Today, we celebrate the 2018 year and look forward to the 2019 year. God used Bethel for a lot of ministry last year. But, we must also believe that God is going to use us for a lot of ministry this year as well. This year, 2019, our vision is to fulfill the Great Commission by being contagious Christians. How can we do this? We can do this because we no longer live and Christ lives in us.
I want to look at Galatians 2:19-20 and talk about living for Jesus. We must make Jesus number 1 and we can do so much for God’s glory when we partner with Jesus and let Him live through us. He must be number 1.
I read the following:
Toward the beginning of the second century, the Roman emperor decided that Christians had become so numerous that there was no use trying to stamp them out anymore, so he made peace. He even decided to put a statue of Jesus in the Pantheon, among the statues of the Greek gods. A symbol at the top of the Pantheon said, “Caesar, king of kings,” indicating his position as “first.”
The Christians could have been honored at how far they had come. Not long before, they were just a rag-tag group of fisherman in the backwoods of Israel, and now they’re in the Pantheon! But instead of being grateful, they sent a letter to the emperor telling him that if he didn’t take down the statue of Jesus, they certainly would. Jesus will never be among your gods, they said, because he is above all of them.
The founder of the Salvation Army said to his fellow “soldiers”: “Faith and works should travel side by side, step answering to step, like the legs of men walking. First faith, and then works; and then faith again, and then works again—until they can scarcely distinguish which is the one and which is the other.”
Please read with me Galatians 2:19-20:
For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
- All believers have been crucified with Christ.
- To be a Christian means that I believe that Jesus died and rose again for me. I trust in Him for salvation, I confess my sins to Him and I commit to Him.
- If you are a Christian you have been crucified, wow! That is a strong picture. I believe that Paul used this word picture for dramatic effect. Don’t get me wrong, I think it is entirely true, but there is a reason that Paul used a dramatic picture here. In a metaphorical way we have been crucified with Christ. We no longer live, but Jesus lives within us.
- Let’s review Galatians. Paul writes to the churches of Galatia to counter these false apostles who have bewitched them (Gal. 3:1). The churches in Galatia have come to an error of works salvation. They have started believing that they had to live by the law. Paul is extremely assertive in this short New Testament letter.
- So, Paul is writing about law versus grace and, you know what? I think we need the same message. We have similar issues. No, we don’t have issues with the Jewish Law. But as Christians we go two different ways.
- We believe we have to earn our salvation.
- We know this is not true. Grace is unmerited favor. If you look at Gal. 2:21 Paul writes that if righteousness could come by the law, then Jesus died in vain. He died needlessly.
- But, when we add legalistic standards for Christians, we become a cult, and we make Jesus’ death on the cross in vain.
- We do this if we practice Christianity religiously. Most in our churches are not guilty of this at all.
- Or, we throw away any moral law. In this case the Christian’s life does not match his faith. This is a problem.
- We do this when we do not preach what Jesus preached and what this verse is saying. Jesus said in Luke 9:23: “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”
- If Jesus taught that why don’t we preach this?
- How can we preach this message without teaching/or showing that we work out our salvation? We were created for good works (Eph. 2:10).
- As a Christian, the Holy Spirit changes us. Think about the following:
- We believe we have to earn our salvation.
About six years ago I read a book which someone at my church recommended. The book tells the life of Louis Zamperini. Zamperini was in the 1936 Olympics held in Germany. He was famous for setting records for how fast he could run the mile.
Later he was planning to enter the next Olympic competition, but it was canceled because of WWII. Zamperini entered the war and served on a B 24. He was shot down and spent 47 days at sea and then around three years as a Japanese prisoner of war. He was badly mistreated in the POW camps.
Following the war, he dealt with post-traumatic stress disorder. This caused him to plunge into alcoholism which brought on a host of other problems. He was married and had one child, but his marriage was being threatened with divorce. Every time he closed his eyes at night he was plagued with memories of his time as a POW. He was filled with hate and wanted to kill one particular guard
(Mutsuhiro Watanabe (nicknamed “The Bird”), who was later included in General Douglas MacArthur’s list of the 40 most wanted war criminals in Japan. Finally, in 1949 as the 31-year-old Billy Graham was preaching an evangelical crusade in Los Angeles, Louis’ wife gave her life to Christ at the crusade. She eventually convinced Louis to also attend. Louis attended once and was convicted but left in anger during Graham’s invitation. Louis’ wife Cynthia convinced him to attend again. He did and started to leave again during the invitation. But he was convicted and went forward giving his life to Christ.
Following the conversion his life changed dramatically. He went home that night, and at the time when he would usually drink alcohol to excess, he dumped his alcohol down the drain. His hate was changed to forgiveness. His marriage lasted until his wife’s death. He never had nightmares of his time as a POW again. He later went back to Japan and spoke to the guards who were accused and convicted of war crimes. He forgave them. But the one guard who was the worst to Louis, Mutsuhiro Watanabe (nicknamed “The Bird”), was thought dead and Louis never was able to talk to him. Later they found out he was alive and Louis was scheduled to meet with him. But he was not able to meet with him as Watanabe declined the invitation.
I believe, when we really know Jesus, we really know Him, when we are saved we commit to Him, and in time, our life will show it. This is because we are dead to the old self and Christ lives in us.
- Paul says in this verse that he has died to the law. How? He died with Christ to the law.
- He has been crucified with Christ. I have to believe that people would have cringed when they heard him use the verb “crucified.” They would have known what crucifixion meant. Historians cannot tell us apart from the Bible much about crucifixion. People were afraid to write about it. Many times, we can find extra Biblical evidence for many things, but not crucifixion. Scholars get much of what we know about crucifixion from the Bible. We are told a few things though. The Romans would crucify people publicly and they would crucify people at set times of the year in order to make a statement. They wanted their enemies to see crucifixion and think, “Don’t mess with us.” The Romans did not invent crucifixion. They copied it from the Greeks and maybe even another country.
- People would have this image of crucifixion in their mind when Paul used that term.
- But the point is that we died with Christ when we became a Christian. We died to our old self. We died to sin.
What does it mean to be crucified with Christ? It means that when we became a Christian we died to our old self. We died to our sin nature. So, how do we live?
- All believers are to live by the faith in the indwelling Christ (2:20b–21).
- Paul says that he no longer lives, but Christ lives within him.
- Does Christ live in you?
- If you are a Christian the answer is yes. Yes, Yes, Amen.
- The Holy Spirit indwells us.
- How did Jesus do His miracles on earth? He laid aside His glory to become man. He had the Holy Spirit with Him. He was fully human and He is fully human, but the Holy Spirit was with Him. You know the Holy Spirit is with you as well. The Holy Spirit is in you. In 1 Corinthians 3:16 Paul wrote that we are the Temple of God. He used the same word which would describe the part of the Temple where God resides. God resides in us. We have the Holy of Holies in Us. Amen!!!
- So, as believers we do good works because Jesus dwells in us and He does those good works.
- How did Louis Zamperini change his life? He didn’t. Jesus changed him. When he became a Christian Jesus said, “I am not having any of that.” Jesus said, “I am taking over this house and I have some cleaning up to do.”
Now, I believe that as Christians we can sometimes push Jesus aside. He lives within us, but… We don’t want Him here. We do not make Him welcome. We just let our old self reign in us. So, my challenge for you today is that you let Jesus live within you. Make Him feel at home. Let your worldly self die and by faith let Jesus live. Jesus lives within you. The Holy of Holies is in you!
If I came to my wife and said, “Sweetheart, you’re first on my list of women,” my wife wouldn’t have it. She would tell me—in no uncertain terms—that she’s either going to be the only one on the list or she’s not going to be there at all.
If that’s true in my relationship with my wife, then how much more so with Jesus! He is why we exist. We were created by him and for him. That means he can never be merely an important commitment in our lives.
Now, as we look at our 2019 vision, to fulfill the Great Commission by being contagious Christians, how can we fulfill it? We can fulfill it by being in Christ.
Our 2019 vision has specific goals:
There are 9 listed but some are more general, only 3 are specific to church ministry and resources (numbers 4, 5 and 6) and number 4 is already started.
This is how we will be contagious Christians.
- Asking God in prayer for 15 new believers to be added to our fellowship in 2019;
- Contagiously touching 1000 people in the next year with the love of Jesus;
- Through intentionally communicating the gospel with 150 people through acts of service, loving relationships and words;
- We will continue the dance ministry;
- We will research the effectiveness of certain sports ministries beginning a sports ministry by the end of the year OR deciding against it for specific reasons. Reasons could be: not the right time, not enough money, no volunteers, theological differences, etc; UPWARD SPORTS SHOULD BE LOOKED INTO.
- We will research Celebrate Recovery with a plan to begin this in 2020 or to decide against this or postpone this.
- We will pray about this vision in the worship service;
- We will train the congregation to respond to this vision by sharing it in worship every few weeks. Pastor shares: “We will be what?” and the congregation shares, “Contagious Christians.”
Let’s practice the last one:
“We will be what?” and the congregation shares, “Contagious Christians.”
Lastly, The church has 5 major purposes: evangelism, discipleship, worship, ministry and fellowship. These are all important and they all fall under “disciples” in our mission. However, in 2019 Bethel needs to focus on outreach. We must focus on “’making disciples.” This is why the 2019 vision is focused on being contagious. People could comment that worship is left out and the Holy Spirit is left out and discipleship is left out and fellowship is left out. However, those are all implied by the noun “Christians” and they are all in the Mission. They are all in the core values.
“We will be what?” and the congregation shares, “Contagious Christians.”
Do you know Jesus?
God created us to be with Him. (Genesis 1-2)
Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)
Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)
Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)
Everyone who trusts in Him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)
Life that’s eternal means being with Jesus Forever (Rev 22:5)