Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God

Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message; June 5, 2016;

This Sunday (June 5, 2016) we will have an abbreviated service with the Celebration of the Sacrament of the Holy Communion  followed by the church picnic. Hope to see y’all there. Bring a 1000 of your closest friends and relatives.

NIV2010Matthew 4: 18-22 Jesus Calls His First Disciples

18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 20At once they left their nets and followed him.

21Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

NIV2010Luke 5:27-28

27After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, 28and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.

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Today we heard Scriptures about Jesus calling his first followers. At some point in time Jesus has called every one of us. So what would you say if one of your friends or neighbors were to ask what it means TO YOU to be a follower of Jesus?

Would you talk to them about going to church? Would you tell them that being Christian means that we have to be “nice” to other people? Would you tell them that being a Christian is about certain things that we do and other certain things that we DO NOT do?

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Some things are so ingrained in the fabric of who we are, they are so integrated in our psyche, they are so visceral that they are difficult to explain or to demonstrate. A couple of weeks ago someone asked me why Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are referred to as “Gospels”; their question was, “what is a Gospel?”

The question, “What does it mean to be a Christian” is kind of like that. We know the answer, it is a part of our psyche and woven into our identity, but most of us do not consciously know how to explain what it means.

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In chapter three of John’s Gospel, we learn about a conversation that Jesus had with a Jewish Rabbi named Nicodemus. Nicodemus knew his Holy Scriptures inside and out; Nicodemus lived an impeccable, squeaky clean life. His came to Jesus with respect, recognizing that Jesus’ powers flow from God, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him” (John 3:2 NIV2010).

We don’t know what Nicodemus asked Jesus because the Bible does not give us this information. I suspect that Nicodemus’ question had something to do with what it means to be a Godly man, what it meant to be a Follower of God in the First Century. The reason I think that is because Jesus’ response was, “no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born [from above], unless they are born again. …  no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” (John 3:3,5b-6 NIV2010, emphasis added, aft).

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In my experience, when someone asks us about following Jesus, they are really looking for an easy answer. The truth is that following Jesus is not an easy process; it is SIMPLE but it is not easy.

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That is what Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus was about. Spiritual life demands a spiritual birth, re-birth, renewal and regeneration that happens every day of our lives. This means that being a follower of Jesus is a process that we all go through every day of our lives. During the Last Supper, Jesus called this a process of sanctification (John 17:19), John Wesley called it “going towards perfection,” I understand it as maturing and continually learning about God and how God interacts with His Creation. So how do we do this? And how do we explain the process to someone who asks what it means to be a follower of Jesus?

  • In 2 Peter 3:18 we hear, “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (NIV2010).

  • In 1 Peter 1:16, and in Lev. 11:44,45; 19:2 we are challenged to live “holy” lives because God is “holy.” Living “holy” lives is a lofty ideal; the way I understand it is “to live lives that God would not be ashamed of”. In Nehemiah 8:10 we read, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” Take joy in the presence of God in your life AND do things that bring joy to God.

  • In his letter to Romans, Paul taught us to never stop “renewing our minds” (Romans 12:1-2)

All of us have ample opportunities to share Jesus with our friends and neighbors. The truth is that coming to church, learning a few hymns, or even memorizing a few scriptures does not make us followers of Jesus any more than sitting in a garage will transform us into a car. Learning about Jesus through interactions with other Christians, eagerly inviting God to be part of our lives and challenging us to “be transformed by the renewing of our minds” is what makes us followers of Jesus.

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