Monday, September 17, 2007

Kingdom Living I

Have you ever asked yourself, “What kind of a person I am becoming?

What are my experiences, what are the circumstances of life doing to or for me, and do I really want to go in that direction?”

Is your life dependent on whether you experience a good day or a bad day?

This fall, I want us to give a special focus on following in the way of Jesus. We recognize Jesus as our teacher and authority, and want to wrestle with how to surrender to the way of love in every detail of our lives. And we want to submit ourselves to one another in love through it all.

Matthew 28:18-20
Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: "God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I'll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age."

Instead of making disciples though, North American Christianity usually make converts. What did Jesus say about that, especially for those who like large crowds?

Luke 14:25-35
One day when large groups of people were walking along with him, Jesus turned and told them, "Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters—yes, even one's own self!—can't be my disciple. Anyone who won't shoulder his own cross and follow behind me can't be my disciple.

"Is there anyone here who, planning to build a new house, doesn't first sit down and figure the cost so you'll know if you can complete it? If you only get the foundation laid and then run out of money, you're going to look pretty foolish. Everyone passing by will poke fun at you: 'He started something he couldn't finish.'

"Or can you imagine a king going into battle against another king without first deciding whether it is possible with his ten thousand troops to face the twenty thousand troops of the other? And if he decides he can't, won't he send an emissary and work out a truce?

“Simply put, if you're not willing to take what is dearest to you, whether plans or people, and kiss it good-bye, you can't be my disciple.

"Salt is excellent. But if the salt goes flat, it's useless, good for nothing.

"Are you listening to this? Really listening?"

How do we relate to those words? What do they have to do with us? Isn’t this bait and switch?

Jesus didn’t really mean that, right? Doesn’t He really want to just give us lots of nice stuff to have?

Are we really willing to take the risks and be offended by the teachings of Jesus?

Apprenticeship. Discipleship. What exactly does it mean to be a disciple?

“One thing is sure: You are somebody’s disciple. You learned how to live from somebody else. There are no exceptions to this rule, for human beings are just the kind of creatures that have to learn and keep learning from others how to live.” Dallas Willard

Apprenticeship to Jesus requires a posture that is unfamiliar to many of us. We aren’t a people that easily follow instructions or submit to anything.

A disciple of Jesus is one who is “meant to go with Him, in an attitude of observation, study, obedience, and imitation.” It also meant that disciples had to make a deliberate decision to devote themselves to becoming like Christ.

We don’t do this in our own power- God initiates and we respond. This is how Paul put it,

Romans 12:1-2
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer 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.

Hvae you ever seen these pictures of square watermelons & pyramid-shaped watermelons?

What are you and I being shaped into? Are we happy about it?

One of the things that give motivation to seek Jesus and the kingdom of God is dissatisfaction with life outside of it. Have you ever said, ‘I don’t think I’m changing’.

Am I becoming a different type of person, a more joyful person?

"Do I have the courage to let go?”

The goal: to move beyond behavior modification toward actual heart change. Kingdom living!

Aron Ralston was rock climbing in Utah one Saturday when he got his arm pinned underneath a huge boulder, and he’s stuck, alone, miles from anybody. By Tuesday his water runs out and by Thursday he realizes he’s not going to be found before he dies, so he thinks to himself, “If I’m going to live, the arm has to go.” So he takes his pocketknife… I hate even saying this out loud… and hacks off his right arm just below the elbow. Then he applies a tourniquet, rappels 60 feet to the canyon floor, and hikes out until he’s airlifted to a hospital that he then walked into under his own power.

Can you imagine that? “If I’m going to live…”

And what’s interesting to me is that with people like Aron Ralston and others who almost died, their attitude afterward is that nearly dying made them more alive than ever. They have new outlook and their priorities are forever changed. We want to wrestle with the important things of Jesus: life with Him in the kingdom of God.

Matthew 23:13-15
"I've had it with you! You're hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You go halfway around the world to make a convert, but once you get him you make him into a replica of yourselves, double-damned.”

I don’t want to hear Jesus say those things to me. How do we go about living?

“Authentic transformation really is possible if we are willing to do one thing, and that is to rearrange our life around the things that Jesus practiced in order to receive light and power from the Father.” Dallas Willard

“Do I really want God and His kingdom more than anything else?”

If we’re honest about that we might actually say, “You know, right now I don’t. I’m really hoping I’ll get this promotion, or have great sex.” But that’s not deep enough, is it?

“I just get tired of having to be careful of everything I say. I’m tired of feeling like I have to always walk on eggshells.”

“Better that than always going around breaking eggs.”
And it’s even better to let God change our hearts so our speech is peaceful rather than inflammatory in the first place.

John 15:5-8
"I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you're joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can't produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.

Where do you long most for greater wholeness?
Come to communion and know that we can only live in the kingdom in a daily dependance of Jesus Christ.

O Lord, I know not what to ask of you. You alone know what are my true needs. You love me more than I myself know how to love. Help me to see my real needs which are concealed from me. I dare not ask either a cross or consolation. I can only wait on you; my heart is open to you. Visit and help me, for thy great mercy's sake. Strike me down and heal me, cast me down and raise me up. I worship in silence your holy will and your inscrutable ways. I offer myself as a sacrifice to you. I put all my trust in you. I have no other desire than to fulfill your will. Teach me how to pray. Pray you yourself in me. Amen.

Colossians 3:1-17
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

1 Corinthians 13
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.


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