March 22, 2015 – manuscript

Welcome to week 5 of RE:Mission. For the past several weeks, we have been talking about how to RE:Mission our lives, so we can live the mission of Jesus as best we are able. If you need to catch up at all, you can visit my blog and the church website. The first three weeks, I repeated one line — Salvation should change your life, not just change your death.

This week, I could walk us through how Jesus managed coming in and out of Jerusalem the week prior to his crucifixion. I could walk us through the ugliness and stench associated with Jesus washing his disciples feet. I could teach us that Jesus was so intentional about this Passover week that the Father had no option but to say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” Those subjects would be fun to teach, but I don’t know how much they would prompt each of us to RE:Mission our lives.

My goal for today is that you begin to ask questions about your next steps in living the mission of Jesus better. It’s time for some of us to stop being Jesus-fakers and become Jesus-followers. Some of us have minor adjustments that need to happen. Some of us have large changes that need to occur. Some of us need to begin dealing with those things in our lives that we have tried to ignore for years because ignoring them seemed easier. Some of us have to begin doing life significantly different if we are going to RE:Mission our lives. Israel had to make these types of decisions. At times, Kings made the decisions for the country, which made it simpler to change. Still, each family made its decision of whom it would serve.

Today, I want to share one of those settings because it has a proclamation that calls for change. I believe God would like First Baptist Church to raise the standard of spiritual excellence.

If my job were following Jesus, would Jesus fire me? Would I still have a job, if my boss were Jesus?

2 Chronicles 29:3-11In the first year of his (Hezekiah) reign, in the first month, he opened the doors of the house of the Lord and repaired them. He brought in the priests and the Levites and assembled them in the square on the east and said to them, “Hear me, Levites! Now consecrate yourselves, and consecrate the house of the Lord, the God of your fathers, and carry out the filth from the Holy Place. For our fathers have been unfaithful and have done what was evil in the sight of the Lord our God. They have forsaken him and have turned away their faces from the habitation of the Lord and turned their backs. They also shut the doors of the vestibule and put out the lamps and have not burned incense or offered burnt offerings in the Holy Place to the God of Israel. Therefore the wrath of the Lord came on Judah and Jerusalem, and he has made them an object of horror, of astonishment, and of hissing, as you see with your own eyes. For behold, our fathers have fallen by the sword, and our sons and our daughters and our wives are in captivity for this. 10 Now it is in my heart to make a covenant with the Lord, the God of Israel, in order that his fierce anger may turn away from us. 11 My sons, do not now be negligent, for the Lord has chosen you to stand in his presence, to minister to him and to be his ministers and make offerings to him.”

In week two, we learned that preparing for Passover included removing all the fungus from the home. This is the word consecrate. Some of your Bibles will have the word “sanctify”. Some of your Bibles will have the word “purify”. One of the top priorities of Hezekiah’s reign was to stop the spiritual decay that had been happening throughout Jerusalem. In verse 4, he calls the Levites and the priests to consecrate themselves and then cleanse the temple and get rid of the filth. This was because Israel had chosen not to follow what God had commanded. Ironically, they wanted the blessings of God without obedience to God. Israel had become an embarrassment to God. Hezekiah was calling for a new standard of spiritual excellence and commanded that Israel not be negligent with this standard.

The Levites and priests spent the next sixteen days preparing and consecrating themselves and the temple. Hezekiah then opened the temple for a worship experience, including singing and offering. Many animals were killed during this worship experience. Fourteen days later, Jerusalem celebrated Passover. Hezekiah pushed Passover back one month because the entire nation was not prepared to celebrate Passover.

Easter is in fourteen days. I call you, First Baptist Church, to prepare yourself to celebrate “the Lamb of God who has taken away the sins of the world.” (John 1:29)

“Hear me, First Baptist Church! Now purify yourselves, purify your families and purify the house of the Lord. Push out the filth from your life. If you have been unfaithful and done evil in the evil in the sight of the Lord our God, repent. If you have forsaken the Lord our God, turn back to him. If you are dwelling in a perpetual state of punishment from the Lord, repent. If you have mistaken the Lord’s refining of you as a spiritual attack, wake up and seek the Lord. If you are engaged in sinful practices that are bringing generational curses on your family, stop.

Behold, First Baptist Church can be a spiritual giant for the city of New Castle. You, who are sinful, must put in your heart to make a covenant with the Lord today. Do not be negligent in following Jesus. Do not seek the blessings of God without pursuing obedience to God.

Five “next steps” to RE:Mission your life

1. Break your engagement with sinful practices

Colossians 3:1-9 – If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices.

When a couple becomes engaged, they commit to spending the rest of their lives together. If you are engaged in a sinful practice, you commit to spending the rest of your life with that sin. All of us have sins that we date. Engaged to sin is different than dating sin. If we are engaged to sin, we will not honor God with our lives EVER. God wants our engagement to be with him.

If you are not okay with the way your life is currently playing out, that okay. It’s not okay to keep going in the same direction.

2. Pick one day of the next two weeks, you will fast.

2 Samuel 12:16-17 – David therefore sought God on behalf of the child. And David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground. And the elders of his house stood beside him, to raise him from the ground, but he would not, nor did he eat food with them.

King David had just engaged in some large sins. He committed adultery. He murdered a man. He was guilty of conspiracy. He was not okay with the way his life was currently playing out. He was living with guilt for his decisions. Nathan, the prophet, called him out and King David owned his sin. God’s judgment was for this child to die. 2 Samuel says that David fasted and would not eat.

Let me be crystal clear. I believe the Bible teaches that fasting is not eating. Our spiritual nourishment provides what physical nourishment cannot provide. We often get this backward. Fasting allows our nourishment to go back into alignment. Scripture also teaches there are moments when we should give up other things, except that context is always called “abstaining from” and never associated with fasting. The Bible should drive culture. Culture should never drive the Bible.

3. Become a financial partner with First Baptist Church

Matthew 6:19-21 – Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Spiritual investments appreciate over time! I am calling each of us to look at our financial partnership with this local church and ask if we are contributing our fair share. I ask that you evaluate your giving and begin a financial partnership on Easter Sunday as we celebrate the victory that Jesus continually provides.

This is not an Easter offering, which would be like me asking you to buy a season ticket. This is a partnership of investment. Consult with God and pick a percentage. Many Christians grew up understand that 10% was a starting point for this financial partnership. However, I understand there are families that already spend beyond 100% of their budget. For you, 10% may not be an option and often the result is no financial partnership at all.

If you like (or love) your local church; if you like what happens here; if you want to see First Baptist Church become a spiritual giant for New Castle; I am asking you to seek God and decide a percentage. This is completely between you and God. These are “next steps”, not end results. Six months from now, God may ask you to give a larger percentage. God knows our potential and God will be faithful when we are obedient. Do not be negligent in following Jesus. Does your spiritual nourishment provide what your physical nourishment cannot provide?

4. Invite somebody to church on Easter

Chances are the first time you came to church was because another person either invited you or brought you. Look around you! We have plenty of space available, and you know plenty of people who need the hope that Jesus provides. On Easter Sunday, we are going to talk about the victory that Jesus continually provides for our lives.

Maybe you recall this from two weeks ago. The You next to your house is more important than the You in your house. The You next to your locker is more important than the You at your locker. The You next to your office is more important than the You in your office.

You might be doing okay because you have Jesus. However, each of us knows another YOU that is not okay with the way life is currently playing out. Marriages are struggling. People are addicted to different things. Children are being raised by single parents. Families do not have enough money to make life happen. Children are going to bed hungry. Families are stressing out about paying for college. Parents are watching their kids grow up too fast. There are people that you know that need the hope only Jesus Christ can provide.

Every week is the perfect week to invite another person to church. Easter, especially, is a fantastic time to invite a person to church. This is one of the few times a year people are interesting in coming to church. We get one chance to get it right. Bring a friend to church with you on Easter. Say hello to a person you do not know. Let our actions towards our guests on Easter declare they should come back. It is extremely intimidating to walk into a church and know nothing about the “hidden expectations” that every church has.

5. Get involved in a ministry

The natural progression of living the mission of Jesus is to care for other people. 2 Chronicles 29 called it ministering to others. Your immediate “next step” might be to volunteer to pray for babies in the nursery as you rock them. Your “next step” might be to teach pre-school children. Your “next step” might be to pick an age group that you relate to and teach Sunday school. There are so many “next step” opportunities available for you to connect with. Matthew 6 says, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Our financial partnership is a spiritual investment that forces us to take action. It is half-obedience to throw money at something and never be moved to physical action. Pick a ministry and get involved. If you try a ministry and you don’t like it, move on and try a different ministry. Find the area of our church that allows you to live the mission of Jesus the best you are able.

As we move into a time of response, I ask you to begin making the necessary adjustment in your life so you can RE:Mission. What are the sins you are engaged to? When will you fast in the next two weeks? Who will you bring to church on Easter? What should your financial partnership be? What ministry gets your time?