The first time the term Christian (which literally means “Christ Ones”) was used in describing followers of Jesus Christ was in Antioch, Syria (Acts 11:26). Prior to this time, followers of Jesus Christ were simply known as “people of the Way” (Acts 9:2, 24:14) in reference to their lifestyle, i.e., the way of life they lived. In other words, it was their lifestyle that identified them as being followers of Jesus Christ, not their words.
The entire Book of Acts describes this lifestyle. What does it mean to be people of the Way? What does it look like to be Christ ones? What kinds of things happen? Just exactly what you read and see in the Book of Acts… and just what God is doing in the Earth all over the place and among many tribes… only GREATER! And just what we envision for us, and other tribes, in our region.
Culture talks of being “woke”. In order to become woke one must awaken. But what we awaken to matters. Current cultural “woke” is misguided, misled… is self-focused, cause focused, entitlement focused, founded fully in comparison and competition… and, therefore, driven fully, amplified and exploited by the orphan spirit.
It is high time, I submit past the time, God’s church transitions its thinking. We must move to the mind of Christ that the bible clearly tells us we actually have and can obtain. It is the gap between the two: “normal” mind and Christ’s mind… natural or even logical and rational thinking and Kingdom thinking… that presents the challenge. It’s the in-between where the challenge lies, and all the gooey goodness, richness and revelation too! The Greek word for that shift, or in-between or interstice, is metanoia.
It is this very word the bible translates as… REPENTANCE. Repent! The Kingdom is at hand, available, real, right now, Jesus said several times directly, and preached everywhere He went. Think anew! Think before you act? Sure, of course. But think before you think! Access, be, move in, act on, God thoughts and release those into the people and situations and circumstances around you!
More than 700 years before Jesus’s birth the great prophet Isaiah said some massively important things. Let me share them with you. Here they are in full-sensory richness. Please sit back, listen carefully. Play video Isa 53.1-6.Hillsong.2.00. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oioLoQsrts0
We cite these verses at Christmas. And well we should. It is Christ’s birth that manifested the possibility the prophecy would be fulfilled. But it is Easter, Resurrection Day, the day that all sin, iniquity and curses were redeemed, the day redemption and salvation and direct intimacy with God were fully restored and made possible, the day death, hell and the grave were defeated… it is THIS day, the day we celebrate April 4th, that fulfilled and fully filled the prophecy… and made available to us the resurrection power of Christ and the WAY MORE OF GOD!
The Sermon on the Mount is ALL about being “woke”. It also says clearly the consequences if you aren’t woke God’s way. Read the end of Chapter 7 carefully. So does Luke Chapter 13, as do Revelation 2 and 3. Those are loving warnings and admonitions. But oh my goodness, Acts Chapter 2 speaks of woke. So does every book of the New Testament! Awakened into the touchable, tangible, present reality of the current AND coming Kingdom of God! Church, awaken! I say to the regional church, awaken!
On a hillside above a big lake, Jesus the Christ Himself taught and explained to His 12 disciples, and several hundred lookey-loo’s and eavesdroppers, what this looks like, how to access Kingdom living and how to enact and activate the life of Christ-ones.
Of the 4 Gospels, the Gospel of John focuses on Jesus. The character of Christ, the nature of Christ, the person of Christ. Resurrection power is always found in proximity. Closer one is with God, the less distance there is between he or she and God. Hear me out. That’s far more profound and important than it sounds. Where is God right now? God IS close. It’s I who am not. The bible tells us that over and over again.
Please read Luke 12:22-34. Dr. Luke, as always, elaborates wonderfully on details. In verse 32 he tells us, “Don’t be hesitant, or afraid. It’s your Father’s good pleasure to GIVE you the Kingdom of God.” We don’t earn it.
As we said last week, John 15:15 assures us God does not call us servants. It says we’re no longer running around wondering what our master wants. He calls you and me friends. Because, He has made known to us everything He heard from His Father. In Christ, the barrier that existed for millennia between us and the Father is gone. I wish I had time to go into all the other wonderful verses that show that. As a start, you could click on the JC Family Connection Facebook page and download the “In Christ” verses posted last Sunday.
Oh… one final Holy Ghost gotcha to drive this home. Revelation 3:14-22. Now remember, now Jesus is the fully glorified son of God, all-powerful-to-the-point-of-sending-you-prostrate Christ of Revelation, not the lowly, laid-down-all-His-privilege-son-of-man Christ.
It is this Christ, the all-powerful Head of all things and ultimate judge of all things, who says through a high angel to the region of Laodicea (and to much of the church world today), “I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, ‘I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.’ You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. (vv.15-17).
But then just two verses later, same angel, same Jesus, the offer of redemption and restoration: “Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me. 21 To the one who conquers I will give a place with me on my throne, just as I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.”
Now catch this… SO important. Even though someone, say for instance, might be a hot mess, we do NOT go knocking on God’s door as servants and orphans wondering whether we can get in and stay in… let alone scoot up to His table. No, no, no! The bible says over and over and over again through many authors and myriad ways, God says, “I’m right here. Please may I come in. I’ll cook you your favorite breakfast, just like I did for My disciples after I resurrected.
Won’t you invite me in? (knock, knock, knock) Won’t you let me take over, take care of you, teach you, coach you, guide you, change you, empower you and even let me run you into others who are with me and with whom you can experience true belonging and a fit? My Kingdom and my way, truth and life are fully available for the true accepting.
Please, please catch this. Please, please do not miss this, second-guess this, over think it, or try to figure it out. Please simply receive, inherit, assimilate this as full-on, live-giving, life-changing truth. The closer we are with God, the closer we are TO God. And the closer we are TO god, the more accessible and available we find HIS righteousness.
And as we learned all last year, to the extent we put first seeking His Kingdom and HIS righteousness, He will provide and increase ALL… EVERYTHING we need. Joy? Peace? Rest? Peaceful sleep? Provision? Protection? Security? Safety? Wisdom? Hope? Truth? Innovation? Solutions? Yes. Over time. Done, done and done!
Know what else comes with intimacy with God and to God and entering into His already-closeness with you? His power—His authority, His might, His supernatural, His love, His peace, His beauty, His majesty, His viewpoints, His mind, and His design for each of us: Our nature, our unique personality, our unique fit, our unique purpose, our unique destiny. And as we find all that, we can’t help find one another. So you see, that IS building big people. And building big people IS building a big church.
Make no mistake about it. God so desires such people now. He lovingly yearns to share His nature, His revelation, His goodness, His discipline… AND His power. Resurrection Sunday is just 4 Sundays away. Make Easter weekend your time to launch or to re-launch… the real YOU, the YOU God created in the first place, and to launch in power!
Now, back to the Gospels for just a minute. The Gospel of John is SO important. If you catch the explosive true nature of God, the piercing reality of the limitless love of God and the utterly irresistible lure of the embrace of God, it will utterly and beautifully wreck you, and how you interpret the world around you and the people in it. As or maybe even more important, will utterly and beautifully renovate and overhaul how you read and interpret scripture!
One of the main reasons is John’s Gospel carries a great degree of Heavenly Father orientation and focus. Next time you read the Book of John, highlight all the verses that refer to the Father. The Father, the Father, the Father. The Book of John reveals the persons of the Godhead. Persons.
Matthew’s, Mark’s and Luke’s Gospels are called the Synoptic Gospels. Those Gospels are oriented far less to persons and far more to things that happened. The Synoptic Gospels focus on events. Reference to the Father is rare. If you highlight all the times Matthew, Mark and Luke cite or refer to The Father, you’ll come up with very few—and those few mainly refer to the Father obliquely… somewhat indirectly.
Well, with one HUGE exception. Matthew Chapters 5 through 7, called the Sermon on the Mount. Last week’s Call to Action: Read Matthew 5-7 10 times between now and 4/1. 1 Chapter per day. 24 days remain. If you start today, you can still read those chapters 8 times! Just do it. But read them to receive, to enlighten, to illuminate, to reveal! Ask Holy Spirit to come alongside, sit down with you, partner with you.
To do what? Reveal the Way the Truth and the Life. Reveal the Kingdom. Reveal the mind of God. And this time, I invite you to highlight or mark or write in the margin each time it refers to the Father as you read Matthew 5-7 over and over between now. You see, that is key. For as you come to learn and do the Way of Christ, so too will you the Father. Next thing you know, you’ll begin to experience, far beyond brain-thinking, the reality that you are seated in heavenly places with Christ, who is seated AT the right hand of the Father.
Let’s accept Christ’s invitation this morning. Let’s answer the door and open it. I hear the knocking now. Watch video Show Me The Way.JAlan.3.59. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mci7W5CWf24. Take communion with others.
Benediction; back to the boat: Which body of water are you paddling in? Storm and tempest of culture or the ocean of God’s grace where you can speak to the waves? True salvation: Decision, choice, event and process. Once and again. Reborn from above. This morning, this afternoon, tomorrow and all the days after. Born anew and renewed. Transformed. New wineskin, new wine. Remodeled vessel, ready, willing and able to receive the very glory, goodness and power of God. Be renewed. And may renewal wonderfully wreck you and all those precious to you. We love you. So does God. Yes, you.