Reading: Mark 4:35-41
This is the beginning of a new season for us. Now that we have Rachel as part of the team, the intention is that she and I lead one of the two congregations each. There might be some swapping backwards and forwards but essentially my role is to focus on the new things we might do to grow this church. The traditional service will no doubt look at new things too and also seek to grow.
But you are stuck with me, I am sorry!
One of the things I realised when I stepped out of ministry in Gore 3 years ago and went into a completely different type of ministry was how much time I spent just keeping the wheels turning. Churches can be big organisations that require constant attention to keep them running. I am no longer really interested in propping up an institution. I don’t think the church was ever meant to be an institution. It is meant to be a movement – a rapidly multiplying movement. I am of the view that we will see the healthiest growth through being as faithful as we can possibly be to God’s design for the church. How does God want churches to operate? What is authentic, biblical Christianity and is that different from conventional, cultural Christianity?
I have an awful lot to learn and an awful lot to unlearn. I know quite a lot about conventional church life but I have to unlearn that if I am to be part of an authentic, biblical Christianity. It is a journey of discovery for me and I invite you to journey with me. My focus will be, at one level, the missional community and, at another level, this congregation.
I want to see if I can be very practical because authentic Christianity is faith that is lived out. It is about being doers of the word, not hearers only. It is about following Jesus, not just studying Jesus. It is about becoming like Jesus.
We have said before that the goal of our spiritual growth is to be like Jesus.
Rom 8:29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.
What is God’s goal for us? That we be conformed to the image of His Son.
2 Cor 3:18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate [or, reflect] the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
In other words, followers of Jesus, increasingly look like Jesus. There are various other passages that talk about Christ-likeness but those two might suffice.
Consider the incident we read about. At the end of it, the disciples were terrified and said to one another, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him.”
“Who is this?” That is the question that Mark wants his readers to ask. “Who is this?” We read the gospels and we see all sorts of things about Jesus. The gospel writers want us to ask, “Who is this?” They want us to come to know and trust Jesus. To do that we must answer that question: Who is this? Is He just a man? Is He the Son of God? Is He the promised Messiah? Is He the Saviour? Who is He?”
What prompted them to ask that question? Obviously the thing they had just witnessed. Jesus had stood up in a boat in the midst of a storm that frightened even experienced fishermen. He rebuked the wind and the waves with the words, “Quiet! Be still!” and they were! They immediately died down and it was still!
The disciples were left terrified and questioning. But the miracle working power wasn’t all that they had seen. What else had they seen of Jesus?
- They had seen Him sleeping despite what was going on around Him.
- They heard Him ask “Why are you afraid?” That is a good question. Why were they afraid? And why was he not afraid? How was He able to sleep through a storm?
- He said, “Do you still have no faith?” The core lesson in all of this was, apparently, faith. They hopefully saw the contrast between their lack of faith and His trust in God that allowed Him to be at peace.
- They saw His disappointment or frustration that they still had no faith.
- They saw Jesus the teacher, wanting them to learn from this experience
The first question that this raised was who Jesus was, but a later question would have been: How could they be like Him? How could they have that sort of faith in God? How could they have that peace so that they would no longer panic?
And what would other people think if they could see them face danger with this supernatural peace? What would other people think if they saw the disciples being just like Jesus?
Well, take one example. Not long after Pentecost, when this was all still quite new for them, you remember in Acts 3, Peter and John healed a lame beggar at the temple gate. That was Christ-like, wasn’t it? Healing people was very like Christ. The people were astonished and came running. That gave an opportunity for Peter and John to preach about Jesus. “By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through Him that has completely healed Him as you can all see.”
Notice that there is an emphasis there on seeing: “this man whom you see” has been completely healed “as you can all see.” The visible demonstration of Christ-likeness leads to the proclamation of Christ. If people see it, then they may want to know more about it. That is the power of what people see.
1 Peter 3:15 In your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.
Peter says we need to be ready to speak about Jesus but what has happened prior to that? People have already seen something. They have seen your hope. They have seen that you are looking forward with great expectation to a wonderful future – a future that God has promised to His people when they will be His people and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain for the old order of things has passed away.
Hope is a Christ-like quality. Jesus always painted a picture of a better future that would one day be realised. He called it the Kingdom of God. The visible demonstration of Christ-likeness leads to talk about Christ. There is incredible power in who we are, even before we speak. There is incredible power in what people see in us, even before we open our mouths.
Let’s go back to Peter and John. It wasn’t only the power that people saw. It was the courage and boldness in the face of danger. It is only weeks since the authorities had crucified Jesus and they clearly were not happy about the rumours that He had risen from the dead. There was every chance that Jesus’ followers would also be crucified and yet, here they were, right in the temple, preaching about Jesus. Are courage and boldness Christ-like? Is this another visible demonstration of Christ-likeness?
After that incident – the boldness, the healing and the preaching – many believed and the number of men who believed grew to about 5000. Add in women and children and, only a handful of weeks after Jesus’ crucifixion, the church was maybe 10,000 – 15,000 strong.
The authorities did react. Peter and John were arrested, taken before the Sanhedrin and questioned. Peter, full of the Holy Spirit, said directly to them, “It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed… Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name given under heaven by which we must be saved.”
Then we have that comment from Luke: “When they saw the courage of Peter and john and realised that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13)
Not only is it interesting that they associated this courage, and also possibly the eloquence and understanding, with the fact that they had been with Jesus – that it is Jesus who makes this sort of difference – but again it is an example of the power of what people see. They saw transformed, Christ-like men and that had a powerful effect. They weren’t converted but they were impacted.
Sometimes we worry about speaking up for Jesus but maybe we can have a powerful impact first by living for Jesus. What people see can be powerful. The words might be appropriate later. Remember, God’s goal for us is that we become more and more like Jesus. What did people see in Jesus
- Miracle-working power
- Deep faith in God producing peace
- Courage, unwillingness to compromise
- Love, compassion
- Someone who was mysterious
- Accepting, not condemning
- Prayed a lot.
- Submission, servanthood, obedience
- They saw God in Him
- Hope – a steadfast belief in God’s promised future
- Hope realised – The Kingdom of God here now; the Messiah here
- Jesus had a “pull”
- a man of action not just teaching
Over the next little while, can we look at how we can live like Jesus – how our lives can reflect Jesus’ life? We might call it simply “Living Like Jesus”.
We are sometimes told that our society is not asking “Is it true?” but “Does it work?” Our society is not so much interested in debates about whether Jesus really is the Son of God or whether He really rose from the dead but whether it really works. Does Jesus really make a difference? That question is not answered by debates. It is answered by lives in which Jesus really has made a difference. It is not answered by what people hear but by what people see.
One of the most common charges levelled against Christians is that we are hypocrites. Whether it is justified or not, people say that Christians say one thing and do another. When that is the case, do they believe the words or the actions? Actions speak louder than words. If there is a lack of alignment, they dismiss the words on the basis of the actions.
What might be the impact of living like Jesus? If we were to live like Jesus, how different would that be from the way the world lives? How different would it be from what is seen in most churches?
Is “Living Like Jesus” something that you would like to aim for? Will you pray for us as we go on this journey – I mean pray regularly and consistently, because that would be one aspect of living like Jesus
- Considering the phrase ‘Living Like Jesus”, what are our
- doubts and fears
- we can use the sermon blog for discussion.