Sunday, December 29, 2013

Walking as He Walked

How many people here walk?  We all walk, sometimes we walk short distances, sometimes we walk long distance but for the most part we all walk.  It really isn’t rocket surgery.  All you have to do is put one foot in front of the other.  And in case you have problems with that I googled the word “Walking” and came up with 253,000,000 hits, knock yourself out. One of the things that I tell people about the our church is “It’s close enough to our home that I could walk, I don’t but I could”
In the scripture that Lisa read this morning was the phrase 1 John 2:6 Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.
Now listen to how the NIV says it 1 John 2:6 Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus walked.  It’s one of those situations where the New Living Translation is a little clearer but the New International Version fits better with my message, so this morning we are looking at the topic walking as he walked.
This particular passage is found in the book of 1 John which is the 23rd book of the New Testament and was written by John.  Which John? The same John who wrote the Gospel  of John and that is John the Apostle.  For once and evermore this book was not written by John the Baptist it was written by John the Apostle. 
It was written to the believers in the area of Ephesus, which is in what we know as Turkey, to encourage and strengthen them.  And as a part of his letter he tells the believers to walk as Jesus walked.
But what exactly does that mean?  Does it mean to literally walk as Jesus walked?  And if so what would that look like?  People used to say that  I walked like the Great A&W Root Bear, they don’t say that now but only because they don’t show the commercials any more.  When we discovered that my Great Great Grand-Mother was first Nations I decided that my traditional name would be “Walks like Bear.” So if you walked like me you’d all walk like the Great A & W Root bear.
And sometimes that is a problem.  You see it when folks decide to model themselves and their Christian walk after “someone”, whether it be a high profile Christian celebrity, a local pastor or just another Christian.  Things can go awry and you can end up with a pretty silly walk.  (Ministry of Silly Walks video)  There are some Christians out there whose walk is not only silly it’s embarrassing, because they are using the wrong example. 
And so John doesn’t tell people to walk like him, or Paul or Peter instead we are told to walk like Jesus.  And we can probably safely assume that John was not telling us to physically walk in the same manner as Jesus did, even if we knew how Jesus walked.  Instead it is a metaphor for Jesus’ life style how he lived in relation to God and how he lived in relation to other people.  And so we aren’t just supposed to listen to the words of Christ, we also need to look at how he lived.  In other words it’s not enough to hear Jesus talk the talk we need to also see how he walks the walk and make sure as well that there are no inconsistencies with him also walking the talk and talking the walk you still with me?
Sometimes it’s easy to say one thing but living it isn’t always as easy
So, the question is this; if we walk as Jesus walked where is it going to take us?  Well I guess the answer is that it’s going to take us the same place it took Jesus.  I’m sure you all heard the joke about the young fellow who wanted to borrow the car and his dad said “you can have the car when you get a haircut” to which the son replied “But Jesus had long hair”  “Yes” said his father “and he walked everywhere he went.” 
In 1896 a Youth Leader by the name of Charles Sheldon wrote a story as a lesson for his youth group which he read to his group as he wrote it, a chapter each week. Eventually it became the book “In His Steps”.  The premise of the book was that the people of The First Church of Raymond decided they would ask the question “What would Jesus do” before they made any major decisions in their lives.  The book chronicles the change and impact that was made in their lives, work, church and town as a result of their decision.  A few years ago the message of the book had a bit of comeback and we saw the letters WWJD displayed on clothes, bracelets and bumper stickers.
The reality is that we are called to simply do it not to simply say it.  Benjamin Franklin wrote “Well done, is better than well said.” And Jesus’ closest friend wrote in 1 Peter 2:21 For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps.
 So let’s see where Jesus’ steps led him and consequently where our steps should lead us.  Now it’s easy to put our own spin on what we think Jesus would do, how he would walk and where his steps would lead.  Often you will hear someone defending a view that is contrary to what scripture teaches and uses the “Well I think that’s what Jesus would do or want me to do.”  Seriously?
You have to wonder if they have ever read Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:21? You know where it says:   Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.
 Because we can’t simply look deep inside of ourselves for answers like that we need to go to the record, in this case that is the Gospel accounts.  And Jesus never condoned sin in fact he said “Go and sin no more.”  So let’s take a look at where Jesus’ walk led him.
His Steps Led Him to God.  I know that Jesus was God, I hope that you know that Jesus was God, however when he was on earth he had set limitations on himself physically and spiritually.  Even though he had created the body he occupied it was still a physically body and so he needed food and drink to sustain it and he needed rest to refresh it.  Jesus did not come to earth as some kind of super human demi-god, he came as a man with all of the temptations and limitations that men have and all of the needs that men experience.

And part of what he needed to sustain him was spiritual refreshment.  He needed to spend time with God, for a couple of reasons.  First of all he needed the strength that only God the father could provide.  Think about the spiritual drain that was upon Jesus every day.  He was casting out demons, healing crippled people, teaching crowds of people and trying to deal with the criticism that came his way.  And he needed to tap into the source in order to have something to give.  If you fill a bucket with water, no matter how big the bucket is, and you poke a hole in the bottom of the bucket to let the water escape, if you do not continue to fill the bucket eventually it will be empty.  And Jesus knew that, he knew that he needed to be refilling his spiritual bucket, so to speak.  And that’s why we read scriptures like  Luke 6:12 One day soon afterward Jesus went up on a mountain to pray, and he prayed to God all night.
 And Mark 1:35 Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray.
You see unlike most of us, Jesus didn’t think he could do it alone, he knew that if he was going to make it through each day then he needed the spiritual strength that he could only receive from the Father.
He also knew that if he was going to stay in the centre of God’s will that he would have to remain in communication with God.  We live in a connected world, with phones and text, twitter, facebook, linked’n Skype and facetime.  But we still have to make a conscious choice to communicate with people.   If you never communicated with your boss how would you know what they expected of you? If you never spoke to your spouse how would you know when you were supposed to take the garbage out?
In the same way if we are going to walk in the steps of Jesus they need to lead us to the Father and for the same reason as Jesus.  For our spiritual renewal, strength and guidance.  And prayer is not just a good idea, it is an expected part of the Christian experience.  If you are going to have a productive Christian life it will be anchored in prayer.  You can’t do it on your own and all you will prove by trying to is that you can’t do it on your own. 
And there is nothing magical and mystical about prayer.  Sometimes I hear well intentioned believers say “I just can’t pray.”  Why is that?  Is it because you can’t talk?  After all prayer is simply talking to God, telling Him you love Him, thanking Him for what He’s done for you.  It’s simply conversing with him about your daily life the way you would talk to a friend. 

His Steps Led Him to the Redeemed   Christ spent three years in the company of like minded people.  These were men and women who were seeking to know God better, seeking to know his will and seeking to do his will. 

While we don’t know all of what happened during those three years the majority of what we do know revolved around Jesus’ interaction with his 12 apostles and various other disciples.  They shared a common belief system and similar moral guidelines, they had common goals in life.  They were together to learn from Jesus and also to encourage one another. 

Jesus didn’t allow himself to be influenced by ungodly people, that wasn’t where he spent the majority of his social and recreational time, it wasn’t where he received his affirmation.  His closest friends, the people he shared his dreams and aspirations with, the people he laughed with and cried with, those people were people committed to following God.

As you read through the Gospels you see Jesus teaching large crowds, but then it says he left the crowd and joined his disciples in a house, on a beach, sitting on a hill.  They ate together, they walked together, they spent quality time together just talking and laughing.   Jesus knew that he couldn’t and shouldn’t remove himself from the world, after all; the world is why he came, remember John 3:16 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
 But he knew that he couldn’t get the refreshment and affirmation he needed from the world, and you are thinking but point one was about the time he spent with God.  Yes but he also knew that there were times that he needed more then God. 

Do I hear the collective gasps from the congregation? Is that the sound of villagers gathering wood to burn the heretic at the stake?  Oh stop it.  There’s a story told about the little boy who woke up in the middle of the thunder and lightening storm and came into his parent’s bedroom wanting to spend the night with them.  His mother said “Let me pray that God will be with you in your room.” To which he replied, “Yes but I want God with skin on him.”  And now you are thinking cute story Denn but how could Jesus or anyone else for that matter need more then God, that’s why we used to sing the song “He is all I need, all I need”  and “All I need is Jesus.”

Let’s go back, way back, back to the beginning, which is probably a pretty good place to go back to.  God has created man, placed him in a beautiful garden in a perfect world and had fellowship with him.  God and man communed together.  That’s cool isn’t it?  Isn’t that the dream of most Christ followers, to be able to sit and have a chin wag face to face with God?

Then listen to what God says in Genesis 2:18 Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.”
 Did you catch that?  It is not good for man to be alone.  Now I would think that man wasn’t alone, he was with God.  But obviously God knew that there were some things that he couldn’t do for Adam.  We need each other, God knew that and that is why he created each of us and that’s why Jesus steps led him to like minded people.
And if we look into the book of Acts to see what the early church and first Christ-followers looked like we discover they spent a lot of time together.  Verses like Acts 2:46 They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity—   would indicate that they not only worshipped together but spent time together outside of worship.
If we are to walk as Jesus walked then we need to be spending time with other believers, and not just on Sunday Morning sharing a cup of coffee and a cookie at the back.  That’s not fellowship that’s hello-ship.  Harvey McKay the Author of “Dig your well before you are Thirsty” a business book about Networking says that we all should have at least one person we can call at three o’clock in the morning.  You know someone who could drive you to the hospital, hold your hand in a tragedy or post your bail if needed. I hope the person you would call would be in this church.   By the way if someone from Cornerstone should call you at that time for help you’d better help.
And you get to know people by spending time with them, at the hello-ship time after the service, by joining a small group, by attending social events, the pool party isn’t just about swimming and the Super Bowl Party isn’t just about Football.   or just by inviting them to your place for a BBQ or an evening of games.
But just because Jesus spent most of his time walking with saints didn’t mean he ignored sinners.  As a matter of fact you might remember that one of the charges laid against Jesus was that he was a friend of sinners.  Imagine.
His Steps Led Him to the Unredeemed.  If some believers never hang around with believers others err by never hanging around unbelievers.  Remember that is what you once were and statistically speaking the only reason you became a Christian was because a Christian befriended you and invited you to church.
Before the apostles fit into the category of Christ followers they fit into this category.  Jesus met them where they were at and built relationships with them which lead to the ultimate relationship.
He was criticized because of it and his response is found in Luke 19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”
 So think about it, if the one we claim to follow was concerned about those who didn’t know him shouldn’t  those of us who follow him be concerned about those who don’t know him?  One would think.
I’m not contradicting the last point, you shouldn’t be spending all your time with the un-redeemed but you shouldn’t be ignoring them.  They are people who need to hear that Jesus loves them and that Jesus cares about them.  And we are told that normally happens one on one.  That people come to know the Lord and come to church because someone invites them to.
But here is a scary statement from Thom Rainer in his book “The Unchurched Next Door”, “Are Christians inviting non-Christians to church? The heartbreaking answer is no.  Only 21 percent of active churchgoers invite anyone to church in the course of a year. But only 2 percent of church members invited an unchurched person to church.”
Jesus, God, left heaven and came to this earth and his steps led him to those who didn’t know him, so they could know him.  They were so important to him, they meaning you, that he died on a cross for them, meaning you.  So what are we willing to do for them.
Who are those folks in your life who need an invite to church, not because they don’t attend this church but because they don’t attend any church.
Who among your friends and family don’t know Jesus, and just need an invitation to meet him?  I hope that you have folks that you are praying for, who you will eventually invite to church for something.  And maybe you are afraid to invite them because you are afraid they won’t come or will be offended. 
More research Rainer’s book tells us that: 82 Percent of the unchurched are at least “somewhat likely” to attend church if they are invited.  Perhaps we need to pause here to allow that to sink in, maybe we need to restate it 82 Percent of the unchurched are at least “somewhat likely” to attend church if they are invited.

Think about it 8 out of 10 of your friends and co-workers would be at least somewhat likely to attend church if you invited them.  So what is an invitation? For many of the unchurched it would simply mean being asked.  For others it included the offer to meet them at the front door to show them around. But in either case it goes back to a simple premise of: invite them and they will come.

And finally His Steps Led Him to the Cross.  Jesus didn’t just come to earth to hang out with people, eventually he had to hang on a cross for people.  He was doing what had to be done.  He wasn’t doing what was easy or convenient he was simply doing what was right.  And if we walk in his steps there will come a time that every one of us will have to decide between doing what is easy and doing what is right.  What will you do?  Here’s a suggestion from Jesus  Luke 9:23 Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me.
And only you will know what cross is it that he will want you to carry as you follow him. 

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