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Tag: Bible

The Great Drama of God

About six weeks ago we began our visual theology message series – based on the book by Tim Challies and Josh Byers. And as you can see on the title page, there are four main components that make up this series. These are like the four reasons why we want to study Theology (or why we want to study God)… These are four things that every Christian should want to do.

#1. We want to grow close to Christ, 

#2. we want to understand the work of Christ, 

#3. we want to become like Christ, and 

#4. we want to live for Christ.

Those are the four main reasons why we are studying theology – and these four components form the basic outline for these messages. 

In the first component, which Greg just finished for us last week, we talked all about how to grow close to Christ. In that section, we talked about everything from how the Gospel connects us to Christ to our new identity in Christ. We looked at how God speaks to us through the Bible, and how we speak to God through prayer. These are the basics of growing close to Christ.

The second component of this series (that we’re going to start looking at today) is designed to help us understand the work of Christ. In other words, not only do we want to have a personal relationship with Christ, but be also want to understand what He is doing in the world. This is a key element of the Christian faith – we need to understand what God has done, what He is doing right now, and what He’s going to do in the future.

You see, the Bible tells us that we are living smack-dab in the middle of an incredible story! We are all part of God’s unfolding drama. Our life on this planet is just one scene in an eternal, cosmic story that’s been playing out since time began. It’s like God is the ultimate writer and director and the world is the stage for his drama to unfold.

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The Bible Is…

To begin this morning, I want to ask you a question that I’ve often asked at the end of my messages, but I don’t think I have ever asked it right at the beginning. Preachers will quite often ask a question like this one as the concluding thought of the sermon – it’s the main point that everything has been driving towards. After all has been said and done, this is the question that they want you to take home and think about and hopefully act upon….

And the question is:

Do you have a personal relationship with God?

Normally this question is asked to encourage you to think about accepting Christ as your Saviour – to make that first time decision to follow Jesus and become a Christian.

But that’s not necessarily where I’m going with this one today. 

The question is not “Do you want to become a Christian?” – The question is “Do you have a personal relationship with God?”

And maybe before you answer that question, I should define what a personal relationship is. You see, having a personal relationship with someone requires having personal interactions with them.

For example, I do not have a personal relationship with Donald Trump. I believe he exists. I believe he has said things and done things that have impacted my life (to a certain extent). I’ve even read some of his tweets and heard him speak on tv. But I do not have a personal relationship with him – because the two of us have never had any personal interactions. We’ve never had a conversation – we’ve never emailed back and forth. We’ve had no personal interactions with each other – and therefore I do not have a personal relationship with him.

So when I ask the question “Do you have a personal relationship with God?” – I’m not asking if you believe he exists or if you believe that he has said and done things that have impacted your life. I’m not asking if you’ve read some books about God or heard a preacher preach about God.

I’m asking if you personally have some sort of interactions with God. Are there times when you speak and He listens and are there times when He speaks and you listen? Because that’s what a personal relationship is all about.

It’s two people speaking and listening to each other – it’s the two-way street of communication. Without those back-and-forth interactions, it’s pretty hard to say that you have a personal relationship with someone.

As Christians we have the awesome privilege of having a personal relationship with God. God has invited us to have personal interactions – those back-and-forth conversations with Him – which is pretty amazing when you think about it. 

We think it’s pretty awesome when we meet a famous actor or athlete – We’re thrilled when they say three sentences to us and autograph our posters. But how much more awesome is it that the Creator of the universe wants to connect with you and interact with you on a regular basis?!

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Discipled By God

Six weeks ago, we began looking at a fairly straight-forward question: What does it look like to make disciples?

Does it look like Sunday morning at a mega-church? Does it look like coffee with a friend at Tim Hortons? Does it look serving the homeless at a soup kitchen? Does it look like a neighbourhood block-party? Does it look like a ladies Bible study or youth group or Sunday school or kids club or any of these things?

Well, to find the answer to these questions, we started by defining discipleship. And of course, the key passage we looked at was Matthew 28:18-20 – which by now, I imagine most of you have memorized – since we’ve looked at it for each of the last six weeks! But it says this:

18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

Now this isn’t the only place where the Bible talks about making disciples – its actually quite a re-occuring theme – but based on that passage, we defined discipleship as: helping people trust and follow Jesus.

Discipleship: Helping people trust and follow Jesus.

It’s really as simple as that. If you are helping people trust and follow Jesus – then you are making disciples. And we came to realize that we can help people trust and follow Jesus in a lot of different ways – and in a lot of different contexts.

In fact, we identified 5 different contexts in the life and ministry of Jesus that we could learn from as we try to model our discipleship on what He did.

At a glance, those five context’s were: The Public Context, The Social Context, The Personal Context, The Transparent Context, and the Divine Context.

And so the first context that we looked at was the public context. 

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Unguarded Discipleship

Have you ever wondered why you’re still here? I’ve often thought “Wouldn’t it be nicer if God would just teleport us to heaven the moment we accepted him as our Saviour?” We could be done with sin once for all and we could immediately enjoy the wonders of being with our Creator. That would be way better than staying here on this sin-soaked planet – enduring the pain and the hardships of life.

The Apostle Paul wrestled with this very thought of how it would be better to go and be with the Lord, but at the same time, he knew that God had a purpose for him to remain. He writes in his letter to the Philippians:

I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. 21 For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. 22 But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. 23 I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. 24 But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live. 25 Knowing this, I am convinced that I will remain alive so I can continue to help all of you grow and experience the joy of your faith. Philippians 1:20-25

Paul recognized that he had a job to do. He had a purpose on this planet – and that was to make disciples – in Paul’s words, his job was “to help people grow and experience the joy of their faith.”

And our job is no different. We read in Matthew 28:18-20:

18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

God has chosen for us to be part of his plan of redemption. We are to be his messengers of this Good News. We are to be disciples who make disciples.

Last week we defined a disciple as:

One who is following Jesus, is being changed by Jesus, and is committed to the mission of Jesus.

Those three elements are key to true discipleship. And the big question that we’ve been trying to tackle for the last several weeks is: how do we become and how do we make those kind of disciples as Jesus commanded us?

If that’s one of the main tasks that Jesus has given us to do, if that’s a major reason why we are still on this planet, then how do we do that effectively? How, in 2017 here in Canada, do we make disciples who are following Jesus, are being changed by Jesus, and are committed to the mission of Jesus?

Well, the Bible doesn’t give us a checklist to follow or a no-fail formula for disciple making – but it does give us all kinds of examples in the New Testament and in the old, of people making disciples – helping others trust and follow God.

And so for this message series, we’ve categorized those examples into 5 different contexts. These are five types of relationships in the Bible where we can see discipleship happening.

And so far we’ve looked at the public context, the social context, and the personal context.

And I don’t want to take too long to give you a full recap, but here are the keys points for those three contexts so far.

  • In the public context, disciples can be made in a crowd through teaching, preaching, and inspiration. A good modern example of this would be the Sunday Morning service. It is here that we are we are motivated, persuaded, encouraged, influenced, moved, stirred, spurred on, energized, and awakened in our journey with Jesus.
  • In the social context, Christianity is caught, more-so than taught as we see first hand from others what it looks like to follow Jesus. This sort of discipleship happens within a community – usually 20-70 people. For us this would include many of our church functions outside of the Sunday service – such as backyard BBQs or serving together in the town’s Fall Festival or our Mother’s Day brunch.
  • Then last week we looked at the personal context. If, in the public context we can be discipled by strangers, and in the social context by acquaintances, then in the personal context, we are discipled by friends who support and challenge us. These family-like relationships allow us to practice things like forgiveness and mercy and patience and all that other good stuff as we learn to love others like Jesus did. This is the kind of discipleship that happens in families or small groups of 4-12 people.

And now today we want to look at a fourth context – the Transparent Context.

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Accurately Understanding the Bible

John 15:4-5 says….

4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.

5 “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:4-5

This is the passage that we started looking at nearly two months ago. By now that might just be a distant memory for you, so I thought I’d better do a little bit of a refresher before we continue on with today’s message.

Back when we started this series, I talked a little bit about how we tend to grow less healthy and less fit over time unless we do something about it. I think that’s true for most people. At least it is for me! My job doesn’t require me to do a lot of physical activity – although this week has perhaps been an exception as we’ve moved and cleaned and setup and done all that stuff…. But generally I spend a lot of time working at my desk or visiting folks around the kitchen table – those aren’t very physically demanding activities.

To compound the problem, the cold of winter tends to encourage me to stay indoors, rather than outdoors. And on top of that, I’ve discovered that there are lot of really delicious things to eat in this world! So for me, it takes intentional effort to stay at least relatively healthy and fit. If I don’t want to get completely out of shape, I need to intentionally develop some healthy habits.

So maybe I need to practice eating a little more healthy. Maybe I need to get into the habit of exercising on a regular basis. Maybe I need to drive a little less and walk a little more.

But the bottom line is, if I want to stay healthy and fit, I need to develop some healthy habits.

And as we’ve been going through this series, we’ve discovered that the same is true spiritually speaking. If we want to stay spiritually healthy and fit – that is, if we want to remain in Christ, staying close and connected to Him so that we produce much fruit like that verse says – then likewise, we need to develop some healthy habits.

Healthy Habits

And that’s what this series has been all about. What are the healthy habits that Christians have been practicing for centuries that can help us develop that deep and meaningful relationship with Christ? What are those Spiritual Disciplines – as they are often known as – that help us stay connected with Jesus so that we can produce much fruit?

Well, actually there are a whole variety of those practices – Bible reading and prayer and worship are some of the more common ones – but there are also some other very valuable practices like fasting or times of silence and solitude that maybe aren’t so common these days, but are still very healthy habits when it comes to cultivating a deep relationship with God.

Now the most recent spiritual discipline or healthy habit that we’ve talked about has been reading and studying the Bible. We’ve spent a couple of weeks talking about the message of the Bible, how we know the Bible is true and that its actually the Word of God as it claims to be. We talked about how God’s Word transforms our lives. It changes the way we think – it shows us God’s eternal perspective – which in turn, complete changes the way we live our lives.

And we ended our last message with a warning from James 1:22 which says

“But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.”  James 1:22

And that was really a lead into today message – which is how do we read and understand the Bible accurately – so that we can be sure that we actually do what it actually says? If we’re going to obey God’s Word – if God is going to change the way we think and transform our lives through his Word – if we are basing our entire lives and our eternal future on the words in this book, then we need to make sure we’re accurately understanding and applying what the Bible actually says.

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