You are a son or a daughter of God. He loves you and values you deeply. Your worth and identity are found in Him. His love for you is tenacious and wild and all-encompassing.
You are a subject and a servant of King Jesus. As such, you are called to obey His every command, and to become more and more like Him. You are to make the growing up into His likeness an intentional priority in your life.
You are a missionary-ambassador, filled with the Spirit of the Almighty. You represent Him, and are called to share His message of Good News far and wide.
And all of this is true for us as a local church. We are family. We are co-laborers. We are comrades in arms; a fellowship of radical disciples on a great and noble mission. We are none of these things because we are amazing, or because we've figured anything out. But because of the awesome and beautiful and majestic love and grace of God -- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
But we need to respond. We need to live out these identities, these roles, with which He has gifted us. It is such a privilege! We don't deserve this, but we get to be in on it anyway. There is nothing in the universe more important or more worthy of our lives. It will be hard, but without being a grievous burden. It will cost everything, but will be more than worth it. It will challenge us to the core, and stretch us beyond endurance, but we will be given strength to persevere.
So this is what I'm asking you: It feels bold, but I believe with all my heart that this simple challenge is the best thing we could do with our time and resources and gifts. Here it is: Will we order our lives around these corporate identities? Family. Discipleship. Mission. Will we make it a high priority in our lives to live out spiritual family with one another; To grow in Christlikeness, and to help one another in the same pursuit; To be about the mission of proclaiming and demonstrating the Gospel in our city and beyond? Will we be willing to say no to lesser pursuits, though they be tempting and attractive, or even good and noble? Will we actually make decisions based on how they impact this high calling and priority?
Now, I will remind you that, though I am speaking of a corporate situation, this is still a challenge to each of us as individuals, and as individual physical households. As I shared a couple of weeks ago, in a family, not all of us will, or even can, live out our commitments and priorities in the same way. In our family, Peter and Rebekah are not around as much as Philip and Hannah. They do prioritize this family, and they make commitments to us. They say no to other things routinely for the sake of being with us. However, they still do have significant responsibilities and commitments elsewhere. We do not judge them for not being at every family event, even though Hannah is at them all. Does that make sense? There is freedom here, not burdens and judgments. Each of us have our own life realities that we have to deal with -- relationships, work, responsibilities, households, bills, callings, etc. And these all must be given their proper due.
With that being said, don't gloss over the challenge, because it is still a significant one. I cannot answer it for you, nor you for me. I can only trust that the Holy Spirit will guide you, and that you will obey. And I do trust that. I love how James put that this evening.
So, to state it again, will we make this spiritual family on Jesus' mission together an intentional and thoughtful priority in life? Will we not decide our involvement in any event or gathering or project based only on how we feel or what is convenient or what our participation may cost us -- or even simply on what we think is best for us individually? Will we choose to believe that we matter? That we have something to offer, and that it is essential? That our life decisions, even our personal ones, impact the rest of us, because God had joined us together. Will we allow this thing to cost us significantly? Will we constantly seek to lay down personal ambitions and selfish dreams? Will we be stubbornly centered on Jesus, and faithfully committed to one another? Will we be family? Will we intentionally and obviously grow to be more like Christ? Will we give our lives for His great cause -- the redemption of the world? Together!!???
I can think of nothing I'd rather give my life to. And I am overwhelmingly grateful that I get to do so with you.
“...baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” -- Matthew 28:19
You and I have been immersed into a new name; a new identity. In fact, everything is new for us.
“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” -- 2 Corinthians 5:17
We are sons and daughters of the Father.
We are servants of the King.
We are missionary-ambassadors of the Almighty.
This is it, friends. The center of everything for us. This is who we are. The problem occurs when we try to live as something else. When something else becomes center. Work. Security. Family. Pleasure. Whatever. We are new.
Where do you find value? Or, to consider it another way, when do you feel important? The truth is, you have worth because you are a son or a daughter of the Father. That's it. Anything that makes you feel worthy outside of the Father is a perversion.
What determines your decisions? Is obedience to Jesus the first consideration, or are you mostly concerned with other things? What worries you? That your decision will make things more difficult for you, that it will not provide enough for you, that it will not make you happy? Or that it is what Jesus wants, and that it contributes to His kingdom?
What is your purpose? What fuels you? Energizes you? Causes you to sacrifice and leads you to dream? I hope it is your calling to represent Jesus in this world -- to proclaim His gospel, and to reveal His love and mercy.
Kind of a high bar when you have jobs and kids and school and.... life? When you have to deal with depression and anxiety and difficult relationships and pain and sorrow and fatigue?
I'm with you.
We get distracted by lesser things. We make our lives about small matters.
So what do we do? What do we do?!? What are our options? We could put off the radical Jesus stuff until our lives become more steady. Until the kids grow or we finish school or get enough income or at least get our retirement plan figured out... Not gonna happen. Sorry. These are the days.. these ones we are living right now... To live fully as sons and servant-missionaries. There is an urgency to this.
So do we try harder? "I mean, I guess I could. But I'm so tired already. I'm trying so hard. I don't know what more I have, but if that's what it takes, I'll grit my teeth and push a little more. Man, I feel like a failure though. I'm sorry for disappointing you, God..." That's not gonna do it either. Can't sustain it. You're probably already trying as hard as you can.
Ok... Running out of ideas here. Maybe we quit our jobs and schools and live on a commune? Maybe God will provide manna from heaven like he did for Israel? Then we could really focus our lives on His kingdom and His family and His mission. Yeah... Nope.
Ok. Perhaps we just compromise some. We soften the 100%, all-in, radical, totally new kind of language, and make it more feasible. We can be reasonable about this. "Let me take care of my family and secure our future, and I'll give you everything else. Let me indulge in this one pleasure (it's not technically a sin), because I do need to unwind -- but I'll go all out otherwise." Nah. We know better.
How about this: "I'll invite Jesus into all that I'm doing. That sounds good, right? I'll invite Him into my family and my work and my school and my pleasures and my rest. I mean, I won't actually do anything different, and I won't make any major changes, and, to be really honest, I don't even know what it means to 'invite him into,' but it makes me feel better. It's not like I can think about Him all the time, or make every decision based on his family and kingdom and mission, but I can do some..." No, not even this. He is the one who does the inviting (actually, the commanding, but we'll stick with invite for now if it makes us feel better). He is calling (uh, inviting) us into His life. His mission. His Kingdom. His family. His work. The problem with us inviting him into ours is that we're still kind of in control. We decide what that looks like. We decide what our work and time and relationships are, and then invite him in to bless them. He's not really that kind of a god though. We're talking about the One who says things like,
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.” -- Luke 14:26
“Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.” -- Luke 9:23-24
“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” -- Matthew 5:48
Ok... Two ideas.
One. Pray. Seriously. This is what the first disciples did when Jesus gave them impossible instructions.
“They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.” -- Acts 1:14
Apparently they prayed a lot. Constantly is a pretty substantial description. I think they did it because they were faced with something overwhelmingly impossible, and the reality of that drove them to prayer. On the one hand, they were told to go make disciples of all nations. Impossible. On the other hand, they had seen Jesus after he rose from the dead, so crazy stuff was happening. But they still know they were inadequate. They were weak. They were ridiculously unqualified. The thing we need to do is realize we're in the same boat. We keep thinking Jesus is "only going to give us what we can handle." We keep thinking that we're supposed to be able to make sense of this life, and sorta be witnesses and sorta be good and sorta be committed and sorta feel guilty and sorta deny ourselves and sorta be happy and sorta have peace and joy. And we thing we should be able to figure out how to do all those sortas. Other people do, don't they? So we are not desperate. So we don't pray. Much. Certainly not constantly. He'll understand. He doesn't expect that much of us, right? We're not invested in something that is impossible for us, and thus we muddle on.
Two. Together. Same verse as above. "They all joined together constantly in prayer..." Why together? Same reason as above. Because they realized the impossibility of what they had been commanded to do, and so they naturally knew they needed each other. So they "joined together constantly." And they know they really needed God. So their joining together constantly was "in prayer."
I don't know what it looks for you individually to live out your role in this 'Jesus-centered family on His mission together.' I'm not really sure what it looks like for us to do that corporately. And I'm still figuring out my role as an individual. But it's a great and beautiful vision. And it's an impossible and overwhelming task. And we're commanded to do it. And we can't do it. But we can pray. And we can join together. After all, it's still true that Jesus rose from the dead. And it's still true that I'm a son of God. And it's still true that the Holy Spirit lives in me, and in us. So I'm in.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.