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Tag: Jesus

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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The Sacrifice

There is a song that we sometimes sing in at our kids clubs called “Father Abraham”. If you’ve been a camp kid or if you grew up in the church, chances are good that you’ve heard it before. But if not, it goes like this: “Father Abraham had many sons – many sons had Father Abraham. And I am one of them, and so are you, so let’s just praise the Lord.”

And then there are some ridiculous actions that go along with that have nothing to do with song – but the kids love it – and believe it or not, the theology of the song is actually pretty accurate.

According to Paul in Romans 4:16…

“For Abraham is the father of all who believe.” Romans 4:16

Of course, Abraham is not likely your biological ancestor unless you happen to be Jewish, but Paul says Abraham is our father in a spiritual sense. If we have put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ – then Abraham is our Father. We are one of his many sons and daughters – because he is the father of all who believe.

And if you’ve been tracking along with us for these past couple months, I think it’s probably becoming clear why Paul would say that Abraham is the father of all who believe. We’ve spent the last several weeks looking at the life of Abraham – learn from Him as He learned to walk with God.

Today, we are wrapping up that series, but it has been incredible to see the amount of faith Abraham had in God. It’s no wonder we call him the Father of our faith. We read a bit of a summary of Abraham’s life last week from Romans 4:18 – which really emphasized Abraham’s faith in God. It said:

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Contrasting a “Me-Centered” Society

If you’ve ever read through the Gospel of Matthew, you’ve probably noticed that Jesus talks a lot about the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven. I believe it’s about 55 times in Matthew – 126 times throughout all four Gospels – that Jesus talks about this kingdom. He tells all kinds of parables and gives all kinds of illustrations to help us understand what the Kingdom of God is like. And of course, Jesus isn’t talking about a kingdom with physical borders and castles and armies and things like that. The kingdom of God is a different kind of kingdom. In fact, when Jesus was on trial before the Roman governor, Pilate, Pilate asks him, “Are you a king?” And Jesus says in John 18:36…

36 Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.” John 18:36

Jesus was saying his kingdom was very different from the kingdom of Rome or any other kingdom that we might be familiar with. You see, unlike most kingdoms, the Kingdom of God is not centered around some physical location like a city or a castle or a country. The Kingdom of God is centered around God. And God of course is not limited by location – he’s omni-present. He’s present everywhere all the time. So God’s kingdom is not defined by a physical location, but it’s defined by the people who carry out the will of their king.

Two weeks ago we looked at the Lord’s prayer and there’s a key part of that prayer – one that you’re probably familiar with – which goes like this: 

“Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:10 KJV

We talked about how, when we pray that, we are inviting God’s will as King to be done on earth and in our lives and in our community – just as his will is being carried out in heaven. 

And so when Jesus is talking about the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven – he’s talking about the people who submit to and carry out the will of God in their lives.

And it makes sense that we should pray that prayer – “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” – We should be eager to carry out God’s will because we know that God’s will is good and pleasing and perfect. We read that from Romans 12:2 three weeks ago:

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2

Our will is often flawed. I can’t speak for you, but I know that my will is often selfish and sometimes I make decisions that hurt others or even myself. We are not perfect people and we do not make perfect decisions.

But God is perfect. And his will is perfect. It’s good and it’s pleasing. We don’t always understand it. We don’t always see the good immediately. But if God really is how the Bible describes Him – loving, just, faithful, and all those other things – then we can trust that his will is good and pleasing and perfect.

And I’ve certainly seen that to be true in my life. I’ve had a lot of regrets doing things my way, but I’ve never regretted doing things God’s way.

But that’s sure not to say that it’s been easy. Doing things God’s way often means doing things the exact opposite of what everyone else is doing. We’ve talked about how the Kingdom of God is very different from the Kingdom of this world. In fact, that’s probably why Jesus talked about it so often. If we are going to live in the kingdom of God, then we need to be prepared to live very differently – different from how we used to live – different from how the world around us lives.

And so that’s what we’ve been talking about for the last few weeks as we’ve been going through this message series – which we’ve titled “Kingdom Living”.

What is God’s will for us in how we should live? If Jesus is our King and His will is good and pleasing and perfect, it would seem to me that we would want his will to be done on earth and in our lives and in our community – just as it is in heaven. And if so, then what is that good and pleasing and perfect will for us? How does He want us to live? What does Kingdom Living look like?

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The Substitute

For the past two weeks we’ve been theming our messages around the phrase – “No Pain – No Gain” as we try to understand why Easter matters. I think most of us get it, that Easter is not just about bunnies and chocolate eggs and such, but rather it’s a remembrance and a celebration that Jesus Christ died and rose again to life. That part is pretty well understood I think – especially if you’ve had any connection with church for any length of time.

But what might not be so universally understood is why that matters. Why is it important to you and I,  that some 2000 years ago, a man named Jesus died and came back to life again? What difference does it make in your life today?

That’s what we’ve been trying to wrap out heads around in this series – No Pain, No Gain – Why Easter Matters.

And I think we’re starting to get an idea of the gain side of the equation. In our first message, we identified that one thing that everyone of us wants – but very few of us find. And that is complete and lasting satisfaction.

We can certainly be satisfied for a few moments here and there. There is an element of satisfaction in many pursuits in life – from accomplishing great things, or having fun and exciting experiences, enjoying great food and great friends – these all give us a sense of satisfaction. But nothing is lasting. The satisfaction we do get quickly fades away and we’re forced to chase after something else – something more.

It’s like no matter how wonderful the meal is – we find we’re always hungry the next day. But what if we could find true, lasting satisfaction? Satisfaction that didn’t fade away. What if we could live in a state of being fully, completely satisfied in life?

Well, we discovered last week, that that’s exactly how God intended us to live. When God created Adam & Eve – he created them to live fully satisfied lives. He provided for their every need – both their physical needs as well as their spiritual and emotional needs. And for a time, Adam & Eve enjoyed the most satisfying life you can imagine.

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The Great Exchange

I want to begin this morning simply by reading through the account of Jesus’ birth as recorded in Luke 2. This really is the centrepiece of Christmas and this will set the stage for what we want to talk about today.

At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. 2 (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. 4 And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. 5 He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child.

6 And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. 7 She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.

8 That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. 9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in highest heaven,
and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

15 When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. 17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, 19 but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. 20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.

21 Eight days later, when the baby was circumcised, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel even before he was conceived.

Luke 1:1-21

We’ve probably heard that passage at Christmas so many times that we’ve started to forget how amazing this story is. The very idea of Christmas is pretty incredible. It’s amazing enough to think that God Himself would come and live on the earth with us – that’s amazing! – but when you think that the Almighty, Everlasting, Infinite Creator of the Universe would confine Himself to the tiny helpless body of a fragile, human baby and actually become like one of us?! THAT is pretty mind-blowing!

We probably can’t ever grasp just how incredible it was for God to become human and to be born as a baby.

Think about it. The omnipotent, all powerful God who set the boundaries for the oceans and created billions of stars and galaxies – that God, as a baby needed someone to feed and cloth him and carry him and change his diapers. The omniscient all-knowing God – who calculated the earth’s perfect size and rotation and tilt and distance from the sun so that life could flourish, that God had to learn to walk and say his first words.The omni-sufficient God – the God who has never needed anything from anyone, now had to depend on his very own creations to care for him and to provide for his basic needs. He would experience hunger and thirst and pain and tiredness for the first time ever.

Imagine all that Jesus gave up and all the limitations and restrictions that Jesus had to take on to born as a human baby.

I know it’s not even close, but here’s the best way I can imagine it: We are extremely privileged to live in Canada (we have health and wealth and comfort beyond what most people dream of)- but imagine giving all that up to be born in some of the poorest places in the world.

  • Imagine choosing to give up your family to be born as an orphan on the streets in India.
  • Imagine choosing to give up your nice house to live in a cardboard box in some rat-infested, garbage filled back alley.
  • Imagine choosing to give up all the great food you eat every day (Tim Horton, Christmas dinner, roast beef & mashed potatoes) to instead live in the slums of the Philippines and eat rotting or moldy bits and pieces of stuff that you find in the garbage dumps.
  • Imagine choosing to give up your health in exchange for being born with aids or some other life-threatening disease – knowing that you’ll die a painful death long before you grow old.

That’s really what Jesus did. Jesus gave up all the amazingness of heaven (And I can’t even begin to imagine that) – and in it’s place, he came to live here. And he wasn’t born in a palace or among the wealthy or the affluent – but his first bed was a feed trough in barn. He took on the weakness of humanity. He came into this sin-filled world and lived in within the restrictions and limitations of a fragile human body.

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