In the midst of all these changes happening you might be wondering what God is up to. Well, I don’t claim to ultimately know, but I will tell you what I believe He has revealed to me about our present situation.
In a nutshell, we are finally going to be wearing shoes that fit.
For the whole history of Reality that at least I have been a part of, we have always operated as a church much larger than ourselves. Some time ago, Sandy sent me an article about different church sizes and how they operate, and I commented that we did indeed operate as a larger church than we are. We had more paid staff and more work being done than our size really dictated. It’s like all this time we’ve been wearing shoes that are too big for us, hoping to grow into them. But instead, we just kept tripping as we strained our budget and burning out our people.
But now, God has not only brought us to a location that fits our current size – and in case you haven’t looked around, we actually have plenty of space for our current size, both for adults and children. We are not cramped here, but we are cozy – unlike the giant auditorium we just left at Green Run. And guess what this location doesn’t do…it doesn’t burn us out trying to rebuild the church every week.
Aside from the location change, God has also orchestrated a change in our staff structure. In the past two months we have dropped from six paid staff to three, with those roles now or soon to be filled by volunteers.
Those changes have resulted in us being able to reduce this year’s total expenses by about $30,000, or to put it another way – it has made it so our budget can meet our actual giving. So, instead of pleading for more giving so that we can meet expenses, now our generous giving can go toward saving money toward our next location, which I believe will not be a separate rental like a school, but another building we can move the whole thing into and pay one rent or mortgage.
So, do you see? We are finally in a position to grow the right way. Instead of killing ourselves trying to act like a bigger church and hoping God will send more people to lighten the load, we are finally in shoes that fit so that we can turn our focus onto what it should be – on Jesus. And as we do that, I believe God will grow us at his pace and timing. And when we’ve outgrown these shoes, He’ll provide new ones just like a good Father.
You see, my friends, God is not surprised by these changes or disheartened. In fact, if we believe Scripture – we can confidently say that these things are just part of God’s plan to conform each of us a little more into the image of His Son.
That was the focus of last week, and will continue to be the focus today.
Last week I explained to you how we are saved to be runners, not spectators, in the race of life, with the finish line not being somewhere – but being someone. We are not saved to get to heaven, we are saved to become like our Savior.
SLIDE Romans 8:28-2928 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.
And last week I showed you just how we are to do that from two places in Scripture that spell it out quite clearly. Romans 12 and Hebrews 12.
Romans 12:1-2 tells us to..
SLIDE Romans 12:1-2…offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
and Hebrews 12:1-2 tells us to…
SLIDE Hebrews 12:1-2…throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.
Both of them tell us to change our focus from the things of this world to Jesus, our Savior and our King.
And I showed you how the Apostle Paul echoed what every true believer’s mindset ought to be on this matter…
READPhilippians 3:7-147 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Paul’s heart, soul, mind, and strength were devoted to knowing Lord Jesus more and more intimately such that everything else in life was worthless garbage in comparison. And this attitude is not something that should be unique to Paul. The often overlooked conclusion to this confession explains that…
SLIDE Philippians 3:15All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.
In other words, this should be the mindset of all true believers. Because all true believers who have the Holy Spirit inside of them ARE being conformed to the image of Jesus because that is what the Holy Spirit does.
Paul explains this ever so clearly earlier in Romans 8
READRomans 8:5-95 Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. 7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.9 You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.
My friends, I belabor this point because it is so, so, so important. We get so desensitized to this truth in the modern American church because we focus so much on externals that we fail to look inward and ask ourselves the question of what our minds are truly set on. It’s not about how much church you go to, or how much you serve or give or do all the things a good church person should do. This is about knowing the true status of your own heart.
Ask yourself the question: Is your mind set on what the Spirit desires or on what the Flesh desires?
And this is not just talking about what you think about throughout the day. The greek behind this “mind set on” in both this Romans 8 passage and in what Paul says should be our “view of things” is the word
SLIDEOriginal Word: φρονέωTransliteration: phroneóDefinition: properly, regulate from within, as inner-perspective shows itself in corresponding, outward behavior. Essentially equates to personal opinion fleshing itself out in action. This idea is difficult to translate into English because it combines the visceral and cognitive aspects of thinking.
In other words – Paul is not just referring to a manner of intentional thinking (like when you catch yourself daydreaming and you have to refocus on the task at hand) but the daydreaming as well.
In other words – the evidence that you have become a new creation in Christ is that you now think differently and it shows up in your actions. And specifically, the way you should think differently, is that your mind (which is now submitted to the Holy Spirit) should desire to know more and more of Christ and less and less of the world, just like how Paul described when he said
SLIDEI consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord
and because that is his true heart, it shows up in his actions…
SLIDEForgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
This should be the heartbeat of every Christ Follower.
SO WHAT DO YOU DO IF YOU REALIZE THAT THIS IS NOT YOUR HEARTBEAT?
What do you do if you realize after asking the question that your mind is really more set on the flesh than the Spirit? That you don’t desire knowing Christ the way that Paul does and says we should?
What do you do?
The answer is that you repent and beg God’s forgiveness like King David did when confronted by Nathan about his adultery with Bathsheba.
Because loving or pursuing anything or anyone more than you love and pursue Jesus is exactly that – spiritual adultery. Also known as idolatry.
It’s loving the provision more than the Provider. It’s loving the miracles more than the Miracle Maker. It’s loving the fruit more than the vine. It’s a sin. It’s breaking the first and greatest commandment – to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
And for that we must repent and pray the prayer of David after he was confronted.
We find it in Psalm 51.
Find it in your bible, because we are going to pray this right now. Myself included because I am guilty.
READPsalm 51:1-12SLIDE Psalm 5110 Create in me a pure heart, O God,and renew a steadfast spirit within me.11 Do not cast me from your presenceor take your Holy Spirit from me.12 Restore to me the joy of your salvationand grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
This is a good prayer to pray every day.
My friends, God is doing something special in our midst and this is just the beginning. If you really meant that prayer, then God will answer. He will give you a new heart. Maybe not instantaneously, but as you continue that attitude, things will change such that your heart will start to desire knowing Christ more and more.
And because I believe that God IS going to do that for many of us in the months to come, He has given us a way to feed that need.
As a church body, we are going to spend at least the next few months fixing our eyes solely on Jesus. And by that I mean, that is what I will be preaching on. Starting in two weeks, when the Life Groups start, and going right up to Christmas, we will be examining the gospel of John together. Both on Sunday mornings and in the Life Groups. We are going to spend some time really getting to know our Lord.
And so, with all of that said, with the time we have remaining today, let’s get started with this journey by asking the question the Disciples asked when they saw him control the weather…
SLIDE WHO IS THIS MAN?
If you’ve been in church for awhile, you probably have a concept of who you think Jesus is. In fact, even people that have not been in church have a concept of who Jesus is, except of course those who have never heard of him. Honestly, I think those who have never heard of him before are probably better off than those who have when it comes to trying to explain who He is. At least they don’t have compounded misconceptions to overcome before getting to the truth.
It’s actually those that are raised in church that present the greatest difficulty. That’s because those raised in church, who have heard the stories over and over, who began with watered down kid versions of those stories, they have often stopped asking that question years ago and just settled with the picture of Jesus they had in their youth.
Well, I want to encourage all of you, whatever your background, to do your best to put aside the picture you have in your head of Jesus and go with me on a journey of rediscovery of the one we are to fix our eyes on.
I hope for many of you that this will be the beginning of a life-long, intentional, and passionate race toward knowing and becoming more like our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The whole Bible is actually and ultimately about Christ. Not just the New Testament. Jesus himself made this clear shortly after his resurrection when he met the two men on the road to Emaeus and explained to them how the Law and the Prophets all spoke of him. Sadly they did not record exactly what he said.
So, while we will certainly be looking back into the Old Testament in the months to come, today I will begin with a few select passages from the New Testament that reveal to us a big part of who this Jesus is.
One such passage is how the author of Hebrews begins his letter…
READHebrews 1:1-31 In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.
Those are some rather powerful and deep descriptions of who Jesus is. We could probably spend the rest of the year on just what was said here. But before I expand upon it, let me read another passage that has similar wording and much more…
READColossians 1:15-2015 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
Some heavy stuff there, but one more passage before I break it down some. John begins his gospel with a rather poetic description of Jesus as the Word…
READJohn 1:1-31 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
I don’t know if you have ever spent time meditating on any of these passages, but I encourage you to do so over the next two weeks as preparation for our Journey through John. By meditating, I mean thinking about it. Read them over and over. Read them slowly – maybe focus on just one aspect each day – thinking about it throughout the day – such as “What does it mean that Jesus is the radiance of God’s glory?” and so on…
Now, let’s go back and take a closer look…
Let’s look at the Colossians passage since it encompasses the others.
SLIDE Colossians 1:1515 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
The Son is, of course, Jesus Christ. Just read the previous verses in Colossians and you will see that is who Paul is talking about.
Jesus is the image of the invisible God. God is invisible, but in Jesus he has become seen. Just as Jesus told his disciples – “if you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” (John 14:9)
SLIDE Hebrews calls him “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being.”SLIDE John begins his gospel equating Jesus (the Word) and God.
Jesus is not just God’s image, or his radiance, or his representation – Jesus IS God. Jesus is ONE with God in the mystery that is the Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – one God, three persons. It’s not something we can fully comprehend because God is more than we can comprehend. We can apprehend God – meaning we can perceive Him as much as he reveals himself to us, but we cannot comprehend or come to a full understanding of God because if we could we would be greater than God. He is infinite, and we are finite. And JESUS THE MAN, though flesh and blood, was and is also fully God.
Paul elaborates a bit more in Colossians. Skipping to verse 19…
SLIDE 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him
So, when we are reading the life of Jesus and talking about Him and thinking about him, recognize that we are literally looking in the face of Almighty God – the omnipotent creator of heaven and earth – as these passages also specify.
SLIDE Colossians 116 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.
SLIDE Hebrews says that God made the universe THROUGH the Son.
John says that
SLIDE John 1:3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
In the beginning, when God mad the heavens and the earth in six days – the creating was done THROUGH Jesus. How exactly that works, I don’t know.
And not only was everything, including you and I, created THROUGH JESUS, but all of creation was made FOR JESUS.
SLIDE Colossians: all things have been created through him and for him.SLIDE Hebrews: [He is the] heir of all things – meaning it’s all his. The world is his inheritance. We talked about that some in the Revelation series that began exactly a year ago.SLIDE Let’s recap a little…
Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the radiance of God’s glory, His exact representation. Jesus IS God.
All things, heave and earth and the entire universe were created THROUGH Jesus and FOR Jesus.
And if that were not enough, Colossians continues…
SLIDE 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
Before all things means he was before all things. He is eternal. There was never a time when he did not exist.
And not only that, but in him all things hold together. The greek for “all things” means “all things.”
SLIDE Hebrews echoes that the Son is sustaining all things by his powerful word.
In other words, the very existence of the universe and everything in it – all the atoms, molecules, cells, and so on only continue to exist and stay together because Jesus, the Son of God, is consciously holding it all together. Hence why, in the end, he just makes it all go away in an instant.
This is a deep one that deserves some meditation. In fact, your ability to meditate – or rather the fact that you have a brain that does not disintegrate is because Jesus is thinking of you right now. He is holding you together at the atomic level.
And that’s not all. He held the cross and the nails and the thorns together that killed him. He held the soldiers together that crucified him. He held Judas together as he betrayed him. And on and on and on. It’s hard to even imagine.
Hence why he could sleep through a storm in a boat. Complete control.
SLIDE Colossians 118 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.
Christ as the head of the body, the church, is a familiar and often used analogy in Paul’s letters. Head not necessarily meaning the thing at the top of the neck but head as in owner, leader, originator, patriarch and so on. In Revelation we see him holding the seven stars that are the angels of the churches and walking among the lamp stands which are the churches. We also see elsewhere that we, the church, are his bride. All of these speak to his great love and care for us as well as our submission to and obedience to Him.
He is the beginning and firstborn from among the dead.
This means for than first in chronology, but having the highest position. As Romans 8:29 tells us that our conforming to His image makes Jesus the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. He is not just our older brother. He gets the inheritance. Like in ancient customs, the firstborn becomes ruler over the youngers. And Jesus will be the ruler over us who are raised from the dead at the resurrection.
Hence Colossians continuing with “so that in everything he might have supremacy.”
And all of this is just scratching the surface. We haven’t even covered all his titles in Revelation. Alpha and Omega. Beginning and the End. First and the Last. King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And elsewhere…Light of the World, Good Shepherd, The Door, The Way, the Truth, the Life. The Messiah, Anointed One, Son of Man, Savior, Redeemer, Friend, and on and on…
Can you see now how you can spend your whole life diligently studying and pursuing the knowledge of Christ like Paul did and still want more?
My friends, this is why we breath. This is why your heart beats.
As the creator, owner, sustainer, and ruler of the universe was holding the nails together in his hands, he was looking forward to the day when you and I would understand the depth of what he has done for us and choose to seek Him above all else because He gave up everything to chase after us.
All that power and might and glory, he put aside to live a human life with all its limitations, pains, and sorrows. So that you and I could know him. Don’t the things of this world already start looking a little dim as you contemplate who Jesus is?
And so, that is why we are going to spend the next several months getting back to the reason we exist as a church. We are going to pursue Christ. And I pray that as we do, your hunger for Him will grow.
But I will tell you now that Sunday morning is not enough. If me talking up here is all you get every week, then you will stay a baby your whole life. You will never grow in your faith. Because transformation comes by renewing your mind, which cannot be done with just an hour of listening each week. You need to engage with the Word, and the best place to do that is in a Life Group. In a couple weeks, when the Life Groups start, I will be creating additional content just for the groups. There will be Scripture reading and discussion questions, and maybe even a video where I explain things I don’t get to on Sundays. But even better than all that is the opportunity to discuss these things with friends, and grow deeper relationships. All things that will help you pursue Christ more and more.
Here’s your homework for the next two weeks. Read and reread at least he Colossians passage. Pick one thing each day to just meditate on throughout the day, asking the Holy Spirit to make that aspect of Christ more real to you and give you understanding. You might be surprised by what you discover about Christ and about yourself doing something like that. If you’re not sure how to do that, talk with me after and I’ll help you.
For now, any questions?