Responding to the Promises of Jesus (Week 5)

2020: A Year of Celebration!

The Promises of Victory!

Key Verses:  2 Peter 1:1-11 & Romans 8:26-39

 

Happy 4th of July Weekend!

 

How are we invited to respond to Jesus’ promises of victory?

 

I ended last week with one of Jesus’ most famous promises from John 16:33,
“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”

 

That sounds a whole lot like my understanding of “victory”! Jesus has overcome the world. Peace!

 

So, let me get this straight: We will have tribulation (pressures, stress, suffering, hardship, pain, disappointment) living in this fallen world, but we can take courage because Jesus has won the victory—He has overcome! Therefore, we can be at peace, even when we are going through hardships…

 

Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4:7-11,

 

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

 

DON’T BE SURPRISED BY TROUBLE! Jesus doesn’t want you to be surprised that there is trouble in this world and being a Christian doesn’t change that reality. There are only three types of people in the word:

  1. Those in trouble.
  2. Those just coming out of trouble.
  3. Those about to go into trouble.

 

It’s important to know this or you can lose the battle by giving yourself over to your troubles through disbelief and doubts, discouragement and disappointment, or despair and depression. When we give ourselves over to our troubles, then defeat is knocking on the door of our hearts!

 

We need to remember Jesus’ promise so that we don’t let one of these diabolical D’s lodge in our hearts!

 

Jesus told us this ahead of time so we wouldn’t be surprised. Jesus say in John 14:29-30, “Now I have told you before it happens, so that when it happens, you may believe. I will not speak much more with you, for the ruler of the world is coming, and he has nothing in Me”

 

Jesus was not surprised by the trouble of His life, nor should we! In fact, it was in how Jesus faced His troubles that we can find the promise of victory coming alive in your life.

 

That leads us to the second point I want to highlight: TAKE COURAGE!

 

Courage is not an absence of fear in a person’s life; it is the willingness to act in the face of it! We can take courage as we face tribulations and trials of all sorts because we are more than conquerors in Christ Jesus!

 

Listen to Paul teach us this in Romans 8:26-39:

 

In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, “For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

We can take courage because the God of victory is with us and nothing can separate us from His power in our lives: GOD IS WITH YOU!

 

This truth is a game changer! It’s like me getting in a fist fight with Mike Tyson. There is no fight; I’m just knocked out. With God on your side, there is nothing that can prevail against you.

 

In John 14:27, Jesus promises,
“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”

 

The peace Jesus is promising is His presence! God told Moses in Exodus 33:14,
“My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.”
 
This is the promise of shalom—the Hebrew word that is the promise of God’s fullness dwelling in us. God’s presence is our peace!

 

This is what Paul was talking about in Philippians 4:6-9:

 

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

 

Living a victorious life is about living in agreement with the Victory of Jesus Christ! It does not mean that we will get all that we want, nor does it mean life will be easy. It means we will have God with us—PEACE! And  His peace changes everything—us, how we handle our situations, and what we give to other people.

 

That leads us to our application: PASS THE PEACE! Paul says we are to put these things into practice. Be a witness of God’s victory by how you handle your situations—what are you passing on to others?

 

In 2 Peter 1:1-11, Peter teaches us that we can never forget everything Jesus has done for us and what He has given us through faith:

 

Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.

 

Peter says the same things as Paul: practice these things! A victorious life is a life that passes the peace of God to other people.

 

A quick review:

  • Don’t be surprised by trouble.
  • Take courage.
  • God is with you.
  • Pass the Peace!

 

The problem with suffering and going through times of pain is that times and situations like that cause us to get so caught up in our own troubles, in the moment, that we quickly forget to do what we know to do and we end up reacting. That is why I talk to you about these things ahead of time. So that you can think about it and develop a strategy so that you don’t get surprised by trouble and let the situation grip your heart. You can take courage, remember that God is with you and put the promise of God in practice.

 

This applies to every situation and circumstance. Practice these things…

 

Start by memorizing a promise of God. Be mindful of the promise as you go out to the store or about your day. Be aware of how it impacts your day.

 
 
 

You can listen to the message here.

 

This Message Video will be ready by next week. You can watch the entire service HERE.

 
 

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Responding to the Promises of Jesus (Week 4)

2020: A Year of Celebration!

The Promises of Eternity!

Key Verses: 2 Peter 3:3-18

 

 

Peter speaks to the church in in his second letter, chapter 3, verses 3-18 (2 Peter 3:13-18):

 

Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. You, therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

 

We live with an unshakable and unquenchable hope because of Jesus’ promises of eternity! This hope is not only for our own souls, but for all of creation. It is a dual hope so that we do not despair; we can join with all of creation in worship to the Creator God.

 

Paul speaks of this dual hope (for us and for creation) in Romans 8:18-25:

 

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.

 

 

Here are three ways you can respond to Jesus’ promises for eternity and persevere in this life:

 

1. FOCUS on the Giver of Hope — Jesus Christ!

 

Hebrews 12:2-3 teaches us that this is the example of Jesus Christ at the Cross, as the author commands us to
 
“fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

 

With the hope of eternity, you can face your daily life with joy. Joy is an essential ingredient in the Christian life. Without it, you are left without strength to face your circumstances!

 

Joy, like hope, comes from resting in the promises of Jesus. Listen for Jesus’ words in Revelation 21:1-8,

 

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. “He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. “But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” [emphasis added]

 

2. FOLLOW Jesus in how we face our circumstance — with an eternal perspective!

 

John 18, the chapter which shares the story of Jesus’ crucifixion from His best friend’s memories, confronts us with the weaknesses of humanity, the corruption of religion and government, and the fickleness of public opinion. This is a story about betrayal amongst the closest of friends, the lust for power, the greed for influence, the abuse of authority, and the weakness of human leadership.

 

Jesus’ crucifixion forever mocks our efforts to find hope in this world or in people. In other words, it is a story relevant for this day and age, right here in our country, our communities, our churches, our homes, and in our own hearts.

 

We are to follow Jesus’ example! Jesus did not despair and give up because He knew the first point of this sermon: He modeled what it looked like to keep your eyes focused on the Giver of Hope.

 

Jesus then made decisions on how to face His greatest trial and temptation with an eternal perspective. The hope the Father poured into Him gave Him the courage to do what needed to be done in the face of overwhelming evidence to despair. John 18:11 records Jesus saying to Peter, who was currently reacting out of the stress of the moment rather than an eternal perspective,
 
“Put your sword away into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”

 

Jesus was saying to Peter: Stop panicking! Can’t you see that My Father has got this? Remain faithful to Me and the Way! There is always hope!

 

Listen to Jesus’ eternal perspective as He stood before the man who had the power to send Him to the Cross. From John 18:36-37,
 
“My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest… But now my kingdom is from another place… for this reason I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to Me.”

 

Keep an eternal perspective because our circumstances never tell the whole story. Rarely is everything as it should be. You can get lost in that reality and live your life paralyzed with fear, doubt, and insecurity. The world is not YET as it should be, SURPRISE!

 

That is why our hope comes from looking to the Source of all hope and living with an eternal perspective! It is a fruitless and frustrating life to look for hope in anything/one less than Jesus.

 

3. DON’T LET YOUR HEART BE TROUBLED — Believe!

 

Jesus taught us this in John 14:1-6:

 

“Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way where I am going.” Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”

 

Do not let your heart be troubled! Don’t quit! Persevere until the end! If you fall, get back up! IT’S A CHOICE!

 

Do you know what is the most useless sport statistic? It’s the score before the game is over!

 

When I was a cadet at West Point, I went to every home football game. When we were crushing the other team and they would score, we loved to arrogantly chant, “SCOREBOARD!” It was our way of saying you may have won that battle, but we are going to win the war. The worst was when a team came back to beat us in the end.

 

The world loves to arrogantly chant “SCOREBOARD!” at us, but I am here to tell you that far worse than any embarrassment we experienced in a football game, the world is going to face a harsh reality on that Day of the Lord’s return.

 

It’s not over until the trumpet blasts, just as Paul teaches us in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18,

 

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.

 

The scoreboard does not look like it’s in our favor right now and the enemy of your soul, as well as many people of the world, are chanting “SCOREBOARD”, but don’t you dare lose heart! IT’S A CHOICE!

 

God promises us that we are going to have the greatest, most unbelievable come back in the history of all sports—it’s going to look and feel like you are about to be defeated and all will be lost, but don’t lose heart!

 

Jesus has already won that Victory!

 

I close with the words of Jesus from John 16:33,
 
“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
 
IT’S A PROMISE!

 

 
 
 

You can listen to the message here:

You can watch the HERE.

 
 

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Responding to the Promises of Jesus (Week 3)

The Promise of Rest in Jesus

Matthew 11:25-30

 

We all look forward to vacations. In fact, we find ourselves working extra hard to get things done before we leave so that we can rest while we are away. But have you ever come back from a vacation needing a vacation because of all the activities that you packed in to those precious few days…the driving to the destination…going to the theme park…even visiting family or old friends. Did you really find rest?
The problem is, we look at rest as the escape from or reward for all of our hard work. That is what the world has been telling us our whole lives. But things are different in God’s kingdom. He wants us to find rest in Him from all the things around us, because in doing so, we find ourselves being truly rested and prepared for what He wants us to do.
 

“My Father has entrusted everything to me. No one truly knows the Son except the Father, and no one truly knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
 
Matthew 11:27-30

 

The preceding verses are a prayerful conversation between Jesus and His Father, thanking Him for what He has done and for what He was going to do in and thru His Son. Then Jesus turns this prayerful conversation to and for his disciples in order for them to hear and know His heart. Verse 27 is a declaration for them to realize that HE is the way to the Father. In verses 28-30, Jesus gives us the way to find the promise of rest in Him.
 
  1. Come to Me
  2. Take and Learn
  3. Find Rest
 

1. Come to Me

 

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”   

Matthew 11:28

 

A little English class lesson…this is an imperative statement sentence. “Come to me” has the understood subject being “YOU”. But to make this even more clear, Jesus goes on to say “all of you…” or “all y’all”.

 

Then, in case you were still wondering to whom He was talking to, He says, “who are weary and carry heavy burdens.” I am not asking for a show of hands, but if asked, could you honestly say you are NOT tired/weary and/or carrying some type of burden?  I couldn’t raise my hand. I know that I am to cast all my cares, for He cares for me (I Peter 5:7) But I am human, and tend to pick them back up thinking I can take care of them. But this only causes unrest in my soul. When someone offers to help us, why do we usually respond, “Oh, I got this” when in reality, we don’t. Jesus is telling us that HE wants to help us to not only carry the burden, but to truly find rest in Him!

 

If you will recall, when I did the 10 am phone call a week ago, I told you that Jesus used this type of invitation 23 times in the Synoptic Gospels. For us to come, we have to change directions, change our plan, surrendering to what Jesus wants us to do. And He promises to give us something that we cannot find anywhere else…true rest.

 

Last week, we sang the song “Lavished”, which is taken from the 23rd Psalm:  “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.” The part that always hits me is “makes me lie down…” Sheep can sometimes be stubborn, and the shepherd would have to make them stop, lay down and rest. One of my boys was like that…he fought going to sleep even though he was sooooo tired, because he was afraid of missing something. I remember laying him in his crib, standing over him, and patting his backside, sometimes making him lay down. He would finally surrender and go to sleep, finding the rest that he needed.

Matt Chandler, from one of our RightNowMedia devotionals, pointed out that in the desert region of the Middle East, there are only two rainy seasons, so there are not a lot of these green pastures with still waters. The shepherds would take their sheep there during the day, having the sheep take rest in this peaceful lush place, with the focus of being still and finding true rest. He goes on to say that as Christ as our Shepherd, we trust Him as He leads us, because in this place, we are restored, reanimated, refreshed.

So, the first thing I thought of was TRUST is true rest in Jesus, our Good Shepherd. 
 
 

2. Take and Learn

 

Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart,…”        

Matthew 11:29a          

 

Again, the imperative statement, with the “You” being understood is made.  It requires action on our behalf. We have the opportunity to receive the vast wisdom of our Lord and Master. We need to take advantage of this invitation! And only you can make that decision for your life.

Last week, Jerry shared from John 15:1-5 where Jesus says that God is the vinedresser or husbandman.  Dr. Earl Radmacher is quoted “So, when Jesus calls His Father the Vinedresser (Husbandman), He is describing Him in terms of His relationship and attitude as well as His actions in the lives of His disciples”.

We all know that in any relationship, there is give and take, but we tend to only take if we know the person’s heart and intent. This is why we need to be in a real true relationship with God, to know His heart and intent for us is always what is best.

The husbandman is defined as “a farmer or worker of soil” and husbandry is an agricultural term related to the production of crops or livestock. And to husband is to manage something well, showing prudence and economic sense. I can just picture Jesus, teaching and talking with His disciples, as they pass a farmer (husbandman) out working in the field. He is working a new team of oxen, trying to get them to work together, the bigger one being stubborn and not cooperating. “Take my yoke upon you…”

 

Or, a vinedresser working in the vineyard, knowing that it is months before he will see a harvest, still out there pruning off the fruitless vines and training the vines, putting in supports or tying them to the trellis.  He was saying to his disciples that they need to be taught on what they really need to focus on, learn from Him, abide in Him every day, and then go in the rest that you have Him with you every step of the way. The husbandman didn’t just wake up and know what all he had to do…Ask Ed Bell, he can tell you a lot of stories of what he has learned as a modern day husbandman/farmer. But he will also tell you that he sought out and learned from the best in the business. The world tells us to be the best, we have to learn from the best. Well guess what…we already have access to the very BEST…Jesus!!! He has an open invitation to learn from Him. And His ways are not like the world’s ways, but you can rest in His success when you fully follow after Him.

 

3. Find Rest

 

and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”                

Matthew 11:29b-30

  

Rest is more than sleep! I recently had a sleep test done, and it showed that I was not truly resting like I should. My dad and mom recommended that I start taking Melatonin, a natural vitamin that helps your brain to shut down and allow you to sleep. I have been finding this to truly help. But what has been helping the most is that before I close my eyes to go to sleep, I close my eyes in prayer and give all the cares and burdens of the day to the Lord…

“Be still and know that I AM God!”     

Psalm 46:10

and

“Put your hope in the Lord.” This is a good practice for my nighttime routine, but I also need to practice these during the day. 

Psalm 37:34

 

It is important to realize that we don’t work for the rest, but rather, what we do comes out of our rest. We rest at the feet of Jesus, learning from Him, and then go out sharing the message of grace, hope, love and peace. By resting in Him, our faith is made stronger. True rest is an intermission, or a cessation of motion, something that fidgety people like me struggle with doing. But in those moments, our hearts, minds and souls come into focus, allowing us to love God with all that we have and for Him to fill us with more of His love for others. Therefore, it is out of this rest that we are able to fulfill His calling for our lives…not as a task, but as a mission of love!

This is something that can only come through your daily surrender and relationship with Jesus. You can’t just do a Google search and find the answers. This is why Jesus said to “Come to Me”, to “Take and Learn” and then you will “Find Rest” for your soul in your daily life. This is how His promise of rest can be fulfilled.
 
I challenge you today to make a fresh commitment to the calling of being a disciple of Christ. Keep coming to Jesus! Keep taking time to learn from Him! And find rest, not only from the cares of this world, but also any that you may have acquired from some of the religious world. For when you are in relationship with Him, you will realize it’s not about religion, but who you are in Him…a child of God!
 

You can listen to the message here:

 

You can watch the video for this message HERE.

 
 

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Responding to the Promises of Jesus (Week 2)

 

The Promise of Discipleship!

(Mark 1:17)

Written and delivered by Pastor Jerry Ingalls to the First Baptist Church of New Castle, Indiana.

 

Jesus’ call to follow Him is simple and straightforward. It is not a job description or a heavy burden, it is an invitation to a relationship with God through Jesus’ relationship with His Father, sealed through the indwelling presence and power of the Holy Spirit. Eternal Life, salvation, is our participation in the trinitarian fellowship of God!  

 

Jesus invited His first followers in Mark 1:17, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” This was Jesus’ invitation to come to Him and learn how to be in relationship.

 

I believe the promise of following Jesus is the primary place that churches, as organizations and as people, need to return to a biblical understanding of what it means to respond to the promises of Jesus. Jesus doesn’t say, “follow Me and get to work.” Jesus says, “follow Me and I will transform your story through relationship!”

 

There are key conceptual metaphors (images), Jesus uses to illustrate this point. One of those images is the John 15 teaching of the vine and branch. Listen to John 15:1-5,

 

I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.

 

The branch doesn’t think about getting to work at producing fruit, it remains united with the Vine. The branch only gets stronger and healthier because of union with the Vine. If the branch tries to get busy producing fruit on its own, then the branch bends and threatens to snap under the heavy burden of carrying that which it was not ready for. Fruit comes in its own time! The branch is pruned through the Father’s love—fruit only comes from the trinitarian work of God!

 

Churches all over America are bending and threatening to snap under the pressure. Many pastors and missionaries, elders and church leaders, and quality volunteers already have snapped under the unrelenting pressure to lead an organization in the global mission of Jesus Christ. Primarily because the mission can only be accomplished by a people who are in union with Christ. No amount of organizational genius or leadership charisma can make up for the essential ingredient the church needs to be successful to its mission: transformed people who are first faithful to following Jesus Christ and bearing fruit through the pruning of the Father and indwelling presence and power of the Holy Spirit!

 

For the decades I have been involved with the church, it has felt like we had a job description and we have worked hard to get busy “being on mission.” Even doing it, regardless of our connection to the Vine, the health of our own souls, the vitality of our own relationship with Jesus. We prodded one another to bear fruit instead of encouraging one another to abide in the Vine. In the name of Mission, many a church has become a dried out branch. It’s producing something, but is it producing anything that will stand the test of fire? Only God knows!

 

One of our church leaders shared this with me, “A tree in the vacant lot next door was still producing leaves on all its major branches, but a large storm came along and toppled the tree to within a few feet of our house. The inside was actually nearly hollow. But you never would have known by looking at the outside. This can often be said of the church. External health does not always reflect internal (heart) health.”

 

I have personally seen the damage a burned out missionary does in the foreign mission field and I have personally been the burnt out pastor in the American church. Today, I am here to tell you that there is a better way—the new way of the Spirit. This new way was ushered in with Jesus Christ nearly 2,000 years ago.

 

Hear the connection to Jesus’ fruit imagery, as Paul teaches us the new way in Romans 7:4-6,

 

Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.

 

Larry Crabb explains of the old way of the letter as opposed to the new way of the Spirit,

 

Perhaps, like me, you’ve been working hard to figure life out, to get it right so things go well. The Bible calls that approach the old way of the written code. No matter how dressed up in Christian language, the old way will not form you spiritually. It leads to inward emptiness, churning, unbearable pressure.[1]

 

Crabb is describing the life of freedom through Jesus Christ’s invitation into the new way of the Spirit, the life of grace in His easy yoke. Paul elaborates in Romans 8:15-17, the new way of the Spirit is animated by the Trinitarian fellowship of God,

 

For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.

 

The work of the Holy Spirit is not only to draw us into a relationship with God, but to then transform us into the Image of Christ. The most important thing I can ask you to do is to submit yourself to the work of the Trinitarian God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—so that you will reflect the Image of the One who saved you.

 

God desires for you to reflect Him through your love, care, and stewardship of His Creation.

 

The church are those who are called to be in relationship with Jesus; to abide in the Vine or as another conceptual metaphor (image) of this relationship says, to rest in His easy yoke.

 

Jesus is the One who builds His Church and Jesus is the One who produces fruit on our branches because His Father sends the Holy Spirit flowing through the Vine into us.  

 

It is the Holy Spirit who fulfills the promise of Jesus, “I will make you become,” in the Mark 1:17 call of discipleship: “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” Jesus coupled his invitations to discipleship with a promise, and that promise with the new way of the Spirit, as Paul explained in Romans.

 

The promise is fulfilled in a disciple as the follower submits the entirety of his/her life to the yoke of Jesus and learns from Him. The same original Koine Greek Word for “Follow Me” is used in Jesus’ invitation of Mark 1:17 is also used  for “Come to Me” in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

 

The call to Christian discipleship is a call to follow Jesus, to come to Him and in Him to be transformed. Paul says in Romans 8:29, “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren.”

 

God’s will for your life is to be transformed to the point that you look like Jesus, from the inside out, to be “conformed to the image of His Son.” God’s will for your life is that you will be His representative, His ambassador on the earth; His faithful steward of all that He entrusts to you.[2]

 

All of that is grounded in the concept of you being made by God as an Image Bearer from Genesis 1:27. In following Jesus, you are on the journey of being restored back to your original intent—as a redeemed and restored Image Bearer—to becoming the best version of who God designed you to be!  

 

This happens in the yoke! This happens abiding in the Vine! This happens when you follow Jesus! It is the work of the Holy Spirit to conform us into the image of Christ so that we can carry on His work—to become fishers of people—to reflect God’s love and grace to all. As another leader shared, “We are fishing for people to rescue them from darkness and captivity, and to reconcile and restore them back into the family.”

 

This journey is what happens when you follow Jesus. Paul explained in Romans 12:1-2:

 

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

 

The Koine Greek word translated “transformed” is metamorphoō. This is where we get the English word metamorphosis. Ruth Haley Barton describes this process of metamorphosis as “the process by which a caterpillar enters into the darkness of the cocoon in order to emerge, eventually, changed almost beyond recognition.”[3] This is the work of forming us in the image of Christ through the Word and Spirit, through His Truth and grace.

 

Jesus made it very clear that this was an impossibility apart from God, as He said in John 14:26, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” Jesus’ call to Christian discipleship is an invitation into union with Himself, sealed by the Holy Spirit (ref. to Ephesians 1:13-14). The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is what fulfills the promises of Christian discipleship in our lives. This is the work of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!

 

The call upon every disciple is to follow Jesus, to come to Him, and it is the promise of Jesus Christ to experience rest for their soul, the life of faith, walking in the Spirit, the abundant life, all with a new life purpose. In all of these promises, the fulfillment is found in and through a mature Christian life. In Ephesians 4:13, Paul defined this maturity with one standard for all believers: “until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.”

 

We are called to become like Jesus, to be in union with Christ, each day of our lives, until the day God perfects us in His presence (Philippians 1:6; 2:13). This process of transformation, promised by Jesus and explained by Paul, happens in the yoke as the disciples learn from Jesus how to be like Him. It only happens when we abide in the Vine. In other words, it only happens when we wholeheartedly commit ourselves to a relationship with Jesus.

 

While the results of the transformation are the work of God alone, there are practical lifestyle choices that a disciple must make to imitate Jesus Christ and, then, become like Him.

 

Because it is in the yoke of Jesus Christ that one becomes mature—submissive to the Father’s calling and empowered not by the flesh, but by the Holy Spirit. Paul used the word τέλειος, translated “complete”, to describe the aim of all church ministry in Colossians 1:28-29,

 

We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ [italics added]. For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.

 

Again referencing Ephesians 4:11-13, the reason God gives the church spiritual leaders is to bring about mature (same Koine Greek word τέλειος) followers of Jesus:

 

And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ [italics added].

 

Though no person will perfectly reflect Jesus Christ to the world, in this life, God invites us to remain/abide in our relationship with Him until the end; not getting busy on a job description, but in living an intimate life of union with Jesus. This is our response to the promise of Jesus for Christian discipleship: to focus on our relationship with God, not get busy for God.

 

Every disciple who continues to follow Jesus Christ can be confident of this completed work as Paul promises, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

 

This is the life of faith, hope, and love that proclaims the gospel—your transformed story will bring thriving to our communities to the glory of God. This is revival! It’s a promise!

 

How will you respond?
 

Listen to the Message:

 

Or you can watch the message HERE.

 
 
 

FOOTNOTES:

 

[1] Larry Crabb, The Pressure’s Off: Breaking Free from Rules and Performance (Colorado Springs, CO: Waterbrook Press, 2012), 1.

[2] One of our church leaders commented, “I have always been struck by the language used in Ephesians 6:19-20. Paul, who of course was in prison when he wrote this Epistle, says he is ‘an ambassador in chains’ for the Gospel. It’s a very striking visual for me, (especially having touched the post Paul was tied to in the Bema in Corinth) because while we have freedom in Christ, there are also many things that chain us, some out of our control and some of our own making. Politics, family dynamics, workplace protocols, financial limitations all can make our work as ambassadors feel ‘heavy.’ Yet another burden Christ invites us to let go of in the yoke.”

[3] Ruth Haley Barton, Sacred Rhythms, 12. One of our church leaders added, “A caterpillar does not ‘strain’ or ‘work hard’ to become a butterfly. It is transformed by a process working inside it. it will naturally become a butterfly if it continues to do what caterpillars are designed to do.”

 
 

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Responding to the Promises of Jesus (Week 1)

The Promise of the Holy Spirit!

Key Verses: Romans 8:28-30; John 16:13-15; Galatians 3:1-3; Romans 15:13

 

God has given us every opportunity to respond to His promises. God makes a way for us to experience His promises by giving us a choice of how we live our lives. Or in my personal short-hand: every promise comes with a praxis (practice of life).

 

Let’s learn together by looking at Romans 8:28-30 twice. The first time to learn the promises and the second time to hear the invitations to practice them. I want to teach you this because most of us were taught to do the first and not the second. The Apostle Paul wrote,

 

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

 

There are many promises of God found in this passage. (You may find more because I’m not trying to be exhaustive in this teaching.) Here are seven promises:

  1. God works good out of evil.
  2. God knows His own (“predestined”).
  3. God responds to those who love Him.
  4. God calls people to accomplish His plans (2x).
  5. God justified us.
  6. God established His priority for His children—to become conformed to Jesus! We call this Christlikeness and it is internal transformation that leads to visible fruitfulness.
  7. God glorified us. [side note: check out Ephesians 2:1-10]

 

So rich! I could easily spend a year or more teaching you about God from each of these, there is significant depth of biblical and theological thought around these amazing promises, found in 3 verses. But this not a series to give you more head knowledge about the promises, though many of you will learn a lot. I want everyone who believes the promises of God, to walk in the promises of God as a way of life (a praxis). For your stated faith to lead your everyday life!  

This sermon series is intentionally called, “Responding to the Promises of Jesus!” Over the next 7 sermons, I will be teaching you how to work thee promises of God from your head as doctrine to your heart as attitudes and then into your everyday life as behaviors.

 

Yes, you heard me right: to work the promises! We are not saved by works, it’s all grace. But don’t be misled in a cliché view of grace, because while grace is opposed to us earning favor with God, grace is not opposed to us exerting effort in a real relationship with God. And every relationship takes both sides investing time and energy to get to know the other person.

 

This series is designed to teach you how to live in an intentional rhythm of life that forms you in Christ, from the inside out. My prayer is that the Holy Spirit will help you develop a lifestyle of personal practices to strengthen your living faith. For you to live a grace-paced life!

 

My ultimate goal is two-fold: (1) to those of you who already believe, for you to have a living faith and to persevere in the promises of God, no matter your circumstances; and (2) to demonstrate to those who do not yet believe, that Christianity is true to its every promise, that Jesus is the Son of the Living God who has invited you to find rest and peace and love and hope and eternal life in Him alone. Jesus keeps His promises so I plead with you to give Jesus your heart for He alone is worthy of your most sacred possession—your very life, now and forever.

 

Let’s get into today’s specific learning objective: we are invited to seek first God in our lives by making His promises our priorities! [say that again] We can only fulfill God’s plan for our lives when our heart’s priority is God’s priority for us. As already stated from Romans 8:29, God’s priority for us is Christlikeness from the inside out! Transformation into a new creation!

 

In other words, we are to choose to live according to His promises and that ultimately, is what it means to “claim the promises of God.” It’s not lip service. It’s a complete revolution for rightful authority of your soul.

 

We are to live our lives not with a head-faith alone for head knowledge does not demonstrate maturity in Christ. That is a mistake many pastors and churches has made; the assumption that a seminary degree qualifies a person to lead the church has led them and many churches to great heartbreak. Maturity in Christ is when your whole-life embraces the promises of God. It is resting in the easy yoke of Jesus because He alone sets your pace and direction.

 

Let’s listen to Romans 8:28-30 for the second time, but this time, instead of hearing the promises of God as doctrines to believe and debate, let’s look at the promises of God as invitations to make lifestyle choices that build our lives on the promises of God. Listen to Paul’s words again:

 

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

 

Here are seven ways we must choose to walk in the promises of God:

  1.  I have to choose to believe that God can work good out of evil days and painful circumstances. I must daily form a new way of looking at the world and learn how to trust God even in the darkest of times. To hand on to faith and trust Him.
  2.  I must remember that God knows me and wants a real relationship with me. I don’t need to hide from God when I make mistakes. God knows me through and through and loves me anyways.
  3.  I make the choice every day to build my life and identity on the truth that God loves me. There is nothing more important about me than the way I think about God in my most private thoughts. This shapes my response to people and situations and determines if I live in peace.
  4.  I have a life purpose that has been established by God. I build my life on these priorities so that I can have integrity in all my decision making. I am a part of God’s rescue mission to reflect my God and His glory through the way I love, care, and steward His creation.
  5.  I choose to rest in Jesus’ finished work on the Cross, and not strain for acceptance in my anxious works. I am saved by grace and there is nothing I can do to cause God to love me more or love me less. I don’t have to perform for you and you don’t have to perform for me.
  6.  God is conforming me to the image of His Son so I choose to partner with this promise by spending time with Jesus every day to think and act like him until all day every day is experienced in His presence. I make time for to be still and know that He is God. I make time to read me Bible, pray my prayers and listen for His voice. I listen to worship music throughout the day to keep my heart centered on Him. I make time for spiritual friendships that keep me accountable and graceful in how I think about and treat others. I practice loving my wife as Christ loved the church and we invest time in teaching our children about Jesus.
  7.  My life is secure in God’s eternal glory so I can live for God’s glory alone. God has already made me His ambassador by giving me His glory, so I choose today to learn an eternal perspective on situations and people. I represent Him and His sovereign rule, not me and my self-interest. I don’t stand up here to tell you what I think, but to communicate His Word.

 

Allow me now to finish today’s teaching, by focusing on how all this is possible, because we are not humanists, we are Christians with a biblical worldview! My job is not to motivate you to go out there and get it done now that you know the truth. That would either we be religious legalism which is the “heavy-burden” of the Pharisees or it would be motivational speaking using cognitive-behavioral therapeutic techniques. Neither are faithful, biblical preaching. God’s plan is for each of us, individually, and all of us, collectively, to reflect the very image of Christ to the world, therefore God has provided a way for us to live according to all of His promises.

 

All the promises of God are ours in Jesus and it is through the promises of Jesus Christ that we can respond to and live accordingly. Listen to Jesus’ promise from John 16:13-15,

 

But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.

 

We cannot live according to the promises of God apart from the promise of Jesus to give us the Holy Spirit. As Jesus taught in John 15:5, “Apart from Me you can do nothing!”

 

Do you believe that? The early church struggled to believe it and live according to it! Listen to Paul rebuke the Galatians who struggled to live according to what they so quickly believed about God’s grace in Jesus Christ. Paul very directly said to the Christians in Galatians 3:1-3,

 

You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?

 

I leave all of us with these same questions. May we each learn the truth about ourselves and respond to the promises of Jesus Christ for the Holy Spirit. There is freedom for you in your response.

 

Allow me to pray God’s Word, from Romans 15:13, over you to give you hope for the journey you have before you this week: Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

 

Amen!
 
 

Listen to the Message here:

 

You can watch this message by clicking HERE.

 
 

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