Good morning and welcome to Journey Church, my name is Phil Human and I would like to especially welcome those of you who are here with us this morning for the very first time.
And I’m glad you could be here for the baptism this morning. As weird as it might seem to do this, this type of ceremony has been handed down from generation to generation for thousands of years. It was important enough to Jesus that, not only was He baptized himself as an adult, but as part of his last words to his followers before he ascended into heaven was to make disciples and baptize them.
It is an external symbol of an internal change. And we cannot emphasize too strongly just how important it is to God that the change be on the inside of us. God has always been interested in the heart of people.
Why? Because the heart is the real you. The real you cannot be seen with human eyes. The real you cannot be weighed, or measured. This body is part of you but it is the vessel that carries the real you.
The Bible teaches that 1 Samuel 16:7 “People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
So people – we tend to judge one another based on how we look, talk and especially act. And for good reason. After all often times the way our body responds is a very good indicator of the kind of heart we have.
Jesus once said that it is out of the overflow of the heart that the mouth speaks. And another time Jesus said you can tell what kind of tree it is by the kind of fruit it produces. A good tree produces good fruit. Meaning that many times our behavior reveals the ‘true’ me.
This is why, if you are hiring a person to work in your store, what’s one of the first things you do when you are checking this person out? You go to their facebook/twitter/instagram account. You check their social media. Because truly – a picture is worth a thousand words when it comes to revealing your true nature.
Usually our behavior reveals the true me, the inside me.
But not all the time. As a matter of fact there is one area where it isn’t quite as obvious – there is ne area in life where actions actually often mask what is really going on inside of a person – and interestingly – it’s in the area of religion.
This is very interesting to think about – but can I propose that one reason why religion – of all sizes and shapes and forms – is so destructive, is because religion masks the heart of a person – it disguises the heart of a person, with ‘good behavior’. (I might need to say that again.)
This is why Jesus had such a difficult time with established religion. Jesus said of these religious leaders of his day, “‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”
Or another time in Matthew 27, when Jesus said, You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.
The cry of a religious person, then and today, is – “I have not done anything wrong”. And they think that all that matters is their behavior. But Jesus wants to push the issue into the heart.
God is always looking at the heart. This is why, if you were to read Jesus’ most famous group of teachings, called the Sermon on the Mount, and you can read that sermon yourself in the book of Matthew, chapter 5,6,7. Matthew is the first book in the New Testament.
And what you will read is Jesus pushing the issue away from ‘acting religious’ and instead, Jesus is offering up to people a new and different kind of heart.
For instance. Jesus makes it a point to ask these religious people, “Have you ever killed anyone?”
No! Never! We are righteous. And they are puffing themselves up about that. Okay, Jesus says, let’s bring it to the level of the heart. In your heart, do you ever wish harm on anyone? Do you get angry, do you curse people out under your breath or in your head?
So what’s the point Jesus is making? He isn’t just throwing more rules out there. He is trying to make the point that the form of their religion was so weak and ineffective. Their form of religion couldn’t change the real person – the inside person.
Jesus was saying “Follow me and I can transform your heart – the real you – so that you no longer hate people in the secret place of your heart.”
Now interestingly, to whom did that message appeal? It wasn’t the religious people. They were rather put off by Jesus challenging their ‘righteousness’. They had been able to achieve some level of status by behaving better than others.
So to whom did this message appeal? Well, The drunks, the prostitutes, the immoral, the adulterers, the murderers. People whose outside appearance matched their inner heart. They were thrilled! You mean you can change all of me? And I am not disqualified by the way I used to act? You mean you can make even me into that kind of person?
That’s why this message of Jesus is called the Good News. Good News. You can change. You can be transformed. You can start over again. God will create in you a different kind of human being.
Jesus’ goal is to fundamentally change our heart. The prophet Ezekiel put it this way, as he prophesied about the work that Jesus would eventually come to do. He wrote, Ezekiel 11:19 And I will give them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them. I will take away their stony, stubborn heart and give them a tender, responsive heart.
And interestingly, the Bible indicates that God is sensitive to the slightest movement of the heart towards him. Chronicles 16:9 9 The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. It is as if God has installed a heart monitor on every person in the world. In fact God is constantly searching for people whose heart moves toward Him.
So this morning I am going to ask a series of questions that I hope will clarify what it is that God wants to do in us and how we can align ourselves in such a way that we can become people who overflow with love.
The first question is this: Q: What will God do with my heart once I give it to Him?
A: Reshape you into the image of Jesus.
Gal 4:19 My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you…
Gal 2:20,21 20 My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
It is God’s desire to reshape us from the inside out so that we begin to live our lives as if Jesus were living His life through us. Our hearts are filled with the same compassion, same kindness, same humility that Jesus displayed.
Q: How will God go about reshaping us?
A: He will permeate us with the love of God.
I worked in a lumber yard for four years during college. I drove a forklift – and it was a great job. I have some couple of pictures of my work. Here’s the first day at work. The picture is a little grainy – my cell phone wasn’t the greatest in 1987. But drove the forklift right off the loading dock. I did a boo boo.
Here’s my second day of work. That was a booboo- I was driving the keggers over fr our staff christmas party. Didn’t make any friends that day.
This is my last day of work. And I dumped the nuclear bomb. They called that a Ka-boomboom.
Anyway, I drove this forklift at a facility that pressure treated lumber. What they would do is take regular lumber and place it inside large steel cylinders that looked like a submarine. Once inside the cylinder they would remove the air from the cylinder, and from the lumber itself.
Then they would flood the cylinder with this green liquid that was filled with preservative and pesticides and all kinds of poisons to keep the bugs from eating it. Then they would pressurize the cylinder so that the liquid would be forced into every fiber of that lumber. It was changed to the core.
Similarly, during the process of transformation, the goal that Jesus has is to take our heart of stone, and pressure-treat our heart with love. I’m not sure if this metaphor is working or not – but I hope to drive home the point that God takes love, which is a thing, and this love that comes from God is put inside of us, and there is a process by which every fiber of our being is permeated with love. We are saturated by love. We drip with it.
See, love is more than a verb. Love is a thing. It’s a noun. It’s something. And if we turn to the first letter that the apostle Paul wrote to his fellow believer living in the city of Corinth, and in the Bible it’s called 1 Corinthians. And we look at chapter 13, we read a description of love.
It is not a description of you. Or me. It’s a description of love itself. And when we are filled with this thing – this love that we read about in 1 Corinthians – well then we become loving. Our loving actions are a by-product of being filled with that.
So the goal is to be permeated, saturated, infused and filled with the Love of God through faith in Jesus. And we will live a life of love. This is different than just living a life acting lovingly.
So let’s now turn our attention to the most important question, which is, how can we position ourselves so that love can flow into us from God?
Q: How can we become more loving people? And here’s a hint – Not just act more loving. but actually be loving.
So that we can become the kind of people who love all people all the time, and not just certain people under certain circumstances.
Because there is nothing that special about treating people lovingly who treat you back that way. Jesus said, everyone does that, right? Luke 6:32 “If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them!
So the goal is to have love exude from our souls, out of us and even towards people that are difficult to love. So when we see Jesus asking the Father to forgive the people who were killing him, it was because Jesus was love. And that love was directed toward all. Even in that moment the people who were actively killing him.
This is why Jesus can so confidently tell us that we can become the kind of people who love even an enemy. Why? Because love keeps no record of wrongs, and when that love permeates our soul, then we become those kinds of people.
Love seeks the well being – it wishes blessing on people, regardless of the condition of those people.
So now, let’s answer the question. How do we become more loving people? Well since love comes from God, then we have to go to Him and have him fill us up. We love because He first loved us. 1 John 4:19 We love each other because he loved us first.
So with this in mind, the first stage toward growing in love is to 1. Surrender our heart God.
Surrender means to cease resistance, and submit ourselves to another. And this first step of surrender is, what we often call around here, stepping across the line of faith. You have finally come around to believing Jesus is who the bible says he is. You have finally decided to cast your ballot and say, I believe, I chose to follow Jesus.
Now the deal with this initial stage is that many times people surrender begrudgingly. They surrender because they don’t see any other way. The great writer C.S. Lewis, who wrote the Chronicles of Narnia and one of the greatest Christian thinkers to ever live, said that he was perhaps the most reluctant convert to Christianity ever. I believe his words were that he came to Jesus kicking and screaming. He was reluctant. But he finally came to the point in his spiritual journey where he was moved and convinced to give up his skepticism. The proof of the reality of Jesus had swayed him to the point where he had to give up his skepticism and move forward with faith in Jesus.
And maybe you aren’t there yet. You might still consider yourself a skeptic – and maybe even a cynic of the church and faith. Okay. We understand. We will try to convince you otherwise, but we will do so respectfully, understanding that you have god reasons for believing what you do.
But this room has many people sitting in it today who would say they were once like you. But they came to the place of surrendering – even their own world view – and they have made a decision to follow Jesus.
And perhaps they aren’t quite sure yet. They are taking baby steps in their faith. And they are wondering if they can trust God enough that He will do what they want him to do for them. And so they begrudgingly surrender because they don’t see any other way, but they still have a long way to go.
It’s like they have entered the pressure treatment cylinder but they haven’t gotten very far along in the transformation process.
And to be honest, you know sometimes people never escape this stage of growth. They follow Jesus but they are not convinced that He has their best interest in mind with his decisions. They really aren’t sure that they can trust Jesus to wisely govern their life.
And I would submit to you that you don’t leave much room for your life to be transformed if you remain here a reluctantly surrendered. Very little room for God to permeate us with his perfect love.
And so when we read this brilliant description of love in 1 Corinthians 13 (Put up on screen please), we see that there are people who profess to believe in Jesus but who demonstrate by their actions that they are greatly lacking love. They lack it. There’s just not much room for it, and so they aren’t very patient. And they aren’t very kind. They might be selectively patient and kind when it serves their need, but as far as those attributes permeating them, not so much.
Do you want to know why there are so many mean and unhappy ‘christians’ in the world? Because they may have resigned themselves to following Jesus but that haven’t gotten to the second phase of faith.
2. Abandonment If surrender is giving up then this is giving in. It’s a decision to submit yourself entirely to God for his purpose and his ways.
It’s kind of like when the lumber goes into the cylinder and then they take out all the air to make room for it to be filled up with the fluid.
When we abandon ourselves to God we empty ourselves and allow God to fill us with His love entirely.
This person begins to pray the Lord’s prayer, Thy will be done, and they sincerely mean it, because they have come to believe that God has done right by them. They have come to the place of surrendering the idea that though they have trusted God for their salvation, they had better run their own life as much as possible.
These people have retired that idea. And they are fully convinced that the Lord really is their shepherd, and so they really don’t lack anything.
And what happens is that God’s love fills them up, and they start living as though they have no fear anymore in life. Nothing to dread anymore. Because perfect love casts out fear.
Getting here takes time, but it is certainly possible. And this stage is what Jesus meant by taking up your cross and dying to self. Day by day, we are renewed.
Though bad things and unfavorable circumstances will still be endured, these folks understand in the deepest parts of their soul that God can be trusted, and that no irredeemable harm will befall them. They are safe.
The third stage is contentment. Since I believe that God has done well by me, there is no more grumbling and complaining but rather a sense of thankfulness and gratitude.
The fourth stage? Participation. We are no longer spectators but we get caught up in the eternal drama of life. And we recognize that we play an important part in it. Not I, but Christ lives in me.
No as we look at these four steps it seems to me that most of the work needs to occur between steps and two. Getting to the point where you feel safe in trusting God with all of you heart soul and mind and body.
So I’m going to pray for you now, and I’d like to encourage you to continue to read through 1 Corinthians 13 and I am going to pray it over you now as I close.
4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
And I want to offer you the same thrilling invitation Jesus gave to people – people who were ready to receive it. And the invitation is to surrender to God, abandon yourself to Him.
Change – real change – change on the inside of you, is possible through faith in Jesus. There is No Greater Love than a man laying down his life for his friends. Jesus laid down his life to pave a path for transformation of the inner person.
It is real and possible through Faith in Jesus.