Week 2: Just To Be With You
Pastor Rick Henderson January 6-7,2024
This image popped up on my feed a couple of weeks ago.
This is Hal and his daughter Peirce. Back in 2018, she was working as a flight attendant on Christmas Day. So, Hal booked all 6 flights she was working just so he could be with his daughter. Why is that a story that resonates universally? Why is it so powerful to just be with someone and why is it so powerful when someone just wants to be with us? We were made for relationship. We were made to be with. It’s inescapable. We are hardwired for it. That’s what life is. Think about that as you hear these words from Jesus.
JOHN 17:3 Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent
Eternal life doesn’t start after death or when you arrive in heaven. That’s not it at all. That’s how Jesus described the life he intends for us to experience right now. That’s how he describes life with him. It’s now, not later. And what is it? It’s knowing him.
We were made for relationship by a relational God. I don’t have the time or the intelligence to unpack the mysteries of the Trinity in the next few minutes. But this is what you need to know. God is one in being and 3 in persons. For all of eternity, God is a community of friendship between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. You were made by a God, whose very essence is friendship. That’s the only way to make sense of the assertion that God is love. For him to not just do loving things but to be love means that love is fundamental to who he is and what he’s like, and what he’s been doing for all eternity. Being a community of persons is the only way that it can be true that God is love.
Here's the point. Ultimate reality is ultimately about relationships. You were made for it. You weren’t made for productivity. You weren’t made for achievement or work or to acquire knowledge. All of those things are wonderful. You were made for relationship.
Will you give me permission to be bold? Any approach to life that isn’t utterly and exquisitely relational will ultimately break, and it will break you. Any approach to life that isn’t utterly and exquisitely relational, even if it has all kinds of good things packed into it, if it isn’t utterly and exquisitely relational, it will break, and it will break you.
Let’s do a quick recap of last week.
Your system (approach to life) is perfectly designed to get the results you are currently getting.
This isn’t a religious person thing. This is an everybody thing. You have a system. You have an approach. And that approach is perfectly designed to get the results you’re currently getting. If you want to have life that is truly life. If you want life that is all the way to the full. If you want to experience what Jesus described as eternal life—what is the approach that you’re taking, what’s your system for that?
Since this is 100% about relationship, how should we think about that relationship? Last week we remembered that Jesus had a career. His daddy was a carpenter, but Jesus was a rabbi. That was an incredibly prestigious position. And it wasn’t easy to become one. This was the path.
Bet Sefer: memorize the Torah
Bet Midrash: memorize the Old Testament
Apprentice with a rabbi
Become a rabbi
All kids started out in school at age 5. That lasted till 12 or 13. The goal was to memorize the Torah: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers. After that, most kids were done with school. The best of the best went to the next level of school. That lasted another 5 years. The goal was to memorize the rest of the Old Testament by age 17 or 18. At the end, almost everyone was done with school and joined the family business.
The best of the best of the best could ask to apprentice with a rabbi. If you were allowed to interview, he would grill you. If you passed, he would say, “Come, follow me.” The best apprentices of a rabbi would then become a rabbi.
When Jesus invited people to follow him, he said, “Come, follow me.” It’s an invitation into a rabbi/apprentice, or master/apprentice relationship. There are three driving goals in a Rabbi/Apprentice relationship.
3 DRIVING GOALS:
- Be with your rabbi.
- Become like your rabbi.
- Do as your rabbi did.
But what’s different about Jesus is that he doesn’t limit his invitation to the best of the best students. He opened it to anyone and everyone, whosoever will, to follow him as his apprentices. That’s astounding. But there is also a word of caution.
I can’t re-preach last week’s sermon. If you missed it, go watch it. There are some foundational pieces you need to know so that you can make sense of the rest of this series. One of the things we discovered was that it’s possible to have right beliefs and right behavior, but not be known by Jesus. And, listen carefully, it’s possible to know and be known by Jesus, but have nothing to show for our life with him. Based on that sobering realization, this is our series thesis.
SERIES THESIS: Maturity is possible, but it’s not INEVITABLE.
How do we explain the reality that some followers of Jesus, the older they get, they less they look like Jesus? How do we explain the reality that as time passes, we can grow less like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control? It’s this.
After last week’s message, Pastor Woody sent me this.
If you want, feel free to edit our thesis to this. However you choose to state it, your life, your vitality, your growth, and your maturity hinge on the choices you make and the approach you take. So what is it going to be?
Our church is all about leading people to be fully devoted followers of Jesus. That’s just another way of saying an apprentice of Jesus. I want that for me. I want that for you.
- Authority: I find joy in being with Jesus, submitting to him and following his way.
There are 3 lenses that help us to see that: authority, identity, and activity. For the next couple of minutes, let’s just focus on Jesus as our authority.
Would you grab a Bible or use your phone to find this passage? What we are going to read was said by Jesus during his last night of freedom, his final hours before his arrest. He knew it was coming. That’s the kind of moment when you open up your guts and you spill what’s most important to you. That’s the context in which Jesus said these words.
JOHN 15:1-17 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remainin the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.
What word did Jesus repeat more than any other in those 17 verses? REMAIN.
What’s important is repeated.
What’s important is repeated.
Remain is a good word. I like it better when translations use the word abide. I like the force and clarity of that word a little better. Jesus repeated that word 11 times. So what do you think the most important point is? Remain or abide in him. Or we could say, “be with him.” Whenever something is repeated, it’s important. But when it’s repeated 11 times, we must anchor ourselves to that.
When my son was in early elementary school, we had one of those mornings where I just couldn’t get him out of the house. Ever have a morning when you’re in fast-forward, but your kid is in reverse? That’s what it was like trying to get him to school. So, I took advantage of that morning as an opportunity to teach him about effort.
- You have to put in effort to listen.
- You have to put in effort to get your shoes tied.
- You have to put in effort to do well at school.
I must have said the word effort 25 times on the way to school. As he opened the car door to get out, I asked him, “Son, what have we been talking about this morning? It starts with an E.” With the distracted confusion of a typical 7-year-old, he said, “Uh…e-responsibility.”
For whatever reason, the main point can get just out of focus. We are all vulnerable to missing the point. The big emphasis is to remain or to abide in Jesus.
Can you see it? This eternal life that Jesus has given to us, the approach to life that he intends for us, begins with being with Jesus. And it never unhitches from that. It never moves on from that. Being an apprentice of Jesus is utterly and exquisitely relational.
- Authority: I find joy in being with Jesus, submitting to him, and following his way.
This relationship that Jesus is talking about is almost foolproof. If you keep reading in John 15, Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would come and live in and with every believer. If all this depended on us maintaining the abiding part—we’d all fail. This is how good God is. He gives us his Spirit. He is with us. Now, we are to practice abiding.
Our ability to understand life with Jesus is never going to outpace our understanding that he is so committed to being with us that the Spirit of God abides in every follower of Jesus. It’s my hope that you can get a glimpse of just how monumental that is. There is a gigantic implication that comes with this truth.
2 CORINTHIANS 4:6-7 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.
Just in case it’s not clear yet, let’s read this one too.
1 CORINTHIANS 6:19-20 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own.
Abide in Christ. But remember that the Holy Spirit abides in you. You are a temple. It’s not wrong to call this room a sanctuary. And yet, there is part of me that recoils at that. It’s not a place that’s inhabited by the Spirit of God—it’s people. A temple was a place where heaven and earth intersected. A temple was a place where God chose to abide. There’s no need for sacred buildings and spaces anymore. If you know Jesus, you are a living, breathing temple. You are the sacred, sanctuary of God.
Our lives are to be an INTERSECTION where heaven meets earth.
The gospel is just as much about getting heaven into you right now as it is about getting you into heaven later. Let me say that again. The gospel is just as much about getting heaven into you right now as it is about getting you into heaven later. If we know Jesus, if we are living with him, we should be like him. Everywhere we go, in everything we do, an encounter with you and an encounter with me is supposed to be an intersection where heaven meets earth.
We’re not going to spend a lot of time on this right now. Imagine your life looking like an intersection where heaven meets earth in all these facets of your life.
HEAVEN MEETS EARTH:
We’ll talk about that more in week 4. In this moment, I’m hoping that the significance of that drives us to break up with any sense that we can live this out on our own, with our own effort and abilities. And let it push us to our utter dependence on Jesus. I want it to send us running to our rabbi, to a need and desire to abide in him.
How do we do that? This is what Jesus said.
MATTHEW 6:5-6 And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
If we want to ABIDE, we must first learn to HIDE.
What we’re doing right now is important. It’s a part of a healthy life of apprenticing with Jesus. So is being a part of a small group or ministry team. Gathering with other believers is important. And yet, there is no abiding in Jesus without secret; everything else and everyone else in the world is closed out, just you and God together in prayer.
Prayer is not the only spiritual practice we need. There are many others we could also talk about. That’s why we have Spiritual Practices classes. We want to invest in you and come alongside you. Take advantage of those. But right now, let’s treat these words of Jesus like a rock-solid foundation for our lives. Abiding means hiding away, in quiet, undisturbed prayer.
MATTHEW 6:7-8 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
Prayer isn’t an exchange of INFORMATION; it’s an experience of INTIMACY.
Just talk. There’s nothing wrong with telling God what you need and asking for him to provide. Do that. Just don’t reduce prayer to only that. It’s a time to talk with and be with him. It’s utterly and exquisitely relational.
Crawford Loritts is a pastor I’m quick to listen to. I don’t know him personally. Pastor Otis does, and I’m a little jealous of that. I’m quick to listen to him because he seems like a man who knows what it’s like to be with Jesus. He says this about prayer.
Prayer is an expression of our life’s dependence on God…In order for prayer to be a delight, it first has to be a discipline.–Crawford Loritts
Discipline is not a bad word. Discipline is just a habit with a purpose. Your life is a complex network of habits. Those habits either enhance your life or limit it. There’s no area in your life in which you don’t have habits. You have exercise habits, even if your habit is to stay in bed. You have drinking habits, even if your habit is not to drink. You have financial habits, even if it’s your habit to not budget. You have relationship habits too. I promise you, you have relationship habits with every human in your life—even those folks you think that you never think about.
They may be helpful habits. They may not be helpful. But you have them. You have relationship habits with:
- Your boss
- Your employees
- Your coworkers
- Your kids
- Your significant other
- Your ex
- The person who you can’t stand
- The cashier at your grocery store
- Your neighbor
You have go-to relationship moves with more humans than you’ve let yourself think about.
Any habit that isn’t a discipline is just a RUT.
Both a discipline and a rut can be second nature. But a discipline is intentional, purposeful, and mindful. Ruts are simply unintentional, purposeless, and mindless. When it comes to your relationship with Jesus, do you have discipline, or do you have ruts? Remember the story I shared at the beginning?
That’s not a rut. That’s an intentional, purposeful, mindful decision to be with. Believe it or not, I’m not trying to inspire you to be like him. I want to inspire you to be like her. You see, God has already closed the gap. He’s already stepped into our world in the person of God the Son. He is present with us in the person of the Holy Spirit. Our choosing to be with him is in response to him doing all the work to be with us.
A.W. Tozer was a pastor and author who mentored many people in his life through his writing and millions more, even after his death.
At the heart of the Christian message is God Himself, waiting for His redeemed children to push into conscious awareness of His presence. –A. W. Tozer
When you choose to hide yourself from everything else in the world so you can be with Jesus in prayer, that is what you are doing. And even when you can’t hide. When you are in the rhythm of your day, whether it’s a moment of peace or chaos—when you adopt a disposition of ongoing prayer, you are pushing into the conscious awareness of his presence. Jesus isn’t just Immanuel at Christmas. God is with us and for us. So let’s be with him. And let’s create intentional, purposeful, mindful habits of prayer.
I’m not going to give you a FORMULA, but I’ve got a DIRECTION. I’m not going to give you a SCHEDULE, but have a system (approach).
Do with it what you will. What does it look like to make this a priority in your life? If you are a mom with little humans, it will probably look different than if you’re a retired grandpa. If you’re single or perhaps grinding at your education and career, it will look different than if you’re settled in your career and have domestic commitments.
I want you to look around this room. Seriously, really look around. The goal is not for you to look like anyone you just looked at. The goal is to look more like Jesus. So where you are, as you are, go be with Jesus. As you think about that, will you think about this?
BOTTOM LINE: The REWARD for following Jesus is JESUS. (John Mark Comer)
We get to end our service by slowing down and engaging in a sacred discipline that’s all about remembering what a treasure we have in Jesus and the great cost he paid to make it possible for us to be with him. That’s what communion is. It’s a relationship habit that we get to practice together.
Before we transition into that, I want to us to behold Jesus by reading Romans 8. I’m going to read it from The Message Bible. As I read these words, think about how God in Christ came to be with us so that we can be with him.
Romans 8:31–39 (MSG): So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture:
They kill us in cold blood because they hate you.
We’re sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one.
None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.