From Rule to A Lifestyle

  • From Rule to A Lifestyle
  • 1 John 2:3-6
  • Lyndol Loyd
  • September 18, 2016
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9-18-16 Sermon from LakeRidge UMC on Vimeo.

Click here to view Deeper, September 18, 2016

9-18


 

1 John 2:3-6  – 3 And we can be sure that we know him if we obey his commandments. 4 If someone claims, I know God, but doesnt obey Gods commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth. 5 But those who obey Gods word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. 6 Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.

 

Here at LakeRidge we have been exploring what is known as the 10 Second Rule which is simply to Just do the next thing youre reasonably certain Jesus wants you to do. And then commit to it immediately – in the next 10 Seconds before you change your mind.

 

Many of you have been reading the book of the same name by author Clare DeGraff. Some of you have been listening to the book on digital download as  you walk, run or commute. Still others of you have been meeting to discuss this with a Sunday School Class or friends.

 

Along the way we have discovered that one of the major challenges of living into the 10 Second Rule are the dueling voices that we hear. We hear the voice of God. We sense an impression of something that we feel reasonably certain God wants us to do, but soon thereafter, we often hear another voice that causes us to hit the pause button, think better of ourselves and then find a reason not to do what we felt compelled to do.

 

Next we explored the “Pop Quizzes” that God sends our way on a regular basis and what we can do to make sure that we pass these tests. We explored the idea of Pre-Decisions or Advanced Decision Making as a way being prepared for the opportunities God gives us to follow him.

 

Last week, we looked at the challenge of serving people who we find hard to love, people who are difficult or for whom we have no natural affinity. We discovered that Jesus was willing to die for our sake while we were still in our sin. As the recipients of such undeserved grace how can we not in turn extend that same grace to others.

 

In the end it all comes down to the scriptural principle of obedience. Jesus himself establishes it for us in John 14:15, If you love me, you will obey what I command.  In other words, our actions demonstrate how we truly feel about God.

 

It is a principle that is easy to read and understand, but at the same time, can be so challenging for us to live out. This morning we want to take a look at what would happen if we took the idea of the 10 Second Rule and allowed it to become not just a rule, but a lifestyle.

 

One thing that we know for certain about the early church is that they took Jesus seriously. They didn’t fool around when it came to pursuing their faith. They were hard core.

 

Just look in the New Testament book of Acts and you’ll find the story of people who were incredibly committed to living out their faith. They loved God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength and they were serious about Jesus’ command to love others just like they wanted to be loved.

 

Remember, the church started off as a relatively small group of people and within just a few centuries, millions of people around the world became followers of Jesus. The church experienced explosive growth.

 

And it wasn’t because there was some sort of grand plan that the church had put in place. The reason the church grew the way that it did was because these early believers in Jesus simply lived out their faith. they were obedient to the commands of Jesus.

 

Others around them witnessed this behavior and it caused them to want what it was that these early believers had in their lives.  They found the grace and love being demonstrated to be irresistible.

 

I think we have to ask ourselves, if this is how people would describe the church today. Let’s be even more specific than that, is this how people would describe us at LakeRidge?

 

We are Christ’s representatives to the people who live in Lubbock. Our friends, neighbors and coworkers who are outside of the church, look to those of us who call ourselves Christians to understand what Christianity is all about.  What messages do our lives send about who Jesus is to a world that is watching?

 

Some of them have only a basic childhood Sunday school level understanding of Jesus. Maybe they know the words to “Jesus Loves Me” or can tell you who Adam and Eve are. Others are completely blank slates when it comes knowing anything about Jesus Christ. They’ve never been in the door of a church and maybe the only time they’re used to hearing the name of Jesus is underneath someone’s breath as a curse word.

 

But either way, they don’t understand the Jesus we know. They don’t know that Jesus declared open war on greed, injustice, anger, lust, poverty, and religious hypocrisy, as well as the failure to forgive or love extravagantly. They don’t know what it is to experience God’s grace, his unmerited favor that we could do nothing to ever earn or deserve, but that comes to us as his free gift.

 

How we live becomes the pathway for them to connect with Jesus. This is what the early church did. They lived out their faith in such a winsome way that people were drawn to Jesus. For them it wasn’t a Sunday thing. It was a lifestyle.

 

The New Testament Book of Acts gives us a glimpse into what these early Christians were like when it came to this lifestyle that they lived. Acts 2:42-47 states, 42 All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lords Supper, and to prayer.

43 A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. 44 And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. 45 They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. 46 They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lords Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity[j] 47 all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.

 

Acts 4:32-35 says this about the early church, 32 All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. 33 The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and Gods great blessing was upon them all. 34 There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them 35 and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need.

 

Much like today, here was a group of believers struggling to survive in a world whose political system and even its people, were hostile to Christ and His church. They had every reason to be afraid, and yet they were not, why?

 

The text says they were not afraid because (v. 33), Gods great blessing was upon them all. Instead of living lives of isolation and fear they choose to live with a genuine desire to help others in need.

 

A spirit of grace is characterized by a spirit of generosity. It produced amazing results, (v. 34) there were no needy people among them.  While they probably didn’t have the verbiage of the 10 Second Rule, they were certainly living it out in practice.

 

One way to think of them would be to understand them as dispensers of grace. Just like soap dispensers dispense soap, candy dispensers dispense candy and coffee dispensers dispense coffee, these early Christians dispensed what they were filled up with. The church dispensed grace.

 

In September 2013 there was a front-page article in the San Francisco Chronicle about a metro-transit operator named Linda Wilson-Allen.  She loves the people who ride her bus.  She knows the regulars.  She learns their names.  She will wait for them if they’re late and then make up the time later on her route.

 

A woman in her eighties, named Ivy, had some heavy grocery bags and was struggling with them.  So Linda got out of her bus driver’s seat to carry Ivy’s grocery bags onto the bus.  Now Ivy lets other buses pass her stop so she can ride on Linda’s bus.

 

Linda saw a woman named Tanya in a bus shelter.  She could tell Tanya was new to the area.  She could tell she was lost.  It was almost Thanksgiving, so Linda said to Tanya, “You’re out here all by yourself.  You don’t know anybody.  Come on over for Thanksgiving and kick it with me and the kids.”  Now they’re friends.

 

The reporter, who wrote the article, rides Linda’s bus every day.  He said Linda has built such a little community of blessing on that bus that passengers offer Linda the use of their vacation homes.  They bring her potted plants and floral bouquets.  When people found out she likes to wear scarves to accessorize her uniforms, they started giving them as presents to Linda.

 

Think about what a thankless task driving a bus can look like in our world: cranky passengers, engine breakdowns, traffic jams, gum on the seats.  You ask yourself, “How does she have this attitude?”

 

“Her mood is set at 2:30 a.m. when [Linda] gets down on her knees to pray for 30 minutes,” the Chronicle  stated.

 

“‘There is a lot to talk about with the Lord,’ says Wilson-Allen, a member of Glad Tidings Church in Hayward.”

 

When she gets to the end of her line, she always says, “That’s all.  I love you.  Take care.” Have you ever had a bus driver tell you, “I love you”?  People wonder, “Where can I find the Kingdom of God?  I will tell you where.  You can find it on the #45 bus riding through San Francisco.  People wonder, “Where can I find the church?  I will tell you.  Behind the wheel of a metro transit vehicle.

 

I would submit to you that if it is possible for a metro transit operator to bring the Kingdom of God to the people who ride her bus and form Christian community amongst the people on her route that it is also possible for each of us to do the same where we live and work.

 

Linda, the bus driver, is a dispenser of grace. She is someone who has been filled up with the grace of God and now she lives her life as a dispenser of the grace of God.

 

Linda isn’t a saint, but she has clearly taken the idea of obedience to god to the next level.

 

Chances are that she’s never read the 10 Second Rule, but I can tell you this, the way the people on her route speak about her and experience her says to me that on a regular basis, day in and day out, she is doing the next thing she is reasonably certain God wants her to do without hesitating.

 

Now it is our turn. We’ve spent the last month here at LakeRidge focusing on living out the 10 Second Rule. I’ve been preaching about it. We’ve been reading about it. We’ve been talking about it with one another. This sermon wraps up the series for us. So what’s next?

 

The easy thing would be for us to say that this was a nice little experiment of sorts. We could rehearse a few stories of how we believe we saw God at work in the midst of this church-wide experience and move on to the next thing. But I don’t think that is what God wants from us.

 

Just as dispensing grace was a lifestyle for the early church, I believe that God wants the same for us. It is time to move beyond simply thinking about doing the next thing we are reasonably certain God wants us to do as a rule and to make it our lifestyle.

 

Yes, I realize that to do so takes a serious level of commitment. Make no mistake about it. It is a huge commitment. And yes, you never know where this commitment might lead you at any given moment. But imagine what sort of amazing things might happen because you do so?

 

What if it became a routine part of your life to pray through your day in advance? What if you were to take time each night before you go to bed or each morning before you start your day to pray through your schedule?

 

Imagine the people you expect to meet. Do you have someone on your schedule that you anticipate might be difficult for you? Maybe a meeting with your boss or a demanding customer? Maybe you know that you are going to have to be in the same room with someone who has previously caused you pain or hurt?

 

In the past these kinds of encounters might have triggered some very un-Christ-like thoughts. But what if it became a normal part of your life that before you even leave your house you think through how Jesus would respond in these kinds of situations.

 

What if you did some advance decision making to help ensure that your actions and words would be more Christ-like? What if it was normative for you to pray that God would soften your heart and prepare you to be like Jesus in their presence?

 

What if you asked for the Holy Spirit to give you a sort of “spiritual radar”, if you will, that allows you to see people that might otherwise go unnoticed? People who have ended up on the fringe of life?

 

What if God began to help you see the person who sits all by himself every day at lunch? The clerk making minimum wage behind the counter who is having a tough day? The person who you run into at your mailbox who needs to experience a smile?

 

What if this became normal life for you?

 

At the end of The 10 Second Rule book, author Clare DeGraff writes about how people ask him all of the time how often he obeys the rule in his own life and his response is that it somewhere around 40-50% on good days. And then he draws upon an analogy from baseball that I think might be helpful to us this morning.

 

Every major league baseball player knows that it’s impossible to bat 1,000. A .325 batting average is unbelievable; most teams go through whole seasons without anyone on their team averaging that high.

 

What keeps people in the game when they know that two-thirds of the time they are going to fail? It’s waking up each morning and believing that we can do better today than we did last year – and even yesterday – and then  working hard toward that goal.

 

If a baseball player ever stops believing in that possibility and stops training hard to make that happen, he’s done in the majors. Next year he’ll be sent to the minor leagues. The year after that, he’ll be selling used cars.

 

Perfection in obeying Jesus is impossible. but with the Spirit of the living God in us, we can choose, every day to do better than we did yesterday – better than we did last year. That much, we can do.

 

Phiippians 3:13-14 puts it this way, 13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.