Salvation

Secret #1 for finding joy in your life

Joy comes from putting Christ ahead of everything in your life and being unified with others who do the same.

As Pastor Chester Miller finished preaching and readied to dismiss his congregation at a morning worship service on March 1999, one of his church members, Victoria Smith, pulled a gun on him during the closing prayer.
Why? Because Pastor Miller had not preached from the book of Revelation that Sunday. The 58-year-old woman in Saddle, Arkansas said a sermon from Revelation was “important for her feud with another church member.” McHenry’s Stories for the Soul, 2001 p.13

While it is jarring to think an incident like this could happen involving church people, the fact is that whenever people gather together, things like this happen. What is supposed to be a place to care for each other and find belonging becomes a place of division.

We often approach things like church with an attitude of What can I get out of this? Rather than what can I give to Christ and others.

Despite what we so often see within Christian community, Jesus followers are meant to live lives characterized by joy, which is what we'll be looking at the next few weeks in the book of Philippians.

Today's Text: Philippians 1:1-11 NLT

Things to note:

  • Paul and Timothy forego giving their honorific titles of Apostle and pastor and instead call themselves slaves of Christ Jesus. They humbly acknowledge that they are completely open to following the will of Jesus.
  • Paul is joyful at the Church of Philippi's willingness to work toward the spread of the Good News of Jesus.
  • Paul encourages the Church to overflow in love and care for one another as they push each other toward a greater knowledge and understanding of Jesus' commands and to focus on building each other up for the sake of the Good News.

Here it is quite apparent that Paul believes Christian community (ie, Church) is very important, yet over the past couple decades we have seen the average regular church attender drop from gathering with believers three times a week to 1.8 times a month!

This isn't the problem we're tackling today; rather, it is the symptom of a greater problem. Now, rather than focusing on Jesus and on others, everything has to filter through our own selfishness. On a Sunday you may ask yourself, "Is church really the most entertaining or productive use of this 1-2 hours?" Suddenly, kids' sports, sleeping in, mowing the lawn, going on a weekend trip, or just staying home to relax may take priority over gathering to worship Jesus and encourage each other!

This is one reason why joy, which is supposed to characterize those who follow Jesus, seems so hard to attain:

When your focus is on yourself, happiness is dictated by your situation. When your focus is on Christ, joy is found in every situation.

Other points:

As you learn to put others’ best interests ahead of your own for the sake of the Gospel, you learn to value others.

As you get involved in partnering together for a common goal, you are bound together by purpose.

As you love one another as Christ loves the Church and lovingly help each other pursue Jesus, this will be a healthy family.

When your focus is on yourself, happiness is dictated by your situation. When your focus is on Christ, joy is found in every situation.

When everything centres on Christ, we will care more for each other and, in turn, our unselfish obedience and care will result in more Christian joy.

Action Steps:

  1. Identify one area where you have been pursuing your own interests at the expense of loving others and make it right.
  2. Encourage each other to become more like Jesus.
  3. Confront sin with love.

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Let Justice Roll: The Freedom to Care

Jesus wants his people to live with Justice.

The stats are in: there are a whole lot of people struggling in Pincher Creek--and in every community! People are struggling financially, they are struggling to balance making a living and caring for their children, and are struggling to deal with their grief at the loss of loved ones. Yet, while they are in need of our care, what are we busying ourselves with instead?

Some of us are one of those stats: we need to know Jesus cares deeply about us.

Some of us are just stressed out thinking about how to get ahead or next big thing or secure for future: Jesus offers a better way.

Others of us feel like there’s nothing we can do: but Jesus will give you what you need to make a difference.

Read: Amos 6:1-8, 12 (NLT)

Israel was looking down on the other nations’ failures and they thought they were better than them; the Israelites were pursuing lavish living, even as nation was corroding under them; the Israelites placed their trust in wealth, in size, and in fortresses. We may be tempted to look down on them for all of this, but if you really look at yourself and at our culture, you may see more of this attitude and behaviour in you than you care to admit!

When your trust is in material things, it’s all you can do to keep them. When your trust is in Jesus, you’re freed to pursue godly righteousness and justice.

Jesus’ death and resurrection did what you can never do for yourself.
Jesus’ death and resurrection brings a perfect hope greater than all your failures
Jesus’ death and resurrection begins to change your desires
Jesus’ death and resurrection provides you with the ability to pursue righteousness and justice.

Action Steps:

  • Put your trust in Jesus
  •  Ask the Holy Spirit to show you how your lifestyle is contributing to injustice and poverty and what you can do instead to fight for justice.
“May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships so that you may live deep within your heart.  May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.  May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain into joy.  And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in the world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done to bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor.  Amen.”

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Better: Isaac -- Jesus' sacrifice saved you

Jesus can be known better through the Old Testament

We all know people who are choosing to carry the burden of their sinfulness on themselves, even though Jesus already paid the price to take those sins upon himself.

Read: Genesis 22:1-18

This isn't an easy passage to read. Why would God do these things? This is the only time in the Bible when God tested someone in this way. He wanted to ensure that Abraham's trust was in God himself, not just the promises that God had made him. By asking Abraham to offer up Isaac, he was asking him to be willing to give up the promises God had given him.

As well as serving as a test for Abraham, this story foreshadows the coming sacrifice of Jesus. Isaac and Jesus have many similarities. Both were born miraculously, both were to be sacrificed, both were dead for three days (Isaac in Abraham's eyes during their 3 day journey, Jesus in reality for three days), both carried the wood that would be used to sacrifice them up the hill, both were raised to life (Isaac through God staying Abraham's hand, Jesus being raised to life from the tomb). 

In fact, where Abraham's obedience with Isaac caused God to promise again to build a nation through whom the nations of the world would be blessed, he was speaking about Jesus who was to come and whose sacrifice on the cross truly would bless the nations with the gift of an eternal, life-giving relationship with Jesus for all who believe in him. Jesus was the lamb God would provide for himself, mentioned in Genesis 22:8!

God sent Jesus to die as a sacrifice so you could find life and freedom.

Jesus’ sacrifice has saved you. If he went through all that for you, what are you willing to do to share His message of hope?

It's a scary thought for many of us--sharing our faith. But we must remember that God is the God who provides. He provides the growth of faith in the people we share the Gospel with. He is the one who provides us the courage and the wisdom and the words as we do so.

Additionally, while you may be wary of putting yourself out there if it doesn't get you anything, remember the testing of Abraham: consider if you trust in God himself, or just in the benefits you get out of following him. He has commanded all who follow Jesus to share the Good News, and we must do so out of our faith in Jesus, not because of any benefit it may bring us personally.

Action Steps:

  • Consider: are you willing to obediently share your faith if there is nothing in it for you?
  • Tell people about Jesus: engage in spiritual conversations, invite people to church and to our Easter Extravaganza!

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Better: Jonah -- Jesus loves his enemies

Get to know Jesus better in the Old Testament

An Armenian nurse had been held captive along with her brother by the Turks.  Her brother was slain by a Turkish soldier before her eyes.  Somehow, she escaped and, later, became a nurse in a military hospital.

One day, she was stunned to find that the same man who had killed her brother had been captured and brought, wounded, to the hospital where she worked.  Something within her cried out, "Vengeance!"  But, a stronger voice called for her to love.  She nursed the man back to health.

Finally, the recuperating soldier asked her, "Why didn't you let me die?"

Her answer was, "I am a follower of Him who said, 'Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you.'

Impressed with her answer, the young soldier replied, "I never heard such words before.  Tell me more.  I want this kind of religion."

It’s really hard to be kind to people who aren’t kind to us. When people are vehemently opposed to who we are or what we believe, we’re often tempted to give them a wide berth, or to do them harm. Sometimes, we're even tempted to do this on Jesus' behalf, with those who we think are his enemies.

In this message, we'll discover how the story of Jonah reveals Jesus' heart for his enemies and how he wants us to handle them. The fact is: Jesus has called his followers to a different way of looking at the world than others do, and that includes loving our (and Jesus') enemies.

If you need a refresher on the story of Jonah, go ahead and read Jonah 1-3.

Jonah wasn't so much afraid of the Ninevites though, as he was afraid that God wouldn't destroy them:

Jonah 4: But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. And he prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” And the LORD said, “Do you do well to be angry?” 

Jonah went out of the city and sat to the east of the city and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, till he should see what would become of the city. Now the LORD God appointed a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be a shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort. So Jonah was exceedingly glad because of the plant. But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the plant, so that it withered. When the sun rose, God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint. And he asked that he might die and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.” But God said to Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?” And he said, “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.” And the LORD said, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”

Nineveh was the capital of the nation of Assyria, enemies of the nation of Israel. Jonah figured that, if he avoided giving God's message to his enemies, they would not turn to God and God would destroy them. He tried to force God's hand into getting rid of Israel's problem, but that wasn't what God wanted.

Jesus loves those who hate him and has called you to do the same.

God: saved the wicked people of Nineveh
Jesus: came to earth to save people who had rejected him.
Jesus: died for sinful people
Jesus: asked God the Father to forgive the people who were torturing and killing him.
Jesus: said to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
Jesus: said to go into ALL The World and make disciples and to love your neighbour as yourself…even if your neighbour is your enemy.

And if you still think they don't deserve it, remember:

Before you came to Jesus, you were one of those enemies.

How can we follow the call of Jesus? Here's somewhere to start:

Check your attitude and fear at the door and invite at least two unchurched people to our Easter Extravaganza this week!

 

 

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