The gifts of solitude and silence come in many forms. When we are quiet enough to truly meet with God, we find His presence is essential to our pilgrimage. While we can often approach God with a hope to understand more about ourselves, He instead meets us with a declaration of who He is. As we experience the character of God, we find He is enough.
Solitude and silence can reveal some rather dark and difficult things in our hearts. However, this isn't a surprise to God. In the midst of the worst of what our minds and spirits can generate, God meets us, invites our honesty, and reveals our truest self to us. Through this revelation, we're invited to leave behind the solitude and engage the world once again.
Silence and solitude in the "wilderness" was a regular part of the rhythm of Jesus’ life. He began His ministry after emerging from forty days of solitude in the wilderness, and then retreated there again after His first full day. Why? It was in solitude and silence that Jesus found a deep connection with the Father and clarity to His life and ministry. The same is true for us.
Jesus ends the Sermon on the Mount by giving us two choices. He warns us, however, that our stated choice isn't always our actual choice. Our lives themselves are often the evidence of the choice we are truly making, which can be a frightening prospect. Thankfully, the beauty of the resurrection is that we can find a solid foundation, a deep relationship, and the ability to bear much fruit through Jesus alone.
Nearing the conclusion of His great Sermon, Jesus points us toward the kind of community that we should experience as we begin to live in the way He has described. In this community, we discern and challenge one another without condemning, we love one another appropriately and generously without capitulating and, most of all, we trust God prayerfully and completely without doubting.
When Jesus speaks of our treasures, He's not simply making a judgment about what we do, or do not, value. Rather, He's pressing into the fundamental structure of our soul. To value things is to be human. Jesus' teaching is a reminder that what we value belies what we trust, and the solidity of what we trust is directly related to either the anxiety or the peace in our hearts.
Jesus leads us into the discipline of secrecy so that we might avoid the trap of seeking the approval of the people around us. However, He's not asking us to make our faith private, thereby violating His earlier call to let our light shine before men. Rather, He is teaching us to live before an audience of One.
This section of the Sermon contains Jesus’ most radical and difficult teaching. Jesus expects that our apprenticeship to Him would include the way that we interact with our personal rights and those who oppose us. He calls us to be the kind of people who will trust God in every situation and, in so doing, be a subversive gospel influence in the world of violence that surrounds us.
In His Kingdom Manifesto, Jesus is teaching us that He has the power and the wisdom to move us beyond the vicious cycles that often control our lives. In affirming the rightness of the Old Testament law, Jesus identifies the underlying patterns that lead us toward sin and then gives us a new way to live, pointing us toward Spirit-transformation. The heart of Jesus is that we are truly free to follow Him.
Jesus begins His manifesto by making a bold statement. Far from listing the status to which we should aspire, Jesus is giving us a list of the least preferable conditions of life in order to deliver this stunning message: Regardless of background or station in life, no one is excluded. Just as there's nothing we can do to earn our place in His Kingdom, Jesus assures us that we won't be disqualified either—all are welcomed.
The call of Jesus to follow Him is not simply a call to a set of teachings or moral principles. It was, and is, a call to turn from anything that stands in the way and to follow Him into a revolutionary movement. It is this understanding that separates His apprentices from the crowds and that propels us to understand what He is teaching us.
Baptism is a fitting response to repentance. It declares who we really are as apprentices of Jesus. So often our identity and worth come from what we've accomplished or how successful we are. However, Jesus shows us how to live out of the already overflowing pleasure of God.
Have you ever taken a look at your walk with Jesus and wanted more? You believe in Jesus, you love Jesus, you even love being with His body, the church... but isn’t there more? You know that you have made the decision to follow Him... but you want to learn to follow Him even more closely. You want to become a passionate follower of Jesus!
: The escape of Jesus' family to Egypt is a brutal reminder of the presence of suffering and injustice in our world, and the return to the Jordan River is a reminder of the sovereignty of God in the midst of that suffering. The path between the two, both in Jesus' day and in ours, is repentance. Injustice and suffering will not remain forever. Jesus has come to point us toward the hope of the Kingdom.
We are always formed by our past experiences, which creates a tension in the way that we hear and process the Gospel. For some, retreat from legalism moves us toward license. For others, the way of Jesus can never be legalism or license. Instead, we are all invited to live by the Spirit so that we might experience the life of Jesus.
How is God calling us to remain engaged in His Kingdom work? Due to the content of this sermon the podcast will not be posted for public access. You can contact the church office to obtain a CD copy of the message.
Hurry is the great enemy of the spiritual life. However, when people ask how we've been, most of us quickly respond with "Busy!" Our lives are packed full, which hasn't left room for the Spirit of God to work in us. Sabbath is both a command and a discipline where we engage the beauty of Jesus while humbly admitting our limits.
It's hard to fathom self-denial in an age of self-fulfillment. Even our approach to church is often consumeristic, and the way we engage the rest of the world around us is even more so. However, self-denial is the consistent call of Jesus and is vital to us becoming more like Him.
Like Jesus Himself, we grow and develop both physically and spiritually in the revelation of God through the Bible and spending intentional time with Him. Immersive Bible reading and fasting with prayer are two practices from the life of Jesus that can guide us as a body to grow in wisdom, stature and in favor with God and man… just like Jesus.
In God’s desire to have a relationship with us, He calls the whole church to know Him better. Here at York Alliance, we bring encouragement to our pastors and Elders as we become intimate and passionate followers of Jesus through the practical outworking of our relationship with God.