Title:The Jesus Way
Speaker: Jonathan Bailey
Location: Four Corners Church
Date: December 30, 2007
One of my favorite seasons is fall. I love fall. I love when that first cold front blows in and that hot air blows out and that cold air blows in. Do you know that feeling I'm talking about? I love that. One of my favorite things about fall is the leaves. I love to watch the leaves turn colors. You have the reds and the browns and the yellows and the oranges. It explodes into this amazing color, and you think, “That is so beautiful.” I just love to watch these leaves. It's like a beautiful collage. We live in Dallas, Texas, so our fall is not much of a fall. My wife, Kori, went to the University of Missouri. She tells me, “There's a real fall. The leaves and the trees there are beautiful.” I think about even maybe going to Central Park in New York City and standing on top of the Empire State Building and looking out at that massive park of green trees, and then watching them just explode into these beautiful colors of red, orange, yellow, and brown. Even when I was a little kid in first grade, we would go outside and our teacher would make us do these projects where we would collect leaves. We would take them back into our classroom, we'd set them down on a white sheet of paper, and we'd start tracing around the leaf. Then we would take our Crayolas, and we would put two or three in our hand – our yellow and our orange and our brown – and then we would start coloring in the leaf, trying to mimic the color. I just love leaves. Even if you just went into my apartment two or three months ago, you would see these fall leaves decorated in these glass vases, decorated in our shelves, weaved in between our picture frames. I love leaves. I began to think, “What's happening to these leaves?” They're beautiful. Then the thought hit me: These leaves are dying. Then the thought hit me: It's amazing how beautiful death can be. That's what I want to talk about this morning. I want to talk about the beauty of dying with Jesus Christ. I want to talk about how amazing it is to give our lives to Jesus Christ, to die with Him, and ultimately, to live with Him.
When you look at that tree, it looks like it's dying, but it's not dying. The leaves are what have to die. So the leaves are dying, but the tree is still alive. So you see this death is really just a natural cycle; it's just the natural process of this tree. You have the spring and the summer and the fall and the winter. The same thing is true for us. As followers and disciples of Jesus, we have this picture of life and death and living and dying and rising with Jesus. That's what I want to talk about. That is the Jesus way.
I want to say a prayer, and then we'll launch right in to the text. I really just want Jesus to lead us in this passage, because what He does here with the disciples is so beautiful. It's so great the way He helps them see and rethink who He is, and then rethink their call and their mission. Let's pray, and then we'll jump right in to it. Jesus, we ask that You would be our teacher this morning; that You would not let me get in the way of what You want to say; that Your Spirit would forcefully impress upon all of us the beauty of dying with You and rising with You and finding a new life, life like we never knew before – that eternal life You talk about in John 3:16. I pray that You would impress upon us the importance of going into the year 2008 on this Jesus way. Thank You for everything You've given us in this past year, and catapult us forward to follow You in this New Year. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
I want to read through this scripture verse with you. There are 11 verses. I want to read through it so we're familiar with it, and then I want to go through it verse by verse and just take a look at it. It says in Mark 8:27:
“Jesus went out, along with His disciples, to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way He questioned His disciples, saying to them, ‘Who do people say that I am?’ They told Him, saying, ‘John the Baptist; and others say Elijah; but others, one of the prophets.’ And He continued by questioning them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered and said to Him, ‘You are the Christ.’ And He warned them to tell no one about Him. And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. And He was stating the matter plainly. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. But turning around and seeing His disciples, He rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind Me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's.’ And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.’”
It's a crazy passage of scripture. It's one of my favorites, and it's one that I really wanted to talk with you about this morning. We see Jesus, in verse 27, going out on a journey. Just to give you a little context of the scripture, He just got done feeding the 5,000, which turns out to be when you count the women and the children 20,000 or 30,000 people. So He's going up north to these villages of Caesarea Philippi. This is on the outskirts of Palestine, so it's a place where He can get away from the crowd. He often does this. You read this right off the pages of the gospels when He gets in to this intense ministry with a lot of crowds and then decides to get away from people and just take a break and be alone. This would have been a two-day journey for the disciples. I think about how awesome that would have been, just to be on a two-day journey with Jesus, to listen to Him, to hear Him talk, to maybe listen to a parable or a teaching, to maybe ask Him some questions, or maybe He would even ask me some questions, or maybe even see a miracle. That would have been amazing.
So He asked the disciples, “Who do the people say that I am?” Jesus has been speaking and teaching for maybe about a year or so now, so He's wanting to know, “Who are the people saying that I am? Some say Elijah, some say John the Baptist, some say one of the other prophets.” But then He asked the more poignant question: “Who do you say that I am? Peter, disciples, the twelve, who do you say that I am?” That's a question that is for the 1st century disciples, but that's also the question for us, the 21st century disciples. Who do we say that Jesus is? Many of us have been traveling a journey with Jesus for some time now. Maybe some of us have been going for longer than others, maybe some of us are new, or maybe some of us haven't even decided to get on with the journey, but we're journeying, so that question is for all of us. “Who do you say that I am?” Peter says to Jesus, “You are the Christ.” Great statement. Great answer. But Jesus’ statement right after this is crazy. He says, “Don’t tell anybody that.” What? Don't tell anybody that You're the Christ? I thought that was the right answer. I thought that was the thing I was supposed to say. Don't tell anybody that You're the Christ? That is kind of strange. I began to think about that. The reason Jesus didn't want the disciples telling everybody that He was the Christ is because their conception of who the Christ was, of who Jesus was, of what He came to do and the life that He came to live was totally off base. It was totally out of whack. So Jesus has to take this time on this journey to explain to them the true nature of the Messiah – the true nature of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.
I want to talk a little bit about the conception of the Jewish people, of the disciples. When Peter said, “You are the Christ,” what did it mean for him? What did it mean to say that He was the Christ? I think one thing that is important is that these disciples were looking for a physical kingdom. When Jesus came and said, “The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in this gospel,” they were looking for a real kingdom. If you look at the history of Israel, the brief history of Israel is they started out as a people of slavery in Egypt. Then they finally break free out of Egypt, they go to the Promised Land, they get this kingdom, and they have Saul and they have David. They finally get this kingdom, but what happens? They fall away, and the kingdom splits up. Then Babylon rises up, the power of the age, and comes in and overthrows them and enslaves them, so their kingdom is gone. And then Syria, another great power rises up and conquers Babylon, but then it conquers Israel as well.
So you see that they are constantly being a people who are being oppressed. They're looking for this kingdom. They're tired of being in oppression. So finally, Assyria lets them go, and they go back to Israel and they set up the temple, but they never quite get the kingdom back. They never quite get the government, because the Romans come in. – the next great dominant world force. The Roman Empire comes, and the Romans are oppressing them; the Romans are occupying their territory. So Peter says, “You are the Christ. You are the one that is going to come get rid of these guys. You are the one who is going to get these guys off our back. We're tired of people oppressing us. We are looking for someone who is going to liberate us. We are looking for a kingdom to be set up.” And Jesus says, “I'm not coming to set up a physical kingdom. I'm coming to set up a spiritual kingdom.”
The disciples were looking for someone who was going to conquer their enemies, but Jesus comes and He teaches them – this is beautiful – Jesus didn't come to conquer our enemies. He came to love our enemies. That's a big lesson for the disciples that they had to learn. When you think about the Roman centurion that came to Jesus after the Sermon on the Mount and he says, “Would You heal my servant?” Think about the disciples – James and John and Peter. They're thinking, “No way. No way You're going to heal this guy's servant. This is the guy who is oppressing us.” But what does Jesus do? He says, “Sure. I'll heal your servant.” Then He makes this crazy statement, this unbelievable statement. He says, “I have not found any greater faith in all of Israel than this Roman.” This pagan guy. If you're the disciples, you have to be freaking out at this point, because this is totally blowing your mind, but Jesus is totally helping them rethink who He is, helping them rethink who the Messiah is. Think about when Jesus is getting his beard plucked out; and He's getting beat with a whip; and the nails are being driven into His hands; and the crown of thorns is being slammed into His head; and He looks up and He says, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.” The very people that were crucifying Him, these Roman people – Jesus didn't come to conquer our enemies. He came to love our enemies.
Then I think about John 6:15. John 6:15 is when right after Jesus feeds the 5,000 – so you literally have 20,000 or 30,000 people – and it says in that verse that Jesus perceived that the people were coming to take Him by force and make Him king. What a miracle. But think about the implications of a King, of a warrior Messiah who can multiply food, who can multiply fishes and loaves. Think about it in terms of an army. How amazing is that? How amazing is a King who can raise up a troop from the dead? He just goes out on the battlefield and touches him and he comes back to life. The implications are amazing. This is why the people say, “We have to make Jesus our King. We have to take Him to Jerusalem right now. This is the One we've been waiting for.” But Jesus has to teach them a different way, and that's the Jesus way.
Peter is in this inner circle. Peter is the elite of the elite. There are literally hundreds of disciples following Jesus, but there are 12 that are the core. But Peter is almost the leader of the 12, so he's like the right-hand man. He is it for Jesus. So when he says, “You are the Christ,” you can almost just see him rubbing his hands together saying, “You are the Christ. You're the one that's going to take care of all this for us. You're the one that's going to make all this happen for us. You're the one we've been waiting for.” I think for the disciples, the temptation that we fall in to and that they fell in to is are we using Jesus or are we letting Jesus use us? Are we using Jesus to get what we want, or are we letting Jesus use us for his glory? That's the lesson that the disciples are about to learn.
We all have this consumer mentality. We live in America, the most consumer nation in the world. When we go in to a store, we say, “I want the best possible deal for the best possible price. I want the most I can get for the smallest price.” Sometimes I think that spills over in to our spiritual life and our relationship with Jesus where “I want to get the most I can and I want to make sure I can get it as cheap as possible.” But that's not the way. And Jesus was about to tell them something crazy: “I'm going to have to have to give my life for you people.” The King is going to be a King that is killed. The Messiah is going to be a King that has to die, not one that has to roll into Jerusalem and throw out the Romans. So Jesus says, “Don't tell them. Don't tell them I'm the Christ because you're not ready. You need to learn more.” Let's jump back to the story, verse 31:
“And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. And He was stating the matter plainly. “
At this point, there's no more time for parables and metaphors – this is how Jesus talks to people. He'll give you a story so it's something you can think about – but in this case, Jesus says flat out, “This is what is going to happen. Here's the bottom line: I'm going to Jerusalem, I'm going to be rejected, and I'm going to be killed. But I'm going to rise again.” But they totally missed that. So He just states the matter plainly. Here's when Peter obviously freaks out. He grabs Jesus; he pulls him over and says, “What are You doing? What are You talking about? Dying? A dead Messiah? Are You kidding me? I don't think so. That's not what we signed up for.” I can almost just picture Jesus looking out as his disciples as peers saying this: “I have to help them see the true nature of who I am.” So He rebukes Peter, but He gives them the strongest rebuke you can think of. He calls the guy Satan. “Satan, get behind me.” Every once in a while, I have some friends that we get together and have these rebuking sessions. We just kind of tell each other what we don't like about each other and encourage each other to be better men, better husbands. But never once have I looked at my friend Terry and said, “Hey, Satan, you need to treat Richman better.” I never said that. That's pretty strong. So Jesus says, “This is totally, totally Satan’s way.” Jesus’ way is the cross. Jesus’ way is death, because what does that lead to? That leads to life everlasting. Here's the struggle. Here's where the battlefront is, where the war is waged: It's waged at this God's interests and this man's interests. This is where we live our lives. This is where it all goes down. The struggle for the disciple of Jesus is the messy process of learning the beauty of God's way verses man's way. That is a messy, messy process, but it's beautiful. Just like those leaves that are dying. They're dying, but it's beautiful.
Let's flip over to II Corinthians 5:14-15. We get a little commentary here from the apostle Paul:
“For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.”
I love that scripture. He died to set us free from ourselves, from getting our own way. When you think about man's way, what is man's way? How many people have seen those Burger King commercials with that crazy, scary king? Have you seen the end of those commercials? What's the tag line at the end? “Have it your way.” That's man's way. Man's way is “I want to live life on my own terms. I don't want to surrender to anything. I don't want to sacrifice anything.” “Have it your way.” But we have that beautiful process of learning the beauty of God's way. That's what living life is all about as a follower, as a disciple of Jesus. What if “Have it your way” was my philosophy for Kori and I in our marriage? It really wouldn't work out. It doesn't work with our parents; it doesn't work with our friendships; it doesn't work with any relationship; and it certainly doesn't work with Jesus. But what if it was one of these shows on the History Channel I love to watch called Modern Marvels? Does anyone know about that show? I love that show. I think it's the greatest show. They show how the Empire State Building was built and all the history behind it, or the Golden Gate Bridge or the Hoover Dam. She thinks I'm the biggest dork for watching that show. She never wants to watch that show. But what if I just came home every day after work and just said, “I'm going to watch Modern Marvels. I'm just going to sit down on the couch and watch Modern Marvels.” It's not going to work.
So we find that Jesus didn't come to bring us what we want, but He came to bring us what we need. Isn't that good? That's what Jesus is teaching these disciples. The title for this message is “The Jesus Way,” and I got it from this quote by Eugene Peterson. It says this: “If we do the Jesus truth the Jesus way, we will get the Jesus life.” I love that. He goes on to say, “Christ is the way as well as the truth and the life. When we don't do it His way, we mess up the truth and miss out on the life.” It's like we all have this Jesus truth stored up right here. Jesus died on the cross for my sins. He forgave me. He is the Son of God. He rose. The Bible is the inspired Word of God. I have all this Jesus truth, but when we don't do it the Jesus way, we miss out on the Jesus life. We have to do both. We have to take this Jesus truth and we have to live it this Jesus way. Then and only then will we get this Jesus life. That's what the world is waiting for – the Jesus life to come and shine forth in the world.
Let's pick back up with the story. How do we get this life? Jesus has just helped them rethink who He is. This was mind-blowing, but now He is going to help them rethink their mission and their call of who they were. So let's pick back up with the story in verse 34.
“And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.’”
It's kind of a weird sentence at the end, isn't it? “If you're ashamed of me, I'll be ashamed of you.” Why would He add that in there? I think it's because for the disciples, this was a major letdown. This was a major disappointment. A dead king? This is crazy. This is unbelievable. And Jesus said, “If you're disappointed of this Jesus way, if you're ashamed of this Jesus way of life, then I'm going to be ashamed of you.” That's a pretty shocking statement.
Let's go back up to verse 34. That's where I want to camp out a little bit. He says, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself.” That sounds like bad news. But I tell you it's the best news you've ever heard, because Jesus is telling you that there's something greater than your own lives to live for. What does it mean to lay down our lives? I like what the NIV says. It says that we are to lay down our selfish ambition. We just get rid of that. We just put that aside. We're done with that. That frees us up to live in this world. It doesn't matter really what happens to us. What set the world afire for Christianity and Jesus Christ during the time of the apostles? People didn't care about their lives. What happens if I don't get my way? No problem. What about torture? Doesn't matter. What about death? Doesn’t matter. What about life? Doesn't matter. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. It's an amazing fact. That's what Jesus is trying to teach us. There's something greater than our own lives to live for.
On Friday mornings we have a Bible study and we're going through Romans. It's a fun time. We read this passage of scripture in Romans 8:13, and I said, “I have to put this in the message.” This is pretty cool. Romans 8:13 says, “For if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” So what is this flesh? We find that we need to kill this flesh. We need to get rid of this, but what is the flesh? The flesh is the Burger King philosophy. The flesh is living life on my own terms. The flesh is what the Bible calls the “old man” or the “ego” or the “will” or the “self.” This is what the Bible is constantly encouraging us to do away with so that we can live the Jesus live. But how do we kill this flesh? How do we get rid of this flesh? This is what Jesus teaches us: The cross. He says, “Take up your cross and follow Me.” What a shocking statement for the disciples when they heard that. That must have set them on their heels. You can tell this whole passage is crazy for them. There wasn't really much discussion of Jesus dying on the cross yet either, so this comes quite as a shock. But they knew exactly what He meant when He said, “Take up your cross.” At any given day, you go in to Jerusalem, and you can see just up in the hills people getting crucified. It was about as common as you and I driving down the freeway and seeing a wreck. People were getting crucified daily, and as soon as He said that, they knew, uh-oh. What's He saying? He’s saying that it's time to end that old life. The cross cuts us off, and it helps us kill that old life.
I love this quote by Brennan Manning. I think I have it in your outline this morning. It's a beautiful statement. It says, “In first century Palestine, the cross was an instrument of torture, a gallows. The honoring of anyone who hung on it was a scandal of the most profound kind. Yet in a stunning reversal of human wisdom, the cross of death becomes the tree of life.” What a beautiful statement. We find now that we cling to this cross, that the cross is something that we are taking in to our lives, that we're actually living because from it comes this Jesus life. It's an amazing thing. The cross becomes a living presence in our lives. It's not just something that happened 2000 years ago. It's not just something that happened when I was converted to Christianity. It's something that is happening now in my life. The cross is my companion on the Jesus way. When Jesus says “Take my yolk upon you and learn from Me,” He is saying “Take up your cross and follow Me.” I love that. So in this passage, Jesus tells us to carry a cross, to die – but He has a cross, and we have a cross. This is our cross to carry. This is ours. He has His, and we have ours.
Let's look at II Corinthians 4:8-12. I remember reading this about a year ago and it's just totally amazing. It's one of those amazing passages that you never hear, but when you hear it you say, “Why haven't I ever heard this before?” This is Paul, and he's talking about this “cross life.” This is what he says:
“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;” (Here's the key thing for Paul) “always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” (In our dying body, in the body you and I have right now, this one – the eternal life of Jesus Himself coming out of this body.) “So death works in us, but life in you.”
When the apostle Paul was practicing this cross life, it was producing life for other people. That's the great thing about Jesus’ followers and disciples. We practice this cross life, and the Jesus life begins to come out of us, and it begins to produce life for others. That's how we win souls. That's how we lead people to Christ, not with some convincing argument, but with a life that doesn't care about itself anymore, that's there to serve them, to love them, to be their friend – not to convert them to Christianity, but to be their friend to be their friend. That's what it's all about.
So this is no random death. This is not just death to self to feel sorry for yourself and be a doormat. This is a death to self that brings the very life of Jesus himself. This brings the very life that we read about, that we've all read about in John 3:16, the eternal life of God himself. This is how we get this life.
There's a quote by A.W. Tozer. I love A.W. Tozer. If you ever have a chance to read any of his books, they're so awesome. Here's what he says: “If we are wise we will do what Jesus did. We will endure the cross and despise its shame for the joy that is set before us. To do this is to submit the whole pattern of our lives to be destroyed and built again in the power of an endless life.” That's why I love the cross. The cross has the power to destroy a life, but it also has the power in the wake of that to rebuild a life. So as we're dying to ourselves and we're getting away from trying to live this Burger King philosophy, it's setting up a new pattern of life in us, the Jesus life and the Jesus way. I love that about the cross. That is what's so great. That is why the cross is good news, because now and only now can we have this Jesus life. It's so great.
I may get in trouble here, but I'm going to go ahead and say it, so just say a prayer for me. The point of the cross is not forgiveness. Forgiveness leads to something much bigger: Restoration; redemption; salvation. Forgiveness is an amazing thing. It's a beautiful thing. Jesus died on the cross and absorbed the wrath of God, and that's something we will never, ever have to experience. But we have a cross to carry. We have a hill to climb. We have a death to die. So we find that Jesus didn't die so I wouldn't have to die. Jesus died to show me how to die. So now I get to follow Him. I get to watch how He lived His life, how His death came about, and I get to mimic that. So I turn through the Gospels, and I read them every day, and I think, how did He live his life? Where is He sacrificing? Where is He giving? That's how I want to live it. So I follow Him in the pages of the gospels. The Spirit is guiding and directing us as we do this.
It's like we kind of just stop at forgiveness. It's one of my pet peeves of Christianity. We just stop at forgiveness, put it in park, and wait for the heavenly aid to come pick us up. We're just ready to go to heaven. We're forgiven, and we're ready to get there. But forgiveness is not the finish line. Forgiveness is the starting line. Forgiveness is what brings us to Jesus – the reconciliation. Jesus forgives us so He can save us, so He can love us, so He can be with us. So that is what is so powerful about the word of the cross. That is what's so powerful about Jesus' life is that He shows us how to die, and that He teaches us that this is the most important thing in our lives.
I want to give you some practical application for 2008, because if I just sit up here this morning and talk about this Jesus truth and don't really give you anything that you can do, this whole time has pretty much been wasted. Jesus says, “Whoever hears My words and acts on them” – that's the key, acts on them – “is like a man who built his house on the rock. “ The other man heard the words of Jesus. He heard them, but what's the difference? He didn't act on them. So when we hear these words of Jesus of taking up your cross, of dying to self and finding a new life like never before, and we act on them. And that's how the life of Christ comes spilling forth out of our lives.
I want to give you three things. These are three spiritual disciplines for 2008. I'm pretty sure we all have New Year’s resolutions. We're trying to lose weight. We're trying to look good. We're trying to get fit. But what if as a church – maybe churchwide resolutions – we could submit ourselves to the Jesus way, the way of sacrifice and the way of discipline, and follow Him in this regard. I want to give you three disciplines. These are things Jesus did. You read them right off the pages of the gospels, so what better way to follow Him than actually do what He did?
The first one is fasting. Fasting is an awesome spiritual discipline because it teaches us that our body doesn't control us. Our spirit controls us. This could be really anything. The main thing is food, but you could fast from TV; you could fast from radio; you could fast from that little cell phone in your pocket; you could fast from email or internet. There are so many things that have the tendency to control us. So Jesus is saying, “You can do without that for a little while. You can come be with Me. You can set that aside.” So you may just want to take maybe once a week or once every month; you don't want to be a hero. I remember when I first got into this, I was trying to fast every day. It didn’t really work out. You don’t want to be a hero. Just keep it simple. Take it easy. So you may just want to do it one a month. You fast, and you take from sunup to sundown – that’s usually what I do – so for breakfast and lunch, I don’t eat anything. During that time my body and my flesh start to go, “I’m hungry! I want some food!” I quote the 23rd Psalm: “The Lord is my shepherd, and I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures.” I realize that my body doesn’t control me, but I control my body. Jesus is teaching me how to live this Jesus life. So fasting is a great spiritual discipline. I encourage you to start practicing it. Experiment with it. Give it a try and see what happens, because we have to act on Jesus’ words. It’s not enough to hear them.
The second spiritual discipline is silence and solitude. I combine these together. There is so much to listen to in our world. There is so much to be busy with – so much stuff. Silence and solitude helps us break away from the world and helps us get alone and just be with Jesus. Think about that Psalmist who says, “Be still and know that I am God.” It’s hard to be still when you have the radio, the TV, the internet – and most of that is on your phone, not just in your house anymore. Silence and solitude. You get away and you say, “I’m just going to be with Jesus. I’m not going to bring my Bible. I’m not going to bring my journal. I’m not going to bring a book. I’m not going to even really have an agenda. I’m just going to go and be still. I’m going to get away from the crowds. I’m going to get away from the noise, and I’m going to be still.” There’s a dam and a creek in Allen that I go to sometimes, and I’ll just sit there and just take 30 minutes to an hour and just do nothing and just let the Spirit rejuvenate me. I’ll get away and say, “I don’t have to be plugged in to the world like that all the time. I can break out.” What happens is that Jesus’ life starts to well up. And then I live my day with a different perspective of “I’m so glad I don’t have to get my way today. I’m so glad that’s not important anymore. I’m so glad that I can live for others today. I’m so glad that I can live for Jesus today.
You may want to practice silence and solitude, maybe just once a week for 30 minutes or an hour. Don’t try to be a hero with it, but just try to incorporate it in to your life. These are disciplines or practices. So it's not just like we do one and then we just maybe in a couple months do another one, take a little of this and a little of that. These are some things that we're building in to our lives. It's like that cross. Remember how it destroys one pattern of life, and in its wake it's building a new pattern, a discipline, a practice. These are things that are regularly happening. As we practice these things, that is when the life of Jesus comes forth.
Number three: This has been the one that probably has just been so transformative for me, and that is service – service to the poor, service to the down and out or the lowly. I love what Paul tells us. He says, “Associate with the lowly.” It's so easy for us. Look where we are. North Dallas. We have everything we need, everything we ever wanted. Paul tells us, “Associate with the lowly.” Why does he say that? Don't get caught up in what you have. Get caught up in what you can give. Know that life isn't as easy for other people as for you. Some people have tremendous problems with addictions, and they can't break out of the cycle of the world. A lot of times what our friends and I will do is on Thursday mornings, we go to the day-labor center in Plano by Best Buy. We just buy about 100 donuts and orange juice. We try to buy gloves in the winter time and sweaters. We just set up a table right there, and there are 180 guys that are looking for work. These are guys who lost their jobs and they're just trying to provide for their families, trying to just make a way for them. And some of these guys are just drug addicts that are homeless. Whenever they get their money, they just can't break away from the drugs. It doesn't matter who they are or what they've done. We go down there and we just love on them. We just serve them. We don't try to get them to say a prayer. We don't try to twist their arm. We just go down there and love them. Everyone just lines up and it’s so awesome and we give them hugs and we pray with them for anything that is going on in their lives. We just try to be there for them. We just try to make the commitment to be there every Thursday, because it’s important just to be with them. It’s important to be friends with them, to support them and to help them in any way we can. Maybe one guy we'll get a bus pass for. Maybe one guy we'll help out with Christmas presents. Terry did that for one of the guys. It just puts you in the opportunity and that position and that place of service, of serving. And then you get the idea, this is what Jesus was doing. He was serving people. He was with the lowly. The Gospel came to the poor. That's when the Jesus life begins to shine forth. So we see that this isn't a passive life. The grace of God is active.
A lot of times I think we're not only saved by grace but we're paralyzed by it. The grace of God is the most active force in the world, and all it is waiting for is the Jesus followers to come and step in to it. That's what happens when we get into these spiritual disciplines. We put ourselves in a position for this grace to just come in and save us, and we go out into the world and we serve others and we love others and we find that there's a lot more to live for than our own lives. I hope that's helpful, because if we would do the Jesus truth, the Jesus way, then we're going to get that Jesus life.
I want to close with I Corinthians 1:18. I love this passage of scripture. This really sums up what we've been talking about this morning. Paul was talking to the Corinthian church, and here's what he says: “For the word of the cross” – everything that we've been talking about this morning: Death to self, finding a new life, the life we've never even dreamed of – “the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Think about those people in the Greco Roman world who were living for themselves. It was a sensual age; it still is today. But when that word of the cross went forth, maybe like some of us today are thinking, “This is kind of crazy, John. This is foolishness. Death to self? Are you kidding me? Are you crazy?” But to those people who heard the word of the cross, who took it into their lives and lived it, they found that there was the power of God. So my invitation this morning is a practical invitation. It's not one for this morning. It's a daily invitation. It's a living invitation. It's Jesus' invitation. Come and die with Him.
Let's pray. Jesus, thank You so much for giving me the opportunity to be here this morning. I'm so glad that You have saved us and that You have forgiven us and that You have called us to live this life. We can't even really believe that You would come down and humble Yourself and become a servant just for us. Now You're calling us to come and die and humble ourselves and live this new life. Jesus, I ask that You would propel us into 2008 with this Jesus truth but also in this Jesus way so that we will get this Jesus life. May we take up our crosses and follow You. May that be our battle cry for 2008. Thank You, Jesus, for everything You have done for us and everything You're continuing to do for us.