Welcome to Palmerston EMC!

Palmerston EMC is made up of people from various walks of life.  A somewhat traditional church, we reflect a small town personality with strong family ties.  Agriculture and agricultural related business employ a large portion of our congregation, while some of our people are self-employed or work in industry, service or government.  We are a practical, service oriented congregation with a heart to see God’s work in Palmerston move ahead. We have a strong desire to worship and serve God, to reach out to our community, to grow spiritually and to see new people come to faith in Jesus Christ.

You are welcome to join us!

Overcomers

Have you ever taken a moment to consider what the Bible means when it talks about Christians as “those who overcome”? It’s all over the place in the Bible. Some verses talk about us as being victorious, others talk about what we are victorious over, and still others talk about how we are victorious. On Sunday, we began a journey through that very topic.

The one thing that is critical to understand as we begin this journey together is this: our victory is a stated fact. It is a stated fact because it has been given to us by Jesus. It is his victory, but it is a victory that he shares with us. Because of that truth, we can live and breathe in the words of Romans 8:37 “No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.”

nikao. It is a Greek word that appears 28 times in the New Testament, and it means “to overcome” or “be victorious”; and it is used quite a few of those 28 times to talk about Christians.

While we will talk about Jesus as the victor, I wonder how many of us have come to the firm and absolute conclusion that

Sermon Big Idea:
Because Jesus was victorious in his life, his death and his resurrection, and is victorious still, those who believe in him are “overcomers” as well.

Sermon Points:

  • ύπερνικάω (hupernikao).
    • ύπερ (huper) means more, over and above, super
    • νικάω (nikao) means to overcome, to conquer.
  • those who believe in Jesus are “super-conquerors”.
  • This word talks about someone who has not just won or defeated an adversary, but has done so in such a way that there is no question of their superiority or their right to the victory.
  • We come from a heritage of overcomers (Joshua/Jericho, David/Goliath, Moses/Pharaoh)
  • We are overcomers (Luke 10:19, 1 John 5:4-5)
  • Romans 8:35-39 Paul reiterates that NOTHING can overcome us, not even death (1 Corinthians 15:54-57)
  • It is Jesus’ victory that has been given to us (Psalm 20:6, 1 John 4:4)
  • Revelation 12:11 says that we overcome by the blood of the Lamb, but that we also continue overcoming through the word of our testimony, by living victoriously for Jesus.
  • A spiritual battle still rages around us, a battle we are expected to participate in, a battle that we CAN participate in because we are overcomers in Christ.
  • It can be a hard fight, a discouraging fight, a never-ending fight.
  • We must remember that we are victorious because Jesus is already victorious.

Follow-up questions:
Are there any areas in your life that you feel “beaten” in? Ask God to help you understand how you can be victorious even in those areas.

Questions for families with small children:
Talk to your children about the images of Jesus as a warrior, as God being our shield and deliverer. Ask them how that image of Jesus makes them feel?

Fan or Follower: Worth It?

When we gathered on Sunday, it was to finish up our journey through the question: Are you a follower of Jesus or merely a fan? A fan, just to remind you, is “an enthusiastic admirer”. A fan has the poster on the wall, knows all the stats and cheers from the sidelines.

The only way to know the difference between being a fan and being a follower is to discover what Jesus says a follower looks like. That, really, has been the whole point of this journey. We want to discover what Jesus defines being a follower as, and then see how we measure up.

Principles of following:
1) Jesus is the only one worth following. 2) Following is essential to believing, just as believing is essential to following. 3) following means being a doulos (slave) to Jesus. 4) following means expecting Jesus to interfere with your life. 5) A follower knows Jesus intimately. 6) A follower follows Jesus in a community of other followers. 7) A follower follows Jesus on mission. 8) Following Jesus is costly. 9) A follower becomes more like Jesus as they follow him.

Sermon Big Idea:
Following Jesus is worth the hardship and the costs that following might bring.

Sermon Points:

  • Jesus defines what it means to be a follower, not you or I.
  • It is not about how we compare to other people, it is not about denominational measures, or family heritage or Biblical knowledge.
  • Jesus’ definition is not easy! But is it worth it?
  • God wants to transform our lives, in giving us new lives. (Romans 6:1-4)
  • New zoe (spiritual) life.
  • Before we knew Christ we were spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1)
  • Abundant (overflowing quality of life that Jesus came to give), spiritual life (John 10:10)
  • We have to be convinced that this new life in Christ is enough. We have to learn contentment (Philippians 4:12-13)
  • What does following Jesus supply? (Psalm 23)
    • Contentment (vs 1)
    • Rest (vs 2)
    • Guidance (vs 3)
    • Safety (vs 4)
    • Provision (vs 5)
    • A home (vs 6)
  • Can God really provide these things? YES. His proof is in his power displayed in Jesus’ resurrection. His proof is the victory we have been given through Jesus.

Follow-up questions:
Take some time to answer the question “Are you a follower?” in light of how Jesus defines that relationship?

Questions for families with small children:
Pick one or two of the principles of following and talk to your children about how you can be living them out in your family life.

Are you a follower?

What good is it…

In Luke 9:25, Jesus asks his disciples a very pointed question. He asks: “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?” That’s the NIV translation. The Living Bible puts it this way: “and what profit is there in gaining the whole world when it means forfeiting one’s self?” Jesus asks this question on the tail end of one of the many times that he talks about the cost of following him. Luke 9 specifically talks about two of those costs: taking up your cross daily to follow Jesus and losing our life for Jesus’ sake in order to find life. 

By asking this question, Jesus cuts to the very heart of the issue we humans have when considering the costs of following Jesus: is it worth it? Is having Jesus interfere with our lives worth it? Is following Jesus on mission worth it? Is becoming more like Jesus worth it? Is sharing our faith journey with other followers worth the inherent risk that comes with close relationships? Is being a slave to Jesus worth the cost of our independence?

It would seem much more fulfilling, much more beneficial and much more “rewarding” to chase after the things that provide us with more immediate and earthly benefits. Good jobs, good standing with friends/family, financial comfort, a nice home, a reliable car, etc. But Jesus puts all of those things in a much different light with this question. If you were to gain the whole world, everything this life has to offer (and certainly our world now has far more on offer than the world of Jesus’ day did), for the fleeting time that we spend on this world but at the cost of your very self and your eternal soul, is that worth it? Is the stuff of this world worth the cost of your values, your ethics, your personality, your self-respect?

I would challenge our thinking in a different way in this matter as well. When we consider the cost of following Jesus (and perhaps consider the costs too high), I would propose that we are making the automatic assumption that there are no or very few rewards that come with the following. That following Jesus is nothing but a one-way street of sacrifice, slavery, sorrow and loneliness, that is all about costs flowing from us to Jesus, that there is no return from Jesus to us.

Of course there is the immediate response to that assumption, that Jesus has already put out more than we ever will in terms of cost when he lived and died for us. But if we put that assumption aside and consider it closely, Biblically, I think we will find that indeed there are rewards and benefits to us, in the here and now, when we follow Jesus.

It is those benefits that we are going to explore this week as we wrap up the sermon series Fan or Follower.

See you Sunday.

Fan or Follower: Transformation follow-up

Have you ever been in one of those moments in life when you are face-to-face with the consequences of your character (not your actions, your character), and you think: “Man, I wish I could be someone else.” Or have you ever wished that a part of you was different. Perhaps your anger gets the best of you, or your perfectionism causes a rift with a co-worker. Or maybe you’re lazy attitude causes you to miss out on a life-changing opportunity. Or maybe you just plain old don’t like who you are in one particular moment.

Maybe I’m the only one who finds himself disappointed in, well, himself (although I doubt that to be the case). When we met on Sunday, we talked about how God desires to transform us into the likeness of Jesus. Let me be clear in saying that God desires this because he is disappointed in us or finds us wanting. That is not the case at all. He desires this for us because we are at our best when we are being like Jesus. Philip is most like Philip when there is more of Jesus present. I know that may seem like an odd thing to say, but I believe it to be true.

Remember, God created humanity in his own image. That image was broken when Adam and Eve rebelled against (disobeyed) God. That image remained broken, until Jesus was born and redeemed the image, remade the image of humanity. So now, as a new creation (as Paul calls us), I follow after the image of Jesus, which is in fact the real image of me that God desires. I hope you can follow that bit of convoluted logic.

Principles of following (so far):
1) Jesus is the only one worth following. 2) Following is essential to believing, just as believing is essential to following. 3) following means being a doulos (slave) to Jesus. 4) following means expecting Jesus to interfere with your life. 5) A follower knows Jesus intimately. 6) A follower follows Jesus in a community of other followers. 7) A follower follows Jesus on mission. 8) Following Jesus is costly.

Sermon Big Idea:
A follower is transformed to be more like Jesus as they follow him.

Sermon Points:

  • I am learning to be more like Jesus in my attitudes, behaviours and character.
  • We are all being made into the image of Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:8).
  • Romans 8:29 we are being conformed into the image of Jesus.
  • Transformed is the process by which we become more like Jesus.
  • Being conformed to Jesus’ image is the end result/goal/product.
  • Sanctification is what this whole process is called.
  • 1 Peter 1:2 sanctification is the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives: he accomplishes the process by which we are made into Jesus’ image.
  • BUT we must participate in the process; we cannot simply go about our lives waiting for the Spirit to get it done!
  • In transforming us, Jesus will interfere with our lives!
  • Transform what? 1) Heart (passions, love, empathy, emotions, anger, lusts, compassion, etc); 2) Mind (Philippians 4:8-9); 3) Life (2 Peter 1:3-9, our lives need to reflect Jesus!)
  • Why does God want to do this? Because we are all images of a broken humanity and God sent Jesus to fix what was broken (Matthew 9:12-13)
  • What motivates this on God’s part? Love. God loves you enough to meet you wherever you are at, but he love you too much to leave you there.
  • Visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3QCkBL2DfVg to watch a Skit Guys video about this topic called “God’s Chisel”.

Follow-up questions:
When was the last time you considered, really considered, areas of your life that God might want to remodel? What bothers you most about yourself? How can you ask the Holy Spirit to help you work on that area? Is there something habitual in your life that you know is not Christ honouring? When was the last time you prayed/confessed/asked the Holy Spirit to work on that in your life?

Questions for families with small children:
For those brave enough, take a minute to ask your child/children what they wish could/would be different about you (scary right). Prompt them to respond honestly with no fear of reprisal. Whatever they have to say, invite them to pray with you about that thing, that the Holy Spirit would help you work on that area of your life. This is a great opportunity to model humility and openness to God’s transformation in your life to your children!

Are you a follower?

Fan or Follower: Transformation

I have made the point on  a couple of occasions that Christianity is not a religion. To some of you, that statement may seem a bit off, even a bit heretical. But I assure you, you will find no scriptural support for the view that Christianity is a religion. Religion is a man-made construct, the forms and rituals in which we express beliefs, traditions or dogmas. From the time of early Hebrew worship, God struggled to help his people understand that their worship of him was not about ritual; it is about the state, the humbleness and the motivations of their heart.

Hosea 6:6 For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.
Psalm 51:16-17 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.
1 Samuel 15:22 But Samuel replied: “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.

Again and again through scripture, God tells us that his delight is not in sacrifices, but in a heart and mind that are more and more aligning themselves with God’s ways. Obedience to God’s law, meekness in light of God’s majesty, praise in light of God’s glory. Those are the things that are pleasing to God.

The New Testament makes this even clearer. “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3;18)

So Christianity is not a religion, it is a life-transforming faith in Jesus Christ. I asked this question in my sermon two weeks ago: “If you are not fishing, are you really following?” in reference to Jesus’ call to Peter and Andrew, that he would make them fish for people. That if we are following Jesus then we are following him on mission. I think I could just as easily say that if you are following Jesus then you must be more and more conformed to the image of Christ.

Galatians 5 outlines for us the fruit of the Spirit, fruit that should be more and more evident as we follow Jesus more deeply. Paul proclaims, in Ephesians 4:17-24, that we are to put off the old ways of life and put on the new life that is made in the likeness of God.

Our faith is a transformative faith, not an empty religion. A follower is constantly striving for less of themselves, and more of Christ.

When you look in the mirror, who do you see? Yourself or Christ.

Fan or Follower: The Cost

The familiar saying goes: “There is no such thing as a free lunch.” While the source of this old adage is rather obscure, it has been around a good long time and has a fairly clear meaning: it is impossible to get anything for nothing.

There is some danger in applying this statement to anything Christian, because in many ways our faith is built upon the idea of God’s free gift of salvation to all who believe. I would never say anything to counter this. God gives salvation, redemption and eternal life to all who come to him in humility and repentance. However, to take that free gift of salvation and turn it into a free ride to heaven is indeed something we must be careful of.

While our invitation to join God’s family is open to everyone and our acceptance into that family does indeed come free of charge, there is a very definite understanding that there are expectations placed on us as we enter into that family. There are costs involved when it comes to following Jesus. Those costs come, mainly in denying ourselves and living out God’s plan for our lives instead of our own.

Even the very nature of our Christian faith, that it is a transformative faith, is costly. When Paul writes: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the newcreation has come: The old has gone, thenew is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17), he is speaking of a cost. It is not easy to deny your old self in the everyday of life, it requires sacrifice. It requires that we “by the Spirit…put to death the deeds of the body” (Romans 8:13).

Principles of following (so far):
1) Jesus is the only one worth following. 2) Following is essential to believing, just as believing is essential to following. 3) following means being a doulos (slave) to Jesus. 4) following means expecting Jesus to interfere with your life. 5) A follower knows Jesus intimately. 6) A follower follows Jesus in a community of other followers. 7) A follower follows Jesus on mission.

Sermon Big Idea:
Following Jesus is costly.

Sermon Points:

  • All of the “principles of following” work together to define what it means to be a follower of Jesus.
  • All of the principles are costly in one way or another.
  • Jesus makes no secret about the fact that following him is costly (Mark 10:16-23, 37-39, Luke 9:57-62)
  • Following Jesus costs us our comfort: we are not a home here on earth, we are foreigners (1 Peter 1:17 & 2:11, see also John 15:18-19, Philippians 3:20 and Hebrews 11:13-16)
  • What should the slogan be for followers of Jesus? Come and die.
  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer: ““When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”
  • Die to yourself, your dreams, your plans, your comforts, your priorities.
  • Luke 14:25-33 Jesus encourages us to count the cost of following him.
  • It seems like a lot! G.K. Chesterton wrote: “It is not that Christianity has been tried and found wanting, but that it has been found difficult and left untried.”
  • What makes the cost worthwhile? Grace. Grace is getting what we don’t deserve.
  • The only real response to God’s grace to us through Jesus Christ is for us to give up everything in service to him.
  • Consider Isaac Watt’s words from the last verse of “When I survey the wonderous cross”: Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a present far too small; love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.
  • Is the cost of following greater or less than the cost God paid to save you?

Follow-up questions:
Take a moment to look at the principles of following that we have looked at so far and think about what each one might cost you as a follower. Are you prepared for those costs?

Questions for families with small children:
Take some time talking with your children about how much things cost and whether the cost is worth what you get out of it. Talk about that concept in connection to God and the price he paid for us.

Are you a follower?

No place to lay his head

I think we can all agree that Jesus says some pretty shocking things throughout his time of ministry on the earth. Blessed are those who mourn…Blessed are the poor in spirit…Whoever wants to be first must be last…Go, sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor…Woe to you Pharisees, you hypocrites…Follow me and I will make you fish for people…

I could go on, and I’m pretty sure you could add your own to the list, things that have stood out to you as pretty shocking as you read them for the first time…or perhaps were still socking even reading them for the tenth time.

I could be wrong about this, but I think that some of his most shocking statements were made to people who wanted to follow him, who came to him and asked to follow. You see, in Jesus’ day, Rabbis took applicants for positions as their students, and the recruitment process was brutal. Applicants were told to recite whole books of the Old Testament (can you imagine reciting the book of Numbers from memory!?!?!?), or answer questions about obscure people or figures in the scriptures.

So it made some sense that people who came to Jesus asking to be his disciples met some pretty strict questioning…but it was not the kind of questioning that they were expecting. More often than not Jesus questioned these potential followers, not about their memorization techniques or how faithfully they followed the rules of the Jewish religious system, but about whether they were willing to accept the cost of following him.

He said things like: From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law. (Luke 12:52-53)

Or: Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 10:39), and then there’s the story of the three men who desire to follow Jesus and the rebuttles each of them received (from Luke 9)

In each of those instances, the unasked question Jesus puts forward is: “Can you handle the cost of following me?” We are under a great delusion if we think that following Jesus means simply saying a prayer for Jesus to “come into my heart” and that’s the whole deal. No where in the Gospels do we see this picture modeled by Jesus. In fact, we see the opposite. We see Jesus saying: you want to follow me? Fine, but it will cost you your comfort, your family, your freedom, your possessions, possibly even your life. That’s the cost. Anyone can come, but come counting the cost.

The clearest place that Jesus lays this out is in Luke 14:25-34. Those are the nine verses we are going to dig into on Sunday as we explore what it costs to be a follower of Jesus. Read those words of Christ over and consider what he is saying.

Fan or Follower: Mission Follow-up

Luke 9:23 Then He (Jesus) said to them all, “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me.

If we are a follower of Jesus, we must understand that we are following Jesus somewhere. It is not simply a matter of praying the “sinners prayer” and then, well, nothing. In fact I can find no passage of scripture that talks about following Jesus that mentions standing still. Even in our Bible Challenge readings (from Acts 23 today), we find those who follow after Jesus on the move. There’s Philip with the Ethiopian eunuch, Peter with Cornelius and Paul on the move from Jerusalem to Caesarea. Idleness was not in their repertoire as follower of Jesus, and it should not be in ours. Being a follower of Jesus means following Jesus somewhere, and that somewhere, in the broadest of terms, is on mission.

We each have a mission given to us by Jesus when we become his follower, his mission to be precise: “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10) Our mission is to seek out those who are lost in sin and help them be found. That mission does not have cultural, geographical, spacial, temporal, political (or any other “al” you can thing of) boundaries. It is the mission for all Christians regardless of age, gender, race, culture, economic class or education level. Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, whenever you are doing it, that is your mission.

One other thought before we get to the notes from Sunday’s sermon: John 12:26 reads “If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me. Where I am, there My servant also will be. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.” This is Jesus’ mission. We make a very critical mistake if we try to make it our mission. It is always Jesus’ mission. Why is this distinction important? Because if we are going to engage and participate in this mission, we have to be following Jesus’ lead. We have to be where Jesus is, just like he says in this verse from John 12. If we think that we can conveniently fit this mission into our own plans, lives, goals, then we are missing the point. It is Jesus’ mission. It has to be done with Jesus’ direction, done Jesus’ way, with Jesus’ provision. Our lives, goals, plans should center around the mission, not the other way around.

I know, I’m making this really complicated. I’m making this whole Christian thing really hard and challenging…but I’m not actually. I’m just passing on what Jesus said. We have to be conscious of the fact that Jesus defines the relationship we are to have with him. I’m just as challenged as you are…perhaps more. My whole life is supposed to be about this mission…and sometimes I wonder how much I’ve fooled myself into thinking that some of my “pastoral” duties are mission oriented when in fact they are not. This is a troubling thought for me, and one that requires a deep look at my motives, the way I spend my time and my gifts, and the very nature of what it means to be a pastor.

It is my deepest hope and prayer that this conversation we are having about being a follower is making you pause and re-evaluate your relationship with Jesus and consider where you are follower (celebrate those spots) and where you are merely an enthusiastic admirer (a fan…work on those spots, it’s worth it, I promise).

Principles of following (so far):
1) Jesus is the only one worth following. 2) Following is essential to believing, just as believing is essential to following. 3) following means being a doulos (slave) to Jesus. 4) following means expecting Jesus to interfere with your life. 5) A follower knows Jesus intimately. 6) A follower follows Jesus in a community of other followers.

Sermon Big Idea:
A fan will not say no to themselves; a follower will join with Jesus on mission.

Sermon Points:

  • For too long, Christians have considered “mission” as something someone else did, somewhere else.
  • So too has evangelism been left to the “professionals” like Billy Graham and pastors.
  • the Great Commission (Matt 28:18-20) is the responsibility of all Christians.
  • John 20:30-31 tells us that the point of the written Gospels was to tell the story of Jesus so that we may believe that Jesus is the Messiah.
  • Philippians 1:3-5 tells us that the job of the church is to partner in the gospel.
  • Who is the church? US. Christians. It is our job to share the gospel, to tell the story of Jesus so that people will believe in Jesus.
  • John Wesley: “You have one business on earth – to save souls.”
  • How? 1) Deny yourself. Forget you exist and live only for Jesus. (Luke 9:23-25). 2) Join Jesus where he is (John 12:24-26).
  • Where do we follow Jesus on mission? Wherever he leads.
  • When do we follow Jesus on mission? Whenever he calls.
  • What do we do when we follow Jesus on mission? Whatever he tells us to.
  • Being on mission for Jesus is not boring!
  • “Never pity missionaries; envy them. They are where the real action is — where life and death, sin and grace, Heaven and Hell converge.” Robert C. Shannon (Christian author)
  •  “Some wish to live within the sound of church and chapel bell. I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell!” C.T. Studd (British cricket player and missionary to China)

Follow-up questions:
Are you following Jesus on mission? Are you intentionally listening to where, when and what Jesus is calling you to as his missionary? Do you even consider yourself a missionary for Jesus? (You are!)

Questions for families with small children:
As you child if they know someone, a class-mate, neighbour, teacher, friend, who does not know Jesus. As them if there is some way they can think of to show that person God’s love for them. Help them execute their plan.

Fan or Follower: Mission

If you are anything like me, you have a distinct and deeply embedded definition that comes to mind when someone says the word “mission”. Truthfully, if you grew up in the 80’s like I did, you may have two definitions: the one you got from 80’s action flicks and the one you got from church. The 80’s action flick definition usually had to do with large guns, a larger than life hero and going up against impossible odds.

It’s the church oriented definition of mission that I’m thinking about today…and that particular kind of mission seemed distinctly less exciting or glamorous than the ones depicted in 1980 action films! For me, growing up, Christian mission was something that someone else did, usually somewhere else in the world or in the dingy back alleys of the inner city. Mission was something that someone was “sent away” to do. There was a distinct line drawn in my church teaching between mission and evangelism. Mission happened “cross-culturally” or in another country, and evangelism is what Christians “at home” engaged in.

What if that definition is wrong? When I joined the EMCC back in 2003, it was amid growing conversation among evangelicals that we had gotten it wrong over the past couple of hundred years in drawing this distinction between those who went on mission and the rest of us Christian folk. That somehow going on mission was some special calling that the rest of us were excused from. Then our culture began to change. Christian values began to slip, taking a back seat to socialist agendas and the concerns of liberal minorities. Suddenly, people were not walking into churches looking for God…in fact, people stopped walking into churches altogether. Even more disturbing, people began to walk OUT of the church in droves.

Why? Because North American Christianity had become nothing more than empty shell religiosity for many, many people…all form and no substance; all tradition and no experience. Suddenly, the church found itself having to justify its existence and value. The “seeker sensitive” movement grew out of this, trying to discover and implement changes that would draw people back to the church, scratching their spiritual itch so to speak and then sneak Jesus in along the way.

This movement ultimately failed, because it created and fed nothing more than a consumeristic group of Christians who walked away as soon as something happened they didn’t like.

In the midst of all of this, a curious thing was happening on the edges of evangelical Christianity. The word “mission” began to be used in a different way. It was no longer used to describe men and women who served Jesus on other continents. Instead, it began to be used to talk about how all Christians should follow Jesus, wherever they are. Suddenly mission fields were no longer talked about just as remote pieces of jungle in Africa, but came to describe the local neighbourhood where any Christian lived, or the place where Christians worked or the coffee shop where Christians gathered to sip hot beverages.

It’s like the blinders had suddenly come off and North American Christianity began to realize that the Great Commission had been offloaded onto the “professionals” (at home and abroad) while the average, every-day Christian lazily coasted their way through their spiritual lives. The leaders in denominations and churches began to see that the church could not longer be filled with observers who merely showed up on Sundays to listen to their favourite songs and hear an entertaining message. If the church was to survive in this increasingly un-Christian culture, then the church needed to start being the church: it needed to start being gatherings of committed Jesus-followers who were cooking full tilt boogie for the glory, honour and proclamation of the great name of Jesus Christ. (If you got that reference to the helicopter movie “Thunder

The only way to do that is to teach people not to be enthusiastic admirers of Jesus (fans), but to be disciples of Jesus; followers of Jesus; and not just follower of Jesus, but followers who are passionate about making more followers of Jesus…of making disciples who makes disciples, who make disciples. That’s been the Evangelical Missionary Church of Canada’s mantra for the past decade as it has awakened to this renewed vision of what the church needs to be about.

As we journey further in our sermon series “Fan or Follower”, we are going to explore the truth that a follower of Jesus is following Jesus somewhere, namely on mission. The really critical part of that discussion is that the mission can’t be my mission, it has to be Jesus’ mission. Remember when we started into this thing, I mentioned that Jesus only calls us to believe in him about 5 times in the gospels, but he calls us to follow him about twenty times…and we have to be following him somewhere. That somewhere is our mission.

Take some time before Sunday to ponder John 12:26. See you Sunday!

Fan or Follower: Not Alone

When was the last time you tried to do something on your own and failed at it? Would it have gone differently if you had asked someone to help you? Very few things in life are certain (cue the playback of the old adage about death and taxes in your head), but what is certain is that we are humans are not designed to be alone. Of course I’m speaking in a broad general sense here, but the Bible tells us that we are created in God’s image, and God is a relational God.

Yet it baffles me that so many Christians think that they can be a follower of Jesus in isolation from other believers. This is an indefensible position from a scriptural standpoint.

Sure, there are times when it is “easier” to journey alone with Christ, and certainly there are times when it is less messy. But when you journey alone, who is there to correct you or pick you up when you fall down, or cheer you on when you feel like quitting.

Of course, the “spiritual” answer to those questions is “God is walking with me and he is everything I need.” True, God is all we need…if that were how he chose to work in the lives of believers. But it’s not. He chooses to use the church, the local fellowship of the saints. It is God’s plan that we journey together in fellowship with other followers of Jesus.

Principles of following (so far):
1) Jesus is the only one worth following. 2) Following is essential to believing, just as believing is essential to following. 3) following means being a doulos (slave) to Jesus. 4) following means expecting Jesus to interfere with your life. 5) A follower knows Jesus intimately.

Sermon Big Idea:
While we are called to an intimate relationship with Jesus, that relationship is not intended to be an exclusive relationship. We are followers of Jesus in community with other followers.

Sermon Points:

  • John 10:1-6 Jesus calls his followers sheep, this is not an accident!
  • Sheep are flock animals, they do not do well on their own.
  • We make the mistake of thinking that our intimate relationship with Jesus is an exclusive relationship with Jesus. It is not.
  • The New Testament teaches that our faith journey with Jesus is never intended to be something we do alone, but in community, in fellowship with other believers. (2 Peter 2:9-10, Hebrews 10:24-25).
  • Acts 2:44-45: the early church devoted themselves to: 1) the Apostles teaching (the Word); 2) breaking of bread and fellowship (each other); 3) prayer (relationship with God).
  • Some Christians strongly affirm #1 & #3 above but neglect #2
  • Not just fellowship on Sunday mornings! The early Christians shared life together.
  • A fan thinks that their faith is personal, a follower shares their faith in fellowship with other followers.
  • What happens when we fellowship: 1) we help one another; 2) we meet Jesus; 3) sympathy, support and acceptance; 4) we find family

Follow-up Questions:
Do you share your faith journey with other people? Do you pray for people and let people pray for you? Do you share life with other Christans? If no, why not?

Questions for families with young children:
Take a moment to talk to your children about their best friend. Then ask them how they got to be such good friends with that person. Then take time to talk about what it means to share that friendship with other people, to extend it’s benefits and blessings to someone else. That is what it means to be in a community of Christ-followers.

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