Today we are wrapping up our Ethos series. Over the past 7 weeks we have been processing who we are as a church.
Paul in 1 Corinthians 12 and in Romans 12 draws a picture of us–the church–being like a body, with all parts essential, all parts serving one another, all parts in synergistic relationship, and all parts together making a whole.
We have been giving focus not to just informing who we are, who we think we are, who we want to be, who we want others to think we are, and how we want to be seen; but in this series we have been giving focus to the process. We have put dots on the map and in our services tried to open the door to finding our way there.
We have looked at why we plant, what we believe, valuing real relationship, focusing on walking towards Christ/spiritual reality, valuing ownership, continually refining, and (today) being redefiners. These conversations come out of our Corner Church Ethos, which says that we:
- Follow Jesus
- Focus on Scripture
- Value everyone's story
- Build real relationships
- Seek spiritual reality
- Encourage everyone to take personal ownership of faith, church, and community
- See that we are better together
- And do this again and again so that people can have an opportunity to walk to church
Today as we look at being redefiners, the process of growth and maturing is littered with layers and layers of redefinition. We are going to walk into that today and process.
As we go here, I just have one question for you: who do you think you are? It is actually a complex question. Think about this for a moment. This is a pretty intense beginning, but let’s walk through this together.
If your home was burning down, or your parent’s home was burning down, what would you grab? What would you save? We are not actually going to talk about this. We are going to use it as a point of reference in conversation. Take a moment to write down your answers.
If your home or your parent’s home was burning down, what would you grab, what would you try to save? (No people were harmed in this making of this dialogue question.)
Now that you have written down your answer, I want you to process this for a few minutes with the people at your table.
How does what you saved from the fire help inform how you answer the question of who you think you are?
We are not done with this process. Let's keep moving. I want you to write down three people you know. Don’t give it much thought.
Now that you have done that, write down one thing that you have learned from each of those people. It doesn’t have to be profound. We will not be sharing our answers; we will just be building on them.
Now we process again:
How does what people have taught you, shown you, or built into you help inform how you answer the question of who you think you are?
One more topic for processing. Pick two days in your life that stand out to you. You probably know the question that I am going to ask out of this:
How do the days that stand out to you help inform how you answer the question of who you think you are?
Who do you think you are? It is a complex question. It is our things, our insights, our relationships, our accumulation of life…
With the complexity of who you are, who I am, who we are, what does it take to change? We have used this illustration before in the Corner Church world before: the hairy hamburger. If you went to a restaurant and ordered their best hamburger and it came covered with hair, what would it take for you to come back, to order it again, to be willing, to trust again–is it possible?
What would it take for you to go back to the hairy hamburger restaurant and order a burger?
Changing your mind about that restaurant is difficult. It would be a process. Today we are not talking about how to love a restaurant again after a terrible experience, but we are talking about connection to Christ–changing our views, changing our perspectives, changing our understanding, changing what our experiences have taught us.
Growth in relationship with Christ is complex. To come to Him, to seek more relationship with Him, to be willing to do the work of having relationship with Him, to trust Him, to be excited about knowing Him–it won’t just happen, like giving the hairy hamburger restaurant another try won’t just happen.
Paul in his letter to the Phillippians writes about knowing Christ:
But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:7-11)
Okay, Paul, that is nice. But I don’t know if I am there, if I have made it. Does that mean I am a failure and it is hopeless?
No! Here are Paul’s next words:
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14)
Knowing Christ is an ongoing process.
One thing we bring up periodically here at Corner Church is the learning process. Bloom’s Taxonomy puts it this way:
The lowest levels of learning include remembering, understanding, and applying. These things can be done to you, can be possessed without “it” really becoming you. These things can be practiced without digging into who you are and how it impacts what “it” is.
- I remember the facts - remember
- I get how it is supposed to work - understand
- I know what I am supposed to do - apply
But the higher levels of learning can no longer be done to you. The higher levels require effort, struggle, process. Not that the lower levels don’t take effort–but the depth of effort to get to the upper levels of learning is radically different: analyzing, evaluating, and creating.
- I am comparing and contrasting this with other things that I hold to be true and see how or if they come together or don’t - analyze
- I am making critical decisions as to how these truths, facts, assumptions, beliefs can, do, or don’t impact me - evaluate
- I am seeing all of “this” in a cumulative manner and from that I am creating perspective and belief - create
What do you see as some of the inherent challenges of bringing our connection to Jesus to the highest levels of learning?
So we talk in church: dialogue, questions, processing. It is beautiful. It is messy. And it is essential if we are going to get to the higher levels of learning. And in these higher levels of learning is the life long process of discovering more about who I am.
It would be easy to think that Jesus was the best at giving all the answers. But as we read the Gospels, we quickly see that Jesus was continually asking questions. We actually didn't invent questions in church–Jesus beat us to it! Here are some of the questions Jesus asked.
Who do you say that I am? Jesus, in conversation with His disciples, asked them point blank:
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” (Matthew 16:13-15)
Do you believe? Jesus had cursed the fig tree that didn’t have fruit on it and it withered. The disciples were blown away by the power of Jesus’ words and His belief. It’s a silent implied question:
Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” (Matthew 21:21-22)
Do you want to get well? A man had been crippled for 38 years and day after day sat at the pool hoping to be healed:
Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:1-6)
Why are you so afraid? Jesus and the disciples were in the boat and a storm was tossing them about. Jesus was resting and the disciples were fearing they were about to die:
Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!” (Matthew 8:23-27)
Why did you doubt? The disciples were crossing the sea and Jesus came walking on the water:
“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:28-31)
Do you still not see or understand? Jesus warned the disciples about the Pharisees. Their perspective of God could mix and impact the whole, like yeast in bread:
The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat. “Be careful,” Jesus warned them. “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.” They discussed this with one another and said, “It is because we have no bread.” Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?” (Mark 8:14-19)
Are you going to leave as well? Jesus had just given a teaching that was not understood and many people left:
From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:66-69)
What is written? How do you read it? Jesus was approached by an expert in the law and was asked how to gain eternal life. Jesus asks this question before sharing the parable of the Good Samaritan:
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:25-29)
Who touched me? Jesus was pushing through a crowd to go meet a need when a woman who had been struggling physically for years reached out in faith that she would be healed if she only touched Him:
When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ” But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” (Mark 5:27-34)
Do you love me? After Jesus’ death and resurrection, He appeared to His disciples and in that moment reinstated Peter. In this reinstatement He asked Peter three times, do you love me?
When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” (John 21:15)
These questions Jesus asked:
- Who do you say that I am?
- Do you believe?
- Do you want to get well
- Why are you so afraid
- Why did you doubt?
- Do you still not see or understand?
- Are you going to leave as well?
- What is written? How do you read it?
- Who touched me?
- Do you love me?
These questions merit a lifetime of study. The context of each of these moments is vast and important. But can you feel how this would be different if Jesus would have avoided the question and just given answers?
What opportunity is availed as Jesus repeatedly asks questions?
What opportunity would be lost if Jesus never asked questions?
I believe Jesus is the answer. I believe Jesus’ words that He said to His disciples:
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14:6-7)
But one thing that I have discovered is that demanding that everyone else believes the same doesn't really work. I can give the information so that it is remembered. I can give the details so it is understood. I can heap on the responsibility so people can apply it or at least feel guilty about it. But who we are as the Body of Christ has to be so much more than remembering, understanding, and applying (or feeling guilty). We need to move to analyzing, evaluating, and creating.
So our final question is a two-parter and an invitation to process:
What questions do you need to be asked in order to have a deepening belief in Jesus?
What questions do you need to ask your local in order to help them have a deepening belief in Jesus?
Take It Deeper Questions:
- Read Luke 10:25-42.
- Have you ever helped a stranger in distress? What happened?
- Why does Jesus ask the two questions in verse 26?
- Why did the expert in the law turn back to Jesus for clarification?
- Why did Jesus share the parable of the good Samaritan?
- What did the expert in the law think, feel, and process as he heard Jesus share the parable?
- How are you challenged, encouraged, focused, and/or confused by this text?
Bible Reading Plan:
- 1 Samuel 8
- 1 Samuel 9
- 1 Samuel 10
- 1 Samuel 11
- 1 Samuel 12