Here in Rock Hall, we have tried to stay focused on developing as followers of Jesus as we Gathering to worship; Growing in relationships; and Going to serve.
Growing in our relationships includes growing in our relationship with Jesus. This leads us to develop his character in our lives and understand his calling on our lives. This GROWING happens as we learn more about him and put it into practice.
This is the way that our experience of God's power at work in us, it doesn't stop with us, it makes a difference in the world around us.
This series of talks from City Changers, a ministry who's purpose is to help disciples live out their calling as disciples in such a way that their community is changed. That's our desire here in Rock Hall.
Consider this from Matt 5: 13-16 in the Message paraphrase of the Bible
“Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage. “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.
The primary reward of Christianity is not heaven, the reward is restored intimacy with the father. This was evident in the life of Jesus, who was so different to every other human being on the planet. There was something unique in how He Spoke (as one with authority), Prayed (as if he was personally speaking to the father), Handled challenges (as if he was aware that he had greater authority) Engaged people (he was not intimidated by their status or there sinfulness). It was clear that Jesus lived here on earth with a deep awareness of the very presence of the Father in his life. He would make this statement;
‘I and the father are one…’ John 8
It was clear that Jesus wanted people to understand that his proximity to the father, was what gave him the ability to function in the pure design of what God had intended every human being to enjoy. Man was originally created to enjoy fellowship and intimacy with the father.
When John writes his epistle, to document the life of Jesus, he starts off by trying to capture that which he saw in Jesus that made him so different, and so he makes this profound statement:
‘In him was life; and the life was the light of men …’ John 1:4;
Later as he considers Jesus in his ministry and mission, he quotes Jesus who makes it clear that his desire was that the very life that was in him, would be the life that we could share in.
‘I have come that you might have life……’ John 10:10
Then Jesus defines what the essence of this life that we share in would be, when he makes it clear that it is about relationship with the father and with him as our Redeemer:
‘And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent’ John 17:3
Religion thrives on DISTANCE and DELAY.
In the New Testament there is an ever present theme throughout these writings; an awareness of this awesome truth that God has made His abode in us. It’s an awareness of union with Him. There is nothing in the N.T. that tries to explain away this union or justify distance. Any explanation that brings an awareness of distance does not share in the same spirit which we find in the N.T. writings which overflow with a rich awareness that God has restored the union He always desired. Jesus desired to bring an anticipation of closeness to God. When he speaks to his disciples just before he’s about to lay down his life and leave this earth, the theme of his communication to the disciples is about the privilege that is about to become their inheritance of being re-united in relationship to the father.
Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare (a) place for you. And if I go and prepare (a) place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.”
This is not a building project in heaven. Jesus has the ability to create with one word, and is not overseeing a building project for us to ultimately live in– scripture is clear that he is now the mediator that allows for our access to the father. However the disciples did not understand where Jesus was referring to either.
Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?”
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
In his answer to Thomas it is clear that we understand where Jesus is going, and we can know the way. Jesus declares the place –The Father / Jesus declares the way – Through Him
We have access to the Father through our association with Christ
Eph 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
It is in this intimate relationship with God, that our lives fundamentally change and we start living life in a totally new way. As with Jesus, the way we speak, pray, handle challenges and engage people fundamentally changes when you live with the awareness of God’s fullness in your life. You now do life differently. This is what Jesus is saying to Phillip when he challenges him still wanting to somehow reach out to see the father, and not recognising that the father was already present in what Jesus was doing.
“If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.” Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
Jesus decides to reinforce this understanding of his own intimate relationship with the father with his disciples as the most important message that he could communicate just before he was about to lay down his life. It was this intimacy with the father, that he was about to establish as the privilege of mankind,.
Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves.
This was a radical statement for Jesus to make at that time. The religious establishment could not accept that a human being could place himself in relational intimacy with God. Even today, in many religious establishments people would refer to the transcendence of God, where God is the Almighty and all-powerful, but they would not know the imminence of God, where He becomes the very present God in our lives.
In the old Testament there were two words for acknowledging God:
Elohim – The ‘all’ concepts of God – The transcendence of God.
Jahwe – The covenantal God engaging our lives. But even here it was conditional to our performance. The Deuteronomy 28 agreement.
Jesus comes and introduces a totally new framework of functioning, where God chooses not to just come and visit on the basis of our good performance – but he comes to make his home in us.
John 14 : 16 – 19
And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. “A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also.
At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.
Jesus answered and said to him,
“If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.