Asbury Free Methodist – November 28, 2021
The Jesus you never knew Part 1
Today is the first Sunday of Advent. Advent is a time when we look forward to Christmas and celebrate the first coming of our Lord. It is a season where we clear the path for Jesus to come afresh into our lives right now.
There are so many things that can get in the way of Jesus doing a deeper work in our lives. There are distractions and busyness, especially at this time of the year. We, like Martha, can get distracted when we need to be like Mary and take time to give our full attention to Jesus.
Not only are there distractions, but there are what Jesus calls “The worries of this world.” There are many things to worry about. Some of you have been working through your own personal crisis. Those this can be all-consuming.
I know that these past couple of years have been a financial boon for some people and a financial nail-biter for others. Either of those things can distract us from the work of Jesus in our lives.
Listening to the news causes its own worries. There is a new Covid variant in South Africa. It seems to be spreading fast. We don’t know if the vaccines will work against these particular variants. A lot of us can see the light at the end of this Covid tunnel, and now we are wondering if the light we see is a train that is going to run us down.
When we first started this Covid journey, I thought that the difficulty might cause us to seek Jesus more. While that was the experience of some, it was not the experience of the majority. If we move towards another round of Covid – I wonder what it will do to people’s spiritual lives. The weeds of this world have a way of choking out what God wants to do in us.
Yet, Advent is a season that reminds us that Jesus came to us that first Christmas season and that he keeps coming to us. The only question is, is the path clear? Will we receive him when he comes?
In the passage of scripture where Jesus calls himself the good shepherd, this is what he says. Listen to how personal it is.
John 10:2–4 (NIV)
2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.
In this Advent season, I want you to see the good shepherd for who he is. I want you to hear him and listen to his voice. He is calling you by name. He knows you individually and personally. My prayer is that you will follow him, and you move into the future because you trust him.
But I have this suspicion that we might need a refresher on who Jesus is. You see, Jesus is not some abstract concept that we kind of believe in. He is very real. If the path is open for him to come to you, it will change your everyday life. We are not following some vague belief – we are following the risen Lord.
I spent a couple of decades on a board that recommended student ministers for ordination – or not. One of the questions I would often ask was, “You are becoming a pastor because you want to disciple people. So, what does someone who has been discipled look like? What do you want a disciple to be?”
Most of them would answer, “I want them to be Christlike.”
I would tell them, “That is a great answer. That is the goal of our Christian growth. We want to be Christlike. So, what does that mean? What does that look like?”
Many of them would answer in a way that indicated that they didn’t have the foggiest idea of what being Christlike meant. If you are a follower of Jesus, then you know that you are supposed to be Christlike. But if we are not careful, that can become a meaningless word with no content.
Jesus said, John 13:15 (NIV)
15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.
Paul said, reflect me as I reflect Christ. I want to remind you this Advent season of who Jesus is and urge you to be like Jesus.
Jesus is absolutely amazing.
Philippians 2:5–8 (NIV)
5 In your relationships with one another have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Let me tell you about our Lord, although describing him seems to be impossible. He was in very nature God and yet did not exploit that advantage. Rather he became human; he became a servant, he humbled himself. Oh, but what a human he was.
He had authority and compassion, joyfulness and gravity, empathy and grace. He held the societal leaders of his day at arm’s length while he invited children to come close to him. He went to the parties of his day to such an extent that people called him a drunkard and a glutton, but the parties he went to were not with the “in crowd” but the shunned crowd. He touched the untouchable lepers of his day and often broke the conventions of his day. He refused to meet people’s expectations but always pointed people to God’s expectations.
Jesus is multisided, and we are often tempted to gravitate to only parts of him. Some see only his suffering, while others focus on his joy. Some identify with his God orientation, while others emphasize his humanity. Some see him as a thundering Old Testament Prophet, and others see only his gladness and poetry.
As I think of what it means to be like Jesus in this present world, I want to focus on four of his attributes. This is by no means an exhaustive list. I kind of feel like John, who after writing his lengthy gospel, said,
John 21:25 (NIV)
25 Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.
If I were to talk about all of who Jesus is, you could go and come back next Sunday, and I would still be talking. But let me talk about just four characteristics that I believe are vitally important to us as we approach Christmas and move into a new year. When I look at what Jesus wants to do in us as he comes to us this Advent season, these are the four Christlike characteristics that come to mind.
First, let me talk about his strength.
When I refer to the strength of Jesus, I am not talking about his physical strength. The Bible gives no indication that he was any stronger than the average 1st-century male who grew up on a zero trans-fat diet.
But his strength was not unrelated to his body either. Christ lived a rugged, nomadic, homeless life. Mt 8:20 Jesus said, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
It takes a strength of character to live in such a way that we are not committed to comfort. It was not that Jesus was opposed to comfort; it was just not his primary concern. Be like Jesus.
His strength was seen in the way that he took on the issues of his day. He stood with the woman caught in adultery against her accusers. He stood with his disciples against the leaders who accused them of breaking the tradition of the elders. He stood with his mission against his friend Peter when Peter told him he was not going to die.
He wasn’t afraid to take on weeping mourners who scoffed at him; His family who thought he was crazy; the leaders of the day who tried to trap him. That is the kind of strength he had. Be like Jesus.
He wasn’t afraid to take on social norms a speak with the Samaritan women, or touch the leper, or heal on the Sabbath. People didn’t know what to do with him because he was always showing a new way. He chose the way of one who chose to serve rather than to be served: One that chose to fight when most people were silent: one that chose to be silent when most people would have fought. That is strength. That is who Jesus was.
I am sure that you have noticed that our society is more polarized than it has ever been. There is a surge of the ultra-right and the ultra-left. Some think that as Christians, we should just aim for the center. But Jesus was never on the right-left spectrum. He was always for the kingdom of God, which is very different than the right or the left.
While the right and the left yell at each other, Jesus would say, love your enemies. Do good to those who despitefully use you. Our goal is not to be in the center. Our goal is to be for the kingdom of God, which will probably be hated by both the right and the left. To live there in our polarized world takes strength. So, Be like Jesus.
Jesus was strong because he knew who he was, and he spent time with his heavenly father. Jesus was strong because he knew he was called by God, and he lived out his calling. That same strength can be yours as you spend time with Jesus. God will give you the strength to be who you need to be and do what you need to do in our world.
I could tell you story after story about how I have seen that to be true. There have been periods of life where I was pretty beat up. I felt like I hardly had the resources to move, and yet week by week, I would be called upon to preach. I would say, “God, I can’t do this. I don’t have anything to give.” And God would simply say, this is what I have called you to do. And often, I have felt like the boy with five loaves and two fish, but what is that in the face of a hungry crowd. Yet time after time, I would see God move in ways that had nothing to do with me.
Paul found that God’s strength was made perfect in his weakness. It is the testimony of God’s people going through difficulty that they have found strength in God. You will find that true, too, as you lean on the Lord. I want to urge you – Be like Jesus and live out of his strength.
Not only did Jesus have strength, but Jesus also had Poise
What I mean by poise is that there was a balance, a proper balance between his mind, his will, and his emotions. Jesus was not a stoic. He had emotions, and he acted on them – at times. Jesus was not driven by his emotions – he acted contrary to his feelings of tiredness, of wanting to be alone, of frustration with the disciple’s slowness. Nor was he so caught up in the life of the mind that he never engaged life in the world around him.
As I watch Jesus walk through the gospels, there seems to be this unalterable peace. When he encountered Satan in the wilderness, when he encountered Moses and Elijah on the mountain, he walked with poise. When he encountered grieving friends at Lazarus’ tomb, or scheming people sent to trap him in his words, he acted as the situation demanded. I want to urge you, be like Jesus.
You say, yeah, right – I wish I could be, but if you would have seen me under pressure this week, I was anything but poised. I want to get there, but I am not there. I’ll try harder this week. Trying harder may be a good thing, but it will probably not get you to be like Jesus.
Let me tell you what will, Paul writes this to the Galatians. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control There is the definition of poise,
If you are a Christian, then the beginning of that poise is within you because the Spirit of God is within you. The more you feed into the Spirit of God in your life, the more this fruit will grow. The more you spend time listening to God and following what he says, the more you will see this fruit become evident in your life.
I know that a number of you are different than you used to be because of the work of God in your life. I know I have talked to a number of you that have said I used to react this way, but now when that happens, it is different. The fruit of the Spirit is being developed in your life. That is poise. That is being like Jesus. I continue to urge you – be like Jesus.
But not only did Jesus have strength and poise, but he also had Grace.
You can have strength and poise, but if that is all you have, you may not be that fun to be around. There is a saying that says, “Even saints are at times, bad neighbours.” We may like them but only at a distance.
But Jesus wasn’t that way. He was gracious. Little kids wanted to be around him. That says a lot about a person. The outcasts of society, the tax collectors, the prostitutes, the untouchables, the Samaritans, these people found nothing but a gracious reception and a warm welcome. Jesus treated the bartenders, the common fishermen, the poor, and the ostracized wealthy with nothing but grace. Men and women, boys and girls, were welcomed by him.
Jesus was known as a wonderful house guest, and people would invite him home. Most people would run from the demon-possessed. But Jesus would move towards them and enter into the problem and speak peace to the family and war with the demon. Jesus graciously took on other peoples’ problems and spoke into them by the power of God.
The only people Jesus did not appear to be gracious to were the religious hypocrites. People who loved to show off their religion rather than really connect with God.
Graciousness is one of those things that marked how Jesus came. In fact, the Bible’s testimony about Jesus is that he was full of grace and truth. What a wonderful combination. People be like Jesus.
There are some of you who are naturally gracious. Whether it was trained into you by your parents, or it is a bent of your personality, graciousness comes to some people easier than to others. If you have a prophetic bent, graciousness may be harder for you, but Jesus was the Uber prophet, and still, he was full of grace.
We seem to be moving into a phase in our society where we are letting go of civility. Civility is the external version of graciousness. Here is what I believe. If the people of God display graciousness in the face of a society that moves away from civility, it will speak volumes to the world about Jesus.
This includes how you treat the waiter or waitress, or store clerk. This includes how you treat the police when they give you a ticket. This includes how you speak to the poor, the uneducated, the immigrant. It includes how you speak to the transgender person or the woman who has had an abortion.
This includes how you speak to vaxers and anti-vaxers, and even conspiracy theorists.
This includes how you look at those who have made a mess of their life. Judgmentalism and graciousness do not coexist well. People, be like Jesus and be gracious to people.
Jesus is strong, he has poise, he is full of grace. He is Love.
In many ways, love encompasses all that we have talked about. Jesus came into the world because of love. For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son. Jesus moved through the world in love. Time after time, we read, “and Jesus had compassion on them.” When he looked at the crowd who were like sheep without a shepherd, when he looked at the hurting, the hungry, the helpless, he had compassion on them. Jesus walked through this world in love. And it was love that drove him to the cross. Greater love has no man than this than a man lay down his life for his friends. Jesus laid down his life for us. Jesus lived, moved, breathed love. My friends, Be like Jesus.
The way to love is to allow your heart to be saturated with the love that God has for you. Receive it. Respond to it. That is the way you learn to love like Jesus.
We are formally in the season of Advent. We are reminded that Jesus came to us that first Christmas, and he keeps on coming to us personally.
But he comes to us for a reason. He shows us who he is so that we can be like him in a world that is really hurting and messed up.
Jesus was strong –– People, be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might
Jesus was poised – Let the fruit of the Spirit grow big in your life.
Jesus was full of grace. –be gracious to everyone you come in contact with.
Jesus walked through this world in love. – People be like Jesus.
To be like Jesus, To be like Jesus. All I ask is to be like him. All through life’s journey. From earth to glory. All I ask is to be like him.
Sermon Questions – Be Like Jesus
November 28th, 2021 – Advent Part 1 – The Jesus you never knew
1. What are you thankful for today?
2. What are you praying about this week?
1. Read John 10:2-4. What does the good shepherd want to do for his sheep? How do the sheep respond to the good shepherd? Do you see this dynamic at work in your life? How?
2. Read Philippians 2:5-11. What does this tell us about who Jesus is? What are the attributes of the “mindset” in verse 5 that we are supposed to imitate?
3. The sermon reflected on four attributes of Jesus: Strength, Poise, Grace, and Love. I want us to reflect on who we saw these attributes in Jesus and how they could be seen in us.
a) How did Jesus demonstrate strength?
b) What would our life look like if we were like Jesus?
Poise (Responding to each moment appropriately in our mind, emotions and choices)
Read Galatians 5:22-23
a) How did Jesus demonstrate poise?
b) What would our life look like if we were like Jesus?
a) How did Jesus demonstrate grace? (Or where do you see him being gracious?)
b) What would our life look like if we were like Jesus? (what are the issues of our day that require graciousness?)
a) How did Jesus demonstrate love?
b) What would our life look like if we were like Jesus?
How does God develop these attributes in our lives?