Follow Me

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So I’m going to invite you to turn to Matthew chapter four and welcome you to Christmas Hangover Sunday. Right. Like some of you are, just like you got here this morning, like, oh it’s done. I encourage my wife this week. I was looking at the tree this morning and I said to her, um, hey, early jump on next year, 364 days. We’re ahead of the game. Let’s keep the tree up right. We don’t. I am not putting that bad boy up. That’s not going to happen in her world. So it’s not going to happen to mine. Um, but welcome. Right. Uh, today is an important day for us as a church family, because I want to talk about the simplistic, uh, thought of of just what it means to, uh, to know Jesus. Right. Um, and the reason is because of what this time of year represents, 2016 is coming. 2015 is almost over. You realize this is the last. This is the last Sunday that we have together before this year ends. I don’t know if if, if you’re like me at all, but every time I hear something like that, it seems like the older I get, the faster it goes, and the more I just want to put a stop, a stop on time. Um, for, for for Christmas, I decided I would do this nice, thoughtful thing for my wife. We’ve been married. Um, this is our 10th year, and and I wanted to go back from when we first got married and started dating to to now and just put our life together sequentially and in pictures and and family movies, home movies and things.

And, and I like to say that my pursuit didn’t get derailed very early on, but it did. And the reason was, is because I’m just reminded every time I look at a picture of me when I first got married versus now, like, I’m like, what? What happened? Like what happened here? Has that much time really passed? I looked at like 3 or 4 pictures of us in the very beginning, and I’m looking at my face. I’m like, uh, I go to the bathroom like, uh, like that wrinkle was not there, you know, push us back what’s going on? And then I noticed something that horrific. I just found out. I’m like, I look back at my lobes. I’m like, there’s a wrinkle on my ear lobe. Like how no one warned me about this. How do I stop this time? I don’t need it to go forward. I need it to go backwards. Ear wrinkles are a thing. Like I became okay with it, by the way. I just, you know, I just told myself it’s dignified right there. It’s wisdom and it’s display and but but 2016 is just for fun. When I write checks, I’m thinking, can I just date this, like 2002? Or, you know, I just want to go back and just remember for, for a moment.

But the reality is, um. Time. Time doesn’t wait for anybody. Uh, Billy Graham was asked once, what’s the scariest thing about life? And and I was reading this question and I didn’t want to read the answer. I didn’t want Billy Graham to answer the answer. The question. I thought to myself, no, don’t, don’t do it. Or if you say it, just say, just say I’m a dude. There’s nothing scary. I got this, the world by the tail, you know? But he answered it and he said this. The scariest thing about life is, is the brevity of it. It’s kind of a sobering statement. Um, because in that statement, he’s also pointing to the significance of what life is about. Right? And usually at the end of the year is a time where we really think about it. In your mind. It’s colder outside, so. So you’re more bundled up on the inside. I think your brain’s got more time to think a little bit. And you look back over, over the last year and you’re thinking, man, I didn’t accomplish the things I wanted to accomplish. And and I cannot wait. Some of us will say for the next year, because last year I want to get rid of it. And others are saying, man, I just I don’t want to move forward. I want to stay. But but it’s the time of year that you just look at it and you think, man, this is what last year is about.

But, um, what what’s this year going to be for me? What am I going to make it about? You know, sometimes we we don’t. Um. Uh. Plan to fail as people. Really? Sometimes we fail to plan. And making life important really has to do with what you attach your life to. I know sometimes it could be cheesy to talk about resolutions coming into the new year, but but it’s it’s also important because it says the same thing as Billy Graham said with his statement is that life is important. And you may, you know, one knows how much time they have, but the the point of living your life for a way that matters is is significant. It points to the value of what life is about. And so to to be good at our resolutions and to have goals that are worthwhile, it really becomes about finding a point to life that is important. Meaning when you make goals and resolutions, your goals and resolutions are only as good as what you attach it to, like trying not to have ear wrinkles. It probably isn’t a good goal for 2016. For me, it’s just it’s one of those things that happened. But what what you attach your your, your, your goals to really identifies what your pursuit is in life. And if your pursuit in life isn’t isn’t significant, isn’t important, then your goals, your resolutions really aren’t going to produce the things that are worthwhile in life.

There’s a statement we say in our culture that practice makes perfect. And sometimes in my head I just want to tweak it. I don’t I don’t think that’s always accurate, because sometimes the things that we practice aren’t worthwhile. Practice doesn’t make perfect. What practice makes is permanent. Right. And so it’s important in the things that we do in life that that the pursuit of what we are doing is attached to a really important why are we doing it? You think in terms of of the way we live our lives as people? In Proverbs 29 and verse 18, it says this without vision people perish. I mean, we like things that are life giving. We like to be behind things, going somewhere, and we want to be a part of it. We want to know that it matters that, that what we’re doing matters, and we want to dedicate ourselves to the things that are important in life, which is really why when it comes to to goals. And why we’re here. It’s really significant to start, maybe to the utmost that it could be to start with this, this question, what is God’s will for my life and what is what is it that God desires for us? I can remember when I first became a Christian how I figured that out. I read a story about a about a kid that was doing the same thing.

There was a there was a teenager that he liked this girl in school. And so he, he, he wanted to decide whether or not it was God’s will that he would pursue this young lady. And so he he takes his Bible, he flips it open, and he takes his finger and he just goes, ah. And he lands on a verse and he reads the verse that’s going to determine what God’s will is, which I think God’s will is found in Scripture. I just don’t think that’s the best way to go about it. And so he starts in Romans eight and verse 25 and it says this. But if we hope for what we do not see with perseverance, we eagerly wait for this. And so he’s like, okay, that’s my sign. I go after this girl. I perseverance is what this verse is about. But but the reality is, when you read it in context, it’s talking about the coming of Jesus. For people who are going through persecution has nothing to do with teenagers finding, you know, girlfriends and boyfriends. That’s not the best way to pursue God’s will. But it is important to ask the question, what is God’s will for my wife? By the way, what is God’s will for my life? By the way, if, uh, if if your Bible reading consists of opening the Bible and just picking a verse, I would encourage you not to do that. I would encourage you to read the Bible for certain.

Um, but the text of Scripture, especially the New Testament epistles, letters written to individual people for a particular purpose, right. So text of the Bible cannot mean anything more to you than what it meant to the original audience once it was written. And so if you want to understand what God is saying in a passage of Scripture, especially, uh, when talking about the epistles, like Romans I just read from, it’s important to ask the question why it was written and read the letter through to understand the flow of thought, not just to cherry pick verses. That’s how that’s how craziness begins, right? But what is God’s will for your life? This is one of the things I appreciate about the Lord. It’s not a big mystery. In fact, when you get down to the very. Basic element of it. It’s simplistic. And God’s will for my life. It begins the same way. God’s will for your life. His follower Jesus. In fact, Jesus started his ministry with his disciples, making this statement about what his will is for their lives. And the book of Matthew and chapter four. And he actually ended the last gospel in the Book of John, chapter 21, the very last few verses he states it again. In fact, he he makes the statement over two dozen times within Scripture, and it’s always in the imperative. I don’t know about you, but when when I tend to say something repeated to my children, it’s important, right? Sometimes I’ll repeat myself a couple of times just to suggest the significance of it.

And Jesus said this over two dozen times within Scripture, and it starts in Matthew chapter four and verse 18. When he comes to his disciples, he’s beginning his ministry. And he says, now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee. He saw two brothers, Simon, who was called Peter, and Andrew, his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them. Follow me. And I will make you fishers of men. The phrase that Jesus gave us in describing what his desire is for us as individuals. It’s just a two word statement. Follow me. So we talk about God’s will for your life. We talk about resolutions in life. It’s not about what you do. It’s about who you pursue. God didn’t create you to be a human doing, he created you first as a human being. And this is where we get off course very quickly as people. Let me let me show you how we do this. Sometimes we’ll ask the question, what do you think the purpose of life is? And often people answer it this way to do the best I can or to be good, right? And I would certainly say God created you to be a contributor to life, not to take away from life, but to put into life because we are life giving beings created in his image.

But that’s really the cart before the horse. The way God has created you. God has primarily created you for relationship in him. And it’s only in that relationship that we discover the way that we glorify God in this world. It has to start with him because the meaning of life is centered in him. And so what Jesus is calling his disciples to is to him. Diet is the Greek word come to me or follow me life. You want to understand it, it’s centered in me and we say it very simplistic for us as a church family because we don’t ever want to lose focus of it. When Jesus, when Jesus gave the greatest two commandments, he identified for us what it was about loving God and loving others. Christ. What are the two greatest commandments we could follow in Matthew 1220, 29, and 30 it says this love the Lord your God with all your heart and love others. God created you for him. And so when your pursuits in life are alienated from that or separate from that, or when you treat Jesus just sort of like this add on to life, like I got all these things and now I’m religious. So I add Jesus to that. You miss it altogether. It starts in the intimacy of your relationship with God. Follow me. In the beginning when God created us, making us in his image.

He designed us different than any other creature being made in his image, meaning we can connect to him. We can relate to him. And Jesus now becomes flesh for the purpose of us being able to follow him. Because the Bible tells us that we were alienated from him in sin, and Jesus reconciled that alienation, we couldn’t do it. Jesus reconciled it in himself by becoming a gift for us. By dying on the cross. He paved the bridge for us to experience that relationship with God. Again, it’s it’s a gift that he has given us that that relationship would continue to be experienced, not not just the moment that you trust in Jesus and go into eternity, but the very moment you trust in Jesus today like that. That relationship doesn’t start when you die. It starts now and will last for all of eternity. To those who trust in Christ and what he has accomplished for us on the cross. God’s desire for you. Is to love the Lord your God with all your heart. To follow him. Purpose of life is about your relationship to the Lord, right? When you experience that. It’s in that relationship with God that God pours into you. Look. Look what Jesus says here. Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. Jesus doesn’t say, follow me. And now you become fishers of men. Jesus says, in your pursuit of me, he’s the one that pours into you what you’ll reflect in this world.

So the one responsibility that God gave us in this, the one thing God asked I should say. As for you. Follow me. And sometimes we look at this and say, okay, well, where’s the trick? Well, the statement that Jesus gives after that isn’t something else that you do. It’s something that he does in you. And I will make you fishers of men. God’s purpose for your life is to experience relationship in him, and in that relationship it says love others. Uh, so so God’s desire is to love him. And in that we we learn to love others. We we live that life that God has called us to live by God pouring himself into us because of what he has done for us on the cross and continuing that relationship with him. God’s desire is to reflect his goodness in this world. Here as a church family, there are a few things that we wanted to do to keep the simplicity of what that is. God’s desire for everyone this morning is to grow deeper in your relationship with him, and to enjoy that in your relationship with others. God invites us in community to do that with each other. God doesn’t call a believer to do that isolated. In fact, the Bible tells us when we come to know the Lord, God gifts us in certain ways, and the point of a gift is to give itself away. And so we do it in community.

And so we said, and when we started ABC, we wanted to do this in three ways in ministry. And three ways we desired to reflect the goodness of God in this world. And the first was this we wanted to do hearts over hands. And what that means is this as religious people or religious thinking, I don’t want to be this way, but this is our natural inclination. We become very task driven. People. Like the point of doing something is to accomplish the task. But but the reason ministry exists isn’t to accomplish a task. It’s actually to reach a heart. And in fact, ministry doesn’t exist unless people are there to minister to. And so the primary purpose of every ministry isn’t to check it off the box like you don’t come on Sunday morning just to say, or you shouldn’t just to say I did my thing for God, check it off the box or or to serve anywhere in the church. You don’t do it to check off the box. Everything we do exists to reach hearts, because what God is after is the hearts of people. Because God has created them for relationship with him. So. So sometimes we accomplish tasks. To do that, we should. We have goals as a church while we have ministry. But the point of all of it, whether it be your kids in the back, whether it be a greeter at the front door, whether it be engaging in music, the point of all of it is to reach the heart of of people.

And the second thought is the church. What we want to carry is this we want to we want to redeem our culture. See, sometimes when we think about this in a religious context, we think, okay, I got to do this performance thing that the point of life is, is what I do and my value is seen in what I do. And God says, contrary to that, the primary purpose of life is relationship to him. And you’re not a human being or a human doing. You’re a human being. It’s you’re created in his image and you will reflect his glory. But it starts in your relationship with God and and in a religious thinking, because we think about checking off the box, eventually you start looking at the world as Nikki Place, because there is these laws that you’ve got to carry on and and the world will keep you from these laws. And so you get away from icky world, and you start checking your box and you start to isolate yourself because ickiness is out there and you’re good and so good. Don’t touch it. Icky. Right. Get it, get it gets dirty when it touches icky. So so you start to think about that religiously. But but but when you look at what Jesus has called you to, he’s called you to relational relationally in him because of what he’s done.

And here’s the truth of the matter. Knowing that God’s called us to a relationship in him. We know what Jesus has done for us is powerful, right? And it has the ability to affect the world in a positive way. Why? Because it changed my heart. It didn’t change my heart by people staying away from me. And believe me, in my life there’s been plenty of ickiness to stay away from. And not only did Jesus do it back when I gave my life to the Lord in college. Jesus does it now, right? And so just as Jesus engages me in that relationship with the Lord, God then uses me to engage the world, to connect to him, because that’s what life is about redeeming the culture. We’re not afraid of the culture, but we want God to use it, use us to reach it. And the last one we thought as a church family and the importance of relationship is this. What we do in ministry is we want to do quality over quantity. Meaning we don’t. We don’t want to do tons of ministry. I could care less about the magnitude of ministry we can do. But here’s what we want to do. Whatever God calls us to do. We want to do it well. For us, this is more of a cultural thing than, than than any other way to describe it. And let me tell you why. It’s because we understand that when some people come to know Jesus, even in our area, that that there is a tremendous sacrifice that comes with it.

Like some people in giving their life to Christ, which is the most important thing. It’s why God made you and giving their life to Christ. They may be letting go of family and friends and an entire background and community. It can cost them tremendously. And when when someone comes through our door, one of the one of the ways that we want to say we really care about you, and we really appreciate that you even desire to want to spend a moment with us this morning, is about making sure what we do to reach that heart is we take the time to do it well. I don’t know how best to say to people sometimes. I know when you come into a new place that you don’t want to be pointed out, and we get that I don’t either when I come into a new place, if there’s a new person this morning, everybody, we’re going to let them stand up and say their name. Everyone just stare at them, okay? We’re not going to do that. No way. We want you to feel comfortable. And sometimes you just you just you don’t want any attention to you. You just want to come in and just take it in. And one of the ways that we want to communicate while you just come in and take it in and just want to be to yourself.

One of the things that we want to do is, is say to you, look, we want to do the things that we do well so that you feel like we really care about your soul because Jesus really cares about your soul. And the most important thing that can happen for you this morning is that you take the Sunday morning not to check it off a box like you did your religious thing, but you genuinely use it to seek after the heart of God. Because what God is after is your heart. Follow me. Matthew eight. Jesus goes a little further in this statement and following him. It’s the next time it appears in Scripture in the Gospels. But he says this. He’s talking to an individual who he’s dealing with. The death of his father. And he, the Bible, calls him a disciple he’s thinking about. He wants to follow after Jesus, but he comes to Jesus and says, Jesus, I can’t follow you. Let me, let me go bury my father. But Jesus then gives this statement in Matthew 822 But Jesus said to him, follow me and allow the dead to bury their own dead. So Jesus’s statement is simplistic. Again. Listen. It’s complicated. You’re making it complicated. Just follow me. And Jesus literally wanted this person to follow him because Jesus was going places. He was on the earth. But but sometimes we look at this verse, we’re thinking, man, that is that is like cold.

Jesus doesn’t want this guy to bury his father. I mean, let me think about this for a second. But cultural context helps out tremendously in understanding what Jesus is saying here. When when Jesus is dealing with this individual, this individual’s father has already passed, right? When when this cultural context is taking place, there was a there was a the tendency of people during this time to carve out caves, creating tombs. And within these tombs they would have these slabs. And on these slabs they would lay the body of an individual who had passed. And for the next year that body would lay within that tomb just like Jesus. The rock rolled in front of the cave and Jesus is in the tomb, and that body would decompose for a year. Once that body had decomposed, they would take the bones of that body and put it in what’s called an ossuary, and they would store it with the rest of the family. And so a family would often own a tomb, and they would use this tomb for burial, and they would then place bones once the body had decayed in an ossuary. What Jesus is saying to this individual is not, you can’t bury your dad who is ill. But what Jesus is saying, this individual is that your dad, his dad has already passed and this individual wanted to put life on hold and following after the Lord just so he could stick around and put the bones within a box and store the box away.

And Jesus is saying something about the significance of following him here. He’s saying life, you know, it can get you busy. And you may look at Jesus as just this tack on not have time for what Christ has, but what Jesus is saying. Listen, I want to reorient your life to understand how important this is, that it’s not what you do, but it’s who you attach to and the significance of following me. Jesus is saying to this person, listen, you’re thinking about people pleasing right now. But what I really desire for you is for you to clarify what God has called you to, which is me in pursuit of me. Thinking less about serving others and more about taking the time to spend with Christ so you can a better identify what God has called you to in this world. And so in Matthew ten, taking 11, taking this thought a little bit further. That’s not right. Matthew ten, verse 38. Jesus then talks to an individual. He talks to the individual heart in pursuit of him, and he identifies really the ultimate idol that stands in the way. And if our pursuit of experiencing Christ and relationship and that is us. It’s me. It’s me and the idols I establish in what I think are my priorities. And so Jesus gave a very shocking, sobering statement.

And the subring of the statement is found in the phrase of this word cross. Jesus says in verse ten, and he does not take. He who does not take his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. The cross at this point Jesus has not gone to. In Christianity. We’ve kind of we’ve kind of made the thought of the cross a positive, a positive thought, which we should. The Bible says the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness, but to us which are saved, it is the power of God. We look at the most despicable symbol in all of history how God triumphed over it and brought us hope. It is a it is a symbol of celebration for his people. But when Jesus is making the statement Jesus hasn’t died on the cross. And so now he’s describing this, this, this place of horror to people as one where someone sinned and Jesus is saying this to us as individuals. Listen. Lay down your life. It is a shocking, sobering statement. But my concern in reading a thought like this is, is that. The cross to us doesn’t quite impact the heart the way that it would during the time of Jesus’s statement. So I thought to myself. How could we culturally view this today? And what Jesus is saying to these individuals. Now, don’t make this correlation to be rude or uncouth, but to simply cause us to think for a moment.

Sometimes when we think about Jesus religiously. Not biblically. We tend to view God like this. God, I’m going to check off the box of what you require so that you owe me. Right? I’m going to make the pledge. I’m going to pay the fee. So you are forced into a position where you have to be. My pleasure. And you began to put God under your thumb. Like we may not pronounce it this way or not. If someone were to say, What’s God’s will for your life? Sometimes we would. We would respond this way to for me to be happy. God’s desire for me is to be happy. And so when you think about in the religious context and you say this, I’m going to do this, this and this, because religiously I’m supposed to and then God has to make me happy this way. Right. And you put God under your thumb. And without saying it in words, this is what we’re doing. We’re spiritually prostituting God. We’re saying to God that God I, I’m, I’m paying you for the service. And and this is the definition of just prostitution means giving of self without respect. And we’re saying to God, God, now you are my servant to to please me however I desire, because I have I have made the payment right. You’re under my thumb. This is what it would look like in a practical way for the New Year.

If you’re thinking resolutions. When you come before God and understanding the purpose of of God as relationship, well, you approach it this way. You’ll say, okay, God, this is what I want for 2016. The reality is. What God has brought you. Isn’t an opportunity for spiritual prostitution. It’s a place of intimacy, right? What God’s called you to is covenant. As people we best see that pictured in is marriage. If a. Spouse or two people that are going to become wedded to one another are headed towards the aisle, and one spouse looks to the other and says, I want all of your commitment, but I will give you little. No way. That’s not what this covenant is about. It’s about giving yourself away fully for someone else, as they give themselves fully for you, that you may experience intimacy with them. And that’s exactly what Jesus is doing with his life. He became flesh to give his life for you. And he’s saying now in this statement, there is covenant with this. There is intimacy with this. Think about this. He who does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. Listen, I didn’t come to be a spiritual prostitute. I came that you could connect yourself with me in intimacy, as I desire to connect myself with you. Follow me. Follow me. And the pursuit of who God is. It’s this. Ask this question. God, what is it that you have for 2016 that I can jump on board with you, right? I’m not his king.

He is my king, right? This invitation isn’t one where I controlled God under my religious thumb, but God is control and control of all, and he has extended this invitation to me to enjoy him for eternity. I said to us in the beginning, God’s will for you isn’t to make you happy or just a few minutes ago. God. God’s. God’s goal for your life isn’t to make you happy. Here’s God’s goal for your life. It’s to make you holy. The word holy means set apart. It’s a covenant phrase, right? Set apart means you belong to him. That in your life you have said, Jesus, you are mine and I am yours. Now here’s the joy of it. Giving your life to Christ. You find joy. Because the Bible says the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, and gentleness. When when you surrender your life to holiness or you surrender your life separated completely unto God, what you decide desire what you find in the in scriptures that the Bible promises the fruit of the spirit. Let me just give you this one more verse. Jesus says this. You see this as a maybe. Think of it in terms of of a husband with his bride wanting to, to, to protect and comfort her. It says this come to me, all you who are weary, laden, and I will give you rest.

Listen, here’s Jesus’s call. Here’s here’s what he’s asking. Here’s what he’s saying. Come to me. And what? Jesus, you’ll give me all these commands? No. Come to me. And this is what Jesus then says. It’s something I want to do for you. As you give your life to me, I give you rest. You take solace in me, right? The fruit of His Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness on God’s primary goal for your life isn’t to make you happy, it’s to make you holy. But in coming to God, there is joy. It’s great and healthy for us to stop. Especially after busy seasons to say what was the point? And was its purpose to reach my heart or the hearts of people. Or was it just busyness? Do I need it? You think about it for next year? What does Jesus want for me? He wants you undivided. Not giving yourself to other things. But to him. Jesus wants you. This statement coming to me. Is actually the same Greek word for follow me. It’s diet again. The reason it’s translated coming to me instead of following me in this passage is because Follow Me doesn’t categorically make sense in the way that this this verse translates itself, but it can translate as follow me or come unto me. But it’s an invitation to Jesus and an imperative statement for you to understand how significant this is. Because as people, when you resolve to do things in life, the root of who you are is centered in the identity of who he is.

And without the proper place to begin, the resolutions you make and the impact of what life is about are insignificant in comparison to what it could be in Christ. Come on to me. At the end of the Gospels in John chapter 21. Jesus is interacting with Peter, and Peter is the type of person that, um, acts before he thinks and speaks before he thinks. And he he had just turned his back on Christ at the cross. I. I can relate to Peter. I can relate to Peter in my life, because I know there are places and things that God has called in me in my relationship with him. I’ve dropped the ball. I mean, it brought me to a place of shame, right? Sometimes as people think we struggle with that because when you get caught in that moment, you start thinking about how worthless you are because of the way that you performed. But here’s the beauty of Peter’s story. In John 21, Jesus pursues Peter. Because Jesus sees the value of who Peter is and who he is as a human being. And Jesus meets Peter on the shores where he’s fishing. It’s like Peter gave up on life because he kept failing and he kept failing. So he just went back to his good old days, his good old ways, and he was just fishing.

It’s like he kind of threw his hands up. But Jesus is the one that pursues him. And he meets them. And he asked Peter, Peter, do you love me? Peter, do you love me? Peter, do you love me? And not. But a few minutes past after Peter affirms his love for Jesus, where Jesus starts talking about what he wants to do and the life of the disciples, and with John and Peter gets all distracted again. And then Jesus says this. Listen, Jesus said to him, if I want him talking about John’s remain, remain until I come. What is that to you? You follow me. Like of all the things that are happening in the world and what people say are important and what you think might be important, how quickly your mind gets distracted from what the ultimate goal is. And this is this is the beauty of what this phrase means to us as people. Because no matter how long you’ve been in the faith with Christ in relationship to him, inevitably within seconds you could forget just the sole the sole purpose God wants to accomplish in your heart, and that is you with him. Follow me. You know, there is a myth that started from this passage that says, John, John has lived forever and he’s still walking the earth. The next verse tells us, no, no, that doesn’t happen. But the most important thing in all that. Follow me. Come to Christ.

Spend time in Jesus. Don’t get distracted. But to walk with him. There’s there’s a statement that often says, um, if the devil can’t make you sin, he will make you busy, right? And then they give the acronym busy means being under Satan’s yoke. You know, a real quick way to simplify all that. This come, Jesus, and look at whether or not it even matters. It just we get as people in these forms of habit. Our brains are shaped in such a way that we just continue to do the things we’ve done because they’re easy to do, and a lot of times we don’t even ask why in the world we’re doing them right. We just look for repetition and repetition. They did a study on rats that showed them a rat when he was going through a maze. At first, his brain activity is very high. He’s thinking, thinking, thinking. But the minute the rat learns the maze, he stops thinking. And he just keeps doing. Until there’s a change in the maze, right? Something meets you somewhere where you are and just says. Why? Why? Thinking about 2016. So important for us to start with Christ. God, I know he’s called us to things in this world as a church family, but most importantly, what he’s called us to is him. And all that we do should be for the purpose of encouraging us closer to him. Why? I’m thinking about the significance of things we do in life.

Emancipation proclamation was a document that freed the slaves. That was in 1863. I think this is a significant historical event, because when Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, he signed it January 1st of 1863. I think Abraham Lincoln picked the New Year to represent a new identity for the American people. 1863, January 1st at noon. Abraham Lincoln has the Emancipation Proclamation come to his desk. And the story goes like this twice. Abraham Lincoln picked up his pen to sign this document, and twice he put the pen back down and he turns to the Secretary of state. And he says this. He says, since 9 a.m. this morning, I have been shaking hands and I have lost feeling in my right arm. And he says, if my name is ever goes down into history, it will be for this act, and my whole soul is in it. And if my hand trembles when I sign the proclamation, all who examine the document hereafter will say, he hesitated. That statement, the president picks up his pen with a very firm but slow hand. He writes his name. Abraham Lincoln going down into history as the Great Emancipator. Jesus. Hands us. A covenant. Let’s set you free. All. You do. Sign your name. Jesus, you are mine and I am yours. For us as individuals. I think the reliving of that. It’s important every day. Because for us as people, it is easy, like Peter, to get sidetracked over things that are insignificant to the greater of what God has called us to in relationship with him.

Jesus desires to set you free, and for you to live in that freedom with him for all of eternity. He has created you for that relationship in him. Bible tells us without vision, people perish, right? Answering the question at the beginning of a year is an important time of just saying why. Why am I doing what I’m doing? Is it connected to Christ? And let me just ask you, as you think about resolutions this morning and living life as God, what God’s called you to if. Jesus were pressing on your heart this morning, or if Jesus were even present this morning. What do you feel the Lord’s leading you to in order to draw closer to him in relationship? Maybe. Maybe it’s a better focus on your personal time with God. I mean, God’s created avenues for you to connect to him, to see his heart and draw near to that heart through his Word and through prayer. May. Maybe you think beyond that and you think family like, how can I do this but bring my family on board? Or maybe you think in the area of serving, I think all of these are all these are important in the Christian life, and they all should be a part of the Christian life. But what about the area of serving like, here’s a great way to know whether or not you’ve grown in the Lord by serving.

I can tell you when you’re serving the Lord. Sometimes when you’re serving the Lord, things aren’t always easy, right? But the Bible tells us the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, kindness. And so if I’m connected to God, when I examine what comes out of the fruit of my life, I can see whether or not it’s really belonging to Jesus or not. Or if I fooled myself into thinking it was his when it’s not. Meaning. It’s easy to love people when they’re lovable, and it’s difficult to love people when they’re not. And God’s called you to love them all. And when you live your life in this world without demonstrating that type of love that Jesus has called you to live, it displays what you’re really trusting in, whether it be the fruit, the spirit coming out, or your flesh. And serving for the Lord is a great way to measure where you are spiritually in him. Whether or not we’ve fooled ourselves into thinking we’re pursuing him. This is why it’s important for all of us. Be intentional about it. Not just to let tomorrow roll upon us without a plan. But to give it to God as he has given himself to us and seek him above all things.

Christmas Refuge

Real Disciples