How would you like the reputation of being a fair-weather friend? Would you enjoy the thought that when your name comes up people can’t help but think – “Nice enough guy but totally undependable.” I am guessing and hoping that you would do everything in your power to be thought of as a person that follows through and will be there when the going gets tough.
How about on the other side of the coin? When your friend has some really good news, something that brings them joy, do they want to share it with you? Do you expand the celebration and rejoice with those who are rejoicing or do you put a damper on things? Would you make the laughter even a little louder and dance with those who are dancing because life has its things that are worth throwing a party over?
This Sunday’s theme is that Jesus wants to be with us in the best of times and the worst of times. There is nothing life can bring us that Jesus would not make better.
It is vitally important that we don’t just think of Jesus as an insurance policy when things are tough and go it on our own when life seems smooth. Scripture repeatedly warns us that God’s people had a tendency to forget Him when they didn’t have an “immediate and profound problem” that they were facing. They often cried out when life was difficult or the oppression became too much for them. But when life was free and easy – well, God would slip from their minds.
With that in mind I would encourage each of us today to consider all the good things in our lives and remember that they are gifts from God. Whether it is a loving family and good friends, or a job that pays the bills or health that allows us to go for a walk – it is from God. Don’t take it for granted and slip into drifting through life without the ever-present need to worship God. It is the continual awareness of Jesus’ presence that makes life its fullest and keeps us grounded in both the good and the tough times.
Jesus wants us to claim his promise today, tomorrow and always from Matthew 28.20 – “Surely, I will be with you always, to the very end…” He wants to be with us in it all. There is nothing in life that would be better without Jesus!
With Jesus and you,
Jesus meets you today with an invitation, “Follow Me.”
Many of us are aware of this opportunity that Jesus gave to people in the pages of the Bible but we may not be aware that His words were never intended to be locked into a particular time and location. He has the same leadership skills in 2015AD that He possessed when Peter and John heard those words 2000 years ago.
So Jesus gives us the opportunity to confidently go through life with a “personal coach” that brings an expertise and love to the situation that is always enough. There is not a moment in time or a context or a complexity of life that leaves Jesus in the dark. The entrance of Jesus is the necessary light – each and every time!
As personal as the words of Jesus are to follow Him through life, they were never intended to be understood as a call to go through life as a solo act. Jesus invited his followers to go through life together and He has the same expectation today. This is an essential part of what it means to follow Jesus. We follow Jesus as a community and as a family. This is a very important aspect of following Jesus.
Jesus loves you. Jesus loves me. He wants us to love each other too. In fact, it is not optional and if we want to walk with Jesus we are required to walk with each other. This walking with Jesus and each other is intended by our God to be a thing of such unique love that people notice. This love of ours will not be perfect like Jesus’ love is, but even that is part of the story we tell. Our imperfections will provide the places in our lives where we “Follow Jesus” into giving forgiveness and grace. It will really be something!
At this stage in my life it has become very clear to me that relationships matter. They matter for a number of reasons but I think I can summarize it in this way:
Packed within those two bullet points is the totality of my life and God’s design for all my relationships. The thing I want to make sure we understand about following Jesus together is that it is intended to happen when it is very easy and when it feels more like work. It is through it all that we become God’s family in general and Oak Hill in particular. We need the fun times to enjoy relationships’ joys and we need the difficult times to grow strong and deep.
So, when Jesus says “Follow Me” it is also understood to mean “Follow Me together”.
Jesus unites us in John 10.27, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”
From one sheep to another,
The feeling of conviction is one feeling that I know all too well and, to put it bluntly, I don’t enjoy it very much at all. I can remember numerous occasions where a wrong action that I had done cultivated into a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. This feeling welled and bubbled up inside of me until I could no longer take it and I had to confess my wrong and my sin.
One such instance comes to mind: When I was in 3rd grade my mom took my siblings and I to our local grocery store to pick up a few things. That night I had a t-ball game and was really craving something sweet to eat during my game. My mom had said she was there to get some select items and not get us candy. Needless to say, when we bypassed the candy aisle my eye was drawn to those sweet snacks. My desire for a piece of candy overruled what my mom had said and what I knew to be right inside my heart. When no one was looking I took a piece of hard candy from the stash in the aisle…a small root beer barrel. That night at my t-ball game, I reached inside my pocket to get my stolen treasure but, to my astonishment, it had disappeared! Panic swept over me. Someone was going to find this piece of candy and I would be found out! As the panic played out in my head I realized that the best course of action would be to admit to my guilt. Maybe my punishment would not be so bad if I just openly confessed to my mother.
Indeed I was punished rightly for my wrong, but this incident led to a valuable lesson, one that did not just involve the obvious of not taking something that does not belong to you. The lesson was this, and it is the lesson that Scripture confronts us with time and time again: God’s standard of perfection for His people is unwavering and unattainable for us alone. We are daily reminded of how far we have fallen from this standard because of our sin. Thankfully, God’s grace is bigger than our failings and He still calls us to Himself to be His children. We can be free to confess our wrongs to God because He desires that we come to Him in all situations, our good, our bad, and our ugly, because He longs to restore us, forgive us, and set us free through His Word to us. Thanks be to God for this incredible gift! In the end, the feeling of conviction may not be bad after all as it is used by Christ to draw us to Himself and His freeing power.
Ben will be bringing a message from God’s Word to us this Sunday, June 14th
Jesus changes things.
When Jesus enters any context it becomes a moment of opportunity. We see this time and time again in the pages of Scripture. Jesus comes with the right way or the needed hope or the confrontation that brings freedom. He is able to do all of this through his presence alone as the Savior of the world, but He also clarifies it through his actions and His words.
Over the next three months Jesus will be bumping up against our minds and our lives. Jesus would never be accused of being a wallflower. He doesn’t draw meaningless attention to Himself but if we are willing to consider Him we will find that we must go to Him. He has what we need! Are we humble enough to believe that and trust Jesus to deliver?
In the first message of the series we will see that Jesus came to us just as God had planned long before He arrived in Bethlehem. We can go all the way back to Genesis 3:15, where Jesus is described as crushing Satan to see that God will take care of things. The promises and the prophecies would all be fulfilled in Jesus; sin and death would be defeated. This is an important aspect in the strengthening of our faith. As we consider the life of Jesus and hold it up against the many prophecies about the Messiah – we see they fit together. Jesus is the long awaited ONE!
Because Jesus is the Savior of the world He is also our Lord and King. With that in mind we will spend the next three months walking and learning from Jesus in a variety of Gospel passages. I hope you will expect that the Great Intruder has something for you. I look forward to this summer journey and hope you do as well. As you consider the series schedule found on the Message page I am sure you will be able to see that Jesus is more than just a little relevant in your life today!
Intruded upon and thankful for it,
Pastor Nick Mundis