Thursday, December 19, 2013

"What's In A Name?"
Philippians 2:9-11
Sunday, December 22, 2013

Introduction: We are in a study in the book of Philippians, and today I want us to think about “what’s in a name”. If I were to say some names to you, you would have thoughts and reactions based on the name. So let me throw a few names out to you….
Michael Jordan… Lindsay Lohan… Mother Theresa… Miley Cyrus… Nelson Mandela… Jesus Christ…
            What was it that impacted your thinking about each name? Mainly, the way they had lived (or are living) their life. Right? The point I want to make today is that there is something about our name. But even more, there is everything about the name of Jesus Christ! Today we look at Philippians 2:9-11…
            The “therefore” at the beginning of verse 9 refers to everything Paul has said about Jesus up to this point in chapter 2. Jesus lived with humility, not selfishness, giving Himself completely to us. Jesus thought of others before Himself. Jesus left the confines of heaven to take on a human body and the limitations and struggles that came with that body, for your sake and for mine. Jesus died on a cross so that He could take the sins of the world onto Himself, and so that we could have eternal life in Him. THEREFORE, Christ’s name is the name above all names.
            Let us pray…   We have been

I.                   Highly Exalted- (Philippians 2:9)
a.      Born in a manger- One of the profound truths of the Bible is the fact
that Jesus was born in a barn, not a palace. Jesus was born to simple people, not into the family of a king or an influential person. In fact, when Jesus’ parents were looking for a place to have the baby, there was no place to be found. They had to beg just to be able to use the barn. You wonder if Jesus’ parents lamented over having to have Jesus in such a lowly place.
            But this is who Jesus was. As we are told in Matthew 20:28, Even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus’ life was one lived in humility, and yet not weakness. Jesus’ life was one that sought to serve and love His people. Jesus knew that there would be a time when He would be exalted, but His time here on the earth was not that time.
            As a human, Jesus was humbled by the desires and temptations he experienced, unlike anything He had experienced in heaven. But He was able to humble Himself and empty Himself of His desires. By emptying Himself of His desires, and keeping Himself focused on the will of the Father, He was able to live a life of example, and put Himself in the place to die for our sins. This was not without struggle, like when He prayed in anguish in the Garden of Gethsemane. But in the end, Jesus kept Himself humble so that He could be filled with the power and presence of God.
It was Jesus’ humility that allowed Him to be obedient. We need to learn from Jesus’ example. When we are disobedient, we are choosing our own way over God’s. Jesus knew He couldn’t do this and stick to the plan. As Philippians 2:8 tells us, “He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.” Death on a cross is not what any of us would choose for ourselves, including Jesus. But it was a needed event for Jesus to fulfill the plan of saving us from our sins. So obedience was the route that had been chosen for Jesus, and the path He willingly and faithfully followed.
            In humility Jesus lived to glorify the Father. In humility, Jesus lived a life of power, because it enabled Him to walk in the will of the Father and accomplish all that He had come to do! It started in a manger, but Philippians 2 reminds us that it ended in a much different place!!
b.      Name above all names- I think most people care about what others
think about them. I know that I care about what others think when they hear my name. We all want to make a name for ourselves. Some want this more than others. And the way they go about it is by trying to do something spectacular, or awe inspiring, or significant.
            They try and invent something that will make them rich. They try and rise to a position of significance. They try to get themselves in the media in a way that causes others to hear their name. But Jesus tells us in Matthew 16:26- “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” The problem with trying to make a name for yourself is that you give up your quest for God and substitute it with a quest for notoriety.
            We are told in Philippians 2:9, Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name. Jesus was not the one who exalted Himself, but the Father. Jesus was not the one who made His name above all other names. It was the Father. Jesus didn’t live with the purpose of making a name for Himself. Jesus fulfilled the purpose that was given to Him, and in that faithfulness He was exalted to the place of honor He deserved.
            What makes Christ’s name above all other names? There is so much we could say to answer this question. We could do a whole series on the name of Jesus and its significance. But let me highlight a few things that centers around salvation, because this is one of the main points Paul is talking about here in Philippians chapter 2.
First, we are told in  Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: ‘Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel (which means God is with us).’”
            Colossians 2:9- “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity (Godness)
                                                lives in bodily form.”
The Scriptures speak plain and clear, Jesus is God in the flesh. Jesus proved this to us time and time again….He turned water to wine, He walked on water, He calmed the storm, He healed a blind man, He brought Lazarus back to life!
Why is this so important that we understand that Jesus is God in the flesh? Because unless Jesus is God, He could not be anything more than a good man and a great teacher. He could not be the Savior, because He would not be without sin. Only one without sin could have sacrificed Himself for us to bring us forgiveness of sins, and only God in the flesh could have been sinless.
            2 Corinthians 5:21 tells us- “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”
            Second, we read in Matthew 1:21 how an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said: She (Mary) will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Jesus very name means “he will save his people from their sins.” Jesus’ name is above all other names because He is the Savior of the world; He is the Lord of all; He is the King of Kings!

II.                Every Knee Should Bow- (Philippians 2:10)
a.      From humility- Many people have stories of humiliation. Stories of
being dumped in a trash can by the seniors when you were a freshman. Stories of your underwear being hoisted up the flag pole. For some reason, people like to humiliate others. However, this kind of humiliation does not serve a purpose. The humility and humiliation that Jesus experienced was allowed to happen by God for the purpose of Jesus fulfilling the ultimate plan.
            As I said before, Jesus left the confines of heaven to take on flesh. You might take this for granted, but let’s think about that for a moment. Jesus, God the Son, in full glory in heaven; perfect and powerful. He chooses to leave this perfect place to come to the earth, an imperfect place. He chooses to be born; to become helpless. He must rely on others to care for His needs. This is quite the change of circumstances. He goes from being fully God to being fully God and fully human.
In His human form He is limited in many ways. He experiences temptation (but does not sin). He experiences the emotions that any human would experience. He gets tired. He is bound to be at one place at a time. And on and on it goes. You and I might not think this to be humiliating, but if this were forced on Jesus without a purpose, then it would be quite humiliating.
Once He starts His ministry He is questioned, and doubted, and challenged. Something that would never happen if He was in His glorified form. That too could be humiliating. And then ultimately He is hunted down, arrested, ridiculed, beaten, questioned, and crucified! The most humiliating of experiences someone could go through in Jesus’ time!!
            Again, it is easy to miss all that is going on, because we know the story so well. But Jesus allowed Himself to go through all of this because He knew what the outcome would be. In responding to Pilate at His trial, Jesus said in John 19:11, Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.” Jesus, in the midst of all of this humiliation, and in the midst of Pilate lording his power over Jesus, is standing there and accepting it! He does this because He knows that the authority comes from God to carry out the plan that has been enacted!
b.      To exaltation- In my life I have had many times when I was exalted by
what I had done. I remember pitching my baseball teams to important wins and receiving glory for my efforts. I have been able to bless families in their time of need and gotten great appreciation and thanks. And when we receive this exalting, we relish it. But hopefully only for a moment before we realized that there is only One who truly deserves to be exalted!
            So the Apostle Paul tells us that Jesus made Himself nothing; He took the form of a servant; He humbled Himself; He experienced death as a criminal on a cross. But Paul doesn’t stop there. He continues on to tell us the full story. He tells us that Jesus is Lord of all. He tells us that Jesus’ name is the name above all names. He tells us that every knee should and will bow down to Him. He tells us that Jesus will be exalted in heaven by the Father.
Jesus will be exalted because He is our Savior. One of the most important things we can do is admit that we need a Savior. This is often difficult to do, because our sin causes us to be hard-hearted and not seek after our Savior.
EX. There is a story of a cow that got her nose stuck in a paint can. She couldn’t shake the can off, and it was causing her difficulty in breathing. Of course, she also couldn’t eat or drink with this can on her nose. So along came some people to rescue her. But you know what she did when she saw the people? SHE RAN. The cow was able to avoid her rescuers for 3 DAYS! They finally had to use a pick-up truck and ropes to corner and de-can the cow.
We are amazed at this story, but this is what we do when we are hard-hearted. We run from God when he tries to rescue us. We need to praise the name of Jesus because He helps us when we are hard-hearted!
Jesus comes to us when we are lost and confused and don’t know which way to turn. Jesus knows which way we need to go, for His is the way, and the truth, and the life. As our Savior He is able to guide us away from that which is destroying us, and bring us to a place of peace, and joy, and love, and hope!

III.             Jesus Christ is Lord- (Philippians 2:11; Luke 1:26-38)
a.      Not just savior, but Lord- But there is one more point that Paul makes
in this passage, and that is that Jesus isn’t just our Savior, He is our Lord. We read in Philippians 2:11, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” It isn’t enough for us to make Jesus our Savior. That is good, because as I said before we need a savior. That is good because without Jesus as our Savior we could not be in a right relationship with God. Without a Savior we could not spend eternity in heaven.
            But Jesus needs to be our Lord as well, because we are His. Jesus has bought us with a price; the price of His crucifixion. Jesus needs to be our Lord so that we will live the life we have been called to live. As Jesus lived out the will that was given to Him from the Father, so we must live out the will given to us by Jesus, our Lord.
            In our sinful state we really don’t know what is best for us. Left to our own choices and desires, our default mode is to sin. We need Jesus as our Lord to guide us, and direct us, and yes, even to command us! We need to be the humble servant and let Jesus be our mighty Lord. We need to respond as Mary did, as a humble servant. However, Mary’s response wasn’t that way at first.
            In the narrative in Luke 1:26-33 we read about how Mary found out about God’s will for her. The angel comes to her and says, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” Usually when someone says “Do not be afraid,” you might have reason to be concerned. But Mary is not to be afraid because she has been favored by God and given a wonderful task. Mary did not fully comply with this task immediately. She had some questions; concerns; reservations. In the end Mary’s response in Luke 1:38, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”
            We see that Mary acknowledges that she is a servant of the Lord as she has been called to give birth to the Son of God, who is the Lord of all. We cannot exalt Jesus’ name if we do not acknowledge Him to be Lord of all, and if we do not humble ourselves to be His servant!
b.      His name is exalted as Lord- So, Paul concludes this passage by telling
us that Jesus’ name will be exalted because He is the Lord. We are called to “confess” that Jesus is Lord.
            What does it mean to confess? The dictionary tells us it means “to confess ones faults,” or “to declare faith in.” We are called to confess in both of these ways. We are to confess our faults, that we are sinners in need of a savior. But we are also to confess that we declare faith in Jesus to be the One who came to this earth, died on the cross, was raised from the dead, and now reigns in heaven as Lord of all!
            To declare Jesus as the name above all names acknowledges that Jesus is the Only One who could save us from our sins, and as such, has established His place in our lives, in this world, and in heaven. In reality, what we are being told by Paul here is that Jesus is to be our master, and we are to be His slave.
            Why would anyone choose to be a slave? A person who chooses to become a slave is one who loves the master greatly. The person who chooses to be a slave is one who is blessed by being in the service of the master. The person who chooses to be a slave understands who this person truly is, and the greatness of their name.
            To acknowledge Jesus as Lord you have to be willing to give up anything that has control on you. You might not think you are being controlled, but you are. Take for example the rich young ruler in Matthew, chapter 19. He comes to Jesus and asks what he must do to have eternal life. Jesus tells him to sell his riches and follow Jesus. Jesus told the man this because Jesus knew that the only way to heaven was for the young ruler to make Jesus his Savior and Lord. But Jesus also knew that his riches were controlling his life. The rich young ruler can do what Jesus tells him to do, and he chooses to leave.  After he leaves Jesus it is said in Matthew 19:22, “He went away sad, because he had great wealth.”
Do you see what is going on here? The rich young ruler wanted to follow, but he couldn’t because his wealth had power over him; power he couldn’t give up! He couldn’t give Jesus the place of Lord in his life. He couldn’t confess Jesus as Lord.

Conclusion: In a Peanuts coming strip Peppermint Pattie and Marie call Charlie Brown. Peppermint Patty starts, by saying:
"Marcie and I are about to leave for camp, Chuck. We're going to be swimming instructors." Then Marcie gets the phone and says, 
                   "We just called to say goodbye, Charles. We're going to miss you. We love you."              At this Peppermint Pattie yells our: "MARCIE!!" Charlie Brown hangs up the phone, and his sister sally asks: "Who was that?" To which Charlie Brown responds: "I think it was a right number."
As we think about Christmas coming in just a couple of days, we need to remember that all that Jesus did was because He loved us. He loved us enough to humble Himself and come to this earth, to die for us, and to be our Lord. May we exalt the name of Jesus in Christmas, but even more, every day of our lives, for His name is the name above all names, the name to be highly exalted!! Let us pray…Amen.

Monday, July 08, 2013

"God is Pursuing A Love Relationship with You"
Series: Experiencing God, by Henry T. Blackaby and Claude V. King
July 14, 2013

Introduction:  Last week Pastor Mike talked about how we can experience God by looking for where He is at work, and then join Him there. We can experience God by helping out those who are in need. We can experience God by seeking to know what His will is for our lives, and then living out the life to which He has called us. As we go through this Experiencing God series we see 7 realities that we are to walk through.
            I want you to know that God has created, you, and He has created me, to love and be loved. This sounds so basic, but until we really understand this truth, we will struggle through life. God created us to be in a love relationship with Him. God desires to be in a personal, loving relationship with you! God pours out His love to us, but He also calls us to respond by loving Him back. In fact, when Jesus talked about the two great commandments, He said in Matthew 22:37-38, “…‘You shall love the Lord your God will all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment.’”            LETS’S PRAY…

I.                   I love You with Everything- (John 14:15, 15:9-12; Matthew 23:23)
Would you describe your relationship to God as “I love you with all my
heart, soul, mind, and strength?” If you say yes, what might this look like? One way you show you love God is by being obedient to Him. Jesus said in John 14:15, “If you love Me, Keep My commandments.” Obedience is the outward way you show your love to God.
            A love relationship with God requires that we demonstrate our love through obedience. God has designed this world in a particular way, and the commands He gives is to help us live well. When we seek to be obedient, we are showing God that we trust Him and His ways. However, when we are obedient, we need to remember that we don’t just follow the letter of the law. What I mean by this is that you can seek to do things right, but have it not mean anything to you.
            For example- Maybe you hear a sermon on giving to the poor. You hear that God calls us to care for those in need. So you go out and seek out a homeless person, you walk with them to a restaurant, and you buy them some food. Then you walk out of the restaurant feeling good about yourself because you did what you were supposed to do. But it didn’t mean anything to you; the homeless person didn’t mean anything to you. You were just trying to be obedient to meet the letter of the law.
            The Pharisees, the religious leaders of Jesus’ time, were like this. They sought to outwardly follow the law and demanded the people do the same. In fact, they were so obsessed with the law that they wrote out specifics of what you could and couldn’t do. When Jesus was talking to the people one day about the Pharisees, He said in Matthew 23:23, Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.”

            If you have an obedience problem, you have a love problem. But when you seek to be obedient, let it be because you are responding to the love of God, and the way God loves people. Have your love mean something. Let your love transform those whom you love! God wants to transform your life so that you will live a life of love.

            Jesus said it this way in John 15:9-12, "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's command and remain in His love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you."
     You see, the Lord does not just give us life, He is to be our life. God draws us to Himself, and He has provided His Son so that we might have eternal life. We do not initiate the love relationship with God, He initiates it with us. In response to God's love for us, we love Him back!
     We need to understand that God Himself, the God of the universe, the God who created all things, is pursuing a love relationship with you, and me. We love because He first loved us.
     When we love God, He promises to respond with His blessings. By trusting and following God, we have eternal life. That is the ultimate blessing. By living for God, we are blessed by blessing others. When we are obedient to God we put ourselves in a place where God can bless us. As we walk faithfully with God He empower us to over temptation and to be conquerors for Him. And on and on and on the blessings go. 

II.                Your First Love- (Genesis 3:8-10; Matthew 6:24; John 15:16)
Example- When you are in a marriage, you know that the love you share with
your spouse is very important. In fact, if your relationship with your spouse is not right, then nothing else is good in your life. Fortunately Tami and I do well most of the time, but when we have had a fight or are at odds with each other, life is not fun.  
This is even more true of our relationship with God. Our relationship with God is the most important relationship in our lives. Our other relationships stem from this relationship. If our relationship with God is not right, then nothing else is important.
Example- (Adam and Eve)- Genesis 3:8-10, And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ 10 And he said, ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.’” When they had sinned, it affected their relationship with God, and they hid from God.
            I can’t tell you how many conversations I have had with people who are frustrated and discouraged with life. As I talk with them I realize that they feel this way because their relationship with God is not right. They are not seeking God. They are not being loved by God. They are not able to love for God. When we lack a love relationship with God, nothing makes sense, and nothing will bring us joy.
            To really love God there has to be no competitors. As Matthew 6:24  says, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the others, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” All too often in life we try to love many things. We say we love God, but we also love money and what it can buy. We say we love God, but we want to have control of our lives and do not allow Him to be our Lord. We say we love God but we are too busy to go to church, or be a part of a Bible Study, or make time for God.
            As I said before, God always takes the initiative in this love relationship. God must take the initiative and come to us if we are to experience Him. This is because we get lost in our sin, and care about ourselves and not about God. We forget about God. We lose sight of who God is. We love others things. So God must continually seek us out and draw us to Him.
            Do you know that God has determined to love you? If God had not chosen to love you, you would not have become a Christian. God touched your heart, drew you to Himself, and through Christ enabled you to accept Him and love Him! He had something in mind when He called you. His love for you includes a plan and a purpose.
            When you responded to His invitation and said “yes,” He brought you into a love relationship with Himself. In this God is pursuing A LOVE RELATIONSHIP with you. In John 15:16 Jesus told us just this: "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit--fruit that will last--and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you." 

III.             Creative not for Time, but for Eternity- (Philippians 3:4-14; Matthew 6:19-21, 33)
 God did not create you for time; He created you for eternity. This time
you and I are to spend on the earth provides for us an opportunity to get acquainted with God. It is a time for us to grow our character to be in His likeness. But we are eternal beings. When this body breathes its last breath, our being (our spirit) will continue on for eternity. God wants us to be with Him eternally, and through Christ we can.
            I mention this for you to understand that life isn’t about having fun and trying to do all that you WANT to do. Life is for being in relationship with God, for loving God, and for loving others. The things we do should help us to achieve this purpose!
            Your life as a child has shaped who you are today. Both bad and good, you are who you are today because of what has happened in your life. However, your life as a child of God ought to be shaped by the future of what you will one day be. You may have struggles, hardships, failures that negatively affect you. You may be allowing these things to continue to shape who you are. Know that God can help you overcome your past and help you to orient your life to the purposes of God.
The apostle Paul struggled with his past. Let’s listen in to his struggle as we read Philippians 3:4-14 (slides): Though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
            Paul’s desire was to know Christ and to become like Him. We too can order our lives so that we live under God’s direction; so that we come to know Him, and love Him, and serve Him, and be transformed by Him, and be molded and shaped by Him!
            If you fail to recognize that you were created for eternity, you will invest in the wrong things. You will seek the things of this world, and not the things of God. Jesus warned us about his when He said in Matthew 6:19-21, 33, Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also… But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
            This is why a love relationship with God is so important. God loves you. Only God knows what is best for you. If we leave it up to ourselves, we will be like Adam and Eve, and everyone after them, and choose sin. We will follow our sinful desires. We will choose treasures that rust and perish. Only God can guide us to invest in the things that are not only worthwhile, but will having eternal blessings.
            God wants this love relationship with all of us. God wants this love relationship completely infuse us and inspire us and empower us.
YOU might say…
I am too old…. Abraham didn’t begin His journey with God until he was in his 70’s. 
I am too young…. Good thing Mary, the mother of Jesus didn’t say that…I am too unqualified….  As Pastor Mike told us last week, Moses didn’t see himself as fit at all for the journey… I am just a regular person….would you look at Jesus first pick for His disciples; simple fisherman. My sin is too deep and I have been going in the wrong direction too long…. The Apostle Paul couldn’t have committed worse sins or been going in a more opposite direction….

Conclusion: Story of love: John Blanchard one day was in a library. He took a book off a shelf and began to read. But what captured his heart was not the words of the book, but the notes penciled in the margin. He was taken by the soft handwriting and the thoughtful soul and mind revealed by these words. He noticed the previous owners name in the front of the book: Miss Hollis Maynell. With time and great effort he located her address. Her wrote her a letter introducing himself and iviting her to correspond. The next day he was shipped overseas for service in World War II. During the next year the two of them grew to know each other through mail. Each letter was a seed falling on fertile hearts. A romance was budding. Blanchard asked her to send her picture, but she refused. She felt that if he really cared it wouldn’t matter what she looked like. After his return from Europe they planned to meet—7 p.m. at Grand Central in New York. So John Blanchard, in full uniform waited for Hollis, sitting on a bench. He was looking for the woman with the red rose on her lapel….Then he saw a young woman coming toward him. Her figure was long and slim. Blonde hair. Her eyes as blue as flowers. Wearing a pale green suit. As he stood to meet her he noticed that it was not Hollis. Hollis was standing behind this woman. Red rose pinned to her lapel. The young lady in the green suit walked past him. He looked at Hollis. She was a woman well past 40; graying hair. She was not slim. At first it was a jolt to him. Her appearance was not what he expected. But then he remembered the deep longing he had for the woman whose spirit had truly touched his. He smiled and said to her: “I’m Lieutenant John Blanchard, and you must be Miss Maynell. I am so glad you could meet me; may I take you to dinner?” She smiled and said: “I don’t know what this is about, son, but the young lady in the green suit who just went by begged me to wear this rose on my coat. She said that if you asked me out to dinner I was to tell you that she is waiting for you in the big restaurant across the street. She said it was some kind of test!”

(Stories for the Heart, p. 117)
        Someone once said: “Tell me whom you love, and I will tell you who you are.”

            No one seeks after God on his or her own initiative. God takes the initiative to pursue a love relationship with us. God wants you and me to love Him with our whole being; not because of what He will do for us, or what we think He looks like, or so that He will give us what we want. We love Him because that is what we were created to do. We love Him because He loves us. We love Him because it will make our lives complete. We love Him because it will lead us to become who we were created to be. If your love relationship with God is right, then the rest of your life will fall into place, because you will be following and living out God’s will for your life, and you will be living in a way that fulfills your eternal destiny. Live in a way where others can see that you love God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Amen. Let’s pray…

Monday, June 24, 2013

"Never Thirst Again"
Sunday, June 30, 2013
John 4:7-35

Introduction: In the Gospel of John, chapter 4 we see one of the few times that Jesus breaks away from the disciples. Normally, Jesus wants the disciples to see what He is doing. Much of how Jesus taught the disciples was by them watching Him deal with people, and loving people, and healing people. But in this case, Jesus is going to witness to a woman who probably wouldn’t have had a conversation with Jesus had the disciples been around. Jesus sits down at the well to rest as the disciples go on ahead to buy some food. This gives Jesus the opportunity to interact with the woman. This was a unique conversation, because first Jews were not to talk to Samaritans; and second, men and women (especially those who are strangers) did not interact with each other.
            Jesus understood that this woman, who was from Sychar, had traveled about a half of a mile outside the city to get water, even though there was water in Sychar. Jesus understood that she was an outcast for something she had done, and He desired to minister to her. 
This morning we are going to look at how Jesus was able to reach out to this woman by finding a way to connect with her first, then finding some common ground to discuss, and finally reaching the point of sharing a truth with her that would lead her to overcome the bondage she was under, and lead her to faith in Christ.
As we finish up our series on maturing in Christ, and talk about being devoted to sharing the good news, I want us to see how we can share Christ with people in a similar manner. Let us pray….

I.                   Be Willing To Be Served- (John 4:7)
a.      Helping others to feel needed- In the movie “Failure to Launch,”
Sarah Jessica Parker plays a woman who helps parents get their adult children to move out of the house. She does this by getting into a relationship with the men, and leading them to believe that it would be better to live out on their own. And so in one of the scenes in the movie, Sarah Jessica Parker is employing one of her strategies to reel the guy in, and this strategy is to allow the man to “teach her something.” She believes that if the man is put in this position of “instructor,” that it will lead him to feel more wanted and needed.
            This concept of having others feel wanted and needed can be a valuable way to connect with others. But unlike Sarah Jessica Parker, I believe it needs to be sincere. When you can find a way where another person can help you, when you can seem to have a need met by another, it is humbling for you, and empowering for them.
            In fact, we see Jesus doing just this in our story. Jesus is sitting at the well, He is thirsty, but the well is too deep for Him to get any water. Then this woman comes along, and she has a bucket to get water. This is a great opportunity for Jesus to break the ice, and to have a need met by another. So He asks the woman in verse 7: “Give me a drink.”/ This surprises the woman that Jesus, a Jewish man, would speak to her, a Samaritan woman. And yet, just by getting her to speak this statement, Jesus has broken the ice. Because she has spoken, it opens the door for Jesus to respond and begin a discussion.
b.      Helping another who is burdened- Jesus knows that this woman was
burdened by her predicament of having had several husbands; burdened by her failure in her relationships; burdened by being an outcast. And I’m sure that she saw compassion in Jesus’ eyes and heard love in His voice. In Jesus, she saw someone who wasn’t going to judge her, but would listen to her and be there for her.
            EX. I have seen this happen in my own life as well. I am humbled in how there have been many times where where people will share their troubles with me. Time and time again I will be talking to someone, and I can tell they feel burdened about something, and the more we talk the more they share their predicament. And as they share, I can see that a burden is being lifted off of them because they finally have found someone who will listen to them without judging them. And even though the problem isn’t solved by our talking, it still is helpful because I can guide them to Jesus, and let them know that I will pray for them.
            I believe that this happened with Jesus and the woman. Jesus is willing to converse with her, and she senses Jesus to be someone with whom she can pour out her soul and maybe even find some help and release from her inner turmoil.
            By asking for her help, Jesus in a sense humbles Himself to her, and she feels a sense of empowerment. This gives her the courage to speak out to Jesus.
            And so, I ask the first question of the day: “Who is someone that you know who might be burdened? How can you ask for their help, and by doing so open up the lines of communication for discussion in a way that might let you help them in their burden?” It could be that you need to borrow some sugar from your neighbor, or maybe something has broken and you know someone who could help you fix it. There are many ways in which you can ask for help and create an opportunity.

II.                Find Common Ground- (John 4:7-15, 21-23)
Next we see Jesus furthers the discussion by showing her the things they have in common.
a.      Water- The first is water. The woman is seeking to get water that will
satisfy her thirst. A basic need for life. Jesus wants her to know that there is a thirst in us that is greater than our physical thirst, and that is our spiritual thirst. This is a basic need for life as well, one that we often overlook. While our physical thirst seems to be a greater need, because it is always there before us, our spiritual thirst is more hidden and needs to be brought to our attention.
            Isn’t this true in our world? People are seeking the physical. Whether it is relationships or sex, thrills or possessions, the physical needs seem to be important. And yet, the spiritual is who we truly are. Our spirit is the only thing that will live on after we die. And so caring for the spiritual is a greater need./  Jesus surprises the woman by saying in verse 10: “Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you ‘give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.’”/  I believe this answer is very clever of Jesus, because now Jesus has this woman’s curiosity going and she will be the one to continue to lead the conversation forward. Jesus takes the topic of water, and leads her into a spiritual discussion!
b.      The well- The second thing that they have in common is the well.
Jesus’ statement in verse 10 causes the woman to respond in verses 11 & 12: “…. ‘Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well..?”/  Wow. The woman has now opened up the conversation to “living water” and “Jacob.” What a great opportunity for Jesus to move forward into a spiritual discussion. What a great opportunity Jesus has of challenging the woman in regards to faith and what should really be important in life.
            So Jesus responds in verse 13: “… ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.’”/  And after this statement, the woman wants what Jesus has for her. She is hooked by His truth and by the fact that even someone like her, burdened by her past, can receive this eternal life./     But Jesus knows that she is not ready yet. She has to admit her sin and unburden her life. So Jesus asks her about her husband. “I have no husband” she responds. Jesus tells her that He knows all about her life; her 5 husbands before, and now she is living unwed with a man!/
Jesus says this in a way that is truthful and yet not judgmental. Because her response is not to shy away from Jesus, or turn and run, but to call Jesus a prophet and to talk about worship./   This opens another door for Jesus.

III.             Being A Witness- (John 4:24-26, 28-30)
a.      Jesus is a witness- Jesus is witnessing here to the TRUTH OF GOD.
Jesus came to this earth to help us see the truth. That is why Jesus said in John 14:6- “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
            Now I know that in our world today, people have trouble with this way of thinking; that there is only one way to heaven, and that it is through Jesus. So they try to argue away this truth. But Jesus doesn’t let us argue it away. Jesus stands firm in His witness, all the way to the cross where He dies to secure this truth.
            Jesus was a very clear witness. His message was not complex. It was a message that eternal life and abundant life is found through Him. In John 10:9 he said: “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved…”/  Jesus used this language as He was teaching about Himself being the Good Shepherd. This is a profound statement, because of how a shepherd protected his sheep. In the winter time, the shepherd would have to take his sheep some distance to find grass for his sheep. Often times they had to spend the night before they could return home. So he would put his sheep in a cave, and the shepherd would sleep in front of the cave, literally being the gate. No one could enter unless the shepherd allowed them to.
Jesus was a faithful witness not just with His words, but with His life and actions!
            Have a demonstration; three witnesses to describe what they see in the Far Side comic strip. Let them look at it for about 15 seconds then have them answer 4 questions…Question 1- What is the comic strip about? (Man lost on a small island); Question 2- How many people were there? (2);            Question 3- What kind of shoes was the man wearing? (high heels); Question 4- Which hand was the wand in? (left)
Thank volunteers… What made them good witnesses? They were able to remember clearly what they saw. They were able to confidently and clearly answer the questions.
Last week Pastor Mike talked about the Great Commission from Matthew 28 which tells us to “GO” and be witnesses for Jesus; to make disciples by witnessing to the truth of God. He also talked to us about Romans 10 where we are told that if someone doesn’t preach the truth of God, then people can’t believe!
b.      The woman is a witness- We see this woman from the well being a
witness for Jesus. It isn’t forced. It comes naturally. It comes because Jesus has changed her life by offering her forgiveness and eternal life. Jesus has led her into the saving grace of forgiveness and salvation. We read in John 4:28-30, Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” 30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him.” By her sharing many people came to Jesus!
            To be a witness we need simply share how Jesus has changed our lives. It is difficult for people to argue against what we ourselves have experienced.
EXAMPLE- When I was in High School I was hanging around the wrong crowd. My language got bad and I started to make some bad decisions. Then I went out one day with an old friend, and he invited me to church. Through that invitation, and my going to church every week, and his praying for me, I eventually gave my life over to Christ. Without Christ, I am convinced that I would have fallen into trouble, and would not be where I am today. I know that because of Christ, my life is so much better. I am a better husband, father, and overall person. I know that because of Christ, I actually make a difference with my life!!
     Now some of you may not have had any dramatic changes, but you still are a wit-ness. I have talked to many of you, and I know your stories. Without Christ I know that you would be living a different kind of life. Many of you, because of Christ are more loving, or more giving, or more kind hearted. Many of you have helped others in ways you never would have, because Christ is in your heart. Many of you are truly making a positive difference with your life because of Christ. These are the stories that we are to share; these are the stories that we are to be witnesses to.

Conclusion: God calls us as individuals, and as a church is to build bridges with those who are lost or have gone astray. God calls us to be devoted to sharing the Good News of Christ, that in Christ our sins are forgiven and we have new life now, and for eternity in heaven with God! In Christ we will not thirst spiritually anymore. In our scripture passage today we saw a wonderful example of how Jesus built a bridge with the woman at the well that allowed Him to capture her interest, so that He could share God’s truth with her. I pray that we would find ways to have deep spiritual conversations with those in our lives who haven’t yet found the truth of God. And when you do, do it in a loving and non-judgmental way. If you are here and have never let Jesus be Your Savior, when I end in prayer, you can do it then. Let us pray…Amen.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

"We Have Been Made Rich in Christ"
Sunday, June 2, 2013: 2 Corinthians 8:9
Mature in Christ Series: Devoted to Joyful Generosity

Introduction: A number of years ago I was going to be moving from Anaheim to Ontario, California. I had gotten a job to do Junior High ministry at a church in Rancho Cucamonga. So I called up a couple of friends and asked if they would help me move. They generously said “yes.” I rented a U-Haul truck and was to pick it up the next morning. That day, the day before I was to move, I was playing racquetball with a friend. I had played hundreds of games of racquetball without ever getting hurt, but this day was different. I was running and stretching after a shot when I felt something pull in my back. I went down to the ground and couldn’t move!! I had compressed a couple of discs in my back. I went to the doctor and he told me that I was to not lift anything over 10 pounds.
            Now fast forward to the next day, my friends show up to help me move, and I can’t lift anything over 10 pounds. My 2 friends were so generous and giving as they proceeded to move all my stuff for me!
            This morning, as we talk about maturing in Christ by being devoted to joyful generosity, I want us to think about what it means to be a giving people. Let’s pray...

I.                   What makes a generous heart?- (1 John 4:8)
a.      What is love?- As you grow up, one of the things you seek to learn is
how to love. At first you think that love is a feeling. So when you have strong feelings for someone you think you love them. Sometimes these strong feelings might lead you to be extra nice to people; extra giving. But the problem with thinking of love as a feeling, is that there will be many times when you don’t feel like you love another person.
            Then as you mature, you realize that love is more than a feeling, it is a commitment that you make to another person. You decide that you want to be committed and connected to someone who becomes special to you. And so love is more secure because it is not just about what you feel, but about what you would do for another. Your love is shown not just in feelings, or words, but in action.
            However, when I became a parent, I understood love in a whole new way. The love I experienced for my children was not just about feelings, but about something much deeper than that. I’m sure I cannot even adequately express the love I have for my children. But I do know that I love them not because of what they do, but because they are a part of my very being. I, along with Tami, created our children.
            In this understanding of love I began to understand God’s love for me so much better. I realized that God created me, and in my being created in His image, His love for me runs deep. It is in this love, the love of God that we see a generous heart. It is from this kind of love that comes a giving spirit. A desire to give from the depths of your being.
            If you were to ask a parent if they would give their life to save the life of a child, I believe most, if not all parents would say “yes.” I don’t think there would even be hesitation there. This is the extreme example of the showing of love.
b.      Generosity- So we think about generosity. What makes a person
generous? I believe it stems from the understanding of love. And we cannot fully understand love without understanding God. As we are told in 1 John 4:8, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” At the core of who God is, He is love.
            It is in God’s love for us that He is generous to us. If you doubt God’s generosity, all you have to do is look around you. God is so generous in how He created this world for us. God is so generous in how He made us in His image. God is so generous in His making us to be relational beings, meant to love and be loved.
            In a Peanut’s comic strip Lucy walks up to Charlie Brown and says: “You know what the whole trouble with you is Charlie Brown?” Charlie Brown answers: “No, and I don’t want to know! Leave me alone.” And Charlie Brown starts to walk away. Undeterred, Lucy responds: “The whole trouble with you is you won’t listen to what the whole trouble with you is!”
            When sin came into the world, it made it difficult for Adam and Eve to receive the love and generosity of God, because they became too caught up in themselves, and forgot what it meant to be giving and generous. They didn’t even want to know what the problem was. They just became self-absorbed in their own sinfulness. And this sinfulness was passed on to generation after generation.
            So, God decided to be generous in a new way…

II.                The Generosity of God in Christ- (2 Corinthians 8:9; Philippians 2:5-8; Romans 6:23)
2 Corinthians 8:9- For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that
though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”
  1. Grace of Jesus Christ- I think it is easy to forget that before God the Son
came to this earth, He resided in heaven. We read in John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” The Son of God lived in heaven in the glory of heaven. The Son of God was all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present. He had the angels worshipping Him. He had been involved in creation.
            We are told by the Apostle Paul in Philippians 2:5-8, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Jesus emptied Himself of being in the “form” of God, and took on the “form” of human flesh!
            Jesus was generous by being humble. Jesus was generous by coming to this earth. Jesus was generous by being born into the world. How? Because Jesus came to die on the cross for you and me. Jesus came to be generous to take away our sin by His death. Jesus was generous because He knew that His sacrifice would give us the gift of forgiveness from our sin. Jesus was generous because through His death we were able to be made righteous through faith in Him!
            Jesus understood that by emptying Himself of His God form, and coming to live on this earth, He would be able to give us a gift that is beyond anything we could imagine. As we are told in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Our sin leads us to death. Jesus’ amazing and generous gift gives us eternal life.
  1. By His poverty- Let’s look at this another way. By His poverty we become
rich. We usually think that the sacrifice that Christ made for us was on the cross. And while this is true, it is even more than this. For the Apostle Paul, we see that Jesus’ sacrifice for us didn’t begin at the cross, it didn’t even begin at His birth. Jesus’ sacrifice began in heaven when He laid aside His glory and consented to come to the earth.
            In a little while we will take communion together. I want us to understand that when we partake of communion, this is an act of receiving the generosity of God. We must not take for granted what Jesus has done for us. We must not lessen the act of Christ on the cross. We must open ourselves up to how Christ so generously paid the penalty for us.
            We hear the words of institution, the words that explain to us that Jesus gave us this meal to not only remind us of what He has done, but to show the power of what He has done. This power of forgiveness and new life is given to us. When we eat of the bread and drink of the cup we not only proclaim the name of Jesus Christ, but we receive the benefit of Christ into our lives. We receive the generous gift of Christ.
            And so the poverty of Christ, taking on flesh, being beaten, and crucified, led to our richness. We are rich in that we are heirs of Christ. We are rich in that our sin is not held against us. We are rich in that we have gone from sinner, to saint, cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ!


III.             The Power of Generosity- (Romans 5:8)
a.      While we were sinners- As we think about the generosity of God we
must also consider Romans 5:8, which tells us: “For God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” What matters is not so much that I know God, but that God knows me, and still loves me. God knows me as the sinner that I am, and still chose to die for me!
            God’s generosity is shown all the more in that He is patient with me: God gives me second and third chances. God is kind to me. He often gives me gifts that I don’t deserve. God believes in me, even when I don’t believe in myself.
            Story of an incident that happened in the life of T. E. Lawrence:
In 1915 he was journeying across the desert with some Arabs. Things were desperate. Food was almost done and water was at its last drop. Their hoods were over their heads to shelter them from the wind, which was like a flame and full of the stinging sand of the sandstorm. Suddenly they realized that one of their party, a man named Jasmin was missing. “Who is Jasmin,” one asked? Then another remembered him to be the one who killed a Turkish tax-collector. In remembering this the man said: “What does it matter? Jasmin was not worth ten pence.” With this the Arabs rode on.
But Lawrence turned and rode back to find him. For an hour and a half, alone and at risk to himself, he rode against the sand and the heat. Then he saw a movement and discovered that it was Jasmin. By this point Jasmin was mad with the heat. Lawrence lifted him up on his camel, gave him some drink and made his way back to the Arabs.
When they saw Lawrence with Jasmin they said: “Jasmin, not worth ten pence, saved at his own risk by Lawrence, our Lord.”
            It was not good men and women Christ died to save, but sinners. We are those sinners who have received this amazing and wonderful gift.
b.      The desire in us- Next week Pastor Mike will talk more about how we,
as God’s people are called to be generous. But let me just prime the pump a little today. As God gives to us in Christ, it leads us to desire to be generous as well. As God has loved us, so we must love one another.
            Example- Illus. Unlimited, “We’re All Presents,” p. 230, #2. There is a story of a little 3 year old girl, who on Christmas morning was examining the presents. She noticed a bow had fallen off one of the presents, and in a moment of inspiration, placed it on her head and shouted: “Look at me, Daddy! I’m a present!”
            This is an important point. Christ died for us so that we could be in that place, free from our sin, to give of ourselves to others. At the heart of it all is the fact that we are to be a present to others. Because of who we are in Christ we can give to others of ourselves.
            Without Jesus’ giving to us, we could not hope to be in a place to give to others. It is by the freedom we receive from Christ that allows us to rise above our sinful, selfish ways, and desire to give of ourselves to another. But it is also in the gifts that God gives to us, that helps us to give. God gives us His peace, we can pass this on to those who are anxious. God gives us His love, we can share this with those who need to be loved. God gives us the knowledge of the saving act of Christ, we must share this gift with those who are lost!

Conclusion: We find the depth of God’s love for us in Jesus Christ. As we say here often at CPC, God loves us as we are, but loves us too much to keep us that way. God knows that we battle with sin. God knows that we struggle to love well. So He sent His Son for us, to die for us, so that we could become so much more. God desires for us to be like Christ, and to be generous in how we love. But we must understand what love is before we can love.
            Communion reminds us of the cross of Christ. So think for a moment that you are in the upper room. Jesus is standing before you, and shares with you that He is about to be arrested, beaten, and crucified. Your first reaction is: Why? Then as you partake of the bread and the cup, and relate it to how you are lost in your sin, it begins to make sense.
            It ultimately makes sense in this wonderful verse: “For God so LOVED the world, that He GAVE His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not PERISH, but have eternal life.” AMEN.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

"With Unveiled Faces"
2 Corinthians 3:18
Sunday, May 26, 2013

Introduction: There is a story of a young boy who was sitting at the kitchen table, drawing. His mother was interested in what he was doing, so she asked: “Honey, what are you drawing?” The boy answered: “I’m drawing a picture of God.” His mom then said: “How can you do that, no one knows what God looks like?” Then the boy responded: “They will when I get done!”
            As we continue in our series of growing mature in Christ, we look today at being devoted to Christ-likeness. While we may not know what God looks like physically, we have seen in Christ who God is. We are told in John 1:14, And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Jesus has shown to us the glory of God, the grace of God, the love of God, the presence of God, the likeness of God.
            We are called as children of God to be Christ-like: in our behavior and actions, our love and our very being! As we are told in 2 Corinthians 3:18, And we all, with unveiled faces, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

I.                   Unveiled Faces- (Exodus 34; 2 Corinthians 3:18)

I want you to imagine that you are taking a trip on a plane. What will make this a good trip? Not too long of a line at the airport? Having the plane leave on time? A calm flight with little turbulence? Arriving at your destination on time, or maybe even a little early?
But what would make it a great trip? Maybe getting to meet the pilot? What if the stewardess came up to your seat and said: “Excuse me, but you have been chosen to come to the cockpit and meet the pilot!? That would definitely be exciting. That would make your trip go from good to great.
We can look at life the same way. A good life is one that doesn’t have too many problems, that allows us to experience some fun, and gets us to the end having done what we were supposed to do. But what makes a great life is when we get to meet the pilot, GOD Himself! When God can take these experiences, problems, and fun and bring great meaning and purpose to them! If and when we meet God, then our whole life is changed; transformed. We go from just being here, to understanding that we are created in the image of God to be like God and to have purpose for God.
Go back with me in history for a moment and think about Moses. Think about his encounter with God at Mt. Sinai. He was there to get some rules that would help him govern God’s people; the Ten Commandments. After spending time in God’s presence Moses’ face shone so brightly that he had to put a veil over his face when he talked with his people. We read in Exodus 34:34-35….
Exodus 34:34-35, Whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he would remove the veil, until he came out. And when he came out and told the people of Israel what he was commanded, 35 the people of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses' face was shining. And Moses would put the veil over his face again, until he went in to speak with him.”
      Because Moses had spent time in the presence of God, his face shone with the glory of God. Moses was changed by spending time with God, not just spiritually, but physically. Because of who we are as the people of God, our lives should shine the glory of Christ. Because we spend time in prayer, we should be different people. Because we spend time in the word of God, we should be more like Christ!
I know that when I have concentrated times of prayer, or worship, or fellowship, I leave that time feeling glorified by God’s presence. I know that I am not the same person when I leave as when I came. I even feel like my face is glowing. I’m sure it is not, but it feels that way. Although there have been times when people have told me that during my preaching, they have seen an aura of God’s presence around me. Whether this is true or not, I know that the presence of God comes upon me more profoundly when I am fully committed to Him.
Listen again to the first part of 2 Corinthians 3:18, And we all, with unveiled faces, beholding the glory of the Lord…” This phrase “unveiled faces” is referring to us being like Christ and not only beholding the glory of God, but showing this glory through our lives; through our very being.
When people look at your life, do they see Christ? If you answer yes to that question, how is it that they see Christ? If you answer no, then why don’t they? What is it in your life that is not like Christ? The truth is, you can, and are called to be like Christ. When people see your behavior, it should be Christ-like. When people experience your love, it should be Christ-like. When people listen to your talking, it should be Christ-like!
To be Christ-like is really a lifelong process. It is not something that you will attain today, or even by the end of the year. The secret of becoming Christ-like is to seek after it each day. You must make this a goal in your life. You must know what the word of God says so that you can follow it. You must seek to put the teaching of God into practice in your life each and every day.
We are currently going through the book of Proverbs in our Daily Bible Readings. The book of Proverbs tells us to commit ourselves to instruction and knowledge. The instruction and knowledge that is being talked about is that which is from God. Every day we have a choice: we can get our instruction from the internet and TV, or from God and God’s word. If we want to be Christ-like, then we better seek after it by seeking after Christ.
If we are going to be like Christ then we must see who He truly is. As we understand more and more about Jesus, then we can change to be more like Him. But this is not an easy change.
Think for amount about Mt. Rushmore. The sculptor was faced with a large rock wall. He was then asked to change this rock wall into the faces of 4 presidents. It took a little over 14 years for this task to be completed. If you have ever seen it in person, you know that it is quite an accomplishment.
God has an even bigger task when it comes to you and me, but God is up to the task. God can, and will transform us if we allow Him to; if we give ourselves completely over to Him. But we must put ourselves in those places that will lead us to this change. God changes our faces through worship. God changes our faces through prayer. God changes our faces through service. God changes our faces through the applying of His word to our lives! But it is God who does the changing; the transforming.

II.                Transformed into the same image- (2 Corinthians 3:18, 5:17; Jn. 5:19)
Hearing again from 2 Corinthians 3:18, 2 Corinthians 3:18, And we all, with
unveiled faces, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another…” The truth is, for us to become Christ-like, we have to be transformed from who we were as our sinful self, and become the Christ followers we were meant to be.
            A little later in this letter the Apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:17, Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” We are transformed from what we were, to the new creation we can become in Christ. In Christ this can happen. Because of Christ this change is made. By what Christ has done on the cross, and through His resurrection power, He transforms us.
            Illustration (a butterfly)- If you think about the transformation of a caterpillar to a butterfly, it is amazing how a chrysalis is formed around the caterpillar. Although the chrysalis appears to be motionless, inside tremendous activity is taking place. The caterpillar anatomy is being chemically disassembled and reconstructed into the adult butterfly. This is one of the most dramatic transformations that takes place.
            A caterpillar becomes a new creation. In fact, it takes on a new name: from caterpillar, to butterfly. It wasn’t uncommon for new Christians to take on new names to show the new creation they had become; Cephas became Peter and Saul became Paul!
            We must think about becoming Christ-like as a transformation that we make. We are transformed into a new person. We are transformed into the glory of Christ. We are transformed into the character of Christ. We are transformed into the gifted people God created us to be. We are transformed to bear fruit for the Lord. We are transformed to fight the spiritual battle that is before us.
            This becomes a mental change as well. We stop thinking about working for ourselves, and we start to think about living for God. We, like Christ should say: “I have work to do that my Father has given me.” As we work with God we realize that God’s presence is ever with us. Ever with us to work through us. Ever with us to guide us. Ever with us to empower us to be Christ-like.
            EX. When I was 15 years old I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord. This was an important moment in my life; probably the most important moment of my life. But it was actually just the start of the life God had for me. I knew as a Christian God had a plan and purpose for my life. God wanted me to be like Christ in my living. But the challenge was to be in a place where I could sense His presence and His guidance so that I could live this way.
            Maybe you can relate. Each day of our lives we are filled with distractions and temptations and challenges. We wonder where God is in all of it. We struggle to feel God's presence in our lives. We struggle to live as Christ would have us to live. And consequently, we make many decisions without God's guidance. We live in unChrist-like ways.
            A couple of years after I became a Christian, I was introduced to a book that helped to change my life even more. The book is called "The Practice of the Presence of God" by Brother Lawrence. Brother Lawrence was a cook at a monastery who learned important lessons through his daily chores. He discovered that he could practice being aware of God's presence in his life in a way that is continuous. By doing this he was able to receive God's loving presence more regularly in his life, and could live more like Christ.
            Most often we think that great insight and wisdom comes from those with high degrees and theological training. These thoughts of Brother Lawrence showed me that an average Christian who seeks God, can find God and commune deeply with God. Through this book I learned how to be more aware of God's presence in my life, and train myself to be in constant communication with God. I learned how to think as Christ would think.
            We are told in John 5:19, “The Son can do nothing on His own, but only what He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise.” If Jesus needed to look to the Father to be guided in what He was to do, shouldn’t you and I, all the more, look to Christ to do what we are to do? This is what it means to be Christ-like: to see what Christ does, and to do it ourselves. To do nothing on our own, but only what we see Christ doing.

III.             Comes from the Spirit- (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)
There is great news. We are not called to do this alone. Even though the transformation is personal, for you and me, it is done often times in community. What I mean by this is that God uses the body of Christ, the church, to help us grow and transform.
            We read in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! 11 Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? 12 And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”
            When we walk in Christ together we are encouraged by the growth that is happening in the lives of those around us. Their growth spurs in us a desire to grow. Their growth impacts our growth. When others share with us what they are learning, we too learn. That is why it is important that you make sure you are talking with others about what God is teaching you.
            This can happen even more in a small group. We are hoping to start some new small groups soon. This is one of my roles here at the church. A small group is good for learning the Bible together, but it is also a place where we can share our lives together. When you are in a small group, you are praying for others, and they are praying for you. You are talking about your challenges and struggles, your temptations and failures. In this you can be supported, encouraged, and challenged to live a life of fullness in Christ!
            There are our times of prayer together on Saturday night. I hope that you will put it in your schedule to come some Saturday at 6:30 p.m. and pray with me and Pastor Mike and others. While prayer is important for the calling of God to be with us in all that we are doing, it is also for spiritual maturity. You cannot become a mature person in Christ if you do not pray. When you pray with others, you remember that the body of Christ is more than just about you. When you with others when they pray, you are uplifted by their prayers. Even more, the presence of God is with us in a more profound way when we join together as God’s people, than when we are alone.
            God has also provided for us what is called the spiritual disciplines. The disciplines we are familiar with is Bible reading and prayer. But there are some other important disciplines such as simplicity, service, worship, and celebration. These disciplines are best done with others.
It is hard to live a life of simplicity, but if others around us are doing it, then we too can do it. Simplicity is about not seeking after things, but seeking after using the things we do have for the blessing of ourselves and others. Simplicity breaks in us an attitude of needing to have lots of things.
Service is important because it again takes us away from the focus of self and into the focus of the body of Christ. When we serve, we serve with others. When we serve, we do it to bless others. When we serve, we do it with an attitude of humility, that we are not better than anyone else.
Worship is something we do every week. Hopefully it is your goal to be here most every week. We come to worship not so that we can feel better, or be lifted up after a hard week, but so that we can give praise to God for who He is. We come to worship so that we are brought closer to God and to each other. Worship helps us to fulfill the two great commands: love God with all your mind, soul, body and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. When we join together in corporate worship, we do indeed grow in our maturity in Christ together.
Celebration is not a term we are that familiar with in regards to Christian growth. Celebration brings joy to life. If you have ever celebrated something, you know that it is something you want to share with others. Celebration is never meant to be done alone. As Christians we need to celebrate many things. We celebrate birthdays because they are about God bringing that person into the world. We celebrate personal achievement as a way to give thanks to God for the gifts and talents that He has given to us that allowed us to gain that achievement. We celebrate anniversaries because we praise God for commitment and love in marriage. And on and on it goes. We celebrate to give praise to God, and to grow stronger in our trust and faithfulness to God!!!

Conclusion: So, we have spent two weeks in talking about being devoted to Christlikeness. Let us be a people who are giving ourselves over to God to transform us each and every day. Let us be a people who not only experience the grace and truth of God, but show this grace and truth to others. Let us be a people who are shining the light of Christ by the way we live. Let us be a people who seek to not do anything on our own, but who do what we see Christ doing.
Let me give you a couple of closing questions: How can you show the grace and truth of Christ more in your life? How can you put yourself more in places where you are growing with other Christians? How does Christ need to transform you? Give yourself over to this each and every day. Amen.