Good Morning and welcome to Journey Church. My name is Phil Human and I’m the lead pastor here at Journey. I’d especially like to welcome those of you who are joining us for the very first time this morning.
We want you to know that Journey is a place where you can learn about the real Jesus in a place where you will not be judged if you don’t believe everything we say. We will, of course, try to convince you that Jesus is God in the flesh who came to earth to announce that there is an alternative kingdom – available upon request – to anyone who has had enough of this dog eat dog kingdom of darkness that we were born into by default. Jesus came to announce that the Kingdom of Heaven is wildly available – even to people like you and me.
And maybe you are thinking – well of course it’s available to me. I’m pretty awesome. Well then you probably aren’t quite ready to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. It might not quite fit. It’ll be an uncomfortable wear. Jesus himself, as he preached and taught – had people flocking to him in amazing numbers, with the notable exception of people who were feeling pretty awesome about their own goodness and rightness. They were in fact the last to come around to accepting the invitation to join a kingdom – and subject ourselves to a new King – one whom we allow to quite literally rule and govern our lives.
And so for some people, it takes a little longer to come around to seeing the Kingdom of Heaven as a good thing. And that’s okay – we still respect you and know you have a reason for your beliefs or lack of beliefs.
The truth is you already are highly esteemed by God. He has tremendous respect for you. God is determined to treat you with dignity. So much so that He will not force you to trust him.
See faith in Jesus is nothing more than a relationship. And a relationship has two sides. Our side is to trust Jesus. And His side is to lead me. My side is to trust that He knows what he is doing with my life. His job is to lead me. And as we read the Bible we learn that God isn’t behind us with a whip – rather he is beside us, leading us all the way with love and compassion.
This is why we started the year by taking time to ask ourselves the question, “How does God want us to see him?” And the answers we get are very often images. He wants to be seen as a loving Father – and if God is our father, we dread nothing. Because nothing can overpower our Father in heaven. No one gets the drop on him.
And we said that God wants us to see him as our Shepherd. Leading us in paths of righteousness – and if God is our shepherd then we lack nothing.
And we saw that God wants to be seen as our deliverer – the one who freed us from shackles. Into freedom. And so nothing can take us captive.
We also discovered that since Jesus is Lord, we can obey him without fear – we can obey him with joy and confidence.
And then we saw that god wants us to see him as close. An ever present – help – in times of trouble. Psalm 46:1. He is always ready to help. Are you in a time of crisis now? Maybe that’s why you are here – there is a real situation going on in your life.
Well sometimes people who have stalled out for whatever reason on their spiritual Journey, they find themselves in a season of crisis, and they don’t know who to turn to, and they want to turn to God but they feel a little funny about doing it – it makes them feel a little bit hypocritical – like Oh sure Now you are turning to God.
Well, listen to this verse. God doesn’t mind one bit. He is an ever present help – especially in times of trouble. And so if you are here today and you are facing a crisis I want to encourage you to turn to God – no need to feel awkward – Just say – Father, thank you for being the kind of God who is there for me in time of need.
It’s important that we have the view of God that God asks us to have of him. It’s only decent that we allow Him to tell us what he’s like, and he tells us that he is ready to receive us as a friend when we are ready to do so. When you are ready to say – Okay – I’ll trust you – I trust you with my life. With my health. With my family. I trust you with my kids. I trust you with my finances. I trust you with my work, my relationship. Lead me in all of those areas- And we trust that he leads us wisely and governs our life wisely in all of those areas – well, then you are onto something. You have discovered what life in the Kingdom is all about.
Now some of you have just recently made that decision – and I want to encourage you this morning to consider being baptized. Two weeks from today we are going to fill up our water tank and we are going to baptize anyone who would like to be baptized.
What is baptism? It is a symbol. Like a ceremony. If you are married you had a ceremony, right? Why? To tell the world, to celebrate with your family, – well baptism is an outward sign that lets the world know I’ve made a decision to trust Jesus with all of my life.
Now sometimes people ask – if I was baptized as a little kid do I need to be baptized again as an adult? Well, the point here is not about needing to be baptized. It isn’t something that is going to change your status with God. It’s not some kind of legal transaction. The day will never come when you will have to stand before the pearly gates and some pencil pushing angel geek checking your records, “Were you ever baptized?”
That takes the joy out of it. Baptism is a response – a joyful response – it says I’m different and I want people to know it. So I’m going to stand in a metal tub and get dunked under the water – and yes that how we do it. That’s how Jesus did it. He got baptized when he was 30 years old – Kablunk! Under the water in the Jordan river. The muddy Jordan river. At least our water will not be muddy.
So what does baptism symbolize? It symbolizes death and new life. Colossians 2:12 For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead.
We go under the water – which is like being put into the grave – and we come up out of the water – it’s as if we are a brand new person. Clean and soaking wet.
So I want you to consider it – and here’s a good verse for you – this was asked to the Apostle Paul after he came to faith – What are you waiting for? So if you are interested mark it on your card and we will get the details to you – but it will be two weeks from today – okay?
So we started the year off by seeing God the way God wants to be seen. And we said often that the most important thing about us is the way we view God. Well, today I am going to propose that – the second most important thing about us is – how we view ourselves. Seeing us, the way God sees us.
Last week we heard from Jan Thomson, who runs Christopher’s Hope Orphanage in Haiti that we support, and she talked about how God considers us His Beloved. And she spoke about how hard it was for her to see herself in those terms.
Well today I want us to see ourselves the way God sees us – and today we are going to see that God sees us as ‘new’ people. When you get to the point where you trust Jesus to lead your life, then you become a brand new type of human being.
2 Corinthians 5:17
This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
Aren’t new things awesome? What a beautiful week we’ve had this week. Spring is in the air. There’s a newness in the air itself. It feels new.
I get why people like to live in places like Arizona and Florida – but there’s something invigorating about the changes in seasons. And after a long cold winter to experience the newness of spring.
We love new things , right? A new car? Can you smell it? New shoes? Well I brought something up here that’s brand new – a brand new unopened can of tennis balls.
There’s something soul cleansing about opening a new can of tennis balls. If you have never done it – you should buy a can of tennis balls today and just open it – it’s addicting. I have to confess I bought an extra tube of tennis balls yesterday because I thought it might be a good idea to practice opening it. I was sitting in my car huffing tennis ball air. Awesome! Check it out!
New is awesome. And in God’s eyes – you are every bit as new and fresh as this can of tennis balls.
And God sees you as a new creation. New. And just as there are three tennis balls in this can – there are three aspects of you that are in the process of being made new through your faith in Jesus.
First we are going to turn to an Old Testament passage in the book of Ezekiel – chapter 36, and we are reading a place where God is making a promise through the prophet to people who will turn toward him. And we will read that God is going to give us a new heart.
Ezekiel 36:26 And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.
Placing our faith in Jesus begins a process of the renewing of our hearts. What is the heart? When the bible talks about the heart of a person it is talking about the very essence, the center of a human being.
Heart and Spirit are virtually interchangeable in the Bible – they refer to the same thing – which is the very essence of you. A new heart means a new you. The very essence of you becomes different from the inside out. The heart is where you love someone from…
It was Valentines day last week and there were plenty of heart shaped candy floating around. Because we tell someone we love that we love them with all our heart. (With everything in me)
I remember one time at college I was trying to woo this young lady into dating me, and when it came time to getting around to finding out if she was interested she said, “There’s part of me that thinks that would be awesome to date you.”
And guess what? It was over right there, right? That relationship was DRT. Dead right there. Because I wasn’t interested in someone who was only willing to give part of themselves.
One day Jesus was teaching and someone asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” And in Mark 12:30, Jesus starts his answer with these words…
Mark 12:30 You must love the Lord your God with all your heart,
Love God with everything you’ve got. Love God with the very essence of me – Don’t hold back. The heart of a person is everything in me. It’s the rudder that steers my soul. My heart directs my life.
So back to Ezekiel – what is the promise here? When we trust Jesus with our life, we will find the very center of us, our very guts, will begin to be changed and transformed.
The very essence of us will begin to change. What does it mean to have a stubborn heart? Isn’t stubbornness is a dogged determination to be right. A stubborn heart is unteachable, unyielding, inflexible and unmovable. It’s right and your wrong. It’s smart and you’re dumb.
I remember as a young pastor sitting in on a meeting with a woman and my senior pastor at the time, and this woman was right about everything – she had a very stubborn and stony heart. It was her way or the highway. And she suffered the fools around her up to a point where she asserted her rightness in all the wrong ways.
And I remember my pastor saying to her, you are a velvet covered brick. You look soft and tender but the inside of you is stubborn a stony and immovable. And ready to crush those around you.
Are you a velvet covered brick? Your hearts is set and stubborn and self centered. Self-will has created for us our own tiny little kingdom – and I am the king.
Well, what is promised? Through faith, God replaces that stony stubborn heart with a tender one – responsive to the leading of God. A heart that is able to love God with everything you’ve got. And a heart that is able to respond to God’s direction.
We move from clenched fisted living to openhanded living. Why? Because at our deepest level, we know we are beloved by the one personality in the Universe who matters. Who provides and protects, and leads and directs with perfect wisdom, and unfathomable love.
Do you know what unfathomable means? It cannot be measured because there is no bottom to it. Once we see ourselves as the object of that kind of love – then everything we’ve got changes.
We no longer need to live under the mantra “If it is to be, it is up to me.” That motto Rhymes. And that’s all it’s got going for it. It is the motto of a person living in the wrong kingdom. “If it’s to be it’s up to me” is the mantra of a person who must fend for themselves. And the Kingdom of Heaven, the right now kingdom that is available to you upon request, means it is possible to live your life without having to be my sole provider, my own defender or protector.
This is the heart that is offered and available to you through faith in Jesus. A new heart.
Now granted, this new heart? It takes time, it’s a process – the renewing of a heart does not happen overnight. If you have been living as the master of your own universe, then it takes time as we learn to trust him with our life, with all of our heart. But the promise is there. It’s real. A new heart awaits those who are ready to learn to trust God with all of it.
Sometimes we get discouraged by the slow progress of faith. And we think – I’ll never change. But God sees us as new people. He sees us on a journey that is a fresh start. And it’s fresh and new everyday.
What else is made new? The way we think is new. Check out these verses from Romans, which is a book in the New Testament.
Romans 12:2 …let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Tennis Ball Brain
When we place our trust in Jesus, then we begin to have the way we think change.
When we think about the greatness and the nearness of God, when we direct our minds to remembering that God is the one who is guiding my life with love, even if he guides it into the valley of the shadow of death.
When our thinking changes and it brings the reality of the closeness and love of God into play into my every day existence, then the conclusions we make about life will be in harmony with the realities of a good, God-governed universe.
This week my wife Jody had something of a scare at her annual physical – she is fine, and it turned out to be a false alarm – thankfully. But during the visit the doctor found something that she considered to be potentially cancerous. And so it was one of those things – we are sending you down right now for tests…
Jody is texting me what’s going on. I’m waiting for the test: now they are reding the results; then will meet with me to let me know where we are going from here.
Sitting there waiting for the doctor to walk in with news – and it’s either going to be good news – or it could potentially be very serious news, right?
Where does your mind go when life hits the fan? Where does your thinking go?
I know where mine went. It went to Psalm 23 – the psalm I have been memorizing and mulling over for months and months. And if you are unfamiliar with Psalm 23 part of it says, that even when I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, because You God are with me.
And so I just started praying that – Lord, we don’t know what you are doing but if you choose to have us walk through the valley of cancer thank you Jesus that you are with us. And that you will comfort us.
And the doctor walks in and says it was a false alarm -she’s fine. And later I asked Jody what she was thinking about sitting in the room waiting for the door to open. She said at first she was scared her mind immediately began to race down all the worst case scenarios… and then, Jody said, I began to pray Psalm 23. That the Lord is with me. I have nothing to fear. Even if the news is the worst news possible.
Faith in Jesus provides our mind with an alternative to worry, dread, fear. Self-preservation. We begin to see this world as saturated with the presence and goodness of God.
When we fill our mind with the things of God – when we begin on a regular basis to meditate on God, we memorize and meditate on portions of scripture like Psalm 23, or the Lord’s prayer in Matthew chapter 6, what happens is that our mind begins to give in to the leadership of our heart. Feeding our mind on these wonderful passages of scripture, helps connect our heart and our mind and send both of them in love toward God.
And so – back to Mark, when someone asks Jesus to sum up what life with God looks like let me show you the rest of what Jesus says… Mark 12:30 You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ 31 The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”
Through faith in Jesus we are new creations. God is making us a new kind of human being. One able to love God with everything in us, all our heart ad soul, and all of our mind, and lastly this morning, we become the kind of people who love God even in our bodies. All of our strength…
Back to Romans 12:1 this time…
12 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.
Your body is actually important to God. Theologically, your body belongs to God. It was created by him and given to us, and we are supposed to be good stewards of it.
It is through our body that we interface with the world. It is with our tongues that we either bless or curse. Or our thumbs, just as likely. It is from the over flow of your heart that your thumbs text. The overflow of your heart causes your fingers to facebook.
Of course, your body speaks through more than your mouth or your fingers. Your body has a language. I read that 80% of communication is body language. Which makes it quite easy to flip someone off without ever having to say a word. To dismiss someone – to show someone how much disdain you have for them – to remind people how beneath you they are and sometimes all it takes is a facial expression and a sigh.
So what happens when we come to faith? Our heart directs our life toward God. Our thinking changes, which includes our feelings, by the way. And we begin to see this life we are living as a life not of chaos but of purpose.
We begin to live every day with the realization that my life is significant. That it means something. That I have a place in this world. We discover that God makes sense of our very existence. And this day, he is using me to love and care for those other people all around me.
My very body is now surrendered to God – even my body belongs to him.
See when my body belonged to me I did whatever I wanted to do with it. I used to for pleasure. I sought out experiences that pleased my body. It was the go between where my inner self asserted it’s authority and took what it wanted.
And so through faith, even your body becomes something new. Something useful. Your hands become helping hands. My eyes are no longer instruments for my mind to take and lust after and covet whatever it desires.
New heart. New way of thinking. A new way of living. All powered by the new reality of life in a different kingdom than the broken kingdom of me, myself and I.
New life. New purpose. And the result? We become a new kind of human. One who naturally and easily loves others, forgives others. We become children of light, and messengers of hope, that God uses in a dark world.
Anyone who belongs to Christ has become And is in the process of becoming) a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
Do you see yourself this way? Brand new and fresh and crisp? God is making you new! A new heart, a new way of thinking, a new purpose for your body. He is making all things new.
It’s a new day through Jesus. Your past mistakes, regrets, sins, rebellion, travesties, shame, guilt, all of that is gone. It’s garbage day – take the garbage of your old life to the curb and let God make all things about you new again.