Be Like Jesus.

There are many nights after I tuck my kids in bed that I long to crawl in bed myself to drift off to sleep… at 7:30pm. I know, lame. But my eyes are so heavy, and my energy levels are completely spent. The thought of slipping into bed makes me want to sing and dance and shout all at once… if only I had the strength. In my day, I have spent myself and there is simply nothing left to give. Yet there is dinner to clean up and laundry to be folded. Book bags need to be prepared and homework checked. Toys need to be picked up, the cat fed, and lunches made. Anyone else out there with me? Do you ever get to the end of your day and feel like there is still so much that needs to be done? Maybe it’s when you leave the office, there are still those e-mails that need to be responded to or those calls that need to be made or the planning for tomorrow’s meeting. The list of things “to do” just never slows down.    

And yet in John 17:4 Jesus prays to the Father and says, “I have brought you glory on Earth by completing the work you gave me to do.” Jesus completed the work that His Father had given Him to do. I mean, as Christ-followers, this doesn’t, and shouldn’t surprise us. Jesus was perfect. Of course, He completed His work. Of course, He completed His assignment.   

And while this could very easily discourage me that here again lies another example of where I fall short and where I miss the mark, it does quite the opposite. I am so encouraged by the life Jesus lived. I love reading about Him in the Gospels. I love learning about how He carried Himself and interacted with people and lived with intentionality. I love knowing that He completed the work that God gave Him to do. He was focused and driven by the mission. 

A little further on in John 17:18, Jesus prays for His disciples. He says, “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.” “Them” as in His disciples, Christ-followers. To be like Christ is to follow in His footsteps, to model our lives after Him. Jesus went. He went to the lost, the hurting, the sick, the broken. He gave of Himself. And He has sent us also into the world.   

In Mark 16:15 Jesus tells His disciples to “go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation”. It doesn’t say, live in a holy-huddle and never interact with the outside world. He doesn’t tell us to only interact or talk of Him to other believers. He tells us to go into ALL the world. We are commanded to take the Good News OUT… outside our church walls, outside the safety of the people we know and interact with.   

Remember, Jesus went. And so should we. 

Everything Jesus did, he did in accordance to what the Father instructed Him. He brought glory to God by doing the work He was called to do. We can also bring glory to God by completing the work God has given us to do. I’m not talking about making beds or lunches, cleaning a house, fixing a car or mowing a lawn. There is work that He has given us to do that goes beyond our day to day routines. He has given us work in sharing the Gospel with that co-worker, building that relationship with your neighbor, discipling that group of young girls, pioneering a ministry, going to that unreached people group.   

Not that our good deeds or completion of work earn us anything, they don’t. But God reveals Himself and His glory to ALL people in order that He may receive glory from ALL people. Our works are an act of worship unto the Father. Our works are a love response to all that He’s done. Our works are also an act of obedience.   

Each one of us was put on this Earth for a purpose. When God created you in your mother’s womb and knit you together, He had a plan in mind for your life. He gave you gifts and talents and numbered the hairs on your head and counted your days. Everything about your being and make up was calculated and thought through. But what if that plan was more about God than it was about you? What if that plan was wrapped up in something much bigger than you and your life? 

Our God is alive and active today. He is on the move. He is still revealing Himself to the nations through ordinary people like you and me. He is still working through the Church to bring ALL people to Himself.   

If the Gospel has come to you, it is so that it may flow from you. The Gospel is not meant for us to carry around in our pocket and hold tightly to make us feel good about ourselves. It is meant to be shared with the world. God’s desire is that all men would know Him and worship Him. If they don’t know Him, they can not worship Him. How can they hear unless they are told?   

Church, it is time that we take hold of the Great Commission… as Hudson Taylor infamously stated, “not as option to be considered but a command to be obeyed.”   

As Christ-followers, it’s an act of worship to engage in missions by sharing Christ with the world. We bring glory to Him as we proclaim His name. We bring glory to Him as we do the work He has called us to do.   

If you have never considered what a life on mission looks like or you are hungry for more in your walk with the Lord, then join us at our Mission Conference coming up on November 9th and 10th here at Community Bible. We are going to explore what it means to live on mission, to Testify of His goodness, and how our story is ultimately for His glory. 

Growing In Grammar = Growing In Jesus

What we believe determines how we behave. Even secularists know this is true. This axiom is a foundational belief in therapeutic and behavioral counseling. Our thoughts are catalysts for self-perpetuating cycles in our lives. If you think you are a failure, you will act like a failure. If you act like a failure, it reinforces the idea that you are a failure.

What we think about – meaning what we value, what we focus on, what we meditate one, what we turn over in our minds throughout the day – either unlocks the door to despair and the unending cycle of failure and defeat, or it unlocks the door to experiencing the power and freedom promised to us in the Gospel of Jesus.

In our Chasing Glory series two weeks ago, we learned that freedom from the paralyzing grip of sin begins with a grammar lesson, knowing the difference between an indicative and an imperative (Colossians 3:1-4). A gospel indicative tells us what Christ has done for us. A gospel imperative calls us to gratitude-filled, Spirit-enabled obedience to God as a response to what God has done and who God has made us in Christ.

We saw this clearly in Colossians 3:1-4, but let’s examine it in another passage of Scripture. In Romans 12:1-2, Paul writes,

“I appeal to you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

There are three commands (imperatives) in the text. Two are stated positively, and one is stated negatively. Do you see them? (Stop reading. Take just a minute to see if you can find them on your own).

Alright, back to group work. The three commands are “present your bodies as a living sacrifice…”, “do not be conformed…” and “be transformed…”. What God is calling us to do is clear, right? Offer your life as worship to God. Be transformed by the renewal of your mind (i.e., seek and set your mind on things above).

But these commands are predicated on what God has done. Did you see how Paul is calling us to obedience by grounding it in the work of God in the Gospel? Take a look at the text again. What are we to build our lives upon? Why are we being urged to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice? Where does the power to have a transformed mind come from?

Paul says, “I appeal to you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God…”. What are the mercies of God? Well, Paul has spent eleven chapters leading up to chapter twelve explaining the mercies of God revealed to us in the Gospel. The mercies of God are:

  • The power to save everyone who believes in Jesus (1:16)
  • God who justifies the ungodly by faith (4:5)
  • Access into the grace of God by faith (5:2)
  • The hope of life change through the power of the Holy Spirit (5:4-5)
  • The promise of redemption through one man, Jesus Christ (6:18)
  • No condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (8:1)
  • The power of the Spirit to put sin to death in our bodies (8:13)
  • Purpose in our suffering (8:18)
  • The Spirit interceding for us in our weakness (8:26)
  • The promise that nothing will separate us from God’s love (8:38-39)
  • The certainty that God will save people from every tribe, tongue, and nation (9-11)

The motivation to offer our entire lives to God as an act of worship is predicated upon the mercies of God. What we must do is motivated by what Jesus has done on our behalf.

Saint Augustine once said, “Lord command what you will and grant what you command!” God tells us what he wants us to do (i.e., live a life of worship), and he makes it possible by his mercy. When we obey God, not to seek his favor, but because we already have his favor in the Gospel, he grants us the power to do what he wills.

It’s my hope and prayer that as you grow in your understanding of the Gospel, you begin to see in increasing measure that all your hopes for life transformation begin and end in what Christ has done. It’s only then that we can “be transformed by the renewal of our minds”. Right thinking not only sees what is valuable (e.g., the Gospel). Right thinking values and treasures what is valuable.

What God values more than your obedience is anchoring all your hope to the redeeming obedience of his Son, Jesus Christ. And when your hope is rooted in Christ’s obedience as the only thing that gives you favor with and access to God, you will then find the Spirit energizing humble, God-honoring, Christ-centered obedience in your life, the kind of reflexive response to God that is “good and acceptable and perfect”, wholly pleasing to the will of God.

 

Seeking and Setting My Mind on Jesus With You,

 

Pastor Aaron

Captive Thoughts

When my mother had a stroke 5 years ago, her right frontal lobe was struck by the trauma of the hemorrhage on her brain. This trauma was centered in the language center, which meant that her brain no longer processed language in the correct way. Week after week, month after month, I sat in a chair and listened in awe as her speech therapist worked with my mom, urging her brain through various exercises to make connections that had been broken by the sudden blow to her language center.

During those months and the years since, I have been thinking about thinking. Having seen a tiny window of the intricacies of the brain and its miraculous working seemed to put me on high alert about my own thoughts. Maybe it’s because I am more aware of them, but it sure does seem like I have more thoughts than ever before. Some moments they are kind, benevolent, careful, sensible, loving. Some moments they are incredibly pro-Shannon. They tell me that I’m right, which is always nice and rings true to my pro-me ears. Other times they are lazy and sluggish and blah. And unfortunately, more than I care to admit, they are loud chomping piranhas fighting their way out of my mouth.

As Christians, we have God’s Word to inform of us God’s purpose for and view of our thoughts:
We are to love the Lord with all our hearts and soul and mind (the first and greatest commandment). We are to take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. We have the peace of God guarding our minds. We are to set our minds on things above, not on earthly things. Whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy, we are to think about such things.

Our thought life is directly connected to all other parts of our life. Our lives are lived largely in our thoughts. They inform our beliefs, they inform our feelings, they lead us into planning and decision making. We are prone to listen to our thoughts.

Just a quick perusal of these verses shows us something critical:

We need to take careful inventory! These Scriptures reveal to us that our thoughts can fixate on disobedience and need to be taken captive. We need the peace of God to guard our minds because chaos is clamoring for the number 1 spot. For all the true, noble, right, pure and lovely thoughts, there are equal numbers of false, impure, ugly and wrong ones shouting to be heard.

When we turn to the book of Lamentations 3, we see a man put this thought capturing into action. Lamentations, as the name suggests, is a book of lament. The picture of the author’s life and the life of his people is utterly wasted and unrecognizable in the rubble. He is face-down. His soul is downcast, he has seen horrific things, he feels that that God has abandoned him and that he has experienced the wrath of God. His lament is great and overwhelming. But suddenly, buried in the rubble of the author’s plight we read these words:
“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope…”

This is startling and unexpected — this sudden about-face — this declaration of hope in the middle of deep, soul crushing lament —We are on the edge of our seats, what is it that gives hope to this one who is drowning in lamentation? He begins to think the truth that he has believed:

“The steadfast Love of God never ceases.
His mercies never come to an end.
They are new every morning.
Great is your faithfulness.
The Lord is my portion, says my soul.
Therefore, I will hope in him.”

Our writer knows that when we are drowning in our own minds, starving from our own malnourished thoughts, we have to pull GREATER truth from the rubble and tell our minds true things — greater things than what our eyes may see, or our own thoughts may be telling us. Our Lamentations writer shows us what is of infinitely higher value that our own thoughts — God’s thoughts! —written for us so we may have life in them. There are 757,439 Words in my Bible. Words from the LORD! Thoughts from the LORD given to us!

Like all humankind before us, we are a forgetful people. Our thoughts have been broken under the trauma of sin and our fallen nature. The truths of God’s Word rewire us in our deepest thoughts. But, we must take them captive. So, when our thoughts are discouraged or in despair, when they are indignant or prideful or angry, when they are confused or lonely or defeated or just plain lazy, take them captive. Bring them under the true words of God himself.

I love you with an everlasting love.
I am faithful to a thousand generations.
I have made a covenant with you.
I will never leave you or forsake you.
Because of the great love I have for you, Christ died for you.
Think about these things.
Call this to mind, – And hope will rise!

Fix your eyes (and mind!) on Jesus, the author and perfecter or your faith. See Jesus, reigning and ruling at the right hand of God. No force can unseat Christ, no force can snatch you from His hand. The day is coming when you will see Him face to face as He is – when all the cares of this world will vanish like mist and you will enter into the visible presence of Jesus. We will never forget again. Our faith that is shaky and forgetful will snap into the clearest focus. Our faith will become sight and we will see Him as he is. Until then, may we be Christians who think the thoughts of God found in his Word, who lift them up in the midst of the rubble of the world and bring hope to the all who are around us.

“For this we call to mind, and therefore we have hope…”

Preaching the Gospel to Yourself

I remember when I first heard the phrase “preach the gospel to yourself.” You may have heard Todd mention this same phrase in his message on Sunday. When I heard it years ago, I didn’t fully understand it, nor did I put it into practice. However, when Todd spoke about it on Sunday morning, it hit home in a different kind of way, because I now preach the gospel to myself on a regular basis – and yes, sometimes out loud and forcefully when my heart is particularly needy.

No one in your life speaks to you more than you speak to yourself. Your mind is almost always at work. Thoughts can wreak havoc with your emotions, and your emotions are not idle – they always lead to decisions, moods, motivations, words, actions. Rob used to say, “Never leave a mood unchallenged.” It was his version of saying, “Preach the gospel to yourself.”

Jerry Bridges, a conference teacher and prolific author (now in heaven), taught that one of the most important ways to preach the gospel to ourselves is to acknowledge that though we are forgiven in Christ, we are still practicing sinners. He daily began each morning by praying the prayer of the tax collector in Luke 18:13 – “God, be merciful to me, the sinner!” Bridges recognized his need for humility and grace as he faced a day that would be filled with challenging demands and responsibilities.

One of my favorite passages of Scripture is the story of the sinful woman in Luke 7:36-50. Jesus is eating in the home of Simon, a Pharisee, when the sinful woman enters to anoint Jesus’ feet with perfume. In her humility and contrition, she wets his feet with her tears and wipes them away with her hair. The Pharisee is indignant. However, Jesus forgives the woman and explains this powerful truth: those who have been forgiven much, love much. But those who have been forgiven little, love little.

The gospel teaches that all of us have “sinned much.” We are born sinners, and our lives confirm that fact from the earliest age. So, Jesus is not saying that some sinners are guiltier than others. He is emphasizing the reality that some people understand the depth and seriousness of their sin (the sinful woman), while others believe that their sin is relatively minor or deny it altogether (the Pharisee). Jesus then explains that love flows from the humble, contrite, and repentant heart of the sinful woman, while love is absent in the heart of the proud, judgmental, and self-righteous Pharisee.

This gospel truth changed my life (after I had been a Christian for many years). It opened my eyes to the reason for my failure to love as I should. It explained why I could so easily build a case against others when I “felt” wronged, disappointed, or angry. It pierced my heart with the truth that those who owe so much to mercy (all of us) should themselves show mercy to others.

The temptation to judge, critique, and “vent” is a daily part of our contemporary life. We live in a social media culture that breeds self-focus, judgment, and hostility. Finding fault and venting outrage has become our national reflex. We breathe it in on a daily basis. We hear it, we see it, we read it, and we are sucked into it. But God calls us to live differently. We are part of the body of Christ, and we are to learn the lessons of love in this body. Aaron recently reminded us of this when he asked this question: “What is it that God uses to build us up in Him?” His answer was “…living in gospel community.”

We need each other if we are going to learn to live lives that are authentic and humble. We can fake it when we live in isolation, and we can fake it on Facebook, but when we draw near to others, our lives are on display. This kind of vulnerability can be frightening and messy. Love is tested when our lives bump up against each other. And when our culture teaches us to put ourselves first, to demand our own way, and to build a case to prove our point, the lessons of love can be buried in the rubble of strife and judgment.

God’s tender mercy, unfailing love, and amazing grace are such necessary gifts for us. We can’t extend mercy if we haven’t recognized our own need for mercy; we can’t truly love if we haven’t humbly received the undeserved love that was poured out for us on the cross; we can’t respond in grace if we haven’t experienced the grace that empowers us to live in a way that is impossible in our own strength.

When we begin to be more grieved by our own sin than we are by the offenses (real or perceived) of others against us, then there is true hope in our midst for the kind of self-sacrificing love that is spoken of in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 – love that is patient, kind, and not arrogant or easily provoked. This kind of love is foreign to us apart from God’s transforming grace.

God uses difficult people and difficult circumstances to show us the dead end of self-sufficiency. When I am “squeezed” by a difficult relationship or a challenging trial, I naturally respond in fear, anger, impatience, self-pity, annoyance, judgment, self-righteousness, or a host of other self-serving attitudes. It is not a picture of the gospel.

Jon Bloom says, Struggling doesn’t look or feel miraculous. It’s fatiguing, frustrating, and at times exasperating. Struggling can make us want to give up. But we must not give up on the church. Because it’s the messy things — those extraordinarily difficult and painful things that can drive us crazy — that provide the very opportunities for the humanly impossible love of Christ to be exercised, giving visibility to the existence of the invisible God.”

We need the gospel. Every. Single. Day. In our marriages. In our parenting. In traffic. In line at the grocery store when the cashier is slower than we’d like. When our preferences seem ignored or minimized. These difficult circumstances and difficult people are God’s grace to us. We need lots of practice learning to love. Jesus didn’t come just to save us. He came to remake us. Let’s preach this gospel to ourselves daily that we might become those who personally experience and offer to others the gospel-transforming, grace-enabling, miraculous love of God.

 

1 Peter 4:8

“Above ALL, keep fervent in your love for one another,

because love covers a multitude of sins.”