The Book that Almost Wasn’t: Devils, Distance, and Drawing Close ~ James 4

hand-of-god-1383050-1280x960On Sunday we looked at another pretty challenging teaching of James, but also one filled with hope and promise.

James writes this, ““So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you”. (James 4:7-8)

James is sharing that the heart you respond to God with, is how he will respond to you. That if you are open to God, seeking God, humbling yourself to God – he will draw you close. But if you are pushing him away, fighting him, and rejecting him – God honours our freedom but still seeks to care and have compassion for us.

So James reminds us to check our hearts, to see if they are pushing God away, or opening up to him. 

James also reminds us that if we resist the devil he will flee from us. And as I’ve said before, even if you don’t believe in the devil, you’ve experienced him. In the Bible the devil is the source of accusation, fear, and someone who actively seeks to separate ourselves from God. The truth is we have all felt accusation, and fear which separates us from God.

James wants to remind us that this doesn’t need to be so. That if we just were to resist the accusation, the guilt, the fear, the separation, the devil would flee and we would move closer to God. That if we would but draw close to God, he will draw close to us and the devil must flee as we move closer to God.

We ended up with a pretty clear main idea, that we need to repent and rely on God. 

God promises to be there with us, to push away the devil, accusation, guilt, and fear but we need to repent and rely on him. As long as we are going our own way, as long as we assert our independence, as long as we pretend we don’t need him – he can’t help us. He can’t help us when we are resisting and pushing him away.

So on Sunday to make this real, we did something I don’t often do. We did an altar call. We invited people to simply come forward who wanted to physically say to God ~ I need you in some area. And that was it.

But sometimes we need to do something tangible to connect with God. And the truth is we are all broken and need God, so we can all use with doing something tangible. 

So if you are in the place where you need God today – do something tangible. Maybe kneel, maybe write out your needs, maybe ask someone to pray. But do something, because God’s promise is that if you move closer to him, he’ll move closer to you.

 

 

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: We need to repent and rely on God.

Teaching Points:

  • “God gives what he demands” – Augustine
  • God will respond with the heart you have for him.
  • One of the primary roles of Satan is to separate God and people.
  • Draw close to God and he will draw close to you.
  • How often do we try to go it alone and hide our flaws?
  • We live with a lack of light, because we refuse to rely on him.
  • We need to repent and rely on God.

Adult Discussion Questions:

“The reason we struggle isn’t because we can’t overcome our failures, but because we are too proud to ask God to move.”  What do you think of this statement? Have you experienced the truth of these promises: that God WILL come near as we come to Him in true humility, and that Satan WILL flee from us as we resist him? What do you need to repent of? Confess? Get clean from? Admit? (Remember, this is how James says we come closer to God – it is crucial in our relationship with Him) About what things are you too proud to admit the truth? (Our pretending prevents God from working) How can you practically turn from these things and rely on God, beginning today?

 

Discussion Questions for Young Families

Have you ever needed help with something, but you didn’t want to admit that you couldn’t do it alone? How can we come to God today, letting Him be the one that helps us through our weaknesses and failures?

Challenge for the Week: To repent and rely on God…today.

3 (Marks): Three Circles

Untitled

On Sunday we kicked off a brand new series looking at the three marks of a Christian. We began by discussing what the “marks” of a follower of Jesus are. And we began with a really simple, but difficult question: what is a disciple of Jesus?

At first glance that question seems simple doesn’t it? A disciple of Jesus is someone who follows Jesus. But what does that mean? What does that look like?

I think these questions really matter because if you only have a vague idea of what God is asking of you, chances are you won’t be getting where God wants you to be.

So we began to define what a disciple and the three marks of a Christ-follower by looking at two passages: Matthew 22:36-40 and Matthew 28:18-19.

And in the first passage we got the first clear glimpse into what a follower of Jesus looks like. It looks like someone who loves God. But loving God isn’t enough, because you can love God and still miss out on living like God. People who loved God caused the crusades, inquisitions, and still today spew hate. The idea of “loving God” needs definition or all sorts and manners of hate can be spewed in defense of God.

This is why Jesus then utters a second command he says is just as important as the first. We need to love others. Loving God, necessitates loving our neighbors. Jesus gives definition for what loving God looks like, and it looks like someone who loves their neighbour.

So the first two marks of a follower of Jesus are loving God, and loving their neighbour. But those two aren’t enough, there is a third mark. Because you can end up loving God and loving others but not having a forward momentum, you can end up isolated, rather than transforming the world. We need to also hear not only the great commandment but also the great commission.

Jesus says in Matthew 28:18-19 that we need to go out and make disciples. We need to spread his love and light among the world. We need to go out and bless the nations and bless our neighbours. Part of the Christian calling isn’t just to love God, and love our neighbours, but to also actively love the world around us.

And we need to do all three: loving God, loving others, and loving the world. Because if we aren’t doing any of the these three marks of a Jesus-follower our lives will not be fully formed.

So that’s where we went on Sunday explaining the three circles of love and how every Christian needs to do all three. Now as we move forward we’ll unpack each of those circles and for how, if you focus on journeying, connecting, and serving, you’re life with Jesus and those around you can be changed. Which is what following Jesus is all about – being changed by him, and changing lives with him.

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: Jesus followers should love God, love others, and love the world.

Teaching Points:

  • A mark is:
    • 1) An obvious object or article that serves as a guide to travellers
    • 2) An impression or a distinguishing trait or characteristic
  • Vague impressions of direction get you no where.
  • What is a disciple?
  • Loving God needs definition.
  • Loving God and Loving others are part of what following Jesus means.
  • Loving the world propels us out into the world.

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? What circle do you most resonate with (Loving God, Others, or the World)? Which circle do you most struggle with? How do you think you might grow deeper with your struggling circle?

Discussion Questions for Young Families

Take a look at your family and think through which circles you are good at, and which ones you need to grow in. Ask your kids then for ideas for how to grow in the difficult circles and put them into practice.

Challenge for the Week: Make a decision to grow in all three circles

Mirrors, Kids, and How They Pick Up Your Habits ~ Good and Bad

1376728_89968538Krista and I have started working out for the past couple of weeks in the mornings. My guess is that by the time you read this, we might be done though. Who knows how long we’ll keep it up.

The point though of this post isn’t on working out, or anything like that. It’s actually on habits, kids, and faith.

What I’ve noticed is that as we work out each morning, Hudson will often come quietly downstairs and do the exercises with us. He now talks about exercising, the importance of being healthy, and wanting to exercise. He now tries to do sit ups, in which his legs seem to go everywhere and is really funny.

The reason I mention all this is because we have never once talked to Hudson about working out, encouraged him to work out, or even shown him how to work out. Hudson has picked up all of this, just through watching and following.

The reason this stuck out to me is this: what else is he picking up from us without us realizing it? Is he picking up bad habits from us when we’re grumpy? Is he picking up good habits about being caring and friendly? And most importantly – is our faith so active and regular in our lives that he is picking that up too? That’s the real question that I’ve been thinking about.

Is our practice of following Jesus so explicit, regular, and everyday that our kids are picking it up naturally? Are they developing the habits and practices of faith because we are practicing them, just like Hudson is picking up exercising without any explicit mention of it?

I think that if you are a parent, grandparent, or have friends who are parents this is an important question. Do you/we have regular habits that demonstrate the importance of faith to our lives? Are we praying at meals – because it forms habits? Are we praying at bed-time and being grateful to God? Do our kids or grandkids ever catch us reading the Bible? Do we make a habit of church?

The point I want us to think through is this: if someone were watching our lives, would they start to pick up natural and good habits about following Jesus? Because what I am learning more everyday is that little people are always watching, and following our lead. So it is important to make sure we are leading them in the right direction.