I want to give you this thought about Christianity. It is all about Jesus, and our relationship with Him. It is not about church, it is not about doing stuff in and of itself, nor not doing stuff. The essence of our faith is what we are doing with Jesus today. The fact is, that relationship is going to reflect in what we are doing and saying today; not the other way around. I can’t talk myself closer to God, I can’t act myself closer to God. God is always right there, offering a wonderful, free gift to me. All I have to do is reach out in faith and accept it. As I yield my will to Him, it is going to change me from the inside out. So, as we start this journey, let me first set a foundation.
Conversion – it has to do with how close people are to God. Evangelical means we believe that people need to have an encounter with Jesus. In that encounter there is a recognition that we can’t do it, only Jesus can (and did). We can’t do it because we have a sin problem. It is only a faith in Jesus’ grace that allows that sin problem to be cleared up. That is choice, the moment of conversion. It is at that point you have assurance of salvation because the Holy Spirit has been given to you as a “guarantor”.
The unfortunate thing we have done in church is to say, “That is all!” Holiness churches have always understood there is more, that following Jesus is a lifelong commitment to discipleship that will change your life. Perhaps the whole responsibility is also not just on the church or its leaders. How many people come to Jesus and then don’t want to be changed? How many of us as youth made a commitment that didn’t affect our actions or attitudes or speech in any discernable way? The church is made up of vast amounts of these people. We used to call them carnal. Romans 7 and 8 reflects both people trying to live the Christian life in their own strength as well as those who are led by the Spirit. Maybe it is not so much church structure that needs change from time to time but a revival of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. That will change how and why we do church.
Over the next few months we are going to focus on looking at the life of Jesus, His theology, His words. It is a bit of a journey for us to take together. Church and Christianity: they is not just a dry set of rules to live life. It is a vibrant, living thing; for it is a relationship with the Creator. Every journey starts with a first step, and the step today is to just introduce this journey. As we walk along a forest path we notice many things if we choose to. We look at the flowers, and trees, the bugs and animals.
I was walking along a path with a friend at camp when I was 13. All of a sudden he starts yelling and dancing around. Quite quickly he unzips his pants and out jumps a mouse… it had run across the path just as we walked by , and then up his leg inside his pants. Now, I don’t expect we will have any experiences quite like that on our journey, but keep your eyes open, you never know.
As we walk:
1) Notice the context around Jesus
i. He made Himself of no reputation (Israel, a small troubled country under Roman rule, son of a carpenter, conceived out of wedlock)
ii. Places – Samaria, temple in Jerusalem at the Passovers, lake of Galilee
iii. Rural, along the roads (Emmaus)
We will have a chat at some point about the land of Israel. Look at a Bible Handbook once in a while and see pictures of what it looks like. Has anyone here been in Israel? What were your impressions?
2) Notice the conversation – I grew up with a red letter edition of the bible and loved it – I still do. It is where the words of Jesus are highlighted in red. This series of sermons, then, are titled Jesus Words!
i. Parables are usually a result of a question posed Him. He used parables an awful lot.
ii. You will also notice that people were in the midst of life when the conversation happened (lady at the well, eating dinner, walking along the way, in a boat, Zacheus was up a tree)
iii. Points are often about who we are before God. Jesus talked a lot about the kingdom of God. What is a kingdom? It is where the influence of the king is felt. A simple definition of the kingdom of God is everyone who allows themselves to be ruled by God the King.
3) Notice the calling of Jesus
i. Called people to a process (out of life, then sent them back into life (period of discipleship)). He didn’t call them to just a task.
ii. Called a variety. Look around at our city. He is calling each person; He is calling you.
iii. Called them where they were at (not necessarily go to college and seminary, then follow me).
i. Calls us in our context (look around you, where do you find yourself?)
ii. Calls us in our conversations (who are you talking to? All your conversations are connected to who you are in Jesus. That is exciting!)
iii. Calls us to Himself, to become more like Him. You may be the only Jesus some people will ever see. We need to accept the responsibility of being His ambassador. It is what salvation is all about (It’s time to leave your nets by the boat, and follow Him)
Oh, and watch out for big rocks in the way…