Let Christ be the center of you

As we face an unsettling & uncertain 2021, I believe we have some real certainties in our lives.  You can certainly know this morning that Jesus loves you, that He has a good pleasing and perfect plan for you, that His mercies are made new each day.

I pray what follows will be of some encouragement for you.  I know that each one of you has your own story.  Your own triumphs and failures.  Your own victories and losses.  Your own valleys and your own mountain tops.  We live in a fallen and broken world.

 

Jesus Himself says to us:

"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 14:1; 27 & 16:33)

He says all this to us because He knows that we will go through the ups and downs of this life.  But let me assure you that He remains on the throne no matter what.  COVID-19 has not surprised Him, the economic issues, what we face in our world today had not dethroned Him at all.

Whatever it is you may be going through in this moment, remember that He is with you, He will never leave or forsake you, He loves you so much that He died for you!  And He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning, and the end.  And in the end, it is all going to be ok.  We are called to persevere in our faith; How do we do that? Though knowing who we are in Christ.

We all have our own stories; I want to start off with a little of mine and then unpack for us what scripture says about all this.

As you may or may not know I had knee surgery to repair torn menisci in my knee early in November.  I saw my Orthopedic Specialist on Tuesday and it seems I will need further surgery to repair my knee.  This will help and protect the joint and avoid a knee replacement.  My left knee is my ‘good’ knee so we need to do all we can to keep it strong.

Another surgery?? Really??  This will be my 52nd.  In the last few weeks I could feel that it was not healing properly, it has been sore and uncomfortable.  I still needed crutches for stairs and the full leg brace to walk anywhere out of the house.  So, when I saw the specialist it came as no surprise to me that he would need to do something about it.  I thought it may be medication or an injection, I never thought it would be yet another surgery.

I am honestly ok with it.  It simply is what it is.  I cannot walk around like this, so something needs to be done. And most importantly Jesus is walking in this valley with me. I know Father has a plan. Most people who hear about this are shocked. They ask things like, “why?” “How do you do it?”  “This is ridiculous”, one friend was angry and said, “What the heck! I would be livid and demand answers from your doctor!”

How do you get through this?  Well, I start chapter one of my book Becoming with a true account of a man who encounters Kirk Douglas in an elevator, and he asks him, “Man, do you know who you are?” This is one of the key questions to our life and a persevering faith.  Where does your identity and sense of self-worth lie? 

You want to have persevering faith?  You need to know who you are in Christ.  Where does your identity lie…?  I want to start by looking at where your identity is not found, or at least should not be found…

YOUR IDENTITY IS NOT FOUND IN WHAT YOU HAVE  AND DO

I drive a fancy car, live in a fancy house, have a fancy job, have a fancy qualification, have a fancy title, pastor, Bishop, reverend, Dr, Prof, have fancy clothes, watches, phones, computers, TV’s, and I have a fancy haircut!

If your identity lies in these things when the tempest of life hits and you need to have your 52nd surgery, or you get sick, or things get difficult financially; It is very hard to get through the valley that can be life.   Why?  Because what and who are you when difficulties strike? When all the fanciness doesn’t bring any comfort.

Who are you without all the fanciness?

Jesus gives us a powerful passage to consider:

Luke 12:15-20 Then he said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."  (16)  And he told them this parable: "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop.  (17)  He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.'  (18)  "Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.  (19)  And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry."'  (20)  "But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?'

We live in the world where the thought is that he who dies with the most toys wins, bigger is better, more is the way to go and fanciness is considered fantastic!

Jesus gives us a way of breaking the grip that all that fanciness has on our lives.

Mat 6:19-21Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  (20)  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  (21)  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

In other words, do not let your possession possess you.  Do not live for the things of this world.  Do not consider having fanciness part of your identity. Where is your heart?  In your fanciness or in Christ Jesus?

YOUR IDENTITY IS NOT FOUND IN WHAT HAPPENS TO YOU

My life rings often true as a modern-day Greek tragedy. However, my identity is not found in being a victim, or of 52 surgeries! A while ago I sat with some young leaders from other cultures and was asked to share my story.  As I did, they wept.  They thought because I was white and a male, everything just went well for me.

While we were away we met a professor who was staying in the same complex as us.  I went to the shops with him in the car and we were chatting. As we spoke, I stopped and said to him, “I hope this is not depressing you, you may need a glass of wine after this trip” What I did do was unpack some of the hope I have and why, hopefully Jesus continues to work in his heart.

Consider Paul’s well-known passage to the Corinthian church. He boasts about his suffering to make his point…  Just because you are a Christian not everything is light and life!

2Co 11:23-27 Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.  (24)  Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.  (25)  Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, (26) I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers.  (27)  I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.

His identity was not in what happened to Him! He knew who he was in Christ Jesus. He introduces himself in many of his letter this way:

Rom 1:1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God-- Tit 1:1 …, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God's elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness--

His identity was not found in what happened to him. My identity is not found in what happens to me. The same is true for you!

YOUR IDENTITY IS NOT FOUND IN WHAT PEOPLE THINK OF YOU

Now this is not an excuse to just behave like an ingrate and think that you can get away with it by saying, “Well God made me this way so, stiff! I don’t need to change!”  That is a blatant lie from the evil one!  We are called to a life where grace and mercy cross sect with righteous and holiness.  We are called to be salt and light to the world.  To live lives that attract people unto Jesus. But even when we endeavor to live that kind of life, Jesus said because of me you will people will think badly of you...

Matthew 10:22 “You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.”

Think about it.  If you truly live for Christ, you may very well ruffle some feathers.  His ways are not very popular in this culture of secularism, humanistic rights, and under the guise of freedom, if you feel it, it is ok for you…

If you speak out, you will have struggles with people.  Simply sharing with an unbeliever, the basics of your faith could cause this to happen. I give 10% of my income away. I will not have sex with a woman unless I am married to her.  When I am billed wrongly and a supermarket or restaurant, I will not take it as my benefit by go back and pay what I owe. I know that I am a sinner, I have eternal life because Jesus died for my sins.  I give my time to feeding the poor.  I get up every Sunday and go and serve in my church.  I go into informal settlements and give my clothes away to the poor.

Some people may think you are a little crazy… But your identity does not lie in what people think of you… 

Jesus said it this way:

Matthew 5:10-12 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Friends, you may be having a hard time but remember…

Your identity is not found in what you have & do, in what happens to you or in what people think of you. If your identity lies in these things you will struggle to have persevering faith and when the proverbial paw-paw hits the fan, life will begin to unravel. If we want to find peace and purpose when we face our 52 surgery, when life begins to enter the valley, our identity needs to be in Christ Jesus our Lord!

How do we do that?  We follow the greatest example in human history that we have.  The life of Jesus Christ.

Paul sums it up well:

Phil 2:5-10 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: (6) Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, (7)  but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  (8)  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross!  (9)  Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, (10) that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

Jesus emptied himself of everything, and His knew who He was in the Lord.  His identity was secure.  Even when He was betrayed, mocked, beaten, whipped, nailed to the cross and crucified. We are called to do the same no matter what circumstances we face.  No matter what, we are called to be empty of ourselves and filled with Him. 

Do you know how valuable you are to Him?  You!  Not your talents and gifts, not your money, power, possessions, degree, business, looks, clothes, car, home, title… YOU!

You are the one He adores, you are the one he cares for, you are the one He loves! He gave His very life for you!

Let your life be secure in that.  Let your identity be in Him.  Let Jesus be your treasure.  He will get you through the valley!  Persevere in your faith!

If your hope is in Him, if your identity is in Him, if your life is His, you may go through difficulties but you can know that while He may not save you from the valley, He will save you through it! 

Are you facing some struggles?

Are you facing some difficulties?

Are you facing some fears and anxieties?

Are you facing some health issues?

Remembering and applying these few points will help you through:

  • Jesus knew who He was! Gods own son, do you know who you are?

 

  • You have a choice in whatever circumstance you face, for me it is my 52nd surgery on Wednesday, will you choose Jesus?

 

  • Know that even if you choose Jesus the path never goes in a straight line.

 

  • Know that you are not perfect however in choosing Jesus, Father uses our mistakes, our lack of knowledge, and our weaknesses all along the way.

 

  • Know that you will learn valuable lessons by walking the path.

I leave you with Paul’s words of encouragement:

Php 4:6-7 Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns.  (7)  Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. (MSG)

Let Jesus be the center of you…

Intimacy with God and the Christ-Centric life

Be careful COVID-19 infections are on the rise… 73 deaths and 7210 new cases… let us not get complacent…

As the pace of life begins to pick up, so many people are asking questions “What now?”  What will life post lockdown look like?  What will my job look like?  How will I provide for my family? What’s going to happen in the country?

And we can see, evil runs rampant. Possibly we may find ourselves backing away from social media and the news because of the constant reminder of fear and doubt that floods our news feeds.

I believe this is what happens to a society falling short on faith. The evil one wants nothing more than to see people fall away from faith, and to see society destroyed through fear and rebellion.

We see our society and the problems that we face.  We become so bogged down in the problems we are exposed to that we begin to lose sight of Him and His peace and purposes. 

Just looking at the COVID-19 pandemic, Eskom, SAA, government Corruption, crime, murders, rape, BLM, Gender based violence, farm murders… 

We may get angry and disillusioned, so we start becoming champions for causes…  And Facebook complainers 😊

We get involved in activism, feeding the poor and speaking out against injustice, and we must.

But what separates us from any other NGO or NPO? Jesus and hearing His voice!

When becoming champions against injustice, we must remain focused on Jesus, on hearing His voice – Jesus who should be the center, everything should lead to him and the healing He brings.

We must be Jesus-centric…

We can get so involved in championing that we stop hearing His voice and take our focus off Christ. That very championing, as good as it may be, can become an idol.

To be Jesus-centric in times like this it is critical that we hear God’s voice. And we allow scripture and His promptings to form and inform our lives. 

Hearing God’s voice is vital to us as believers. What is God’s desire for our lives, within our homes and families, as well as for our church?

2 thoughts I would like to submit to you today which will be the foundation of what I will be sharing:

  1. I wonder, would our lives look different if we were only doing things God Himself had initiated? 
  2. The real question isn’t, Is God speaking? The real question lies within our ability to hear His voice.

We are constantly bombarded with so much noise that the ability to hear and see what God’s up to can often be a struggle. Sometimes it feels impossible to hear His voice with so much distraction.

In fact, many times it can be downright frustrating to hear and understand what God is saying about our lives. No matter the distractions, God shares what He is doing or about to do with those who take the time to have knowledge of the One who holds all the answers.

To know Him is to know His voice. For the most part, every believer wants to know God’s will for their lives, but our discipline must match our desire.

If you want to know God’s will for your life, you must also be willing to invest in the disciplines that give us this clarity.

 If you want to have revelation, I believe you first must have intimacy and live a Christ-centric life…

And hearing from God all begins with intimacy with Him.

People often say to me that they want to know what God is saying, and they want to get revelation as to what He’s up to. I have found, that most revelation is birthed out of intimacy.

So how do we do this thing of Christ-centric life and intimacy with God?

WE MUST REMEMBER THAT THERE IS A TIMES FOR EVERYTHING

King Solomon put it this way: Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 NIV

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.”

Remember the time is coming when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess Jesus as Lord!

We live in this microwave society that expects instantaneous answers to everything. 

  • We don’t save, but we buy lotto tickets
  • We don’t exercise and eat well, but we buy diet drinks, sweeteners and books on the latest fad diets
  • We don’t put the time into our marriages, but read a book on marriage and expect to have a perfect relationship
  • We get told our health is not good, we want to pill to fix our 50-year love affair with pizza, burgers, sugar and chocolate

But the sooner we realize that there is a time for everything and there are seasons in life, the sooner we can find peace in the circumstances, stop striving, be less distracted and focus on Jesus and His voice…

We will begin to renew intimacy with God…

WE MUST REMEMBER THAT TIME IS NOT LIMITLESS

Paul’s words in Eph 5:15-16 speak to this:

Be very careful, then, how you live--not as unwise but as wise, (16) making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.

We can learn to make the most of every opportunity, and our time, by becoming conscious of the fact that we may not have another day.

 

The song “Live Like You Were Dying” by Tim McGraw is about redeeming the time. While its focus is on pursuing earthly passions in the time we have left, the lyrics make an important point. They finish with this thought: Someday I hope you get the chance, to live like you were dying.”

We should start every morning by committing our day to the Lord and asking Him to help us do something that day that has eternal significance.

 

By beginning our day with eternity in mind, we become more aware of spiritual nudges in our hearts.

 

We look for ways we can honor the Lord, help someone else, or utilize our time in productive ways.

 

Sitting at a red robot, we can pray for our neighbor. Mopping the floor, we can worship in song. At a restaurant, we can leave an extra big tip with a card inviting the waiter to church.

 

We can evaluate our gifts and interests and find ways to invest them for God’s kingdom. 

 

If we do that we will begin to renew intimacy with God…

WE MUST REMEMBER THAT IF WE ARE NOT ENOUGH WITHOUT IT, WE WILL NEVER BE ENOUGH WITH IT

Remember Jesus’ words about the things of this world?

Mat 16:26 What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?

Finding contentment does not mean a lack of ambition, it means you have peace and joy in whatever circumstances you find yourself in. 

The writer of Hebrews says it this way:

Heb 13:5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."

If we find contentment knowing He will never leave us, nor will He ever forsake us, we will begin to renew intimacy with God…

Intimacy with God is the key to hearing His voice…

Remember the two thoughts that are the foundation of today?

  1. Would our lives look different if we were only doing things God Himself had initiated? 
  2. The real question isn’t, Is God speaking? The real question lies within our ability to hear His voice.

In the times we are living in, we desperately need to hear the voice of God.

But as I said, most revelation is birthed out of intimacy with Him,  and living Christ-centric lives…

Scripture records:

1Ch 16:11 Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.

Look to Him and always seek His face!  When you do, you will her His voice.  You will hear the…

MIRACLE OF THE GENTLE WHISPER 

1Ki 19:9-13  There he came to a cave, where he spent the night. But the LORD said to him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"  (10)  Elijah replied, "I have zealously served the LORD God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets. I alone am left, and now they are trying to kill me, too."  (11)  "Go out and stand before me on the mountain," the LORD told him. And as Elijah stood there, the LORD passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake.  (12)  And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper.  (13)  When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And a voice said, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"

As we endeavor to lead less distracted lives, press into lives lived in intimacy with Him, we will begin to hear His voice in the miracle of the gentle whisper.  In the prompts of Holy Spirit, in scripture, and in so many other ways. Perhaps you will find an answer the the question, “What am I doing here?”

The greatest example of how to live life is to be found in Jesus Himself. He looked to His Father always!

John 5:19 Jesus gave them this answer: "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.

John 8:28  So Jesus said, "When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.

Jesus was deeply intimate with His Father. The words the Father spoke to Jesus were the only way Jesus could accomplish what He set out to do.

There is a big difference between doing things for God, and doing things with Him… Jesus only did what He saw His Father already doing…

It is the same today:

His still small voice hits us in the core of who we are, directing us in the same way the Father directed Jesus.

Jesus Himself modeled hearing and understanding what the Father is saying so that we can change the course of history too.

And my prayer for you today is if you take the time to be with Him, nothing else will be as important. It will bring your life into clear perspective of who you are, and what you’re made for.

And in your life, no matter the distractions, may His voice be the loudest.

 

 

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