Ended last session asking, will I accept Jesus’ invitation to move further in my relationship with him?
But what comes next?
Another way of asking: if someone decides to follow Jesus, where are they going together?
A key if you get on a train, bus, plane – where are we going?
So today we’ll explore: On this journey, where is Jesus leading me?
First, to a new relationship with God.
Jesus is able to reconnect us with God, restore us to the relationship with him that we were made for.
This is something we could never do on our own – thousands of years of history to prove that we humans can’t get it right – we can’t build a ladder to heaven.
Jesus is how heaven comes to us. How God himself makes a relationship with him possible, in spite of the ways we separate ourselves from him.
This means that following Jesus is, in one respect, about knowing him. In any human relationship we know that takes a couple things: time and communication.
Good relationships have both of these elements.
In a relationship with God, listening comes primarily from reading his words, and speaking comes primarily in prayer. You’ve been practicing reading scripture thruogh this course, and encourage you to continue. Read the book of Acts next, or another gospel like Luke.
In the next course, Following Jesus, we’ll give some practical help for both reading the Bible and praying.
There is another important dimension to God’s relationship with us, and that is the Holy Spirit. God’s active person and presence in the world.
When people talk about experiencing the risen Jesus in their life now, they are talking about the Spirit of Jesus, the Holy Spirit. Like God the Son and God the Father, the Holy Spirit is fully God. God has three persons with whom we can relate – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. All one God, yet all relate to us in particular ways, with all the power of God. Why we use personal language – “he” for the Holy Spirit, and not impersonal language like “it”. The Spirit is someone you can know, not something you can use or channel!
When we are born physically we are born into a physical family of some description, and when we are born spiritually, then we are born into the Christian family and it is the Holy Spirit who assures us of our relationship with God the Father and helps us to develop that relationship.
The HS transforms us from within. We all expect to see siblings resemble each other, and sons and daughters resemble their parents. But have you ever noticed how older couples can start to look alike? We know it’s not genetics…it’s because they’ve subconsciously learned from each other facial expressions and mannerisms that have reshaped and formed their faces and bodies. I have no theories as to why pets resemble their owners, but that’s why older couples do! They spend time together…they subconscious watch and learn from each other, and that is so powerful it reshapes their bodies.
As we spend time in the presence of God, building our relationship, the HS transforms us…we begin to be transformed into the likeness of Jesus, we begin to bear a family resemblance because we learn to do what he does, live the way he lives, and love the way he loves… the apostle Paul says that the Spirit is obvious in people’s lives when you see “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness and self control.” (Gal 5:22)
These are the characteristics that the Spirit of God develops in our lives. It is not that we become perfect immediately, but over a period of time in our lives, there will be a change, that you and others will notice.
Part of the adventure is about being transformed from the inside out—. Not talking about whitewashing ourselves to try and be better. God changes us from the inside—its an inside job—it’s a transformation of character, that is the work of God the Holy Spirit. So often in life we settle for second best, and the world will do its best to beat out of you that desire for relationship with God, you probably had it as a young child, that heart of wonder and openness, and you can have it again.
Once we accept the free offer of grace, that God is handing to us through Jesus, then the work of the Holy Spirit can begin in our lives.
A personal relationship with God is one side of following Jesus.
We’re also being led to the family of God, a community of people learning to follow Jesus, like St. Paul’s.
Called a church. I’m careful using that word, because I know it’s tainted for many of you.
You may associate it with a building, and that’s it. Or you may associate it with an institution, or a weekly event that you have to go to.
Or worse, you may have been hurt by an institution called the church before, or you know someone who has, or you are simply aware of the times it has failed miserably and hurt people terribly.
I want to say sorry, because although these things happen in this world, it’s not the world God created, nor the world he wants, so I think he’s as angry as you are when people are hurt by anyone, much less those trying to follow him.
But that’s a key point…the church is a worldwide community of people trying to follow Jesus. They aren’t there yet, rather they are people who’ve realized they have a problem with sin, and are trying to let Jesus help them. So they are far from perfect, and include many people at various places in their spiritual journey: seekers, skeptics, new disciples, longterm disciples, and a few people faking it, all mixed together.
There is no perfect church. Billy Graham once said if you find a perfect church, don’t join, you’ll spoil it!
Told you the Big Story – the world God created in the beginning, is the way the story ends.
God, people, nature in perfect harmony.
We aren’t there yet, but we are on our way, thanks to what Jesus has done on the cross. We are on stage improvising with God, to bring about the ending he’s planned.
We do that by acting out God’s plan for the world today. Living according to his script with God at the center of our lives, even when others don’t. Acting as if the ending is already here is nto just pretending, but actually part of the plan – part of how this world, called the Kingdom of God, comes about.
It’s like the expression: don’t dress for the job you have, dress for the job you want.
Take this image of a tree
Fruit: A relationship with God, a life lived with him at the center, and the rest of it revolving around that relationship. What this course has been leading towards. But once there, it needs to be nurtured and maintained to continue growing and flourishing.
If the tree is healthy and productive, it’s because we’ve given attn to the roots, the foundation of the tree, and they’re receiving proper nourishment and water.
Our relationships with God and his family, the church, are the roots. Listening to God in Scripture, talking to God in prayer, worshipping and learning about him with others.
This diagram is a way of illustrating our prayer for you during this whole course, and beyond, as written by Paul in Ephesians:
When I think of the wisdom and scope of God’s plan, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will give you mighty inner strength through his Holy Spirit. And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust in him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love really is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it. Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God. – Ephesians 3:14-19
Question: What roots (scripture, prayer, big church, small group) need to be strengthened for your relationship with God to flourish? Which of them will you focus on first?