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"That is not the definition of being a Christian"

Do you like short sermons? Last Sunday, we heard a variation on Jesus' first sermon:  

"The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news."

The whole gospel message is contained in those two lines.

If you were to read through all four gospels and make a list by topic of all the things that Jesus talked about, you'd find that the "Kingdom of God" was one of the topics, if not THE topic he talked about more than anything else.

Many of his parables begin with "the kingdom of God is like this..."

And remember, Jesus taught us to pray, "thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."  

So: What did Jesus mean by "the Kingdom of God?" Well, as someone has said,

"The Kingdom of God is not a place, but a web of relationships. Anyone who "accepts the life-vision that Jesus gave to us, and whose lives are based on that vision, belongs to the Kingdom of God. It does not matter who they are, or where they are. And it exists here and now." [1] 

The writer and Episcopal priest Carol Anderson points out that if you were to ask someone what it means to be a Christian, you'd be likely to hear people say "it means living a good life," "being nice to others," "trying to do good."

But that is not the definition of being a Christian.

Christians [she points out] are people who are about the Kingdom agenda of Jesus. Christians "follow a different way of living that comes from a different way of seeing" - seeing God's agenda, God's one desire for the world.

How does that happen? How do we - you and I - follow a different way of living that comes from a different way of seeing - seeing God's agenda, God's desires for the world?
By following Jesus.

To follow means to make a deliberate decision to accept Jesus as your guide, your leader...to accept his authority, to give your allegiance to him.

Most of the time, most of us are followers of Jesus in the passive sense: we follow him the way we "follow the news" or "follow the NCAA tournament"  -- we watch his movements or progress, we're curious about him, we keep track, we might even cheer him on.

But to follow Jesus involves the more active sense of the word: it means to become his apprentice...
to make a deliberate decision to conform to,
to comply with
and to act in accordance with his teachings
and way of life.

To make his priorities our priorities.


We often say, "I'd like to take the next step in my faith journey, but I don't have a lot of knowledge about scripture, I don't pray much, I'm not very involved in the church."

But these things are consequences of a deliberate decision to accept Jesus' invitation to follow. They come in time.

Make a deliberate decision to be a follower of Jesus, and, sooner or later
you will find yourself wanting to buy a Bible and read it;
you will find yourself wanting to spend time with God;
you will find yourself looking forward to church
and wanting to get involved in Christ's body the church.

These are consequences of a deliberate decision to make God the center of your life, to surrender your life to God.

What's first is your decision to "repent." Which means to change or reverse course, and follow.

As we heard on Sunday, When Simon, Andrew, James and John made this decision, they dropped what they were doing and followed Jesus.

Up to that point, their vocation in life was fishermen. Jesus told them that the Kingdom of God was at hand, and from that point on, their greatest passion and he world's greatest need found an intersection point...and they had a new vocation.

In other words, Jesus used the skills they already had,
and made them "fishers of men" -- they became people who drew other people up out of the waters of
desperation,  
self-centeredness,  
and alienation
and into life with God -
life that has a purpose,
life that has a destiny,
life that is lived out of a deep exterior Peace,
the peace that comes from being one of Jesus' followers.

God now invites you to follow him.

Do you hear him calling your name?

Why not surrender the illusion of control you think you have over your life, and turn your life over to God's care? 

Make the decision to follow him, and he will use the skills you already have and the relationships you are already in  

to further God's agenda in the world.    

From that point on, your greatest passion and the world's greatest need will find an intersection point.   

And you will have a new sense of purpose...as one who has responded to the call of God on your life. 

Comments

  1. "I like commitment" were the three words on the wall plaque behind my supervisor's desk where I worked once. He told me that he wanted "commitment" and not "involvement" in those he worked with. In other words they had to be "committed" to something and not passively involved. I think that is the message I also get from what you wrote John.

    Anthony V. Fasolo

    ReplyDelete

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