Embodied – Colossians 3:5-11

The following post is the manuscript of a Sunday teaching I delivered on May 10, 2020.

On the opposite wall from me hangs a sign that says “Family — where life begins & love never ends.”

You probably have a few sayings like that hung around your house. Pithy. Inspirational. What would it take for that sign to be true–actually true–not just an idea? It would take a group of people in that home acting on that very conviction. This framework is not unique to the church. Most groups have some sort of mission or aim that it directs its members to achieve or be.

What sets the Christian community apart from other types of community groups?

Right now our world is longing for this answer. When the church understands the character and priorities it possesses innately as the body of Jesus–the world just isn’t a better place for it– it becomes a taste of heaven on earth for it. As we face pressures in our world, we must be reminded of who God has called us to be.

This is the precise place where we find ourselves in today’s teaching text. Let me give you the previously on…Colossians is a letter written to a church that is facing pressure to acquiesce to the philosophy of the world around them. This pressure comes from inside and outside the church.

Paul is writing to a group of believers whom he wants to remind them that their experience can catch up to reality. Paul wants them to aspire to be like Christ because through Christ God sees them as actually like Him. Therefore, they don’t need external practices to make them appear to be what they in fact actually are. Because we know that Jesus is really raised from the dead, then our identification with Him becomes real. 

Paul has set this all up to Colossians 3:5. In verse 5, we get another “therefore.” A tip whenever you read the Bible, whenever you see “therefore” you must ask “what’s that there for?”

Paul’s thesis in the section: Live in the present as the kind of human you will become.

Paul gives us two responses to the proposition: Live in the present as the kind of humans you will become.First, put to death, or get rid of sinful behavior.

To describe this new humanity Paul first contrasts their old way of living with their new way of living. Here’s an important piece to remember, Paul has commended these believers for their faith. So he is firmly aware that they know the difference. They have already undergone a change, but current pressures them back to their old way of living.  Paul mentions “put off.” This word picture here is that of changing clothes. You wore these desires that drive everyday life. You were ruled by them.

Paul’s lists mostly include a distorted sexual ethic and destructive speech. Paul is fully aware these believers are surrounded by a context and culture. Therefore, they need to be reminded that certain sins the culture around them are guilty of; these sins should not be present with them. Paul makes sure to remind them–the wrath of God comes on them.

There was an image of a dress going around a few years ago. The image divided everyone into one of two groups. People either said the dress was black and blue or the dress was white and gold. While the colors on the dress were debatable, Christian living should be as obvious as two different color of shirts 

To this fact, Paul continues “According to the image of Him who created him.” There is no way that Jesus would walk in any of these sins, so if we identify with Him, we won’t walk in them either. We should be eager to get rid of behavior that does not reflect that heavenly mind-set.

At Generations Church, we have a value called Progress over Perfection. Our desire is to become more like Christ. It’s his perfection that lives in and through us. We do not have to be perfect, however, we should see progress marked by increasing Christlikeness in our lives.

Those who are part of Generations Church, we must put these sinful actions off by identifying sin in our own life and naming it to Jesus. This habit individually provides the groundwork for the second response.

Second, the Colossian Christians are to collectively embody the new humanity. The response here is a frame of reference–with the eternal perspective in view, the church community the Colossians are currently part of should have no barriers based on ethnic identity, socio-economic status, background, heritage, etc. The renewal refers not simply to an individual change of character, but also to a corporate recreation of humanity in the creator’s image. 

Christians are saved through their union with Christ, and they follow Christ’s model and teaching in faith and ethics. The church as the embodiment of the gospel is an essential form of witness to a watching world.

This community differs from other major religions of the world where one’s ethnicity, place of birth, and family link faith and society, believer and citizen, doctrine and culture, and church to state. The church is composed of voluntary disciples. Biblically, one is not a member of the church on the basis of citizenship, ethnic identity, or birth into a particular group.

This work of the new creation not only deals with the old man and gives us the new man patterned after Jesus Christ; it also breaks down the barriers that separate people in society. Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free: The new man is part of a family, which favors no race, nationality, class, culture or ethnicity. Paul uses these descriptions because they were the barriers in the Roman world that were now broken down because of Christ. 

We want people to become like Jesus. The temptation will be to make them like us. This is what Paul has just addressed with the false teachers; people do not need to become like you in order to then become like Christ. 

Among new creation people it doesn’t matter if one is Greek or Jew or circumcised or uncircumcised or a Scythian or a slave or a free man. All those barriers are broken down. It only favors Jesus, because in this new family, Christ is all and in all.

Jews are still Jews in Christ; Gentiles are still Gentiles in Christ; black is black in christ; Latino is Latino in Christ; as a white male, I am still a white male in Christ. These earthly identities are no longer what is most important: solidarity in Christ is now the ruling paradigm for the new community. 

The Christian who lives in North American should have more in common with His Chinese brother and sister in Christ than the unbeliever in their town. We should never surrender the essence of the Christian faith in the name of a common essence.

So what does that mean for us?

  1. Identity emerges not from one’s ethnicity, heritage, or status but from Christ. If you are not a follower of Jesus — you are offered a new identity.
  2. Because of Jesus mustn’t be something we simply say, but something we live. If we are Christ’s body collectively then we must collectively put off sin. To collectively put off sin we must individually put off sin internally and externally while putting on Christ. Paul envisions a new kinship, the family of Jesus, in which Christ brings together what had always been separate. What I want to say–this means that we identity lines that we draw to divide must become lines we cross.

How does this happen? It happens through communion. We develop greater unity with Jesus when we commune with him. When we have a conversation with him. We develop unity with other believers when we commune with them, when we have conversations with them.

Communion leads to care.

As we look at two buzz words in our culture, racism and ethnocentrism. Let’s look to the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. His murder was evil. We must call out racism.

The church becomes the locale for healing when we say it and then display it. It matters what you say on social media about something far away because it produces a witness in every day.

Further, we must identify ethnocentrism. It means that we have brothers and sisters in Christ in China and we won’t stand for the belittlement of Chinese Christians and the Chinese people.

Our union with Christ leads to a unity that is displayed in morals and care by a diverse group of people.

What sets the Christian community apart from other types of community groups?

Christ is all and in all.

Embodied – Colossians 3:1-4

The following is the manuscript of a Sunday teaching I delivered on May 3, 2020.

Close your eyes.

Picture the first thing you will do after the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order ceases.

It might be a place you will go to eat. Maybe it will be a gathering with friends. Maybe it will be the gym where you go to work out.

How clearly can you see it?

Right now, some of you see this picture crystal clear. Some of you are distraught because you feel like you can’t picture anything. Whether you can picture it clearly, or can’t picture something at all, what will make that picture reality?

Acting on what you picture. As we will say in this series, it’s embodied–to give a tangible or visible form.

A vision, a dream, a thought becomes reality when it is embodied. Some of us are living in a dream world that we never expect to make it a reality because we are unwilling to take action. Some of us are living so firmly focused on the world around us that we never dare to dream of more–a picture of what could be thus is seemingly foreign. Some of us see both the dream and the reality and have no flippin’ idea how the two get bridged because we don’t see how the dots can get connected. All three of these disconnects prevent us from seeing the vision of God be expanded through people. That has already been God’s goal–his will and his way manifested through people.

In the same way, the reality of Jesus bringing heaven to earth through His Church right now, while not always seen with clarity doesn’t make it any less real. The reality in heaven must become embodied on earth. The vision made manifest is not always the most practical. It’s not always the most heroic. God’s will embodied is composed of men and women who learn obedience through the Holy Spirit wherever they are.

Paul is writing to a group of believers whom he wants to remind them that their experience can catch up to reality. Paul wants them to aspire to be like Christ because through Christ God sees them as actually like Him. Therefore, they don’t need external practices to make them appear to be what they in fact actually are. 

If then you were raised with Christ: Paul here begins a section where he focuses on practical Christian living, with a clear understanding that practical Christian living is built on the foundation of theological truth. Because we know that Jesus is really raised from the dead, then our identification with Him becomes real. Now, if you are skeptical about the claim of the reality of Jesus’s resurrection, on this week’s episode of the mid-week podcast we will cover some basic evidence of the resurrection. 

It is only because we were raised with Christ that we can seek those things which are above. The idea of being raised with Christ was introduced back in Colossians 2:12, where Paul used baptism to illustrate this spiritual reality. Now, seeing that we are raised with Christ, certain behavior is appropriate to us. An inward resurrection drives external resurrected living.

“The opening verses of chapter 3 sustain the closest connection with the closing verses of chapter 2. There the apostle reminds the Colossians that ascetic regulations are of no real value in restraining indulgence of the flesh. The only remedy for sinful passions is found in the believers’ experience of union with Christ.”

Because we were raised with Christ, we should act just as Jesus did when He was resurrected.

  • After His resurrection, Jesus left the tomb. So should we – we don’t live there any more.
  • After His resurrection, Jesus spent His remaining time being with and ministering to His disciples. So should we – live our lives to be with and to serve one another.
  • After His resurrection, Jesus lived in supernatural power with the ability to do impossible things. So should we – with the power and the enabling of the Holy Spirit.
  • After His resurrection, Jesus looked forward to heaven, knowing He would soon enough ascend there. So should we – recognizing that our citizenship is in heaven.
  • After His resurrection, Jesus knew he would return to judge the earth and make it new. So should we — actively demonstrate what this new earth will be like so that more people will get to experience it.

To emphasize the implications of Christ’s resurrection, even more, Paul added the phrase, sitting at the right hand of God: Our attention is to be focused on the sovereign rule which Christ now exercises. The command to aspire to the things of heaven is a command to meditate and dwell upon Christ’s sort of life, and on the fact that he is now enthroned as the Lord of the world.” (Wright)

The logical conclusion, of your being risen with Christ, is that… Set your mind on things above: 

“The believer is to ‘seek the things… above.’ The word ‘seek’ marks aspiration, desire, and passion…. In order to seek these things the mind must be set on them.” The best Christian living comes from minds that are fixed on heaven. They realize that their lives are now hidden with Christ in God, and since Jesus is enthroned in heaven, their thoughts and hearts are connected to heaven also. Paul has now flipped the object that was hidden. The mystery of Christ has been made known to us so that we can be hidden in Christ.

Actively look & do not settle. This is not passive. 

Inevitably I end up coughing loudly or knocking something over to reveal my location so I can extricate myself from said contorted position. Horrible game. This, I think, is the kind of seeking we sometimes employ when attempting to “seek the things that are above.” We give the search little attention – 10 minutes in the Word here and there, a brief pause to pray or meditate – but are ultimately distracted by other things and aren’t fully invested in the search.

See, my kids might look for me for a few minutes but ultimately if you offered them a snack or a video game they’d abandon the search immediately without bothering to inform me. Isn’t that often what our seeking looks like? Half-hearted, easily distracted. 

We just got finished with looking at how the ascetic practices and rules will not curb self-indulgence, meaning, these won’t effectively move our eyes from self to what is above. So what will?

First, seeking God in a distracted world begins with picturing the end. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory: The promise of the return of Jesus is not only that we will see His glory, but so that we also will appear with Him in glory. Christ who is our life:  Sometimes we say, “Music is his life” or “Sports is his life” or “He lives for his work.” Of the Christian, it should be said, “Jesus Christ is his life.” There is a nuance between “Church is his life” and “Jesus is his life.” In our community groups, we will take a look at this nuance.

On that day, all will see the saints of God for what they really are, not as they merely appear to this world. “Paul, the prisoner, an eccentric Jew to the Romans and a worse-than-Gentile traitor to the Jews, will be seen as Paul the apostle, the servant of the King. The Colossians, insignificant ex-pagans from a third-rate country town, will be seen in a glory which, if it were now to appear, one might be tempted to worship.”

Second, Encounters with believers who embody the character of Christ. [One of my first encounters, in-laws with cars. Everyone had their own car.]

While ascetic practices won’t curb self-indulgence there are good practices that put us in position to be changed. Ultimately, these practices won’t bring change because that only comes from the Holy Spirit. What do other people’s encounters with you communicate about your encounter with Christ?

‘Earthly things’ are not all evil. Even things harmless in themselves become harmful if permitted to take the place that should be reserved for the things above.” When good things become God things in our lives, the people we encounter will be directed to something temporary instead of the intended eternal.

This is why we talk about progress over perfection: Disciplacing the temporary things that aren’t connected with Jesus from the driver’s seat of our lives. If we are connecting with Jesus, then the next interaction with the person should be different than the next.

Imagine what our world might look like if people saw Jesus as clearly in your life as they see a video on a smart phone. Imagine if their interaction with you catapulted their lives in a community of people who began to shape their life for the better. People would begin to experience Jesus wherever they lived, worked, or played.

 If this sounds like pressure to you, then please know this…we won’t get it right. Together we must return to the core of who Jesus is…a Savior who forgives us and then gives us the motivation to try again. Today, you have begin to experience newness of life through Him.

A Letter from the Pastor: Answering What’s Next?

Friends & Family,

Last night the latest recommendations of the CDC were published on my newsfeed, which strongly suggested no public gathering with more than 50 people for the next 8 weeks. Governor of Washington Jay Inslee followed suit and levied a similar ban, and then subsequently instituted the same internal requirements for all bars and restaurants. Our team had been anticipating at least two weeks without the ability to gather, but now this number has grown. We still anticipate reevaluating where we are at the end of March. Regardless, this is no longer a blip on the radar.
As a church community, we’ve strived to maintain a healthy perspective on our gatherings: that the Church is not an hour-long service on Sunday, but rather a people… a family. If you’ve been around Generations for any period of time, you’ve probably heard this or seen it stated with joy repeatedly. We have chosen to emphasize the everyday adjective. We have intentionally chosen both liturgical and Spirit-led practices in regard to our gatherings, wishing these to form how we live in response to what Jesus has done throughout our weeks.
Yet this doesn’t make the news last night any less jarring. As a pastor, I love gathering to worship with our Generations family! I love how Charles and the team lead us in worship through song. I love the casual environment where anyone can feel welcome. I (and I never thought I’d say this) even love the hard work of pulling all of our equipment out of the trailer setting it up, tearing it down, and putting it up again because it is a beautiful picture of what family united by Jesus does when they come together. Gatherings never have been our everything, but they’ve been a significant part of our practice of loving God and neighbor. They have marked us as a young church.

 

The circumstances have forced us to learn how to navigate a world without a Sunday Gathering at the American Legion. On one hand, I grieve the time we are losing together. Yet on the other, I see these days ahead as an opportunity to step more fully into our calling to (here I go again) be everyday people who expand the family of God because of Jesus for generations to come. What a time to hold our methods of doing church open-handed and allow God to shape us. As I’ve repeated, our gatherings may be moved or canceled, but Church is not.

 

So where do we go from here? Because the Church is family, maintaining and growing both spiritually and in community throughout these coming months must be an intentional focus. For most of us, we’ll likely not be in a room with more than our family or a few other folks. We are committed to two important steps in the coming days:

  1. to invest and equip our people through online resources and connection points (like social media or video conferencing), and
  2. meeting the tangible needs that will inevitably rise moving forward, both inside and outside our walls.

This week, I will be launching online community opportunities via Zoom Video and/or Google Meets. These are video platforms that will hopefully be accessible to the majority of our people and provide interaction and encouragement through the days ahead. For those who won’t have access to these tools, we’re committed to finding ways of equipping them with resources and connections as well. We will be experimenting, see what works, and keep our focus on Jesus.

 

On top of this, we’re aware of the financial strain that many of our own may be facing in the days ahead. We have maintained that the best way to make known both needs and resources for people inside and outside the walls of the Church is through texting 360.295.4141.  As these changes continue, we anticipate these needs to grow exponentially, and we want to be the kind of Church where “God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them (Acts 4:33b-34).” The church is family, right? Together, we can be that family through caring for the needs that arise. So in the coming days, if you find yourself in need, please – do not hesitate to contact us.

 

Finally, I want to encourage us as individuals moving forward in following Jesus. In the days ahead, it will never be more important to care for our souls through practices of both loving God and loving neighbor. As I’ve sought to navigate what is ahead, here are some of the practices I’d encourage:

 

  • Engage with God. We must remember who we are and whose we are in these troubled days ahead. This doesn’t happen by accident. In the weeks ahead, renew your commitment to abiding in the presence of God through Scripture and prayer. We will continue to equip you with resources, but it won’t happen by accident. Allow the Story of God in Scripture to be the lens through which you see the world around us – not the other way around.

  • Disengaging from the news. It’s important that we are informed and follow the guidelines that our authorities give us for our protection. Yet it’s one thing to be informed… and another to be engrossed. Spending our days in the constant stream of information and opinion will only further our anxiety and drive us further into scarcity and fear. As a discipline, learn what you need to know, then love your neighbor and yourself where you are. It’s ok to turn it off for some time.

  • Embody care for your physical needs. I don’t know about you, but this change has thrown any family rhythms that I had completely off. On my own, I’ll spend too much time sitting around, distracting myself with entertainment and not taking good care of myself. It’s important in the weeks ahead to care for our physical needs through exercise, eating as healthy as we can, and rest (there is a difference between rest and escape).

  • Reach out. I have heard is said that “our greatest poverty is loneliness.” We already live in one of the most isolated and lonely cultures in history, and this difficult season will surely accelerate the problem. In the days ahead, make it a habit of reaching out to 2-4 people every week. Check-in emotionally. Pray for one another. Learn of needs that may need to be met… in short, be family. Whether by phone, text, social media or another way make it a discipline to grow relationally with others in the days ahead.

  • Love your actual neighbor. You have neighbors. Physical neighbors. And in these times, they’re probably battling the same cycle of emotions that we are facing as well. In the coming weeks, reach out to your neighbors. If they need groceries, a yard mowed, or just a conversation, don’t hesitate to be the hands and feet of Jesus right where you are by loving your literal neighbors!

  • Pray. Intercession (a type of prayer) is simply asking God on behalf of other people, places or situations. In moments like these, the Church needs to mobilize in prayer for the healing and wholeness of our world. May we be quickened to prayer for God to break the power of this sickness over our world and bring healing! Resources for how and what to pray will be shared shortly.

In the days ahead, take courage. In an anxious world, let your faith steady you and embolden you beyond your own interests towards a love that looks like Jesus. Have the courage to love well. In the words of Paul, “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love (1 Corinthians 16:13-14).”

 

Friends and family of Generations Church, I love you. I am thankful for you. This challenge is an opportunity. God is present and at work among us, and I can’t wait for the stories of his faithfulness to rise and move us forward into a bright future.

 

In Christ,
Kyle Davies

Substance – Colossians 2:8-10

The following post is the manuscript from the talk by Kyle Davies delivered Sunday, March 8, 2020, at Generations Church.

We are going to start off by having a little fun today. We are going to begin with a little exercise. I am going to throw nines dots up on the screen. I want you to draw nine dots on your teaching time notes. Maybe you’ve seen this before, your goal is to draw a line through all nine dots without picking up your pencil and in less than 4 total straight lines.Nine dot

As you begin, I want to recap our series Substance to this point. If you are new you can always go back and listen to last weeks on the podcast. Kaleb gave us a good start – get connected to Jesus. “Paul apparently being convinced that true gratitude for God’s grace is an important offensive measure against the false teaching.

Paul develops a powerful positive theological argument against false teaching by rehearsing the completeness of the spiritual victory we share in Christ.

Christ is substantive. Specifically in Colossians 2:17, the substance is the Messiah. This is important because Paul, who writes most of the back section of your Bible, is writing to a group of people who are being pressured to believe and live out that Christ is not enough.

Paul knows what they have been initially taught because he led Epaphras to follow Jesus and Epaphras started this new church community.

What has happened is teachers have come in after the fact and attempted to influence this church in another direction.

Here’s their basic message: We have some additional practices that will add to your life and help you be fulfilled.

Let me elaborate on that a moment: We know following Jesus is hard. It’s difficult. And you might not always feel like you are fulfilled when you are following Jesus. The reason you might feel this way is because some others, us specifically, have these incredible experiences that move us closer to God. You don’t have to feel insecure about missing out on these experiences. We can help you experience these same incredible moments. So, just let us give you some practices and you’ll be able to have these great experiences and minimize any suffering. We will make sure that you measure up, that you are satisfied, and that when others ask you about following Jesus you can point to these experiences through the practices that we will give you.

These false teachers are attempting to give these Colossians believers additional practices or additional rules that are not dependent on Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and return. This is an attempt to coerce the Colossians believers into believing that true spiritual fulfillment is not found in Christ alone.

Now, you may be wondering “why” well our Scriptures don’t give us the clear “why.” Let’s revisit our activity for a moment.

Did anyone get frustrated and look up the answer? In our culture and our time, we have a propensity for wanting to get things right.

When we open our Bible and begin to walk with Jesus sometimes there is clarity about what right is. Sometimes there is a mystery that makes it hard to apply the principled way of Jesus to different situations throughout our week. No two situations are exactly identical. To avoid true dependency on Jesus, we opt for some rules. Even if it’s simply to rebel against them. We like to know the boundaries of play.

Many times we say in safe comfortable predictable patterns because it’s easier to play by a set of rules that we make up and that we establish rather than take a step dependence upon God each and every day. Even if this set of rules says that we cannot know for sure.

It’s easier to live by a set of rules we make up because we can establish the mark for success, eliminate failure, and know the standard. Change is difficult. It’s messy and often unclear.

Let’s go ahead and look at the solution to the nine dots. What you see here is that you actually have to think outside the box to accomplish the task. My guess is your brain made some assumptions about the process.

Paul’s words here in Colossians 2 begin to address these additional rules that we put in place in our own lives because of our propensity for achievement, approval, control, or satisfaction.

While the desire may be different for each of us

Paul addresses these additional rules. These rules can be both assumed or articulated.

These rules…….Take you captive. They hold you prisoner. The philosophy is the product of mere speculation and does not put adherents in touch with divine truth. Ambrosiaster commenting on Paul in the 300s: “Paul calls this tradition of philosophy fallacious and inept, because it is not worked out according to the power of God but according to the weaknesses of the human mind, which restricts the power of God to the limits of its own knowledge so that no one will ever know that is is possible to do anything other than what the carnal reason suggests.”

Common to both Jews and pagans was the basic idea of cause and effect and in a sense it rules nature and the minds of men. We live under the idea that we get what we deserve; when we are good, we deserve to receive good; when we are bad, we deserve to receive bad. Paul warned the Colossians to not subject themselves to this grace-eliminating kind of thinking, and to consider themselves dead to it.

….Tell lies. They are deceitful. They give you a false sense of success. They misrepresent what it means to follow Jesus for yourself and for others. They seem to be arguing that certain practices must be added in order to achieve true spiritual fulfillment. One cannot add to Jesus without, in effect, subtracting  from his exclusive place in creation and in salvation history. The phrase “based elements of the world” conjures up the idea of spiritual attunement to air, earth, fire, and water. They may have felt they needed to appease these spirits or Gods in these natural sources.

Paul is not actually attempting to deny their reality, however, their preoccupation with rules about material things, was like the pagans, and were thus in need of pleasing. Thus, putting them in the place of Christ. The false teachers are proclaiming and demanding a doctrine and demanding practices that do not depend on Christ.

….Give you less authority We have authority in Christ: Christians need not fear these powers, therefore, because they are firmly under the control of their own head, the one in whom all the fullness of deity had come to reside. The Colossians believers will have no interest in listening to the false teachers once the realize that they are already filled. Paul says that this is a fact to be enjoyed, not a status to be achieved.

Sandwiched in the middle of these reasons, Paul writes a statement that proves why these are true.

Read verse 9. “FULLNESS” Jesus claimed to be God, received worship as God, and was crucified because of his claims to be God. We will touch on this more next week. God has taken up residence in and therefore revealed himself in a body. Meaning, there was never a time in Jesus’ earthly existence where he ceased to be God.

Picture this: You go to the Pacific Ocean with a  friend—two finite dots alongside a seemingly infinite expanse. As you stand there, you take a pint jar and allow the ocean to rush into it, in an instant the jar would be filled with the fullness of the Pacific. But you could never put the fullness of the Pacific Ocean into the jar. Thinking of Christ, we realize that because he is infinite, he can hold all the fullness of Deity. And whenever one of us finite creatures dips the tiny vessel of our life into him, we instantly become full of his fullness.

From the perspective of our humanity, the capacity of our containers is of great importance. Our souls are elastic, so to speak, and there are no limits to possible capacity. We can always open to hold more and more of his fullness. The walls can always stretch further; the roof can always rise higher; the floor can always hold more. The more we receive of his fullness, the more we can receive.

Paul is not advocating the view, so common in his day, that true spirituality was to be found by abandoning or by strictly subduing the body. Rather, god has chosen precisely a body in which to take residence and through that body, sacrificed on the cross and raised from the dead to win ultimate victory  over the powers of darkness.

When we fail to understand Jesus, we succeed in limiting ourselves.

So what: We underestimate what God wants to do through us. When we don’t know how to cope with that reality we begin to draw lines, boundaries, and form rules.

We underestimate what God wants to do through us.

  • —By limiting ourselves to our own rules
  • —By misunderstanding the person of Jesus
  • —By playing by manmade rules

The substance of life is Christ. This is why at GenChurch we have a value Spirit over Self. Daily depending of Christ is very different than depending on the rules you establish.

For example, Damien Lillard on playing outside the Three Point Line because of size. He can’t drive inside. He can’t play defense. It’s limiting.

This is what we do to ourselves when we depend on other rules of life. Fulfillment isn’t found in a formula. Christ’s fullness in you provides fulfillment.

Now what: How do I begin to depend more on Jesus?

  • Identify your influences (TikTok, Facebook, Fav news channel)
    • You will hear a certain perspective and rhetoric about their way of thinking. The greatest challenge here is distinguishing between what sounds right and is actually Christ-like.
    • I mentioned GaryVee – His line “don’t you just want to be happy” is easy to pick on.
    • Because in the pursuit of your happiness you may actually treat others poorly. You may make unethical decisions and sacrifice morality for the sake of personal satisfaction.
  • Connect w/ Jesus because he brings freedom and we will get it wrong

Give Over Get – In Serving

The following post is a guest post/sermon from Jon Grabhorn, Engagement Pastor at Generations Church.

These past few weeks we have been in this teaching series of “Give Over Get.” And during this time we have been challenged to reflect Jesus’ characteristics and priorities, and then last week were challenged in living our generosity through our relationships. This week we are going to focus on living our generosity through serving.

In our teaching time today, we are going to look at three consecutive short stories that make up one story. While our primary teaching text is Matthew 20:1-16 the story starts in Matthew 19:16.

As Jesus is walking along his journey to Jerusalem he is asked a question by a man labeled as the Rich Young Ruler. He is asked a question that many of us may have asked ourselves at some point, “Jesus, what good things must I do to get this eternal inheritance you talk about?” 

Jesus redirects the young man and points him to God as the source of all that is good. He simply tells him that if he wants to enter into this eternal life that he needs to keep the commandments. Which the young man quickly responds, “Which ones?” Jesus interestingly enough responds with the second half of the ten commandments and the second greatest commandment: do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself.

The young man has an interesting response that I think often gets overlooked. There is a quick shift from confidence to insecurity. He states, “I have kept them all,” but, “what do I still lack?” The man seems to have this incomplete feeling within him that something is lacking.

Jesus bluntly tells him, “To be perfect, give up all your possessions and then come follow me.” This can seem a little harsh, and I think too often can be used in an improper way. Jesus isn’t calling us to never own anything, he is rather hitting on the young man’s insecurity. The young man is struggling with the external comfort he receives from his possessions, and they have become a godly idol. Jesus is calling the man to exchange the reliance upon worldly wealth in exchange for the wealth of eternal life.

The young man hearing this from Jesus turns and walks away sorrowful. There is a clear internal struggle within this man, and we don’t know what he would go on to do. But the story does not end here.

Following this interaction, Jesus turns to his disciples and tells them, “It is hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” I don’t know about you, but I struggle enough to get a little piece of thread through the eye of a needle.

The disciples hearing this ask Jesus, “Who then can be saved?” And Jesus gives a profound statement, “With man, it is impossible to enter into the kingdom of heaven, but with God all things are possible.” It is because of God alone that we can be saved. Our possessions, our good deeds, our lifestyle does not save us, it is only God. Recognize that when we talk about eternal life it is a gift that is inherited, it is not a reward to be earned.

Peter being Peter, asks Jesus a question that seems a little self-centered and self-seeking. He basically asks, “Jesus, look at all that we have done for you. We have left everything, possessions, friends, family, everything; just to follow you. So because we have done this what do we receive?” Peter here is assessing how he has lived his life in comparison to others, as though it warrants him to have a better standing or higher status in the kingdom of God.

Jesus acknowledges that his disciples receive rewards in heaven for their faithfulness. Verse 30 sets up our text for today. Jesus tells them, “Many of those who are first will be last, and the last first.” The parable Kyle read earlier acts as a subtle rebuke and reorientation for Peter’s line of thinking.

For the Kingdom of Heaven is like… when you see this into you know that Jesus is about to give an earthly illustration that has heavenly meaning. So he begins by talking about this vineyard, which is often used as a location of activities for the kingdom in our world. A vineyard was Israel’s most important crop, so the nation of Israel was often referred to a vineyard because of its importance to God.

So we have a landowner who goes out early in the morning to find some workers for his vineyard. After finding some workers he invites them to work in his vineyard for one denarius (basically equivalent to a day’s wage for labor). A little later in the day, around 9:00 am, the landowner saw others standing around in the marketplace, and he gave them a similar offer. He invited them to come work in his vineyard and that they would be paid whatever is right. A little later in the day, around noon, he went out and did the same thing. Again, later in the day, around five, he found some people standing around in the marketplace and asked them why they were standing there. They told him that no-one had hired them, the workday ended around 6:00 pm. So he invited them to go work in his vineyard.

When the end of the day arrived, the landowner went around to the workers in his vineyard to pay them. He started with those who started last and ended with those who started first. Starting with those who started around 5:00 pm came, they each received one denarius. You can imagine the confusion and excitement that came across the other workers. Those who started the first shift in the morning must have been crazy exciting because they thought that is what they were going to receive for working all day. If those guys worked that long and received that, could you imagine what they were about to receive.

To their surprise they too received a denarius each. When they received this they began to complain, “Those men only worked one hour, and yet they made equal to us who have bore the burden of a full days work in the burning heat!”

The landowner has an interesting response to these claims, “Friend, I’m doing you no wrong. Didn’t you agree with me on a denarius? Take what is yours and go. I want to give this last man the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with what is mine? Are you jealous because I am generous?” The laborers are blinded by their self-interest and their assessment of others that they aren’t thankful for what they have received. 

Jesus caps off this parable the same way he began it: “The last will be first, and the first last.”

When we look at this passage, there are two points Jesus is making. Remember the vineyard is used to illustrate God’s kingdom on earth. God is the landowner of this vineyard, his kingdom on earth, and we are the workers that he has called into the field. First point, God is calling people to join in his kingdom work. And second, God is calling those who are already working in the field to not assess the new workers, rather to welcome them in and to be grateful for their inheritance.

We emphasize being apart of God’s family here at Generations. We are all a part of God’s kingdom work that he is doing here in Vancouver, WA, but we are also a part of the kingdom that is happening all across our world. It is all one vineyard, one kingdom, one family. And God is inviting people from all walks of life into this family, yes it may even be that person you avoid or struggle to be around. We talked about this some last week, rather than asking “who is our neighbor,” we are to ask “how can I be a neighbor?” God is active in expanding his family. He does so by inviting people into what he is doing, and he is working to redeem the world, all the people in it.

So for those of us who have committed ourselves to God. We have answered his call, we have entered into the vineyard, into the kingdom, into the family. All of us who have entered, we have entered into the same work. The work of expanding God’s vineyard, his kingdom, his family to those who are not in. We are all striving to the same goal. So we don’t compare or assess oneself with another. We all will receive the same inheritance, eternal life with God. Whether you have been in for 30 years or 30 seconds, we are all one family. No amount of time in the vineyard will get you a better seat, closer to God, or higher status in the new heavens and new earth.

Out of this passage, there are three types of people that come to mind:

  1. There is the person standing in the marketplace, who has been invited into the vineyard but is unsure whether they will go and what their role will be.
  2. There is the lost believer, the one who has been roaming around the vineyard not able to find the type of work that best fits them.
  3. The experienced believer, who has been working away for a while now in the right spot.

Maybe you are able to find yourself in one of these three examples.

If you find yourself to be the first type of person, who is new to Christianity and God, my encouragement for you is to try out something that interests you. Accept the invitation into the vineyard, the kingdom, the family and plugin somewhere. Maybe you have a friend that is serving, try going alongside them and see if it is a fit for you. Maybe you enjoy working with kids, playing an instrument, talking with people, social media, and the list could go on. Share that interest with us and we will connect you with one of our teams. Now I do want emphasize, you may try something and it just doesn’t fit you. That is okay! Try something and shift to another team until you find your place.

If you find yourself to be the second type of person, who is someone who has been in the family for a while serving in some different roles but has yet to find the right place or maybe is dealing with some hard times. My encouragement to you is to share that struggle. Something you will find out quickly if you haven’t already is that just because you are a Christian and following God doesn’t mean life is going to be peachy. But that is why for the last three weeks in our flow of teaching we started by encouraging the growth of our inner resolve. That we find our hope, strength, and endurance in Jesus and not our own abilities.

Also, as we talked about last week that we want to develop a family mentality where we are a neighbor to each other. That we are a supportive community who truly cares and goes over and beyond for one another. There is a danger in being in this stage, I’ve heard it as beware of the 3 B’s: Busyness, Burnout, and Bitterness. That you may be serving away and away, but you aren’t seeing the change you thought you might get. Or you are just exhausted because you keep pouring out. Or you begin to develop a resentfulness towards what you are doing because things aren’t going the way you thought they would. If you find yourself here, your issue isn’t your serving. You may just be in the wrong place, maybe you’re just working the wrong part of the vineyard. Please reach out and share that frustration or struggle. Let’s have the conversation and identify where God might be calling you to work. God is calling you to work, but it may just in a different way than you currently are.

If you find yourself to be the third type of person, the one who has found their role in the vineyard and is thriving. My encouragement to you is to look around the vineyard (those in the family) or the marketplace (those who aren’t in the family) and be willing to invite them to come to serve alongside you. There is plenty of inheritance to go around, just because someone else comes in doesn’t mean your place in eternal life is hindered. Rather there will be so much joy when you see others thriving in the vineyard. Are you open and willing to receive new workers in the kingdom? God is going to continue to invite and bring people in, are we being receptive and helping them find their place? We are all co-laborers in the vineyard.

I want to share a quick story of someone in our family who has found their place in the vineyard, and my hope in sharing this is to emphasize that it is okay to not know your place in the kingdom. But if you are open and willing to have that conversation God will work and he will lead you to that place, and you will see the fruit in how the Spirit will work through your willingness to serve.

Some of you may know Charity. She has been around Generations for quite a while now. She was a part of our initial team that was sent from the Branch. She felt God calling her to join Generations, she had no idea what that looked like, but she trusted and followed. She accepted God’s invitation, without a clear direction. She showed up and began feeling her way around Generations looking for her place. In November she made a note on her GenCard that she was interested in joining a ministry team, to serve somewhere, but she was unsure of where that would be.

About a week later Charity and I are talking over coffee. She shared how she has served in many different roles in the church before but has never found her fit. She loved serving and felt like she was doing good work, but there was still this uneasiness as though this might not be the right fit. She resonated that there was a level of burnout in her last role of serving. In hearing that I asked her a question that I was once asked and now use regularly in my ministry, “What are you passionate about? What do you enjoy to do?”

I think she was a little taken back when I first asked that, but it led to a great conversation. She shared how she loved to plan, organize, and execute events. I began to share a few places where she might be able to use that here at Generations and there was almost an instant and fired up response, she wanted to join our events team.

So I got her connected with the team and she went to work rather quickly. Some of you may have attended our Valentine’s Masquerade event this past Friday. It was such a great time! But it only happened because of the work and effort of those on our events team. Charity is one of the people on the team. She found a place where she was passionate and it showed in how she helped the team. She was ecstatic after the event because she found her place in the vineyard. God has gifted her in her ability to plan, coordinate, picture, and execute events. This was obvious in her ministry towards our Valentine’s event. We saw some of our family show up for a good, fun time to interact with one another, and we also saw new people interact with us. We had people there who have never connected with Generations before, and we were blown away by the connections made from this event.

I love stories like this because you see someone who is committed and in the kingdom, but just hadn’t found their right spot yet. Feel free to ask her about why she does what she does and how she has seen God at work in her life. It is incredible when you see people find their ministry fit, there is an unfathomable passion and overflowing of love that comes from it. It isn’t easy, but when your hope is found in Jesus and you have a family around you that wants to see you thrive, it will completely change how you work in the kingdom.

If you have questions or want to have a conversation about your place here at Generations make a note on your GenCard [For those reading this post, text GenCard to 97000 and we will help you get connected to your ministry fit].

Feel free to be open and honest. We want to see everyone find their role in God’s family and to find their right ministry fit. Communicate that on your GenCard, drop it in the response box, and let’s get together for a conversation about your place in the vineyard. Our desire is to equip and empower others. This is why here at Generations we function as a team, and we want you to be a part of that. We want to see you identify the passion and gifts God has given you, and for you to find how you can use that in his vineyard.

We are all one family. A family that is committed to expanding the family of God, we do it because of Jesus. And that expansion goes on to the next generation and all the generations to follow. We do this by identifying where God is calling us to work in the vineyard, caring for our family that is struggling, and inviting others to join us as we seek to advance God’s kingdom.