Wednesday, January 17, 2018

As It Is In Heaven: Don’t Worry, Be Happy (Part 2)

Last week I began the post talking about worldviews. We all have one – some way of interpreting our life and the existence of the universe. A difference in worldviews can lead to intense arguments because the individuals involved do not properly comprehend what is being said by the other person. Of course, hearing what others are saying can be challenging, but knowing what they mean can be quite difficult due to language barriers, accents, vocabulary, etc.

The principle of hearing and saying is made evident early in our lives when we first play the telephone game. One person says something and then the statement makes its way around the room to determine if everyone passes along the same message. We must hear correctly, then process the words correctly, then say it correctly to the next person, and hope each person does the same. (BTW, if you play it with me, it will not work, because I always will say something like “Don’t eat pickles!”)

When people speak, you may hear them, but do you understand them? Do they speak clearly enough? Too fast or too slow? And, what about the use of vocabulary? For instance, if I mention the word “team” what comes to mind? Team can cover many different sports at many different levels. Some might think of a professional baseball team. Others might think of a junior high basketball team. I have in mind our mission team to Kenya. So, even when we hear correctly, and understand correctly, our interpretation can lead to far different conclusions. This reason makes good communication difficult. And when the people communicating have different worldviews, their arguments can be intense because they may use similar words, but their understanding suggests they may as well speak different languages.

Jesus faced a similar problem in the first century. The people He healed had certain expectations. The people He taught had other expectations. Some in the crowd appreciated what He said. Some did not understand. And some wanted to kill Him for everything He represented. Therefore, my intention in this series is not only to help us understand what Jesus is saying to us, but to know what the original hearers would have heard. Until we know what they thought, we cannot fully appreciate what we ought do – after all, Jesus said the words to them, not us (at least to them first; the Bible says them to us on His behalf).

So, each week, I will use the same format to look at these verses in light of what the people in the first century were thinking, what Jesus said, how our world may mis-apply the teachings of Jesus and how having a true knowledge of God will affect our thinking. We will consider the true knowledge to be built upon God’s promise, as recorded in Habakkuk 2.14, which says, “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”

With that as our foundation, let us look at the next set of verses in this great sermon of Jesus.

Remember, Jesus has just begun His public ministry. In Matthew 4, He calls people to repent because the Kingdom of heaven is near. Beginning in this chapter, Jesus begins to teach people what that means – that is, what does living in heaven look like, or more directly what it means to live “on earth as it is in heaven.”

What did the people think?

I am keeping this question first because what people say and what is heard are often two different matters. When Jesus said what He said, the people had to wrestle with this new way of thinking because some of it was quite contrary to what they thought they knew to be true.

Blessed are the merciful – The word mercy would have invoked one thought for the first century Jew – God (YHWH). Exodus 34.6 is a great statement about God’s mercy. This verse is a critical verse to Jews and is read at each of the festivals and is particularly important in the 10 days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, which we reviewed in October 2016. Some believed that mercy is God’s greatest attribute.

Blessed are the pure in heart – Again, most any Jew who heard Jesus would have quickly thought of an Old Testament passage – particularly Psalm 24.3-4: “Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart...” That was a challenge for the Jew then, but as we will soon see, is quite possible for us.

Blessed are the peacemakers – Again, one word – Rome. The people wanted peace, but they wanted to govern themselves. Rome’s presence in the region meant people often tried to keep to themselves in hopes that they would be left alone (be at peace).

Blessed are those who are persecuted – Again, one word – Prophets. The people knew the plight of the prophets. On the Mount of Olives are tombs of the prophets (labeled as such now, would have been well-known then). (pic – from trip) Many people revered the prophets for their faithfulness to God, so Jesus words likely had great impact here.

Having considered what the people may have actually heard, let us know see if we can discern what Jesus said.

What did Jesus say?

Blessed are the merciful for they will receive mercy. God is a merciful God and will provide mercy, but He does so to those who show mercy. By His very nature, God is merciful, so those who want to be a part of the Kingdom He rules, and those who are to be considered His children, must be merciful as well.

Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God. The 1st Century Jews were taught how to live with clean hands, but not with pure hearts. The rules that the Pharisees put in place were to protect the people from doing wrong such as “Don’t heal on the Sabbath.” But a pure heart would worry first about the person and then the rule. It is the ones with clean hands AND clean hearts that see God (can ascend the hill to the high place).

Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God. God is a God of peace. Here is where definitions make a big difference. Does God desire peace between nations? Maybe. But He does want us to be at peace with each other as individuals. Furthermore, He wants us to be at peace with Him. Those that are at peace with Him will help others to be at peace with God too, and thus are truly His children. I will mention this further below, but the key here is peace makers not peace keepers.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. First, we must realize that the promise from this blessing is the same as the first one which was being poor in spirit. If we are poor in spirit, then we defer our spirit to someone else. Jesus is explicit here that the someone else is the one who is righteous (remember we must also hunger and thirst for righteousness, v. 6). Being persecuted does not mean you are blessed; being persecuted for chasing after God and doing His will means you will be highly rewarded. Second, the promise is in the present tense. “Is” means now, just like verse 3. The other six beatitudes are future oriented (“shall”). Because the kingdom of heaven is at hand, those who are poor in spirit and are persecuted for the sake of righteousness have already made the “at hand” part a reality for themselves.

What does our world say?

Merciful – The world typically likes a good story about mercy. The news media sometimes refer to these stories as “feel good stories.” The fact that many people gravitate to this type of story truly reveals that we are made in the image of God. Of course, there are a number of people who are merciless, but more than not, I think the world does better with this idea than with most. One difference is that Jesus means God will show eternal mercy, while many people will use the word karma for someone getting something in return for helping another.

Pure in heart – This idea fits well with the idea of persecution. People who do not follow Christ cannot be pure in heart and make fun of others who wish to be. But the words are usually about what a person does (“goody two shoes”), not their heart. The word “hypocrite” gets at this idea perfectly. We are called hypocrites when what we do does not seem to match with what we believe. And we do this all the time, so we are hypocrites. But, as we will see in a few minutes, that does not disqualify us from seeing God because it is our heart that matters.

Peacemakers – Most people will agree with this for the sake of the good, but not for the sake of God. Some people are just agitators, but most people tend to avoid conflict so the world is not opposed to this idea – at least not in the way the word is usually interpreted. Again, two distinctions make the world’s understanding false. First, Jesus said peace makers not peace keepers and second the peace here is primarily concerned with God.

Persecution – Again, if we consider the idea of mercy, most people are appalled at outright persecution. By that, I mean killing, mutilation, and torture. But many people accept soft-persecution which is generally more verbal in nature or indirect harm (such as burning a cross in a yard like the KKK used to do). The reason people accept this is because they are not willing to be peacemakers, but would rather keep the peace with others by not getting involved.

These ideas might describe how the world views Jesus’ statements now, but what about when the knowledge of the glory of the Lord fills the earth as the water covers the sea?

How would having a knowledge of the glory of the Lord affect this idea?

Being merciful – The knowledge of the glory of the Lord will cause people to be merciful, not just to receive mercy, but because showing mercy is the right choice. If the knowledge of God’s glory is pervasive, then His character will reach through His followers to impact the world greatly. And His character, in His own words includes mercy. (Read Exodus 34.6-7.)

Blessed are the pure in heart – We can only be pure in heart because of Jesus. We must return to Psalm 24.3-4. It takes clean hands AND a pure heart to see God. Most people focus on the externals (what we do), but God is concerned with the heart (who we are). As I mentioned above, people will call us hypocrites because the who we are (or want to be) does not always match up with what we do. So, we are hypocrites. But, the truth is that only one has been truly pure in heart, and that is Jesus. Thus, He can see God. And the invitation is extended to all who believe. Thus, I can see God despite not being perfect, because Jesus is perfect.

Blessed are the peacemakers – As I have said a couple of times already, making peace is the call here. Most people are willing to keep the peace, but making peace requires effort. It requires seeking to understand all sides. It requires being willing to see a greater goal. The perfect example of a peacemaker is God, who did so through His Son Jesus. He initiated the process. He made the effort. We just need to believe and receive. Paul begins many of his letters greeting the churches with the grace and peace from God. For those who have received that peace, a requirement exists to be at peace with one another, and to bring others into an eternal peace with God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted – To this point, I have not mentioned verses 11 and 12, so let me do so here. Notice in verse 11 Jesus says that our persecution comes from false accusations about us because of Jesus. What Jesus means is that if others persecute us because of what we are doing for Jesus, then great is our reward. But if others lash out at us with good cause, then we should consider their efforts a part of our punishment, not persecution.

CONCLUSION
In these eight statements of blessing, Jesus truly challenged the thinking of the 1st Century Jew. He is still challenging the thinking of people today. Some of these thoughts are truly threatening to our usual mindset. Does Jesus actually say we are to “rejoice” when we are being persecuted? Yes. But He does so because His mindset is not bogged down by the cares of the world; Jesus mindset was fully integrated with the Kingdom. And a part of his goal with this sermon was to teach people to understand how to think differently and to live differently because of their faith in God.

We tend to concern ourselves with a lot of worries that often end up meaningless. In these eight statements of blessing, Jesus effectively says, “Don’t worry, be happy.” Of course, His words are far valuable than a 1980s song, but if we truly adopt an attitude of hakuna matata because of our faith, we will begin to realize a different type of life – one that is “on earth as it is in heaven.”

So, with that said, our JOURNEY letter for today is:

JOURNEY: JJESUS


Jesus makes the Kingdom possible. He is teaching the people then, and teaching us today what kingdom-living looks like, but without His sacrifice we could only look from the outside-in. Unfortunately, too many people believe that they are satisfied by taking that approach. But if we are truly merciful, then we will be peacemakers between others and God, even when we encounter persecution, proving our hearts are pure, and then, we can know we will see God!

NEXT LEVEL STEP(S): LIVE
How would having the knowledge of the glory of the Lord impact this teaching?

Reading the words of Jesus should encourage us to take action. We do not have an excuse that we don’t know what God wants us to do when the words of Scripture are from His very mouth. This week, in addition to learning more about what Jesus is asking of you, begin to do what you already know He wants you to do – beginning with this eight-item list in Matthew 5.3-10.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

As It Is In Heaven: Don’t Worry, Be Happy (Part 1)

Many people struggle to believe the Bible for a number of reasons. One such reason is their worldview. Worldview pic – in your folder A worldview is essentially how someone views the events and purpose of humanity and the universe. Many different types of worldviews exist. Even the number of true worldviews is debated, but what is certain is that one’s worldview drastically impacts how one views life and existence. (For a brief comparison of five prominent worldviews and the religions that embrace them, see the following chart:
https://www.xenos.org/sites/default/files/essay-pdfs/Five%20Worldviews.pdf

Most worldviews have a long heritage although certain particulars may change. Additionally, some may have a similar worldview, but be at complete odds with one another. For instance, the worldview that is based upon a single God who is sovereign over the universe is often called Theism. Authentic Christianity certainly has this worldview, but so does Islam (and Judaism). Some call Christianity its own worldview, and that is fine. My point is not to get into the details of various worldviews, but to simply state that multiple worldviews exist and they affect our thoughts and beliefs.

The Sermon on the Mount was meant to change the peoples’ worldview. Specifically, Jesus wanted to take their thoughts away from the world and invite them to consider the Kingdom. Remember, Jesus has just declared that the “kingdom of God is at hand.” That is, the kingdom is near, so you need to adapt your mindset (i.e. worldview) to consider God and His Kingdom, not just yourself or your place in your world.

As we go through this series, my intention is to help make that distinction as often as I can. Each week, I intend to use the same format to look at these verses in light of what the people in the first century were thinking, what Jesus said, how our world may misapply the teachings of Jesus and how having a true knowledge of God will affect our thinking. We will do so with the mindset that God truly means what He says when God spoke to Habakkuk saying, “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” (Hab. 2.14) Whatever mindset you may have, or whatever worldview you may claim, God is saying knowledge of Me and My glory will one day be known everywhere and when that happens your understanding of life will be changed forever. The Sermon on the Mount is a part of God’s glory being made known to man.

Take a moment to read Matthew 5.3-6.

What did the people think?

It is critical that we remember Jesus has just launched His ministry. People were gathering around Him because of what He was doing (see Matt 4.23-25). Now this man who has been healing others and teaching in the synagogues is now taking his teaching to the masses. What would Jesus say? And what did He mean that the kingdom of heaven was near? Before we can understand what Jesus meant, we have to understand the way they thought. Granted, this isn’t their complete worldview, but compared to the verses we will cover today, we can get a glimpse.

The 1st Century Jews believed:
  • that God showed favor to those who had material wealth. The poor (in spirit, in wealth, etc) were always on the outside looking in.
  • mourning was important. When someone died, the family often paid others to mourn with them (professional mourners).
  • Rome and some Jewish authorities had full control. A few groups fought against this notion, but they were put in their place, so it was best to avoid the attention of the authorities.
  • that food and drink were natural, but being filled would have been rare. Having a day’s supply of food was reasonable for most families, but little more.

What did Jesus say?

Jesus uses a traditional Jewish structure as He speaks. The idea of “Blessed are the...” are called the Beatitudes from the Latin word for blessings. But the idea can be better understood as “It is well with those who...” or “Happy are those who...” (It means far more than our understanding of happy, but the word does translate that way.) Essentially, Jesus is saying that current circumstances are not the end. Whatever you face now pales in comparison to what is available in the Kingdom of God. In other words, don’t let your earthly experiences define you, focus on what God can, and is, doing.

Happy are those who are poor in spirit...the Kingdom of heaven is theirs.
Think about this statement. First, it is in the present tense – this one and the last one are the only beatitudes in the present tense (the next six are future oriented). Second, Jesus is saying that the Kingdom of Heaven does not just belong to God, it belongs to the people – “theirs” is a possessive word! What a promise! You may be poor here, but if you are poor in spirit, then you are truly wealthy – all that God has is yours.

Happy are those who mourn...they will be comforted.
Having people cry and mourn with you may bring some solace in the moment, but comfort goes to the core. True mourning brings true comfort in time – especially when the comforter is God.

Happy are those who are meek, they will inherit the earth.
You are more than you imagine, but you may not be able to express it as you wish. That’s ok, you may not have much in this life, but what awaits you is far more than you can fathom.

Happy are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, they will be satisfied.
You may eat today, but you will be hungry again tomorrow. The same is true with thirst. But if you truly seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness (6.33), you will be satisfied eternally.

I have paraphrased Jesus intent, but before we look at them through a biblical worldview, let us take a look at what the world says. In doing so, we must remember Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 2.12,14 that the world cannot truly understand the things of God because those without the Spirit truly cannot understand (1 Cor. 2.12,14).

What does our world say?

Being poor in spirit will get you nowhere. You have to look out for number 1, otherwise the world will just walk all over you. There is truth in that idea...no one cares about you more than you, but being poor in spirit is about our place before God as we will see in a moment.

Mourning is for wimps. Sure, you are sad, but get up and get busy. The world waits for no one, so if you aren’t tough enough to suck it up and keep going, someone else will take your place. (Thankfully, this notion is changing in many cases, but much progress remains.)

We trample the meek because the meek are weak. We will just do what we want because it is not like they (the meek) will stop us. If they don’t want to play our way, we will simply run them over and force our will upon them.

If you want to be righteous, don’t put that on me. I am going to do things my way. Besides you are a hypocrite anyway.

Granted, I may be overdramatizing these statements slightly, but not much. The world is opposed to the Kingdom – the mindset (worldview) is entirely different. The world says “I/Me” whereas the Kingdom says “Us/We.” And the biggest part of that community is God. So, we now move to our central question:

How would having a knowledge of the glory of the Lord affect these ideas? In other words, how should we apply what Jesus said?

Before we cover the four statements of blessing, we must realize that Jesus is about to give a set of rules for living within the Kingdom. But before He does He gives us these blessing statements to show that God is about relationship; the rules only stem from that relationship. This is the same format God used before giving the commandments to the Israelites on another mountain (Sinai) in the Old Testament (beginning with Exodus 20).

Poor in Spirit – Having a knowledge of the glory of God helps us know that God’s glory far surpasses ours. Thus, being poor in spirit is about our realizing our place as inferior to God. Being poor in spirit is not about having a weak faith, it is about having a faith that relies on God because we, ourselves, are weak. It is God that makes heaven available to us, not the other way around, so we must remain humble before Him. In fact, the next three beatitudes stem from this idea.

Mourn – Having a knowledge of the glory of God helps us care about life as God does. Bereavement is a natural part of loss, but this mourning goes deeper. Do our concerns match the cares of God? Do we see the injustices of the world as He sees them? God will comfort us, in part, now, but our true comfort will come when we are with Him.

Meek – Having a knowledge of the glory of God helps us realize that meekness is not weakness, but is controlled strength. Jesus was powerful (Matt. 26.53), but controlled His strength to accomplish the will of the Father. The reality is that many who exert their power do so to control very little. The promise of Jesus is that those who are meek now will not have a little, but will inherit the earth! Thus, we can pursue a little of the world, or we can have it all in God’s timing!

Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness – Having a knowledge of the glory of God helps us to know what righteousness is. Having this knowledge helps us to understand that we are imperfect beings who must seek out one who is far better than us. It helps us understand what “seek first the Kingdom of heaven” might mean, even if we do not fully fathom it.

These first four beatitudes are an introduction to the Kingdom of heaven of which Jesus spoke as He began His ministry. It is the first part of His making these fishermen (and others) fishers of men. And although our cultures may be very different, Jesus’ teaching then still applies to us today. I will remind you that a sign-up sheet for RightNow Media is in the back. We will show the preview clip again in a couple of weeks, but this resource can help keep you focused on being a disciple.

CONCLUSION

At the beginning of this message, I mentioned the idea of worldviews. The idea that Jesus wanted to convey was that the normal course of events may cause us to be concerned, but in God’s Kingdom the concepts are quite different. In fact, later in this sermon, Jesus says we have no reason to be anxious if we are focused on God. In the verses we reviewed today, He says we are blessed (or should be happy) if we focus on God. In other words, “Don’t worry; be happy.” (Yes, I am an 80’s music junkie).

So, with that said, our JOURNEY letter for today is once again the full word:

JOURNEY: JOURNEY

All of us need to shift our mindset to become more like Jesus, and some need to change their worldview entirely. But wherever we are on our JOURNEY, we must remember that we do not walk this path alone. We have others nearby who will encourage us, and some who will battle with us. Ultimately the war has been won, which should cause our desires to be to live for the Victor. And it should cause us to take our living to another level – in discipleship, fellowship, worship, service, and sharing the gospel.

NEXT LEVEL STEP(S): LEARN
How would having the knowledge of the glory of the Lord impact this teaching?

Take time this week to consider your worldview. Do some research and be honest with yourself to see if you fit one (or more) of the worldviews mentioned in this sight or others.
https://www.xenos.org/sites/default/files/essay-pdfs/Five%20Worldviews.pdf

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

"Isaiah 6", A Closer Look by Rick Sons

Isaiah’s Vision of the Lord



1 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.
2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 
3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”
4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. 
5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”
6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar.
7 And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”
8 And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”



God is always looking for faithful men and women that He can support and empower to accomplish His will and purposes on this earth. For some, the call may be to foreign missions or to the ministry but most of us will be called to be ministers of the gospel even though our career paths might look much different. As Andy can tell you, several years ago becoming a deacon or minister was not high on my list of priorities. Nor would the thought of me going Kenya to speak to possibly 100 pastors be an option. God is looking for people whom He can support to build His kingdom. Sometimes we must let ourselves be found.

If you take time to think about it, there is nothing particularly extraordinary about faithful men like Moses, Elijah, Isaiah, at least in and of themselves. In the book of James, James makes it clear when he says, “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours.” He was human just like we are with faults, weaknesses, and temptations. Yet he, like many other men and women, was faithful to do what God asked him to do.

In the above scripture we have seen Isaiah’s vision of what God and heaven is like. Notice in the beginning, God has not spoken to Isaiah. He has only showed him. Then God asks, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” The Us clearly refers to all: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

See God upon his throne and that throne high and lifted up, not only above other thrones as it transcends them, but over other thrones as it rules and commands them. Isaiah saw not Jehovah (the essence of God which no man has or can see), but Adonai, His dominion. He saw the Lord Jesus. This vision is explained in John 12:41. John says that Isaiah saw Christ’s glory and spoke of Him, which is an incontestable proof of the divinity of our Savior. It appears evident from this passage that the glory which the prophet saw was the glory of Jehovah. By saying that it was the glory of Jesus, John shows that he considered Jesus to be Jehovah.

Isaiah saw holy angels called seraphim; for He makes his ministers a flaming fire (Psalm 104:4). They burn in love to God and zeal for His glory. Hearing them sing praise to God. Hear the anthem, or song of praise, which the angels sing to the honor of him that sits on the throne, how this song was sung. With zeal and fervency they cried aloud.  In Isaiah 6 we see the vision of the awesome majesty and holiness of God presented. Isaiah had to have been moved by the wonders he was seeing just as we will be when we see God and heaven for the first time and bask in the glory. With this knowledge of the glories of God, Isaiah had to have been filled with wonders maybe just as Moses was on the mountain.

With this question asked by God, Isaiah’s only reasonable answer was to volunteer himself. After all, there was no one else standing there at the time. In Isaiah 6:8 he says, “Here I am. Send me.” Interestingly, God didn’t force Isaiah to volunteer. He merely asked if there was any who would go and Isaiah said, “I’m available. I’ll go.” God doesn’t force us to serve but He works in our hearts so that we desire to volunteer for Him. Deep down I think it is safe to say that every one of us want to do as God asks us to do.

In Sunday School last week, we discussed the change in our church over the past few years. Our church has always supported missions and we have had several go and work with others in different states and countries. But the mission to spread the Word locally has fallen short. Too often, we wait for someone else to share the gospel with a loved one because we don’t want to stir the waters. Sometimes we expect our pastor or our deacon to do all of the ministry things while we just show up and support him.

God wants us to have willing hearts and not pass off our responsibilities to someone else. God has created good works for us to do, and it is our responsibility to do them. We will not be judged one day by what our pastor has done or by what other people do but by what we do. We will give an account for ourselves.

Isaiah, an ordinary man, was willing to obey God and step out in faith to let God do extraordinary things through him. Let us pray that we would come to see the value of God’s mission (as Isaiah did) and say with Isaiah, “Here I am. Send me.”

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

As It Is In Heaven: Series Introduction

Have you ever said words similar to the following? “If only Jesus were here to tell me what to do?”

The reality is that He has told us plenty, but sometimes we don’t listen or perhaps we don’t like what He has said. Of course, at other times, we make the excuse that what He has said is too hard and must not be meant for us. Perhaps, Jesus was only talking to super-Christians or someone who is smarter, or better, or whatever. Well, we can make excuses, but when we stand before God, those excuses will be about as helpful as an air conditioner in the wintertime (the current temp as I post this is below 0).

We are beginning a new series this week on the Sermon on the Mount. It is a passage many will know well. But regardless of how well we know it or not, the key is for us to live out the principles within it. Today, my intent is simply to provide some background for how the series came to be, briefly cover the opening verses of the text for this series, and introduce a new church-wide initiative to help with our discipleship efforts. That sounds like a lot to cover, but this week’s message is vitally important. Why is it important? Well, the passage we will be covering over the next five months is one of the five great discourses of Jesus as chronicled by Matthew, and likely the most impactful sermon ever preached.

What is the passage? Matthew 5-7 – a passage known simply as the Sermon on the Mount. Our series title is taken from near the middle of the passage where, in the midst of Jesus teaching His disciples to pray, says, “on earth as it is in heaven.” For the series title, I have dropped the “on earth” portion, but the point of these three chapters is Jesus introducing the concept of kingdom-living to His followers. A few weeks ago, during our previous series on adoption, we applied these same verses to our role as children and our interactions with the Father and with each other. As I mentioned at the time, the primary understanding of this sermon regards living as a part of the Kingdom of God; however, if God is also our Father, then we can apply the concepts as children as well.

As we begin to review this sermon in detail, we will do so from the context of being a follower of God. If you are a follower of God, or desire to do so, this series will be both a blessing and a challenge to you. I know it will be for me as well. So, with that, let’s get started.

The Background

Over the past few years, I have had in my mind to do a series on Paul’s letter to the Romans. Each year, I sense that the time is not right and God provides another path of study. This past Spring, I thought we would begin Romans today, but with an interesting twist, I would teach on Romans and show some parallels between Paul’s letter and Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Then, our book club read a book on holiness, and we talked about how well that idea fit my series concept. But then, I started to get the same sense that Romans wasn’t right even as the thought of teaching from this great sermon of Jesus gained strength in my mind. One of the problems, at least for me, was that we just concluded a year looking at the life of Jesus. But the reality is that Mark focuses very little on the teachings of Jesus, so…

Last September, I was reading a book that mentioned Habakkuk 2.14. The verse says, “The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of YHWH, as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2.14). In the book, the following two questions were posed after quoting the verse:
  • Suppose that isn’t just an extravagant way of speaking?
  • Suppose it means what it says?

Said another way, what if the earth was filled with the knowledge of God’s glory? What if we lived according to the glory of God and then shared that glory with others? Well, those questions led me directly to Matthew 5.16 (the verse that captures the vision for our church), and that helped me conclude that a series on Matthew 5-7 was the right approach for the new year for Fairfax Baptist Church. As we will see in the coming weeks, that question about God’s glory will be the driving force for how we approach our application of Jesus’ teaching in these verses.

The Setting

Take a moment to read Matthew 5.1-2.

Who? The crowds, Jesus, and His disciples. It is difficult to discern from Matthew’s account how many disciples are present or exactly who is a disciple. In Matthew 5.1, he mentions crowds (plural) and disciples, yet at the end of the sermon (7.28-29), only crowds are mentioned. This may seem like a minimal issue, but we truly must question who is being taught. In verse 2, Matthew uses the pronoun “them” which could refer to the disciples and/or crowds. I believe Jesus was teaching His disciples and the crowd was a secondary beneficiary of the teaching. It wasn’t that they were eavesdropping, merely that they were interested in what Jesus was saying so they crowded in around the disciples to hear better. The text does not provide any number regarding the crowds, so we might guess several dozen, several hundred, or even potentially several thousand.

What? Jesus sat down. In Jesus day, the rabbis, scribes, or other teachers sat down when they taught. However, whomever read Scripture would do so standing (the people often did as well – a tradition that goes back, at least, to Ezra reading Scriptures in Nehemiah 8). Thus, Matthew records that Jesus is seated which indicates that important teaching is about to take place.

When? This teaching takes place early in Jesus’ ministry. In Matthew’s account, this happens just after Jesus calls His first disciples and ministers to large crowds through Galilee. This fits well with Luke’s account as well although Luke’s version is often called the Sermon on the Plain (I will cover this apparent difference in just a moment). Luke’s version of the gospel should be considered the most accurate as far as the sequence of events, but again Matthew and Luke have this teaching near the very beginning of His ministry, so we do not have a conflict in timing.

Where? Matthew says that Jesus went up a mountain. Luke says that this teaching happened “on a level place” (Luke 6.17). But Luke 6.12 said that Jesus had been out to the mountain and then came down with them (the disciples, v. 17) to the level place. Luke also says Jesus stood. So, is the Bible in error? No. Let me explain.

First, Matthew and Luke are talking about the same place. Galilee is a very hilly region. (SermononMount pic – SB folder under Sermons) The picture here is a possible place where the sermon occurred. A few different locations have been considered possibilities and a church has been erected on top of one site. But the point that this picture shows is that Jesus could have walked up the mountain (to pray, Luke 6), come back down to a level place (Luke 6) and still be considered up on the mountain (Matthew 5). Furthermore, the acoustics in situations like this have been scientifically proven to allow a person to speak to several thousands of people by simply using the natural amplification that comes from the backdrop. Thus, being in a lower place and speaking to those above you (Luke 6 says He looked up at His disciples), would create an optimal teaching setting.

But what about Jesus standing versus sitting? This is where the writer’s intended audience is important. Matthew is writing to the Jews whose tradition said that the teacher (rabbi) would sit to teach. The Jews present that day would have recognized this and, indeed, recognized a superior authority from Jesus according the verses at the end of this sermon (Matt. 7.28-29).

Why? Jesus had just begun His ministry. He began by calling for people to, “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4.17). Now, He is explaining what living within the Kingdom of heaven includes. Later, in Matthew 13, Jesus will explain what the Kingdom of heaven is like. As I have mentioned in the past, the Jews consider God’s name so holy, Matthew did not write the Kingdom of God; rather he called it the kingdom of heaven. But because heaven is the domain of God, the Jews would fully understand the implications of the words of Jesus and Matthew.

How? Jesus opened up his mouth and taught. This is a profound statement which we will cover later in our series. But consider the words Jesus uses several times in Chapter 5, “You have heard it said…, but I say…” These words have tremendous significance as we will see in early February. For now, we simply need to understand that Jesus was using the traditional means of teaching, but His intentions were to elevate the people’s understanding and perception of the situation.

The Initiative

If Jesus intended to raise the people’s awareness to what God’s expectations were, what was His reason? Simply to help people rise above the lives they were living and focus on living according to God’s standards, not man’s. In other words, having them live at another level. That level of living – as it is in heaven – is quite different than their normal one – and these were people who had a great respect for God.

So, Jesus comes to share the idea of what having a true knowledge of the glory of the Lord would do for them. Furthermore, He came to share what having a true knowledge of the glory of the Lord would require of them. And what was true for them is certainly true for us.

Such a knowledge and understanding means we must choose to live at another level – next level living, we will call it. That requires next-level discipleship, next-level fellowship, next-level worship, next-level service, next-level sharing.

The words of Scripture can teach us a great deal about God and about ourselves. Thankfully, God has provided tremendous teachers who make the words of Jesus, Paul, Moses, and others not only understandable, but applicable. Thanks to technology, we have access to some of these teachers right from our televisions, computers, and even our telephones. One such resource is called Right Now. Many of you are familiar with Netflix. Well, RightNow Media is basically the Biblical version of Netflix. We have been using this resource for a couple of years for our Community Groups, but now I want to make it available to any member of the church that would like to access it. It is free to all members. Thousands of Bible studies for all ages (young children to senior adult), access to speeches from various conferences, etc.

(In the service a promo video was played at this time.)

Jesus said to Follow Me. He came to make disciples. The Sermon on the Mount is His first extended teaching to turn His followers into disciples who would change the world. RightNow is a tool we can use to be better disciples and make more disciples. And, oh yes, it is free to you.

CONCLUSION
In this series introduction, we have covered the background for how this series came to be, the setting for Jesus teaching, and the initiative, or purpose, for His teaching and how we can capitalize on resources to make us better disciples as well.

As we move forward in this series, the prevailing thought will be about how a knowledge of the glory of the Lord impacts our understanding of the principles in the Sermon on the Mount. Each week my plan is to show what the world’s typical response is regarding the various topics, and what Jesus expects from those who choose to follow Him. That is, we will compare the worldly kingdom against the heavenly one.

So, with that said, our JOURNEY letter for today is:

JOURNEY: JOURNEY

The reality is that for each one of us, some of the principles we will learn in this series will be very challenging while others may be reasonably within our grasp. But Jesus wants us to live at another level, and, thus, our journey is not complete. This series will not complete that process, but it should prepare us to take a few steps closer to becoming the individuals and the church that God wants us to be.

NEXT LEVEL STEP(S): LEARN

1. Consider your response to the following question each day this week.
  • How would having the knowledge of the glory of the Lord impact my current situation?

2. Consider signing up for an Right Now Media. Again it is free for all members of Fairfax Baptist Church. All you need is an email address. You may email the church if you are interested in having an account.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Adoption: Co-Heirs!

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have an unlimited amount of money? Perhaps, you could be the child of Bill Gates or Warren Buffet? Both of these multi-billionaires have three children, so both Mr. Gates and Mr. Buffet know what it is like to be a father. And the six children know what it means to live in a wealthy family. As children, they are the heirs to their father’s wealth. But these two, along with 166 other billionaires, have pledged to give away more than 50% of their wealth to a foundation designed to provide much needed help around the world. The help comes in the form of education, refugee aid, medical research, environmental stability, etc. For Gates, this amount reflects a personal commitment of more than $40 billion. For Buffet, more than $35 billion. I don’t need to tell you that represents a lot of money. And they may be among the top five richest people in the world, but again over 160 other billionaires from around the world have made a similar pledge.

But here’s the thing – my Dad has more resources than all of those billionaires put together. And He is willing to share it with me, with you, with anyone who will simply love His Son. The truth is that Jesus came as the Son to make it possible for us to become sons and daughters of God. If you understand what that means, you realize that Jesus came that we might share in the glorious riches of the Father. These riches are not measured in gold or silver, but in the blessing of knowing God as Father, because of receiving God the Son, and thus having the God the Spirit dwelling within us.

That statement is magnificent – not necessarily for the words, but for the meaning behind them and because it is true. Today’s passage is from Galatians 4 where we will learn of the most magnificent gift we can be given – a gift that we have because of Jesus.

The Wait (Galatians 4.1-3)

In Galatians 3, Paul contrasts living by the Law or by faith. Now, in the fourth chapter, he argues that those who claim that living by the law is necessary may be positioning themselves as the ones with understanding and maturity. But in chapter 4, Paul shows his readers that such a thought process is really like that of a child. In Paul’s day, a child had no legal standing. And, if a child was due an inheritance, it would only be given at a certain time. Until then, what the father had was available to all, with a promise it would one day belong to the child.

Therefore, the child must wait to receive all that is promised. It will come, but only when the guardians and managers (or in the case of God, the Father), deem(s) the child ready. Paul then calls any other teachings elementary and worldly.

Recall the parable of the prodigal son which we looked at in depth a few weeks ago. In that story, the son deems himself ready for his portion, but upon receiving it, immediately squanders all he was given. Now, imagine all that God has for His children. If we were to get it all at once, or even a part of it, we would squander it. So, God has us wait. And we will wait until He deems us ready to receive all that He has for us. And while I cannot know for certain all that He has for us, I can certainly believe that what lies ahead will be worth any wait we must endure.

The Test (Galatians 4.4-5)

As we move to the next couple of verses, we must establish that the wait is not for everyone because not everyone is a child of God. In the previous verses, Paul initially compares a child and a slave neither of which have any rights. However, the child will eventually grow and receives rights and privileges, the slave will not. Likewise, those who live according to the Law will remain slaves and never become a child of God, but those who receive God’s gift will eventually receive all the privileges of that statement.

So, what must we do to become a child of God? Effectively, nothing. You cannot do anything to become God’s child except receive what He has offered you. That may be hard for you to believe. Perhaps you believe you deserve to be God’s child or perhaps you believe you could never deserve to be God’s child. Either way, consider the following questions.
  • What did you do to be the child of your biological parents?
  • Did you choose what day you would be born? Did you choose where you would be born? 

Of course, the answer to these questions is no. So, why should it be difficult to understand you did nothing to be adopted as a child of God? Let’s look at these verses and see what we find.

v4 – When the time had fully come, God sent forth His Son – God did this.
v4 – Born of a virgin – Mary did not even do anything – God made that happen as well.
v4 – Born under the law – Jesus came to set us free from the law, so He had to live by it first.
v5 – To redeem those who were under the law – All mankind was under the law, so Jesus died to redeem all mankind. What did we do? Nothing. What did Jesus do? Everything.
v5 – So that we might receive adoption – Ok, so we have to receive something. But we can only receive what is offered. We didn’t go to God and say, “adopt me.” He came to us, and said, “You are adopted...but only if you wish to be.”

We have the right to become children of God if we will simply receive what He has done (see John 1.12). And when we do, we become the brothers and sisters of Jesus – not by anything we do or don’t do, but because of what He did for us. And because we are now children of God, we become heirs as well. That is, we are co-heirs with Christ.

The Benefit (Galatians 4.6-7)

Last week, I mentioned that God’s offer seems quite unfair in my mind. You can probably relate. Think of your siblings, or if you have none, think of a friend or a coworker who received a reward that really was because of something you did. Now, think about Jesus. Jesus died and we receive the blessings of being God’s children. These are not my words, these are Paul’s (and as we saw last week in John 20, they are Jesus words as well)! No, Jesus is not really losing anything, but He did all of the work and we receive the benefit. Let’s look at the next two verses.

Notice Paul’s statement here: Because you are sons....

This is a foregone conclusion. It is true because it has happened. Because is a word that correlates two ideas – one thing is true due to something else being true (which could involve multiple possibilities). For instance, you eat because you are hungry...or because you are stressed...or because others around you are eating...or because food is available, etc. The reality is that “just because” is not a valid reason. However, if anyone had the right to use those words, it would be God, but not even God uses those words. For instance, in Job, God could have responded to all of the questions with “just because,” but instead gave Job several examples of who He is as God and let Job make the determination for himself. Here, in Galatians 4, Paul makes God’s correlation clear. First, because you have received my Son, I have adopted you (v. 5). Second, because you are my children, you are an heir with all the benefits of being my child (v. 7).

Paul turned the word order around, but his point is no less clear. Because God considers you His children, He has done something for you – He sent the Spirit to live within you. We saw that Jesus promised this very thought last week when reviewing John 14. Here Paul says it is done. And the Spirit is that of the Son which causes us to cry out to our Father. Again, the words here represent a Jew and a Gentile crying out to the same Father in their own native tongue. That is, the family is definitely blended (see last week’s message), but through God’s Spirit we can be united as one.

Think of the benefits in these few verses. I find seven explicit benefits in these seven verses.
  1. We no longer have to consider ourselves as slaves.
  2. We are no longer bound by the elementary teachings of the world.
  3. We are no longer bound to live a perfect life under the Old Testatment law.
  4. We have an option to receive a great gift – the gift of Jesus.
  5. We can receive the Holy Spirit.
  6. We can call God our Father.
  7. We have an inheritance waiting.

CONCLUSION

I realize this is not a traditional Christmas message. But those who know me well, know that I am not always traditional. However, during a season in which gift-giving is prominent and families are often together, having a deeper appreciation of our place in God’s family because of the gift He has given to us could not be a more appropriate topic.

And, having completed this series, I can firmly say that I believe the greatest gift God has given is not our salvation; rather, it is our adoption. Salvation is important, but not as significant as adoption. And as inconceivable as it may be that God might adopt us, it is truly mind-boggling that we might have any inheritance as a co-heir with Christ. Let me explain by expanding the analogy I used the first week of this series.

Each person is saved when God declares us not guilty of sin because of the blood of Jesus. Please understand, we are guilty, but God declares us not guilty because of Jesus’ work on the cross. So, like a human judge who declares the defendant not guilty leaving the person free to leave the courtroom free to live life, those God declares not guilty are free to live their lives for Him.

But God is not like a human judge because He not only announces the verdict, He then invites the person to live with Him. And, as if that is not enough, God, as Father, then makes His entire estate available to this new child – remember, this is the person who was just declared “Not Guilty” – sharing what rightfully belongs to Jesus. And what does Jesus do? I am certain He just smiles and says, “Your welcome.”

So, with that said, our JOURNEY letter for today is:

JOURNEY: JJESUS

Everything we have talked about today, and really over the last seven weeks is due to Jesus. He came as a baby to die as a man so that we might live with Him forever. Our salvation is based upon the work of Son, our adoption is based upon the love of the Father, and our lives are to be filled with the Spirit. What a Christmas present we have been given by the great triune God! Merry Christmas, indeed!

NEXT STEP(S): LIVE. I encourage you to continue to focus on memorizing 1 John 3.1. But this week, take time to LIVE in light of the truth that you are a child of God.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Adoption: My Father = Your Father

In modern times, the idea of blended families has become all too frequent. But the idea is nothing new. In fact, the first blended family in the Bible would belong to Abraham. Two generations later, Jacob would epitomize the idea of a blended family as he had twelve sons, and at least one daughter, by four different women.

Many television shows have tried to depict the challenges of the blended family. Some of these shows have been very successful in their ratings and some endear themselves to our hearts. One of my wife’s many favorite all-time shows is The Brady Bunch. She still desires to live in their house, and, at one time, she wanted to have six children because of the Brady family. As you likely remember, Mike and Carol each had three children of their own, so when they married, the family had eight, plus the housekeeper Alice. Although the show depicts many of the challenges of the family coming together, it is only in the pilot-episode that the boys refer to their new mother as Carol and the girls calling their new father Mike.

The reality is that calling a parent by the title mom or dad is a big step for a child who is not the biological offspring. Natural-born offspring may resent a stepbrother or stepsister for making such a statement. A formal adoption of a step-child may make this idea easier for some natural-born siblings, but certainly not for all of them.

Adoption – there is that word again. Adoption is the focus of this sermon series, and we have seen that God has truly and formally adopted us. But is it truly right to call God by the title of Father? After all, this is the God of the universe – a mighty, awesome, and holy God. Dare we call Him by a term such as Father? Even if He agreed, what might Jesus, as our big brother, think? Might some exist jealousy on His part in sharing His Dad with us?

Of course, you are likely quick to answer, “No. Jesus is not like that.” Ok, but are you sure, or just hopeful about that statement? Yes, Jesus taught us to pray the words, “Our Father” but most everywhere the term Father is used in the New Testament is either with Jesus talking specifically about “my Father” or referring to His Father in heaven OR is mentioned in one of the New Testament letters. So, have we been misled by Paul, Peter, and others in thinking we can rightly refer to God as our Father?

Absolutely not. Again, Jesus told us to call Him Father in the Lord’s Prayer, but more specifically, in John 20.17, He gave explicit permission to use the term Father for everyone who follows Him.

The reason Jesus does so is love – a trait we will see He gets from the Father, that is, our Father – a Father that wants to be known.

The Only Son Wants Us to Know God As Our Father (John 20.17)

John 20 is the account of the resurrection of Jesus. After the women go to the tomb and then report what they have found (or Who they didn’t find!), the two disciples run to check. When they find the tomb empty, the disciples return, but Mary Magdalene remains weeping when she hears a voice. She soon realizes that she is talking to Jesus.

Jesus says that He has not yet ascended to the Father, and then says to go to His brothers and say, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” Now Mary and the disciples would have had no problem with referring to Jesus’ God as their God. Most, or maybe everyone here might say the same. But what Jesus does here is two-fold. First, He makes it evident that the one true God is the Father, and second, that His Father is their Father. This statement cannot be rightly interpreted any other way. But does Jesus statement apply to the disciples (brothers), or to Mary and the disciples (those who lived with Him during His time on earth), or to all believers for all time?

That is a good question. So, let’s stay within the book of John, and go back to a key verse from the first message of this series. John 1.12 says this, “But to all who did receive Him” (that is, Jesus), “who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.” (If you need further clarification on this passage, I encourage you to see the post on that message here.)

So, the answer to the question about Jesus intentions relates to the word all. And, as I understand the word all in this context, the answer is all who receive Him – past, present, or future – or, in other words, his disciples, Mary, and us. Jesus invites us to share His Father with Him. “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” may be a good song, but truly what a brother we have in Jesus!

The Only Son Promised Us the Holy Spirit So We Might Better Know the Father 
(John 14.15-31)

So, having seen that Jesus has opened the door wide for us to call God as our Father, let’s turn to the middle of the of John to get a little more clarity. In John 14.17, Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of truth, and then a few verses later in verse 26, Jesus says the Father will send the Spirit as Jesus has promised.

The language in this section is beautiful, but it can get a little confusing if you don’t pay close attention. Let me break it down for us.
  • In verse 17, Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit will dwell within believers.
  • In verses 18-21, Jesus says that He must leave, but He, and the Father will dwell with those who know and keep the commands.
  • In verse 22, Judas (not Iscariot, he is already on his errand of betrayal), asks how Jesus will be with them.
  • Then, in verses 23-31, Jesus answers that it is through the Spirit that He and the Father will be with them, teaching them, guiding them, bringing them peace.

So, Jesus promised the Spirit because will serve to guide us on behalf of the Son and the Father. In fact, the Spirit will indwell us (verse 17) to prove we are the children of God. That sounds good, right? I was planning on making that exact point during this part of the message, but then something caught my eye. I have to admit, I have read this passage at least one hundred times, but one word jumped off the page this time – a word I vaguely remember having read here before, but not with the importance it did this week. Look at John 14.18. What does Jesus say?

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” Do you see what Jesus is saying? Right here, in this great passage on the coming of the Holy Spirit, in the midst of preparing His disciples for His death and subsequent return to heaven, Jesus wants His disciples to know they are children of God. Effectively, Jesus says, “Dad will not leave you to fend for yourself. I/We will be here – in the Person of the Spirit.”

So, not only does Jesus want us to be able to call God our Father, but He wants us to make sure we know we will not be abandoned – ever, once we are a part of God’s true family. And that leads us to our final verses for today. We now move from the gospel recorded by John, to the first of his letters, where we see him referring to his readers as little children.

One Day We Will Be Like the Only Son Because We Know the Father (1 John 2.28-3.3)

John addresses little children in this section. These are not small, young, and undeveloped individuals physically; rather, John is addressing those who are young in the faith and still developing as children of God.

In these five verses, John addresses several important aspects of growing in our faith. Briefly, he says we can have confidence in Jesus and His return. We can know that all who are righteous are born of God – that is, they are His children, and should be known as such. We all should still be growing as one of God’s children because until Jesus returns, our development will not be complete. We must do our part to purify ourselves because we know Jesus is pure.

We could, and perhaps should, flesh out each of these aspects a little more, but today, I want to focus on the simple, yet profound, idea that we are children of God – little though we may be. Take a moment to read 1 John 3.1, if you have not done so recently.

John says, “See what kind of love the Father has…” He is referring to the idea that those who believe – that is, they receive Jesus (John 1.12) are born again – into righteousness. These children – little or big, immature or giants in the faith – become children because of the love of the Father. It is God who initiates the adoption and makes us children – see what kind of love He has! Therefore, we should be called children of God. It isn’t a mistake to consider yourself a child of God. After all, you are born again. What does that mean if it doesn’t mean you have been born into God’s family?!?!?!!! And so we are, John says! And so we are, indeed!!!!!

Some may not believe it or know it, but John says a reason exists for that. They did not/do not know God, and specifically Jesus, as the only Son of God. Again, this takes us back to John 1. I hope you are not tired of John 1.12 because within the sovereign plans of God, that verse is how we are adopted. But we cannot overlook John 1.11 which says many did not receive Him and thus are not God’s children. Consequently, according to 1 John 3.2, because they are not God’s children, they do not know us as His children. They may make fun or ridicule us. The may treat us unfairly and persecute us. We may not like this idea, but we are aware of it because we all know the kids in school who were teased because of any number of things including, INCLUDING, the family to which they belonged. John is saying here, little children, don’t be ashamed (2.28) at who you are, for who you are is a child of God.

Again, so much more could be said about these verses, so I encourage you to read through the rest of chapter 3 and 4 to see how we should respond as God’s children. It all boils down to one four letter word – love. As we love, we represent God and guess what, we become a perfectly blended family.

CONCLUSION
At the beginning of this message I mentioned the idea of blended families. In essence, marriage creates a blended family as we add in-laws. I remember a conversation when Linus and Liz (friends from Africa) were here about the term in-laws. He thought it was disrespectful for my daughter’s husband Sam to call me Andy. He told Sam, “You should call him, Dad.” Then he told me that I should call Sam my son. In further discussions, he told me a bit about their culture’s understanding of this aspect (much of which I do not remember). Sure, some people in America call their in-laws by these endearing terms, but should we? Ultimately, I think it is up to the individual, but I can say with some assurance that from a biblical basis we shouldn’t prevent it. God says the two become one, which means if I am the father of my daughter, and she is one with Sam, then I am his father too.

Actually, that is another reason that we can use the term Father for God. Yes, all those who do the will of God are the brothers and sisters of Jesus as we saw last week at the end of Matthew 12. But for all who know Christ, we are the Church, and the Church is the Bride of Christ. Thus, as we become one with Christ, not only are we adopted as individuals, but we are collectively presented before the Father as the spouse of the Son, giving us further right, and reason, to call our God, Father.

Before I reveal our JOURNEY letter today, I want to make one comment about the three points of the sermon today. The important part is that we know God, not that we know about Him. None of the points mention what we might or do know about God, but that we need to know Him – and know Him better. As we know Him better, we should want to know more about Him. But facts should never take the place of intimacy. I have said more about this on my blog the past two weeks, and will wrap up that series this coming week, but I want to make sure we, as a church, do not miss that point.

So, with that said, our JOURNEY letter for today is:

JOURNEY: UUNITE

We are to unite together because we are all a part of something far bigger than ourselves. We saw today that the Son and the Spirit are as involved in the adoption process as the Father, and, of course, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, represent what we call the Trinity – or, tri-unity. If God is perfectly united within Himself, it only stands to reason that He wants His children to be united with one another even as we unite with Him. So we attempt to unite. And we can do so realizing, as John says that we ARE the children of God.

NEXT STEP(S): LEARN. Once again, our step this week is to memorize 1 John 3.1. The overall goal will be not only to memorize the verse, but to LEARN to understand it, so we might LIVE in light of its truth, LOVE others because of it, and ultimately LEAD others to embrace it as well.

Next week, we will conclude this series by reviewing the benefit of being adopted. Let me just say that I do not think the reward is fair, but to turn it down would be truly be foolish.