When You Know You Show: Carrying The Vision--Higher

This week is Vision Sunday at my church, and I am going to be preaching on our church's vision.

Hence the monicker: "Vision Sunday."

The vision of our church is to "Reflect and Reveal The Unselfish Love of Christ To the World."  We broke it down even further for our members and friends last year when we said: "When You Know Jesus, You Show Jesus."

This vision has driven us to accomplish some incredible things over the past couple of years---ever mindful that whatever we do is by the grace of God and in the name of Jesus.

The thing about vision is that if you don't revisit it over and over again---it leaks like a tired old balloon and the next thing you know it's barely hovering over the ground all deflated and sad.

My kid just had a birthday party, so that image is fresh in my mind.

So, this week we'll be revisiting our vision and providing our members and friends an opportunity to either commit to embracing and furthering it or recommit to embracing and furthering it.

What would you consider the best motivational speech that you've ever heard?   What made it good?  Was it because it was inspirational?  Passionate?  Was it the timing?

My basketball coach when I was in high school gave us a halftime speech once that included his throwing an igloo cooler full of Gatorade, and flinging his glasses across the room and breaking them.  I don't remember all of what he said,  but it was pretty passionate.  We went out and won the game, mostly out of fear that he had run out of things to break and might start on us and our belongings.

I like big speeches in great movies.  I think of the great speeches that Maximus gave in Gladiator.  Or the inspring moment where Henry Fonda as Tom Joad delivers his promise to Depression-era Americans in The Grapes of Wrath.  You also can't forget Mel Gibson's speech as William Wallace in Braveheart, the great pre-Agincourt battle speech from Henry V (I like Kenneth Branagh's version), Billy Bob Thornton's "clear eyes, full heart" football speech from Friday Night Lights and Al Pacino's pre-game speech from Any Given Sunday.

But this one is my all time favorite motivational speech... ever:

Do you feel happy of yourself?

I bet you do.

Since we're all feeling happy, this seems like a good time to offer up the Worst  motivational speech... Ever.

And this one comes from Jesus himself:

34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life[a] will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? 37 Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” - Mark 8:34-38
So let's just examine the highlights of this speech to demonstrate why it's he worst motivational speech ever.

First, Jesus says that whoever wants to be his disciple, "must deny themselves and take up their cross..."  I'm sure I speak for most of us when I say that doesn't sound especially warm and fuzzy.

Second, Jesus says that whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but "whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it."  Call me kooky, but that sounds like lose/lose to me.

Third, Jesus throws down this whole line about how if anyone is ashamed of him and his words, will discover that he will be ashamed of them when he returns to set up his kingdom.  He also calls their generation "adulterous and sinful."


Ready to follow Jesus?

Let's shift gears a bit.  I'd like to share my Counter-Intuitive Guide To Flying With Eagles.    

Check this:  “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;hey will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.” - Isaiah 40:31

So.  Here's my guide.  

Step 1:  Hope in the Lord. 
Step 2:  Fly. 

If step two doesn't happen... repeat step one.  

I know.  I am genius.  

So what does it look like to "hope in the Lord?"  It looks like Knowing and Showing Jesus.  

What Jesus was trying to tell his disciples was this:  "You want to follow me?  Then you have to go where I go.  And where I go is into the messes.  I go into the brokenness.  I go into places where everyone is unfinished.  My path is the path of the most resistance.  My path is the one that leads to life, but because so few people walk this path it tends to be grown over and is hard to travel.  If you want to follow me, you have to know me.  And when you know me, it will show."  

What does it look like when we begin to know and to show Jesus?

Well, you Take Up Your Cross & Follow to begin with.  

What is it that is keeping you from being "all in" to following Jesus?  Is it the way you feel like you are less than perfect?  Is it your past?  Is it your doubts? Your fears?  

Maybe it's time to stop letting whatever is keeping you from being all in get the upper hand.  Jesus told his followers:  "Pick up all of that junk that is killing you, and carry it if you have to.  Just follow."  There's a hope imbedded in this idea of picking up our crosses that we will either find the strength to carry our them, or Jesus will help us find a place to lay them down once and for all.

Next, you need to Lose Your Life For The Sake of The Gospel. 

Aren't you tired of devoting yourself to trivial things?  Do you ever find yourself arguing with the drive through attendant at McDonald's about how you ordered an apple pie and didn't receive it, and wonder to yourself "How did I get here?  I had big plans for my life.  I was supposed to accomplish stuff.  Now the biggest part of my day is driving away triumphant that I actually got what ordered from a fast food restaurant."  

Don't you crave being part of a big story?  That's what Jesus was inviting his disciples to do---become part of something bigger and greater than they ever imagined.  The thing about being part of a bigger story, though, is that you have to let go of the story you are currently in.  Not many of us want to do that.

Third, you need to Re-imagine What It Means to Succeed.  

Do you crave security?  Is that what you want more than anything?  To be safe?  To have enough?  Maybe you are in a place in your life where money is consuming your thoughts---either because you have none and need it, or you have too much and don't know how to live without it.

Has this craving for security stolen your ability to be generous?

Jesus reframed what it meant to succeed by declaring it as "losing" in the eyes of the world.  If you want to "win," in this life, he seems to be saying, it might cost you in the next.  But if you commit yourself to "losing" in this life, you will discover the life you seek in the next.  "Losing" in this context requires freedom from the things that would keep us from being the people God means for us to be.  And sometimes in order to be free from those things, you have to give them away.  If you discover that your finances and your things are controlling you, keeping you from being free, then perhaps it's time to be let them go.

Finally, you need to Give Credit Where Credit is Due. 

When you begin to live a life that reflects your knowledge of Jesus.  When your knowledge of Jesus translates into your showing Jesus to everyone you meet---that's when the world will take notice of you.  Because you won't fit in.  You won't be like everyone else.  People will wonder why you do what you do.

And you need to tell them without reservation, without fear and without any strings attached.

I say that you need to tell them without reservation because when something important happens to you that transforms your life, you want to share it.  You don't hold back.  Your passion should be evident.  And there shouldn't be any fear in telling people the real reason why your life's journey is so odd, so compelling.  This is why Jesus puts things the way he does in this passage of Scripture.  "Don't be ashamed of me," he says, "and I promise I won't ever have any reason to be ashamed of you."

When you tell people about Jesus, and you have an agenda---it shows.  If you're going to tell people about how your life has been turned upside down as a result of knowing Jesus, you shouldn't attach any strings to it.  Just share it.  Let the Holy Spirit of God do the rest.

So many people try the old "bait and switch" routine on others to try to get them to become a Christian.  "Oh man," they'll exclaim, "when you become a Christian, you just experience peace, joy, love and all the rest of it."  They paint a picture of a life filled with hope and certainty that never fades, never wavers.

Not exactly the truth.

I think at the end of your conversations with people about Jesus you should use the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Christian pastor and theologian who was martyred by the Nazi regime.  "When Jesus calls a man," Bonhoeffer wrote from prison, "he bids him come and die."

If they still want to follow after that---they're in it for the right reasons.

When you know Jesus, you show Jesus.

You live differently.  You speak differently.  You give differently.

Because you are different.

Four years ago when I became the pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Eustis I began praying that I would discover what it meant to be the kind of disciple I just described.  I prayed that not only would God fill me with that desire, but would give me the wisdom and the ability to help others discover it, too.

I remember walking from room to room in my new church late one night when I first became the pastor.  I prayed over these rooms one at a time---opening closets, walking hallways... and praying.

My wife and I imagined the kitchen full of people being fed---a kitchen that was used to serve the church, but also the community.  We imagined youth rooms transformed and full of teenagers.  We imagined multiple worship services, Bible studies, children filling the children's rooms and nurseries...

We imagined all of this and more.

And as I walk the halls and look into the rooms of my church four years later, I see those things all come to pass, and then some.

Because we all committed to not only knowing Jesus, but showing Jesus.

The path that we have travelled has not been an easy one.  There have been people who I  know have wondered why we would want to give so much of what we have away.  I am sure there are some who have wondered why we continue spending time, talent and treasure on reaching the lost, lonely broken and needy.

It's simple:  When you know Jesus, you show Jesus.

And that is why I know that our future is a place full of challenge, and triumph.  It is a place where God already is present and waiting.  And it is a place to which we are being lifted ever higher as we put our hope in the Lord.  

Enhanced by Zemanta


Popular posts from this blog

Wuv... True Wuv...

Rapha & Yada - "Be Still & Know": Reimagined

The Lord Needs It: Lessons From A Donkey