Know Jesus, Show Jesus - Week 3: We Were Meant For So Much More
Every year for the past seven years I have preached at least once on the vision of our church and/or on our core values. Our vision is to Know Jesus and to Show Jesus to the world--that's the "Why" we do what we do, why we exist, etc. Our core values, what we call the 5 Things are the "How" we accomplish all of that.
You might wonder why we need to go over these things again and again. We need this now more than ever, sisters and brothers. We have a lot of new folks who are just figuring out what our church is all about, and we need to share with them why they felt so strongly that God was calling them here.
Plus, we need to practice well how to live into our vision because--as my coach used to tell us--you play like you practice.
So we've learned at length why we have the vision we have embraced, why it is important, why we are better when we embrace it... We've also learned at length why we need core values, and why our particular core values are essential to making our vision a reality.
Which brings us to a huge question: "Now What?" What do we do with all of this? Where do we go from here?
I'll start by telling you about the time I saw the list of all the things I would have to do in order to become a Presbyterian minister. Or as I like to call it, the moment when I almost became a history professor instead of a Presbyterian minister.
You see, I had this strong desire to pursue being a minister, even though I was about to have a fine career as an historian.
The British history professor I was studying under then was one of the most well-respected historians in his field--in the world. He told me that I was one of two students in all of his 40-plus years of work, whom he felt could follow in his footsteps. The other student was a year ahead of me. He was astounded that in the twilight of his career these two students had come to him a year apart.
But I still had this vision of serving the church, of going through whatever I had to go through in order to become an ordained Presbyterian minister.
And then I saw The List.
The List was an entire page full of tasks that had to be completed before the governing body who had taken me under care would allow me to be ordained. The list was going to take me at least three to four years to complete.
The older pastor who shared the list with me shared a very wise thing with me: "This is how you will know if you are truly called to do this or not. If you can't complete this list... then you know."
I had all of this energy. I had all of this desire. I had great enthusiasm and a grand vision of what I wanted to do. But none of that mattered if I wasn't able to complete the list. Energy is great. Enthusiasm and Vision are great, too. But if you don't do something with them, they are wasted.
I knew then that the rubber was about to meet the road. All of what I believed to be true about myself was going to be tested in ways that I had never before imagined.
We all get this.
We have big ideas and visions for our lives when it comes to all kinds of stuff. We have big plans for going on a diet and getting into shape. Or getting that really big promotion at work. Or absolutely slaying it with our grades at school. We all have dreams that we want to come true.
But then reality hits us. Life gets in the way, perhaps. We find excuses. We decide that we aren't ready to ask for that promotion, and we want to wait for the right moment. We can't get into shape until that sore ankle heals. We have more tests in the semester, so it's not that important to study for this one...
And none of our enthusiasm, energy or vision matters because we waste the moment.
We can have all the talent, all of the skill, all of the motivation, but without action, without response we stay on the couch and do nothing.
But we were meant for so much more.
Jesus came so that we would have so much more. He wasn't raised from the dead for the purpose of freeing us into mediocrity.
In order to know Jesus and show Jesus, beloved, we have to live into the hope of the Resurrection. We have to live like people who have been set free to abundant life. We have to live like Resurrection people.
Let's read Romans chapter 12:1-13 and hear what the Apostle Paul had to say to the early Church about how to truly know and show Jesus to the world.
1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
Everything we need to know about how to do something with our incredible vision and awesome core values is right here in this text.
First, Paul calls upon Christians to become "living sacrifices," which is "true and proper" worship. I think we all get that Paul is speaking in metaphor here--that he doesn't mean we should physically sacrifice ourselves. But it does have a deeper meaning than you might realize.
What Paul is doing here is exhorting the members of the Church to begin to live a life of public witness to the Resurrection. He calls this "true" worship because it demonstrates that all of things you are saying in the context of worship on Sundays is what you are doing every other day of the week.
In other words. Do you actually demonstrate with your life that knowing Jesus has made a difference in your life?
Second, Paul talks about continual transformation through daily renewal. He talks about the renewal of our minds, which is a direct exhortation to not be squeezed into the shape of the culture around us, but to be shaped by the Good News of Jesus. And the only way to make sure that we stay vigilant about not taking on the shape of our culture is through daily renewal, daily growth.
Then he goes on to tell Christians that they need to think of themselves less and others more. They need to practice mutual submission, and exercise a lack of pride. Everyone, the Apostle Paul tells them, has a part to play. You are better together, you are part of something greater than you are, but that greater thing is better when your gifts are part of it. But this shouldn't give you a big head.
Paul talks extensively about all of the various ways that people use their gifts to make the Church the Church. We are all different, Paul affirms, but he also makes perfectly clear that we should be unified--Unity in Diversity.
And further, he tells the Church "you don't exist for yourselves." This is something I used to teach our church early on in our journey toward this vision of ours. I would say that the church should not exist for itself. It should not exist for the sake of existing, but for the sake of the kingdom of God in the world.
Throughout this entire passage you see the vision of our church don't you? Know Jesus Show Jesus. You also can see our core values. Worship. Pray. Grow. Love. Serve. It's imbedded in everything Paul is talking about here, but there so much more, too.
Paul's focus on what mattered most was shaped entirely by the power of the Resurrection. Because Jesus was raised from the dead--everything had changed... for everyone. Without the Resurrection, Paul stated, there was nothing. Preaching was in vain. Church was in vain. Everything was in vain if Jesus wasn't raised from the dead.
But because Jesus had been raised from the dead, all of us were transformed, too. We no longer have to fear sin and death. We don't have to get caught up in the petty things that tear us apart from one another and from God. We are set free to be the people that God has always dreamed for us to be--people full of life, hope, grace, peace, joy and love. People unified by the things that matter most.
The kinds of people who can change the world with their stories of transformation and renewal.
Sisters and brothers. In order to know Jesus and show Jesus we have to live like Resurrection people.
Where this goes south is when good people in the Church decide to stay on the sidelines.
Good people doing nothing is the cause of more church deaths than bad pastors, denominational issues, financial woes... you name it. When good people in the Church decide not get involved... it's the beginning of the end.
And the reason why good people often stay on the sidelines in church is because they are asking the wrong question. They are asking "What does the Church need?" This question often leads people to see the answer like a list---a long list of things they don't really want to do.
I don't have the time to serve as an elder.
I don't have the energy to be a Sunday school teacher.
I don't have the money to tithe.
I don't have the schedule to make it to church that often.
I don't have the knowledge to attend a Bible study.
I don't have the faith to really be a sold-out follower of Christ.
Sometimes good people get so caught up in that question--What does the church need?--and the answers they come up with that lose sight of the TRUE question they should be asking:
"What could I possibly give to the One who has given me Resurrection life?"
THAT question changes everything. The Resurrection changes everything. When you ask that question, you find yourself asking some questions of your own.
How could I not find time to serve as an elder?
How could I not find the energy to be a Sunday school teacher?
How could I not find the money to tithe?
How could I not change my schedule to make it to church?
How could I not embrace my not-knowing and just study the Bible anyway?
How could I not take my little bit of faith and give it to God to increase?
Are you ready to change your question?
Are you ready to start knowing and showing Jesus?
Are you ready to find new ways to worship, pray, grow, love and serve?
Are you ready to move forward and actually DO SOMETHING so all of this doesn't go to waste? Then start living like you're rescued. Start living like you're redeemed. Start living like you're resurrected...
Because in order to know Jesus and show Jesus we have to live like Resurrection people.