Abiding In Christ

August 26, 2018

This summer Angie and I visited Watkins Glen State Park in New York. Neither of us had ever been there before. In the state park is a gorge that has been carved out over many years as water has eroded the rock away. At each turn on the path we were mesmerized by cascading waterfalls. It was absolutely beautiful, even magical. We didn’t want to leave. We just wanted to abide in that place to take it all in. We were filled with joy because of the beauty of that place.

We have been looking at the fine print of living life with Christ in this world. Today I am bringing this series of messages to a close. My goal has been to help us see that living as a follower of Jesus in this world creates some special challenges since the world does not embrace Christ. Jesus has given us sufficient teaching found in the New Testament to help us navigate these challenges. This morning as we look at Jn.15 we learn that as a branch abides in the vine, so believers abide in Jesus Christ.


This teaching of Jesus is centered on the picture of a grape vine with many branches attached to it. In v.1 Jesus says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.” Why would Jesus say, “I am the true vine?” Is there a false vine? In fact, there is.

When God redeemed his people Israel from slavery in Egypt, He likened Israel to a vine that he planted in the Promised Land. He caused his presence to dwell in the tabernacle and later on, the temple in Jerusalem. But Israel chose to worship idols. Their idolatry led to great disobedience. The prophet Ezekiel tells us that God finally withdrew his presence, abandoning the temple. And just as Adam and Eve were exiled from the Garden of Eden because of their idolatry and sin, so Israel was exiled from the Promised Land to Babylon.

In light of this listen to Ps.80:7-8; 14-18. “Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved! You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it…Turn again, O God of hosts! Look down from heaven, and see; have regard for this vine, the stock that your right hand planted, and for the son whom you made strong for yourself. They have burned it with fire; they have cut it down; may they perish at the rebuke of your face! But let your hand be on the man of your right hand, the son of man whom you have made strong for yourself! Then we shall not turn back from you; give us life, and we will call upon your name!”

Israel was not a faithful, fruitful vine. Instead of bearing the fruit that is produced by worshiping God and living in his kingdom love and grace, Israel became as pagan and idolatrous as all the other nations. Ps.80 looks to the day when Jesus, the true vine would come on the scene. Jesus is the true Israel, the true vine. He worshiped and obeyed God, revealing the fruit of living life in the kingdom of God. Jesus is God in the flesh, the one who gives us life. Here in Jn.15, Jesus calls himself the vine and he expands the significance of this picture to include his followers.

In this passage it seems to me that Jesus repeats himself and each time he repeats himself he adds a little more to the picture. Let me explain what I mean. In v.4 and subsequent verses he says, “Abide in me.” In v.9 he says, “Abide in my love.” Is there a difference between abiding in Christ and abiding in his love? Surely the one who abides in Christ is abiding in his love.

So let’s go back to v.1. Jesus is the vine. The Father is the vinedresser. The branches are followers of Jesus. The Father tends to the branches connected to the vine so that each branch will bear fruit. If you were growing grapes you would cut off those branches that didn’t bear any fruit and you would prune those branches that did bear fruit so that they would be more fruitful. Jesus says that this is what God does. And he stresses the importance of abiding in him. What does it mean to abide in Christ? The word means to remain, stay, live, dwell, endure, and continue. This helps to give a sense of what Jesus is saying. According to v.3 it is the word of Jesus that establishes us in him as the vine. We heard the message of God’s love, forgiveness, and life in Christ and we responded in faith and we were brought into his life in the kingdom of God. Now we must continue in his life.

How do we continue in this life giving arrangement with Jesus? In v.7 Jesus says, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you…” Well one way of continuing in Christ is to have his teachings deep in our heart and mind. You say, “Pastor Dave, how many times can I read through the New Testament. It’s good, but sometimes it feels a little irrelevant and can be a little boring.” To explain what I’m trying to say, think about all the information needed to do your work. Maybe you are a machinist, a salesperson, a medical, computer, or finance person. Well what information is needed to perform your job from day to day? Probably there was a basic foundation of knowledge and skill that you needed to learn and then as the industry changed you needed to learn more. You embodied all that information as you did your work from day to day. The things you learned became part of you.

When it comes to our life in Christ, it is important that we are not only familiar with his life and teachings, but also that we are seeking to embody the way of Jesus in our day to day living. This requires ongoing reflection and action because the way of Jesus does not come naturally to us. In v.10 Jesus talks about keeping his commandments. Hearing the word and doing the word is vital to abiding in the love of Jesus. And there is something else.

You notice in v.7 that it is only as we are shaped by the words of Jesus that we are in a position to ask for whatever we wish in prayer. I take this to mean that the better we understand and embody the teachings and commands of Jesus, the more our prayers will conform to his purposes. A life that is steeped in the way of Jesus and in prayer is a life that is abiding in his love.

So at this point I want to ask, have you ever realized that you are not in a life-giving relationship with God through his Son, Jesus? No matter how good or religious you might consider yourself to be, the question is do you know God? This world is broken and all of us are broken. It is normal for us to live self-centered, pride-filled lives. It is normal for us to want our own way without regard for God. It is normal for us to be our own god. The Bible calls this sin. So have you turned from your sins and embraced Jesus Christ as your Savior, Lord and King? If not, the Bible says that you are dead in your trespasses and sins. But God loves you and wants to give you eternal living in his kingdom through faith in Jesus, today. Have you entered into this life-giving relationship with God through faith in his Son, Jesus?


Jesus makes this very clear in these verses. In v.2 he points out that God prunes the branches so that they bear fruit. In v.4 Jesus says that we can’t bear fruit unless we abide in him. In v.5 he says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” In v.8 Jesus says, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” It is important that we understand what Jesus is saying.

Jesus is not just talking about being a nice person. He’s not just talking about being a religious person. Nor is he talking about being a successful person or even a philanthropic person. There are many of these kinds of people in the world today.

The fruit that Jesus is talking about is the fruit that is produced from having his life and his love, within us. We are talking about kingdom living. In the last month I have made reference to the Lord’s Prayer. In the Lord’s Prayer we pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” The fruit that we bear is in keeping with this prayer. As we live our life with Christ, the will of God is being done on earth as it is in heaven. Our lives reflect the values, the attitudes, the actions of the kingdom of God because we are drawing our life from Jesus, who is our life through his indwelling Holy Spirit.

Let me be more specific. In Gal.5 we read about the desires of the flesh. The flesh refers to thoughts, desires and actions that are rooted in this world. It refers to life lived apart from Christ. In Gal.5:19-21, Paul writes, “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” And then Paul goes on to describe what he calls the fruit of the Spirit. He writes, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” When we look at the life of Jesus in the Gospels we see these virtues. A follower of Jesus is someone who is cultivating these kinds of virtues in their lives. We are looking to express the character of Jesus, who lives in us.

Now of course, all of us who are in the Vine, in Christ, recognize that we can easily yield to temptation and sin. In my understanding this is because while we have the new life, the new nature of Jesus in us, we have not yet received our new creation bodies. Our bodies are of the old creation and they will die. Embedded in our bodies are habitual ways of feeling, thinking, and acting which are very strong. Jesus says that God prunes the branches so that they will be more fruitful. Have you ever pruned a tree? What would happen if when you cut off a wayward branch it suddenly let out an, “Ouch!” You might think twice about cutting off any more branches. For our good, God prunes us. He uses the circumstances of life to draw us to himself. Sometimes we cry out in frustration, grief, and pain. God is working all things together for good to those who love him and are called according his good purpose. To abide in Jesus is to live a fruitful life.


In v.11, Jesus says, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” Just as we cannot bear the fruit of righteousness apart from knowing Christ and abiding in him, so we cannot have his joy apart from abiding in him.

Remember as followers of Jesus we are drawing our life from the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is filled with joy. As we abide in Christ we will be learning to trust in God’s kingdom rule. In Mt.13:44 Jesus says, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” Finding the kingdom of God through faith in Jesus is like finding treasure. The joy of God’s kingdom is worth more than all that we have of earth’s treasures. Or in Rm.14:17 Paul writes, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Eating and drinking are necessary for life in this world, and we enjoy eating and drinking. But even more significant is the righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.

In Christ we are given a new vocation. It is to live as new creation people in the old creation world that is passing away. Our connection with the new creation is found in Jesus and the church of Jesus through the indwelling Holy Spirit. As we abide in Christ, the Vine, as we worship and serve Christ together in the church, we have joy. Whenever new creation living triumphs over old creation thoughts and actions, we are filled with joy. Whenever we turn away from temptation and sin, we are filled with joy. Whenever we are faithful to Christ and his kingdom in the face of persecution we are filled with joy. The kingdom of God becomes visible on earth in our living.

I urge all of us to patiently, persistently and faithfully abide in Christ by being filled with his good word and obedient to his commands, as we seek him in prayer. Then our joy will be full.

Jesus is describing a relationship that is supernatural. No one is able by their own efforts to gain the forgiveness of sins and the eternal living of Jesus. Forgiveness of sin and eternal living in Christ is a gift of God’s grace, mercy, and love. Have you received life in Jesus, the vine? Are you seeking to abide in him? Are you filled with his joy? As a branch abides in the vine, so believers abide in Jesus Christ. Amen


No Worries!

August 19, 2018

Sanctions, weapons, and treaties are stock and trade for world governments. These methods are how government leaders try to secure the world against war and destruction. Somehow we feel safer if we have verifiable disarmament treaties. We feel safer if we have allies. And of course, on a personal level we feel more secure when we have health insurance and some safe investments, if there is such a thing. These help us have peace of mind.

When we read about Jesus we realize that he did not find peace of mind and security in any of the things that we rely on. That’s because, Jesus drew his life and security from a different kingdom. We are looking at the fine print of living life with Christ in this world. In Lk.12:22-34 we read some of that fine print and it is one of the more difficult paragraphs of fine print found in the Gospels. You see, unlike the people of this world, believers find security in the kingdom of God.

I. DO NOT BE ANXIOUS. Lk.12:22-30

The teaching Jesus gives regarding anxiety flows out of his parable of the rich fool. In the parable the rich man had such an abundant harvest that he tore down his barns and built bigger barns so that he could store his crops, securing his life for a long time. Unfortunately God called for his life that very night. In Lk.12:21 Jesus says, “So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God." In other words Jesus is telling us that having regard for God is primary in living our lives.

Being in a relationship with God is the only secure basis for living. But if a person is not in a relationship with God, the only other source from which to establish a basis for living must be found in this world. And in fact, this is what all of us naturally do. We seek to establish our lives on the basis of what this world has to offer. But as we saw in the parable of the rich fool, and as we will see in the passage for today, what we can gain from this world is ultimately an insufficient basis for living life. I say, “ultimately,” because, while this world does have much to offer, what it has to offer is temporal and cannot fulfil the deep longings and needs of our souls in relationship to God and eternity. Not only that, once we seek to secure our life in this world, it isn’t very long before we experience the anxiety and fear of not having enough. And fear often paralyzes us from moving forward in wisdom. Fear generally makes things worse.

In v.22-30 Jesus just flat out tells us to not be anxious about our lives. As one who is familiar with anxiety I have often found this word from Jesus to be a little perplexing. Jesus might as well tell me to stop closing my eyes while I am asleep. Who can just decide to not be anxious? But in saying this, Jesus gives a very good reason for us to abandon anxiety. And that reason has to do with God. We should not worry about our life, what we will eat and what we will wear because, while food and clothing play an important role in our lives, they are not the most important consideration when it comes to life. God is the most important consideration.

And so in v.24 Jesus points us to the ravens. In that day ravens were some of the least respected birds, perhaps on the same level as many of us view possums. But notice that God feeds the ravens. The ravens are not anxious about finding what they need. They don’t sow or reap. And certainly no person is feeding them. God feeds them. Jesus says, “Of how much more value are you than the birds!” If God values the birds, he values you and me even more.

And then in v.25-26 Jesus points out the utter futility of worry. We lay awake at night worrying about our lives, our children, our future, but our worry accomplishes absolutely nothing. We certainly cannot lengthen our lives by worrying. If anything worry shortens our lives.

I read this past week that, “anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older…every year.” Listen to this. “People with an anxiety disorder are three to five times more likely to go to the doctor and six times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders than those who do not suffer from anxiety disorders.” I realize that the more serious forms of anxiety can have their root in medical issues or are related to family of origin issues. And many of these disorders are greatly helped with medication. But all of this just points to the destructive nature of anxiety. If we could add one hour to our lives, not worrying would be a good starting point.

And then in v.27-28 Jesus gives two more illustrations from nature. He points us to the lilies of the field. God makes them beautiful. For what? They don’t do anything except exist. Or think about the grass that grows. We are always mowing the grass, but God adorns the grass with beautiful flowers. And Jesus points out that we are worth far more than the grass. If God cares about the grass to clothe it with beauty, surely he will do the same for us. Then in v.29 Jesus repeats his admonition to not worry. God knows what we need. We are more valuable to God than the birds. There is nothing constructive about worry. And God is more than able to meet our needs.

So what we need most is God. I am grateful for this teaching from Jesus. It helps us see that God is interested in more than just saving us from our sins. God is interested in helping us navigate the anxieties of life in this broken world. Through faith in Jesus not only are we forgiven of our sins and brought into a personal relationship with God, but we are brought into a daily, life-giving relationship with God. Jesus is assuring us that God has our back and will provide what is needed for you and me to live in this world without anxiety and fear. It is almost too much to believe.

Perhaps you are thinking, “Well I don’t worry about what I will eat and what I will wear. Those are not the things I am anxious about. So this teaching doesn’t seem to apply to me.” Well, let me point out that Jesus is speaking about the very basics of life and I believe he would certainly include anything and everything that is needed for us to live godly lives in this world. You may be wondering how we can actually live without worry, anxiety and fear. In v.31-34 Jesus addresses that question.


Before we say anything about this, it is important to recognize that life with Christ in this world is not a walk in the park. Christians do not live in this world as unmoved stoics. We don’t always have that serene, unfazed smile of the Buddha. Life in this world is difficult. The Apostle Paul knew full well how difficult life could be. In 2Cor.1 Paul writes about his afflictions and he says, “For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” As followers of Christ, not only do we experience the normal heartaches of this world, we also may experience persecution for the sake of Jesus. Even Jesus experienced great suffering during his life and especially on the cross. Of course, Jesus did not sin. He was not paralyzed by anxiety and fear. He drew near to God in prayer and found strength to do the will of the Father. I point these things out because sometimes we have the idea that if we follow Christ we should not have problems.  But life in this world is filled with problems and heartache.

In v.31 Jesus tells us that instead of seeking to secure our lives with the things of this world, we should seek the kingdom of God. We should seek to live under and in the rule of God. Living under the rule of God means seeking to do all that Jesus commanded us. As we do this we will grow in our ability to trust in the goodness of God. Jesus says that as we seek the Kingdom, God will add to us the things that we need to live life with Christ in this world.

Now seeking the kingdom of God does not mean that we sit back and just let things happen all around us. God has given all of us abilities, skills, and talents and he wants us to use all of it for his glory as we live in this world. In the Garden of Eden, God established his presence with mankind to be in relationship with him. God established marriage and family. God gave mankind work to do. So in our lives we seek to honor God at home, at work, and in the world at large. Because this world is broken and under the sway of the evil one, honoring God will be challenging. We will experience difficulties at home, at work and in the world.

If we are overwhelmed by anxiety and fear, our difficulties usually become worse. That is the way of life in this world. In the loving kingdom of God, we seek what is good for others. At home this might require parents to make difficult decisions for the growth and maturity of their children. At work it might require us to refuse to obey a supervisor or co-worker who wants us to compromise our integrity in some way. In the world it will surely mean that we do not adopt the way of pride, anger, fighting, manipulation, greed, immorality, deceit, selfish ambition, and self-serving power.

In v.32, Jesus says, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” I believe Jesus is presenting us with an alternative set of life values that do not come from this world. Jesus teaches us to live in this world according to the values of the Kingdom of God. Before we consider v.33, let me remind us of what Jesus says in Mt.20:25-27. “But Jesus called them to him and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave.” Here is a kingdom value. It is the value of choosing to serve rather than to be served, to be great in the eyes of this world. If we seek first the kingdom of God we will not seek for our own advantage. Rather we will seek to serve others.

Here in v.33-34, Jesus says, “Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” In the Kingdom of God, giving is more important than possessing. Possessing is not wrong, but setting one’s heart on possessions is counter-kingdom. In the kingdom of God we learn to let go. Learning to let go very quickly reduces our anxiety levels. We no longer worry about possessions. We no longer worry about having to control everything. We no longer worry about our life.

Seeking first the kingdom of God will not happen automatically in your life. Nor will it happen quickly. It requires intentionality, practice and patience. It also requires being in community with others. Serving and giving requires others to serve and to give to. The best place to begin is right where you happen to be at any given moment. The kingdom way of Jesus will always be the humble, selfless, gentle way. It will often require loving firmness on our part.

Are you anxious today? Currently I have 5 friends who are around my age or younger. Two are dealing with prostate cancer. One is being treated for a cancerous brain tumor. One is dying with ALS, and one is dying with a rare form of Parkinson’s. That is a little disconcerting. Or maybe you are worried about future employment. Maybe you are being eaten up by an ongoing family situation. It is very important that you seek the Lord in prayer about these things. It is very important that you take time just to listen for the Lord. In the Sermon on the Mt. Jesus said, “When you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” I would also encourage you to surrender your dreams and desires to the Lord. Wait and think in expectation on the Lord. Entrust yourself to God and his good kingdom. Amen

Taming the Tongue

August 12, 2018

All professional baseball players begin as terrible players with big dreams. What I mean is when they begin playing baseball as children, they don’t have a clue. They start with T-ball and then move into little league. What every player learns is that the dream of being a professional player involves fine print realities. The dream often does not include the hours of practicing different skills and techniques. There is no avoiding it.

Christians are those who have entered into eternal living with Christ in his kingdom, giving their complete allegiance to Jesus Christ as their Lord and King. Sometimes the dream of being in heaven blinds us to the fine print of living life with Christ. In the book of James we read about the fine print of life with Christ and James writes about the significance of our tongue. This morning I want to point out that followers of Jesus discipline their tongue for kingdom goodness.


This matter of the tongue is important in the book of James. In 1:19 he writes, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” In 1:26 we read, “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless.” According to James, the tongue reveals the credibility of our Christian profession.

One more thought before we look at v.1-8: James was writing in an oral culture. To be sure, the culture was slowly shifting towards writing, but your average person was not reading books, etc. In light of this I am thinking that if James were writing his letter today, he might include many other forms of communication that involve words. But the tongue represents the basic way all of us communicate. I’m saying this so that no one will think they are off the hook if they write instead of speak.

In v.1-8 we see how powerful the tongue is. James compares the power of the tongue to a small bit that is used to control powerful horses. When a bit is put into a horse’s mouth the rider can control the entire horse. Likewise, large ships can be controlled with small rudders. Well, James points out that the human tongue is pretty small compared to one’s entire body. And yet in many ways, the tongue accomplishes far more than what we can accomplish with our bodies.

In v.1 James cautions believers from becoming teachers in the church. He’s not opposed to believers becoming teachers in the church, but he cautions us because of the power of the tongue. The tongue does not just communicate ideas and thoughts in a vacuum with a robotic voice. With our tongue we communicate words in such a way as to convey shades of meaning and feeling. We can actually say one thing and show that we mean the opposite by the way we say the words. Teaching is generally a good use of the tongue, but because the tongue is prone to stumble, teachers incur a stricter judgment. After all, in Mt.12:36-37, Jesus says, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” And, of course, there is a much darker side to the way all of us use our tongues.

In v.2 James points out that we are all sinners, stumbling in many ways. And in many of the ways we stumble, our tongue is involved. Whether we are defending ourselves, deceiving someone, or expressing anger, we are using our tongue. So powerful is the tongue that James tells us that if a person was able to not stumble in what he says, that person would be pretty much perfect.

The other day Angie and I were talking about what it might have been like to live with Jesus. Jesus never stumbled in what he said. Can you imagine the look on Jesus’ face when Mary and Joseph had a disagreement? There’s Jesus, sadly shaking his head. I imagine there may have been a lot of whispering going on in that household!

In v.5 James likens the power of the tongue to a small fire that sets an entire forest on fire. We are all seeing the incredible destruction that is taking place out west because of forest fires. In v.6 James tells us that the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. Our tongues stain our whole bodies. Our tongue sets on fire the course of life. We all know how true this is. One sentence from the president can send the stock market tumbling. Passionate speakers can stir up a crowd to engage in violence and destruction. Moms and dads can cause great damage to their children by constant criticism and unkind words that are yelled or said with disdain. Husbands and wives are deeply hurt by words said with contempt. In fact with our tongues we even condemn people to hell. Even Christians do this and no Christian has been given the prerogative of such judgment. That belongs to God alone. And so James makes it very clear that when we use our tongues in these ways we are showing that our tongue has been set on fire by hell. Speaking of hell it is interesting to call to mind the exchange between Jesus and Peter when Peter told the Lord that he would surely not be killed. “This shall never happen to you,” he said. And what did Jesus say, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man." Wow! Peter’s words had come from the pit of hell.

So powerful is the tongue that it is untamable. In v.7 James points out how amazing it is that humans are able to tame all sorts of wild and dangerous animals. But in v.8 he says, “No human being can tame the tongue because it is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” It is uncanny how the tongue asserts itself at just the wrong time. How many news reporters and celebrities have lost jobs, gotten into serious trouble because they said the wrong thing at the wrong moment? They may have gone for years without slipping up, but with just the right prompting their inner thoughts are exposed in surprising ways. Only it’s not all that surprising.

And maybe you are thinking, “Wait, I’m not like that. My tongue is not filled with deadly poison. Well, maybe not, but I would dare say that there is more poison in your tongue and my tongue than we are aware of.


James makes it clear that no human can tame the tongue. However, on the Day of Pentecost some 2,000 years ago, a miracle took place when the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the believers in Jerusalem. It was a miracle involving speaking. What we are unable to do in and of ourselves, God is very able to do through the indwelling Holy Spirit.

In v.9-10 James points out an inconsistency in the use of our tongues. One moment we bless God. “We bless you Lord for this food we are about to eat.” The next moment in conversation around the dinner table we are cursing someone made in the image of God. By the way, to curse someone made in God’s image is to curse God. This is more apt to occur in our homes around the people we are most comfortable with. At church we are careful. At home with family or friends we sort of let it all hang out. And we don’t feel that bad about it. It’s just the way we’ve learned to talk. But James is bothered by it. He doesn’t understand how blessing and cursing can come out of the same mouth. If you drink from a drinking fountain, you don’t drink fresh water and salt water at the same time. It is either fresh or salt. But what if a fresh water fountain were somehow polluted with salt water? Which taste would be the stronger? It would all taste like salt water.

Our conversation may be good in many ways, but people remember the bad. You can sing the hymns at church and pray like Peter, but people will remember something else. “She’s got a mouth on her.” “Have you ever heard how he talks when he gets angry?”

Again in v.12 James points out that a fig tree does not bear olives. Nor does a grapevine produce figs. Here we go back to the source from which things come. It is in the nature of fig trees to produce figs. In a tense discussion with the Pharisees, Jesus said to them in Mt.12, “You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.” Do you see the point? The condition of the heart is key to the words that flow from our mouths.

You and I cannot tame our tongues. However we can pay attention to our hearts by cultivating clean, pure hearts. In Jms.3:13-18 he goes on to talk about our hearts. In v.14, he mentions that people have jealousy and selfish ambition in their hearts which produce disorder and vile practices. And then in v.17-18, he writes about the wisdom of God. “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”

When we come to faith in Jesus Christ and surrender our allegiance to him, the Holy Spirit comes to indwell our lives. He begins a complete renovation of our hearts. He will seek to replace worldly, old creation wisdom, with new creation wisdom from God. But he will not do this apart from our cooperation. We must set our minds on things above. As Christians, our words do not need to be driven by anger and resentments, our need to be right and to control others. As we consider the way of Jesus and fill our hearts and minds with him, we will become more sensitive to how we use our tongue. We will be quick to apologize when we say things that are not in keeping with Jesus. If you cannot hold your peace in certain kinds of conversations or situations, then you might be better served to withhold yourself from those conversations and situations. If your tongue runs away with you then you had better look into your heart to see why your tongue is so prone to run away. What’s going on in your heart?

As ambassadors for Jesus in this world, our conversation is important. We represent Jesus and his kingdom. When Jesus came revealing the kingdom of God he served people in many ways, ultimately giving his life. He revealed the goodness of the kingdom. We must do the same. Peter tells us to give a reason for the hope that is in us with gentleness and respect. Paul tells us to, “put away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from our mouth.” He tells us to, “let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts,” to “Let the word of Christ dwell in us richly,” and to “Let our speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that we may know how we ought to answer each person.”

When you have a leaky roof it is often difficult to find the source of the leak. But you can’t stop the leak until you find the source. All of us have said things we wish we could take back. And this has probably happened more than once in our lives. Our goal as followers of Jesus is to use our tongue to build others up and accomplish kingdom goodness in this world. But we struggle. If we are going to discipline our tongue we need to find the source of the problem. Fortunately we know the source of the problem. It is our heart. So as followers of Christ, let us cultivate godliness in our heart so that we may discipline our tongue for kingdom goodness. Amen

Dying To Sin

August 5, 2018

My parents were sometimes concerned about the kids I hung out with. They pointed out that the people I identified myself with would have an influence on my character and behavior. And of course, there is much truth to that. In fact, in 1Cor.15:33, Paul writes, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.” Or as the NIV puts it, “Bad company corrupts good character.” But the opposite is also true. Good company promotes good character. If I identify myself with people of good character it will encourage good character in me.

In our relationship with Christ we often point out that Christ is our life. Christ is dwelling in us. But in Rm.6 Paul speaks about the fact that by faith we are identified with Christ in some very important ways. In fact, Paul mentions that baptism shows in what ways we are identified with Jesus. With this in mind, as we look at the fine print of life with Christ, it is important to understand that our identification with Christ must extend to everyday living.


Now I’m about to go a little doctrinal on you so hold onto your seats! In Rm.5:20-21 Paul writes, “Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Last week I mentioned that law brings the knowledge of sin because it defines transgression. But in the mercy of God he extends his grace in Christ to cover our sins. I suppose it is possible that one could think, “O okay, if grace abounds because of sin, then it doesn’t really matter if I sin because the more I sin, the more grace abounds.” That is not at all what Paul is implying. And so he addresses this idea in Rm.6.

And interestingly enough he uses baptism to make his point. In my study I was reading Dr. Doug Moo’s commentary on Romans. I had Dr. Moo for a prof in seminary. He now teaches at Wheaton. Dr. Moo points out that here, “Baptism stands for our whole conversion experience.” A little later he writes, “Faith, repentance, water baptism, and the gift of the Holy Spirit are the four key elements of this ‘coming to Christ’ experience.” Now let me just explain that Dr. Moo does not see baptism as a sacrament. It is not a means to salvation. We are not saved by baptism. But Moo is known for being a careful exegete. His goal is to be faithful to the text. He points out that up to Rm.6 Paul has been talking about faith. But in Rm.6 Paul brings baptism into the discussion. Dr. Moo has concluded that in referring to baptism Paul is referring to the whole conversion process. Moo writes, “[Baptism] is the means through which we were identified with [Christ].” “It set the seal on one’s conversion.” Baptism is considered to be part of the faith process.

When we think about the gospel, we focus on Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. Here Paul tells us that in baptism we are identified with Jesus in each of these ways. In v.3 Paul says that in baptism we were baptized into his death. In v.4 we were buried and raised with Christ. That is what we see in baptism. We go under the water showing our death and burial with Christ and then we come up out of the water showing our resurrection life with Christ.

Look at v.5. “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” This is important. Let’s think about it. The U.S. House of Representatives is made up of men and women who are elected by each state to represent the people of that state. In Illinois we have 18 representatives, 7 republicans and 11 democrats. Supposedly they are serving in our behalf. But in many ways we have little to do with those representatives. Everything they do is done far away from us and there is no personal relationship between what they do and what we do in our lives.

However with Jesus Christ it is different. He is also our representative. He died and rose again in our place. However, His life, death, burial, resurrection is such that we can actually enter into his reality. Through the Holy Spirit, through conversion, including baptism, we are actually united with Jesus in his death and resurrection. We are participants in his death and resurrection. In v.6-7 Paul elaborates on our death with Christ and in v.8-10 he elaborates on our being raised with Christ.

What does it mean for us to be crucified with Christ? Well in v.6 Paul says that in dying with Christ our old creation life that flowed out from Adam’s disobedience in Genesis, and which has caused our bodies to be dominated by sin, has been brought to nothing or rendered powerless to the point that we are no longer slaves of sin. Note in v.10 Paul mentions the death Christ died to sin. Well Jesus didn’t sin. Dr. Moo points out that in becoming man, identifying with human beings, Jesus came under the power of sin. He was tempted. He experienced the violence and rejection that sin promotes in this world, and so when he died for our sins he died to the power of sin. In dying to the power of sin he was set free from sin’s power. Back in v.7 P says, “For one who has died has been set free from sin.” If we died with Christ then we also are set free from the power of sin through Christ.

Likewise in v.8, Paul writes, “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.” And this is eternal living because having risen from the dead, death no longer has dominion over him. Jesus defeated death. And if we are identified with Christ in his resurrection, then death no longer has dominion over us who are in Christ.

Now I would not profess to fully understand all that Paul writes. But I think I understand enough to recognize that life with Christ is much more than the forgiveness and securing my place in heaven. Life with Christ is exactly that. It is my life with and in Jesus. Or, it is his life with and in me. Let me say it this way. In some ways Christ’s life in me and my life in him should be imperceptible because his life is my life. He is not me and I am not him, but we share his life. We have been baptized into his death, burial, and resurrection.


Now we can read all this and agree with it, but in v.11 Paul writes, “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” The knowledge that through Christ we are dead to sin and alive to God must be embraced as our new reality and acted upon if we are going to actually live a righteous life. We must step into this reality.

Have you ever had woken up in the middle of a nightmare, but because the nightmare was so real it took you a moment to realize that you were awake and back to reality? Well, all of us know what it is to be under the nightmare of sin’s domination. But in coming to Christ we are rescued from slavery to sin. We are awakened to life with Christ. The nightmare of sin’s domination is ended. Paul says, ‘Regularly remind yourselves that you are actually dead to sin and alive to God in Christ.

But how do we live into these truths? There used to be an expression, “Let go and let God.” That expression sort of gives the idea that once we come to Christ we can now sit back and let the new life of Jesus just sort of happen in us. No! The sinful habits and desires that have become routine for our bodies are still very powerful. Letting go and letting God will not accomplish much in the way of righteous living. Paul says in v.12 that we must renounce and turn away from sinful actions. But it’s not just that we stop our sinful activities; we must also engage our bodies in righteous, God honoring activities.

Now let’s be candid. The truth about righteous living is that it is a process that we will be working on for our entire lives. The fact that in Christ we have died to sin and are alive to God gives us great hope that we can make good progress. But sinful habits of thought and deed are deep in us. I say this not to discourage us, but to encourage us. Sinful habits do not die quickly. In fact, a Christian may make progress in resisting a stubborn sin only to find that in a time of discouragement that sin comes roaring back with a vengeance. So don’t be surprised at the power of sinful habits and thoughts. But don’t encourage them either!

How do we stop letting sin reign in our bodies? Well, let me begin with the word, “confession.” And I’m not just thinking about confessing our sins to God. I’m thinking about the importance of confessing our sins to one or more believers who can help us be accountable. No one can keep us from sinning if we intend to sin. But other believers can help us. However confessing our sin is just a beginning. Is there something that regularly causes you to stumble? You may have to get rid of that thing. Or you may have to change some things in your lifestyle. In Rm.13:14 Paul writes, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” Often when we sin we already have a plan to facilitate that sin. We know how to make provision for our sin. Turning away from sin will often call for drastic measures. Privacy is often the seed bed for sin.

On the positive side, in v.13 Paul tells us to, “present ourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.” Last week we discussed the importance of presenting our bodies as living sacrifices to the Lord. Here Paul goes a bit further, suggesting that we engage our bodies in behaviors that will promote righteousness. We all recognize the importance of Bible reading and prayer. But in addition to Bible reading and prayer, we can add worship and acts of service and mercy the disciplines of silence, solitude, giving, etc. And we can fill our minds with all that Jesus taught and did so that we can do all that he commanded.

What we must not do is give up in discouragement and defeat. It will help us to keep in mind that our life in Christ is on the basis of grace. We are forgiven and live under a new Master, Jesus Christ, who is our life.

 What better conclusion to this message than to gather to the Lord’s Table? The Lord’s Table is for those who through faith and baptism have identified with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. He died to sin and in him we die to sin. Maybe this morning you don’t feel dead to sin. Maybe you find yourself struggling with sin. My encouragement to you is to confess your sin and then take some decisive steps to turn away from that sin. But as you confess your sin, come to the Table. Draw near to Jesus with a grateful heart. Amen

Outcome Based Religion?

July 29, 2018

Triton College offers wood working classes. I’ve tried to sign up but those classes close quickly. Why would I sign up for a wood-working class? Obviously I want to learn more about working with wood. If I signed up for the class in order to learn how to invest money you would think I was very confused. The intended outcome of a wood working class is to become a better wood worker.

So let me ask. Why did you become a follower of Jesus? This is not an easy questions and we would all probably have multiple answers. Perhaps a better question is what is the intended outcome of being a follower of Jesus. We are looking at the fine print of life with Christ. And this morning as we consider Rm.12:1-2 we will see that Christ-like transformation is the intended outcome of our salvation in Christ.


In v.1 Paul urges believers to present their bodies as living sacrifices to God, and he calls this activity spiritual worship. Why does Paul urge us to do this? The beginning of the verse says “I appeal to you therefore, by the mercies of God.”

In this series of messages I’m preaching about the fine print involved in being a follower of Jesus. Before this I preached a series called, “Transforming Encounters with Jesus.” In those messages I was trying to help us see how wonderful it is to enter into life with Christ. This is what Paul calls the mercies of God. In Rm.1-11 Paul details the mercies of God shown to us through Christ

Let’s think about this. The wonder of the gospel is that with the coming of Jesus into the world, God has made it clearer than ever that life with Him is a gift of his grace through Jesus Christ. In the book of Romans Paul shows that all people, whether Jew or Gentile need Jesus. No matter how religious we might be, no matter how good we might think we are, all of us are guilty of disregard for God and his good commands. All of us have sinned. Even Jews, who are God’s chosen people, and who have received many blessings from God, are in need of Jesus.

In Judaism there was a strong sense that because Jews are God’s chosen people and received the covenants of law and circumcision, that they were immune from judgment. On the basis of their privileged position before God, Jews looked down on Gentiles.

Paul says, “Wait, being Jewish, having the law is great, but it doesn’t guarantee life in the kingdom of God. Rather, the law brings the knowledge of sin. That’s what law does. It defines transgression and prescribes punishment. No one can keep the law. We are all disobedient to the laws of God. In fact, in Rm.4 Paul makes it clear that before the Law of Moses was ever given, Abraham had already entered into life with God on the basis of faith, trust, allegiance to God’s gracious promises. In Rm.5 Paul tells us that Christ died for us while we were still sinners. By faith we are reconciled to God by the death of his son and having been reconciled we shall be saved by his life. Paul says that in Christ we have peace with God. In Christ the love of God is poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. In Rm.8 Paul makes it clear that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus

This is good news. Life with God is a gift of grace through Jesus. But the gospel is not just about our personal relationship with God. In Romans Paul also alludes to the new heaven and earth and Christ’s rule over the nations. God is establishing his Kingdom through Jesus Christ. When we turn to JC in faith we begin to live in and under his rule, his administration, & his administration doesn’t just extend to individuals who have entered into a personal relationship with him. Rather his administration involves the whole world. God has put all things under his feet and in the fullness of time God will unite all things in heaven and on earth in Jesus in a new heaven and earth. Through Jesus, God is reconciling to himself all things. And so those who have entered into life with Christ are part of his current administration and rule over all the earth. These are amazing realities, mercies from God. Our sins are forgiven. The life of Christ is our life. We have the Holy Spirit and our confidence is in Christ who died, rose from the dead, ascended to the Father and is now reigning over all. And as he reigns over all, he certainly desires to reign in our lives for our good that we might be transformed into his likeness, so that the world may see that Christ is Lord to the glory of God.

So Paul says, “On the basis of all this, present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” The word, “spiritual,” has the idea of being rational or reasonable. Our worship of God is based on understanding as we discern what God has done, is doing, and will do for us in Christ.

Paul was writing to the Romans who knew all too well about worship. In the Roman empire you worshiped Caesar. That was the reasonable thing to do if you wanted to keep your life. Paul says, “No. Christ is Lord. We worship God. This is the only reasonable worship for us.” We worship God by surrendering our bodies in service to him day and night. We are to be living sacrifices to God. The idea behind a sacrifice is death. So if we are to be living sacrifices it will involve some kind of death in which we are still alive. I think this is similar to Jesus’ idea of taking up our cross. We die to ourselves and to the selfish, sinful desires and habits embedded in our bodies. Sin always involves the body and dishonors the body and God.

Presenting our bodies as living sacrifices is very important because since we are the body of Christ that is visible to the world, what we do with our bodies reflects on Jesus and his present administration. Every U.S. president has an administration and appoints ambassadors to represent their administration to the world. Well, Jesus Christ has appointed every believer to be his ambassador to the world. We represent the administration of Jesus.

United States ambassadors are expected to moderate their conduct and behavior to positively reflect the United States. The same is true for believers. We must carefully consider our conduct and behavior. If we use our bodies in ways that are a poor reflection on our King, Jesus Christ, then we must make changes. In 1Cor.9:27 Paul says, “I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” Forsaking sinful bodily behaviors may be difficult but if we are living sacrifices we will do it. I would encourage us to regularly give our bodies, every part to the Lord. “Lord, I give you my eyes, ears, my mouth, my feet and hands.” In doing this we are seeking to abandon the idols, the sinful, selfish desires and cravings of our bodies that easily ensnare us.


In order for us to be able to present our bodies as living sacrifices, we need to be renewed in our thinking. So Paul says, “Do not be conformed to this world.” Okay. But wait a minute. We already are conformed to this world. All of us enter into Christ already conformed to this world. In Rm.6:17 Paul tells us that we were once slaves of sin. In Eph.2:1-3 Paul writes, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience--among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” When we turn to Jesus our sins are forgiven and we begin living the life of Christ. But the life of Christ that empowers us is found in our old creation bodies that have been conformed to this world.

In Rm.1, Paul gives a picture of what it means to be conformed to this world. Paul says that even though the world of humanity is aware of God’s existence, it refuses to honor God or give thanks to God. The world prefers to worship anything but God. And so Paul explains that God gave men and women over to the lusts of their hearts. And what we see is that in the world men and women are slaves to their sinful, selfish passions and desires. Listen to the list of sinful activities Paul gives in Rm.1:26-32. Some women abandon natural relations with men and become consumed with passion for other women. Likewise, some men give up relations with women and become consumed with passion for other men. What is more, in the world men and women are filled with unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice, envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness, gossip, and slander. They are haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, and ruthless. All of these behaviors are found woven throughout every dimension of society and every corner of our hearts.

In Gen.4 we read how Cain murdered his brother, Abel. In the world, anger and rage, vengeance and murder flows through every heart. What is more, we are all experts at justifying our anger. Our hurts, our loyalty to family, causes, and political parties justifies our anger. We are conformed to this world far more than we want to admit.

So Paul tells us that we need to be renewed in our minds. What does a renewed mind look like? A renewed mind looks like Jesus. He is our model. If the Church is the body of Christ, Christ is the head of the body. It is his thoughts we want to be thinking.

How do we go about renewing the mind? It is a process. We turn away from old world ways of thinking and intentionally fill our minds with new creation thinking. It is of utmost importance that we fill our heart and mind with the teachings and example of Jesus found in the Gospels and Epistles. We should read and think deeply about them. But how easily we show old creation thinking. We see it in the drive for power and success in the churches of America. We see it in the racism, materialism, and immorality that fills our lives. We see it in the unkind comments posted on social media, even by Christians. We are often driven by old creation thinking.

What steps do you need to take to stop being conformed to this world? What steps do you need to take in order to have your mind renewed with the mind of Christ? What are we waiting for? We need to be renewed in our minds.


Paul goes on to say, “By testing we may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” As I look at these 2 verses it strikes me that presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice and having our minds renewed is expressed in behavior that conforms to the will of God. Jesus taught us to pray, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Generally when we pray that we are thinking in big picture terms. We want to see the kingdom of God come and be fully established. We want to see peace on earth, etc. But believers are already living in the kingdom of God and so we seek to live according to the will of God.

It does not seem to me that Paul is thinking here about what God’s will is for your vocation or who you will marry or what college to attend. Those decisions are important and we surely ought to seek the Lord about those things. But rather Paul is writing about our general way of living in this world. Jesus summed up the law and prophets in 2 commands. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. And love your neighbor as yourself. Well, God’s will is that we live in love, that we love God and love others.

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus makes some very clear statements about how those who are in the kingdom of God are to live. When we reflect on his teaching we begin to see that the politics of Jesus are not like the politics of this world. When we reflect on the teachings of Jesus and his life and death we begin to see that Jesus refused to Lord it over people. He refused to take up the sword. He refused to return evil for evil. And he told us to do the same. This world will always find a way to kill God. And we should not be surprised if we experience the same treatment as we live out the will of God in this world.

This is not easy. This is why we must surrender our bodies to the Lord in worship and seek to have our mind renewed. Doing the will of God is something that we learn by trial and error. We will fail often because our conformity to the world is strong. But as we continue seeking to do the will of God we will learn what is good, acceptable and perfect in his sight. In this way our behavior in the world begins to confirm and conform to God’s good will. The more we conform to God’s good will in our living, the greater our impact upon this world will be.

Men and women, everything we long for is found in Jesus Christ, not the world! And yet, how quickly we embrace the world, thinking that it will meet our deepest longings. We are Christians! We are ambassadors for Jesus Christ, and Christ-like transformation is the intended outcome of our salvation in Christ. Amen.

Renouncing All

July 8, 2018

If you install new software on your computer you must register with the company. During the registration process there is usually a point at which you must agree to the terms of usage set by the company that produced the software. The terms of agreement, the fine print, if you will, are always available for you to read. I must confess that I never read the terms of agreement. I just click on the word, “agree,” and begin using the software. Sometimes I think about that and wonder what I have agreed to. So far it hasn’t gotten me into trouble.

But what about the fine print involved in being a follower of Jesus? When Jesus invited people to become his follower he spelled out the terms very clearly. There were some who began following him, but they turned away. They did not count the cost. In Lk.14:33, Jesus said, “So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” Wow! Clearly disciples of Jesus Christ are called to renounce all that they have.


In my opinion, the issue addressed in this passage is one of the most difficult issues for pastors in America to preach about. It is one of the more difficult issues of discipleship to Christ. The reality is that our country and most of us are deeply affected by wealth and materialism. Even if we are not all that wealthy or do not have many possessions, we are still deeply influenced by our society’s preoccupation with wealth and possessions. And we do not have to intentionally think this way because this way of thinking is deeply ingrained in us from the time we are young.

All of us are consumers and wasters. As a society we are addicted to having the latest technology. Or if it isn’t technology it is clothing or shoes, or automobiles. We like to go out to eat. We pay for cable T.V. and entertainment. Entertainment is not cheap these days. Just attending a professional sporting event can cost quite a bit. We have hobbies which cost money and of course we don’t want to be one dimensional people, so we spend the money. We like sports. Playing hockey isn’t cheap. We are concerned about upgrading our homes, our situations. We are looking for a promotion or a new job so that we can increase our income, so that we can maintain or enhance our lifestyle. We like to travel and we are willing to pay the price.

Total credit card debt has reached its highest point ever. The average American has a credit card balance of $6,375. Forty-three percent of Americans have been carrying a credit card balance for 2 or more years. The average household with credit card debt owes $16,883. The average household with credit card debt pays $1,292 in interest each year.

I mention all of this to help us see our complicity with the man in the parable told by Jesus in Lk.12. Before telling the parable, Jesus says, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness [greed], for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." So let’s look at this parable.

Here is a wealthy landowner whose land had an amazing year of productivity. He had such a crop and he realized that if he was going to be able to profit from this abundant crop he had to find a way to store it. He didn’t have enough barns to store it all. So he could see that the wisest thing to do would be to tear down his old barns and build bigger, state of the art barns to store his crops. As he considered his situation he realized that he was now in a place to begin to enjoy life. His crops would enable him to not worry about the future. He could relax and eat, drink, and be merry.

As far as I can tell from the parable, this man had done nothing wrong. We don’t get the impression that the man was cheating people or not paying his workers. His character seems as good as anyone else. He seems to be an industrious person who is careful with his money. His decision to build bigger barns makes a lot of sense. I mean if you and I have a productive year and make a sizable profit, do we not think about how to best invest that profit? We understand the value of saving and investing for the future. It just makes good sense.

But then we come to v.20, and everything changes. God says, “Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” I do not think this is a parable that teaches it is wrong to be wealthy or to make a profit. I don’t think this parable teaches that it is wrong to save for the future. Nor do I believe Jesus is teaching that relaxing, eating, drinking, and being merry is sinful. What is sinful is seeing oneself as the center of the universe. This man lived only for himself and his family. He may have made charitable contributions, especially if it provided a tax break. He may have volunteered in the community, especially if it enhanced his standing in the community. But what he was not going to do is jeopardize his future or his lifestyle. He wanted as much out of life as he could get. Unfortunately his life had come to its end, and he would lose control of all that he owned. What he thought was to his profit was no longer his.

And now he had other problems to deal with. He was now going to be dealing with God whom he had ignored throughout his life. And we get the impression that it was his wealth and possessions that so consumed his focus that he had little, if any, time for God. He certainly did not make any connection between his wealth and God. It never occurred to him that what he did with his wealth may have bearing on his relationship with God. This man may have believed in God. He may have even been religious. But his belief, his religion did not shape his life in this area.

Do you realize that your soul is not just yours alone? Your soul, your life, belongs to God, who gave our life to us. We are stewards of our lives. One day our lives will be required. In other words, we are accountable to God, our creator. And how we live, what we do with our wealth has consequence in our accountability to God.

I have no idea about your financial situation. More importantly, I have no idea about how you look at wealth and possessions. Those are matters deeply hidden in the heart. All of us should be concerned if our wealth and possessions are primarily used to promote ourselves and our lifestyle. In the world, wealth is used to promote oneself and when this is the case, wealth and our attitudes towards wealth will be our undoing.


In the very next passage, Jesus begins to teach his disciples. He piggybacks off the topic of wealth in order to discuss anxiety about life. Our anxieties about living have much to do with income and wealth. We noted earlier that in Lk.14 Jesus says that, “any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” Wow! Those are challenging words. Jesus’ teaching in Lk.12 helps us appreciate the value of renouncing all that we have in order to follow Jesus.

One of the things that push us to acquire more and more is our fear: fear of not having enough to maintain our lifestyle, fear of not having what we think we need to live. Anxiety often goes hand in hand with greed and materialism.

In v.22-23 Jesus teaches that those who are his disciples do not need to be anxious about food or clothing. We need not be anxious because living life is a far bigger matter than just focusing on food and clothing. Life is found in following Jesus. Jesus came to give abundant life. He came to give us the same eternal life that he has. You never hear Jesus saying, “O, would you look at this! I have nothing to wear for Passover.” You don’t hear Jesus voicing concern that he might not have enough food even when he was in charge of feeding more than 5,000 people. Why is that? It is because Jesus understood the inexhaustible resources of life with God. What you eat and wear are the least things to worry about.

In v.24 Jesus explains that if God values the ravens enough to feed them, how much more does he value his people? God is the one who sustains our lives. In v.28, if God cares enough to adorn the grass with colorful lilies, will he not make sure his people are properly clothed?

But more than this, in v.32 Jesus tells us that God gives us the kingdom. Are you kidding me! Followers of Jesus get a kingdom? What is Jesus talking about? When Jesus walked the earth he taught that his presence on earth embodied and revealed the kingdom of God. What Jesus said and did revealed the amazing kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is the realm in which the will of God is always accomplished. In the Lord’s Prayer we pray, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is done in heaven.” In other words, we are asking that God’s rule would be accomplished on earth. And that is what Jesus showed us, God’s will being done on earth as it is done in heaven.

In fact, we know that Jesus is now reigning at the right hand of God the Father. He showed us the power and the goodness of God’s kingdom. He died on the cross for our sins and rose from the dead for our justification, and ascended to the Father to reign, so that you and I can enter into life in the kingdom of God today. We may not be able to enter the physical reality of the kingdom because the new heaven and earth is still to come. But we can enter into the life of the kingdom of God through faith in Jesus Christ, becoming his disciple.

All those who enter into the kingdom of God through faith, allegiance to Jesus the King, receive Jesus’ eternal life to live. Followers of Jesus need not worry about living life on earth because Jesus tells us that our lives will be fully supplied by our loving heavenly Father. But as long as we hold onto the wealth and possessions of this world we show our unbelief in the provision of God. Renouncing our allegiance to all that we have is key to living as followers of Jesus.

In v.21 Jesus refers to the person, “who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” In v.33-34 Jesus says, “Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

If we are followers of Jesus we need to come to grips with our relationship to wealth and possessions. Do you trust in your wealth to secure your life? Are you generous toward God with your wealth? Specifically here, Jesus refers to giving to the needy. Do you see your wealth as a means to promote Christ and his kingdom work or is your wealth for yourself? Are you as careful in keeping track of what you give to the Lord’s work as you are in keeping track of your own financial picture? Do you make it your aim to give as much as possible to the work of God or is it your aim to keep as much as possible for yourself? The issue is not how much you have and what you own. The issue is about control. Are you willing to renounce it all and allow God to direct your steps in regard to your wealth?

Believe me, the goal of this message is not an attempt to get more money for the church. Rather my goal is to help us consider the value we place on being a disciple of Jesus. As I have been preaching these messages on the fine print of living life with Christ, I continually wonder if I am making life with Christ sound harsh. That is not my goal. The goal for me is to understand these words of Jesus. In Mk.10:28-30, we read, “Peter began to say to [Jesus], ‘See, we have left everything and followed you.’ Jesus said, ‘Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.”

Are you a follower of Jesus Christ? Would you like to become a follower of Jesus Christ? Would you like to receive the forgiveness of your sins? Would you like to receive the eternal life of Jesus? Would you like to enter the kingdom of God today? If so, repent of your current self-directed life. Renounce all that you currently are and have and surrender in faith and allegiance to Jesus Christ as your Savior, Lord, and King. Amen.

Counting the Cost

July 1, 2018

Listen to this sentence from The Long Beach Independent, December, 1949. “Food Editor Beulah Karney has more than 10 ideas for the homemaker who wants to say ‘Merry Christmas’ and not have it cost her an arm and a leg.” Supposedly this is the first time the expression, “arm and a leg,” appeared in print. When we purchase something expensive we might say, “It cost me an arm and a leg.”

We are looking at the fine print involved in following Jesus. Why would someone decide to follow Jesus? Why would you decide to follow Jesus? Is there “arm and leg” value in following Jesus? Is the value of following Jesus worth any cost to yourself? This is an important question. This morning I want to point out that receiving God’s gift of salvation through faith in Christ involves personal cost.


In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve enjoyed life from God and with God as they lived in the presence of God. But when they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they chose to order their own steps, to define their own lives apart from God. They rejected life with God. When we reject life with God, in essence we are saying that we do not want God or want to live under the rule of God. And in doing so, we embrace death, because all that is not of God is death and only results in more death. This willful choice to establish our life apart from God is what the Bible calls sin. Sin speaks of our rejection of God. Sin speaks of our disobedience to the good commands of God. Sin speaks of our guilt before God. All the brokenness, immorality, abuse, deceit, anger, violence, shame, antagonism, racism, hostility and death that exists in the world today is the consequence of living life apart from God. Ever since Adam and Eve, this world and every person in it has lived under the domination of sin, death, and guilt before God. Look around you and see if that is not the reality of life in this world.

Think about this. When you make something that is beautiful and expresses your heart, when you seek to give your love and kindness to others, how do you feel if someone destroys the beautiful thing you made? How do you feel if the one you love turns away from you, especially if that person is your spouse or child? How do you feel when your kindness is rejected? Most of us experience hurt and anger. God created all things as an expression of his glory and for the good of mankind. He established a good order for life, but mankind, each one of us, has chosen against God and our sin and disobedience brings the wrath of God. God’s wrath is directed towards the sin which rejects and ruins all he has made and done.

Just as you and I might watch the evening news and shake our heads in horror at the terrible things we see being done to the earth and the people on this earth, longing to see justice carried out, so God, who is completely righteous, cannot bear to see the sin in the world and in our own lives. He loves us too much and he is grieved at what we have done to all he has made.

Because God is loving towards all he has made, he determined to establish a way by which all things in heaven and earth, including you and me, can be reconciled to him. In other words God has acted to make it possible for us to once again receive his life and enjoy relationship and fellowship with him in his presence. God has provided a way for our selfish disobedience and rejection of him to be forgiven.

God did this by sending his Son, Jesus Christ into the world. But Jesus did not just pop up on the earth one day. Jesus was conceived in the Virgin Mary, by the Holy Spirit. Mary was Jewish and so Jesus is Jewish and in fact, the history of Israel, found in the Old Testament, gives the important back story for Jesus’ coming into the world.

In the Old Testament we learn important truths about God as Creator and King. We learn about sin and forgiveness through atoning sacrifices. We read promises from God to send a Messiah, his anointed King who would experience death for all who are under the sentence of death as a result of sin. We learn that this King would be a mighty deliverer from sin and death, and the beginning of a new order of creation.

And so Jesus came into the world, fully God and fully man. From the very beginning of his earthly existence he began to experience the destructive power of sin and death that drives everything in the world today. When he grew up he began teaching about forgiveness and life in the kingdom of God. He performed amazing miracles, even raising people from the dead. Because he is fully God he has no sin. People who saw Jesus saw what a sinless life looks like. Jesus regularly invited people to begin living in the kingdom of God by repenting of their sins and becoming his disciple or follower. But there is more.

And this is where we begin to understand how Jesus counted the cost in bringing reconciliation. Being sinless in every way, Jesus understood that his was the only life qualified to die in behalf of sinners. He knew that in order for mankind to be reconciled to God, he would have to die, bearing the sin and guilt of the world. Being fully God, his life is of infinite value. Being fully man, he can stand in the place of humanity. Jesus willingly gave himself to be crucified on the cross in order to pay the price or debt of our sins. In Mk.10:45 Jesus said, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” In Phil.2:6-8 Paul writes, that “though [Jesus] was in the form of God, [he] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” In providing for our salvation and life, Jesus did not count his life to be dear. He gave his life. And Paul tells us that, “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them.” God bore his own wrath against sin because he loves us.

When Jesus, the perfect Son of God came into the world, the world did not recognize him and the world crucified him. This is what the world does to God. And so, Jesus, being God in the flesh, knew full well that he would be giving his life for the world. He counted the cost and obeyed the will of the Father even to death on the cross for you and me.


To appreciate what Jesus is saying, we must recognize that for us the cross has been defanged. We wear crosses around our neck in the form of beautiful, costly jewelry. It is common for celebrities and professional athletes to wear crosses. You don’t even have to be very religious to wear a cross. That’s how fashionable it is.

However, in the days of Jesus no one would be caught wearing a cross around their neck as a fashion statement. Crucifixion was reserved for the worst criminals. Roman citizens could not be crucified. Crucifixions were done in public with crosses lined up on the sides of the street. People were crucified naked. Because it could take a number of days for a person to die, their exposed bodies were often eaten by birds of prey. Crucifixion was designed to humiliate and be as painful as possible.

So here is Jesus telling his would be followers to voluntarily take up their own cross in order to follow him. In fact, he tells us that before we even think about becoming his follower, his disciple, we need to enter into a thought process of counting the cost. What is it going to cost me if I become a follower of Jesus? And to help us Jesus gives two illustrations.

In the first illustration the owner of a vineyard wants to build a tower in order to guard the vineyard and protect his property. It appears that the foundation in and of itself is expensive to build and so he has to decide if he has enough money to finish the tower. The wise person, first sits down to calculate whether or not he or she can complete the project. To begin without counting the cost is to open oneself to ridicule and shame.

The second illustration involves a king who is contemplating going out to fight against another king whose army is twice the size of his own. The king must count the cost. “Can I be victorious with only 10,000 soldiers against an army of 20,000?” If not that king is wise to make peace so that he does not suffer the loss of his kingdom. As you can see in these two illustrations the stakes are high.

Now is Jesus preaching the gospel? Yes. This is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Entering into eternal life in the kingdom of God is costly. In fact I would add that the deep joy of knowing Christ cannot be experienced apart from bearing one’s cross. Perhaps you are thinking, “Wait, I thought salvation is a gift, a free gift that we receive from Jesus as we repent of our sin and call upon the name of the Lord. The price has been paid. How can there be a cost?”

Before I say anything else, let me point out that the gift of salvation is not the gift of going to heaven. The question is not, “Do you want to go to heaven when you die.” The gift of salvation is receiving the eternal life of Jesus Christ which was purchased through the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. The gift is the forgiveness of our sins and the life of Jesus given to us. The gift is Jesus. It cost Jesus his life. And it will cost you and me our lives.

Any gift of great value involves a cost to both the giver and the receiver. Imagine you are married but because of infertility you are not able to have children. You go to the doctors and follow their advice, but no babies. You are praying to God, asking for a baby. You have almost lost hope, but then you find out that you are going to be a mother, a father. Your baby is born and you see this baby as a gift from God. And it is! But in receiving the gift there is great cost. It costs everything you have for you give your life to the care of your child through joy and heartache. Receiving the gift involves great personal cost.

The gift of salvation is a free gift of God through faith and allegiance to Jesus Christ. If you receive the gift there is a cost that comes with it. It is the cost of your life. In receiving Jesus we embrace him as our Lord and King. What exactly is the cost of believing in Jesus? Let me offer a few thoughts about this. 1) The gift of Jesus Christ is received as we enter into union with Jesus. Over and over again Paul talks about being “in Christ.” In Rm.8:1 we read, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” In Jn.14:20 Jesus says, “In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.” Being saved is about being found in Christ. This speaks of a deep relationship with Jesus that is ongoing. So like any other relationship, our union with Christ must be cultivated. That means we will set our minds on Christ and things above. We will seek to walk in the way of Jesus. 2) There is a cost because the life of Jesus that is in us is set against the practice of sin. Everyone who turns to Jesus is a sinner. Sinful ways of acting and thinking are deeply embedded in our bodies. Well if we embrace Christ as our King then we will seek to resist these sinful ways. We will seek to put to death what is earthly in us. That is costly. We are dying to ourselves. 3) There is a cost involved because this world does not embrace Jesus and his ways. Just as Jesus was mistreated and crucified, so his followers may experience rejection and ridicule. That is costly. We are bearing our cross. 4) When we embrace Jesus we surrender ownership of our lives to him. He is our King. If Jesus is King then you and I are not king. We die to self. Jesus says, unless we bear our cross we cannot be his disciple. There is no salvation apart from discipleship to Jesus.

And here we are at the Lord’s Table. The bread and juice speak of Jesus who counted the cost of giving his body and blood, his life for us. But if you think eating this bit of bread and drinking a shot of grape juice brings you salvation, you misunderstand the significance of this meal. At the Lord’s Table we draw near to Jesus, who has saved us. At the table we reaffirm and physically act out our receiving of Jesus as Savior, Lord and King. It is Jesus who saves and strengthens us to live in obedience to him, not the bread and the juice. But in eating and drinking he is present.

If you do not know Christ, this table is a visible invitation for you to repent of your sin and give your life to Jesus in faith and allegiance to him alone. The table is only for disciples of Jesus. If you are his follower come to his Table.

Did Jesus Really Say That?

June 17, 2018

“Not my President,” was a phrase heard in the aftermath of the last election. The phrase was used by some people who did not vote for President Trump. They were upset and so they made it clear that President Trump was not their President. Of course the reality is that by virtue of being a citizen of the United States and living in the United States, President Trump is their President. He’s just not their preferred president.

Jesus Christ is reigning as Lord and King over the universe. Of course, it is very clear that Jesus is not everyone’s preferred Lord and King. And most people in the world want little to do with Jesus. What about you? We are looking at the fine print involved with being a follower of Jesus. In every relationship there is always fine print, implications that can’t be ignored. Today we see that if Jesus is your King, he must have first place in your life.


In Luke’s gospel there is an emphasis on the crowds who followed Jesus. It begins in Lk.4:37. There we read, “And reports about him went out into every place in the surrounding region.” In 5:15, we read, “But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities.” Lk.6:17-19 says, “And he came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. And those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came out from him and healed them all.” In 8:45 we read that the crowds were pressing in on Jesus. In 9:11 it says, “When the crowds learned it, they followed him, and he welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God and cured those who had need of healing.” In 11:29 we read that the crowds were increasing. And now in 14:25 we see that great crowds accompanied him.

I point this out to show that Jesus made himself accessible to all who had a desire to see him and be with him. And there were many who wanted to see Jesus. Why did they want to be with Jesus? From the verses that we read, it would seem that people were drawn to Jesus because of his life giving, authoritative teachings and his miracles. But it was more than just his teachings and miracles. Jesus was a humble, kind, and gracious person. He went around doing good because he is good. And it isn’t surprising that people began to wonder about Jesus. When Jesus asked his disciples in Lk.9, “Who do the crowds say that I am," His disciples answered, “John the Baptist. But others say, Elijah, and others, that one of the prophets of old has risen.” And as Jesus’ ministry continued many of the people began to wonder if Jesus was, indeed, the Messiah, the Christ. When Jesus entered into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, many welcomed him as the messianic king. They just didn’t understand much about his kingship. And in the end they rejected Jesus because he did not meet their expectations.

That said, clearly Jesus welcomed everyone. He associated himself with everyone. He was comfortable hanging out with men and women, rich people, poor people, old people, children, religious people and sinful people. And he still welcomes everyone to himself.

But obviously things are different today because Jesus has ascended to the Father. What draws people to Jesus today? Let me suggest a few thoughts. Some people are drawn to Jesus as they read about him in the New Testament. They read about Jesus and they are struck in a positive way by his character, teachings, ministry, death and resurrection. Others may attend a church service of some kind or hear a radio program and they are drawn by what they hear concerning Jesus. Others are drawn to Jesus by the lives of Christians. After all, as Christians we embody the life of Jesus. In fact Jesus dwells in us through the Holy Spirit. And finally, everyone who is drawn to Jesus, is drawn by the Holy Spirit. We should welcome anyone and everyone who expresses any kind of interest in Jesus. Their interest shows that the Holy Spirit is drawing them. Our hope and prayer is that as people are drawn to Jesus they will come to understand that Jesus is God in the flesh who has done all that is necessary for us to receive forgiveness of sins and new eternal, transforming life in the kingdom of God.

But it is immediately important to point out that the life we receive from Jesus is an embodied life. It is not a life that we receive when we die. It is a life that is received from Jesus as we repent of our sins and put our ongoing trust and confidence in him. In other words, it is a life that is meant to be lived out here on earth, right now.

At the parsonage we have old American Standard toilets. When I need to replace the fill valve I go out to Lowes or Menards and buy one. But the old American Standard toilet tank does not like the new fill valves. In other words the newer fill valves don’t fit the toilet. So I usually end up modifying the valve so it will fit. The new doesn’t really belong in the old. Now the new life that we receive from Jesus doesn’t fit well in this present world. This present world and every person who lives in this world, is broken and fallen and continually being ruined by sin and the dark forces of evil. When Jesus walked this earth many received him but many more did not. It did not go well for Jesus.

When we receive the life of Jesus our broken lives begin to be transformed as we follow Jesus. So we also no longer fit well in this world. Jesus told us in Jn.16:33 that in this world we will have tribulation, trouble. We continue to be troubled by the sinful habits that reside in our bodies. We continue to be troubled by those who are antagonistic to Jesus and the gospel. We have trouble. So while Jesus welcomes everyone, not everyone welcomes Jesus. Not everyone enters into his life and seeks to follow him in living out his life.

This is why Jesus calls believers the light of the world. The church, made up of believers, is on display to show the marvelous work of God in reconciling all things to himself. So as we move on in this passage, let me reemphasize that following Jesus calls for some radical action on our part. This is part of the fine print of being a follower of Jesus. You see…


In Lk.14:26 Jesus turns to the crowd and says, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” Wow! Here it is Father’s Day and how is that we are looking at these words of Jesus? Why on earth would Jesus even say such a thing? Does Jesus really want us to hate our family members? When you speak with your dad today please do not say, “I hate you dad, in Jesus name!” That is not what Jesus is saying.

So what is he saying? In order to understand Jesus’ words we need to appreciate the cultural context. In the culture at that time, loving and honoring one’s parents was virtually the highest obligation of a person. Family honor was a deeply held value. You didn’t do anything that might bring shame on your parents or your family. Remember the story of the blind man in Jn.9. When the parents were asked about their son they distanced themselves from him. “Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself." And then John includes an explanatory note. “(His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.)” You see, anyone who became a follower of Jesus, would be alienated from their family. That is a high price to pay.

It is still this way in many cultures around the world. Family is what defines us as people in society. In the United States the value of family is not as strong. We value independence and individualism. We raise our children to leave the nest and establish their own lives. And yet, there are many people living in the United States today who are from cultures that have a similar perspective as the Jewish culture in Jesus’ day.

So Jesus is using hyperbole. He is saying, “If you are going to be my follower, you must love me and put me above all other family relationships. I must come first in your life. If you honor your father or mother above me, you cannot be my disciple. If you honor your spouse or children or your brothers and sisters above me, you cannot be my disciple.”

Think about what Jesus is saying. In Judaism the only one worthy of more honor than one’s parents was God. And here is Jesus requiring the same honor that was to be given to God. Well, clearly in making this requirement, Jesus is claiming to be equal with God.

Now before I say anything else, let me point out that in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus also endorses the commandment to honor one’s father and mother. In addition to this we see that Jesus highly values marriage to the point that he warns against divorce. What is more we see how Jesus treasures children. So Jesus is not telling us to actually hate family members.

But he is requiring that as his followers we put him above all family relationships. This means that Jesus along with our obedience to his teachings and commands, must come first. This priority was seen early in Jesus’ own life. When he was 12 years old his parents brought him to the temple for the feast of Passover. So there was Jesus at the temple. When it was time to return to Nazareth, Mary and Joseph thought Jesus was with relatives and it wasn’t until a day’s journey that they realized Jesus was not to be found. Quickly they hurried back to Jerusalem and after 3 days they found him in the temple sitting with the teachers listening to them and asking questions. All the teachers were amazed at his understanding. When Mary and Joseph asked why he had done this, Jesus said, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" Or as the old King James puts it, “wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?” Already at the age of 12 Jesus prioritized the things of God above his earthly family.

Then as an adult we read in Lk.8:19-21, “Then his mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him because of the crowd. And he was told, "Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see you." But he answered them, "My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it." Ouch. That seems a little insensitive. But no. Hearing and doing the word of God takes priority regardless of the personal cost.

Jesus must have first place in our lives even above loyalty to our family and even to our own self. How should you and I renounce our families? Perhaps the place to begin is to have DTR with yourself. DTR stands for, “Define the Relationship.” Dating couples have DTRs every so often. They need to define the relationship. So ask yourself, how much do I value Jesus and knowing him? If you answer that question it will help you define your relationship with Jesus. And then it is important to fix your eyes on Jesus day in and day out. Let Jesus fill your heart and mind. This will involve thoughtful reading of the scriptures and prayer. It will involve ongoing thought about how you live your life from one moment to the next.

There may be some activities that we just can’t participate in with our families because we are followers of Jesus. Or, as you seek the Lord, he may call you into his service to be a pastor or missionary and that may not meet with your family’s approval. Well is Jesus Lord or your life or not?

Followers of Scientology learn about the practice of disconnection. Disconnection is “the severance of all ties between a Scientologist and a friend, colleague, or family member deemed to be antagonistic towards Scientology. The practice of disconnection is a form of shunning.” Sometimes marriages are ended and children are separated from their parents. It is a very controlling practice and is just one more indication that Scientology is a cult.

Jesus is not interested in disconnecting you from your family and loved ones. But he wants everyone to know that those who choose to follow him may encounter conflict because Jesus is Lord and King. Following Jesus becomes our priority. We seek to be as gracious as we can be. Our goal is not to sever family ties. Often family ties are severed by the family that cannot accept our relationship with Jesus. If that were to happen would you choose your family over Jesus? If Jesus is your King, he must have first place in your life. Amen