Basic: Living-May 9 2012

Basic:  Living-Francis Chan

Philippians 1:20b-2:18-To Live is Christ

Practically Speaking:

Encountering God will always leave us in a different place than where we started.  Many people live with a conception of God that matches their personality and interests, but it differs greatly from who God actually is.  When we misunderstand God, nothing matters more than learning who He truly is and coming to Him on His terms.  If you fear God, does your life reflect that fear?  If you are a follower of Jesus, does that mean anything in your everyday life?  If you are led and empowered by the Holy Spirit, does your life look any different from someone who doesn’t have the Holy Spirit?

The way to rediscover our calling as the church is not to look at what’s around, but look up.  We should be looking to God, we should listen to what He says in the Bible, and we should be willing to go anywhere and do anything simply because He calls us to do it.  James tells us to “be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22).  The character of God moves us to action.  The commands of Jesus demand something of us.  The Spirit’s guidance pulls us in a specific direction.  It’s not enough to understand who God is and hear what he says.  We need to act.  This is part of the maturing process.

Before doing things for the sake of doing we should consider three areas:  prayer and meditation, active obedience, and community.  Prayer and meditation is a good place to start.  As you seek God in prayer, don’t forget to spend time in silence as well.  Allow Him to “speak” to you, to guide you, and to comfort you with His presence.  In meditation allow your mind to process God’s truth and to soak it in. Setting aside a regular prayer time can help to set your mind on pursuing God.  It’s important to ask God for things, but don’t forget to submit your life to Him and ask Him to lead you.

Active Obedience might seem like something we shouldn’t have to say.  Quite often obedience is not doing things we may think displease God rather than actively seeking His direction and guidance.  If all we do is seek God’s will be never act on it, we are not really living into the fullness of Christ.  Jesus calls us to follow Him, so find some concrete ways that you can get out and act.  And be intentional about choosing activities that will take you outside your comfort zone.  There is an amazing fellowship with God that comes through following Him into difficult situations.

In the most basic sense you might begin by finding a need in the church and try to start meeting it.  (Visitor’s Cards, V.B.S., nursery, cleaning the church, giving of time, money, and talents)  Pray for those who have hurt you and you haven’t yet forgiven.  Pray for, and look for, opportunities to share your faith.  As you watch for these opportunities, pray for boldness to share even when it’s uncomfortable.

A community is a group of people who you see face-to-face on a regular basis over a long period of time.  God has designed us to work this way as individuals, but this is also His plan for the church.  We need to be in community with one another, and involved in the lives of others.  Some of the ways we might do this is through a prayer group, or find people in your church that you can minister to, some of the best fellowship comes through meeting someone’s needs.  Reach out to the hurting people around you.  They could be in your neighborhood, workplace, church, or even your family.  One practical idea may be a widow’s support group.

Additional Scriptures:

Habakkuk 2:4

2 Corinthians 5:15

Galatians 2:20

Romans 12:1-2

Hebrews 4:12-16

The next sessions will guide us though what the church is and how it functions.

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Unity in Christ-May 6, 2012

Unity in Christ-May 6, 2012

Ephesians 4:1-16

Unity is more than oneness.  A military division can learn to march in step and to be one, unity goes a little deeper and involves our heart and purpose.  Paul urges the Ephesians to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which they have been called.  A call that comes from God is a weighty matter, and so he encourages the believers to allow our  walk to mature into the calling God has placed in our lives both individually and corporately.  He begins with the word humility.  Humility is a great place to start because if we are too full of ourselves it will be hard to allow the fullness of Christ to mature in us, and hard to serve one another in love.  There is also an acknowledgement here that there is work to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  As one pastor friend of mine reminds his congregation, “we must look for ways to get along, not for reasons of disharmony”.  Disunity is not the work of Christ, disunity is the work of Satan.  Satan wins when God’s people become distracted from their calling and commission, and begin to destroy unity in the bond of peace.  This is why diligence is required, it is too easy to allow other thoughts to creep in that will destroy unity.

ONE is significant.  The things mentioned by Paul here are central to who we are and the understanding of unity that exists.  The one’s are body, Spirit, hope, Lord, faith, baptism, God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.  The first 3 are paired with the second three.  One body in the Lord, One Spirit in faith, One hope in baptism, and tied together by our God and Father who is over all (that we may not be conceited), through all (our strength in the journey), and in all (it’s His work and glory).  The reminder here that it is grace.  This is why we have unity, because it is not a work we have or could do, but the working of God in our lives.  Apart from the grace of God in Jesus Christ we stand condemned before God.  It is His blood that paid the price, not my efforts or any perception that I may be “good” or “good enough”.

“To each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.  And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to build up the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and to the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ.”  Ephesians 4:7,11-13

It is in the grace of God through which we are saved, it is also His grace that we have been given gifts for the edification of the body, the witness in the community, and for His glory.  There are different gifts but one Lord who is the giver.  The specific gifts mentioned do not make anyone who has them different from any other person as to salvation only in the specific work He has for each whether it be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers.  In each of these rolls it is for continuing to equip the saints (believers) for the work of service.  The work of God is not restricted to those who do so vocationally, rather it is the work of Christ, done by and through the body of Christ, the church.  The body of Christ is a building up process to attain unity in faith, knowing Christ, and then to mature as we become more like the fulness and stature of Christ.

It should always be the aim of the church to be like Christ and to grow to be more like Him.  This is not an issue of numbers, or style of worship, rather itis because we are His body.  Have you ever heard a person’s voice on the phone and then later met them and thought the voice didn’t match the body.  Does the life and example of Christ match the body of Christ in the world?  This talk of growing up and maturing is so that we wont remain infantile in our faith and therefore be able to moved by false doctrine, winds of change, or circumstances of life.

We are to speak the truth in love.  Often we want to speak the truth not in ways that are redemptive or restorative, but in a way to hurt or avenge a hurt, or perhaps to think of ourselves more highly than we ought.  Speaking the truth should always be done in the attempt to reconcile man to man, and or man to God.  It is truly the work of Christ and is a mature work.  It is an impossible work apart from Christ.  However, it is this reconciliation that is at the heart of Jesus’ life and mission, and the great commission.  The body grows up into Him, who is the head, even Christ.  In this growing up, each part finds its calling and mission within the body.  It is the understanding of the unique part each has been gifted, and called in the body for growth and building itself up in love.  As Paul began this section of His letter I leave you with his thought, “walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called.”

Basic 3: Holy Spirit-May 2, 2012

Basic 3:  Holy Spirit:  Francis Chan-May 2, 2012

When out His disciples to continue His mission on earth, He told them that they couldn’t do it without the Holy Spirit.  And the same is true for us-we simply cannot follow Jesus apart from the power of the Holy Spirit.

We all have room to grown, and we all have times when we rely on ourselves rather than the Spirit.

Read Acts 2

Sometimes we don’t experience the Spirit’s power in our lives because all we’re looking for is a spiritual experience.  When the Spirit arrived, He immediately moved and empowered the disciples to act.  They didn’t have to ask each other if this was what they had been waiting for-they knew it was, and the immediately did what the Spirit moved them to do.  The Spirit does not always move as visibly as He did in Acts 2, but when He leads us to do something, we need to step into action.

There’s no way the disciples could have planned Pentecost.  And that’s the point.  Jesus called us to follow Him, He has given us a specific mission and specific commands, and He has sent the Holy Spirit to enable us to do what He calls us to do.  The call to follow Jesus and the power of the Spirit go hand in hand.  We simply cannot think about following Jesus apart from the Holy Spirit, and we cannot think about the power of the Spirit apart from actively following Jesus.

He will begin to change you from the inside out.  You may not be a naturally loving person, but that’s the point:  The Spirit works supernaturally to accomplish the impossible.  We need the Spirit to transform our hearts.  He is the one who produces the fruit of the Spirit in our lives:  “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23), and many others.

As you open up your life to the Spirit, you will begin to see Him working.  With every moment of victory and obedience you will know the power He has given you.  No longer will you be “quenching the Spirit” in your life (see 1 Thessalonians 5:19).

Pentecost was great but when the Spirit changes my desires for money, comfort, and safety into desires to love other people, care for the needy, and make disciples for Jesus, and that is a very tangible witness of the work of God in my life.

Perhaps another way of thinking about following Jesus involves walking with the Holy Spirit as we follow Jesus no one was born walking we all had to learn and if ever someone has had to do physical therapy or regain the ability to walk, it requires a lot of effort and can be frustrating.  It is a process of putting one foot in front of the other as muscles are retrained.  Galatians 5 says “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit” (v.25), and, “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (v.16).

It can be frustrating if the think the changes will be immediate, or trying to follow Jesus but have failures and setbacks.  In reality it may have been an easy decision to follow Jesus but it is actually harder to follow moment by moment in our daily lives.  An example may be you begin praying that the Spirit would increase your love and joy, but after a while you forget, and instead you begin to find joy in your circumstances, and then if things turn bad you may be tempted to think that walking in the Spirit failed.  Rather it was us getting off track.

Romans 8:1-16 specifically 8:11 about the Spirit that dwells in you.  One of the most important things to understand about the Spirit is that He has the power to change us.  You won’t follow the Spirit’s leading in your life unless you believe that He has the power to transform you.  And if the Spirit really has the power to bring us to life, then there really isn’t anywhere else to look.  We need to be constantly opening up our lives to the Spirit, constantly submitting ourselves to Him.  It also requires patient listening.  Often times we see the work of the Spirit not in the moment but in looking back.  The Spirit has been working powerfully, but sometimes gradually, over time.

Be faithful every day in the little things.  As you wait for the Spirit to show you the next step, don’t forget to follow Jesus.  A step in Jesus’ footprints is always a step in the right direction.

Additional Scriptures:

Acts 4:31

Acts 7:55

Acts 9:31

Acts 10:37-38

Acts 19:6

Romans 8:13-14

1 Cor. 12:7-11

2 Tim. 1:6-7

Gal. 5:22-26