The goal of a disciple of Jesus is relationship, not perfection.
My favorite book of the Bible is Luke’s Gospel. The heart of Luke’s Gospel is what is commonly known as “the travel section” (Luke 9.51-19.44), Jesus’ ministry as a journey to Jerusalem. Great emotion bathes much of the narrative, from its start to its end:
“When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” (9.51)
“As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it …” (19.41)
And what is the purpose of this section? As one journeys with Jesus in the reading of Luke 9-19, the reader learns of the heart and soul of what it means to be a true follower of Jesus. And Luke structures his narrative of Jesus’ teachings and doings regarding our formation in Christ in chiastic form. Due to the size and depth of this chiasm, the following diagram depicts only one “leg” or “side” of the chiasm; note the double Scripture references at the end of each line to see the texts that correspond (e.g. – “C” – Luke 11.1-13 and 18.1-14 play off each other).
The deadly seriousness of this business we call “discipleship” forms the tip of the spear of Luke’s narrative:
Jesus went through one town and village after another, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few be saved?” He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able. [emphasis mine, DPS] When once the owner of the house has got up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then in reply he will say to you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will say, ‘I do not know where you come from; go away from me, all you evildoers!’ There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrown out. Then people will come from east and west, from north and south, and will eat in the kingdom of God. Indeed, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.” (Luke 13.22-30 NRSV)
Credit: The Way According to Luke by Paul Borgman (Eerdmans, 2006); pp. 78,203
NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use tomorrow (April 5) in our LIFE groups at MoSt Church. This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon that morning. To find previous group discussion guides, look under the category title “LIFE group guides” and you’ll find an archive of previous issues.
Stated in a single sentence, this is the purpose of this morning’s sermon.
To declare, and to delve into some of the power of, the fulcrum of faith: “He is risen!”
These Scriptures form some of the foundation of this sermon.
• … after I’m raised up, I’ll go before you to Galilee. (Matthew 26.32 CEB)
• He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Remember what he told you back in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and that he would rise again on the third day.” (Luke 24.6-7 NLT)
• This Jesus, God raised up. We are all witnesses to that fact. He was exalted to God’s right side and received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit. He poured out this Spirit, and you are seeing and hearing the results of his having done so. (Acts 2.32-33 CEB)
• Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead … that is my gospel … (2 Timothy 2.8 NRSV)
• … it was not with perishable things … that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God. Now … love one another other deeply, from the heart. (1 Peter 1.18-22 NIV)
Use this icebreaker question to prime the pump for group conversation.
1. Tell us something, anything, that is to you a settled, absolute fact that all can see.
These exercises/questions are meant to help us grapple with some of the Scripture(s) related to this sermon.
1. Read Mark’s brief account of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection: Mk. 15.37-16.8.
2. Read Eph. 1.3-14 in The Message as a round, each reading one sentence aloud.
These questions help us discern and share what we sense God’s Spirit is doing as we encounter his word.
1. Faith. Would an unrisen Christ be death to Christian faith? Explain.
2. Hope. What does our Lord’s resurrection do for your take on the (your) future?
3. Love. How does Jesus’ resurrection affect your life here and now in the present?
4. How is the existence/life of the church a witness for/against Christ’s resurrection?
5. If Jesus is risen, then this much is settled, I simply must ________.
These ideas/suggestions are for your use beyond the group meeting; to aid your living out today’s message.
1. Pray aloud each morning: “I will live by your resurrection power today, Lord.”
2. Steadily seek ways to share this faith in your heart with others: “Jesus is risen!”
Church attendance, commitment, culture, time & trends: The Most Important Trend of Church Trends in 2015 and What to Do About It [essential reading]
“Specifically, in the last 2 years, I have see one common thread become a common rope. It’s presence is now ubiquitous; every church I talk with mentions this problem when we discuss the Local Predicament in our Kingdom Concept work. (challenges and opportunities expressed in the local culture). I have never seen a problem discussed this commonly amidst a diversity of church sizes and denominational affiliations. What is the one trend? Your Most Committed People Will Attend Worship Services Less Frequently than Ever in 2015.”
Caricature, hatred, Islam, Muslims & stereotyping: How Not to Kill a Muslim [essential reading]
“The chief issue of Muslim-Christian tension in the United States is lack of relationship. Because many white middle/upper-middle class Christian citizens do not have meaningful relationships with a single Muslim, we are left to fill in the gaps of experience with stereo-types, caricature, and exaggeration.”
Cinema, Exodus, film & movies: Three Takeaways from ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings’
“Whatever one might think about the explicit divergences from the biblical story (e.g., the conversation at the burning bush is too limited in the movie, the omission of the opening confrontation between Moses and Pharaoh, absence of Pharaoh-Moses interaction about the plagues, etc.), the story is told to make a point(s) for contemporary audiences. I heard several points, but here are my major takeaways. 1. Israel wrestles with God. … 2. Jewish Holocaust Relived. … 3. Not by Israel’s sword, but by the Lord’s right hand.”
Conversion, conviction, discipleship, gospel, kingdom & transformation: Have You Taken a Gospel Immunization Shot? [essential reading]
“Why does being ‘Christian’ in America make so little difference in so many people’s lives, when the kingdom movement revealed in the New Testament revolutionized people’s lives? … people give their mental assent to certain beliefs and are thereby ushered into a ‘kingdom’ that looks almost identical to the earthly kingdom they were supposed to be called out of. They can keep all their cultural assumptions, and, apart from avoiding certain behaviors that are singled out as the deal-breaker sins, their lives can continue on just as before. “All who are invested in the kingdom Jesus inaugurated in this world must find all of this deeply disturbing. … It’s as if they are a husband or wife who has security in their marital pledge rather than in the quality of the relationship he or she pledged to have. Many people today resist the need to cultivate an actual marriage-like relationship with Christ because they find their security in their past pledge.”
Desensitization, humanity, killing, military, violence & war: The Images Used to Teach Soldiers to Kill
“In my project Targets I look at the present day. I visited 30 countries to document the appearance of the targets with which soldiers today are conditioned to shoot, or as one trainer said: ‘They are supposed to learn to hit, not shoot.’ Another said, ‘It sounds cruel, but you have to learn to kill automatically in order to function.’ “How is he represented today – the enemy that soldiers are later expected to kill? Is he an abstract figure? Does he have a face, and if so, what kind? Has the image of the enemy changed?”
“So, you’re new in the ministry? And you want to get this right, of course. You have definitely come to the right place, friend. Pull up a chair and get ready to take notes.”
I consider all five of today’s links here to be “required reading” or “required watching.” Lots of good stuff!
Assumptions, nonviolence & violence: Does Nonviolence Work?
“We are blinded by the pervasive, long-standing assumption that violence is both ‘normal’ and ‘necessary’ to promote good and minimize evil. … Kingdom people are called to walk in obedience to the example and teaching of Jesus even when it seems to make no sense to do so. We’re called to be faithful to Jesus, not effective at protecting our lives or ridding the world of evil.
“To the world’s ‘normal’ way of thinking, Jesus’ radical posture is indeed ludicrous, impractical, unpatriotic, irresponsible, and even immoral. And it may, in the short run, look like our refusal to participate in the merry-go-round of violence allows evil to win.
“We need to remember that this is exactly how matters looked on Good Friday, when the omnipotent God suffered at the hands of evil rather than use coercive force to extinguish it. But under the reign of the sovereign God, Good Friday never has the last word.”
Christianity, discipleship, faith, holiness & the status quo: The Gospel of Mark – Antonia Fortress – Am I Leading a Rebellion? [4 min. video]
“He’s leading a rebellion, it’s called the Kingdom of God and you can’t vote that in, but everyone can be a part of it.”
Death, euthanasia, judging, physician-assisted suicide & suicide: Brittany Maynard Didn’t Commit Suicide (What We Can Learn From 9-11′s “Falling Man”)
“It seems disingenuous to force someone to choose between two ways of dying and then turn on them in judgment for picking the least painful of the two options.”
Giving thanks and gratitude: The World is Made Holy Through Thanks
“… when life is treated as a possession that can be taken from us, damaged or lost our lives become infused with fear causing us to cling, protect, hoard, defend and aggress. The antidote to this fear is gratitude, viewing life–the whole of life–not as a possession to be defended but as a gift to be shared.”
Parenting & teens: Top Ten Mistakes Christian Parents Make
“Expecting your teen to have a devotion to God that you are not cultivating within yourself. … Not expressing genuine love and like to your teen. … Outsourcing your teen’s spiritual formation. … Not prioritizing youth group/church involvement. … Holding low expectations for your teen. … Trying to be your teen’s best friend. … Permissive parenting. … Spoiling your teen. … Letting your teen’s activities take top priority for your family. … Not spending time with your teen.”