Sunday, December 31, 2023

5 Tips for Christian Living in 2024

As we head into a new year, 2024, I want to give you some tips for how to live your life in the coming year. As people we should always be growing, always learning more about God, and always attempting to see ourselves becoming more like Jesus.

That takes intentional decisions, decisions to live a special kind of life. We need to give careful thought to our lives and the things we’re doing. We need to practice. We need to study. We need to experience. We need to repent of sins. We’re going to talk about all these things and more tonight.

I remember last year I was at a service in early 2023 when they asked us to write on a piece of paper one goal for the coming year. I wrote something pretty simple on the little piece of paper. I wrote, “I will be more positive in my ministry in 2023.” And I remember when I got home I took a magnet and put it on my fridge. I took it down around late December. But I looked at that little piece of paper about one hundred times throughout the year.

First thing today, I'd like to challenge you to do the same thing. Pray, ask God for guidance, and then write a simple statement on a piece of paper as a guidepost for the coming year. Put it on your fridge, and let it be a reminder to your through the year. But please phrase it like this: “In 2024 I will…” Don't "try" anything. State it as a current reality. 

Maybe it’s something negative you want to state, like in 2024 I will quit smoking. Maybe it’s a positive statement, In 2024 I will be more hopeful. In 2024 I will attend church every Sunday. In 2024 I will pray 3 times a day. But when you get home, stick it to your fridge, so you see it over and over. That will help you remember to stick with the goal.

Alright, second point today, is for many of you the new year 2024 will be a year that you take another step closer to God.

That’s something pretty simple, and it starts with you deciding right now, to take one step closer to God.

Maybe in the past, you attended dinner church once a month, or every other week. A step forward would be to say, well, from now on, I’m going to attend every Sunday. Or maybe you’d say, my step forward will be I’m going to start attending morning church too. Or maybe it’s I’m going to start attending the bible study each week as well.

You take a step forward. I’m going to officially say that the salvation army is my church. This is where I go. This is my home church. It can be something as simple as that.

For some of you, it may be that 2024 is a big turning point, where you take several steps closer to God, you go from very little spiritual activity, to reading your Bible everyday, praying over your meals, and attending special events at the corps.

But what you want to avoid is same old same old. As a Christian you should be taking steps closer to God, each year.

Third point today, is we want to get in the mindset of giving.

There is a poisonous attitude that can negatively affect Christians. They show up to the church but they show to take. They show up demanding to receive. And nothing they ever get is quite good enough. And they get mad easily. They make demands. And if all their demands aren’t met then well it’s not a good church and the pastor is mean, and then they leave. But that’s not what Christianity is. We don’t come to get, get, get.

And some of us have a bad attitude that way. Where’s my food. Where’s my drink? Where’s my seat. You make demands when you get here. But you should be serving.

What is the best way to start to get out of that toxic pattern of entitlement? How do you go from taking to giving?

Try something pretty simple, grab something from the free table tonight, and bring it to friend. Hang it on their doorknob. Knock and give it to them. Find something you know your neighbor will like, and bring it to them tonight. Bring an extra to go meal for a friend.

It’s simple. But you’re setting yourself up for delighting in giving. And when you do it, it will feel good. And then you’ll want to do it again. And pretty soon you’ll be buying stuff for people you don’t even know. Pretty soon you’ll be bringing a meal to someone you don’t even like. Pretty soon you’ll be bringing food to an enemy someone who was cruel to you. Because by doing it, by practicing it, you’re re-programming your mind toward the action of Christ, which is to give.

Begin to set a new pattern. To give. Let it start with something small, a loaf of bread for a friend, and let it grow from there.

Point number four, target a sin in your life, to see it removed.

Many of us here have things we need to work on. There are obvious things, like smoking, drinking, porn, or drugs. But there are also things like gambling, playing the lotto, swearing and cursing, compulsive lying, stealing, manipulating people for your benefit, unforgiveness, or even hatred.

These things can be dealt with though. And I want to give you some simple instructions on how to.

What is it on this list that you battle? What is the sin you hide? Do you see it in your mind.

First thing, let’s pray about it. Father, God please help us with these issues. We know we can’t remove these things on our own, but we believe God you have infinite power, so God we ask you to set us free in Jesus name, amen.

Now, keep praying about it. Whenever it comes up in your mind and you feel ashamed or upset or angry, turn that feeling into a prayer. Lord, I feel so ashamed, God have mercy on me in Jesus name, amen.

Second, understand God loves you so much he will help you in every way he can to set you free. Put the sin in his hands. Admit you can’t fix it. And then put it in his hands. Be motivated by His love for you.

Thirdly, recognize you are under threat as well. Anyone, Christian or not, who is living in active willful sin is in danger of hell. If you were to die, while in an active sin, that you haven’t repented of, you would be brought before God, judged as guilty of sin, and you would be sent to hell, permanently. I’m not trying to scare you, but I am trying to help motivate you toward change. You are in danger in active sin.

Fourthly, let the love of God, and the fear of God’s justice, motivate you toward change. Sit down with your pastor. Ask for help. Visit a support group. Buy a book on freedom from that sin that you find online on amazon, and read it. Continue to pray about it. Take actions to be free. And you will find freedom and deliverance.

Fifthly, after you’ve found freedom from the sin, make plans to stay free. Being an alcoholic addict recovered by God’s grace, I continue to this day to attend recovery meetings that help me stay free.

Last point today, turn your life over to Jesus Christ today. Call out to Him, ask him to be your savior, renew your commitment to follow him and serve him all your days. Recommit your life to Jesus Christ today, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Let me Him lead you into the new year, and new seasons ahead.

I believe we’re going to see the world get darker and darker as we head into the future. We’re going to see increasing wars, increasing famines, prices going up, jobs and housing harder to find, corruption in governments will spread, even our freedoms will come under attack, but at the same I believe we will see more and more people realizing that they need Jesus to face the darkness. As the world gets darker, I believe we’re going to see at the same time, the body of Christ growing more mature, and more pure, and more active, and we’ll begin to see revivals break out. As the world falls more and more under the sway of Satan and evil, we will see more and more people giving their lives to Jesus and being lights in the darkness, shining ever brighter until the second coming of Jesus. Amen.

Alright, so, to review…

1. Set a Goal for the new season ahead

2. Take a step deeper into the body of Christ (or several steps)

3. Learn to give by setting a new pattern of giving

4. Target a Sin in your Life, repent, and give it to God

5. Give your life to Jesus Christ, and shine brightly in the darkness

Structure for Christian Living in Colossians 3

“One spring our family was driving from Fort Lauderdale to Tampa, Florida. As far as the eye could see, orange trees were loaded with fruit. When we stopped for breakfast, I ordered orange juice with my eggs. "I'm sorry," the waitress said. "I can't bring you orange juice. Our machine is broken." At first I was dumbfounded. We were surrounded by millions of oranges, and I knew they had oranges in the kitchen--orange slices garnished our plates. What was the problem? No juice? Hardly. We were surrounded by thousands of gallons of juice. The problem was they had become dependent on a machine to get it. Christians are sometimes like that. They may be surrounded by Bibles in their homes, but if something should happen to the Sunday morning preaching service, they would have no nourishment for their souls. The problem is not a lack of spiritual food--but that many Christians haven't grown enough to know how to get it for themselves.” -Leroy Eims, The Lost Art of Disciple Making.

Today we find ourselves in between series, after Christmas, before new years, so as we approach 2024, I thought it would be wise for us to open the Bible, and examine some keys for Christian living.

We’re going to be looking at Colossians chapter 3 today, and we’re going to look at some keys for Christian lifestyle.

We’re going to look at 7 key points. What are the nuts and bolts of how to live a successful Christian life? And for each point, we’re going to be building a structure, a guide, for how to Cloth yourself with the new nature. And we will need God’s help to do live this. So with each of the 7 points we’re going to stop and pray after each point. So 7 prayers will be happen here as well.

Colossians 3:1 says, “Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven.”

If you’re a Christian, a real one, you’ve been changed from within. You’re different than you used to be. That’s the work of God within you.

God’s part is to raise you to new life with Christ. Your part in this formula, is to set your sights on God’s ways.

Well, you probably wonder to yourself, how exactly do I do that?

Verse says how: 2 Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.

So this goes into your thought life. From when you wake up in the morning, to when you go to bed at night, what are you thinking about?

I worry we sometimes are thinking about the things of Earth. We’re thinking about money. About things we read in the newspaper. We’re thinking about football games, groceries, cleaning the house, and we aren’t thinking about what God commands us to think about.

Then we’re surprised when we have little joy, and we feel depressed. We aren’t thinking about what God tells us to think about, which is to think about Him.

Our first point today is this: Change your thought life. Find ways to think about God, the Bible, Jesus, heaven, and fill your thought life with these truths.

If we adjust our thought life, to think about God’s kingdom, throughout the day, we are going to be focused on a different drumbeat. And that is going to help us to live right.

That’s the foundation, Christ-centered thought life.

Next in verse 5 we get more instructions… 5 So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. 6 Because of these sins, the anger of God is coming.

Verses 5 and 6 bring the fear of the Lord to me. It reminds me that the judgment of God is coming, like a flood into the world one day soon.

And I’ve got to practice self-examination. Does it say God is going to put to death the sinful things in us? No it doesn’t. Does it say that’s already finished? No it doesn’t. We’re told you do that. The Holy Spirit will help us, but this is something we need to do.

Put to death the sinful earthly things lurking inside you.

Identify them. What do you battle? My fiancé right now we battle lust, we’ve been dating a year, now engaged, and it’s tough, but we know we’ve gotta fight through and make sure we wait until we’re married to fully express how we feel toward each other.

Lust is a big one. Impurity of any kind though, is mentioned. Evil desires. We all have certain desires that aren’t right.

So how exactly do we “put it to death”? We identify it. We pray about it. We ask God to help us be free from it. Maybe it’s swearing. Maybe it’s pride. Maybe it’s love of money.

We ask God to forgive us in prayer. Then we repent from within. We say to God, Lord, we turn away from that sin. I renounce that sin. I turn away from it. And we begin to practice the opposite. If it’s pride, we start to practice being humble.

Please take this seriously, the concept of putting to death sinful habits. I worry we in the body of Christ read it like it’s a nice suggestion. It’s not a suggestion, it’s a command of almighty God. If we ignore it, and just kinda skate along, we may find it come up on judgment day and lead us to hell. I don’t want the day you stand before God to be a nightmare for you. Take it seriously now, today, fear God, and repent quickly.

Take it seriously. This isn’t a game. We don’t come here every Sunday because we needed some therapy. We want heaven, to want eternal life, and we know God is for real about this stuff. He loves us, but he is just. God can’t be mocked. We will reap what we sow. So please, again, take it seriously. Deal with it now. Judge yourself. Examine yourself.

That’s our second point today, self-examination, repentance.

The word here is saying don’t drift back into the ways of the world. We still battle it within ourselves. We have been changed in Christ, but the old ways still tempt us. So we should put them to death quickly and say no more to sinful patterns of life.

Third point, Put on the new nature. It says in verse 10 “Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.”

The command here is put it on. Put on the new nature. Embrace the new way. Put on the armor of God. I do that every morning, Lord, I put on the armor of God today. Each day it starts over. And as you do that, you’re going to learn to know your Creator, and in knowing God, you’re becoming like him. You’re learning godliness and putting it on.

A few verses down we get a definition of what this new nature is: “12 Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”

Showing mercy is huge for a Christian. If someone really hurts you, messes up, lets you down, you do have to come forward with mercy and avoid condemning them. That’s not easy. Especially if it’s happened many times. But keep showing mercy. That’s the nature of God to come with mercy.

Showing kindness is huge too. A kind word, a soft word, a sweet response to someone who is unstable can change their whole day. Be kind to the waiter. Be kind to the volunteer. Be kind to the check out lady at the cash register.

Stop and notice that they exist. Smile. Slow down, and give someone an encouraging word.

Humility is huge for a Christian. We aren’t arrogant people. We don’t honk our horns at people on the highway when they won’t get out of the fast lane quick enough.

We don’t lash out at someone who is rude to us. We don’t react in anger. We humble ourselves.

We show gentleness. Are you gentle? It’s a beautiful characteristic. Gentleman, gentlewoman. It’s beautiful. Do that.

Of course patience. Be patient with people. Give them time to get it. Give them time to learn. Give them time. If they mess up your order, be patient. Be kind. It’s a witness to them.

Those are all aspects of putting on the new self. In Christ.

When you do those things, you are putting on the new nature, in that moment! Cool!

Point number four, make allowance for each other. Make room for each other. This connects back with point 3, putting on the new nature. But it’s now telling us about living in community with other Christians.

It says, “ 13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”

If someone here, or in your family, at your job, in your community has a fault that bothers you, sometimes you just have to tell yourself, “That’s just Bob being Bob. That’s just Stacy being Stacy. And that’s OK. And you make an allowance for them to be that way. You decide in your own mind, that’s ok for them to be themselves. And I’m going to be ok with it.

If you can learn that, you’re going to prosper in getting along with people around you.

In connection to that, you also forgive those who offend you. Some of you have from time to time offended me. I’m sure I’ve offended you too, from time to time. But, we forgive each other, and we keep going together, as a community. We remember how God forgave us our terrible sins. And as we remember that, it helps us to be quick to forgive people who hurt us.

If you’re going to live in church community with flawed human beings, who love Jesus, but do make mistakes, learn to make allowance for peoples faults, and forgive quickly.

Point five, above all, cloth yourself with love.

“14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.” -Col 3:14

What is the single greatest virtue of the Christian? It’s love. Real, honest, heartfelt love for each other. Jesus told his followers, if you really love each other, from the heart, all the world will know that you’re my disciples. That will be the perfect evidence to the world, the love of Christians.

So above all the other aspects of the new nature in Christ, the most important by far is love. And love is going to filter down into all the others and make them real. If you really love from the heart, you will be humble. You will be kind. You will learn gentleness. You will be kind. You will make allowance for others faults. You will forgive quickly.

We’ve got to learn to love people deeply.

Point number six, allow the peace from Christ to have control in your heart.

That is your calling, to live in a state of peace.

Peace of Mind we’re talking about here. You can have real peace. How? You allow the peace from Christ, to reign, to have authority, to be in charge in your soul. Isn’t that interesting?

Let Christ’s peace rule in you.

It says this, Colossians 3:15, “And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.” -Col 3:15

There is a way of life which many of us are used to, where we constantly complain. We’re depressed. We live with anxiety. We are negative. There are seasons of certain things, so I don’t want to say that you’re always going to be chipper. It’s ok to be sad for a season.

But, in general, we should live in peace from Christ. Let it reign in us. That’s a calling, a command. Secondly, we are to “always” be grateful. Sometimes be grateful? No, always be grateful.

So for 2024, maybe you need to write up a gratitude list, fill a few pages in a notebook of things you’re glad for in your life.

In verse 16 we get the whole picture summed up together: “16 Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.”

Verse 16 first of all is sending us back to verses 1 and 2, let the message of Christ fill your life. In other words, think about the things of heaven. The whole structure fits together now, all those things fit together, each layer, and once it’s all together, and you’ve done of all it, you can say, the message of Christ in all it’s richness has in fact filled my life. And it’s amazing. Then take this lifestyle and teach it to each other, with wisdom. Then in your gratitude, sing about it, sing songs and hymns and spritiual songs to god with gratitude in your heart. It all fits together.

All of that for the purpose of point number 7, which is, if you live like this, you will be an ambassador for Jesus, a representative to others.

Colossians 3:17 says, “17 And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.”

The command, do everything in your life as a representative of the Lord Jesus. Then others will see it, and want to know Jesus too.

And in doing all this, give thanks through Jesus to God your Father in heaven.

Let’s review out main points from today. They are…

1. Change your Thought Life – focus it on God’s ways

2. Practice Self Examination – put to death sinful ways

3. Put on the New Nature – live out the new ways

4. Make allowance for Each Other – forgive quickly

5. Above all cloth yourself with Love – genuine love

6. Let the peace of Christ rule your heart – be peaceful

7. Live life as an Ambassador for Christ – an example

I want you to take a picture of those 7 main points and make it your plan for living in the new year. Make it your new lifestyle. Learn to live this way. Learn God’s ways more and more. And you’ll find yourself becoming a devout and godly man or woman of Christ.

Make sure that in this coming year you aren’t like the waitress surrounded by oranges but unable to make orange juice. Take your Bible, study it carefully and then apply what it says, so your life changes, and you live a life devoutly in Christ. Amen.

Sunday, December 24, 2023

What is the Glory of God? The Telescope to the Microscope and Beyond

The James Webb space telescope was launched into space on December 25th 2021, it’s predecessor the Hubble space telescope had taken thousands of amazing pictures of deep space with it’s powerful lenses, but the James Webb telescope would be even more precise in it’s photographic abilities, taking pictures of deep space with great accuracy.

I recall as a new Christian, about 10 years ago I went on the Hubble space telescope website and I was looking at the pictures. And suddenly I was shocked by a realization of what I was looking at. I realized suddenly, wait a minute, God made this.

The Bible says, Psalm 19:1 ESV “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”

Every nebula, every galaxy, every star was created by an infinite creative intelligence massively brilliant beyond my ability to comprehend. And when I looked at the images in that light, I was stunned by the glory of God as looked at the pictures.

So I wanted to share some similar pictures with you today, which show us the glory of God, what God has made, and we should look and say wow, God made that. And it’s amazing. Be in awe!

Yet we also know that the Earth itself, not just the heavens are filled with God’s glory as well.

As it says in Isaiah 6:3 ESV And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

“Example of AT2 and AT1 epithelial cell generation in a lung alveolar organoid used to examine MANC and AMP function. Green staining for surfactant protein C indicates AT2 cells whereas red staining for Hopx indicates AT1 cells. Credit: The lab of Ed Morrisey, PhD, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania”

Here is another picture, what is it? Perhaps a galaxy or nebula from the James Webb telescope? No, this is a microphotograph of a molecule in your lungs, from the lab of Ed Morrisey.

Whether we look through the telescope, or the microscope, we find something we’re studying today, called the glory of God. We find the fingerprints in the world of what God made, and we wonder at how he made it. We wonder at how it all works. And we’re amazed.

These are reflections of the glory of God. But what exactly is it itself?

What is the glory of God? Last week we talked about the presence of God, and being led by the Spirit of God. But, the glory of God is something different from the presence of God, or the leading of God.

The glory of God is an event or experience which reveals who God is to us in a deeper way.

Experiencing the glory of God explains to us in a deeper way, who God really is. It’s something that changes us forever.

The glory is mentioned in our foundation scripture for this series, John 1:14, it 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 1:14

So you have the disciple John, writing the gospel of John, reflecting on his whole life, looking back, as an old man I’m sure, and saying, wow, living with Jesus those 3 years, I saw the glory of God simply by being with Jesus, listening to Jesus, watching Jesus work, seeing him crucified, it changed my life forever. I was not the same.

So I think, as we experience the glory of God, a little bit more each day, it simply reveals to us who God is, more and more. Until we can say wow, I really do understand who God is to me. Not completely, not entirely, but enough to say wow, I really do know God.

I recall particularly during our series of going through the parables of Jesus, we studied every single parable Jesus ever spoke recorded in all four gospels, and that was exciting for me, because every week I felt like we were getting another piece of the puzzle. And I think that’s how it is with the glory of God, more and more we encounter God, experience God, study God’s word, we understand more and more deeply the glory of God.

I want to look briefly at three different ides about the glory of God in the Bible where the glory of God is revealed.

Then conclude with the glory of God revealed to the shepherds at night, the night Jesus was born.

But first, what does glory mean exactly? The Greek word used in the new testament for glory is doxa.

The Outline of Biblical Usage includes the following definitions… (abridged)

I. opinion, judgment, view

II. opinion, estimate, whether good or bad concerning someone

A. in the NT always a good opinion concerning one, resulting in praise, honour, and glory

III. splendour, brightness

A. of the moon, sun, stars

B. magnificence, excellence, preeminence, dignity, grace

C. majesty

I found it fascinating that the concept of glory is tied to the idea of holding an opinion. You have this idea about who God is in your mind and in that you are showing glory, assuming it’s a positive opinion.

In Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary we see the following definition for glory… (among many other definitions)

1. Brightness; luster; splendor.

2. Honor; praise; fame; renown; celebrity.

3. Celestial bliss

So the glory of God, among other things, is an opinion we hold in our minds about who God is, that he is great, and true, and righteous and holy.

The glory of God is brightness, it’s viewing God as honorable. It’s worship as well. It’s considering God famous. It’s considering what God has created to be amazing. It’s awe and wonder as well.

The first thing we want to understand today about the glory of God is that we as humans were made for the purpose of glorifying God.

It says in Isaiah 43:7 ESV, “Everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”

God created you to show His glory. To show just how amazing God is… he made you. He made you for his creative purposes, out of perfect love. I can only conclude that in making you, he was showing the world something about himself. You represent something about who God is in your redeemed personality.

True story. Your purpose is through living a life in relationship with God, you would show God’s glory to others through the example you set.

That was the original plan, but in connection to our first point, we also understand a problem occurred, a glitch in the system. We call it the fall of man.

So we also understand, we’ve all fallen short of it.

That’s what it says in Romans 3:23 ESV, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…”

Deep within ourselves we sense we’re meant for something more. For the glory of God. We long for glory, for righteousness, but we fall short. So we find ourselves in this desperate, miserable state, where we know we want to be good, we want to be holy, we want to be glorious, but instead we seem to often end up in the mud. Messy. Sinful. Wicked. Wrong. So we get frustrated and angry, wishing for something more.

We realize our need for a savior.

Which brings us to our second point for today, the glory of God is perfectly revealed in Jesus Christ himself. Like John said in verse 1:14, they saw the glory of God in the life of Jesus. Something touched them, and changed them within, after being with Jesus those 3 years.

We know the same thing. We’ve seen in church, in sermons, in prayer, in bible reading, glimpses of something more, that something more, is the glory of God. You can sense it from time to time. Something pure, something greater, something perfect, as you read your Bible, as you pray, and worship God in song, you sense a taste of the glory of God.

Jesus is then to us, a picture of the glory.

It says in Hebrews 1:3 ESV, “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high…”

Jesus radiates the glory of God. Like a furnace pumps out heat, Jesus radiates the glory and goodness of God. Grace and truth. I imagine being with Jesus we would sense it continuously.

Another scripture brings this to light, “2 Corinthians 4:6 ESV, “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

Remember the definition of glory is like “brightness.” That’s one thing to understand, heaven is bright, much brightness. Hell is of course total darkness. Here on Earth, we get light and darkness. A mix of both.

God has shown in our hearts, giving us the light, which is in fact the knowledge of the glory of God. And we find it in the face of Jesus Christ.

Which brings us to our third point for today, that, God has allowed us to see Jesus, many in this world, most in this world, are deceived, they have blinders on their eyes, so they can’t see Jesus. They are deceived by Satan and his demons. But God has helped us, as we’ve reached out for him, to see Jesus. And then to receive Jesus as our savior.

Then we went from seeing Jesus, to receiving Jesus, and Jesus came into our hearts.

As it says in 2nd Corinthians 3:18, “ And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

The glory of God has jumped off the pages of the Bible, and into our hearts, and is now transforming us, changing us slowly, into the same image, which is the image of Jesus Christ. We are being changed into the likeness of Christ.

Today you are not the same as you were a year ago, or a month ago. The glory of God in your heart, the Spirit, is changing you, from one step to the next step, to the next.

1 Corinthians 10:31 ”So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

As you’re working, or helping someone, or eating a meal, or drinking a cup of coffee, I want you to say out loud, God I do this to your glory. Get in the habit of saying that, God, this is for your glory. Do it for God.

This is the mystery of Christ in us. Which is talked about in Colossians 1:27, “To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

Christ in you, is also a hope for a future glory.

Point number four, our future is heaven, a place where the glory of God is the sun in the sky.

We as Christians look forward to a time in the future, when we will see God face to face. We will live in the glory of God. That is our great hope.

Romans 8:18 ESV For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

A time will come when the glory of God will fill the Earth, as it says in Habakkuk.

Habakkuk 2:14 ESV For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.

In the end times, at the end of the book of Revelation, we know that Jesus will return to the Earth. Many will mourn when they see him coming, because they had rejected him, and followed satan instead.

It says in Matthew 24:30 ESV, “ Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”

Power and glory, as Jesus returns to the Earth. The glory of God will be made manifest. Some will rejoice in the glory of God, others will mourn because they know judgment is coming against them.

What’s amazing though, for our reward in heaven, we will live in the New Jerusalem, the city of God.

It says about it in Revelation 21:23, “And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.”

The light of the city is the glory of God, his brightness, his goodness, his infinite power, his infinite love and we will rejoice in the glory of God. Because the glory of God is His holiness, yes, but also, his perfect love.

To tie it all together, we go now to the night of Jesus birth. Sheep herders were out that night, watching over their flocks.

It says in Luke 2:8-14 (NIV) And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

The glory of God is at first terrifying. God is so much bigger than us. He is infinite. When we see into His realm, it’s just plain scary. For some, their worst fears will be realized on that day when they see Jesus face to face, because they will know they rejected him in this life, and they will be sent out of his sight, into a repeating horror known as hell.

For us we find good news, behind the initial fear, of forgiveness of our sins, and the hope to be brought into the glory of God, through Jesus Christ. We either become the glory of God, by embracing Jesus, or we face judgment because we rejected the glory of God.

Point number five, as God reveals his glory to us, like he did to the shepherds, our job is to cry out “glory to God” to return the glory to God as worship. In the now, before heaven, we must live our lives everyday to glorify God in how we live, how we think, how we feel, all of it. We receive the glory, share the glory with others, as the shepherds did, and we return the glory to God as praise.

The angels cry out Glory to God! We cry out, Glory to God! We see the glory of God, we receive the glory of God, we repeat the glory of God, and we speak the glory of God, back toward God, then one day we bask in the glory of God, in the eternal city, the new Jerusalem.

Let’s review:

1. The universe out there, and the universe with declares the glory of God

2. You were made for the purpose of glorifying God

3. We’ve fallen short of God’s glory due to sin

4. We see the definition of God’s glory in Jesus

5. With Jesus in our hearts, we are being changed from one point of glory to the next

6. In paradise, the glory is the sunlight around us

7. In the now, we perceive the glory, declare the glory to others, and return the glory to God as worship

It started at Bethlehem, it ends in the New Jerusalem. But the end, is really just the beginning, for the hope of the glory of God, within us right now, in Christ, becomes the thing we bask in forever in heaven. We live in the constant joy of the glory of God in paradise. That’s the future goal. Until then, live giving glory to God as much as you can in your life.

One day from ground to sky, the new Jerusalem will be filled with the glory of God. Right now, we carry a smaller portion, within us, the Holy Spirit, Christ within us. So, as a reminder of what Jesus has done for us, come forward during our response time and take a cup. Keep it as a reminder that God has poured out his glory in the birth of Jesus, for your salvation.

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Christmas: Why does It Matter?

Advent is what Christians call the time surrounding the birth of Jesus. We light the candles on the Advent wreath each week at church as a celebration of Jesus coming into the world. 

Why do we do that every year? We seek to remind ourselves of this: The most important event in world history is that Jesus Christ was born. We celebrate it every year to remind ourselves... this is what life is really about. 

Then the next year: "This is what life is really about." And again the next year. Why? Because we lose focus in life pretty easily, and get selfish, and crabby. I know I do. I need these reminders each year, desperately.  

That's why we set up our Christmas trees, that's why we set up lights on our houses, we set up nativity scenes because we remind ourselves this is what life is really about it's not about money it's not about power it's not about jobs it's not about insurance or fancy cars or nice houses it's about Jesus Christ and that he was born into the world and that he is God and He Loves Us.

I think it's just perfect that Christmas comes right in winter when it's cold and dreary out, snowy cold bitter, and growing up in Wisconsin it was very very cold and very bitter. 

I remember waking up and going to work and getting in my car and it's just so cold it's like minus 20 degrees I'm like oh why am I awake this is terrible! It's so cold my arms and legs hurt as I get in the car. It was awful. 

But it's the joy of Christmas that gives us hope even in the dark season of winter. 

We consider this event that happened... that Jesus was born as a little baby 2,000 years ago in the Middle East in Israel. A nation that exists to this day, that's been in the news recently.

Jesus was born. We understand that Jesus was no mere human. Instead we understand that God decided to be born into the world to show us the way to heaven. 

That's something we know as Christians in America. We just know that! It's been repeated so many times we know it by heart. But if you just stop and think about it... 

God became a man... what! That's too much! Like for a Jew or a Muslim that would be scandalous, they would say, "no God's too holy he would never become a mere human!" That would be sacrilegious to those religions but in Christianity we serve a God who came as a human to get into the mess with u, to show us the way out. Our God came to be born as the Son of God to then die for our sins, to offer his life as a ransom sacrifice to cover our sins, so we can be made ready for heaven. 

But what exactly is God saving us from? That is the question. I have on my car, on my license plate, I have a sign that says "Jesus Christ is the answer." Well, what's the problem? 

The problem in Christianity is recognized as being within my own heart. The problem is me. I want to do great things, but, I have to ask myself constantly, "What causes me to do things that harm myself? Why do I make choices that end up causing problems in my life? Why did I drink so much for all those years? Why did I use drugs? Why did I chase after girls? Why did I do this, why did I do that, why did I lie? Why did I steal? 

In Christianity, we admit: "Of myself I am not enough, I need a savior. I need Jesus to be my savior. I need him to guide my life and to make me right, to make me different than I used to be!" 

That is the way out that Jesus came to provide, is that he would die for us. But also he would send the Holy Spirit to live within us. So, part of the package deal when you become a Christian, when you say, "Lord Jesus I want you to be my savior today!" Part of that deal, that arrangement, is first, your sins are forgiven because Jesus Paid It All! Two, you receive the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit is this companion who now lives inside of you and guides you through life.

So as I'm living my life, and going through my days I have the Holy Spirit living within me, guiding me: Here's what to do and what not to do. Here's my path for you, so that's all part of it, and that's the journey we're on now.

"For to us a child is born..." that's why we remind ourselves of these truths. "To us a child is born to us a son is given and the government will be on his shoulders and he will be called wonderful counsel Mighty God Everlasting Father... I like this one: Prince of Peace that's our savior Prince of Peace of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end he will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom establishing and upholding it with Justice and righteousness from that time on and forever the Zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this."

Jesus is King right now right in this very moment right now, and I believe Jesus is here right now with us ministering to each of us in a unique way because he is Everlasting God. 

It says in the word "everlasting God" which means he can be with all of us at the same time in different ways. 

But it has to be personal, for each of us. This is where the rubber meets the road for being a Christian if you ask me... as I live my life as a Christian loving God loving people serving people meeting people's needs am I really led by Jesus on a practical daily basis or do I pretend? 

There's a difference between someone who loves Jesus, a Christian, and a religious person. The difference is this: Am I doing it for him or am I doing it for myself? 

Often religious people will turn us off toward God and we think well if that's what Christianity is I don't want anything to do with it! Many of you probably experienced that in the past, you saw someone who was mean, judgmental, self-righteous, pompous and they drove you away from Christianity.

I was there for many years, I said if that's what its like, I don't want that! But when I found the true Christian who loves Jesus, who's humble, who just wants to help and serve people, I couldn't ignore that. They're spirit filled and there's something different about them, that you can't quite explain. 

That got my attention.

There's something beautiful there, there's a presence there, the presence of God. But maybe you still feel unworthy?

God will accept people who have done bad things. I mean really bad things, like the Amazing Grace song. A guy who's a slave ship captain, it's open to him too!

Forgiveness for anyone who's willing to turn to God and make him Lord of their life.

I didn't believe that for most of my life. My first 26 years of life I did not believe, I thought Angels, God, Heaven, hell, Angels and Demons, it sounds made up, it sounds fanciful, it sounds mythical, until I encountered Jesus, and I realized, wait a minute... are you saying this is really true?

I can't explain what God did in my life. I was suicidal, I was depressed, addicted to drugs, and Jesus just changed it all. 

I believe all of it today. When it says an angel appeared to Mary 2,000 years ago I believe that literally happened. That I could, if I had a time machine and went back 2,000 years I would be able to see that happen with my own eyes.

How does Mary respond? "I am the Lord's servant may your word to me be fulfilled." That I hope is your reaction when God speaks to you when God is asking you to do something, may your response be as Mary's "I'm the Lord's servant may your word to me be fulfilled." 

That is the challenge my friends, what do you do, you're following God, you're loving God, you're trying honestly to serve God, and then something doesn't go the way you want it to. That's the test, the challenge in life, what is going to happen between me and God then? Will I continue to trust? Or will I run my own way in anger?

Many of the people I minister to at the Salvation Army are mad at God because something has gone badly. And the solution in that is to trust God even we don't understand. Of course it's not that simple. But it's okay to wrestle with him, you wrestle in prayer, in Bible reading, in emotions, in conversations, "Lord why did this happen? Lord what's going on?" I've done that many a night on my knees before God.

Lord I'm trying to do your will here what's going on you know can you trust God when those kind of things are happening in your life and say it's going to be okay. When life throws you curveballs can you still trust God that's tough I get it but it is doable.

If you haven't committed your life to Christ try it for 30 days. If you don't like it, I'm sure he'll refund your misery if you want it back. I love him, he's changed my life completely he's given me a lot of good work to do. He'll give you good work to do too.

There's a poem by Joseph Bailey about the incarnation. It says this: "Praise him for the Incarnation, for the word made flesh, tonight I will sing praise to the Father who stood on Heaven's threshold and said farewell to his son as he stepped across the Stars to Bethlehem and Jerusalem, I will sing praise to the infinite Eternal son who became most finite, a baby, who would one day be executed for my crime, Praise Him in the heavens, Praise Him in the stable, Praise Him in my heart."

I just love that picture, imagine God the Father standing in heaven, the stars, the galaxies, looking down on Earth and sending his son Jesus Christ, the son of God on a rescue mission, saying farewell to him, as he walked upon the stars and down to earth.

That is the mystery of biblical Christianity. He was in heaven, then he was in the stable, but the shocking thing is, today he lives within us. That's the mystery of a true Christian. They have God living inside of them and that's why you can often sense the fragrance of a true Christian, when you meet one, you can often sense the presence of God around them.

He changed my life. I'm not special, that's not what a Christian means when they say, "God's within me" they're not saying, "Oh look at me." No, they're saying: Look at Him. It's all about God.

I used to wonder: Why am I here? What is the meaning of life? What's the purpose in this life? I tried everything, everything but Jesus. Then at rock bottom I asked Jesus Christ to help me. And I discovered Jesus is the meaning of life: the way, the truth, and the life.

Prayer: Father, we're grateful for your coming, we're grateful that you sent Jesus Christ to be our savior, to be born as a little baby, wow! God, we pray for every person among our families and friends who doesn't know you. We ask that you would reveal yourself to them. For ourselves, we pray you would continue to guide us along the right pathways of life, to the very last day, in Jesus Christ name, Amen.

Sunday, December 17, 2023

Practicing the Presence of God: Following the beat of the Kingdom

I recall a few weeks back I was trying to get into the mindset of Christmas, so I was watching old Christmas cartoons from the mid 1900s. A fair amount of it was oddly poisonous to my spirit. It was not edifying or encouraging to my inner man. It was a lot of self focused desire for stuff, a lot of santa claus in the red suit giving people toys. So be it. One after another was pretty bad, pretty boring, but then I came along the little drummer boy. It was made in 1968, a stop motion film about the little drummer boy meeting the baby Jesus.

In any case I watched this cartoon and found myself, laughing and kinda thinking to myself man this is stupid. But when I got to the end, something caught my attention that has stuck with me ever since. It’s something where I left feeling that I had been edified by the film, and that God had been in it after all.

The drummer boy comes to the baby Jesus and plays his drum. And everyone starts nodding along to the beat, the people around, the animals, everyone nods along to the beat.

And I realized that’s really what happened when Jesus was born into the world. The kingdom of God came with power, and with that, people became different, something fundamental changed. And a new beat took over, and spread to millions, the beat of the kingdom of God, and it’s so different from the messed up beat of the world. There is a new beat.

The ”beat” of God is what true Christians have, they walk in the mindset of Jesus Christ. They see the world around them through that lens.

There is a competing system, and that is the world system, which is under the control of the evil one. More and more it nearly forms itself into an opposing religion, another all encompassing way of seeing reality.

It vys for the hearts and minds of lost humanity, and claims to be a way out for humanity. Just as Christianity claims to be a way out for humanity.

Like any radio station, we can only tune in to the station if we’re on the right channel. If I want to listen to K-Love and I’m on 107.9 it’s not going to work. I need to turn over to 89.1.

Similarly, you will follow the beat of that which you’re tuned into. If you’re tuned into the world system, NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, PBS, NPR, Ny times, Washington post, major academic institutions, political groups, television, Hollywood, celebrity gossip, then you will be in fact tuned into the world system, and you’ll walk in step with the world system. It will dictate how you think, what you think about, and what causes and effort you focus on in the world.

Similarly, if you tune in to the Bible, prayer, daily devotionals, sermons on Youtube, biblical Christian speakers, Christian books, Christian media, Christian newspapers and websites, then you’ll be tuned into God’s system. If you listen to the prophets you’ll be aware of prophecy. If you listen to biblical teachings, you’ll have biblical knowledge. If you study end times, you’ll have knowledge on such things. That’s a good vein to be in. But you can be tuned into the body of Christ, and still not find yourself in step with God’s plan and purpose for your life.

There is a lot of false doctrine out there in the body of Christ, from once saved always saved to cessationism, to Calvinism itself, so we do really have to be careful what teachers we’re listening to in the body of Christ. Because we may just be led astray, if we’re not careful.

To really be in alignment with God’s purposes and plans you need to do something mentioned in scripture, from Romans 12:2, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

You need to learn to test and approve what God’s will is. This is done through prayer, asking God for help on a particular, specific topic, and then studying the word for clues about God’s wisdom on the topic you’re questioning about. This also takes time. Give yourself time as you seek an answer from God.

That’s all well and good, but, I’ll tell you this, you will naturally lean toward God’s will in your life if you have something very basic, which is our theme for today: The Presence of God.

If you have cultivated a lifestyle in Christ in which Christ is the center of your life, and you’re in constant communion with God throughout the day, you will walk in the cloud of the presence of God at all times, and you will naturally incline toward God’s will, God’s heart on a particular topic, and God’s purposes for your life, for your state, your nation, and the world.

It will happen naturally if you have the presence of God in your life.

I want to point us back to the theme scripture for our series, Incarnation, which 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 1:14

We understand John to be meaning that Jesus was born as a baby, in a manger, of Mary. But I want you to see another angle: The Word became flesh and made his dwelling in us.

If you are a real born again Christian, you have Jesus Christ living within you. You are in fact part of His body, the body of Christ. You carry His presence with you. The presence of God, with you.

Jesus is here. He’s here right now. That is shocking, isn’t it? He’s with us. We can’t see God with our physical eyes. But we can sense His presence. The environment changes as we sense God move in. Often the presence of God is linked with the wind, as Jesus stated, the Spirit moves wherever it wishes…

“8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” -John 3:8

You’ll need to learn as a Christian, over time, how to attune yourself to the leading of the Holy Spirit, and what the Lord has for you to do each day. You can see the effects of the wind, the trees move, the bushes shake back and forth, but you can’t actually see the wind itself. So it is with the Holy Spirit of God, we can sense the Holy Spirit at work, we see people getting saved, we see God doing things, healing people, changing lives, our part is to catch the drift if you will, and get into alignment with what God is doing in our community.

We find our part to play in what God is doing, he leads us to that spot of where we belong in his plan, and then we get to work for His kingdom.

There are two ways where we can miss that:

First, we can miss it by assuming God doesn’t have a specific plan for our lives. This is taught in some theological circles, basically that God has no particular design for your life, that you just need to accept Jesus as your savior, then you live your life as you please, as long as it’s accordance with general biblical principles, love people, help others, pray, and so on and so forth. But they miss the fact that God has a will for their life, purposes for them to fulfill, people for them to reach. And they miss it with bad theology, that God just has a general purpose for them to simply obey basic biblical principles in their life. Wrong, he has specific purposes for you.

I used to operate that way as a Christian, I’m going to do what I want, in a biblical way. I’m going to pursue where I want to be, what I Want to be, but with biblical concepts, love forgiveness, etc. But that’s not it. There’s more, he has a plan, a specific plan, yes there is freedom in it, but there is a purpose.

Second, we can miss it by getting obsessively neurotic about His will and plan. This is me sometimes. What do I need to do right now for God? Obsessing, praying in my mind all day all the time God what do you want me to do? Where do I go next? And it becomes too much, where I drive myself crazy, and I stress myself out, and I collapse under the pressure I’m putting on myself.

The right way, to find and follow the will of God is in calmness, in prayer, in peace, in the fear of God, in a trembling at his word, and in a fervent desire within to simply be of use for his kingdom. I want to be of use for God’s purposes. Peacefully, joyously, even in difficulty, even when I’m tired or crabby. That isn’t always easy. But it’s not neurotic either.

From Acts chapter 2:1-3, “When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested[a] on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.”

I think this scripture shows us how to walk in the will of God. First, the disciples were gathered on Pentecost. Jesus had told them to gather and wait for the Holy Spirit to come, they did as he said. They were in the right place at the right time.

Second, The presence of God filled the house where they were. God moves in and takes over.

Third, they were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke from the Holy Spirit.

That is your job in any encounter where God is using you. You’re prayed up, and in the word, so you end up at the right place and at the right time. You’re there. God’s presence takes over. The Holy Spirit fills you. Then you speak from the leading of the Holy Spirit to that person or in that situation.

In all that you’ve done something critical: You’ve tuned into the presence of God. And God is using you. You’re walking in the “beat” of Christ. You’re walking in step with the heart beat of God, his purpose for your life.

Three examples from the night of all nights, the night that Jesus was born…

Mary and Joseph are surrendered to the leading of God. They are also obedient to the government authorities, they are returning to Bethlehem, the town of Joseph’s family, to register for the census. Mary has submitted to God’s will for her to be pregnant with Jesus. Joseph as submitted to the fact that he should not divorce mary, but should continue with his plans to marry her. And by the will of God, Joseph and Mary find themselves in the barn, with the barn animals, Mary giving birth to Jesus in the hay. And this was exactly where God had for them to be at this moment.

Next God moves in with might and power, from Luke chapter 2, “8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

The glory of God fills that night with God’s presence. The response of the shepherds is fear. They are shocked by the presence of God. Sometimes when I sense the presence of God near me, I’m afraid. That’s natural. Other times when I sense the presence of God, I’m filled wit joy. The shepherds go from fear, to joy. That joy leads to praise, “20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.”

Notice also the shepherds joined with Mary and Joseph in obedience to God’s leading. They went where they were told to go.

I want you to notice that, obedience. It’s huge. Many, many people here who come through the salvation army, I can tell there is a calling over their life. They are called by God to ministry, to service, to the body of Christ. But they are in a state of rebellion against that calling, against God, and they are resisting his leading. My part is to encourage them to simply stop fighting it and embrace God’s calling. But, many walk opposed to it. If you want to be different, do the radical thing, obey God. Simply, like a child. The childlike mindset will inherit the kingdom of God.

Third example, the wise men, gentile wise men, seek after God, and come to find Jesus in the manger.

It says in Matthew 2, 9 After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.”

These men are actively following the leading of God in their lives. What a rare thing! They are following as God leads, they are tuned in to the signal from God on what to do and how to live.

As a result God does lead them. Just like the Holy Spirit leads us as Christians, to do God’s will, so at the same time, the star leads these wise men to exactly where they belong, at the feet of Jesus. In the same way time and again the Holy spirit will lead us correctly, exactly where we belong.

And this process of being led by God, leads them to great joy. It ends in great joy. And this great joy leads them to worship. And to offer their gifts and talents to God’s service. They give to Jesus, gold, frankincense and myrrh. Similarly we who serve God in the body of Christ offer our gifts and talents to God, for his glory.

Challenge: Are you truly led by the Spirit of God? Do you experience God’s presence in your life? Or do you always find yourself distracted by other things?

Do you do your own thing? Or do you let God use you?

Let’s review:

1. Walk by a different drum – don’t submit to the world, follow God’s leading

2. Test and approve what God’s will is for you

3. Avoid common pitfalls in discerning God’s will (self-driven life, neurotic attempts to follow)

4. Through prayer and scripture discern God’s will

5. Obey God as Joseph and Mary did

6. Encounter God as the shepherds did

7. Rejoice in God as the Wise men did

Sunday, December 10, 2023

The Infinite Worth of Christ: And your worth in Him

Have you ever ridden the Polar Express? One of the key attractions for the city of Owosso, Michigan is the North Pole express train, it’s a train known of across the country, even around the world, as the Christmas train. To ride the train brings back memories of a different time in our country. Trains often bring a sense of awe and mystery.

It brings to mind past memories I’m sure of earlier eras in American society. It brings to mind movies, and it brings to mind the spirit of Christmas.

Why is it so important? Why do people pay so much to ride the train? Because in their minds they’ve ascribed a high value to that experience.

They’ve decided in their mind and heart that it matters greatly to them, to do that.

Similarly, two of our bell ringers have been dressing up as the Grinch this year. And people also ascribe value to that as well, dozens of people have been very excited, wanting pictures with the Grinch around town, telling friends, and donating money just for the opportunity.

Again, why? They’ve ascribed in their mind value to that experience.

It’s very interesting to me, to observe as a pastor, a Christian, what people ascribe value to in society.

What I valued before I became a Christian was movies, videogames, parties, television, drinking, and I would get excited when I thought I might meet a pretty girl. I ascribed little to no value to things like faith, church, Jesus, the Bible, or Christmas.

But after becoming a Christian, what I value has completely flipped. Now I value Jesus and the Bible and attending church at the top of my list of what matters most in my life.

I changed what I ascribe value to in my life. And that will be our challenge for today I think, to begin to change what we value in life, to make sure it lines up with what God’s word says.

Recall our foundation scripture for God's entry into Earth: “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 1:14

That is what we want to ascribe value to in our minds and hearts, the fact that Jesus Christ came in human form, full of grace and truth.

We’re going to be exploring two broad concepts, worth and worship. So through the message we’re going to bounce between those two concepts, and what they mean for us as Christians.

What is your worth? Why do we struggle to value ourselves? And we’ll also see the danger of over-valuing ourselves.

Also, why do we struggle to ascribe proper value to Christ? A concluding theme is worship, and we’ll see how our view of the worth of Christ will be linked to our worship of Christ.

All of this I want to place on the backdrop of the visit of the magi to the new born Jesus, two thousand years ago.

What does it mean when we call something worthy? To answer this question I had to turn to a work by a man named Noah Webster, who felt God had called him to write a dictionary. When I question what a word means, I like to look at his original work, the 1828 Webster’s dictionary.

And for worthy we find this definition: WORTHY, adjective

1. Deserving; such as merits; having worth or excellence; equivalent; with of, before the thing deserved. She has married a man worthy of her.

2. Possessing worth or excellence of qualities; virtuous; estimable; as a worthy citizen; a worthy magistrate.

3. Suitable; having qualities suited to; either in a good or bad sense; equal in value; as flowers worthy of paradise.

4. Suitable to any thing bad.

5. Deserving of ill; as things worthy of stripes. Luke 12:48.

Point 1: Seeing your Worth
I need to allow myself to see my worth in Christ. That if I’ve put on Christ as Lord, as my savior, and I’ve been born again, I have great value in the sight of God. I have an identity rooted in Christ.

Can you see your own worth? For some of you that’s very easy. You see your worth. Many people see their worth and value. Sometimes too much. They think too highly of themselves. For you, keep that worth in check. Make sure it doesn’t become pride.

Some of you have a hard time seeing your own worth. You tend always view yourself as unworthy. Unworthy of God. Unworthy of love. Unworthy of even basic kindness from others. The world has taught you that you don’t have value. But the world lied to you.

And God speaks truth. Train yourself to read and reread the scriptures which speak of your value in Christ. Read those scriptures and embrace them saying yes, this is talking about me, I’m this in Christ.

A scripture which reveals this truth is found in 2nd Peter 2:7,9-11 which says:

"To you who believe and depend on Him, He is precious... But you are a chosen people, set aside to be a royal order of priests, a holy nation, God’s own; so that you may proclaim the wondrous acts of the One who called you out of inky darkness into shimmering light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received it.

Beloved, remember you don’t belong in this world. You are resident aliens living in exile, so resist those desires of the flesh that battle against the soul." -1 Peter 2:7,9-11 (VOICE)

The plain fact is this: If you have indeed received Jesus Christ as savior, you have entered a state in which you are entirely worthy of God’s love. That’s a scandalous statement for some. But it’s true. Christ has made you perfect with His blood. That’s not of ourselves, it’s of Him. But if he’s made you that, then you need to understand you are now adopted as a child, and thus entirely worthy of God’s love right now. If you will believe that, you’ll be able to receive that love freely.

Point 2: Seeing Christ’s Worth
Next, we consider something even more important than seeing your own worth. It’s seeing the all encompassing worthiness of Christ Jesus.

We can know this in our mind. We can know the theology. But can it go from head to heart? Do we know it, or do we really know it?

Often in the psalms we’re commanded to “ascribe to God…” this or that, to ascribe to God glory, honor, praise, goodness, faithfulness.

The meaning of that, is the psalmist is telling you to write it on your heart, to believe it in your heart, and set that standard in your soul, that Christ is… worthy. Christ has high value. Set that in your soul and believe it.

The wise men understood this idea that Christ was and is of great value. That’s why they left the east on a mission to discover the birth of a messiah.

“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” -Matthew 2:1-2

The magi set out, not even knowing for sure what was happening, but they went, seeking after God. They weren’t Jews. But they knew God was calling them to something special. They valued God’s messiah so incredibly greatly. That's special. That's rare.

Some of you don’t value Christ like you should. You’ve set the value in your mind as low, or medium, and I need you to turn that thermostat up to high. I need you take the value in your mind from 10 to 10,000.

Over our lifetimes, I think, if we’re doing it right, it will be like a ladder, or staircase, going upward. As we learn more and more about Jesus, and as we pray, and read his word more and more, we will ascribe to Christ higher and higher values.

We will reverence Christ as holy. We will think of God as perfect. We will be amazed at the love of Christ. We will value Christ more than gold. We will value Christ more than our 401k, more than our politics, more than nice cars or music or social media, or marriage or family. 

Slowly over time we'll learn to esteem Jesus Christ more and more highly in our hearts. And as we do that, over the years, and decades, we’ll be seeing Christ more and more as he truly is. It’s a stairway leading upward, to seeing Christ as King of the universe. 

That is our future, our destiny. We've been predestined for adoption to sonship. But not everyone will want to worship Christ. Many will resist him. And even try to stop his coming. Many in our world desire that Jesus would never return. They want power. They want to control the world. But their kingdoms will all submit to Christ one day. It was the same when Jesus came the first time. We see that with King Herod, when he heard the news of the magi coming to Jerusalem. Herod is greatly troubled. 

It says in Matthew 2:3-6: “When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.”

Then Herod meets secretly with the Magi. It says next... 

"Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” -Matthew 2:7-8

King Herod tries to set up the Magi, to find the messiah, and then report it back to him, so he could cause trouble. The magi are honest seekers. They simply want the truth. But Herod is not an honest broker. He has an agenda he brings to the whole situation.

Similarly in our day and age we find false teachers in the world today, they bring their own agenda to the Bible, they bring their own agenda to the body of Christ, and they teach false doctrines. They teach that Christ encourages sin. They teach that we can’t really trust certain parts of God’s word, like the parts about biblical marriage, or parts about what sin is, and they twist the word of God, to claim that Christ would encourage sinful lifestyles if he were alive today. They don’t reverence Christ in their hearts. They reverence their own opinions, their ideologies and they want to be liked by the masses. They want to be liked by the cameras and the media.

We must always resist a view of Jesus that whitewashes all the scriptures about sin, and heaven and hell, and turns Jesus into something different. That’s a different Jesus. A Jesus who teaches niceness, not truth. A Jesus who teaches inclusion of sin not biblical repentance, a Jesus who teaches popularity, not taking a stand for difficult truths. Our Jesus, the real Jesus, the Jesus of the Bible, is the only Jesus I will ever worship, I will not worship the mass marketed jesus of the culture who is no Jesus at all, but an idol of popular culture and modern outrage politics.

Point 3: Worth turns to Worship
As we value Jesus more and more, we find ourselves increasingly in a place of being set apart for special use. We find ourselves in a “silent night” of sorts. We find ourselves in a place of reverence for God. That’s when purity takes over. The purity of Christ overwhelms us. His presence, his holy love takes over, and the whole environment changes. That perfect purity of Christ, I strive to walk in step with that. To really live that. 

We have that now. We have to remember, and yet we also strive toward it. Justification and sanctification. We have it now, perfect in Christ, yet he’s conforming us in his likeness. Sometimes we backslide, sometimes we draw nearer, sometimes we sin and repent, yet we keep walking in the faith, in it now ,yet seeking Him still. That’s the lifestyle of the true Christian I think, a lifestyle of worship…

We walk in faith, having the promise, yet we strive for more of Christ, and to leave behind more of sin and the world each day, repenting anew, turning again, believing by faith, and at the same time living out our faith by works of goodness, faith without works being dead, bouncing between resting faith in Christ, and dutifully serving Him in our works.

In all that, the value we have for Christ, turns into worship. And it was the same for the wise men…

“After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.” -Matthew 2:9-12

The wise men believed by faith and walked by faith following the star.

We too believe in Jesus by faith, and walk by faith in Christ

The star we follow now is the leading of the Holy Spirit within us. That start of the Holy Spirit leads us forward each day where he wants us next.

And in all that like the wise men we find Jesus more and more and we worship Him. We worship Him by faith.

Yet we live out our faith by our works, by bringing our gifts to God, like the wise men brought gold, frankincense and myrrh. We bring our gifts to God, evangelism, discipleship, meeting needs, feeding people, giving people rides, visiting those in sorrow, and so on and so forth.

It all fits together just right.

Challenge: Do you know your worth in Christ? Do you know Christ’s great worth? Does your heart overflow with worship?

1. Your value is great – valued by God
2. Christ’s value is greater – infinitely great
3. Seeing Christ and ourselves in Christ, worth turns to worship of Christ – worship is our destiny