Hope Chapel - Sunday, January 1, 2022
Teaching Series - “Doing Life with Jesus"
Weekly Topic - “Going Deep, Growing Strong”
Texts – Psalm 87, 2 Corinthians 5:11-21, Matthew 26:36-39, Ephesians 2:10, Colossians 2:6-7
On this first Sunday of 2022, I want to ask what you might think is a bit of a redundant question: Where does your faith lie? What could you not live without? The Apostle Paul tells us that only our faith in Jesus will amount to anything in the grand scheme of eternity. We cannot become righteous or even ‘good enough’ on our own, because righteousness comes from Christ alone. We cannot ever please God apart from Jesus, so there is no entrance into God’s presence without Him.
But, can we honestly say with Paul that we have discarded our reliance on all else and now rely solely on Him? It is a lofty but necessary goal for anyone who claims to have placed their faith in Jesus. But it isn’t automatic and it doesn’t happen overnight for the vast majority of believers. Learning to trust God, to obey Him, and not to question His directions requires that we become like Jesus, our ultimate example for living. But the only way to become like Jesus is to know Him, learn from Him, and walk with Him just as His early disciples did.
Which is why I have chosen, “Doing Life with Jesus” as our theme for 2022. How can we become like Him if we don’t even know Him? How can we understand what is important to Him if we don’t take time to be with Him? As believers our goal should not be to learn to mimic Jesus, it is to become like Him—in our thoughts, motivations and actions.
Today, I want to pose some questions as we reflect on where our faith lies.
“DOES GOD FLOW THROUGH YOU?”
Psalm 87 – “On the holy mountain
stands the city founded by the Lord.
2 He loves the city of Jerusalem
more than any other city in Israel.
3 O city of God,
what glorious things are said of you!
4 I will count Egypt and Babylon among those who know me--
also Philistia and Tyre, and even distant Ethiopia.
They have all become citizens of Jerusalem!
5 Regarding Jerusalem it will be said,
“Everyone enjoys the rights of citizenship there.”
And the Most High will personally bless this city.
6 When the Lord registers the nations, he will say,
“They have all become citizens of Jerusalem.”
7 The people will play flutes and sing,
“The source of my life springs from Jerusalem!”
This psalm is one of praise for a time that is coming when all believers, from all nations, will live together as citizens in God’s Kingdom. The terms ‘Jerusalem,’ ‘holy mountain’ and ‘city of God’ are being used synonymously to represent the future place where God will dwell with His people—all who have come to faith in Jesus. The people who have been counted as citizens of this glorious ‘Jerusalem’ sing of their source of life springing from this favoured city, this place that God has blessed with His presence. God Himself is the life-blood that springs up in those who have the privilege of being registered as citizens. He is the One responsible for the life they enjoy.
The psalmist was being given a glimpse of a time when God’s ‘chosen people’ would not simply refer to the Jewish nation, but would in fact include traditional enemies and those from faraway lands—people from Egypt, Babylon, Philistia, Tyre and Ethiopia—all those who have become a part of God’s chosen people through a relationship with Jesus. The life that believers enjoy, the spiritual life-blood that is literally springing up in us, comes from our faith in Jesus, from God, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
However, as I look around the global Church today—both past and present—those who claim the name of Christian often bear little resemblance to the One they claim to follow. The spring of God in their lives looks more like a trickle…if it can be seen at all. And it begs the question, ‘Do I attempt to control the life of God in me?’ Have I given over everything in order that I might know my Master more fully, or do I delude myself into thinking I can retain control limiting Jesus to the position of ‘advisor only’ in my life? Do others see God in me or just my version of ‘good?’
Paul wrote to the Corinthians that, “Because we understand our fearful responsibility to the Lord, we work hard to persuade others. God knows we are sincere, and I hope you know this, too. 12 Are we commending ourselves to you again? No, we are giving you a reason to be proud of us, so you can answer those who brag about having a spectacular ministry rather than having a sincere heart. 13 If it seems we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God. And if we are in our right minds, it is for your benefit. 14 Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. 15 He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.
16 So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! 17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
18 And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. 19 For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” 21 For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:11-21).
Can we honestly say “YES!” to Paul’s list?
· I have a fearful responsibility
· I work hard to persuade others
· Christ’s love controls me
· I have died to my old life
· I no longer live for myself
· I live for Christ
· I am a new person / creation
· I have been given the task of reconciling people to God
· I am Christ’s ambassador
· God is making His appeal to others through me
· I speak for Christ when I say, ‘Come back to God!’
· I am made right with God through Christ.
Jesus told His disciples, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father” (John 14:9). Is the same true of us? As people come to know us, do they see the One we serve? Do they see the One we say we ‘love’ with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength?
Which brings me to another question we must ask ourselves: “Do I love God, truly, as Jesus did, or am I quick to abandon Him in the face of troubles?” Too many of us who claim to love God really ought to evaluate what it is we love. Do we truly love God…or just His stuff / His rescue / His blessings?
I came across a thought-provoking post on Facebook (not where I typically go for my teaching material) that I wanted to share today.
“DO YOU LOVE GOD…OR JUST HIS STUFF?”
LOVER OR PROSTITUTE?
The Question that Changed My Life
by David Ryser
A number of years ago, I had the privilege of teaching at a school of ministry. My students were hungry for God, and I was constantly searching for ways to challenge them to fall more in love with Jesus and to become voices for revival in the Church. I came across a quote attributed most often to Rev. Sam Pascoe.
It is a short version of the history of Christianity, and it goes like this:
"️Christianity started in Palestine as a fellowship; it moved to Greece and became a philosophy; it moved to Italy and became an institution; it moved to Europe and became a culture; it came to America and became an enterprise."
Some of the students were only 18 or 19 years old, and I wanted them to understand and appreciate the importance of the last line, so I clarified it by adding: "An enterprise. That's a business."
After a few moments, Martha, the youngest student in the class, raised her hand. I could not imagine what her question might be. I thought the little vignette was self-explanatory and that I had performed it brilliantly. Nevertheless, I acknowledged Martha's raised hand, "Yes, Martha."
She asked such a simple question: "A business? But isn't it supposed to be a body?"
I could not envision where this line of questioning was going, and the only response I could think of was "Yes."
She continued, "But when a body becomes a business, isn't that a prostitute?"
The room went dead silent. For several seconds no one moved or spoke. We were stunned, afraid to make a sound because the presence of God had flooded into the room, and we knew we were on Holy ground. God had taken over the class.
Martha's question changed my life. For six months, I thought about her question at least once every day. "When a body becomes a business, isn't that a prostitute?" There is only one answer to her question. The answer is "Yes." The [North] American Church, tragically, is heavily populated by people who do not love God. How can we love Him? We don't even know Him; and I mean REALLY know Him....
I stand by my statement that I believe that most [North] American Christians do not know God--much less love Him. The root of this condition originates in how we came to God. Most of us came to Him because of what we were told He would do for us. We were promised that He would bless us in life and take us to heaven after death. We married Him for His money, and we don't care if He lives or dies as long as we can get His stuff. We have made the Kingdom of God into a business, merchandising His anointing. This should not be.
We are commanded to love God and are called to be the Bride of Christ--that's pretty intimate stuff. We are supposed to be His lovers. How can we love someone we don't even know? And even if we do know someone, is that a guarantee that we truly love them? Are we lovers or prostitutes?
I was pondering Martha's question again one day and considered the question:
"What's the difference between a lover and a prostitute?" I realized that both do many of the same things, but a lover does what she does because she loves. A prostitute pretends to love, but only as long as you pay. Then I asked the question: "What would happen if God stopped paying me?" For the next several months, I allowed God to search me to uncover my motives for loving and serving Him. Was I really a true lover of God? What would happen if He stopped blessing me? What if He never did another thing for me? Would I still love Him?
Please understand, I believe in the promises and blessings of God. The issue here is not whether God blesses His children; the issue is the condition of my heart. Why do I serve Him? Are His blessings in my life the gifts of a loving Father, or are they a wage that I have earned or a bribe/payment to love Him? Do I love God without any conditions?
It took several months to work through these questions. Even now, I wonder if my desire to love God is always matched by my attitude and behavior. I still catch myself being disappointed with God and angry that He has not met some perceived need in my life. I suspect this is something which is never fully resolved, but I want more than anything else to be a true lover of God.
Do I truly love God…or just His stuff? Are we guilty of treating Him as our ‘sugar daddy,’ a doting grandfather or as our ‘fire / life insurance’ policy. What would happen to our faith if our circumstances took a downhill turn and never came back round? Would we still love Him?
Consider Jesus’ response to the cross. What took Jesus through to the fulfillment of His life’s purpose? It wasn’t His desire to die by crucifixion! Let’s read Matthew’s account of Jesus prior to His arrest
Matthew 26:36-39 – “36 Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.” 37 He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. 38 He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
39 He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”
Jesus loved God. He knew God’s plan for Him, the good that His life and death would accomplish…but only if He obeyed to the end. That didn’t, however, remove Jesus’ growing apprehension or agony that He knew were a part of God’s ‘good’ plan. The same could be said of us as well. Ephesians 2:10 reminds us that, “We are God’s workmanship, created anew in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
We love the idea that God has a purpose for our lives and that He has ‘good work’ for us to do. But what if that ‘good work’ is not for our benefit, but to benefit others? Will your love of God keep you faithful if He should have you walk the difficult road of Job—suffering for no fault of your own; or Tamar—abandoned for the sins of another; or Joseph—betrayed by those he would one day save?
Would your love for God carry you through the difficulty in accomplishing His plans for your life to do His good work if it proved painful or of seemingly little benefit to you personally? Only devoted love for Him can. A love that is based on His ensured blessings-only will dissipate when troubles come, just as wind blows and shifts the clouds of the sky.
So how can we become more like Jesus…unwavering in our love of the Father and steadfast in our obedience? Paul provides us with some guidance in Colossians 2:6-7.
“GO DEEP, GROW STRONG”
Colossians 2:6-7 – “And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. 7 Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.”
· If we accept Jesus, we must follow Him. We must adopt the life of a disciple learning from the Teacher—not just head knowledge, but a way of life.
· We must grow roots down deep into Him—roots that not only anchor us to our faith, but provide us with the spiritual nutrition to grow so that we become unshakeable.
· Our lives are to be built on Him—He is to be our foundation and driving force; we can stand tall even in the face of opposition because of who we stand up for.
· Then, because we are rooted and growing in God’s truth, our faith will grow strong and we will overflow with thankfulness. There should be no such thing as a sour Christian.
What will all this mean for you in 2022? How will it change how you live? Here’s some questions I want you to take away today…
· When people see me, do they see the God I serve?
· In what ways do I still need to become more like Jesus?
· Do I love God…or just what I can get from Him?
· How can I ‘do life with Jesus’ better this year than in the previous one?
Sunday, January 9, 2022 – 2022 Theme - “Doing Life with Jesus – Jesus’ Humiliation” (Philippians 2) – Online ONLY
Pastor Jane Peck, Hope Chapel
(Collingwood EMCC Church)
"Learning and Living the Way of Jesus!"
First licensed for pastoral ministry in 1994, Pastor Jane Peck has served in camp and church ministries in three denominations, five provinces and in a variety of roles. Her most recent position is that of Pastor at Hope Chapel which she began in 2020. She is excited to see what God can and will do in the days to come!