Can you see the logical progression of thought that connects our Sunday morning preaching together not only across the weeks, but across the years?
Back in 2003, we decided to spend most of that year considering the crux of Christian faith – the crucified Christ, the Lamb slain for the atonement of our sins. Where would we be without his sacrifice? Where would we be without his total loss totally for our complete gain? The cross of Christ compels our absolute attention humility!
“… I resolved to know nothing … except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2)
We continue to walk in the blood of Jesus today, but the most remarkable thing of all is that the one who poured out his life’s blood on the cross for us is no longer dead! Hallelujah! Praise be to God for he has gained the victory for us over everything that is against us – even death!
And so in 2004 we centered almost all of our Sunday morning preaching around the meaning of Christ’s resurrection has for our lives today. Indeed, it is his resurrection that gives any of our lives any meaning today.
“Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead …” (2 Timothy 2:8)
Our crucified and risen Savior ascended to heaven and now reigns at God our Father’s right hand. What was the first thing the risen Lord did after being seated at God’s right hand? He sent the Spirit he had promised to form, enable and inhabit the community of those who believe him – he began to build his church. Acts tells the fascinating story of the earliest days of this building of God’s church by the Spirit-led work of the apostles and others. It is the church Jesus continues to build and his Spirit chooses to inhabit to this very day.
It was only natural then that that we spend the year 2005 revisiting and reflecting on Acts, the earliest Christians, the community of faith, the church, and the power through which he transforms us, his Spirit.
“… you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Jesus Christ himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit” (Ephesians 2:19-22)
Now this church that belongs to Jesus is the body of Christ. We are members of this body, his church, and he is the head of the body. The head determines what the body is to be and do and it is Jesus who determines who we are in character what we’re to be about. So what does the head of the body say to his members, his disciples? What do we as members of his body need to receive from the head in order for us to become, and do, what he would have us become, and do? As his body’s members, we must continually go back to what the head of the body, our Lord, and listen closely to what he would convey to us. We dare not attempt to “tame” him or “tone him down.” We need to hear him amped at “full volume!”
And so we have spent the bulk of this year, 2006, doing just that – going back to some of the most challenging and difficult things Jesus has to say to us. “The tough stuff,” we called it. We determined to take his speech to us quite seriously – “whoever has ears, let them hear” (Matthew 13:9) – so that we do not become like those who have stopped listening to him completely:
“… their hearts have become callused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.” (Matthew 13:15)
But how can we best hear and see Jesus speak to us what he will and what we need most? It is one thing to know Jesus’ will; it is entirely another to see it lived out in someone’s life, particularly our own. Would that God would “show us” as well as “tell us” what a follower of Jesus is about!
And that is precisely why, God willing, I intend to spend most of the time in Sunday morning sermons in 2007 finely focused on a single, devoted disciple. I want to scrutinize their walk with the Master. I want to examine how they came to be totally sold out to our Savior and Lord and listen to this disciple urge me to become like him in this. In so doing, I believe Jesus can show us and tell us how we can pick up our own cross and rise up to walk in true newness of life. In this way he can build me more into the life of his body and create in me a new heart ready to hear him and respond to him instantly and consistently.
Who is a disciple worthy of such emulation and imitation? The apostle Paul! Why Paul? No disciple of Christ named in Scripture ever traveled further, communed more closely, endured more or complained less than Paul. Paul lived and spoke of the life of Christ boldly, fully and gladly. That’s the sort of Christian we all need to become. And watching Paul go through life with Christ can help us become like Christ.
“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1)
We’ll take a brief break on Sunday mornings the remainder of this month and probably the first couple of months of next year from sermons- in-series, but we’ll then pick up this thread of thought. So begin now in prayer, I ask of you, to prepare to see a man of God, filled with the word of God, living the life of the Spirit of God and shaped by the Son of God next year – Paul, a follower of God.