Sermon: March 12, 2023

The sermon is not on YouTube for this week.

Sermon Series Week #3
“A Jesus-Shaped Life”

On this third Sunday in Lent, we find ourselves smack dab in the middle of our sermon series titled “A Jesus-Shaped Life.” If you’ve been here for the first two installments, you may remember some of my points as we work our way towards being more Jesus-Shaped.

First, we must continue to strive to please God, that our work is never done, and we can never get to a point where we think we have arrived.

I started an on-line course this week titled, “How to Pray and Fast for Life and Awakening.” I made note this week that discipleship should not be the goal of the Christian life and faith; it is merely the process, not the end. What we should strive for is “Agency.” We need to become the “agent” of Jesus Christ. Our presence needs to become His presence.

The facilitator, my encouragement coach, talked about how we have the “Great Commission” of Matthew 28, but we also have what he calls the “Great Combustion” of Acts 1:8: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Agents of Jesus!

In Acts 3:6 Peter and John are on their way to the Temple for afternoon prayer when a crippled beggar asks them for money. Peter says, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Agents of Jesus! We need to be praying for folks! We need to be laying hands on folks! We need to be Jesus for our world!

Second, we must live a holy life. To live a holy life is to live a life that looks like Jesus’ life. We must love like Jesus—interact with others like Jesus—and be obedient to the Father like Jesus. Remember, we can’t do this on our own, it’s God who makes us holy. But we must open ourselves to the Holy Spirit and as I said last Sunday, the Holy Spirit doesn’t go where it isn’t wanted.

Last Sunday we talked about building a foundation in the Word that will help us to overcome the storms that life seems to send our way. We all get tested, but we can’t wait till the test gets here to build the foundation. Remember I said that Noah didn’t wait till the rain started to build the Ark. He started building in the sunshine as many as 75 years before the rains began.

A doghouse needs no foundation, and a house can be constructed on a cement slab. But to build a skyscraper requires that you dig deep down to build your foundation. My encouragement coach says that when it comes to God’s Word, if you want to go farther-faster you must go slower-deeper. If we want to have the faith of a skyscraper we need to go deep with our foundation. Deep in the Word of God—deep in the love of Jesus Christ—and then our foundation can withstand anything life sends our way. I know I’m repeating myself but what I am saying cannot be said enough.

“The Relationships Of Jesus” – Ephesians 5:1-12

A small crowd of demonstrators filled a street in Charlottesville, Virginia. They were protesting against a white nationalist rally that was happening across town.

Then, the unthinkable happened. A Neo-Nazi sympathizer aimed his car at the cluster of people and stomped on the accelerator. As he plowed into the demonstrators, bodies flew in all directions. One young woman was killed. America watched and gasped. Ken Parker watched and cheered.

Parker was committed to racial hatred. He was a grand dragon in the Ku Klux Klan. He posted on Facebook a photo of himself with a swastika tattoo on his chest and a gun in his arms.

As the nation tried to come to grips with the tragedy in Charlottesville, the makers of a documentary film about hate groups invited Parker to appear as a spokesman for white nationalists. He agreed. The filmmaker, a Muslim from Europe, recorded Parker making anti-Jewish flyers and tossing them into front yards.

During the making of the documentary, Parker noticed that the filmmaker was kind to him, not antagonistic. After the film was completed, Parker watched it. He was not comfortable with the man he saw.

Around this time, Parker and his fiancée had a casual conversation with their neighbor, who happened to be the pastor of an African American church in town. The pastor also treated the couple with kindness and invited them to worship.

Parker and his fiancée attended a service and felt welcomed by the congregation’s members. So, they attended another service. Soon, they were regular attenders at All Saints Holiness Church.

Even so, Parker felt he could not leave the brotherhood of the National Socialist Movement (NSM), a Neo-Nazi party. He still planned to attend an upcoming rally in Georgia. However, the night before he was to leave, he prayed for guidance. In the end, he decided not to go to the rally. Instead, he sent his resignation email to the NSM. “I could not keep living that lifestyle of hate,” Parker said.

Almost a year after he marched as a Neo-Nazi in Charlottesville, Ken Parker walked into the Atlantic Ocean with his black pastor, was lowered under the water, and rose to a new life. A few days later, he began the process of having his white supremacist tattoos removed. Parker turned his back on racial hatred and embraced Christ.

Like me, I hope this story gives you goose bumps or makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Do you see the shape of Jesus in this story? The Muslim filmmaker—the black pastor—the members of the All Saints Holiness Church. They all treated this man—this hateful man—just like Jesus would treat him. They were all living a “Jesus-Shaped Life.”

Just as children imitate their parents, we should imitate God. We do that by modeling our lives after Jesus, who, as the Son of God, was the incarnation of God on earth.

Becoming like Jesus means taking on some of His traits and characteristics. There is one trait of Jesus that rises to the top of them all: love. Christ-likeness shows up as love. Our text this morning starts out as: “Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ.”

Love is the central value in the kingdom of God. Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, and He said it was to love God with your whole being, and the second greatest is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:28-31).

It is love that makes our lives count. Love is the distinguishing characteristic of a Jesus-Shaped life. In my last visit with my dear friend Paul Williams, laying in a hospital bed in his house, his body riddled by the effects of ALS, I told him that I loved him; and with a great amount of effort, he said, “I love you.” I learned later that those were the first words he had spoken in several days. I preached at his funeral just a few weeks later.

As Jesus Christ becomes the love of our life. We will become the life of His love. You see, what the world considers most important really doesn’t matter.

Jesus’ great love for us led Him to sacrifice Himself so that we might live. Our love for others should be of the same kind—a love that goes beyond affection to self-sacrificing service.

Growing in love will be natural when we reflect on Jesus’ love for us. First John 4:19 tells us: “We love because He first loved us.” We can’t give what we haven’t received. Meditate on the reality that the God who created the universe knows us—cares about us—and provides for us. How awesome is that!

Something you need to know this morning. Something that you need to be reminded of often. We aren’t in this battle alone. No one follows Christ alone. Sometimes that means, in order to restore or to build our relationships there will be a time when forgiveness is required. Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting it to kill the other person.

A lot of our sickness stems from our brokenness and the same can be said for the church. That brokenness is due to our broken relationships. As Paul wrote to the Church at Rome: “Live at peace with one another” (Romans 12:18).

A Jesus-Shaped life has no room for grudges. Following Christ means forgiving others, just as we’ve been forgiven by God.

Forgiving others is hard, but it helps to remember that Jesus has forgiven us much more than we will need to forgive others. We are never more like Jesus than when we are forgiving someone else.
Jesus was willing and eager to have a relationship with everyone and anyone. Tax collectors—Samaritans—women of ill repute; and He experienced trouble for this willingness. But He didn’t let it stop Him.

Jesus never hung a “label” on anyone. He commanded that we love each other—not label each other. He saw beyond people’s labels and treated each person as valuable.

As people who have light from the Lord, our actions will reflect our faith. Jesus stressed this truth in His Sermon on the Mount: “No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father” (Matthew 5:15-16).

Our pasts may have dark times of cynicism, despair, shame, or self-doubt. Satan desires to lead us back into that darkness. We must reject him by intentionally living out what pleases the Lord. In this way, Christ’s light will keep shining brighter in us and through us.

It is important that we avoid the “fruitless deeds of darkness” (any pleasure or activity that results in sin), but Paul urges the Ephesians and us to go even further. He instructs us to expose these deeds, because our silence may be interpreted as approval. God needs people who will take a stand for what is good. Christians must lovingly speak out for what is true and holy.

When the Holy Spirit shapes us in the image of Jesus, our lives become more loving—less self-centered—and more other-focused; and our relationships will become stronger. Lord, with your help, make may we become agents of Jesus!

Thanks be to God!

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