Paul had great courage to stand in faith in the midst of the storm. Where did this come from? How can we stand courageously to face the storms of life that press against us?
Having invested the past 12 weeks growing as disciples who love God, one another and our neighbors, we now transition to Advent. “Advent” means “coming” and it has become a term to describe the 4 Sundays that precede Christmas in which God’s people celebrate Jesus’ first coming in Bethlehem as well as His second coming which we await. In this first Sunday of Advent, just before the busy month of December begins, we exalt Christ who declared during his first advent, “Come to me … and I will give you rest.” In Christ we have rest with God and rest within ourselves so that we may accurately represent our King Jesus as faithful ambassadors in this restless world.
As we discovered last week, receiving God’s grace and forgiveness through faith in Jesus leads to a fresh start in a whole new life. Yet, this is just the beginning. After we believe in Jesus, he extends a new invitation, “Abide in me.” To abide means to live in a close continual dependent relationship with our resurrected Christ through the presence of his Holy Spirit who indwells all who put their faith in him. In this message we discover more about this beautiful way of life as well as the rewards for all who rsvp with a “yes” to this incredible invitation.
These four verses are one of those “head-nodders” of scripture. One of these short nuggets that’s easily passed by, because it makes enough sense and sounds familiar enough on the surface, not to feel the need to go deeper. But when we engage Jesus’ words, we find more there than we first realized. Our eyes are the lens through which we perceive reality, and they’re closely connected to our hearts. What we see informs what we serve, and what we serve informs what we see. What we believe leads to what we perceive. What we choose to focus on, leads to what we become. Jesus is the light that our eyes need to be focused on, to expose our own inner darkness, so that we can become wholly bright!
Like detours on a trip, redirecting our time to serve someone in need can be frustrating. In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus reminds us that, though we cannot serve everyone in need, we each can serve at least one. When we do, we embark on an unknown journey that may get messy. Yet, these types of detours are tangible opportunities to abide in Christ and join in his vision and prayer for God’s Kingdom to come on earth as it is in Heaven.
Life is difficult and the closing move in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount reminds us of this sober reality. In this teaching, known as The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders, we discover that while Jesus does not remove the challenges from His students, He does present a way to prevail through them. This way is a lifelong mentoring relationship with our living instructor that includes listening to Him and then doing what He says.
Paul the Apostle was a man gripped by Jesus. This is why he was so passionate for Jesus and willing to suffer for the cause of Christ. In his conversion, his calling, his ministry, his suffering, and his daily life, he was gripped by Jesus. The center of his life was to know Jesus Christ and Him crucified, and this is the message he so longed to proclaim to those who had not yet heard. What are you gripped by? Jesus Christ or the many distractions of life? Your passion will reveal what you are gripped by.