Last week, we learned how to be sure that we belong to this movement. This week, we’re going to focus on one of the chief behaviors, or spiritual disciplines, of those who are part of Christ’s disciple-making movement. What is this behavior or practice? It’s the habit of daily seeking to hear from God through prayer and through reading His Word.
I have heard some Christians say, “Why does God speak to others but not to me?” Some actually don’t think they are worthy for God to speak to them. Or they question whether God still speaks today. What do you believe? Do want to hear God speak to you? In the 130th Psalm, the psalmist described how he sought to hear from the Lord. We can hear from the Lord.
2000 years ago, the Lord Jesus told His disciples to “GO and MAKE DISCIPLES” and He has called His disciples, His church, to be on the move ever since. So the church is not a place, it’s a people. The church is not a monument, it’s a movement!
If someone asks, where’s your church? Let’s learn to answer with another question, “When? Because it depends on the time and day of the week.” For the church gathers for strengthening and scatters for service. It gathers for worship and scatters for witness. It gathers in praise and scatters in power. The church gathers in fellowship and scatters in faith as the body of Christ in this world. The church is on the move. So, do you want to belong to this Jesus following, disciple-making movement?
Don’t you feel the tug towards something more simple? The Christmas season has become so chaotic and busy. Don’t you long for less chaos and more meaning? Something less fleeting and more lasting? Don’t you think Christians ought to know how to celebrate Christmas best? It seems that the world should be at our door at this season, but we’ve lost our distinctiveness. We’ve joined the world’s celebration instead of inviting them to ours.
Let’s go against the consumer Christmas culture this year by focusing less on giving presents and more on being present. Let’s get back to the simple story about Jesus.
Every invitation deserves an RSVP, a response. Christmas invites us to respond to this word: the Son of God, the Savior, Christ Jesus has come. And He is coming again. This is what we mean when we speak of this Christmas season, this season of Advent. The word “Advent” is derived from the Latin word adventus, meaning “coming.” Advent speaks of the incarnation and the return of Christ Jesus. He has appeared and will appear again.
How will you respond? People respond in different ways. Some come to faith immediately. Some reject believing outright. Some go through a long season of searching and stumbling before finally believing, while still others remain skeptical or even apathetic their whole lives. Don’t you wish you knew how to respond?
Let’s look at the story of Mary’s simple response of faith to God’s Word to consider our response.
The Christmas season has become one of the busiest and most expensive times of the year. Retailers spend millions every year inviting us to spend our time and money at their special Christmas sales events. The sales “invitations” from retailers to spend our money with them fill our newspapers and mailboxes every Christmas, but now they increasingly fill our email boxes and social media.
How many of you long for something simpler? What if there were a simpler invitation that you could RSVP this year? What if we could say yes to a simple invitation to spend less and love more. To feel less exhausted and overwhelmed and more filled with a life better than we’ve ever dreamed of? Well, that’s what we’re talking about today… God’s simple invitation to believe in His Son.
How do you want to be known? Or another way to consider this is to ask, how do you want to be remembered? What kind of a legacy will you leave when you die? Will they talk about the business you built? Or the job you did so well? Maybe the possessions you passed on to your family? How will you be known and remembered?
What if you could be known for the greatest thing of all? What if you could be known for your genuine and sincere love? While 1 Corinthians 13 might be considered the most beautiful description of love found anywhere, Romans 12:9-21 is the most practical and succinct. Paul taught how we can be marked by God’s genuine love! In the 12th chapter of the apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans, having called believers to be transformed by the renewing of their minds, he described how God’s genuine love would transform all their human relationships. We can let God’s genuine love be the mark of all our relationships.
How are you getting through the day? Have you believed the lie that you belong to yourself, that you’re responsible for discovering the meaning of your own life? The beginning of wisdom and of self knowledge, is to first know God and then know ourselves. And to know God, we must give ourselves fully to him. As we learned in Romans 12:1-2, Paul called believers to give themselves fully to God and be transformed by the renewing of their minds, so that they might discern and know the will of God.
Now in Romans 12:3-8, Paul instructed believers to think with this transformed and renewed mind, so that they might rightly discern and know themselves. We can rightly know ourselves.
Would you say that you have given your life fully to the Lord Jesus and experienced the transformed life that the gospel promises? Do the people around you, family and friends, take note that your life is different than it was before you placed your faith in Christ? If not, why not? The truth is that many Americans who call themselves Christians are more apt to share the beliefs and practices of the secular culture than they are the beliefs and practices found in the Scriptures. They aren’t leading transformed lives and therefore, those who are outside the faith see no attraction to the faith.
Yet Paul saw that believing and receiving Christ as Lord would mean giving ourselves completely to Him in order to truly experience the transformed life–– the life that reveals Christ in us for His glory. In chapter 12 of Paul’s letter to the Romans, he appealed to believers to give themselves completely to God, so that they might experience a truly transformed life. We can give ourselves completely to God and experience a truly transformed life.
Not all mysteries are fun. Sometimes the unknown causes fear and anxiety. Or it can cause some to avoid thinking about it or even to reject it. That’s how some respond to the mystery of God’s mercy. Some are apathetic about it. Some say they don’t see God’s mercy at work in the world today. Some feel they don’t need it.
When Paul uses the word “mystery,” he doesn’t mean it like the novels, movies or games mean it. It’s not something we can put on our Sherlock Holmes hats and deduce on our own. He means a divine truth previously hidden that can only be known by God’s revelation. God revealed the mystery of His mercy to Paul and in chapter 11 of Paul’s letter to the Romans, he wanted believers to understand the mystery of God’s mercy towards all people, both Jew and Gentile alike. We can understand the mystery of God’s mercy.
Do you ever wonder what God is up to in the world today? Things seem to be getting worse in the world. Pandemics, natural disasters, terrorism, wars, economic turmoil… Where’s God? Have we stumbled and now God is just going to let us fall?
That’s the question Paul posed concerning Israel. Did God let them stumble because He wanted them to fall? The answer is No! Instead, God has a plan for our salvation and He wants to reveal it to us. It’s a plan of hope! In chapter 11 of Paul’s letter to the Romans, he reveals God’s plan of salvation for the world. We can understand God’s salvation plan for the world.