This Sunday we looked at the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) in relation to our recent celebration of Easter. Easter is amazing news! It gives hope through connecting us to Jesus – the personal, living, eternal Saviour. He is “God with us”. We have new life and a new relationship with God when we trust in Jesus!
Jesus is particular, God is generic. It is easy to follow a generic God because you can fill the term “God” with any presupposition you please; it is difficult to follow Jesus because then you have to take seriously his teachings on discipleship, on what exactly following him entails. Michael Hardin
Following “God” is easy, because it is generic. You can be a “spiritual” person, or a person connected to the “energy” of the world or anything like that easily. Because as Michael Hardin points out, you can choose the things that you will follow or connect with. You can create the path you want to follow. Following Jesus though means following his path. The difficulty path of self-denial and other-centred love. The path that values sacrifice for others, and loving at a level that seems ridiculous at times. But that’s the beauty of Christianity; it’s about Christ. It’s about following him, and not giving into the easy things but shooting for the difficult life transforming things. Things that Jesus teaches us to do like:
- Love your enemies
- Forgive everyone
- Judge Not
- Fear Not
- Worry Not
Each of those things is simple to understand, and will take a life-time to learn to practice. Which is precisely the point. Following Jesus is a path and a journey that takes a lifetime to learn. Learning to love your enemies and that there is no them, only us is incredibly hard. Learning to not let fear and worry have holds in our hearts isn’t a weekend retreat thing. It’s a lifetime thing.
This is why G.K. Chesterton said something truthful in, Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried
But I believe it’s in the trying that life is found. It’s in the striving after following Jesus, his path, and his way of life that life is found.
And my question in all of this is this: if you’re a follower of Jesus are you following his path?
Because as Michael Hardin reminds us, it’s easy to follow “God” following but Jesus means following his path. And his path leads to life, it’s not easy, it’s hard but it’s absolutely worthwhile.
So out of those 5 things listed above (judge not, fear not, worry not, forgive everyone, love your enemies) which one do you need to work on today? Which one do you need to focus on and give some attention to? Which one do you need to try to follow today? Because following Jesus means walking his path, and this is the path he laid down. It’s not an easy one, but it is a life-changing one.
On Sunday we looked at this statement from the EMCC’s “Seven-Fold Way of Following Jesus”. And it says, “I am learning to be like Jesus in terms of my attitudes, behaviors, and character”. And this is really key because the world doesn’t need more information about Jesus, it needs more people living like Jesus. But here is the snag in our modern Western world; we think that the key to people living more like Jesus is learning more about Jesus. But knowledge does not translate directly into action. There is a missing step. And we know this (Just think about whether you flossed, exercised, or walked to work today. We all know this is a good thing to do, we just don’t do it).
So we looked at three terms on Sunday. Orthdoxy – which means right beliefs (or knowledge). Orthopraxy – which menas right actions. And lastly, the missing link between the two – Orthokardia – which means right-heartedness.
The point is that right actions flow out of a right heart not just the right knowledge. And this is something that Jesus actually teaches in Mark 7; that evil things flow out of an evil heart. And good things flow out of a transformed heart. This is why the heart is such a key image in the Bible. This is why all the Old Testament promises in Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Ezekiel 36:25-27 talk about God giving us a new heart, so that we can live differently.
The point is that if we want to live like Jesus, we need a heart like Jesus. A heart transformed to have the desires he does, to have the inclinations, and longing that he does. And this is exactly what we get when we decide to follow Jesus. We get a new heart, or as Paul puts, we are a new creation. We are made new and different so that we can live in a new and different way. When we decide to follow Jesus, our old selfish heart is gone, so that we might follow Jesus in a new way.
And that’s what we looked at on Sunday, because, before we will ever live differently, we need to know that we are different. And we are different if we have decided to follow Jesus. So we can actually learn to live like Jesus in terms of our attitudes, behaviours, and character.
And we landed and focused on one simple next step to learn to live more like Jesus. It sounds silly and trite but it isn’t. The next step is simple: pray to Jesus. Pray to Jesus asking him to help you live more like him. Pray to Jesus asking him to reveal areas to live more like him. Pray to Jesus asking him to empower us to live more like him.
The point is that when we pray, we focus our hearts, minds, and souls on Jesus Christ. And when our hearts are focused on Jesus, then they can direct us to live like Jesus. We cannot learn to be like Jesus on our own, we need his help and the Holy Spirit. So praying isn’t a simplistic answer, it is the answer. Without prayer we won’t be able to learn to live like Jesus. But with prayer we can not only learn to know how to act, but also be empowered to act through Jesus.
So we ended with one simple challenge. To pray this week to learn to live more like Jesus in terms of our attitudes, behaviors, and character. And to ask Jesus to reveal one attitude, one behavior, and one character piece to start to work on, practice, and learn.
And my honest belief is that as we ask Jesus to lead us to live more like him, he will answer that prayer. And as he answers that prayer and we live more like him, we just might end up answering some of the prayers of the people around us. And that is a pretty cool thought.
Big Idea: I am learning to be like Jesus in attitudes, behaviors, and character
- “I am learning to be like Jesus in attitudes, behaviors, and character”
- Our impact on society has a direct correlation with the level of Christlikeness in our lives
- It is much easier to learn lots about Jesus, than to live like Jesus.
- Christians are educated beyond our level of obedience
- The world doesn’t need more information about Jesus, it needs people living like Jesus.
- Merely believing the right things does not ensure Christlike behavior…We want to master the information; [the apostles] longed to master the life. Bob Roberts
- Orthodoxy: Right Belief
- Orthopraxy: Right Actions
- Orthokardia: Right-heartedness
- Simply believing the right things about Jesus does not mean you will live or act like Jesus.
- The “heart is deceitful above all things”. (Jer 17:9).
- Before we will ever live differently, we need to know that we are different.
- That if we focused on telling people more who they are, we wouldn’t have to tell them so much what to do
- Pray to Jesus for help
- Rarely does transformation happen without revelation
Adult Discussion Questions:
What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? How did God speak to you through it? What was new?
Had you ever thought about “right actions” flowing out of a “right heart” before? What did you think of it? Was the idea that you are a new creation new? Freeing? Hopeful? How does that change how you see yourself? How might asking Jesus for help to live like him – help you? What attitude is Jesus asking you to focus on? Behaviors? Character? Who can help you to grow in them?
Discussion Question for Families:
Talk to your kids today about accepting Jesus, and how it means we become new. Ask them what they think Jesus was like in terms of his attitudes, behaviors, and character. Get them to pick on thing that was Jesus-like and to make it your goal as a family to practice it this week (being kind, generous, loving etc). Talk about it at meals and make it a focus and learn to be like Jesus together.
Challenge for the Week: Be like Jesus in terms of your attitude, behaviors, and character.
This Sunday we are looking at a really important part of following Jesus – learning to be like him in terms of our attitudes, behaviours, and character. And this matters so much for Christians. Because in today’s day and age, people don’t generally have a problem with Jesus, they have a problem with Christians. Because as Christians sometimes our attitudes, actions, and character can seem so unchristlike.
So on Sunday we will unpack why this happens. We will be looking at the false idea that “right beliefs” lead to “right actions” – because they don’t. There is a missing link between right beliefs and right actions and we will talk about how that one link changes everything.
Because here is the truth. Our impact on society has a direct correlation with the level of Christlikeness in our lives. But it is so much easier to know lots about Jesus, than to live like Jesus. But come Sunday we are going to see how to actually live like Jesus.
But before we get there if you want to be serious about following Jesus, why not pray this simple but radical prayer. Pray this, “Jesus, are there attitudes, behaviors, or character things you want to change in my life”. Because rarely does transformation happen without revelation. Pray for Jesus to reveal to you where he wants to lead you. It can be a dangerous prayer because of what Jesus might reveal, but it also just could be one of the most transformative and changing prayers you coud pray.
So pray, and more importantly act on what Jesus reveals. And then on Sunday we are going to look at the missing link between beliefs and actions.
“Very little discipleship happens sitting in seats”
He was referring to Sunday morning primarily. And while as a pastor, clearly Sunday mornings are a large part of my job, I wholeheartedly agree with him. Because here is his point: following Jesus requires movement, practice, and action.
Often on Sunday mornings we learn about Jesus, but discipleship happens when we follow Jesus. Discipleship happens when we get out of our seats and let Jesus start to transform the totality of our lives. And yes, to follow Jesus means you need to learn about Jesus, but it is possible to learn lots about Jesus and not follow him. Caesar’s point is that discipleship breaks down when the learning gets separated from the following.
This doesn’t mean that Sunday morning services don’t matter. They do, and I put a lot of prayer and effort into mine. But what I know is that Sunday mornings aren’t the endpoint of discipleship, but the starting point – the sending point. We gather together to get reminded of what following Jesus looks like, and get sent out to live that in a new way that week.
So Caesar is right, discipleship doesn’t just happen in seats, which is why each week we gather as the church, to be sent out as the church into our communities.
And this is just a reminder that discipleship is a process, a journey, a sending, but most of all a following. So as you live, work, and play this week – remember who you are following and how you are learning to live like him.
I came across a quote a little while ago that has really stuck with me. Richard Rohr says this:
“Theological training without spiritual experience is deadly”.
And I think that is bang on. Whenever our theological knowledge outpaces our practice we have problems. And in general, as has often been said, I think so often our Christian culture is educated beyond their level of obedience. And this is deadly. Whenever we know more than we practice, our knowledge can become sharp and hurtful. Our practice can seem weak and hypocritical.
Now if you know me, I’m not against theological training or knowledge at all. My wife says I have a “reading problem” (which means I have too many books to keep in our house). So I’m not against learning, depth, and training. But learning, depth, and training that doesn’t flow out into practice becomes stagnant, stale, and sometimes toxic.
So all of this is to say one thing: learn more, and practice more. Let your faith grow deeper, and let your practice grow truer. Because people who know lots about Jesus don’t change the world; the world is changed by people who know, and follow Jesus.
It’s a pretty big thing. In fact, if you think about it, all relationships are built on it. It’s something that takes years to build, and moments to lose. It’s something that is the difference from a relationship being healthy, to horrible. It is something we often take for granted, but is the grounding for almost everything.
I’m writing a little bit about trust because I think this is one thing we as Christians need to develop most. We need to develop trust. Let’s just be honest: the culture around us doesn’t trust us as the church. Stats show it. Anecdotal evidence shows it. And I think this is something we know deep down. But here is the beautiful thing: it’s something that can be changed. We can rebuild trust in our families, friendships, and communities. And if I can be so strong – this is something we need to do. We need to invest in rebuilding trust and connections with our culture and our communities.
I was talking with someone about why today “gospel presentations” often don’t seem to work. My answer was a lack of trust and relationship. Formal presentations without the basis of trust and relationship simply don’t carry much impact. It’s not that the gospel doesn’t have weight and impact on its own. The point is that the gospel is inherently relational. So when we share the gospel without relationships, it loses impact because its lost something important: trust.
So all of this is simply to say one thing. Trust matters. It matters if we want to follow Jesus fully. It matters if we want to leave an impact on our communities. It matters if we want to be faithful to the gospel and to Jesus. It matters more than we think.
But that’s the difficulty with trust, it’s so easy to take it for granted. But if we want to see lives changed, it can’t be something we take for granted, it’s something we need to cultivate.
I was reading through some of Hebrews today, and I came across this verse that spoke to me so clearly. I felt like God was reminding me of what my calling is as a leader. I think in many ways this is the essence of leadership. It’s found in Hebrews 12:12-13:
“So take a new grip with your tired hands and stand firm on your shaky legs. Mark out a straight path for your feet. Then those who follow you, though they are weak and lame will not stumble and fall but will become strong”.
The reason that this spoke to me is that so often as a leader, I do have tired hands and shaky legs. Sometimes uncertainty grabs me. Sometimes disbelief haunts me. Sometimes I wonder if I am strong enough to follow the call that God has placed on my life. I don’t often question the call, I question whether I’m able to pursue it.
But that’s why I love these verses. These verses don’t pretend that leadership is easy. These verses don’t pretend that we don’t struggle, worry, doubt, or have tired hands or shaky legs. These verses know that in purusing God and his calling, there will be moments of difficult, doubt, and decision. And the decision that this verse calls for us to have is to take a new grip, to stand firm even on shaky legs.
This verse reminds me that God is with me, like he is with you, so take a new grip. Don’t give up. Stand up on those shaky legs, get up again, move forward again, trust again, and don’t give up. And that as we refuse to give up, as we take a new grip (even though our hands are tired) as we stand firm (even though our legs are weak) and move forward we will help others find strength and follow God.
I guess what this verse really reminds me of is this: being a leader doesn’t mean your hands don’t get tired. Being a leader means you don’t give up, and you find a new grip with tired hands. Being a leader means sometimes God needs to remind you, that regardless of whether your hands are tired and legs are shaky, there is a calling still to pursue. And it’s worth pursuing.
So take a new grip today, a new stance today, and let others find strength as you follow.
Here is a quote that really got me thinking today:
The Christian life is not about us; it is about God. Christian spirituality is not a life-project for becoming a better person, it is not about developing a so-called deeper life. We are in on it to be sure. But we are not the subject. Nor are we the action…The great weakness of North American spirituality is that it is all about us: fulfilling our potential, getting in on the blessings of God, expanding our influence, finding our gift, getting a handle on principles by which we can get an edge over the competition. And the more there is of us, the less there is of God. – Eugene Peterson
What do you think about it? Do you think its true? How have you maybe fallen into the trap of religion being about you?