October 31, 2011

Revolution: Loving What God Love 1 John 2:15-17

Last week we talked about Maturing in our Faith and the 3 stages of maturity outlined by John. Little Children, Adulthood, and Spiritual Father and Motherhood. Ultimately the key to each step seems to be whether the Word of God lives in us...which starts with us reading it...which starts with us having a commitment to spiritual maturity. So, I challenged you to ask yourself this question, “Do I really want to mature in my faith with Jesus?”

I hope you spent some time wrestling with that question this week because the answer we give to that question determines whether or not we will be able to receive today’s message.

When we decide that we are going to pursue spiritual maturity...that we are going to do what it takes to stay connected to God...we start by spending time in God’s Word and allowing it to speak to us and grow inside of us. Choosing to mature, choosing to abide or remain in Christ, choosing to spend time in God’s Word means that we choosing to NOT do some other things.

The challenge comes when our loves are split. When we love God and want His way...but we also love something else...something that is not God.

So we have to learn to “keep our eyes on the prize” as they say in the world of athletics. We have to keep our eyes...or in John’s language...our love...focused one the right things.

I found this clip of someone who didn’t keep his eyes aiming in the right direction...



Let’s look at today’s passage...

1 John 2:15-17 says,
“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”
In today’s passage John’s call is for us to not love the world. For those who want to mature in their faith, John says, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.”

What is the World?

If we are to live a life that does not love world...our my first question has to be What does John mean by the world?

The word used here has several meanings.

It can be mean creation, the earth, or the universe. John is part of a Hebrew culture, though, that values the present world and the Creation of God. Just a fast reading of 1 John and the Gospel of John reveals that John is highly influenced by the book Genesis...and understands that God views His creation as good and that Jesus is part of the master plan to rescue and renew God’s created order. Besides this verse doesn’t make sense if we translate it as Do not love creation.

It can also mean the people of the world. But John 3:16, a verse many of use learned in Sunday School or have at least seen on a sign at a football game, says, “For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only son...” God is invested in this world and its people. John has also been talking about how one of the signs of a person really loving God is that they really love their brother.

So what does John mean? He means that we are not to love the ideologies, methods, and ways the world operates that are estranged from God. One simple look around and it is fairly easy to see how the world operates in ways different from God or at least it should be easy if we have spend time allowing the word of God to live in us...that is the point of the last section as it connect to this one.

The world’s ways run contrary to God’s. So we are not to love the world...We are to “quit considering the world precious.” And the reason we stop loving the world is that everything in the world comes from the world and not from the Father. For John, those who are a part of true discipleship, those who truly love the Father, do not love the things that God does not love. And God does not love the brokenness in our world.

Remember, the word for world here is not about the creation or the people, but about the systems and ideologies that characterize a broken and fallen world. John even lists three things that characterize the world’s ideology he is calling us to turn away from: lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and pride of life.

Let’s take a look at these...

First, Lust of the flesh...the desires of the flesh...John would likely have in mind sexual sin, but he would also have in mind appetites and desires that are not centered on God. This is an unhealthy desire, lust, for things that fulfil appetites and desires in ways not centered on God.

The world has a way of taking good and wonderful things and turning them into something sinful by misuse. Sex, according to God’s Word, is wonderful and great...He created it for our enjoyment...but it goes wrong when it is done outside the bounds He sets for it. Working hard, earning a living, and making money are all good things...until the desire for them leads us to neglect our loved ones or to pursue wealth at the expense of others. Food is a great thing. God even talks about feasting and enjoying great food together...but gorging and gluttony are not God’s design for food. Same with having a beer. We are hard pressed to find a verse that says drinking a beer is sinful...but we all know the impact alcoholism has on people’s lives.

Most sin hapens when something good is take too far or takes on more importance than it should have...when lust of the flesh creates a sinful desire for something.

Second, John points out the Lust of the eyes. This is a greed for things we see. When we feel like less or desire something wrongly because we see what others have...a sinful lusting grows inside of us. The biblical term for this is coveting. Desiring something that is not ours...something we don’t need...something God has not given us...but because we have seen it we now want it for our own.

Third, John points out the Pride of life. This is a bragging about what we have...a desire to impress people with what we have or have done or are doing. Yeah, well my kid is honor student at The Emporium of Learning more stuff than your kid! This is that feeling that makes you want to compare yourself to others from your high school graduating class. Or, put just the right spin on your resume. It is believing that what you have or have done are what makes you important.

These three are characteristics of people who love the world, and our sin fits into one of these categories. We struggle with these on a regular basis. Satan uses them to fight against us constantly...and John says that when we love the world...we can’t love God because we allow these things become our core values rather than Love of God and Love of neighbor.

If we are drawn away by our love of the world...we demonstrate that God’s love is not in us. Why? Because who or what we pursue ultimately determines what we do and who we become. We can’t have competing loves in your life. We can’t love two things that at their very core are opposed to each other. You can’t love the way of a world that values things opposed to God’s Way. You can’t love sin and righteousness. You can’t love both Michigan and Ohio State. Love of God and Love of the world are incompatible because they lead to different destinations.

And John says, Why would you want to love the world’s ways anyway...because it is all transitory anyway...it is all passing away...it won’t last. Only the things of God last. Verse 17 says, “The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.”

Pursuing the things of the world is like chasing the wind. If we truly believe there to be a resurrected life after this one...and that God’s Kingdom really is what matters...then this will affect our attachment to the things of this world.

What house I own...doesn’t matter because I have a home with God.
My bank account doesn’t matter...because real riches are found in doing God’s Will.
What car I drive doesn’t matter...

That is why Paul can tell Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:8,
“Physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” 
This world is passing away and what matters is what we are building for eternity. So the focus of our lives become very important...who or what we pursue ultimately determines what we do and who we become.

We can have children and build large families...but are we doing it in such a way that God’s Kingdom is being expanded?

We can build businesses and great companies...but is God’s Kingdom being expanded by it?

When we get Crossroads Vineyard up and running, but it becomes another business-as-usual church...then we have failed...we must be a church that pursues God’s Kingdom, making Him known, spreading the influence of His word and Kingdom in people’s lives.

And really it all starts with everyone of us centering the purpose of our lives on bringing the Kingdom of God wherever we are. If you are an accountant...why has God placed you where you are? How can you bring the Kingdom of God there and in other areas of your life? If you are truck driver...how can you bring the Kingdom of God in your sphere of influence? Soldier? Receptionist? Burger-flipping, minimum wage making, student?

When we allow the love of the world to creep into our lives it distracts us from what should be our true love...from where our eyes should be focused.

Making Straight Lines

When Lori and I first moved to Kansas City, I took a job as youth pastor. The church sat on about 20 acres of land, 10 of which needed mowed...which as youth pastor meant that that responsibility naturally fell to me. It was the natural connection. Teenagers and cutting the grass.

So they showed me how to use this tractor that was one generation removed from a team of oxen, and every week it would take me about 4-6 hours to get the thing running and another 4-6 hours of cutting and trimming to get this yard looking nice.

Part of the problem is that I’m a bit OCD. Things have to be symmetrical. I like to have straight lines. And, you never really notice how uneven your lines are until you have driven a tractor across a 10 acre field and then turn around and look at what you thought was a straight line.

So I began this search for instructions on how to cut as straight a line as possible across this field. Then I read this article, I don’t even remember what it was or where I read it, but it said that farmers, before GPS and all the other fancy gear, would pick out a point at the far end of the field and drive toward that because if they looked at anything closer their lines would not be straight. So I tried it. I picked out a tree at the far end of the field directly in the line I wanted to go...and my lines were as straight as I could get them.

John knows that where our vision is located...what we love...determines the direction of our lives. We talked about this awhile back as we worked through the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew 6:19-21 says, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

And then when talking about how to stop worrying, Matthew writes in 6:33, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

The secret to living the life God desires us to live is not a set a rules...it is about focusing on the right thing and pursuing it. I focused on a tree at the edge of a field, and was generally able to get  a straight line. When we focus on Jesus...we will get a generally straight line as we pursue Him. Not that we will get it right every time...not that we will be completely perfect in the sense that there is not flaw...the point is that we will be headed in the right direction.

You see the Gospel is about attachment. Jesus is very clear the things or people we attach ourselves to define us. What we pursue or love defines our character, our actions, and, ultimately, our destiny.

For those who pursue the Kingdom of God...they don’t need to worry about such trivialities as food, and shelter, and clothing. Our pursuit, our one love should be love of the Father, and when that is our ultimate goal...everything else seems to fall into place. When we pursue God with all of our heart...we don’t have to make rules about what is or is not a sin because God begins to brings those things up for us. We feel uncomfortable when we watch that kind of show...we sense that something isn’t right when take part in that activity...

Conclusion

Who or what we pursue ultimately determines what we do and who we become.

So when John is righting back to this church in Ephesus, he says, “Do not love the world.” Keep loving what should be your first love. Keep loving God. Keep your focus on the right thing.

A generation later, one of John’s disciples, a man named Ignatius is writing to this same church and writes these words, “Apart from Christ, let nothing else dazzle you.”

That is the question for us this week...what dazzles us? Where is our focus?

Is our focus on things that will not last? On things that have no eternal purpose?

Or is our focus on things that really matter? Do we love the Father with our heart, soul, mind, and strength? Does all that we do flow out of our pursuit of God?

Awhile back I was reading through the Bible and as I came to 2 Chronicles 20:12 it struck me really hard; especially the last phrase.

King Jehoshaphat is going to battle with an enemy. He is vastly outnumbered, and the enemy troops are better equipped and better prepared. Rather than fret or worry, Jehoshaphat calls the people of Judah to pray and fast. During this time, He prays a corporate prayer with the people and ends it with this sentence, "We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you."

That line sums up my leadership and church planting ability, "I do not know what to do, but my eyes are upon you." It sums up my Christian walk, "I do not know what to do, but my eyes are upon you."

That line should at the least, be the starting point for each one of us as we pursue God, "I do not know what to do, but my eyes are upon you."

Let me end with this story...

I was listening to a podcast of Rich Nathan the pastor of Columbus Vineyard this week, and he told the story about a pastor friend of his named Doug Murren. Doug’s daughter, through a series of childhood things, developed cerebral palsy, and struggled to walk. She was confined to a wheelchair most of the time. She was a strong little girl, cheerful, and happy...though.

One day she came home from school, and Doug sensed there was something wrong. He asked her how her day went. “Fine,” she said. But Doug didn’t buy it. He followed her into her room and repeated the question. “No, really,” he said, “How did your day go?”

She broke down into tears. The teacher asked the class what they wanted to be when they grew up, and she raised her hand and said, “I want to be a ballerina and a mother.” This little girl sitting next to her began to laugh and said, “You are cripple...you are never going to be a ballerina! And no boy is ever going to date you looking like that!”

As the little girl sobbed, Doug wrapped his arms around his little girl to comfort her, and then got a stick and beat that other child to death for hurting his little girl...no...that’s what I would have done. He is a better man than I am so he said, “We have been talking about what God thinks of us...so Who’s opinion about us really matters this girls or God’s?”

“God’s,” the girl responded.

“And what does Jesus tell you you are going to be?” Doug asked.

“He says I am going to be a ballerina!”

“Then you are going to be a ballerina!” He said.

You see, When we start listening to anything other than Jesus...when we allow love of the world’s values to creep in and take over, we lose sight of what Jesus wants to do in our lives and what He wants to do in our world. We become deaf and blind to God’s action in our world.

We can spend our lives loving a world that is going to use and abuse us...a world who’s value system has no lasting influence over our world...or we can invest our lives in the Kingdom of God where everything we do has an eternal impact. Where we are not ruled by the lusts and passions that bind up so many people...a place of true freedom. But the choice is our...what are we going to pursue? Who are we going to love?

For more information about Crossroads Vineyard Church in Huber Heights check us out online at www.daytoncrossroads.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/daytoncrossroads

October 25, 2011

Walking a Straight Line

Join us this weekend at Crossroads Vineyard to see how this video speaks to our Christian walk using 1 John 2:15-17,
"Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever."

October 23, 2011

Revolution: Maturing in Our Faith 1 John 2:12-14


We are in a message series call Starting a Revolution of Love, and we have been talking about various aspects of how to have authentic relationships that demonstrate love to those around us. Today we are going to look at maturing in our faith...so that this love can become part of who we are.

Today we continue our study by looking at 1 John 2:12-14

I am writing to you, dear children,
   because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.
I am writing to you, fathers,
   because you know him who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young men,
   because you have overcome the evil one.
I write to you, dear children,
   because you know the Father.
I write to you, fathers,
   because you know him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men,
   because you are strong,
   and the word of God lives in you,
   and you have overcome the evil one.

I think everyone of us have had this experience. You are starting a new hobby, activity, or job...and there is this struggle for the first few weeks. You’ve got that newbie smell. It is frustrating because things don’t seem to happen naturally, and everyone else seems to be doing it so easily. You have been doing it for only an hour and you feel like you should quite because you are never going to get the hang of things!

I had this feeling a couple of months ago when Phil Eddy gave me a fly fishing lesson. I looked all cool and calm on the outside...but I was struggling. The movements that Phil made look easy and natural, were tough. You have to hold up your wrist just right, move at the elbow, count one...one thousand, two...one thousand, three...one thousand, and then move your arm forward. My arm didn’t want to work that way.

I felt like I was fumbling the whole thing. I cast that thing a couple hundred times, and only got 1 or 2 good casts out...the problem was that I couldn’t figure out what I did that made it work because it felt the same as all the times before! It was horrible...At least I didn’t tangle the line. I was to fly-fishing what Michael Jordan was to baseball.

In reality, though, I was expecting way too much. This was the first time I had ever picked up a fly-rod, and no matter what I wanted it to be...it wasn’t going to be masterful. I wanted to pick up the rod and within a few minutes be casting like Brad Pitt in the movie A River Runs Through It.
But it was never going to be like that because I was completely new, the movements were new, the whole process was new, and when something is new it takes time...lots of time to get right.

In his book Outliers, Malcom Gladwell cites research that says it take 10,000 hours to become an expert at something. In every area he studied, what determined a person’s expertise was not their initial talent, skill, or anything like that...it was their commitment to getting to 10,000 hours as quickly as possible. Musicians, speakers, computer programmers, whatever...10,000 hours. That is doing something for 24 hours a day for 416 days straight or 40 hours a week for 5 years.

Having a revolutionary love is a lot like this for us. It doesn’t come naturally, and it certainly isn’t easy. We have this set of ideals and standards and definitions for love and what it looks like...and none of them naturally line up with the Bible.

We are bombarded with media and music and movies and cultural influences that tells us love looks like this! Love is self-centered and self-satisfying. It is all about me and my needs being met. It is romantic and always “happily ever after.” He always has the perfect Taylor Lautner abs, puts rose petals all over, and is deeply romantic, and She is always willing...to bring you a sandwich. We all know this isn’t love...but it still works on us and affects our understanding of love.

Then we see the Biblical view of love is radically different...it talks about loving enemies, and sacrificing for others...commitment and covenant...and, as we talked about last week, the fact that if we don’t do good to others then we are actually demonstrating hatred toward them...that’s is a radically different definition of love.

So I’m caught. I think you might be caught too. I really like the Biblical definition of love. There is something about it that rings true...that inspires me to want to live that way...it seems to be the authentic version of what love should and could be...but I also know that I don’t love that way.

And it is here that today’s passage really begins to speak. If we are ever going to live out a Revolutionary love in our world, we have to have a commitment to maturing in our faith. We have to grow in our understanding of what love means biblically and how to live out of that love in our everyday life...and that takes time; lots of time.

Three Stages of Maturity

In this passage John describes three stages of Faith development. Little children, fathers, and young men. These are not meant to be gender exclusive. He simply uses the language he was given which was male dominated. So when we read this we should read: Little children, Fathers and Mothers, and Adulthood.

They are not age specific. John is not talking about groups within certain age ranges. He is talking about stages of growth or maturity in our relationship with Christ. You can have a person who is 20 years old, and because of their commitment to Christ...they are a spiritual adult. You might have someone who is 60 years old, and they would be spiritually, a little child. This is about maturity in the faith...not about years.

They are not time determined. Someone’s maturity level is not determined by how many years they have been in the church; or “saved.” The author of Hebrews writes to a church filled with people who have been in the faith a long time, but have not matured spiritually. They have all the right words, they have put in their time, but they have not matured in their faith.

Hebrews 5:12-14
“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”
They ought to be teachers, the writer says, but really they need a teacher because they have not grown. Instead of meat and solid food...they need milk like an infant.

One Christian author and pastor says, “The curse of the church has always been immature Christians, Christians who never grow up, Christians who cease their progress soon after beginning the Christian life.”

The problem here isn’t spiritual babies acting like spiritual infants in the faith. The problem is someone who has been calling themselves a Christian, they have been “saved,” they have been in church and should be mature...but they aren’t. That is when there is a problem.

Why is this so? Because healthy things grow. Acting like an infant when you are an infant is ok...but acting like an infant when you are 25 or 35 or 45 indicates a developmental issue. It indicates that something is wrong. And just as this indicates a developmental issue in the physical world, when people don’t grow up spiritual it too indicates a developmental issue.

So let’s look at these three stages of development that John outlines for us.

Spiritual Infants
Have you noticed that babies are lazy? They don’t do anything for themselves. And they are rather selfish and cry all the time. They don’t really contribute anything to the family. They are just a noise at one end and a smell at the other end. But that is ok because they are babies. They are just starting out and everything is new to them. They are helpless. And really babies are very cute.

In the spiritual realm we are born all over again. We start out as spiritual infants, and it takes time for us to get things together. We can be pretty selfish. There are a lot of bad behaviors and things from our previous way of life that God has not yet worked out of us...but what a wonderful time. Just as it is an exciting time when a baby is born...so it is exciting when a person is spiritually reborn.

We have low expectations of someone who is a new Christian...they are just getting started and learning what it means to follow Christ. John says, “I am writing to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.” and then later “I write to you, dear children, because you know the Father.”

And those are really the two most important things for a new believer...their sins have been forgiven because of Jesus and they know the Father. If they can get these two things down...they are where they ought to be spiritually...there is a lot more to learn, but they are starting off on the right foot.

And while this stage can be fun...it is easy. We like to be forgiven and know God and revel in this time...but we can not stay here. We have to keep growing or developing.

So the next stage is...

Spiritual Adulthood
John doesn’t write these in order...and there really is no explanation why. But we are going to take them in order of maturity.

The next stage of development is spiritual adulthood. This is the time when you really begin to leave the childish ways behind you. You begin to pick up the responsibilities and demands of adulthood. And granted...this stage can be tough. You are no longer soaking up the resources of the people around you...you are not longer allowed to see things as being all about you...you are asked to begin contributing...those “immature moments” are not looked on as “cute” anymore...when we grow up it is expected that the childish ways are behind us. There comes a point where it is time to grow up.

So it is interesting that John says that one of the signs of this stage of development is that, “you have overcome the evil one.” It is time to stop giving in to sin. There comes a point in our spiritual development when we stop making the same dumb sinful mistakes. We learn to say “NO!” to sin and “Yes!” to righteousness. We grow up.

But we don’t do this all by ourselves. Vs. 14 says that the reason we are strong is because “the word of God lives in you.” Spiritual strength and maturity come from spending time in God’s Word, and when we spend time in God’s Word we are then able to overcome the evil one as John points out.

Right after Jesus’ baptism He is lead into the wilderness to be tempted. And Matthew 4 tells how Satan comes to him and challenges him in three very distinct ways. He challenges Jesus to use His powers to fulfill His own needs by turning rocks into bread to satisfy His hunger. Next Satan challenges Him to test God’s love and concern for Him by throwing himself from the highest corner of the temple and seeing if God would actually rescue him. Finally, Satan test Jesus with a shortcut to having all the world bow at His feet...don’t go through all the pain and agony of the cross when I can just let you have it the easy way.

Most of us are familiar with that story...but do you notice how Jesus fights off Satan’s temptations? He doesn’t run. He doesn’t sit there and cringe and use willpower to ward him off...no He uses Scripture. Every time Satan attacks, Jesus would respond with, “It is written...” Jesus had spent time in the Bible and learned it and made it part of him. And when Satan began using Scripture to continue the temptation...Jesus fought back with a right understanding of Scripture. Satan knows that the best weapon he has for Christians is their own Bible...by getting them to misunderstand what they have read. That’s why John is so concerned with these false teachers that are infiltrating the church.

But do you see that Jesus never resorts to a defense that we are not able to use ourselves? This stage of spiritual development is absolutely vital to our maturity in the faith. This is where we learn to rely on the power of God and find strength in His Word. If we fail at this point...we never mature. This is where we learn to connect to God. John uses the phrase “to abide in” or “to remain in” and that is what we are learning to do.

We are not just talking about knowledge of the Bible though. There are many who have a vast knowledge of the Bible and yet have never matured into spiritual adulthood. They know chapter and verse and can blow other people away with their encyclopedic knowledge of the Bible and their arguments...they have spent years in Bible study and learned so much...but they have missed something very important. John doesn’t say, “you have learned the word of God.” No, John says, “the word of God lives in you.”

Bible knowledge can never replace having the Word of God living and actively at work in our lives. There are many people who the last thing they need is another Bible Study...what they need is to actually do some of the parts they already know. To allow it to live within them.

Moving into Spiritual Adulthood is a vital part of our spiritual walk. If we fail at this crucial time we never mature, and we actually regress. This is why people spend year after year in the church and never grow...it is because they are content with spiritual infancy and never allow the Word of God to become part of them; to live in them.

Even after Spiritual Adulthood, John says there is one more step...

Spiritual Fathers and Mothers
The strength of this level of maturity is that they “know him who is from the beginning.”

Have you ever met someone who has spent years growing closer to God? It is truly like being in the presence of someone who is in the presence of God. There is a peace and strength about them. They are confident of what God can do. They have understand things far beyond their own wisdom or schooling or experience. They “know” God.

That word “know” there is a deep word. It means more than just having a knowledge of something. It represents a knowledge born out of intimacy and connection. It is the same word used throughout the Bible as a euphemism for sexual relations between a man and woman...it reminds people of Genesis 2:24 where the two become one flesh.

There comes a time in our walk with God, if we continue growing, when our knowledge of Him is born out of many, many hours of intimacy and relationship. We have the Bible embedded into us...it lives within us...and we add to that many many hours of experiencing the presence of God. This stage should be the ultimate goal of our spiritual walks because our goal is maturity.

How do we mature in our faith?

The important thing to remember is that we cannot produce growth. You cannot make yourself grow. In the physical world we cannot make ourselves grow. All we can do is put ourselves in a position where growth can happen. We eat the right things, exercise, and work on being healthy. Growing isn’t the point...health is the point. When we are healthy...we grow.

John 15:4-5 reminds us of this by saying,
“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
You never walk by an apple tree and hear it straining to produce apples. As long as the limb remains connected to the trunk of the tree...it will produce apples. Our goal is to remain connected to the Vine...connected to Jesus so that His fruit will be produced in our lives.

So we are looking to put ourselves in a position of spiritual health!

Have you guys heard of that workout craze called P90x? It is insane what they have people do. There are these videos that people use to work out with, and a diet that they follow. Here is the thing...they haven’t done anything new. There is nothing really new in that entire program and yet people are flocking to it and spending millions buying the DVDs. They have just managed to repackage the oldest and most reliable weight loss advice ever...eat less...move more.

Putting ourselves in a place where spiritual growth can happen is not rocket science. It is easy to understand what it takes to be spiritually healthy...the difficulty part is in doing what it takes. Just as people people know what it takes to lose weight but resist...opting for the fad diets because the cheeseburger tastes better and is easier...so we will ignore the tried and true methods of spiritual development and attempt to mature through this or that spiritual revival or church or ministry or program or Bible study.

Here is what I want you to do this morning. I am going to give you 7 Ways that through the centuries have been practices or disciplines that people have used to remain or abide in Christ...they have used them to become spiritually healthy. And as I go through them...I want you to be asking God this question, “What one practice do I need to begin that will help me take my next step toward spiritual health and maturity?”

OK?

1. Read the Bible
We have already talked about this...this is the primary way to stay connected to Christ. If you are not spending time in God’s Word then this should be your primary focus. None of the other spiritual practices will help you much if you don’t  do this one thing.

Ray Stedman writes, “Abiding in the Word. That is the secret of growth. That is what will move him from one stage to another until at last he becomes a father, able to reproduce himself in others. Here, then, is the divinely designed instrument of growth, the Word of God. It is absolutely impossible to grow up as a Christian or as a real man or woman, unless the Word of God abides in you. This is why the devil fights the whole matter of Bible study, the building of your life around the centrality and the authority of the Scriptures. Though the devil cannot stop us from being Christians, he can certainly keep us from becoming strong Christians.”

I believe so strongly in the power of God that that is why I spend the time I do preparing our weekend messages. That is why I require all our leaders to read through the Bible on a regular basis. The primary way we stay connected to the Vine is through God’s Word.

2. Pray
Spend time talking with God. Sitting in His presence...developing a conversational relationship with God.

3. Give of yourself...both tithing, time, and talents.
Throughout the Bible God constantly challenges people to give of themselves. He challenges them to tithe and to minister to others and to use their gifts to bring glory to His name. When we give we are saying that we are dependent upon God to take what we have given and use it to bring glory to His name.

4. Join a small group
It is important to be in fellowship with others. There is a myth that many of us have bought into..it says “God will never give us more than we can handle.” And it is a myth because God regularly allows us to have more than we can handle. And does this for two reasons...so we will depend more and more on him...and so we will depend more and more on others. In the modern Christian church...small groups are the place where we develop relationships and learn to depend on others and learn to love others.

5. Share your faith with others.
There is something about sharing our faith with people around us. I’m not talking about cramming the 4 spiritual laws down their throats or anything like that. Just simply talk about what God is doing in your life. It is really that simple.

6. Spend time worshipping.
We need worship. Everyone of us worships something. The question is whether or not what we worship is really something of ultimate value and worthy of worship. As we focus our eyes on God...the one who is truly worthy...there is something in that act that lifts us and moves us forward.

7. Practice the spiritual disciplines.
Throughout the centuries there have been practices...called Spiritual Disciplines...that people have used to help them connect with Christ. Fasting, silence, solitude, confession and repentance...the list could go on and on. These Disciplines are meant to help us in our journey of faith and require way more time than we have this morning. But I would definitely recommend a book. Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline is the best book I have ever read on this subject. It is worth the 10 or 12 dollars to purchase it.

Conclusion

Ultimately the question isn’t “Can I mature in our faith?” The real question is “Do I really want to mature?” Refusing to do the things that lead to spiritual health will cause us stall out and stop growing. There will be times of rapid spiritual growth and time when that slows...but we come back to ask “Am I where God wants me to be at this time?” That is the sign of maturity. Not how do we compare to this or that person? But Am I where God wants me to be at this moment?

I want to challenge you this week in two main areas:

First, ask yourself, “Do I really want to mature in my faith with Jesus?” Don’t move across this quickly. Spend time praying about this...because God challenges us to step up and move forward when we mature.

Second, carve out a block of time...start with 5 minutes a day if that is all you have, and begin to put into practice time with God.

For more information about Crossroads Vineyard Church in Huber Heights check us out online at www.daytoncrossroads.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/daytoncrossroads

How to Make the Enemy Run

Wish I had time to include this video in my message...but I will post it here.

October 20, 2011

10,000 Hours

How does this video fit into the weekend message? You'll have to wait and see...




We are looking at 1 John 2:12-14
I am writing to you, dear children,
   because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.
I am writing to you, fathers,
   because you know him who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young men,
   because you have overcome the evil one.
I write to you, dear children,
   because you know the Father.
I write to you, fathers,
   because you know him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men,
   because you are strong,
   and the word of God lives in you,
   and you have overcome the evil one.


October 16, 2011

Revolution: Hate 1 John 2:3-11


A couple of weeks ago we started our series called Starting a Revolution of Love, and we have been looking at the book of 1 John. 1 John is a great little book. It only takes about 22 minutes to read all the way through, and if you haven’t read it through yet, I would encourage you to do so.

What you will find is that John is obsessed with how people relate to God and to each other in the church...specifically that they love each other. He uses the word “love” 36X in this little book...more than any other book of the Bible.

John is probably 90 years old by the time he writes this book, and is living in exile on the small island of Patmos. He writes this letter because some false teachers are causing a stir in the church where he was pastor in Ephesus. They condoning an early form of the heresy called Gnosticism. This was the belief that there were normal Christians, and then there were those with special knowledge. That’s where the word Gnosis in Gnosticism comes from...it means “knowledge.”

Many in John’s church were beginning to doubt whether they were doing the right thing. They were confused. They heard John’s message about Jesus. They thought they had everything right, but now, they were beginning to doubt because of these men.

These false teachers believed in a philosophical doctrine called dualism. This is the belief that the material world and the spiritual world are two separate and at odds with each other. The material world is evil and only the spirit could be holy. So this led many of them to be antinomian or “against law.” They believed that as long as they had the right knowledge they were saved so their bodies could do whatever it wanted. Because the spirit is all that matters.

Their walk didn’t match up with their talk.

I suspect that a major part of this was their refusal to love certain people in the community of faith. That really seems to be a major part of what John is talking about. He emphasizes that as God’s light shines in our lives we are cleansed from sin, and through confession we are freed to have genuine, open, honest, loving relationships with others.

But John has to keep coming back to this idea of loving others...it seems to be a problem.

I don’t really get it because we all know that Christians get along so well; right? No. Relationships are tough. They are tough enough with acquaintances, but when you add a close proximity they get even tougher. Have you ever noticed that the biggest fights we have are with the people closest to us? They are always with family, close friends, people we spend a lot of time with.

For those living in the First Century, the church, the community, the Koinonia or fellowship had to become their family because to accept the message of Jesus meant rejection by one’s own family. So this group we call church is meant to be like a family.

Did anyone else grow up in a church where people called each other Brother or Sister? It was meant to represent that when we become part of the community of faith we are part of God’s family. And like it or not, families fight. I always say, “Family, you can’t live with them, and you can’t bury them in your backyard.” I’m joking, mostly. It would ruin the grass. And you would run out of room.

So we have this church that is struggling with doubt, dealing with false teachers, and beginning to bicker amongst themselves...so we come to today’s passage.

Let’s read 1 John 2:3-11,

3 We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. 4 Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. 5 But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: 6 Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.

7 Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. 8 Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.

9 Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. 10 Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. 11 But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.

John is building a case in this passage.

1. Walking in truth (light) means to be obedient to Christ’s commands.
2. Christ’s command is to love one another.
3. Failure to love is hate.

Let’s look at the first two things real quick and then focus on John’s third and final point and what this all means for us.

Walking in truth (light) means to be obedient to Christ’s commands.

Last week we read, “if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”

The way to know if you are walking in the light is to test your actions...are you doing the commands of Christ?

The minute we start talking about “doing” something is the minute someone wants to pull the card that says, “You are talking about works, and you can’t earn your salvation by doing anything!” They are right. You can’t earn your salvation. Nothing you do can earn your salvation. But they are playing the wrong card at the wrong time. It is like laying down the King of Spades in the middle of an Uno game...you are playing with the wrong deck of cards. We are not talking about earning anything...we are talking about what characterizes someone who has been saved.

For John, a person knows they are saved if they are obeying Christ’s commands.

Here is the difference. Earning your salvation means “I do Christ’s commands, therefore God owes me salvation and heaven!” John is saying, “We are saved, therefore we do Christ’s commands!” See the difference? It so small but so huge at the same time.

This is really a heart issue because two people can be doing the same exact thing and one of them is attempting to earn their salvation and the other living out of response to God’s salvation. It is Jeremiah 31:33, “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.” This is an obedience that comes from a transformed heart...not an obedience done to earn something.

v.3 Says, “We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands.” This is a love that expresses itself in action...John is really talking about assurance...knowing that you know that you are saved. Those who are trying to earn their salvation never really know whether they are saved...I hope I’m ok. I mean I serve the poor and hurting. I tell people about Jesus. I go to church every Sunday. I don’t know, know. But I do a lot of good.

John is saying, You can know that you know that you know...because out of your heart you are doing Christ’s command. He knows that we will not get it perfect. We talked about that last week...that is why confession is so important. So it isn’t getting everything right all the time. But our actions demonstrate that we are growing ever closer to God.

I meet people all the time that tell me how much they believe in Jesus and are looking forward to heaven...then you find out they are getting drunk all the time or they are stealing from their job or they are doing all this stuff that you know Christians are meant to move aways from. And it isn’t that they are “sinning” its that they feel no compulsion to stop...there is no desire to live as Christ wants them to live. Their stated belief in Christ does not show up in their lives.

And don’t think these are people just outside the church. They said that prayer however many years ago, and yet they are fine with their prejudices, and pride, and lack of love for others, and self-centered religiosity, and they feel no compulsion to try to live as Christ wants them to live. Their stated belief in Christ does not show up in their lives.

Walking in the truth, walking in the light of God, means that we are learning more and more to be obedient to Christ’s commands. In John’s words, “But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them.” God moves to save us, we respond with obedience, and then God is able to finish His work in us...He is able bring His love to completion within us. Because out ultimate goal is live Christlike lives.

The key command is Christ’s command is to love one another.

For John, the command to love the neighbor had been a new command...he heard it live when Jesus spoke it. And I can imagine that as he wrote this book to the Church in Ephesus that he could hear Jesus’ voice speaking it to him all over again.

So John writes, “Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.”

This command is an old command, but it was new to John 70 years before he wrote this as he listened to Jesus. And John is writing to a whole new generation of believers...so while the command to love one’s neighbor is old...it must be declared all over again for a new generation. This command that is more than 2,000 years old must be made new for each generation.

Jesus did something no one had ever done before. He took Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18 and put them together.

Deuteronomy 6:5 says, “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”

Leviticus 19:18 says, “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.”

So as John is writing this new generation of believers to remind them we are called to love God, but we are also called to love our neighbors...this is the command of Christ that encompasses all the other commands. We get these two right...we get them all right.

This requires two very important things, which we talked about last week, and John reminds them of very quickly again... “Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble.”

There is that connection between confession and fellowship.

We talked last week about the word John uses which we translate as “fellowship.” The word koinonia was so much more than just hanging out...it was a community of people who knew each other at their best and worst and loved them anyway...they were committed to them...loyal to them.

And within this fellowship confession to God and one another are big parts of making the community function as Christ intended. That is why the Matthew 18 principle was meant to work so well.  Matthew 18 tells us that when we have issues with someone, we are to go to them and talk to them about their offence. If that doesn’t do it, then we take two or three others as witness and judges to evaluate and make recommendations. If that doesn’t correct the situation, the one in the wrong is asked to leave the community because their refusal to confess and change direction disrupts the entire fellowship.

This is a community built on loving each other and confessing so that we can live in the light together...and move on to growth in Christlikeness.

Our next point is where we need to spend the majority of our energy this morning...

Failure to love is hate.

Hate seems like such a harsh word...how many of us really hate someone? There are people that we dislike extremely. We like everybody else a whole lot better, but hate?

I mean we throw that word around, I hate that restaurant...I hate that football team (Michigan)...I hate this or that...The closest we come is when someone hurts, angers, or wrongs us in some way. There is an anger and pain that comes with that, and we experience a form of hatred. We can’t see them or even hear their name mentioned without this intense feeling welling up inside of us.

Modern brain research tells us that love and hate are located in the same region of our brains...but the brain activity lasts longer when hatred is experienced than when love is experienced.

Philosophers have recognized the power of hatred for a long time.

Aristotle defined hatred as “A dislike for someone based on our negative perception of that person’s nature that is so intense that whoever feels it wants to cause real harm to another.”

I think the Apostle John would agree with Aristotle...in a way. John would definitely say that hatred is seen in our wanting to do harm to another person. But John goes a step further...and this is where it gets touchy for you and me...This is where God has to step in and transform our common notions of love and hate.

John believes that not doing good to [not loving] others is doing harm to them...and therefore hate.

Did you get that? If I see someone and do not do good to them, then I am demonstrating hatred toward them.

For most of us, we believe Aristotle’s definition and live out of it every single day. I don’t like that person so I will not even go around them. I don’t want to be near them, hear them...they are as good as dead to me. We are not actively seeking to harm...we just ignore them. We are cold toward them, ignoring them, acting like they don’t exist. Therefore we don’t really hate them.

There are some who do actively seek to harm those they hate...we have seen the power of homophobia, racial prejudice, sexism, bullying...the list could on and on of people who out of hatred...out of their perception of a person’s nature...seek to do them harm.

But for most of us we express our hatred in a calm, neglect of the person.

But John reminds us that not doing good to others is the same as doing harm to them. When we refuse to do good for others...we are doing them harm. When we refuse to love others...meet the needs of others...help the hurting of others...we are doing harm, and we are demonstrating hatred toward them.

And when hatred creeps into our lives...the darkness surrounds us so that we “don’t know where we are going, because the darkness has blinded us.”

As I prepared for this message, I was reminded of the classic Pink Floyd song “On the Turning Away.” If you haven’t heard it...you have to. I posted it up on my blog earlier this week. They get what John is saying...that a failure to do good...that a failure to love...that a failure to care...that when we turn away from the pain and hurt of others...we are hating them.

Now that is tough...isn’t it? I am content to just not be near them. To ignore them. I thought I was fine doing that.

But we are called to be a community that does not turn away from others.

As a church, that is why we believe so strongly in serving and caring and loving our community...we want to demonstrate love to our neighbor. It must be in our DNA as a church to care. Which means it has to be in my DNA...my values...to not turn away from the pain of others.

And this should not just be something we practice just to those on the outside...this is an inward thing too. It starts with us loving those in the seat next to us...across the room from us...we need to love and demonstrate that love in practical ways.

What a powerful reminder from John...when we refuse to show love to someone God has placed in our path or put us in community with we are actually hating them. That’s tough because I would rather ignore those I don’t like.

So how do we do this?

  • We do like the flyers says...We must accept people as they are and love them. People don’t need to clean up to come to church. They don’t need to have everything right before God will accept them. They just have to come to Him. We need to create safe places where people can openly talk about their doubts and fears and sins and find forgiveness and healing. We must be a place with a come as you are you’ll be loved philosophy. We must be people who are safe to talk to.
  • We must be a place of Gospel-centered community. We are all part of various communities that have nothing to do with the Gospel. We have knitting groups, bowling leagues, golfing buddies, jobs...all kinds of communities. As a church we are different...we must provide a place where people are welcomed and accepted, but where the Gospel begins to work in each person’s life transforming them into living more and more Christlike lives. This happens best in community. This happens as we grow together, challenge each other, pray for and with each other, and allow people to stumble and love them anyway. This is why we are working so hard to get some new small groups up and running in the next few weeks.

    We need to be places where people can share their hurts and pains and know that the people in the group with them are going to love them and care for them no matter what.
  • We must serve others. As a church we serve both inside and outside of the church. Every Sunday morning between 4-8 people show up to get everything out of here and get the chairs set up, the sound system running, and the coffee brewing so that we can have church. We have teachers who love and care for our children while we worship and hear God’s Word. We need people to serve in these areas so that the Crossroads Vineyard can function. We need more people to sign up to serve.

    We also serve outside the walls of the church. Yesterday we served more than 100 families in the Huber Heights area with food. We are having a prayer training event next Saturday at the local library to help us know how to pray for other when we are serving. We will be giving away Halloween candy, and Thanksgiving Dinners, and we are working on finding a family or two to adopt at Christmas. I believe the church has holed up behind the walls for too long.


But all of this needs to spill over into our lives. We have families and jobs and neighbors and a world around us that needs us to serve and love them as we go about our regular, average days...and not just when we are part of a church outreach.

So we have these three powerful reminders:

1. Walking in truth (light) means we are obedient to Christ’s commands.
2. Christ’s command is to love one another.
3. Failure to show love to our neighbor is showing hatred.

This morning I want to invite you to think about the person you have been ignoring out of dislike. You haven’t worked to do them harm...you have just been ignoring them.

Now, confess that hatred to God. That’s what it is so let’s call it that.

Now, this week, find some way to begin demonstrating love to them in a practical way. Send them a card. Write them an email. Do something tangible and practical.

Some may say, I don’t know of anybody. I try not to turn away. There isn’t anyone I feel ill will for and there is no one I can think of that I am ignoring because I don’t like them. That’s great. Then you can just store this message away for another day...because we will all need to deal with this at some time.

For more information about Crossroads Vineyard Church in Huber Heights check us out online at www.daytoncrossroads.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/daytoncrossroads

October 14, 2011

Using Pink Floyd to Interpret Scripture

What do these two have in common? We will talk about it this weekend.

1 John 2:3-11
We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God[a] is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.

Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.

Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.






October 10, 2011

Revolution: Light and Confession 1 John 1:5-2:2


The message series we are in is called Revolution of Love, and we are looking at 1 John. We said that 1 John is really a book about love...John uses the word love 36x. That is more than any other book in the Bible. So in 5 chapters and 22 minutes of reading...you have read the word love more times than you would if you read any other book in the Bible.

And so today we jump right in and begin exploring our next passage. Let’s read this together.

1 John 1:5-2:2
“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”
John begins his discussion by focusing on the character of God...“God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” It is interesting that John uses the word light to describe God.

Light

Light is very important to our lives..and it is really cool to study. I posted a video introduction of light on my blog yesterday you should check out. Did you know that light exerts force on things? It is very small, but if you took 30million laser pointers and aimed them at a penny...the penny would move!

Light is also bendable. Gravity can bend light as it passes around a plant or star or black hole. We know this thanks Albert Einstein.

It has always been thought that the speed of light was constant...at 186,282 miles per second. That means that is takes about 2 seconds for light to travel from the Moon to Earth. But a little while back some scientists were able to slow the speed of light down to 38 miles per hour by forcing it to pass through a special form of matter at a super-cold temperature.

There are a lot more really cool things science is still teaching us about light. We could spend a long time talking about light and it’s properties, but if we have a 1st grade level science knowledge of light we will be just fine.

Light is a scientific thing, but as a spiritual, philosophical, literary metaphor it has been around for a long time. It ranks up there with love and hate, good and evil...this metaphor of light and darkness has been around.

It is has been around a long time because the metaphor and the connections it makes for us helps us take something very complex and put handles on it so we can understand it.

When John says, “God is light” he is making a statement about God’s character that we can learn by looking at the commonly recognized properties of light.

Light dispels darkness.
All we have to do is turn on a switch and instantly electricity pushes through the wires, heats the element in the bulb, or in this case electrifies a gas trapped in the glass tube, and we have light. And when light enters the room...darkness goes away. John didn’t have electric light. He had oil lamps and daylight, but it was still the same application. When light entered darkness was dispelled.

So John uses this very simple concept to point out that when God enters a situation darkness must flee. God’s character is light...so wherever He goes...light goes with him, and there will be no darkness. They cannot exist together.

Light also reveals things hidden by darkness.
Light, even a little bit of light reveals things hidden in the darkness. If you take a small pen light or use your cell phone screen you can see a lot stuff. If you take a Million Candle Power flashlight...you can see a lot more.

So when God enters a situation hidden things are revealed. For those who have pursued the Christian life...you know that God continually shines a searching light into your life and you are confronted with sin and problems on a regular basis that you either handle through Him or refuse to handle and cease to be part of the light.

Light also gives life.
Have you noticed that stuff doesn’t grow unless it receives the proper amount of light? Our moods also change if we stay inside too much or there are too many consecutive cloudy days? That’s because light has a life giving quality to it. It is built in to the system of living things. We need light.

So when God enters a situation...He brings life. There should be an aliveness in us that is not seen in others.

These properties of life...dispelling darkness, revealing hidden things, and the giving of life are all part of this light and darkness metaphor that John is tapping into when he says, “God is light...”

When God enters a situation darkness is dispelled, hidden things are revealed, and life is made available. When God enters our life our darkness is dispelled, hidden things are revealed, and life is made available to us.

The Church John is writing to is dealing with an early heretical teaching called Antinomianism. That mean “Against Law.” This was the belief that our spirits operate separately from our bodies. They believed that as long as your spirit was right with God it didn’t matter what you did your body. So you had people claiming to be followers of God...claiming to be Christian...but their lives were sinful.

So as John as writing to this church he challenges them on this point...“If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth.” Because those who are followers of Jesus will walk in the light.

This isn’t the first time John has used the metaphor of light and darkness. He also uses it in his Gospel.

John 3:19-21 he says, “Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.”

Genesis 3

And I think this leads us to see where problems begin to show up. Thanks to Adam and Eve and the actions of Genesis 3 we are all born separated from God. We have this sin nature in us that loves darkness and rejects or hides from the light.

And it shows up especially in our relationships. But sin interrupts this call to love that John spends the majority of his writing discussing. Sin is first and foremost a relational problem. And light is meant to help, but we love darkness. When light enters our first reaction is to run and hide. We feel shame, guilt, fear. We tell ourselves that we are protecting ourselves, but the problem is deeper than that.

After the sin in the Garden, the Bible tells us that Adam and Eve  realized they were naked and felt ashamed. So they made and wore clothes made of fig leaves to hide their nakedness...I have never tried to sew together some leaves to make clothes, but I’m sure it wasn’t that effective. Their innocence, their vulnerability with each other, their openness...was gone!

Sin brought this shame, and desire to hide things. There was a fear of the other that wasn’t part of God’s original plan. And that same fear and shame and darkness clouds up our relationship even today.

Later when God returns to the Garden for His evening walk with Adam and Eve, they hide. They are filled with shame and guilt. And God calls out the question “Where are you?” God doesn’t need them to tell Him where they are hiding. God is the worst person in the world in the world to play hide-n-seek with...He knows where you are located.

No, God is asking Adam where are you at...here? What have you done?

And then Adam begins a series of denials and explanations and feeble attempts to cover up what he has done...attempts as feeble as trying to make clothing out of fig leaves....attempts that like all our attempts to cover or conceal, or deal with our sins ultimately fail...just like clothing made of leaves.

When God enters our lives He wants us to expose and name our sin...not so we can stay guilty...not to condemn us and make sure we know we have done wrong. His intention is to clean it up and get rid of it. Just like light...He want to chase the darkness away from our lives.

God is light and those who want to have genuine relationship with Him and with others must walk in the light...not in darkness. Just like Adam and Eve our sin stands in the way of real relationships. Relationship with God and relationship with those around us.

John uses the word “fellowship” rather than relationship. That word used there for fellowship is a great word. It is the Greek word Koinonia. It represents a friendship that has intimacy, closeness, comfort, honesty, openness. It is a word that is supposed to describe our relationship with God and with those around us in the our local faith community, but often doesn’t

When we allow God’s light to really shine into our life...darkness flees, sin is revealed, and life begins...But my first reaction is to hide...to feel shame and guilt...to run away. I don’t want to be exposed. I don’t want others to know some things about me. I don’t naturally want to be in the light. We don’t want to be in the light.

When Bri was about 4 years old, she was very eager to help and do things on her own. One night we were sitting in our living room and she asked if she could have a piece of cheese.  Lori asked if she would get her one as well.

This simple task should only take a minute or less, but we realized that we hadn’t seen her for a little while. When we walked into the kitchen she is standing in the refrigerator door eating a piece of cheese. So Lori asked, “Where is my cheese?” And Brianna held up the cheese with the bite out of it and said, “Here it is!”

Lori said, “But you took a bite out of it!”

“No I didn’t,” Bri responded. “Yes you did!” “No, I didn’t it was like that!”

And for the next half hour Bri continued to deny she had taken the bite out of the cheese. So like any good father, I thought, I need to get the video camera. I taped the entire denial. What made this even funnier is that throughout the whole ordeal she had this little piece of cheese hanging right in the corner of her mouth.

She had been caught. She knew she was caught. And, while there were no real consequences for her being caught, she felt shame and guilt and immediately went to denying everything...and it created tension in our relationship.

We are often like the obstinate child who God keeps saying, “Look you ate the cheese. I can see a piece of cheese hanging on the corner of your lips. I even have video!” and we keep saying, “I didn’t eat the cheese.”

We hold on to our sin and our darkness like Gollum holding on to the ring...and it eats at us. Just as it ate at him throughout the Lord of the Ring movies. His sin kept him from having real fellowship with those around him, and our sin will do the same thing.

Maybe we are afraid...Because real fellowship requires vulnerability. It requires more honesty about ourselves than we are often willing to give. We know that people can and will take advantage of our weaknesses and sins and use it against us when we are open and transparent. God may not be as loving and forgiving as we hope.

Maybe it’s pride...Maybe we think we will do a better job running our lives...I think it is a number of things that converge to make us want the darkness more than the light.

Unless we do something about our sin it stands in the way of real fellowship. It will keep us from having fellowship with God and will derail our ability to have fellowship with others.

So what is the answer? How do we allow the light to enter our world and dispel and reveal and give life?

Confession

That is John’s answer. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

The word confession has received a bad rap because of our legal system...but it does have it’s roots in a legal system. The word there is homologeo and means “to say the same thing” or “to be in agreement with.”

When we confess, we say to God or the other person, you are right...that’s me. I have an issue with that. I recognize that you are right.

We agree with what God or the other person is saying, and we are not left there...just confessing. We are forgiven and purified. That means that God will forgive the sin and then work to get it out of our lives. This is an ongoing thing. It isn’t a one and done thing.

John says, “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.”

He writes this because he recognizes that we live in a world that does not function the way God intends. Even at our best, we will sin. The answer is to make confession an ongoing, regular practice in our lives. To be ready at any moment to recognize, accept, and repent of our wrong doing.

And we have to practice it regularly...because we are afraid...because we like to hide. That’s why Jesus includes it in the prayer in Matthew 6...because we need to practice confession regularly. We are filled with shame and guilt when people discover those things about us. When we do something stupid we know we shouldn’t have done. So we start assembling our shoddy clothing of fig leaves to cover our nakedness.

That wasn’t me...someone hacked my twitter account...if you only knew my situation...we sew all our excuses together in an attempt to hide our nakedness and shame before others.

But it doesn’t work...and what works seems like the most idiotic, counter-intuitive thing ever...confessing, owning up, and being transparent and honest in our relationships. Have God’s light shine in every corner of our lives.

Proverbs 28:13 says, “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” We must be willing to say, “I’m sorry. I missed the mark.”

The church throughout history hasn’t done this very well...we haven’t walked the line that says, We must walk in God’s light and live a holy life on this side and says, We are fallen, broken, and in need of confession and repentance over here.

We have emphasized God’s holiness and His call to live a godly life in such a way that we can’t actually do it so we cover up our shame and guilt when we fail.

Or we so minimize God’s holiness and his call to live a godly life because we know we are going to fail...that we make the Christian faith a wishy-washy joke or another form of antinomianism.

John says, “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”

He recognizes that God’s call is to live a sinless life...but He knows that as things stand we live in a fallen world. There is a tension there. Even if we spend every moment trying to hear God’s voice...there will be times when we get it wrong and need to confess. But we are not doing it alone...we are not left to manage things under own power...trying to cover our shame with clothing of leaves...No, we have Jesus. The one and only perfect sacrifice that is able to remove that sinfulness from our lives.

Conclusion

So what does this look like?

It means as Jesus’ followers we learn to acknowledge God’s call for us to live holy lives...but we remain humble and transparent enough to acknowledge that we often fall short.

It means we confess on a regular basis. We become people who acknowledge our sins. We call them out. We don’t hide them. It is dangerous and painful and messy to be a church that says we will confess our sins and move more and more into God’s light. But we learn to trust those around us.

This is why small groups are so important. We are currently working to develop more small groups because we need places where we can confess, find love and forgiveness and live in authentic relationships with others. You won’t find deep relationships if you just attend on a Sunday morning...no, we have to get with other people so that relationships can develop.

This morning we are invited to confess. We have sin in our lives that needs to be confessed. We aren’t hiding anything from God he already knows. God is light, and the more His light shines into our lives, the more our darkness is dispelled...our sins revealed...and life made available to us.

It is time for some of us to drop the masks and allow people to come in. We have been holding people at arms length...not allowing them to get close. Not allowing real relationship...real koinonia to develop.

For others we need to drop some false level of expectation of those around us...and allow them to confess their sin and allow God’s light to shine in their lives. We have put some false level of expectation on them...they shouldn’t do such and such...they are not what God is concerned about when He is talking to you or to me. God will work with them.

Some of us need to buck the fear and hurt of past relationships and risk, once again, allowing others to get close.

But It all starts with confession. Being willing to name our sinfulness to God, and allow His light to shine in on us because if we don’t our unconfessed sin will stand in the way of real fellowship with God and fellowship with others.
For more information about Crossroads Vineyard Church in Huber Heights check us out online at www.daytoncrossroads.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/daytoncrossroads

October 8, 2011

Light


1 John 1:5-7
"This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin."


October 3, 2011

Revolution: From Son of Thunder to Apostle of Love


This morning we are starting our new series titled Revolution. We will be looking at the book of 1 John, and what God’s revolutionary love can do in our lives. I thought it would be good to start our series off with a look at the Apostle John...after all, knowing something about the author and their life helps us understand what they have written.

A few years ago I read the book On Writing by Stephen King. In it he talks about writing and what that life looks like and gives some great thoughts on writing...but even better were the stories he told of how he comes up with his ideas. I mean he has some weird ideas in his books...so it was interesting to see how some very normal things were combined to make these novels that he writes.

In the same way, John’s experiences and life story will help us better understand the message of 1 John. It will give us insight into why he says what he does, and what it means. So we will be bouncing between a few different places this morning. We will be looking at the Gospel of John, the letter of 1 John, and the book Acts.

Biography of John
Ready? Here we go.

The book of 1 John was written by John the Disciple of Jesus. John is an interesting guy who often gets overlooked, as do most of the disciples because of Peter. Peter was the one with the big mouth who goes on to be the most recognized leader of the early church. But John has an equally interesting story to tell..

We first meet John in the Gospels. Matthew, Mark, and Luke tell how John and his older brother James were fishermen working in Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee. They worked alongside their father Zebedee and their business partners Peter and Andrew.

Fishing as a vocation is a difficult job. It is backbreaking and dangerous. It isn’t a very glamorous job...you work hard all night long, and then in the morning you sell your fish in the market, repair your nets, prepare you boats, and then try to get some sleep before going out again the next night. Not to mention that you smell like fish all the time.

But one day these fishermen have a life changing encounter with Jesus. Jesus is walking by the Sea of Galilee, and notices Peter, Andrew, James, and John in their boats. They have been out all night fishing. They are exhausted. They have nets to repair and fish to get to market so they can be paid for their nights work. I don’t know about you, but I’ve worked third shift, and the last thing I want to do in the morning following an all night shift is have something disrupt me on my way to bed.

But Jesus walks up to them and simply says, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men!” There must have been something in that moment that cannot be conveyed with the written word, something that explains what would cause these men to drop everything they are doing...leave their job and family behind...and follow Jesus. But John did...he left everything. The Bible says that he and James left their father sitting there in the boat and followed Jesus.

John was chosen as one of the original 12 disciples of Jesus and spent three years with Him. Everywhere that Jesus went, John went too. And over time, John became one of the inner three disciples. This was a smaller group of disciples who were closer to Jesus and saw some wonderful things the other disciples didn’t get to see or experience.

One story tells of how John along with Peter and his brother James went with Jesus up this mountain, and while they were praying Moses and Elijah appeared. Jesus was standing there in the midst talking with them. Peter was so blown away by what he saw that he wanted to build three temples on the mountain and stay there forever! No one else got to see that, but John did!

Mark 5 tells us about a man named Jairus who came to Jesus asking him to heal his daughter. By the time they got to the house, the child had died. Jesus took John, Peter, and James into the room with Him, and they witnessed Jairus’ daughter raised from the dead. No one else got to see that!

While Jesus was on the cross, He gave John the responsibility of caring for His mother...a fact that made such an impression on him he included it in his Gospel (John 19:26-27).

John started and led many churches. He wrote 5 books in the New Testament, second only to Paul. He was persecuted for his faith (some traditions say even being tortured with boiling oil!), and was eventually exiled to live alone on the island of Patmos.

In fact, 1 John was written when John was an old man living out his last days in exile. Word had come to him about some false teachers that were trying to sway members of his church and lead them away from Jesus. But even while writing against all of this false teaching, John maintains a great sense of humility and love.

He was known for his great humility and was called the Apostle of Love. In the Gospel of John...the Gospel he wrote...he never once mentions his own name. He simply refers to himself as “the one Jesus loved.” He refuses to mention his own name.

In his Gospel he uses the word love 26x almost more than the other Gospels combined, and he uses it 36x in the small book of 1 John...more than any other book in the Bible!

People knew John for his love and his humility, but he wasn’t always known for his humility much-less known as the Apostle of Love.

What’s in a name?

Jews of the first century took naming their children very seriously...they felt it identified a person’s destiny. Some names were given to call something out of that person...to pull them toward a destiny...to call them to something bigger out of them...Peter is a good example of this.

When Jesus met Peter in the Gospel of John chapter 1 He renames him. John 1:42 says, “Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter.)” If you know any of the stories about Peter you know he was not a rock. He talks without thinking, he is impulsive, he has flashes of brilliance mixed with utter stupidity, and, after three years of being with Jesus, when he is faced with accusation by a slave girl...he denies even knowing Jesus. Not just once, but three times denies Jesus...that doesn’t sound like a Rock

But Jesus saw his destiny. He saw what Peter could and would be...so he renamed him. Peter would eventually become the rock the early church needed. He stood before the crowd in Acts 2 and said, “You killed the Messiah! But you can still follow Him.” He stood before the Jewish Leaders and denounced them for killing Jesus. He led the church through the tough waters of its beginning; convincing the other leaders that they could allow Gentiles into the Church. He was eventually martyred for his faith in Jesus by being crucified upside down...Peter became the rock that Jesus always knew he could be.

Sometimes, though, people were given names to call attention to something in them...to name a character traits...sometimes even a flaw. You and I know that sometimes our biggest gifting...our biggest positive trait, if used wrongly, can be our biggest flaw.

People who love and serve others can become enablers.
People who are leaders can become bossy and demanding.
People who are funny and have a great sense of humor can become obnoxious and hurtful.

Our biggest positive traits, if used wrongly can be our biggest flaw.

In the Gospel of Mark chapter 3, Jesus is naming those who will be the 12 disciples. In verse 17, as part of the list, it says, “James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means “sons of thunder”)...” Jesus calls James and John, “The Sons of Thunder!”

Sounds like a tag team wrestling duo from the WWF! Doesn’t it? Now making their way to the ring...James and John “The Sons of Thunder!” They would have a special move off the top rope called the The Thunder Bolt! I don’t know...

Sons of Thunder! It meant their character, their personality was one of fiery zeal. They were passionate about the things they love. But sometimes their fiery zeal came with destructive consequences.

Fiery Zeal
In Luke 9 there are two stories, right in a row, that highlight John’s fiery zeal.

The first story tells of a man, who is not one of the 12 disciples, casting out demons. John sees this man who is not part of the “in” group, so he goes to Jesus.

Luke 9:49-50 says, “Master,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.” “Do not stop him,” Jesus said, “for whoever is not against you is for you.”

John sees someone not given status as one of the 12 disciple doing something he thinks should be reserved for only the 12 disciples to do, and he wants to go put an end to that nonsense. But Jesus stops him.

The second story follows right after, and shows even more of that fiery zeal...

In Luke 9:51-56, Jesus is heading toward Jerusalem where He will be crucified. On the way there, Jesus and the disciples are getting ready to pass through a Samaritan town, but it is late and they need something to eat and a place to spend the night.

Now in order to understand this story you need to know that Jews and Samaritans hated each other. Each thought the other was worthless and each believe the other was doomed to hell for their religious beliefs. Things became way more intense when Jews started passing through Samaritan country on their way to Jerusalem for the Passover. In fact, most Jews would travel many miles out of their way to avoid even going through a Samaritan town.

Not Jesus. It was like He went looking for this stuff.

So he sends messengers ahead into the Samaritan town to make the preparations for him and his disciples. But the Samaritans weren’t having anything to do with a Jewish traveler headed to Jerusalem. They refused, and this angered John.

In verse 54 it says, “When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?”

That is fiery zeal right there! What do you mean they won’t let us eat in their town...Lord, can I call down fire from heaven to destroy them? Please, please please?

There is one last story about James and John that once again show their ambitious zeal to elevate themselves above the others. A complete lack of humility. This time in Mark 10:35-45.

James and John come to Jesus, on the sly, of course, and ask Him to let them to sit on His right and left hand when He takes the throne of His Kingdom. These are positions of power. In this culture, those sitting on the right and left hand of the King were rulers, they were important...they were more important than anyone else in the Kingdom. Have you ever heard the phrase, “Right-hand man”? That is where this comes from.

James and John, with astounding boldness, are asking to be elevated above the other disciples...to be made more important. And when the other disciples hear of this they become angry! So Jesus has to redefine what leadership and authority look like for those who follow Him.

None of these stories seem to indicate that John was known for humility muchless worthy of the title Apostle of Love! He was ambitious and angry and arrogant and judgmental. He wanted to destroy an entire village simply because they would allow them to sleep there! He wanted to be a ruler in the Kingdom of God above the other disciples.

He wasn’t worthy of the title Apostle of Love, and yet, history time and again demonstrates that something changed in John’s life. Somehow, though, by the end of his life John had become known for his humility and known as the Apostle of Love.

What would cause John to go from calling down fire on a village to calling the church to love their neighbors?

What would cause John to go from ambitious glory-grabbing self-promotion to putting others first?

What happened that turned him from being a Son of Thunder into the Apostle of Love?

Jesus

Jesus is what happened to John

He encountered Jesus. He heard Jesus. He knew and lived with and befriended Jesus, and this encounter with Jesus made such an impact on him he was changed.

And not just the pre-crucifixion Jesus. No, John encountered the living, breathing, resurrected Jesus. He saw Jesus crucified and buried, and, like the other disciples, saw something he never expected...He saw Jesus raised from the dead. And it was this encounter with Jesus that changed everything for John.

In fact both his Gospel and 1 John begin with a similar sentiment.

John 1:14 says, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

John emphasizes that he saw Jesus; the Son full of grace and truth. He encountered Jesus. It wasn’t a figment of his imagination. He wasn’t hallucinating. It wasn’t some sort of apparition. Jesus was real. He saw Him, heard Him, and was with Him.

There were some false teachings circulating in the churches John is writing to that said, anything that is made of flesh is evil and condemned therefore Jesus wasn’t really human. He only appeared to be human.

And John says No way, Jesus was real. He was in the flesh. I saw Him. I touched Him. I heard Him. And if you saw what I saw you would know! Jesus was God in the flesh. That encounter changed me.

Again in the letter of 1 John 1:1-3, it says, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.”

This encounter with Jesus convinced John that there was something more powerful than hate and anger and ambition...there was something that could change a person deep inside. I don’t think John ever lost his fiery zeal...he was always a Son of Thunder, but it was redirected. John had seen and heard and lived with Jesus and that experience changed him from being the angry ambitious power grabber to being the Apostle of Love.

In this passage John uses some lofty terms to refer to Jesus. He says that Jesus is “that which was from the beginning...” He calls Jesus “...the Word of Life” and “the life” He says that Jesus was no ordinary human being He was “with the Father.”

And then he makes this bold claim, “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” The reason John tells this over and over again is so we can have fellowship with God and take part in this “life” this “eternal life” which he is talking about through Jesus Christ. John had experienced new life in Jesus, and wanted others to have that too.

When we hear the phrase “eternal life” we often think of living forever and ever. We think of the person who asks, “Do you have eternal life?” And then tells us how we can get to heaven when we die...But there is more to it than just where we spend eternity.

The biblical writers were not just concerned with the afterlife...they were concerned with the life we have to live day-in-and-day-out. They knew that unless the Gospel made a difference in this life...unless the Gospel of Jesus Christ made a difference here and now it was worthless. So that phrase “eternal life” means more than just where we spend eternity. It means that we can take part in a life...in THE life...a life of the ages...when we encounter Jesus in this life.

John knew that if others would encounter the presence of Jesus like he did that it would change them too! It would give them meaning and purpose and direction. He was a fisherman...now he was part of the mission of God. He was the Son of Thunder...now he was the Apostle of Love.

Like John
Many of us are like John. We have been given a name that maybe we deserve, but we don’t want it. We have done some wrong in our lives. We have sinned. We have failed. But we don’t want that to define us...we don’t want that to be how we are remembered.

John didn’t want to be remembered as the Son of Thunder calling down fire from heaven to destroy a village. He realized that God had a better way for him to live. A way that was so good John referred to it as life. Later in 1 John 1 he says it is like a ray of light pushing the darkness out of his life.

Maybe you are like John and have been given a name you don’t want. And like John...the way out for us is to encounter Jesus and experience a revolution of love in our lives. John encountered the love of God in Jesus Christ, and we need to encounter it too.

For some that is difficult. Some of us come from backgrounds where God was angry at our sin and the pastor made sure we knew that He was angry. And we have to get over the false belief that we are some how unworthy or unlovable byt.

Some of us come from families where we had to perform or be perfect to receive love and acceptance...and that carries over into our relationship with God.

For some those traits and abilities that are good and great about us have taken over and they need to be redirected so they can bring honor and glory to God.

This morning I want you to know that God loves you, and wants to have fellowship with you. He wants you to come as you are. He wants you to come as a Son or Daughter of Thunder. He wants you to come as whatever label you have been given and become part of what He is doing.

We sent out this card to everyone in Huber Heights because we believe that God wants you to know that He accepts us and loves us...we don’t have to clean up before He will take us back. We don’t have to be perfect. He even loves Chihuahuas with mohawks!

We don’t have to be perfect...but we do have to be willing to take our next step closer to Him.

Here at Crossroads Vineyard our mission is to help each person take their next step closer to God. We say it that way because we believe, like John believed, that everyone of us has a next step. Whether you have never followed God or you have followed Him for 50 years...you have a next step. And when we encounter Jesus we can’t help but be changed. We can’t remain the same.

Peter was changed when he encountered Jesus.
John was changed when he encountered Jesus.

We can be changed when we encounter Jesus. We don’t have to accept or keep the name we have been given. We can have fellowship with God.

This morning I want to invite you to take your next step...

For some of you...today is your first step. You need to be back in church. You need to get back in contact with a community of believers that will love and support you and stand beside you in this journey of faith.

For others...there is still another step to take...you need to say, “Jesus I want to have a relationship with you!” And I’m not just talking about getting into heaven...you need to says, “I want to follow you and become your disciple.” Jesus never calls us to follow so we can get into heaven...he calls us so that we can learn to do life according to His principles and guidance.

For some...you have been stalled out for too long in your Christian faith and you need to shake the rust off and get moving. It may be a sin that you need to confess. It may be that you just need to make Christ the real priority of your life. I don’t know. But you have stalled out and you need a fresh encounter with Jesus this morning.

This morning...what is your next step? What stands in the way of having a life changing encounter with Jesus Christ?

For more information about Crossroads Vineyard Church in Huber Heights, Ohio check us out online at www.daytoncrossroads.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/daytoncrossroads