Friday, December 9, 2011

 How to be like Christ (part 3)
Murray is the only person I know that can put that word in a sentence and get away with it. That's the way it is with those who walk with God. What a great quote. "All things work together for good to those who love Him." Now, what does that include? It includes all things. All things. Bad things, yes. The mistakes that I make even, yes. Painful stuff, yes. God allows all this stuff to shape us, to sand us so that we will become like Jesus. You know even some Moms; the most loving Moms in the world can make a mistake. They can over-protect us. They can keep us from things that we need in order to grow.
It reminds me of a situation in the northeast in the codfish industry of all places. Codfish is a big business, did you know that? And one of the things about codfish is that you have to ship them elsewhere because the market is huge, and when codfish were first being shipped, they froze them and sent them out west or whatever. and What they noticed was that the flavor was lost because of the shipping. The freezing didn't do it. So, somebody said, we have an idea, let's ship them in actual seawater, and we will put them in tanks, and we will transport them that way. Well, even with that, the codfish would arrive at the market 3 or 4 days later, and they not only had lost a little of their flavor, but they had a kind of mushy texture. Finally, somebody got creative. And they took and put another fish in the codfish tank. It was a catfish. Because the catfish is the natural enemy of codfish, and so during shipping the catfish would chase the codfish all around the tank the whole time, and when they got to the place where they were going, the codfish tasted like you just pulled them out of the sea. Their texture was great; their taste was even better than before. See God knows that we are codfish in a catfish world. God allows all things, even catfish type things to help us grow strong and if He kept us from those things, we wouldn't grow into the image of Jesus Christ. Jesus himself said, "In this world you are going to have struggles. You are going to have troubles, tribulations, but be of good courage. I have overcome the world and I am going to take those troubles and I am going to transform you more and more in to my likeness." Everything that happens to you and I as Christians, everything is designed by God to conform us to the image of his son. Trials are situations designed by God to draw us closer to him. Look at this passage from Romans 5:3 and 4.
"Trouble produces patience and patience produces character and character produces hope."
Maybe you remember Rick Warren saying it at the simulcast, that God is far more interested in your life and what you are than in what you do. God is always more interested in what you are in your character than he is in what you do, like your career. Why? He said, because you are not going to take your career with you in heaven. You are going to take your character with you to heaven. Life is not about career and life is not about comfort. Life is about building character in Jesus Christ and until we understand this, life is not going to make sense. All kinds of problems are going to come into our life. We are going to struggle, but they are not empty. They are purposeful. Comfort is not the goal; character building is the goal in the image of Jesus.
Now, every problem for a Christian has a purpose. To make us like our Lord. Now, the question is, how do we know that we are being shaped in the image of our Lord? How do we know we are developing Christ likeness? Again, there are many, many ways, but I will tell you the chief way. Okay? The chief way is that the older we get in Christ, the more loving we become. The more our relationships are marked by love. See, some people grow older but they don't grow up in the Lord. The mark of Christ-likeness is the quality and strength of love in our relationships. That's the indicator. The great commandments, "Love God, love each other."
And God will use all things; God will even use a dishwasher to conform you to the image of Jesus. You are like what, a dishwasher, what does that mean? Well, let me put it this way. Some of you think that I am pretty spiritual. I know you do. I come up every sermons, I baptize kids, I do communion. You think I am spiritual. Let me tell you how spiritual I was last Tuesday, okay? I mean I am a little embarrassed to say it; confession is good for the soul, but bad for the reputation. So here goes. And this is right before our 40 Days of Purpose small group too. Our daughter Andrea was over for dinner. It was a Tuesday night last, and Ellen was hurriedly doing the after dinner dishes, putting them into the dishwasher, but she wasn't doing it properly. Does anybody else live with a compulsive person like me, like with the dishwasher? I was telling this before and somebody came up after the 8:15 service and they said, "You know what our first fight was about in our marriage?" And I said, "No what?" "How to properly fill an ice cube tray." I said, "Wow that beats me." But anyway, my cross in life is that I live with somebody who does not care about the proper way to fill a dishwasher and so how should I put it? My compulsive part, I am going to put the best spin possible, allowed a verbal expression that was critical rather than Christ-like. And, I embarrassed my wife and I hurt her deeply. I really did. I wounded her. A few days later in my small group that meets in Timonium, a few of us gather for our journaling,and we had been using in 40 days, we had been using the book, we read out of the chapter and then we journal out of a passage of scripture that we are led to in that chapter. And these were the words two days later that hit me like a 2 x 4, thoughtless words leave lasting wounds. Do you remember that phrase? Cultivating community takes courtesy. Wham.
We often equate Christ-likeness, unfortunately, with certain types of forbidden behaviors. If I do this list, I am Christ-like. If I stay away from this list, I am Christ-like. Did you catch the William Bennett scandal thing on the radio this past week? You know, he wrote a book about moral virtues, and then it is discovered that he lost millions in gambling. And, all the critics and all the defenders are arguing on talk radio about, well look at this hypocrite. You know he said we are supposed to be people of virtue, and he loses all this money gambling. Not once did anybody call in and say, let me tell you what the real test of moral virtue is. How we love one another. That's the real test. How deeply we express our love for God and for one another. Because if you are expressing your love for God and one another properly, then you are going to be a shining light the Bible says. Jesus said to his followers, "Take my yoke upon you." What was his yoke? His yoke, back then the rabbi's they would say, "here's the yoke. It's the rules that you have to follow to be part of my rabbi school." And there would be a ton of lists and a huge amount of rules. And the most holiest, the most important people, they had the most rules. Well, Jesus comes along and he says, "Take my yoke upon you." And then He said, "My yoke is easy. My burden is light." What did He mean? He says, "I don't have a long list of rules. I just have one commandment." Actually it is two in one. "Love God and love each other." That's it. And if we do that commandment, everything else is fulfilled.

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