About a month ago we started asking for you, our community, to submit questions and topics that we can be focusing on in this series and in the year to come.
There are so many great topics. As our pastoral team was preparing, with the questions before us, we felt that it was important to talk about two things as we begin. The first we looked at last week: loving, caring for, honoring, seeing the value in, realizing that we need, understanding our completeness In having relationship with people that see the world differently than us
While our culture is good at allowing people to be different, it can also struggle in having relationship and community with people who are different. The obvious struggle with that is that we are ALL DIFFERENT.
Jesus was incredible: He connected with and invested in the Samaritan woman and her community, while culture was screaming to avoid them at all cost, saying that they were unworthy of relationship. He went to Zacchaeus’ house, while culture was screaming to hate him and not trust him, and while the religious authorities were literally upset that He would go. And He helped the centurion by healing his servant, while culture would have been suspect of the Roman man and would have feared him.
In this series, we are walking towards discussing things where we will all have different perspectives and beliefs. But much larger than that is that we are walking in a world, a life, a local where we all have different perspectives and beliefs.
Paul, after talking about the picture of the church as the Body of Christ, says,
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:17-18)
In our Corner Church Ethos, we have written about some key aspects of our Corner Church culture:
Throughout history, God has used normal, unimpressive people. You don’t have to be the best. Come as you are.
The pathway to being a valued part of community is not filled with a list of prerequisites. Perfection is not an obstacle in the pathway of involvement.
IT’S OKAY TO TALK IN CHURCH
It is okay to not have all the answers. The purpose of discussion is to internalize what we are talking about and to embrace relationship. Corner Church is a safe place to talk, listen, and question.
LOVE THE WORLD; LOVE EACH OTHER
Jesus said the greatest command was to love God and to love your neighbor. The fullest expression of love for God is love for humanity, and love for humanity shows a love for God.
BETTER THAN YESTERDAY
The world's problems can’t be fixed in a day. We want to be a church that leaves the world a little bit better every day before we lay our heads down at night. Jesus invites us to come as we are but insists we not stay that way.
Each of these bring focus to the call that as we love Jesus and seek Him, we also seek valued relationship in others in our differences, not just in spite of our differences. As Paul says in 1 Corinthains 12, our differences are essential in making up the Body of Christ. We are whole in our differences. No one does not belong because they are different. No one is complete in themselves–by themselves–in isolation.
Right after Paul talks about the Body of Christ, we turn the page to 1 Corinthains 13 and this body picture is only complete when it is lived out in love. What is love?
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
In our differences is our completeness. How do we live out that completeness? Through love.
And today we are talking about another foundational cornerstone as we walk towards our questions and topics: God has perspective when it comes to the topics and questions we face in life. What God desires is so important. But today we’ll look at a foundation even under that.
The question is, why should we “care,” “value,” “trust,” “respond to” what God says, what Jesus says, what the Bible says, how the Holy Spirit leads?
This often can become a moment of “Because I said so, that’s why!” But ‘because I said so’ may be a shaky foundation. Let’s process this for a moment. I am not going to ask you to recall a specific “because I said so, that’s why” moment, but I am going to ask you to think of moments when it is easy to think that or even say it.
To what types of situations and scenarios is it easy to simply respond with, “because I said so, that’s why”?
As we walk into a conversation on why we should trust what God wants, says, thinks, desires; why we should trust what Jesus says; why we should follow the nudge of the Holy Spirit–if you are looking for a “because I said so, that’s why” moment in this message, we are not going to get there today! Our goal instead is to open the door to process.
Trusting and listening to a person or an organization or a boss or leader is so complex and has to be processed. The same is true in relationship with Christ.
Let’s look at Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. A crowd has gathered and Jesus speaks to them–re-reading this is SO GOOD. Jesus starts off by flipping perspective of what is being blessed:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3-10)
He calls us to stand out in our world as salt–if salt loses its saltiness what good is it for? He says that it is not just about not murdering, but don’t even hate. He says it is not just about not committing adultery, but not even lusting. He says let your yes be yes and your no be truly no–no need to make strange oaths on things. He calls us to love not hate–and not just love those that love us, but love even our enemy. Serve them, honor them, meet their needs.
He calls us to give to those in need, not as a production to earn the respect and honor of those around you, but in secret, just to meet the need. He calls us to pray, to trust God, but not make it a production of religiosity, but a relationship of trust, honor, respect and submission. He calls us to not seek to be seen as religious as we pray, as we fast, as we do religious things–it is about treasure in heaven, not about being honored or respected here on earth.
He encourages us to not worry, but to trust God, to see his provision in others and in our own lives and trust that provision again and again. He calls us to not judge others, to seek God in everything, to seek wisdom, to honor truth…
And after all of that, Jesus says:
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (Matthew 7:24-27)
Jesus, at the end of the Sermon on the Mount, has this mic drop moment. Those who do what I say–when life happens, you will not crumble. Those who do not do what I say–when life happens, you will crumble. Mic drop.
This phrase could be slightly different and it would have a massively different meaning. Feel this: Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice, I will prevent the storms of life from coming. Everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice, I will send storms their way. But this is NOT what is said!! Whether we do what Jesus says or not, life will happen, storms will come.
If you hear these words and put them into practice, you will be able to stand firm in the midst of the storms. Storms will come.
With Jesus’ words in your mind, even from this whirlwind summary of the Sermon on the Mount, process this. When life happens–highs and lows, successes and challenges, sunny skies and storms:
What are some realities that can make life crumble when the “wind and waves” of life come?
What are some realities that can make life stand or be resilient when the “wind and waves” of life come?
Again, we are walking towards talking through questions and topics that are real in our lives. Last week, we foundationally processed that relationship with people who are different in perspective is so important. Loving, caring, respecting, and also needing people who believe differently–who see differently–is so important.
And now, valuing what Jesus says and what Jesus wants and why we should is such an important foundation.
In the Gospels–Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the stories of Jesus’ life, a common theme is Jesus being tested. He was questioned, interrogated, put to the test. The questions are intense, the emotions are high, and Jesus’ responses are fascinating. As we discuss why we should listen to Jesus, let’s process a few of these moments.
First, in Matthew chapter 4 when Jesus had just been baptized by John the Baptist, He then went off into the wilderness to fast for 40 days. This was a refining moment. At the end of that time of fasting Jesus was tempted by the devil:
The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him. (Matthew 4:3-11)
Hold on to that narrative.
As Jesus’ ministry grew, the religious authorities of the time often questioned Him, even tried to trick him or trap Him in His words. In Matthew 22 we see a few of these moments.
Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?” But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?” “Caesar’s,” they replied. Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away. (Matthew 22:15-22)
They thought they had Jesus trapped. If He says it is right to pay Caesar, He is loyal to Caesar and not to God. If He says it is not right to pay your taxes to Caesar, He should be arrested for disrupting the relationship with Rome and for breaking the law. But they didn’t trap Him.
Hold on to that narrative too.
They came back with a second, third, and fourth plan of trapping Jesus in his words, also in Matthew 22. Here is the third plan.
Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:34-40)
The Pharisees followed 613 laws and believed that they were all important. So what would Jesus say? Saying which one was the most important was a massive failure in their eyes, as it would be discounting the others. So what did Jesus say? Love God. Love people. “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Hold on to this narrative as well.
Jesus grew in popularity. The religious authorities, trying to preserve the balance they had in relationship with Rome, said:
“What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.” (John 11:47-48)
Jesus was arrested and brought before the religious authorities:
Meanwhile, the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. “I have spoken openly to the world,” Jesus replied. “I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said.” When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby slapped him in the face. “Is this the way you answer the high priest?” he demanded. “If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?” Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest. (John 18:19-24)
This is just a glimpse into the testing, the questioning that Jesus experienced. It is a theme. So as we are holding on to Jesus' responses to the devil and his tempting, to the tax questions, to the greatest commandment question, and to the interrogation question:
What character trait(s) of Jesus do you see coming out as He is being questioned?
Again, we are not going to come to a moment today of “Because I said so, that’s why!” We’re not going to demand, You need to listen to Jesus. You need to do what the Bible says. You need to do what God wants you to do. We aren’t going to have one of those moments.
My faith is leading me to listen to Jesus, to follow Scripture, to desire to please God, to seek the leading of the Spirit. But demanding it? That’s not effective. So I hope a moment of deepening process. No matter where we are, a step towards spiritual reality is a step towards Christ, as my faith says that the center of spiritual reality is Christ.
I love Jesus’ consistency in holding up the truth of Scripture as He was tempted in the wilderness. I love Jesus’ absence of rebellion or calling for revolt as He says to give to Caesar what is his and to God what is His. I love Jesus’ simple all-inclusive perspective as He says to love God with all that you have and love people with all that you have. I love Jesus’ pointing to His consistent character as he was interrogated. I love Jesus’ answers. But even more than the answers, I love the tone, the peacefulness, the focus, the heart of Jesus' responses.
How would our perspective of Jesus be different if He responded to these questions while losing His composure?
We’ve processed a lot today, talking about moments when it is easy to say, because I said so; talking about resilient life in storms and fragile life in storms; talking about Jesus’ responses to being questioned; asking how Jesus' composure shapes our perspective of Him. These have been foundations to walk us towards these last questions:
Why should a person care what Jesus thinks?
How do you think Jesus responds to this question?
Take It Deeper Questions
- Read Matthew 22:15-46.
- Who is someone in your life that asks great questions? What sets them apart? Why?
- What were the religious authorities trying to accomplish in their questioning of Jesus?
- What did they accomplish in their questioning?
- What questions do you have for Jesus?
- How do you think He is or could be responding?
- How are you challenged, focused, confused, and/or refined by this text?
Bible Reading Plan
- 2 Kings 1
- 2 Kings 2
- 2 Kings 3
- 2 Kings 4
2 Kings 5