Service Video Message Video Message Audio The service video is unavailable at this time. The sermon video is unavailable at this time. The sermon audio is unavailable at this time. Scripture Verses Matthew 5:13-16, John 1:39, Romans 12:2, Colossians 3:10, Titus 1:1, Colossians 1:9-12, Ephesians 3:14-19, John 21:15-17 Downloads & Resources God's Son: Are You Growing in Jesus Christ? Dr. Jon Morrissette - 9/14/2003 The importance of having the right information about God cannot be overstated. Last week we explored how wrong ideas about God can be devastating. For example, what happens when a person denies God’s existence? If God doesn’t exist, all things are permissible. We are unaccountable and self-ruled. The door is left wide open for anarchy. Romans 1 indicates that denying God’s existence is the beginning of the end both spiritually and morally. What happens when a person misjudges the character and nature of God? We discussed how the tragedy of September 11, 2001 was the direct result of false beliefs about God’s character and nature. What happens when a person believes that creation is the result of chance, a big bang, or evolution? What happens when a person no longer believes that there is a greater eternal purpose for his life, but only that purpose which he assigns to himself? What happens when a person doesn’t have hope beyond the grave? When a person doesn’t believe there will be an eternal judgment or any consequence for life’s decisions? What happens when a person denies the existence of the spiritual realm? What happens when a person doesn’t believe in objective truth, but believes each person and each culture is free to define truth as he or she sees fit? A majority of Christians have the wrong information about God. What we discovered last week is that the majority of Christians have the wrong information about God. Over ninety percent of born again Christians, and ninety-eight percent of born again teenagers do not have a biblical worldview. A majority of Christians do not think like Jesus Christ. They are cultural Christians. They selectively embrace only a few, and not all of Christ’s teachings concerning reality. They give lip service to Christian teaching and ethics, but in their thinking and lifestyle they deny Jesus Christ. Last Thursday I attended a Citizens' Police Academy sponsored by the Sangamon County Sheriff’s Office. For the next few months they are giving citizens an inside look at the problems facing our county. They are going to show people like me their operations from the inside-out. Law enforcement is overwhelmed with social problems. Last week I learned two important facts. First, our local law enforcement officials are completely overwhelmed with the challenges they are facing. They are largely a reactive force, quelling problems and restoring order on a superficial level without ever really "fixing" anything. When they arrest people, most of those people end up back on the street in a few days because lawyers find loopholes, the District Attorney refuses to prosecute, the courts don’t act justly, or a judge decrees otherwise. Of those people who go to jail and serve their sentences, over eighty-five percent will commit the same crimes and eventually return to prison. When I asked about prevention, I was told that attempts to educate youth about crime, drugs, and violence has had little measurable impact. The problems are like a runaway freight train. There is great cynicism and frustration among the Sherriff's staff as we continue our slow descent down the slippery slope. One police officer said, "We have to laugh and joke about what is happening because there is no other way to really cope. We can’t really change the way things are. It will destroy you if you think too much about it." Law enforcement has lost faith in the local Church. So the first fact is that things aren’t so great from a social and moral standpoint. But fact number two is that our community leaders and local law enforcement have lost faith in the local Church. They don’t believe that Jesus Christ and the Christian faith can transform culture, change lives, break the cycle of addiction and violence, reverse moral decay, restore order and peace, or rebuild families. Their perception is that Christianity is a social club. That we gather only to promote traditional rituals and to give lip service to ideals that we have no intention of embracing. That at the end of the day, when everything is said and done, long after we’ve invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in buildings, ministries, salaries, and programs, it makes no real difference whether Christians exist or not. Our community has lost faith in the local Church and by extension has lost faith in our lord and savior Jesus Christ. "So what" is the attitude toward the Church. In his own words an officer told me there is nothing we or anyone else can do. Christianity cannot even touch the issues facing our community. That whole Citizens' Police Academy was a wake-up call to me. There is a major disconnect. We are not winning over the hearts and minds of our community. Sunday worship must carry over to Monday living. Our worship and teaching impacts what happens within these four walls on Sunday, but it is not carrying over into our lives on Monday through Saturday. Our worship and teaching are not impacting our workplaces, our families, marriages, relationships, neighborhoods, communities, schools, our values, or our behaviors. And what a shame! Because we are supposed to be the light of the world. The Church of Jesus Christ is supposed to have the words of life. We are to be known for Christ-like virtue and behavior. This is the vision Jesus had in mind in Matthew 5:13-16 (NIV) when he said, "You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." We must begin by knowing Jesus Christ. It is time for the tables to be turned, and for our community to find in our lifestyle and example a compelling reason to trust in Jesus Christ. Last week we spoke of taking an important first step in our relationship with God’s son. That step is simply coming to know Jesus Christ. It is accepting Jesus' invitation to, "come, and you will see" found in John 1:39 (NIV). It is developing a Christ-centered world view. It is learning how to see our world through God’s eyes from the perspective of eternity. It is seeing reality through the set of lenses God gives us. You have heard me mention that in George Barna's research, in virtually every moral category, Christians were statistically the same as non-Christians. Christians were just as likely to divorce, use pornography, and struggle with alcohol as were non-Christians. To my knowledge George Barna was one of the first researchers to analyze whether knowing Jesus Christ or having a biblical world view made any noticeable difference in a person’s life. He distinguished between born again Christians who had a biblical world view and those who did not. He discovered that there was a significant difference between the behavior of born again Christians who possessed a Christian world view and those who only gave lip service to being born again. In the past seven days those who thought like Jesus were two to three times more likely to volunteer time in community service, avoid smoking, avoid use of pornography, pray for government leaders, encourage others, read their Bibles, attend church regularly, pray to God, attend Sunday School, and so much more. Those with a biblical world view were saltier and out-shined those who were Christian in name only. Our knowledge of God must come straight from Jesus Christ. So where am I headed with this? Our first step is getting our knowledge about God straight from Jesus Christ. Do you remember what Colossians 3:10 (NIV) says? It says we have, "…put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator." In Romans 12:2 (NIV) we are commanded to, "be transformed by the renewing of your mind." I believe that education is the hope of our church, community, and world. It is the best preventive action we can take to protect our lives and community. But it's not secular education that is going to make the difference. Instead, it's Christian world view education that is our hope. It is letting the message of Christ infiltrate our minds. This is why in Titus 1:1 (NIV) Paul speaks of the "...knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness." This is also why in Colossians 1:9-12 (NIV) Paul tells the Colossians, "... since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light." But notice that knowledge about Jesus Christ is the hinge point. It is the catalyst for life change. It is the spark that ignites passion for pleasing God, and for living a life worthy of him. So what is this knowledge about Jesus Christ that transforms a person? When I was in Sunday school, the emphasis was on Bible trivia. Recite the books of the Old Testament in reverse order. What king reigned during the ministry of Isaiah the prophet? How many years did the Israelites wander in the desert? What were the four rivers that flowed forth from the Garden of Eden? What were the names of Noah’s sons? What were the names of Jesus' disciples? There is value in knowing some or all of the bits of trivia just mentioned. But I think we sometimes lose sight of the knowledge that transforms. The knowledge that transforms is knowledge of Jesus! Here is a brief sample of the knowledge that transforms. Knowledge of Jesus Christ’s identity. Jesus is God’s only Son. He is the image of the invisible God. He is of the same essence, or nature, as God. He is God almighty. Jesus is our creator. He is God who came to earth in the flesh. Jesus is fully divine and was fully human. He was born of a virgin. He is the promised messiah of the Old Testament. He is lord of the universe. Jesus is our authority. He is our savior. He is the alpha and omega. He is the focal point of the worship in heaven. Knowledge of Jesus Christ’s character transforms us. He is holy, just, perfect, faithful, good, full of grace, all-loving, merciful, patient, all-powerful, all-present, all-knowing, righteous, truthful, unchangeable, wise, creator, sustainer, ruler, judge, consistent, meek, humble, selfless, giving, and sacrificial. Knowledge of Jesus Christ’s work. He was sent to seek and to save the lost. He was sent to preach the good news of God’s kingdom. He came as a light shining in the darkness. Jesus came to offer us the wisdom and truth of God. He came to be the way, the truth, and the life. He came to die on a cross for our sins. Jesus came to redeem us from the power of sin and the curse of the law. He came to reconcile us to God and to establish eternal peace. He came to appease God’s wrath. He came to overcome evil. He came to justify his people before God. Jesus came to empower godly living. He came to sanctify and intercede and minister on behalf of God. Jesus came to give us an eternal inheritance and hope. He came to present us holy in God’s sight, without blemish, and free from accusation. He came to offer us life and an unshakeable hope. Knowledge of Jesus Christ’s power. He has the power to forgive sin, to reconcile us to God, to make peace by his shed blood, to deliver us from darkness, and to raise the dead. Jesus has the power to change lives. He has power over sin and death. He has power to heal the wounded, to break the cycle of violence or addiction, to restore the sexually broken, to refresh the depressed, to inspire the faint, to strengthen the weak, to rebuild marriages and families, to reconcile the angry, to humble the proud, to strengthen our wills, and to cleanse our consciences. The knowledge of Jesus is available to us by reading the Bible. This knowledge of Jesus Christ is instantly accessible to us at any moment by reading God’s word. Pick any chapter and verse in the Bible and just begin reading. You will experience transformation and renewal. It is the mystery of God’s working in our lives that through knowing facts about Jesus Christ’s identity, character, work, and power, we also would be renewed in the image of our creator. It is the mystery of God’s working in our lives that knowledge about God would lead to godliness! The greatest thing we can offer our community, the greatest thing we can serve up to our children, and the greatest thing we can feast on is a knowledge of Jesus Christ. But do you have a hunger for knowing Jesus Christ? Do you read your Bible? Do you memorize scripture? Do you make Christ’s thoughts your own? Do you give yourself a steady diet of Christian teaching by participating in a small group or a Lifestage Bible Fellowship, regular worship, and personal devotions? Is knowledge of Jesus Christ a passionate pursuit of yours? Have you taken up Jesus' invitation to, "come and see"? This is the first pivotal step everyone should take in their relationship with God’s Son. We must place a premium on having the right information and knowledge about God. The thing I love about Jesus' disciples is that they followed him everywhere, soaking up everything he did and said. It is no mystery why God used those men to change the course of history and our destiny forever. Of course, developing a Christian world view and developing knowledge about Jesus Christ is just the first step. There are several more steps we must take in relationship to God’s Son that we will explore in the coming weeks. For the remainder of our time this morning I want to introduce you to a second step we must take in our relationship with Jesus Christ. Growing in Jesus Christ. Knowledge is just the first step. Our faith is much more than an intellectual pursuit or exercise. Without diminishing the importance of knowledge, I want to say that there is so much more. There are matters of the heart that must be carefully weighed and considered. There is an expectation that our knowledge of Jesus Christ will seep down from our brains into every nook and cranny and member of our hearts, minds, bodies, and souls. In Ephesians 3:14-19 (NIV) Paul says, "For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge— that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." A knowledge of Jesus must grow and must infiltrate our hearts. A knowledge of Jesus Christ must grow and grow and be allowed to infiltrate our hearts. And we're not talking about getting warm fuzzies as we sing "Amazing Grace". We are talking about being shaken to the core of our being with the realization that God loves us so much that he sent his only Son Jesus Christ to die for us. We are talking about loving Jesus Christ so much and being so eternally grateful for his sacrifice, that not only do we want to know facts about him and worship him in song and read about him in our Bibles and listen to sermons about him, but that we want to become who and what HE IS! We are talking about loving Jesus Christ so much that we can’t stop talking about him to other people, confessing his name freely without shame or fear, and wanting more than anything else that people might come to know one we love. There isn’t too much in my mind that is exciting about Bible trivia. But it sure is exciting knowing the creator of the universe. It is a thrill to know and love our lord and savior, Jesus Christ. It was important to Jesus that Peter loved him. One of my favorite stories in the New Testament is the reinstatement of Peter after Jesus' crucifixion. As Jesus died on the cross, Peter denied knowing Jesus Christ three different times. Well after Jesus’ resurrection, after he had appeared several times, Jesus appeared to Simon Peter. Simon Peter’s head was spinning with knowledge about Christ’s life, death, burial, and resurrection. But Jesus was concerned about Peter’s heart. In John 21:15-17 (NIV) Jesus motions to Peter’s boat and net and asks, " 'Simon son of John, Do you truly love me more than these?' 'Yes, Lord,' he (Peter) said, 'you know that I love you.' Jesus said, 'Feed my lambs.' Again Jesus said, 'Simon son of John, do you truly love me?' He (Peter) answered, 'Yes, Lord. You know that I love you.' Jesus said, 'Take care of my sheep.' The third time he said to him, 'Simon son of John, do you love me?' Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, 'Do you love me?' He said, 'Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.' " Jesus wants us to love him. Jesus Christ doesn’t want to be a mere fact in our mind, although that is better than nothing. He wants to be our passion. He wants our heart to be in it. He wants our love and devotion.He wants to captivate our imaginations. He craves our sincere worship and heart response. He first earns our love so that we have every reason to say "yes" when he asks for our love in return. Do you truly love me more than these? Do you truly love me? Do you love me? So I don’t know what you are hearing this morning. I hope you are beginning to understand the importance of knowing Jesus Christ, the importance of thinking like Jesus Christ, the necessity of developing a Christian worldview, and of seeing your life and reality through God’s eyes. You make the decision to know Jesus Christ. As we said last week you alone make the decision about whether to know God through Jesus Christ. God speaks, but you choose to listen. God reveals, but you choose to open your eyes. God is light, but you choose whether to step out of the darkness. That decision is as simple as picking up your Bible and reading it. That decision is as simple as lingering around the guest reception at the end of this service and asking questions about knowing Christ. That decision is as simple as attending worship regularly instead of sporadically or when it's convenient, so that your mind is infiltrated with a life-changing knowledge of God. It is as simple as getting your children and yourself in a Lifestage Bible Fellowship where you and your children will systematically learn the whole counsel of God from cover to cover. It is as simple as signing up for a New Life group where you can ask introductory questions about Jesus Christ or even a Deeper Life Group where you can be held accountable to follow through on basic habits that foster spiritual growth. It is as simple as slipping back to our guest reception area and snagging a newly designed, blue "Spiritual Menu" that details all the opportunities we have to give you a life-saving, life-changing, destiny-altering knowledge of Jesus Christ. You choose today whether to begin knowing God through Jesus Christ. Knowing is the first step to begin growing in Jesus Christ. But I also hope you are beginning to understand the importance of growing in Jesus Christ. Of letting a knowledge of Jesus Christ equally shape your mind and your heart. Of personally deepening your understanding and appreciation of Jesus Christ by reflecting, in a spirit of worship, on how much, how hugely, how substantially, how considerably, how significantly, how radically, how unimaginably, unbelievably, incredibly, extraordinarily, and how speechlessly he loves you that he willingly laid down his life for you. Don’t be an intellectual Christian only. Give God your heart daily and completely. Scream back at Jesus Christ when he asks, "Do you love me?" Scream, "Yes Lord! Yes Lord! You know I do. And if any part of my heart does not, that part I surrender to you now, on this day." Would you believe we're just getting warmed up? There are two more steps we’ve yet to take in our relationship with God’s Son. First, knowing. Second, growing. More next week.