Every plant needs water, soil, and sunlight to grow, even though every plant grows differently. In the same way, every disciple experiences spiritual growth differently, and yet we all need three essential ingredients to continue growing spiritually.
What is a disciple? How do we live as disciples of Jesus? We turn to Matthew 4:18-22 and take our cues from Jesus. Sermon delivered at LakeView Church on 4/28/19.
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes…” (Romans 1:16a, NIV)
Somehow those of us who follow Jesus have become ashamed of the gospel. We live by the old adage, “There are two things you don’t talk about: religion and politics.” Except we do talk about politics, incessantly (just scroll Facebook sometime… on second thought, don’t waste your brain on Facebook). We’re not ashamed of whether we support the President or wish he would resign early. Yet, we feel like we have to hide our allegiance to the only One who really matters. I wonder what would happen if we were as passionate about our King as we are about our President?
We’re worried our friends will be offended if we talk about Jesus. We don’t want our neighbors to think we’re weird. The last thing we need is more awkwardness when our extended family gathers for a holiday. Even church leaders have bought into this thinking.
For 30+ years, many churches have felt the need to downplay their Christianness and disguise their churchiness. Let’s build church buildings that don’t look like church buildings. Let’s dress in less churchy clothes (gone are the days of wearing your Sunday best to meet with the King of the Universe… I wonder how we’d dress to meet with the President?). Let’s make the music in worship more of a show than a corporate act of praise. Let’s make the preaching less “offensive” and more self-help pop-psychology. Instead of serving others and meeting the needs of our community in the name of Christ, let’s plan more entertainment for people. Maybe somewhere along the way we can pull the old bait-and-switch. They thought they were coming for free candy, but they got a Bible verse instead!
Standing with Paul and declaring Romans 1:16 for ourselves is part of what God is calling LakeView to do as He leads us into a new era of being (not just doing) the church. We are not embarrassed to follow Jesus. We don’t need to downplay the fact that we the people of LakeView are a family of disciples living for the glory of Christ and the common good. In a world where every movement contrary to God’s Word celebrates its own “pride,” we stand resolutely on Jesus’ side without apology. We don’t fight with the world–our battle is won through love, sacrifice, and suffering. We serve, we give, we worship, we proclaim the good news of Jesus. We don’t hide our faith. We are not ashamed of the gospel!
Hopefully, that’s becoming true of us individually as it becomes true of us corporately. Warren Wiersbe once said, “If you were arrested today for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” My prayer for this week is that we all go and start leaving evidence!
How did Christianity go from a movement started by Jesus and a handful of disciples to over 2.3 billion people who identify as Christians today? We begin a new series through the Book of Acts, which shows just how this whole “Christianity” thing started.
“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin condemns any people.” (Proverbs 14:34, NIV)
We live in a time and social context in which our country is deeply divided over politics, sexuality, race, religion–you name it, we’ll split over it. We also live in a context in which sin runs rampant. Indeed, Romans 1:18-32 could almost be a description of our society today. Sin wreaks havoc and devastation everywhere it appears, and while our nation is floundering, drowning in its own depravity, what are we doing to help?
Let me suggest that rage against those who disagree with us isn’t helpful. Wishing everyone from a particular political party or religious movement would just go away and live somewhere else isn’t going to fix any of the challenges we face. Now more than ever we need to be praying for our nation and its leaders. We need to be the light of the world that Jesus called His disciples (that includes us) to be in Matthew 5:14-16. We need to live righteous, holy lives devoted to our Savior, and we need to pray for those who haven’t yet heard or accepted the good news of Jesus. It is the righteousness that comes through faith in Christ, the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit in true believers, that will exalt a nation–not its laws, its political views, its tolerance, its social services, or its GDP.
So, let me also suggest that aside from being a living picture of the gospel, a reflection of the Lord to your family, friends, neighbors, classmates, and coworkers–the most important thing you can do for our country is pray. It doesn’t matter if we view our neighbors as friends or enemies. It doesn’t matter if we see our governing authorities as friends or enemies. If they’re friends, we should pray for them, and if they’re enemies… well, Jesus told us to pray for our enemies, too.
My prayer for the week is that we will all remember to pray for the people who make up our nation, even the ones we don’t like.
In just a few short weeks I will be graduating from Moody Theological Seminary with a Master of Divinity degree (although I certainly don’t feel like a “master”). If there’s one thing I’ve learned through my studies at Moody (and there are a ton of things I’ve learned), it’s how much I don’t know. The more I learn, the more I realize how much there is to learn, and how little knowledge I possess. To that end, and because the thought of leaving school is a little scary, I’ve begun compiling a “summer” reading list. There are too many books on the list for this summer, but nevertheless, here’s a sample of some of the books I’ll be digging into in the coming months. Click on any of the titles to see them on Amazon. What’s on your summer reading list?
Most pastors and church leaders will tell you that Easter is one of their favorite Sundays of the year. I often refer to Easter as the “Super Bowl” of Christian worship. Most churches pull out all stops with their Easter services–special music, a special message, special programming, maybe even a different venue. Many churches add an additional service, and Easter is usually one of the highest-attended worship services in a year. The atmosphere is one of excitement and anticipation, and for good reason. What could be a greater cause for celebration than the resurrection of Jesus Christ?
You might think that a large attendance, a big production, a chance to passionately share the gospel, and an opportunity to rejoice because Jesus is alive would mean that pastors go home from Easter Sunday on cloud nine. It may come as a surprise to learn that many, many pastors contemplate quitting the ministry the day after Easter. The “post-Easter blues” aren’t logical, but they are real. We lie awake Easter night wondering if all the work, the expense, and the production was worth it. We are keenly aware of every little misspoken word, missed cue or other minor mistake. We will have a list a mile long of ways it could’ve been better before the Easter ham has been eaten off our dinner plate. While our kids are hunting for Easter eggs on Sunday afternoon, our minds are divided–still half-focused on the service, and wondering if any of the decisions to follow Jesus that were made were genuine. We may be irritable and snap at friends and family members–only a few hours after exalting the risen Christ in worship! And on Monday, the day after Easter, many pastors will seriously consider resigning from their pastorate to pursue a career in the “real world.”
I’m not writing this so you’ll feel sorry for pastors. My purpose is to ask you to encourage your pastor this week. He/she could use a kind word and a compliment. Trust me, your pastor will hear plenty of criticism about the service–the music was too loud, we didn’t sing my favorite hymn, the sermon was too long, the coffee was too weak, we didn’t advertise enough, we shouldn’t embarrass people by asking them to raise their hands to accept Jesus… you name it, people will criticize it. That’s why it’s important for you to break the mold and say an encouraging word to your pastor this week. Here are just a few suggestions:
Write a thank you card. You’d be surprised at how effective a simple handwritten note can be. Knowing that you took the time to grab a card, physically write a message, and drop it off at the church office is like a ray of sunshine in the dark night of the soul. A hand-written note is not an afterthought, and that makes it meaningful.
Send a text, email or Facebook message. A lot of what we get via email and Facebook is negative. A positive message will stand out like the first blossom of Spring after a long Winter.
Post on Facebook or Twitter about how much you enjoyed the service–and give the credit to God. Pastors are encouraged when we hear how God moved someone in a service, and especially when we see our members glorifying God in it. Plus, your post is also an encouragement to all the volunteers who worked to create the service. And, it advertises to your non-church-going friends that you had a great experience in worship today, and they may be inclined to ask you about it.
Make a brief phone call. Be specific about what you thought went well in the service. It doesn’t have to be long, and it doesn’t need to be over the top or flowery. It can be short and simple and, most importantly, genuine.
Some of you may know how many hours your pastor put into planning and studying and organizing the Easter service. It’s likely that he/she worked many late nights meeting with volunteer leaders and making sure the details were taken care of… and then woke up before the sun to pray and study Scripture. Your pastor’s family also felt the strain of Easter Sunday with a spouse/parent who was suddenly a lot busier and didn’t have as much time to help around the house.
In love, your pastor sacrificed a lot to bring about a great Easter Sunday worship service. And, for whatever silly reason, your pastor may be struggling with the post-Easter blues, and may even be considering resigning. So, I am asking you to throw a little love your pastor’s way this week, and let God use to you encourage one of His weary servants. Thanks!
Photo courtesy of www.freejazzlessons.com.