The Most Important​ Question

Today, we begin a new six-week series on the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. Yes, we preach, teach, talk about Jesus all year long, but we have to be careful that we are not just filling our heads with knowledge. Our goal will be to answer this question with confidence, “WHO DO YOU SAY JESUS IS?”

Too often we come to hear a sermon and we are seeking information. We like to know things. We like to learn new things. We all can and should keep growing in our knowledge of who Jesus is and what he has done, is doing, and will continue to do.

But we cannot stop at simply “knowing” Jesus, or knowing about Jesus.

Do you know what two objects have the furthest distance? It’s not the 5,500.3 miles of the Great Wall of China. It’s not the 9,175 miles from Texas to Australia. Not even the 238,900 miles from the earth to the moon or the 92.96 million miles from the earth to the sun.

THE GREATEST DISTANCE BETWEEN TWO OBJECTS IS BETWEEN OUR HEAD TO OUR HEART.

Why? It takes a lot of work, effort, and energy to allow the knowledge we gain to fully come into our lives to transform us and recreate us. We tend to like who we are and what we’re doing. We often do not like the idea of changing because we can think it is scary and the future is unknown.

But, when we fill our heads with the knowledge of God through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit works his way to the heart so we can fill our entire being with the love, grace, mercy of God who is working to recreate us into the likeness of his Son – Jesus Christ.

So, we are going to begin this series with the most important question we can ever answer:

“WHO DO YOU SAY JESUS IS?”

This is the most important question we have to answer because who we say Jesus is shaping how we will live our lives. If we say Jesus is a good teacher, then we can still reject some of his teachings when they don’t correspond with how we want to live? If we say he is our healer, then how do we treat him when we are healthy? If we say he is our rock, then how do we treat him when our life is going well?

Answering the question “who do you say Jesus is” shows who we truly believe to be Lord and Ruler of our life: his will be done or my will be done.

Luke 9 tells the story of when Jesus asked the disciples who they said he was. If we have spent time reading our scriptures then we know Peter said “You are God’s Messiah” which means “you are the one who has come to save and redeem the world.

Let’s read and hear this passage from Luke. Pay attention and see if anything stands out to you:

READ LUKE 9:18-20

18 Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?”

19 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.”

20 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

Peter answered, “God’s Messiah.”

I love the translation the Common English Bible uses: “The Christ sent from God.” Peter was the one who was bold enough to speak the words the Holy Spirit gave him. Jesus, in Matthew 16, even tells Peter

“Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.”[1]

Then, Jesus goes on to rename Simon to Peter saying, “on this rock I will build my church.”[2]

THE CHURCH’S FOUNDATION IS JESUS IS THE MESSIAH GOD SENT

This is why we exist. We are working with God to build and usher in the Kingdom of Heaven on the strong foundation that JESUS IS THE MESSIAH SENT FROM GOD. Nothing else matters or is as strong as this truth. The church is still in existence today because of the reality of Jesus being the One God sent.

How does this impact us today? (This is where we can step on toes 🙂 )

Since the Church is built upon this truth, then we are also part of the mission Jesus came to earth to do. His earthly work was done on the cross and we all can experience grace, forgiveness, and eternal life (the full presence of God here and now AND in the life to come). But his work in the world is still not complete. There is still redemptive work to be done, souls to know Jesus is the Christ.

Hate, violence, war, racism, you name it, still seems to be more powerful because this is what people love to talk about. Many people build their lives around trying to eradicate these injustices, and that is a good cause. But, if we go into the world knowing and living as Jesus is the true Ruler and Lord of the world, then everything we do works toward breaking down all injustices and seeks to help people see and live in the light of God’s presence and live in peace with one another. We make working with God to help people see the reality and truth of the Kingdom of Heaven all around us a priority.

Too often, because of our fallen and sinful human nature, we end up putting everything else before and above Jesus and the mission we are about. We will focus more on decorations, our “traditions”, anything that brings us comfort, and there is so much more we place in front of Jesus.

Taking the time to answer who Jesus is really showing where our priorities lie. If we’re not careful, we can end up putting ourselves in the place of Jesus Christ and mold Jesus into who we are instead of being molded into the likeness and image of Jesus Christ – the image we were originally created to be.

If the truth about who Jesus is stays in our head and do not fully transform our lives, we have missed it. The information/knowledge about who Jesus is must dwell and live in our hearts because he desires to transform our lives.

OUR LIVES ARE TRANSFORMED BECAUSE OF GOD’S LOVE

Coming to worship, Bible study, praying, going on mission trips, etc. is so much more than simply making people be “good.” All of this is important because of how Jesus Christ works through these “tasks”, these opportunities and changes our lives because of his great love for us. Through the great love he has for us, we get to watch Jesus work through us to change the lives of the people we get to help, we get to serve, we get to listen to, we get to provide basic needs.

And how we answer “who do you say Jesus is” determines our approach and heart as we step out and serve in our community, in our world.

Over the next several weeks, we are going to dive into certain aspects of who Jesus is. I’m going to invite us all to be on this journey through prayer and careful consideration of who we say Jesus is. As we go through this series, continue to think about Jesus and all he has done, is doing, and will continue to do in the world, and also in our lives.

Now, I want you to take a brief moment and write down, who you say Jesus is. In other words, who is Jesus Christ to you?

We have just started Confirmation classes. I know some people have negative connotations with confirmation and think it’s a time to be preached at what we should believe, but there is so much more to it. It is about coming to a place where we can wrestle with ideas, questions, and answers so we can understand deeper what it is we say we believe. It is a time to help us come to a place of belief. My understanding of God and his work in the world is greatly enhanced when leading Confirmation. This is why we open it up to middle schoolers and adults. So we can all learn and grow with each other.

This past week, the Confirmation class began by asking “Who is God?” and “What is God like?” So often, we do not realize we don’t know how to answer these questions, especially when other people ask us. If we really want to know who God is and what God is like, we have to look no further than Jesus Christ.

The Apostle Paul records a hymn in his letter to the Colossians about who Jesus is:

15 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.[3]

Who we profess Jesus to be shapes how and why we do everything. We get to go into the world with greater purpose and greater power to see transformation really happen.

Professing Jesus as the Messiah, the One sent to save the world, reminds us of God’s great love for the world that he sent his only Son that whoever believes in him will have eternal life.[4]As we step out in faith, and profess Jesus as the Christ, the One who is Lord and Ruler of all the earth and universe, we allow him to come into our lives so we are transformed. Then we understand, as the Apostle Paul wrote, “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. And the life I now live in my body, I live by faith, indeed by the faithfulness of God’s Son who loved me and gave himself for me.”[5] 

Isn’t that beautiful? Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Creator of the Universe, lives is you and I because of his love for us.

Look, we all mess up. We all place other minor things above Christ which turn out to be other idols (lesser gods) we end up worshipping (finding more value in at times). But God loves you and me so much that we have Jesus Christ. We are loved so much that he has given us his power and heart to go into the world so others can know of his love for them and find their true value and worth.

This is so much more than simply knowing this, or coming forward to accept Jesus as our Savior, though that is very important for our lives. It is all about how Jesus is working within us, because of his love for us, to transform our lives into his likeness and image so we can be his agents, his vessels who go into the world to transform the world and bring the Kingdom of Heaven with us.

 

[1]Matthew 16:17 NIV

[2]Matthew 16:18 NIV

[3]Colossians 1:15-20 NIV

[4]John 3:16 (paraphrase)

[5]Galatians 2:20 CEB

After Hours

OFFICE HOURS Ministry in the Marketplace Part 6

What are your plans after you reach retirement age? Are we only working now so we can play and relax after we retire? I have come to the understanding that we have misguided ourselves when it comes to retirement.

Retirement is not simply quitting work and spending the rest of our life relaxing and doing nothing. This time is actually a gift. This is not the time to think we have “served our part,” or “I’ve done _______ for awhile, it’s time for someone else to do it.”

Growing older is a grand adventure. As we age, hopefully we are learning from our experiences and allowing God’s wisdom to sink into our hearts. I imagine it is easy to say it is time for “new blood” or “someone younger is better.” But this is the opposite of what we need to happen. The scripture focus for this week shows us, we should continue to respect and honor those older than us.

Take some time to read these words:

“Don’t correct an older man, but encourage him like he’s your father; treat younger men like your brothers, treat older women like your mother, and treat younger women like your sisters with appropriate respect. Take care of widows who are truly needy. But if a particular widow has children or grandchildren, they should first learn to respect their own family and repay their parents, because this pleases God. A widow who is truly needy and all alone puts her hope in God and keeps on going with requests and prayers, night and day. But a widow who tries to live a life of luxury is dead even while she is alive. Teach these things so that the families will be without fault. But if someone doesn’t provide for their own family, and especially for a member of their household, they have denied the faith. They are worse than those who have no faith. Put a widow on the list who is older than 60 years old and who was faithful to her husband. She should have a reputation for doing good: raising children, providing hospitality to strangers, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in distress, and dedicating herself to every kind of good thing.” ~ 1 Timothy 5:1-10 CEB

Notice the first part, “encourage.” So, to complete this series, I would like to encourage two groups of people: those who have retired, and those who have not.

First, to those who have had the opportunity to retire: Thank you for all you have done to pave the way for new generations to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ now and in the future. Your commitment to following him in and outside of your workplace has been an example to us all and we value you. We do not view you as someone who is obsolete. Instead, we value your input, your wisdom, because God has done incredible works in and through you. God is still working and moving in and through you. Embrace this truth and continue to be beacons of light for us all. 

Second, for those working people. You have been given an incredible gift also. You and I have the opportunity to share the good news of Jesus Christ at work, at home, in the community, in worship. Take head of this special time. We do not work just so we can retire. We work to make an impact for the Kingdom of God here on earth right here, right now. We are able to do this because of the grace that God has bestowed. Look to the older people. Be sure to encourage and include everyone because you never know who God is using to connect with another person. Value the time you have at work and continue to foster growth in your relationships.

I pray God continues to be known all through your life. At home, in the community, in worship, and even at work.

Praise God for the incredible gift of work!

Amen.

*Note: The concept for this series we first published on http://www.seedbed.com “Sermon Series – Office Hours: Ministry in the Marketplace”

Good Hours

OFFICE HOURS Ministry in the Marketplace Part 2

Last week, we focused on work being God given and how we have the opportunities to join Him in the restoration and redemption of the world. How has your week been different? Have you felt a greater sense of purpose for the work you do?

Our passage this week comes out of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapter 5. Again, this translation is from the Common English Bible:

“You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its saltiness, how will it become salty again? It’s good for nothing except to be thrown away and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city on top of a hill can’t be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they put it on top of a lampstand, and it shines on all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before people, so they can see the good things you do and praise your Father who is in heaven.” ~Matthew 5:13-16 CEB

What are some of the things you notice? This is one of those passages we seem to hear a lot, or at least I do. The part that is focused on is the final line, “In the same way, let your light shine before people, so they can see the good things you do and praise your Father who is in heaven.” We also hear about being the “salt of the earth.”

How does this apply to the workplace? We’ve already established we have been given the gift of work and we should do it to the best of our ability to give God the glory in all aspects of our life. Work is where we spend the majority of our time each week. We will go through highs and lows, frustrations and joys, separation and team work. This is the time of our week we have the opportunity to share the love and light of Jesus Christ to our co-workers (even if we work in a church). Not everyone at our work knows the joy, peace, and grace of Jesus Christ. So we get to show them by our actions, our words, and even how we think.

When I was younger, I used to love to put salt on my food. It didn’t matter what it was. Today, I have learned to cook the salt into the food to help the meat tenderize better and to give more flavor from the inside out. This is how I believe we should live out our work life as well. The joy of Jesus Christ in our lives shining through from deep inside us. This is how we let our light shine, how we can be the right kind of seasoning in the workplace. We not only do a better job because we are working to show the Kingdom of God; but our co-workers will also see a difference and seek to discover the joy of Jesus Christ in what seems to be the mundane and tedious work day.

Just as salt brings our the flavor of our food, we have the opportunity to generously share the love of God through Jesus Christ which seasons the atmosphere and souls around us and brings out the real person inside that God is working on.

Take this as a challenge: see how allowing the joy of Jesus Christ truly makes a difference in your life. Not just in Sunday worship. Not just at home. But when you are at work.

Be the salt and light in the workplace. It is possible because Jesus Christ is working in and through you.

*Note: The concept for this series we first published on http://www.seedbed.com “Sermon Series – Office Hours: Ministry in the Marketplace”

Eternal Hours

OFFICE HOURS Ministry in the Marketplace Part 1

Have you been to a seminar to help you become more productive at work? Have you ever read books or articles on how to lead better at work? Many of us work hard to do better at our job. Yet, there is also a great number of people who do not find satisfaction in their work or think having to work is a kind of a curse for us.When we think about work it is almost as if we think our only purpose is to focus on doing a good job just to provide so we can get what we want and for our family. Then at the end of the day, we don’t have enough time or energy to “do good” in our community, in our world.

Work is not just something we endure so we can get ready for the weekend or vacation. Our work actually has a purpose. It is not a curse. It is God-given. This six week blog series is going to look at the eternal aspect of work. This blog will be published each Tuesday morning.Maybe we can gain a clearer focus so we can discover our purpose in work is actually to live out a life that gives glory to God in all we do and to steward the gifts we’ve been given.

This week, I invite you to read Genesis 2:5-15. Here is the passage as written in the Common English Bible:

“before any wild plants appeared on the earth, and before any field crops grew, because the LORD God hadn’t yet sent rain on the earth and there was still no human being to farm the fertile land, though a stream rose from the earth and watered all of the fertile land— the LORD God formed the human from the topsoil of the fertile land and blew life’s breath into his nostrils. The human came to life. The LORD God planted a garden in Eden in the east and put there the human he had formed. In the fertile land, the LORD God grew every beautiful tree with edible fruit, and also he grew the tree of life in the middle of the garden and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A river flows from Eden to water the garden, and from there it divides into four headwaters. The name of the first river is the Pishon. It flows around the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold. That land’s gold is pure, and the land also has sweet-smelling resins and gemstones. The name of the second river is the Gihon. It flows around the entire land of Cush. The name of the third river is the Tigris, flowing east of Assyria; and the name of the fourth river is the Euphrates. The LORD God took the human and settled him in the garden of Eden to farm it and to take care of it.”

What is the first thing you notice (besides the strange names that are difficult to pronounce)? I also have a picture of the Garden of Eden as a place of perfect paradise. This is a quiet, peaceful, joyful place because the presence of the Living Lord is tangible and fully experienced. 

This passage opens with the idea that there was no being created to take care of the garden. God formed out of the earth, a human, who was created to take care of, to work the land so it can continue to produce fruit and for people to live in perfect harmony with God Himself.

All of this happened before “the fall” in Genesis 3 meaning that God gave humankind the gift of work so we can partner with Him to take care of the land. Apply this to your setting. Your work is actually a gift from God. You and I have been given gifts and talents to do our work. We do not do this work alone. God is with us. When we think about partnering with God to work and steward the resources and people around us, how does this change your view of work?

Did you notice something else in the passage? Read the passage again.

“a stream rose from the earth and watered all of the fertile land” I find this very interesting. if we think about this, the water is coming up and nourishing the fertile land all around. Water brings life. Where is scripture does it talk about water bringing life? All throughout the New Testament! Jesus Christ is the Living Water in the world (John 4).

When Jesus was resurrected from the dead (John 20), Mary Magdeline thought He was the…gardener! Not only does Jesus Christ (Emmanuel – God in flesh) nourish the world, but He is also working the to restore the earth back to the original state of paradise. We get to participate in the redemption of the world with Him!

Everything we do at our work has eternal consequences. The way we treat those around us has eternal consequences. Our work is not just about getting the job done in order to play. Our work actually has a purpose. So whatever it is you do for a living, know this, you have partnered with Jesus Christ for the redemption of the world. Each person we come in contact in the workplace should know they also have the chance to partner with Jesus Christ in the restoration of the world.

How has your view of work changed now? 

“Whatever you do, whether in speech or action, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus and give thanks to God the Father through him.” ~ Colossians 3:17 CEB

*Note: The concept for this series we first published on http://www.seedbed.com “Sermon Series – Office Hours: Ministry in the Marketplace”