Today as we close out our series on the Jesus Creed I want us to consider what it will take for us to live out this creed for the rest of our lives. This creed is not a list of rules and regulations that we follow each day. Love for God and others can’t be boiled down to a check list of daily scripture reading, 15 minutes of prayer 3 times a day and an hour of service every week. Those things are good and might be part of how we live out this creed, but the creed is so much more than rules to follow and items to check off. The love we talk about in the Jesus Creed is a love that leads us deeper into a relationship with God.
Last week we heard that Jesus told his followers to be perfect. Let’s not think about perfection as doing everything the right way, but being in an ongoing relationship with the one who is perfect. Jesus was perfect not because he did all the right things, he was perfect because he and God had an ongoing relationship. They were one. Jesus said, I am in the Father and the Father is in me, and it was because of this relationship that Jesus was perfect and we are called into this same relationship. We are called to abide in Christ. To be perfect it is not a call to do everything the right way but to be in an ongoing relationship with Jesus and it is this relationship that helps us live out this creed.
We talk a lot about having a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, but just what does this mean? How do we invite Jesus into our lives? To help us understand what this looks like and how to do this, we are going to look at an interaction Jesus had with a very unlikely person. Matthew 15:21-28.
Jesus and his disciples have gone away on a type of vacation. After being followed by huge crowds of people all wanting something from Jesus and after having been challenged by the teachers of the law, Jesus and the disciples needed some time away. When they reached Tyre and Sidon, which was a gentile area, a woman heard that Jesus was there so she found him and boldly asked for help.
At first the disciples tried to send her away but she persisted and finally came and knelt before Jesus and asked him to heal her daughter. At first Jesus said no, but then she asked again and Jesus responded, Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.
It is from this gentile woman that we begin to learn what it means to invite God into our lives and what an ongoing relationship with Jesus looks like. The first thing we need to do is allow God to enter our minds. This woman came to Jesus because she believed that Jesus could heal her daughter. She had opened her mind to think about God and learn about Jesus and because of the knowledge she gained, she thought he could help. Did she know everything about God and did she really know who Jesus was when she asked for help? No – she probably knew very little because she was a Canaanite woman living in a gentile land. Her understanding of God would have been limited but she believed enough that she asked Jesus to heal her daughter. She invited God to enter her mind and this is where a relationship of faith begins.
When we ask God to enter our minds we begin to think about who God is. We begin to believe that there is more to life than what we see and experience. We begin to understand that God wants to be with us and that God loves us and all of this helps us turn to God and look for more. When we invite God into our minds we investigate more and learn more and this is what it looks like to love God with all our mind and this is how we begin to form a relationship with God. For this woman it all started with what she believed or what she knew about Jesus.
But the invitation and relationship didn’t end there. When this woman learned where Jesus and his disciples were staying she went to them and asked for help. She acted on what she knew. She walked to the place Jesus was staying, she boldly entered into the presence of these men and she asked for help. This woman invited God to give direction to her feet and her decisions and her words. Her actions backed up her beliefs. In every aspect of her life she had invited God in to give her direction.
Inviting God into our lives can’t just be asking God shape what we think and believe, we also have to ask God to shape our actions and decisions and words. The Bible says that faith without works is dead. If we don’t act on what we know and believe about God – our relationship with God is dead. For this woman, if her faith had not been backed up with actions, he daughter would have been dead. She put action to what she believed and because she did, she grew in her relationship with God. She loved God and others more.
Every time we put action to what we believe about God – our relationship with God grows. Every time we put action to our faith – our love for God grows. Our love for God and others can’t just be something we think about it needs to shape what we do and how we live. Our faith and love needs to give direction to our feet and where we go. It needs to help us make bold decisions about the work of our hands and the words of our mouths. Asking God into our bodies and lives to move us to where God wants us to be is risky, but it is a big part of faith.
So this woman shows us that we need to invite God into our minds and lives, but she also shows us that we need to invite God into our hearts as well. When this woman persisted and continued to ask Jesus for help, she was opening her heart to God. She was making herself vulnerable to Jesus by revealing her deepest desires – that her daughter might be healed. She risked rejection. She risked being hurt and opening our heart to anyone comes with risk. Asking God into our hearts makes us vulnerable because we expose to God our deepest desires and pain, but the risk is worth it because when we invite God into our hearts – He enters in with his love. When this woman opened her heart to Jesus and continued to ask for help, she was honored, her faith was acknowledge and her daughter was healed.
So when we talk about an ongoing relationship with God as a means of living out the Jesus Creed, we are talking about inviting God into our minds to shape our thinking, inviting God into our bodies to direct our words and actions and inviting God into our hearts to fill us with His love and compassion. Each invitation takes us deeper with God and each invitation helps us love God and others more. This is the journey of developing a strong and vital faith and this is how we live out the Jesus Creed.
So we develop a relationship with God by inviting God into our minds and lives and hearts, but this is not a onetime act – it is a daily surrender, an ongoing relationship. Look at Philippians 4:8.
We invite God into our minds by intentionally thinking about things that are good and Godly. We don’t do this once, we need to do this daily because every day we are assaulted by messages that try to shape what we think and believe and most of these messages are not of God. Advertising, entertainment, social media, real news and fake news all try to shape what we think about the world and what we think about our lives and what we think about God and most of what we hear is not filled with truth and is not from God, so every day we need to invite God into our minds. We do this by reading God’s word and allowing that word to speak to us. We do this through times of prayer when we talk with God and allow time and silent space for God to talk back to us.
Look at Romans 12:2. We stand against the pattern of this world and the messages of this word by asking God to enter our minds and renew them, to make them new and this happens with the help of God’s power and love when we ask God in.
Inviting God into our lives is also a daily event where we ask God to help us do all that he calls us to do. Look at Philippians 4:9.
What we learn about God in our minds, what we see in Jesus and in God’s word as the model for how are to live we need to put into practice. Like the Canaanite woman, we need to act on what we learn about God and we need to do what we see Jesus doing. Jesus showed us that we need to care for our families, attend to our spiritual growth and development, support others in the family of God and reach out to help those who are forgotten and neglected by society and care for them. God’s word is pretty clear that we need to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give water to the thirsty and love those who are hurting. These are all things we need to do but acting on all these things is an ongoing process.
We can’t do everything at once and we can’t do everything in every season of our lives. For some, our focus now might be on our children and families and making sure we are leading them and nurturing them in faith. For others, dedicated time to serve and help others is the focus of their lives. In retirement my parents have made the choice to serve so whether they are in CT or spending the winter in Hilton Head, my parents help feed the hungry at food pantries and through meals on wheels.
With every step we take in love, literally with every step we take to help our families or serve those around us, we grow deeper in our relationship with God. In different seasons of our lives we find God leading us in different ways, the key is to make sure we are inviting God into the context of our lives today to give us direction on how to love God and others.
And we invite God into our hearts by being persistent and taking risks to reach out to both God and others with compassion. There is no growth in love without taking a risk. There is no growth without being persistent. Relationships require us to keep going and keep giving and to share more and more of who we are. As we do this with God, God enters our hearts and helps us. Asking God into our hearts is risky. It exposes more of who we are – the good and the bad – but it is worth it because God always enters in with love.
So as we finish our look at the Jesus Creed and think about how to live this out for the rest of our lives, the key is not to come up with a list of rules of what it means to love God and others but to invite God into our minds, our lives and our hearts. Loving God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength is a lifelong relationship with God where every day we surrender more of who we are to God’s love so that we can be filled with this love. All relationships are messy, they come with highs and lows, victories and failures so the call to be perfect doesn’t mean to do everything the right way but to stay connected to the God who is perfect. Let us close this series the way it began, by sharing in the creed together. Would you say it with me:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength… love your neighbor as yourself.
The Jesus Creed – Living the Jesus Creed
Living the Jesus Creed is not a set of rules to follow but a relationship to embrace. We invite God into our lives as we surrender to him our minds, our bodies and our hearts.
Our Minds: Read Philippians 4:8 and Romans 12:2
• Invite God into your mind.
• Spend time reading God’s word.
• Spend time listening for God’s voice in prayer.
• Learn more about God through personal and group study.
• Evaluate all your mind takes in, what needs to be filtered out?
Our Lives: Read Philippians 4:9 and Romans 12:1
• Invite God into the fullness of your life – words and actions.
• What have you learned about God that needs to shape what you say, what you do and where you go?
• What activity do you see in the life of Jesus that you can do this week?
• What is God asking you to focus on in this season of your life?
• Invite God into your heart.
• Where do you need to persist in prayer and actions?
• What area of your life do you need to share with God?
• How can you take a risk in living out your faith this week?
Identify three ways your love for God and others can shape your family’s celebration of Thanksgiving and Christmas?