our lives transformed. Even the act of going for a walk is supposed to be different because Christ is in us. One of the things I try to do when our family goes on walks is look people in the eye and say “hi” it’s an easy way to treat them as another person who carries the image of God. 

-Moses begins with your daily life: home and outside the home, what about with respect to time? 

lie down. What’s the last thing in your mind as you go off to sleep? “Vikings played an amazing second half today” Or maybe what is your nightly routine as you go to bed? What does it mean to love God with your everything at the end of the day? One of the ways Cara and I have built this idea into our daily lives is asking “what are you thankful for today” as we’re getting into bed. It’s an easy to way to reorient our minds to giving thanks to God even when it’s been a terrible day! I’ll be honest, sometimes the only thing I’m thankful for is the bed!

rise. Similarly what’s the first thing you think of when you wake up (other than: do I HAVE to get up?)? Maybe you roll over and check Twitter, the news, or the stock market. What would it look like for you to begin your day loving God with your everything? Maybe it’s thanking God that “his mercies are new every morning.” Maybe it’s giving thanks for God’s sustaining you through the night and that even when we need to sleep, God doesn’t ever get tired. Whatever it is, find some way to begin your day with God at the forefront of your mind. 

-But it’s not just you individually or as a family working through these things, because God gives you to other reminders to keep Him first. So, to ensure you don’t forget them:

Sign on your hand. How often do you use your hand during the day? How do you think your hand could be used to remind you to keep God first? Maybe it’s changing what your hands do on social media. Maybe it’s working harder at your job because it’s a gift from God to be able to work and do what you do.

Frontlets between your eyes. If any of you (like me) need glasses, you know how hard it is to see without your lenses. What would your life look like if you viewed everything through the lens of the God’s Word? What would it mean to view everything you see as God sees it?

Doorpost of your house your house should be different than those who aren’t following Christ. Once again, I have to ask, do you think this is true of you and your family? Are you just chasing the same American dream as your neighbors or can people tell something different about you in how you live and operate in your home? 

-Doesn’t necessarily mean putting a Bible verse on your door, but that may not be a bad idea either! Better than anything else you could read as you walk out of your house!

-What does it mean to be a Christian in the home? Training children, walking with the Lord. Living a life of repentance, prioritizing God over other good things. There needs to be something different about us. I think sometimes we’re guilty of slapping a “Christian” label on something and then continuing to pursue whatever we want instead of understanding the God is seeking to transform you from the inside out.

Gates: We often think about this in terms of our own private houses, but at this time period houses didn’t have gates around them, the gates was referring to the public square, so even in the public square, God’s people were to keep God at the forefront of their minds and act differently than those who didn’t follow the one true God. So for you today: do people at your work, in your interactions at the grocery store, can people see you follow God? What do you think it would look like for you to bring God into all these interactions?

-The summary: nothing is left out! God’s people need to bring God’s commands to fruition in every area of their lives, and we need to encourage each other to love God with our “muchness” and love others as we love ourselves.

-This idea is summarized in a similar way in a NT Epistle, and it’s where I’ve stolen some language when I talk about discipleship:

1 Tim. 4:16 (NIV) “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.”

-Anyone who has had a failing in ministry has failed in 1 of these 2 areas. Not mutually exclusive, these should be growing together, symmetrically. Think of a train. In order for a train to move forward it needs 2 rails, otherwise disaster strikes! Similarly for our growth as a disciple, we need to grow in both life and doctrine to pursue maturity. 

-How am I hoping we flesh this out in our context? Classes and small groups. Classes are a great environment to learn doctrine, to grow in knowledge of God. Small groups are great environments for living out the truths you’re learning, and accountability to apply those truths on a regular basis. If you ever want a book to read, please come talk to me! I love reading!

  • Perseverance, Step by Step (10-25)

-Remember that Israel here on the verge of entering the Promised Land, the place they’d been waiting years to enter. Living in the desert, eating nothing but manna and quail for 40 years, yet what does God remind His people to do as they look forward to that day? Not forget him! Look at all the things God’s going to provide for them: great cities, houses, cisterns, vineyards, olives trees.

-Dear saints, we have been blessed beyond measure! Christmas is a great time to think about this, Paul reminds us in 1 Cor. 4:7 “what do you have that you did not receive?” Everything we have is a gift from God because God sent His Son to Earth to adopt us and make us His children, and then send us on a life of learning (discipleship).

-Moses goes on to say that the reason parents need to know and understand these truths is so that they can answer when your children ask you questions about your faith. How do you answer that question? (20) “Mom, dad: why do we obey God’s rules? Why are we different from my friends? Why do we have to wake up early on the weekend and go to church? Why do we spend our money differently?” 

-First of all, this assumes that you’re living differently. As I’ve said before, I sometimes worry that we’re not!

-I’ve had numerous conversations with some of you here about some of these issues. Why are kids leaving the faith? What hope is there of the church enduring? I listened to a podcast this past week that got my wheels turning on the need for us to live differently. Let me share some thoughts:

-We’re at a unique day in our culture where many of our assumptions are being challenged. One scholar has quipped that the job of apologetics today is not explaining the church to the world, the job of apologetics is explaining the world to the church. Why does it seem like our culture is getting crazier each day? The book of Judges summarizes this well: everyone did what was right in their own eyes. No accountability, no oversight, we live in the day of expressive individualism (def.) Yet the whole point of our faith is to be conformed into someone else’s image, not our own.

-Dear friends, we need each other to help each other grow in life and doctrine. We need each other to make disciples and to help each other mature as disciples. Every single person here is here for a reason and has some area where they can help those around them mature as a disciple. And as parents have questions, they need older people to help encourage them to persevere in their parenting and chasing after God. 

-Defining Disciple (learner): a redeemed sinner learning Christ by increasing worship of God through every area of your life.

-Newbigin quote. The only way of interpreting the gospel. 

-The gospel message isn’t just a mental idea that we check the box with and move on. The gospel leads us to a community of people who will disciple us so that we can in turn disciple others. We need to love each other enough to call out the sins we see in each other, and look for ways to share the gospel in word and in deed until, encouraging people to take one step close to Christ. We’re on an eternal journey of learning Christ more fully, so let’s start today.

-As we wrap up this series, 1 question for you. Where are you at on this arrow? What do you need to do to be or become a better learner? And who do you need to call to imitate you as you’re imitating Christ?

Imitate Me – Sermon Manuscript

-‘Michael Jordan Has Not Left the Building’

-“I want to be like Mike”

READ/PRAY (2 Tim. 3:10-17)

-Remember what we saw last week, the 4 Ps of discipleship.

-I got a great question this week from someone: “are we going to be changing our values now?” What’s the point of the 4 Ws? The 4 Ws honestly are communicating the same thing as the 4 Ps, just in a different way. One of the exercises the book gave us was to come up with different ways of communicating the 4 Ps, (4 Ss, SPUR) I chose 5 Ws!

-Proclamation of the Word of God (Word) Prayerful dependence (Worship –> prayer) People (We) Perseverance (Worship – continually)

-Nothing sacred about them, hold on to whichever one makes the most sense to you. It’s a way of trying to summarize the biblical message in a way that makes sense to us today, that’s all it is!

-Last week, we spent most of our time on the first one, today I want us to focus on the third one, and think of it in terms of imitation.

  1. People as God’s Fellow Workers

-God is always at work around us if we have the eyes to see it (One of the words we’ve been talking about recently in our staff meetings is: intentionality. What is it we’re prioritizing in our lives, in our families lives, and in the church? What are we intentional about?)

-Remember, we looked at God’s plan from eternity past, is to have a people gathered around His throne in worship and praise of Him.

-Lewis The Weight of Glory “There are no ordinary people, you have never talked to a mere mortal…All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations.”

-Do you view your interactions with people in that light? Pushing people one way or another. One of the markers of someone who is moving closer to Christ is that they’re more willing to look for people further down the arrow who they can proclaim the excellencies of Christ to! Humility means you look to other people and their interests over and above yourself

-So often we miss that part of Christian maturity. “I have the spiritual gift of sarcasm” So do I, and it’s a sin I’m trying to rid myself of! We assume that because someone has attended church a long time it makes them more mature, or we equate biblical knowledge with maturity, but if that’s true, the Devil is the most mature being in all of creation! Part of the reason we gather together every week is to remind each other what’s really true.

-If you’ve ever read The Chronicles of Narnia series, when you get to The Silver Chair it gets fairly depressing as Eustace and his friend Jill are whisked back into Narnia to save a Prince who is captured underground. The witch queen of the underworld captures our heroes and slowly convinces them that Narnia isn’t real. Yet Puddleglum (the Eeyore of the story) rouses himself and responds to this wicked witch saying “Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things-trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia.”

-This is where we all come into play, we need the encouragement of each other, it takes all of us joining together as God’s fellow workers (1 Cor. 3:5-8), which is the amazing thing about being a part of what God has started since before the world was created. This is the story (HIS story) that we’re invited in to.

-A theologian I greatly respect refers to it as “the drama of doctrine.” We each have an integral part to play in God’s master plan for the world, a part that only we can play, but remember what we’ve seen the past couple weeks in 1 Cor. 3: we can plant and water, but who is that causes the growth?

-Ultimately God, God alone saves. We can point, we remind others, but we are not the savior. Think of John the Baptist, who regularly reminded people “I am not the Christ!” We have that same responsibility today, boldly proclaim the gospel message in word and deed, but remind people it’s only because of God’s grace that causes these things to be true.

-Reformation motto: “It is faith alone that justifies, but the faith that justifies is never alone.” I am somewhat worried that our culture today has so ignored the second half of that statement that we don’t think beyond the line of faith. Brothers and sisters, that beautiful moment where a dead sinner is brought from death to life is just the beginning of a whole new way of living! That’s why the great commission doesn’t stop at “go and make disciples” it goes on to say “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded.”
-We have a job to do! We now are meant to serve as a visible demonstration of what Jesus looks like to the world, and this happens the moment we’re brought from death to life. We’re caught up into an epic adventure of good vs. evil, we’re in the middle of the greatest story that has ever been written, and is currently being written! The end hasn’t come yet, which means we all need to be Puddleglum to each other (not the negativity part) We need to rouse each other out of the sleep the world lulls us into and remind each other the cosmic realities that we’re a part of every day!

-Really briefly, just because we covered this in Eph. 1, I want to look at the interplay between God’s job and our job

Eph. 1:11-14. Predestined, yet we’re the ones who believe

Acts 13:48 “as many as were appointed believed”

-This is 100% God’s job, and 100% our job. How does that work, don’t dwell on it too much on this side of eternity, because it’ll make your brain hurt!

-What is involved in being faithful disciple? What is required to make more disciples? Col. 3:17: word and deed. You may have heard a quote falsely attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: preach at all times, and if necessary use words. You can’t disciple without words! Words are the currency of relationship.

-Think about is, how do we know who our friends are? They tell us! How do people find out things about you? You tell them! It requires words to build relationships. Same with our discipleship, it requires speaking to others to build them up, to use your interactions, conversations, and anything else you do to build others up (in LOVE)

-Why don’t we easily share what God is doing in our lives with others? At work, share something that stood out to you from the sermon. After church, share a passage you’ve been memorizing with the people you talk to. At a restaurant, pray for your waiter/waitress and be kind. (Culver’s with the student ministry) What opportunities are we missing because we’re not paying attention? What things are we focusing on instead of being attuned to what God is doing around us?

-There was a video I was made aware of in Middle School that made this point really well! If you’ve seen it, don’t give it away! Video of a basketball pass

-How many passes did you count? If you counted 15, way to go! But did you notice the gorilla in the video?

-Unless we’re reminded of the bigger realities of what’s taking place around us, we will miss them. That’s part of the reason we need to tell our stories to other people, remind them of what we’re caught up in.

-Really briefly, have you thought about the way we today get to fulfill some of the OT prophecies?

Numbers 11 (you don’t need to turn there) Moses brings together 70 elders who will be tasked with sharing the leadership role of God’s people. God comes down to share his spirit with the leader, 2 of whom missed the memo and weren’t at the meeting, yet because they were supposed to be there they started prophesying. Joshua comes running up to Moses and says “STOP THEM!” And Moses replies Num. 11:29. Wouldn’t that be a day! When all God’s people were filled with the Holy Spirit speaking God’s Words to each other! Toward the end of the OT, God promises that exact thing to happen in Joel 2, and Acts 2, and 4:31 specifically talk about that idea being fulfilled then.

-If prophesy is speaking God’s Word to others, do you realize we can do that all the time now? The OT people literally dreamed of living in the time period we’re in today, and we forget or neglect it, or even get nervous of what someone would think of us if we start to share God’s Word with each other!

  • Two Pictures of Discipleship

-With all that in mind, of being more intentional to see where God is working and joining with Him in pursuing those realities I want to give us 2 pictures today of what that looks like in our day to day lives: following and imitation.

  1. Following

-When Jesus began his earthly ministry, as he was recruiting His disciples, do you remember the command He gave them? “Follow me.” (Matt. 4) What’s their response? Immediately they left their lives behind to follow Jesus. What is your response when Jesus asks you to do something? Or potentially another way looking at this is what changes has God asked of you to be a disciple of Him? You can’t follow Jesus as a disciple and keep anything else on the side, God will not allow that to be the case!

-There are entire books written on this idea! One by David Platt was called Follow Me: A Call to Die. A Call to Live. (In our library) This book encourages people to think about those whom Jesus called to follow Him. They didn’t have wealth, didn’t have prestige, didn’t have notoriety, weren’t “influencers,” they were normal, everyday people whose lives intersected with Jesus and then had their entire life trajectory changed.

-But notice as well, what did these early disciples give up to follow Jesus? Everything! They left their vocation, their families, their communities to follow after this new teacher who would go on to teach them a new way to engage everything around them.

-On top of that, look at how Jesus reframed their lives. Where they once were fishermen, Jesus was going to teach them how to fish for men. (Even Jesus enjoyed a good dad joke, very punny!)

-This tells us a few things about discipleship:

-First, it’s a call to follow Jesus and only Jesus. You don’t need anything else, in fact most other things will get in the way of you pursuing Jesus alone!

-Second, God will take our natural talents, gifts, wirings, and reframe/refocus them in a new direction. I’ve said this before, but it is no accident that you’re in the job you’re in. It’s no accident you’re in the family you’re in. It’s no accident you’re in the home you’re in. It’s no accident you have the hobbies and interests you have, God needs you to use them for His glory. He needs you to demonstrate Him in those contexts, so do it! Start praying about what it would look like for you to represent Jesus wherever you go!

-The next passage I want us to think about in relation to following Jesus is Mark 8:34-38. This passage doubles down on the idea that discipleship is a call to die to your old way of living in order to live for Christ.

-At times the things Jesus calls us to isn’t the easy way or the way we want to go, but it’s the right way. Jesus regularly tells people to count the cost of following Him. Have you ever done that? Or maybe a different way of asking it is what has it cost to follow after Jesus? Honestly, for most of us it hasn’t cost much, but it seems that the time is coming where it will (or is starting to) count a little more.

-I’ve talked to some of you about some of these things before, pronouns, rainbow pins, life altering surgeries. How do you engage these issues with the truth when the truth is liable to punishment in your jobs? Dear saints, that is counting the cost of discipleship! (Heard of a guy at Mayo yesterday wrestling through this very thing!) That is being willing to identify with Christ while here on earth, and I am at times worried that we’re not willing to do that, nor are we willing to do that together. I talked before about casting your cares on the Lord because He cares for you, but one way we can do that today is by casting our cares on each other, because we’re here to represent Christ to each other!

-The last passage I want to look at in connection with following is Luke 9:57-62

-One of the biggest problems I have with today’s Christian culture is the idea that Jesus just wants to take all your favorite desires and bless them and move them to the next level. Think of things you’ve seen with the #blessed on the socials. New car, new job, new house. But what happens when life doesn’t go the way you want, when you don’t get to just keep doing whatever you want? God wants us to realize that we live #blessed all the time, regardless of life’s circumstances because we have a new life in Christ! God wants to make us new people, not leave us to wallow in our tiny ideas of what constitute the best life!

-What we’ve seen abut following through these 3 passages is it requires dying to ourselves, it reorients our whole lives around a new person, and it requires sacrifice. It’s both the easiest and hardest thing you’ll ever do. Easiest because it doesn’t depend on you! Hardest because it requires you to die.

-Let’s now turn our attention to the second picture:

  • Imitation

-What does it mean to imitate someone else? To copy them, to model yourself after. I think we live in the most imitation heavy culture out there! Instagram influencers, how many followers someone has. Social contagion of tics because kids are watching Tik Tok videos from influencers who have facial tics that they’re emulating. Whether you realize it or not, you become like those you spend time with, you imitate them. There are 2 passages from Paul that I want us to think of in relation to imitation (even though the first one says follow!)

-Timothy was Paul’s protégé. Just as Jesus’ followers had other people follow them, so Paul continued the tradition with Timothy. There was imitation that was taking place, so much so that unlike the false teachers, Timothy was to follow Paul in his: (2 Tim. 3:10-11)

-Teaching: that which corresponds to the great tradition handed down from Jesus to the first disciples all the way down to today!

-conduct: the way Paul lived his day to day life

-aim in life: what is it we’re all aiming for? Maturity in Christ! (Eph. 4)

-faith: that moment where our lives radically change, we’re brought from death to life.

-patience: do you remain patient when things (bad or good!) are happening to you?

-love: the new Christian ethic where we love everyone!

-steadfastness: endurance, perseverance step by step, not giving up!

-persecutions: wait, even these?

-suffering: AND suffering? Paul goes on to say anyone who wants to live a godly life will face persecutions. All of us are guaranteed that in some capacity. Yet if even Jesus suffered, why would we expect anything different?

-Finally, the last passage we’ll look at today: 1 Cor. 10:31-11:1.

-Remember our definition of a disciple: a redeemed sinner learning Christ by increasing worship of God through every area of your life. So Paul starts with worship. Do everything to bring God glory, even something as mundane and trivial as eating or drinking! And use things as an opportunity to point others to Christ, not causing them to stumble (different topic for a different day!)

-But where does Paul land? Imitation. Friends, do you invite people to imitate you? If someone were to imitate you, what would that do to their spiritual development? Would it bring them closer to or further away from Christ?

-Notice that there are limits to this imitation, we imitate ONLY IN SO FAR AS the imitation is like Christ. What areas of your life are worthy of imitation? This week, today, take stock of your life, what areas should you be inviting others to come imitate you in? And as you do that, what areas of your life do you need to find someone you can imitate?

-I shared at the beginning of this message my desire when I was growing up was to be like Mike, but I’ll encourage you here at the end with that same message: Look at me, imitate me insofar as I imitate Christ. I’ll keep my eyes fixed on Him, I’ll keep striving after Him, and when and where you see me doing that, join with me in pursuing the same thing!

-This week, find 1 person that you can encourage (maybe it’s starting by praying for this) to imitate you, and then encourage them to find someone else who can imitate them, and pretty soon we have an entire church full of people who are disciples looking for every opportunity they have to make and mature more disciples. We plant, we water, and we trust the growth to God.