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Who is Jesus and Why does He Matter? | Searched (Part 6)

TRANSCRIPT
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Well, good morning, South. It’s an honor and a privilege to be with you here this morning, my name is Billy Berglund, and my wife Hannah and I have been part of this community for the past six years, and you’ve done just a huge blessing to each of us in our little family we’ve got a now, a little two-year-old named Cooper, loves to run around, and I’ve gotten a chance to work with the students for four years while I was in seminary, and then being able to come back in September as the interim youth pastor, and it’s been such a huge blessing. This has been a crazy year in so many ways, especially for students as they go from online to in-person school or a hybrid or a mix, but the chance just for us to have gathered together this year was such a blessing. And God is doing something incredible things in the lives of these students, last Wednesday, we celebrated our graduating seniors that they go off to new things in their story. And then this coming Sunday, next week, we’ve got baptism Sunday for the church, and we’ve got a number of our students can be baptized, so it’s gonna be a wonderful celebration, just so fun to partner with what God is doing in their lives.

And you guys have welcomed pan and I so well to this community, and it’s a little bit or sweet here this morning as Hannan, I are actually gonna be moving to Omaha, Nebraska in a few weeks, as I take a student pastor role back in Omaha where I grew up and where both sets of our families are from. And so, just really privileged to be one last chance to share with you here in the main services today, and we’re actually gonna be continuing on in our series titled searched Exploring questions that we’re actually asking… I don’t know about you, but I’ve really enjoyed this series. Pastor Alex is kinda walked us through these big questions of life. Why is there suffering? If God is good, does God hate me?

Why does God care what I do with my body? What happens when we die? What is the purpose of life? Nice, light, easy questions that we’ve been wrestling through, but last week, Pastor Alex concluded for us, the meaning of life is to find a relationship with the God who loves you, and to partner with him in bringing life to the world and the people around you. I love that little phrase, in other words, to glorify God and enjoy him forever. And today we’re gonna be asking this question as we wrap up this series, Who is Jesus and why does he matter? Who is Jesus? And why does he matter? It’s a big question. You might come in today in a variety of different responses to that as in your experiences and in your past, but we’re gonna wrestle with this question this morning. In other words, the question that we’re gonna be asking is, what’s the big deal about Jesus?

You might ask that in other areas of life… I remember when my wife and I moved to Colorado back in 2015, we wondered, what’s the big deal about the Broncos? Everybody seemed to love the Broncos. I’d actually, I grew up in Nebraska, we don’t have pro sports in Nebraska, we have the users, so we try… But I moves in Chicago for a few years with the Bears, I was up in Minnesota with the Vikings for a few years. But nothing is like the Broncos and the fans that we have here, so actually our first year here was the year that the Broncos won the super bowl, which was really exciting to see that I actually had to run an errand at half time of the game, and I remember driving down the road and there’s literally no one on the road is like a ghost town, everybody’s locked into the TV, but I don’t think we fully understood until we had a chance to go to a game, it was 2017, it was actually a pre-season game versus my Green Bay Packers, a Packers fan. We went and we sat up high in the nose bleeds, and we watched this performance before the game, I don’t know what else to call it, but the… The people, the fly over, the para-shooting guy who lands on the field, the big horse and the national anthem, this whole thing, it was incredible to experience…

I looked over at my wife and she’s crying, and I say, handle what’s wrong? It’s just so beautiful, this experience, and it really was… We’d heard about the Broncos, but until we experienced it, we were able to really see just how big a deal the Broncos actually are, you know.

You may have walked in today and you saw with big letters our mission statement To live in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus. We talk about Jesus a lot, he shapes everything that we do, but

The reality is, you might be wondering, Well, who is he, can he actually change everything about our lives? And maybe this is your first time at church, or you’ve come a couple of times and you’ve been hearing about this Jesus, but you’re kind of wondering what’s so important about this guy, maybe you’ve come to church for a long time and you’ve heard about Jesus for most of your life, but you’ve been wondering a little bit more lately, is he actually matter? Can he speak into every area of our lives, like we said, this has been a crazy year and out of control at times, and how does this Jesus figure speak into our lives today, is it just some complex idea or wishful thinking, or is there actual hope to be found in Him.

And so we’re gonna be exploring that question today To start, who is Jesus? If you were to take a look at various religions all across the world, you’ll find a wide range of answers about what people would say about who Jesus is, a great teacher, a prophet, a great man, a God-wise…

Some might even say that he was born of a virgin, but interestingly, all of the world’s major religions feel the need to account for Jesus in some way. Regardless of your beliefs, most people would say that Jesus is important in some way, historically, he was an influential person, in world history. But who is he actually? And why does he matter?

Jesus made some pretty important claims about himself, and in the book of John, we see seven of these I am statements that Jesus describes of himself. And what he’s doing is identifying himself as God.

He says this, I am the Bread of Life, the Light of the World, the gates, the Good Shepherd, the resurrection and the life. The way the truth and the life, and lastly, the True Vine, these are really important claims, and how do we approach these, CS Lewis in his famous book, Mere Christianity, he challenges is this this common notion that maybe Jesus was just a great moral teacher, he famously writes this, a man who was merely a man and said the sort of things that Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher.

He would either be a lunatic on a level… With the man who says he is a poached egg or LC would be the devil of hell. You must make your choice, either this man was and is the son of God, or else a madman or something worse.

You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and call him as a demon, or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us, he did not intend to liar, lunatic or Lord. This famous quote really causes us to wrestle Lewis would eventually conclude, now it seems obvious that he was neither a lunatic nor opened, and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely, it may seem I have to accept the view that he was and is God… You can kinda see the implications is broken down if your mind maybe work a little bit more this way, but Jesus claims to be God, if his claim is false, and Jesus did not know his claim was false. He was a lunatic. If he knew his claim was false, he’d be a liar, but if his claim is true, Jesus is gone. Now, does this quota this idea of prove God’s existence? Not necessarily, but I think it forces us to think about this by who Jesus is.

Today, I wanna present the biblical view of Jesus, and as I’ve been thinking and preparing for this sermon, there’s so many directions that we could go so much I’d love to dive in to say everything, but I do wanna present very clearly who Jesus is, and also why he matters for our lives

Here at south, we have a statement of beliefs, if you were to go to South fellowship dot-org, you could see what we believe about Jesus Christ from the Bible, and this is kind of the summary statement that we have at South about who Jesus is, I think it’s really helpful. We believe that Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, became man without ceasing to be God, being conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary, He came to reveal God to mankind and to redeem sinful humanity by giving Himself as a sinless sacrifice on the cross of Calvary, carrying the cross and penalty for sin on our behalf, which is physical and spiritual death, He then a rose bodily from the dead and ascended to the Father’s right hand where He intercedes on the believers behalf, all of the scriptures from first to last. Testify of Him. I think that’s a great summary of who Jesus is from scripture.

And it’s important that last statement that the whole thing, the whole Bible is about Jesus, it’s one unified story that all points to him on every page, from the old testament to the new… J Alec motor has this quote, and he says this… It’s a little bit of a chart here, the Old Testament is Jesus predicted. The Gospels is Jesus revealed. Act is Jesus preached, the Epistles is Jesus explained in revelation, is Jesus expected. It is one story that all points to him from Scripture. Now, you might be saying, Well, that’s great. That’s from the Bible. But what else do we know about Jesus from other sources? Are we just gaining all of this from scripture, and the reality is, is that there are lots of non-Christian sources, in fact, money who are hostile to Jesus, that actually say a lot about him.

Historically, J. Warner Wallace, he was a cold case homicide detective, and now he’s an apologist, and he studied these old writings of people who were contemporaries of Jesus, and then in the years that followed them to… Described his life, and it was fascinating, Pliny the Younger and Tacitus or Cephas and Dallas, they each kind of put together this composite picture of who Jesus is, and so What do non-biblical source to say about Jesus… This was fascinating to me. This is just from outside of Scripture, Jesus was born and lived in Palestine. He was a wise man who claimed to be God and the Messiah, he had unusual magical powers and performed miraculous deeds, he healed the lame, He accurately predicted the future, he persecuted by the… He was beaten with rods crucified on the day of his crucifixion, this guy grew dark and there was an earthquake, and it was fascinating to read some of these accounts from non-Christian sources, non-biblical sources, they could not explain why the world went dark that day. Afterward, He was buried in the tomb, and the tomb was later found to be empty, He appeared to His disciples resurrected from the grave, He showed them His wounds, the disciples then told others that Jesus was resurrected and ascended into heaven.

The disciples were also persecuted for their faith, but were martyred without changing their claims, they met regularly to worship Jesus even after his death. Which is pretty remarkable and pretty impressive considering the information there all comes from non-biblical sources. They were reporting history. Jesus is not just some made up person, he’s a real historical person who changed the world now, people would disagree on how to interpret that evidence. Was he truly the Son of God? But as Christians, I think is kind of the foundation of our faith. Here are the essentials of Christianity of which Jesus is the central figure. And if we would say this, what makes Christianity unique? And

All religion, some people would say that all religions are essentially the same, you boil them all down, but as Christians, we would say that there are a few things that kinda distinguished Christianity from other religions, and I think the first is this, is it’s based on receiving a gift, rather than earning our way to God, Romans 5-8, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us for all of sin and fall short of the glory of God. And so this is about receiving a gift, placing our trust and our faith in Jesus who died for us and who rose again, that we believe in Him rather than trying to earn our salvation.

Secondly, it’s based on a relationship with God that we don’t have to appease God to receive His favor, that he already showed us, his love for us by sending Jesus to die on a cross in our place for our sins. The separation between us and God was appeased, and we didn’t have to do a thing except for believe, and

So now as we live our lives, we live from approval, not for approval. We live from a personal relationship, not a cold and distant relationship with a God who’s not very interested in us. We have a personal relationship with the Creator of the universe who entered into our story and took on flesh, it’s a relationship, and third, it’s based on the resurrection. The tomb was empty. Jesus is alive. Every other major religious leader is dead, but Jesus came back to life, that He is who He said He was.

And yet you might be saying, Well, that’s great, but resurrection don’t happen. That’s not something that just naturally takes place, and so many people have presented naturalistic explanations for what happened with the resurrection. Because there’s significant weight on this event, if Jesus rose from the dead, then He is who He said He was, and our faith is true, and if Jesus did not rise from the dead, then Christianity is not real. And

So a few explanations that have been put forth, different theories, the stolen body theory. Maybe his disciples went to… Stole the body. Hallucination, maybe when Jesus appeared to people, they were all having a big hallucination to over 500 people.

Maybe the swoon theory, maybe Jesus didn’t actually die on the cross, he just kind of faked his death and came back, or maybe they went to the wrong tube. Well, the question is, what’s the best explanation for the evidence as you walk through each of those accounts, the stolen body theory, disciples wouldn’t have had a reason to go steal the body because they were hiding and afraid they didn’t believe he was gonna come back.

The hallucination theory, that 500 people see a hallucination for a period of 40 days. That’s not how hallucinations work. The swoon theory, the Romans were really good at their job, they made sure that Jesus was dead, the wrong tomb theory, that would have been very easy just to go to the right tomb to see that Jesus was there and so… Did the resurrection actually happened? I think there’s three things with that that we can say that the tomb was empty, that six independent sources confirm this, that Jesus died, he was laid in the tomb, and then later the tomb was found empty, the women actually discovered the empty tomb, and that’s significant because if people were making up a story, they would not have had that detail, women’s testimony was not held to be as high as others in that society, it was next to worthless. So the reality is, they were reporting truth that women discovered the empty tomb, the

Jewish authorities in the moment they make up a story that maybe Jesus’s followers stole the body, but we’ve discussed that one, or how about the second, the appearances that we see that Jesus did appear to over 500 people in four different gospel accounts confirm this. It’s historically certain that he appeared to people after His resurrection, and lastly to the disciples, believe perhaps the most convincing piece of proof that the disciples who were hiding and scared when Jesus died, they meet the risen Christ, and they were so convinced that their lives were transformed and they go around sharing the gospel, they’re willing to die for their faith, many of them were tortured and killed in brutal ways for what they believed, the rise of Christianity can only be described by the empty tomb, that Jesus did rise from the dead. There’s just no other plausible naturalistic explanation for these facts.

And that’s wonderful for us to realize, but you might be sitting here today and you might be like, Wow, Billy, that’s a lot. Cool, you can look up all those cool facts, but I could have looked at up all online, and the reality is, is you walked in today, you didn’t come to hear a bunch of facts and evidence.

Though I think there is a lot that points to who Jesus is and what he’s all about. But

The reality is, is that life is hard. You might have walked in today feeling hopeless or discouraged, and you can hear all of these facts and say, Oh, that’s nice. But why does Jesus really matter in my life? This year has been hard and wear some in a lot of ways, I teach in a school full-time and it’s been a tiring year for teachers as I work with students and hear their stories, it’s been hard and lonely and unsettling on a lot of them, they move from in-person learning to online and back and forth, and normal rhythms and sporting events and things that just… You’ve come accustomed to have been changed, it’s been hard on families financially, emotionally, transitions changes, new normals, disconnection, constantly adapting budgets, mask loss of loved ones. Quarantines this year has been unlike any other… You turn on the news and you see so much division and hatred in our world, the pandemics caused so many challenges on our country, I know each of us in some way have walked through challenges this year in some fashion, and

I think at the core of everyone we long to know, where can we find hope? Does Jesus have anything to actually say into our lives in terms of hope and how he matters, what can we stake our life on to find true. Lasting and real.

I wanna make the statement today that Jesus is our true hope, I truly and firmly believe that. Probably more accurately, I should say I believe that, and I’m learning to believe that more and more in my life, that our relationship with Jesus is not just some purely academic or intellectual exercise, but there certainly is strong evidence for Jesus when you examine the fact and get facing yet I think we all long for a personal relationship and connection with Jesus, belong for an experience with him, not just facts about him. And so this word has been on my mind a lot over the past few years, hope, as I’ve had conversations with people in a variety of fields and careers and life stages, it seems like for a lot of us, our identity is kind of been shaking a bit this year, whether that was finances or whether that was something that we had placed our security, I know it seems like Death and Mortality has become more tangible this year than in the past… At least it has to. My wife and I, in December 2019, I lost… My grandma grew up next door to me, dear to me, an influential youth leader of mine when I was in high school who made a huge impact on my life, recently lost his wife after a three-year battle with cancer, three young kids, a seminary couple of friend of ours that we went through seminary together, they recently lost their one-year-old little boy and attending a funeral for a one-year-old little boy, and in our own story with my wife, HANA and I, and having three miscarriages in the past nine months that the mental and emotional.

Grief and tall is great. And this question then, where do we find hope? And all of that. And what does Jesus have to do with it? I’m so glad that you asked that. If you’ll turn with me, Philippians chapter two.

We’re gonna be camping out in Philippians Chapter two for most of the rest of today, we’re gonna look at a few other Verses as well, but we’re gonna be in pilipinas Chapter Two, and in Paul in this passage, he’s writing this letter to this church at Philippi, he’s

Actually writing from prison, and he’s writing this letter to them, and this letter is all about joy, how to find joy in the midst of any circumstances, and he talks so much about who Jesus is, what He’s done, and then what that looks like for us and how… We live… And so there’s this beautiful passage, Philippians 2, 1 through 11, if you’ll read with me… Therefore, if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded. Having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain. Can see, rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interest, but each of you to the interest of the others. Verse Five, In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus. Who being in very nature, God did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage. Rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness and being found in appearance as a man, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.

In verse 9, therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord. To the glory of God the Father. This passage is beautiful. And in the last part of the passage, Verses 6 through 11 is known as the Christ Him. We see Jesus in his humiliation coming to earth dying, a horrible death on a cross, and then His exaltation in Verses 9-11, and he’s raised again and He’s seated at the right hand of God. And the name of Jesus, every knee should bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. We’re gonna come back to the first four verses a little bit later on, what we see in starting in Verse 5 is this pre-existence of Christ, the eternal sun, the second member of the Trinity, there with the father, the true and exact nature of God, and who being in the very nature God, He’s equal with God is God.

He didn’t cease to be God, but yet he emptied himself out, he made himself nothing, meaning that he didn’t use his privileges for his own benefit or his own advantage, but He poured himself out and coming to earth. It’s

A remarkable thing that Christ had all the privileges that were rightly his as the king of the universe, He gave them up to become an ordinary Jewish boy, bound for the cross.

He could have stayed where he was in a position of power, but he became a week for. 2 Corinthians 8-9 says, Though He was rich, yet for your sake, He became poor, so that you by His poverty might become rich. He never gave up his divinity, but he took on humanity, came into our story, and he died the most excruciating way possible on a cross, it was degrading and humiliating, completely destroyed him in a painful public display. But in verse 9, we see that his humiliation led to His exaltation, that His name is above all names, that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. And one day, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord. It’s

A wonderful passage, and there’s so much in there for us to see.

But as we think about this question of, Well, why does Jesus really matter for our lives, this passage shows us the arc of Jesus’s life and the hope that we have in Him, but there’s three things that I want us to see, the first is the person of Jesus, that Jesus provides true hope in our time of need.

Jesus provides true hope in our time of need, that he entered into our story, he didn’t stay cold and distant apart, he came into humanity, He was tempted in every single way. We are. And yet He was without sin.

And that’s remarkable. We see in Hebrews 4, verses 14 to 16, Therefore, since we have a great high priest who as a Senate into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, Let us hold firmly to the faith that we profess. But we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who’s been tempted in every way, just as we are yet He did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. That Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father, Father and He intercedes for us, that we can come confidently before God in prayer, hears us that He cares for us deeply, and He provides hope in our time of need, the incarnation, Jesus coming into our flesh, changes everything for us. And I think sometimes as we think about connecting with God, we talked about our… Christianity is a relationship. We often think of prayer is perhaps our last resort, I’m gonna try everything and then I pray, then I can come before God. But I would argue that it should be the first thing that we do. I will admit, over the course of this past year, there’s been times when it’s been hard to pray, it’s been hard to know what to pray, ’cause we’ve walked through some of these things in our lives and

Something that has just meant the world to Hannah and I there was a few weeks ago, and I came into the office here at South, and I have a little mailbox, and I don’t usually often get mail, but I looked in the mail and there was a little package with my name on it.

It was really exciting. It was bright colors, and opened it up, and in this package, there’s this little booklet, and this person who goes to South has said God laid it on my heart to be praying for you over the course of this year, and

Month after month away back in December, January, in February, in March, this person was just Writing out prayers for us, and they say they would say things in there like God laid it on my heart to pray for this specific thing, they would have had no way of knowing what we were walking through.

And they were praying for us and lifting us up day after day, and it was truly incredible, and it meant so much to us that God has answered a lot of those prayers, that they’ve been lifting those up and encouraging us that prayer matters deeply. And Jesus provides us with that hope that we can come confidently before God and in a relationship with our creator, he offers to us… Secondly, we see the purpose of Jesus as He came to earth, He provides true hope for our sin and our brokenness, and

He entered into our story. In Luke 19-10 said, He came to seek and to save the lost. For Jesus came not to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many. That He speaks into our sin and brokenness and provides a way for us to be forgiven, provides a way for us to be in a relationship with God, and this gives us this new identity as his fully loved children, and we are in a relationship with Him, the Second Corinthians 5-21 says, this God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him, we might become the righteousness of God. That due to Jesus’s life and is entering into our story, dying on a cross, he offers us new identity as his fully loved children. My wife and I have loved this show called The Chosen, it’s come out, it’s on YouTube, and there’s also an app for it, but it’s basically the life of Jesus and his disciples, and it’s been a fascinating and really visual and powerful way just to describe Jesus’s life and as you get to know the characters and enter into the story, and each of the episodes, most of the episodes talk about how Jesus goes to those who are sick or who are lame, Hoare the outcasts or people…

Everybody else is overlooked, and Jesus provides a new identity, he speaks into our story and makes us new, we are a new creation following him, and that’s a wonderful thing. He provides true hope for our sin and brokenness, and lastly, Jesus provides true hope for our weary souls in the exaltation of Jesus, we see the hope of what happened when he was raised from the dead, that it has given us this new hope and Jesus promises before he sends into Heaven the Holy Spirit to guide us, to direct us that wherever we go, his presence is with us. As we walk through any challenges or difficulties, we can cling to that hope that He is with us always. Jesus offers us this invitation in Matthew 11, 28-30, Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you’ll find, for your souls, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light. That in the midst of our weariness and striving and working and working, that Jesus offers us a true rest, an invitation to a new way of life, an invitation to follow Him with everything that we are, knowing that we’re not alone, but he promises to be with us.

Always. And that is a wonderful thing as we experience this new life and we are called in an invitation to follow Him, that we’re not called just to sit on the sidelines, but to live out our faith fully trusting in Him with a new perspective, not just to be His fans or admirers of Jesus, but actually to be his followers, we’re called to have his mindset as we serve and love others each and every day. And we see that so clearly in Philippians 2 verse 14, about the beginning of this passion that Paul gave to us. If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if

Any common sharing in the spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, rather in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interest, but each of you to the interest of the others. As we partner with Jesus and represent Him here on earth as were agents of restoration in our broken world, as we know his promise to be with us, always to guide us and to direct us here and now.

But as Christians, we also know the end of the story, we know how this will all end, that Jesus will come back and mention, my wife and I, we love to watch TV shows, and we’ve gotten into different ones over the years, some of them are more intense than others, but there’s one thing that particularly drives her crazy. As we start a TV show, we watch the first episode and we’ll turn it off and we’ll go do other things, and I’ll look up what happens at the very end of the show, the

Very last episode, I have to know how the story will end, and it drives her crazy, she just not wanna know how it’s gonna end, but for me, that gives me so much peace of mind, well, this person’s gonna go there, or this person’s gonna live, or this one’s not… And then I can watch the show knowing what’s going to happen, I just… That gives me peace of mind. Maybe I’m weird in that, but we know the end of the story, and as Christians, we know the end of the story too.

We know in Revelation that Jesus will come back and he’ll make all things. All things will be made right. And that is something that with hope that we cling to Revelation 21 verses 1 through 4. I know Pastor Alex has shared this passage as well in this series, but I think it’s such a fitting way to close… And it says this, Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away and there was no longer any sea. I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, Look, God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There’ll be no more death or mourning, or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. This is Jesus’s promise to us. He provides true hope for our weary souls, both now and into the future as we follow after Him, and in a minute, we’re going to be stepping into a time of communion, we’ve ended each of the weeks during this series, the time of communion, as we reflect on Jesus’s love on His sacrifice for us on the cross, and His body and His blood.

But today, as we just reflect on who Jesus is and why He matters in our lives, that is incarnation, HIM coming into humanity, living the life that we could not live, dying the death that we deserve, to provide us with Hope gives us a new identity as his child, as a dearly loved child of God, and as an invitation to follow Him in every aspect of our lives, knowing that he’s with us, and the promise is sure that one day all things will be made right and there will be no more morning, our pain. We cling to that hope today, let’s pray. The only Father, we thank you so much for your word, thank you for who you are and the love that you’ve shown to us, the grace that you’ve extended to us, I pray for each and every person in this room and those watching online, we thank You for South, thank you for how you’ve worked in this place, you continue to work on how you guide us and direct us as we seek to live in your way, with your heart, I pray that you’ll just give us and peace that we can cling to the hope that we have in you, each and every day of our lives.

Who is Jesus and Why does He Matter? | Searched (Part 6)2024-06-12T14:51:20-06:00

Love All | Advent Conspiracy (Week 4)

TRANSCRIPT
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well good morning south I’m excited to be here with you today how about the student worship team this morning they did an amazing job uh they’ve been working uh so hard and just even a few months ago they started practicing and playing and just have done a great job leading us and so it’s such a joy to have them in here it’s been a joy for me to be back working with the students here at south I gotta had the privilege of being on staff here from 2015 to 19 and I was able to come back three months ago and working with these students an amazing team of volunteers great group of students that bring so much joy to me and to my wife who was also up here this morning singing which was awesome just so thankful for her and sharing her gifts with us today we also have one little guy named cooper he’s a year and a half now and usually

he’s here running around somewhere but this morning he’s home with grandma and so he had quite the start to his journey and I want to start off this morning just by asking you where were you on may 31st 2019 maybe that was just a random day to you if you think about it last year but to my wife hannah and I it was a day that changed everything for us uh hannah was 34 weeks pregnant at the time and we had both just finished our teaching for the year and we finished up our teacher work days and so that first day of summer break and I had still had to go up to school to lead a workout that I was doing as a coach and so hannah was going to stay home and sleep in that morning but she didn’t really feel that great she maybe thought it was something that she had ate and so I went into work and about 7 15 she called and she said she

wasn’t feeling well and she had called the doctor and they say you know just to be cautious you better come in um it’ll just be like a 20 minute appointment you’ll be fine and you’ll be able to go home so she calls me and tells me that she says I think I’m going to drive myself into the hospital and I you know being the supportive and caring husband that I am I said okay great um what I should have said was I will leave work right now go and pick you up and drive you in as it turns out she was having contractions two minutes apart driving herself to the hospital while I’m just off at work well at eight o’clock she calls me and says you know it appears the baby’s coming today and I said you know I’m swamped here at work I hope everything goes well no I did not say that I I at that time I got the hand I did come in and about 8 30 got there we went

back and by 2 pm cooper was born six weeks early um and that was a day that changed everything for our lives perhaps you can relate or to recall a certain day or period of days of your life that changed everything maybe it was graduating school or getting married having a child maybe even losing a loved one or having a job transition moving across the country these moments change our lives and I think in 2020 we’ve all had a few days like that maybe it’s not a certain day but I remember the week in march when life completely changed for us one by one things started to shut down and our gatherings our schools our sporting events church gatherings changed overnight it changed everything and even as things have started to reopen we still experience and feel those changes today well this morning we’re going to be looking at

an event and a person who has changed everything we are continuing on in our advent conspiracy series it’s been a four-week series in the first three weeks pastor alex has led us through uh the themes of worship fully to spend well and give more and this morning we’re going to be looking at the theme of love all the christmas season even in a pandemic can feel stressful and busy our hearts can feel weary and tired I’ve really enjoyed this series and been challenged and encouraged to reorient our lives on what is really important in this christmas season advent is a time of waiting time of hope it’s a time of preparing our hearts for the coming messiah it’s a reminder that even in a crazy and unsettling year our hope is anchored in our lord and savior Jesus christ who entered into our story to bring us the true peace and joy

that we long for and so this morning I want to begin with the claim that Jesus changes everything whereas the birth of our cooper certainly changed my wife and I’s lives and maybe those of you around us at church or the people that live next to us in our apartment when he’s crying in the middle of the night other than that I don’t think it may be affected your life as much but we all have events that do change our lives and this Jesus story that we celebrate at christmas time can truly change each and every one of our lives both individually and collectively and so this morning I want to dig into this and really look at how Jesus changes and transforms us from the inside out and so for the next two hours and 45 minutes we’re just really going to be digging in and no we’re not but my wife can tell you uh sometimes I can be

pretty difficult I’m a verbal processor I ask a lot of questions many nights will be lying in bed trying to fall asleep and I’ll be talking and trying to solve life’s problems for 15 or 20 minutes only to look over to discover that she’s fallen asleep my mind works that way I question things I can overthink things I ask questions maybe you do too and so this claim Jesus changes everything you walked in today and you saw in big letters our church’s mission statement living in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus and we really believe that but whether you’ve been coming to church for a long time or if this is your first time coming in or tuning in online you might be wondering does Jesus actually change everything does this baby born in a manger over 2000 years ago truly changed my life and if so how how does Jesus’s birth and life impact

our everyday lives and relationships I think these questions are really important for us to to dig into and so we’re going to start with with these two questions this morning what is the story of Jesus and who is it for what is the story of Jesus and who is it for growing up I had a pretty good understanding of the bible of certain bible characters and stories but I think I struggled to see how it all connected I could tell you about david and abraham and noah and even Jesus but I didn’t really know how that all fit together the old testament seemed to have some cool and some weird stories and then bam Jesus came in the new testament and to me it didn’t seem all that connected and I’m really grateful to have great family and friends and professors who have really helped me understand scripture and I’m still learning and growing I’ve come across a

great website that I’ve shared with the students they know I love this site thebibleproject.com which I highly recommend but I began to see the bible to borrow their phrase as one unified story that leads to Jesus the old testament was not just a bunch of random unconnected stories but it was one story that was pointing and leading to the main event of Jesus christ when Jesus shows up on the scene he’s not just randomly entering the story he’s the long-awaited messiah come to save us from our sins and I’ve shared this with the students over the years and even in a sermon a few years ago here but I think it’s so important for us to know the story of scripture it begins with creation all the way back in genesis that God creates this world and we see the original design of humanity being created in God’s own image and in relationship with him in

just chapter 3 we see that corruption enters the picture as adam and eve sin and yet even in the midst of devastating consequences for sin that we all experience still today God extends grace in genesis 3 15 God in talking with the serpent in the garden promises an offspring of eve who will crush satan’s head and defeat evil much later in the story this offspring is referring to Jesus who would come onto the scene much later who would die on a cross and rise again we see this promise all the way back at the beginning of the story and the story continues through a series of covenants or partnerships that God makes with humanity with his people they serve as kind of the backbone of the story of scripture and they show how God pursues humanity each of them anticipate and point forward to the coming of christ God promises to noah that

despite humanity’s sin and evil he will never destroy the earth again he promises to abraham that through his offspring all nations of the earth would be blessed he later rescues israel from slavery and he gives them the law and promises to make them his holy set apart nation as they were meant to represent him to all the nations God promises david that a king would come from his lineage who would reign forever and extend God’s justice for all the covenants with abraham israel and david also had conditional elements that the people had to obey and while God’s chosen people time and time again do not fulfill their end of the deal God remains faithful to his promises and as the old testament continues and the story unfolds israel continues to wait with hope and longing the prophets talked about a day when the messiah would come and

the old testament ends and he had not come and so they waited 400 years past maybe God has forgotten his promises and then on to the scene comes Jesus christ that God is faithful that we celebrate at christmas his birth and is coming into humanity the God of the universe out of his deep love for us enters into our story bringing hope the messiah comes into our mess emmanuel God with us this baby fully God and fully man born in a humble manger he grows up he doesn’t stay in that manger he grows as a carpenter he begins his public ministry healing the sick and teaching with authority living a perfect life spending time with the poor and outcasts elevating those who are humble he fulfills each of the covenants he’s from the family of abraham who has come to bless the whole world he’s the perfect israelite who fully obeys the

law and he is in the line of david the king who extends God’s kingdom of justice and peace to all and will reign forever and this king is killed on a cross the savior of the world dying for sin God made him who had no sin to be sin for us so that in him we might become the righteousness of God out of his deep love he dies on a cross while we were still sinners christ died for us but he doesn’t stay in the tomb Jesus rises from the dead on the third day conquering death and giving us hope through faith in him we can be in a relationship with God in his resurrection that we celebrate at easter time he later ascends into heaven sending the holy spirit to guide and direct us in our lives and the church is established and much of the new testament is letters written to these churches and individuals showing them and us how to live on mission as his disciples

living in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus all the while we wait with hope and longing once again because Jesus is going to come back finally and fully defeating evil once for all and those who trust in Jesus will spend eternity with God and the new heavens and the new earth where there will be no more pain or suffering and this is the culmination of God’s perfect plan this is great news this is the christmas story it doesn’t end in a manger it’s a story of creation to the cross to the culmination of God’s plan in the future and this is our hope and the question remains then well who is this story for if you’ll turn with me this morning to luke chapter we’re going to dig in together luke chapter 2 throughout this series we’ve looked at part of this wonderful story this wonderful chapter the story of Jesus birth Jesus is born and the angels say

to the shepherds in luke 2 verses 10 and 11 do not be afraid I bring you good news that will cause you great joy for all the people today in the town of david a savior has been born to you he is messiah the lord this will be assigned to you you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger great joy for all people this story continues as Jesus a little bit later on is presented in the temple and so if you’ll turn with me to luke 2 verses 22-24 here’s what we read when the time came for the purification rites required by the law of moses joseph and mary took him to jerusalem to present him to the lord as it is written in the law of the lord every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the lord and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the law of the lord a pair of doves or two young pigeons these three verses are

strategic by luke as he specifically mentions the law and shows that Jesus obeys and fulfills the law of moses but then he’ll continue on to show how Jesus’s life is important for both jews and the gentiles for all people let’s continue reading in verses 25-28 now there was a man in jerusalem called simeon who was righteous and devout he was waiting for the consolation of israel and the holy spirit was on him it had been revealed to him by the holy spirit that he would not die before he had seen the lord’s messiah moved by the spirit he went into the temple courts when the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the law required simeon took him in his arms and praised God saying and now but before we get into simeon’s words we need to introduce this character named simeon we don’t know a lot

about him but we see that he is righteous and devout the holy spirit is on him as he waits with anticipation for God to come and rescue israel he was told that he would not die before seeing the messiah the spirit guides him into the temple and after years and years of waiting he gets to hold the savior of the world in his arms can you imagine what he must have been feeling and experiencing and then he says these words verses 29-32 sovereign lord as you have promised you may now dismiss your servant and peace for my eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared in the sight of all nations a light for gentile to the light for revelation to the gentiles and the glory of your people israel salvation has been prepared in the sight of all nations for all people to the gentiles the non-jews and to the people of israel God’s love is

expansive it’s not limited to one people group or one geographical area but it’s for all people and we all have a need for a savior have a need for grace before closing simeon offers some closing comments of the divided response that Jesus would experience in his life verses 33 through 35 the child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him then simeon blessed them and said to mary his mother the child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in israel and to be a sign that will be spoken against so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed and a sword will pierce your own soul too simeon mentions the falling and rising of many in israel the reality is that some will reject Jesus while others would accept him and his good news of salvation some would oppose him and this would eventually lead him to

die on a cross and that would lead to sorrow for mary not all will respond in faith to Jesus’s free gift of love and grace and this brings us back to our our questions for today what is the story of Jesus and who is it for the story of Jesus is the good news of the long-awaited messiah entering into our story bringing hope and the free offer of salvation to all made available by faith the story of scripture is the story of God’s deep love for us that can change everything about us and in our time remaining I want us to see very practically how Jesus changes everything about us no matter how you came in today tired or weary overwhelmed relieved excited anything in between I believe that Jesus can change our lives and speak hope and life into all areas of our lives and so first we see that Jesus changes everything by transforming our stories we all enter

today with a story we’re all unique it’s one of the reasons I love working with students to partner with them on their story on their journey and point them to Jesus we long for our stories to matter and to have importance and yet I think we all wonder at times if our stories are all that important we might be stuck in the mundane or the ordinary routine of life doing the same thing over and over and wondering if it makes any difference we might have walked in today having felt shame and sadness about something in our past maybe this year brought a job transition or a loss of a loved one maybe we feel hopeless or scared about what is to come maybe we feel like God could never use us or never work through us and yet God can transform our stories I’d love for you to turn with me to matthew chapter 1. matthew chapter 1 the first

chapter in the new testament and perhaps if you come there you will see what appears on the surface to be the most boring chapter of the bible a genealogy a list of names so and so the son of so-and-so the son of so-and-so and on and on and on I remember reading that growing up being like wow this is boring um but in reality this is one of the most incredible chapters in the whole bible take a moment and glance over some of those names this is Jesus’s genealogy his lineage as you look through this list we see some names that we recognize abraham and david we might assume that his lineage is only full of important and well-known people people that have their lives all figured out and who are famous and yet that’s not what we find at all glance through this list with me in just a few of these names abraham a man of great faith certainly yet

a man who doubted at times and lied by saying his wife was his sister on two occasions judah joseph’s brother who suggested that they sell their brother into slavery rahab a gentile a former prostitute who acted courageously and was welcomed into God’s family ruth a former widow david a man after God’s own heart and yet a man who committed deep sin and we could go on and on these people are all part of God’s story part of his family they’re the family lineage of Jesus christ and these stories are wide-ranging and far across the spectrum and yet God transforms all of them and here is what we see through this that God works through imperfect and ordinary people to accomplish his perfect and extraordinary plan and I don’t know about you but that’s wonderful news to me the christmas story is a reminder that God can transform

our stories and invite us into his wonderful story that we get to join with him in spreading hope and love to others I love this quote from pastor and author rich velodes and he says this I’m deeply grateful that scripture isn’t a collection of sanitized stories for holy people of holy people it’s rather a collection of stories of ordinary broken people loved by God and made holy through a righteousness outside of themselves that’s great news broken ordinary people that God loves deeply and uses powerfully secondly that we see that Jesus changes everything by transforming our identities I believe we’re in a time where one of the most pressing questions is who are we the question of identity it’s so important for both students and adults alike it’s very easy to define ourselves by what we do or what we have done our jobs our career our income our

athletic ability our grades our achievements and yet none of these things can truly define who we are at our core perhaps for you 2020 rattled your identity a bit things that we thought were so sure our job our health our income have been altered in a year that brought a lot of change we can cling to the fact that we have our true identity in Jesus christ as we read in second corinthians 5 17 therefore if anyone is in christ the new creation has come the old has gone and the new is here by faith we are made new in Jesus we are part of his family we are God’s workmanship heirs of God members of the body of christ God’s children this is what is true about us even when we get tempted to believe lies about who we are we can always rest in what is most true about us in Jesus we find our true identity throughout his ministry Jesus

consistently transformed identities I think of the disciples people from a variety of backgrounds and situations and professions fishermen a tax collector and he transformed them to be his disciples his followers I think of Jesus’s interaction with the woman at the well in john 4 towards the beginning of his public ministry in this encounter she went from someone who was ashamed and rejected by others a woman who had had five husbands and now was living with a man who was not her husband to a woman who had met Jesus she leaves this encounter running into town telling people about Jesus and he can transform our identity too hebrews 13 8 says Jesus is the same yesterday today and forever he doesn’t just change us individually but collectively as well we now belong to one another in the body of christ first peter 2 says we are

a chosen people a royal priesthood a holy nation God’s special possession that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light we’re not designed to do life alone but instead together with each other and while this pandemic has caused us to have to navigate new guidelines and restrictions limitations let us press into doing life together we might have to get creative with a phone call or a zoom but we need each other as we live in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus as Jesus unites us together across our differences the last thing that Jesus changes everything he transforms our stories our identities and lastly our hearts throughout the story of scripture we see the deep love of God for us he’s faithful to his promises and he pursues us relentlessly the christmas story is evidence of that love Jesus

entering into our story as paul writes so powerfully in romans 8 38-39 for I am convinced that neither death nor life neither angels nor demons neither the present nor the future nor any powers neither height nor depth nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in christ Jesus our lord nothing in all creation can separate us from his love not a pandemic not a sickness loss of a loved one a hard year nothing in him we find the love that we so desperately need and long for in him we are fully known and fully loved and it is from this place of being loved that we extend love to others today we’re in week four of the advent conspiracy series and the theme is to love all we’re invited to use the gifts and the resources that God has given us to love others worship fully spend well give more and love all I

wanted to spend the majority of the message today just talking about what Jesus has done for us that he truly does change everything our stories our identities our hearts and the christmas story is not just about some baby in some manger a couple thousand years ago the story is for all people and brings the true hope peace love and joy that we crave and need in his life death and resurrection Jesus is inviting us into his family ephesians 5 1 and 2 are two of my favorite verses in all of scripture and I think they tie this whole theme together well of today and from this series paul writes this follow God’s example therefore as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love just as christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God I love how paul writes exactly who we are dearly loved children and as dearly

loved children then he offers the command to walk in the way of love and that’s how we’re called to live and this christmas we’re invited into an opportunity to love those around us as pastor amy mentioned in the kids moment to love those who are different from us to love those who may be hard to love to love those in our immediate family those close to us our friends and relatives it might be a little different this year but we are called to love as Jesus loved sacrificially and generously one of my favorite authors is bob goff I love his books love does and everybody always and he puts it this way Jesus talked to his friends a lot about how we should identify ourselves he said it wouldn’t be what we said we believed or all the good we hoped to do someday nope he said we would identify ourselves simply by how we loved people

it’s tempting to think there’s more to it but there’s not love isn’t something we fall into love is someone we become I love that quote we’re called to love those around us with everything that we have using the gifts and the time and the resources that we have to encourage to bring hope in this christmas season I’ll throw in one more quote because I like him a lot but he says this don’t save up love like you’re trying to retire on it give it away like you’re made of it and that’s my challenge to each of us today I don’t know what that looks like exactly for you and we have to be smart and consider it in the season with the pandemic but it starts in our home in our family with our roommates spread to our communities our neighborhoods our schools our city our state and beyond as first john 4 19 says we love because he first loved us and that

changes everything let’s pray dearly father I thank you so much for today I thank you each for each person who could be here and joining in online I pray lord that you would wrap us in your arms that we would experience your love that this christmas season and what has been a hard and trying year I pray that each and every one of us would feel and experience your love and we would spread that love with boldness and generosity to those around us we thank you for what you’ve done for us in Jesus name amen thank you so much billy I just love this staff team here it’s just so incredible to have so many people that can do so many things and and billy’s been working along with hannah with our students for the last three months as he said and he’s been doing that part-time while he’s also teaching while also coaching basketball and here’s the

amazing thing when you throw out the word part-time that always gets me I used to do that role as well and yeah I never preached half a sermon I never sat through half a counseling session I was never at half an event it was always full time as well so I’m so appreciative of of both of you guys for all that you’re doing with with our students uh I just wanted to do something that’s a little in-house at the moment um many of you all know carolyn schmidt she’s a dear friend of south and and carolyn has has covered at the moment and she’s in icu um and we wanted to just gather as a community and pray for her um would we do that for everyone maybe um will we do it for carolyn definitely I just like her more than I like you guys no I’m joking I just prefer her to no it’s but I do want to just gather and just be thankful for

carolyn and the 64 years that she’s been involved in this community for eric and she and she they’re here every week and it’s just an incredible blessing to our community so we’re just going to gather and pause God when we don’t know how to pray we’re told that you pray through us with groanings with moanings with words that we don’t understand and we are jealous for carolyn she is our dear friend and we love her and we pray that you will bring healing to her we’re thankful for this story that she has with you that she has this eternal security in you that you’d love her and you know her but we love her and long for her to be with us and so we pray for your healing now we pray that you bring strength to our body we pray for wisdom for doctors that the doctors and nurses that are working with it today I pray

that they would be wide awake well hydrated strong able to think things through able to hear from you even if they’re not aware of it I pray they will be guided by wisdom from above and the decisions that they make we thank you for people like that all over the country all over the world that are helping people deal with kovid and all other sicknesses and so we pray for each person in our community too that is sick right now thank you that you God of healing but we do pray for our friend carolyn make us strong thank you Jesus amen I’m going to close us with the benediction that billy gave in the first service it’s from ephesians chapter 3 I pray that out of his glorious riches God may strengthen you with power through his spirit in your inner being so that christ may dwell in your hearts through faith and I pray that you being rooted and established

in love may have power together with all God’s people to grasp how wide how long and how high that love really is this morning maybe you go with that love may you know it and may you share it with the world around you boldly and confidently go in peace friends have a great sunday

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Love All | Advent Conspiracy (Week 4)2024-06-12T14:57:15-06:00

The Parables of Jesus | A Pattern of Pursuit | Luke 15:1-32 | Week 4

TRANSCRIPT

THE PARABLES OF JESUS: A Pattern of Pursuit   Luke 15:1-32   Billy Berglund

Good morning!  My name is Billy Berglund, and for the last four years, I’ve had the privilege of being on staff here at South Fellowship, working part-time with the students as I pursued my Masters from Denver Seminary.  It’s just been a real privilege to my wife Hannah and I.  We’ve had an eventful summer so far.  Our son Cooper joined us on May 31st.  He was born six weeks early, so he kind of surprised us.  He spent some time in the NICU, but he’s growing and is getting a little chunky now, which is awesome.  We feel real blessed to have Cooper with us.

Hannah and I celebrated our five year anniversary (which is coming up) with our last trip before Cooper came, along with celebrating finishing seminary.  We went to Phoenix in March.  We went to this Mexican restaurant, at the suggestion of Josh Suddath, our student pastor.  We walk up and it’s tiny.  The tables are an arm’s length apart from each other.  We walk in and felt out of place.  We’re way underdressed; everybody is really dressed up and the waiters are real fancy.  We sit down and they hand us the menu and the waiter says, “Can I get anything started for you?”  I said, “Yeah, we’ll take some chips and salsa.”  The waiter said, “Well, chef doesn’t do chips and salsa.”  What Mexican restaurant doesn’t do chips and salsa?!  We’re looking at the menu.  We can’t pronounce anything on the menu.  I look at the prices and thought, “Wow, Josh is playing a prank on us.” We found some food to eat.  Halfway through our meal, we see some commotion starting.  The waiters are frantically getting some tables put together.  They asked a couple to move to a different table.  They weren’t going to ask us to move because they didn’t give us chips and salsa, but….   A group came in; they were dressed up in suits and ties or dresses.  They came in kind of one by one and the last person to walk in was John Elway.  On this Tuesday night, in March, in Phoenix.  I don’t know how he heard I was in town, but he decided to come and be at the same place.  I even took a picture; he didn’t know that.  When he came in, my whole countenance changed.  This meal was kind of a disaster and we were going to have to take out a loan to pay for it, but once he came in, I was thrilled.  Our conversation stopped and I kept looking over at him.  For me, this was a big deal, but for her, she doesn’t care for retired pro-football stars or that the owner of the Broncos is sitting at the table.  She just wanted to be with me on our anniversary dinner. It turns out, we actually went to the wrong restaurant, so I can’t blame Josh, but we have a cool story that came from it.  I think about that story and in my upbringing and background, I loved football.  I followed football, so John Elway was a big deal.  He’s a legend.  For my wife, it wasn’t that big of a deal.

I think our experiences, background, and upbringing shape the way that we view people.  Whether that’s a relationship with a friend or a family member.  If we feel comfortable with them, we can just be ourselves, kind of live in this freedom.  If we’re anxious and nervous, we’re going to live tense and live out of fear.  I think the same thing happens in our relationship with God and the way that we view him.  A.W. Tozer, the pastor and theologian, said,  “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”  Think about that for a second. I remember hearing that for the first time and thinking, I don’t know if that’s true. But over time, I’ve seen how this is true.  Everything we do is shaped by this.  The way that we view ourselves, the way that we view others, is shaped by our understanding of God.  Not only that, but the way that he views us.  If you were honest with yourself this morning and you thought about God and the way that he viewed you, what would the facial expression on his face be?  Would he be discouraged or disappointed?  Or frustrated or angry?  Or maybe happy or smiling or pleased?  I think the answer to that question really shapes how we live our lives.   We all bring our unique stories here today, our unique backgrounds, and something comes to mind and when we think about God and the way that He views us.  This morning, we’re going to come back to this idea that our understanding of how God views and pursues us will shape how we view and pursue others.

The last few weeks, we have been in a series on the Parables of Jesus. These stories that Jesus tells. He throws them right alongside reality. They would really connect with his listeners.  They were everyday things they could relate to.  He would have these truths come in that maybe you couldn’t see right away, but they draw us in and captivate us, like a TV show or a story or a good book, that just draws us in.  Jesus was this master storyteller, and he would tell stories about life in the kingdom, about God, about grace, and more.

In the past two weeks of the series, Ryan taught the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector.  He said, “The way you see yourself shapes your approach to everything else.” Larry, in the Parable of the Talents, said, “Our theology of God will greatly impact how we experience God.”  This morning, we are going to keep building on those ideas as we look at our passage from Luke 15, if you will turn there with me.  I believe in our study of Scripture today that a pattern will emerge that can be seen throughout Jesus’ ministry and has importance for us today in the way we live our lives.  Here at South, our mission is to live in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus. What we learn and observe about Jesus and his ministry, we’re called to put into practice in the way that we view others.

With this in mind, we’re going to be in Luke 15, starting in verse 1.  Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”   This context is very crucial to understanding the series of three parables that Jesus will tell.  Jesus is speaking to two groups of people. As the master storyteller, Jesus will directly speak to both groups of people, and to us here today. He’s speaking to the lowly of society—the rejected, the outcasts, the tax collectors and sinners— who were despised and often dishonest. Instead of rejecting them, He often spent time with them; he ate meals with them.  As a result, they gathered around to hear him, as verse 1 tells us.  They were drawn to Him.  He showed love to them when most everybody else rejected them.   That’s important.  The second group of people—these Pharisees and teachers of the law—were the Jewish religious leaders. Outwardly, they appeared righteous, but inwardly it was a different story. They were so focused on doing the right things, but they are frustrated with Jesus.  Why would He spend time with these “unclean” people?  They missed his heart entirely. They are muttering about how Jesus is welcoming sinners and eating with them.   They thought if they spent time with these “unclean” people that they would become unclean.  Jesus flips this and shows how he can heal and cleanse them.  A little later in Luke 19:10, Jesus says about himself and his mission:  The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.  This is his mission and his heart. In this series of three parables, Jesus is going to encourage one group—the tax collectors and the sinners—and also challenge the Jewish religious leaders and their mindset.

So with this background in mind, let’s jump into the first parable, found in Luke 15:3-7 — Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?  And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”  

In this parable, we’re beginning to see Jesus’ heart for the lost and a desire to be in a relationship with them. In the story, a shepherd having a hundred sheep would have been a very common thing that would have taken place.  They would have counted them regularly.  To us, losing one may not seem like a huge deal. Sheep often stray and get lost, and after all, the shepherd still has 99 others. But this is a big deal. Jesus is challenging his hearers. He says that each sheep, each person, is valuable to Him.   Once found, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders. There is rejoicing and he calls together a party of celebration over this one lost sheep who was lost, but is now found. You may ask, and it’s a good question, what kind of shepherd would leave ninety-nine sheep all alone to go after one?  It doesn’t sound like a smart move.  But, the reality was at this time, if a sheep got lost, the head shepherd would go searching for the one sheep, while he made sure his helpers stayed with the ninety-nine to keep them safe.  God doesn’t just abandon his followers, but what the parable is showing is His passion for seeking the lost.

In verse 7, he says:   … in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.   Jesus is encouraging his audience and saying there is a place for you.  There’s a place for all of us at the table, we are welcome.  In Jesus, in a relationship with Him, you are not defined by the mistakes you make, but by the grace He gives.   Remember, He’s speaking to lowly outcasts who have been looked down upon for their whole life, and Jesus is saying, “You’re not defined by that.”  The key in this whole parable is this word “repent.” This is a key aspect of Jesus’ ministry.  He’s calling us to repentance, which literally means to change one’s mind.   A change of mind that leads to a change of action. To turn from our sins and turn to God. To be changed internally.  To repent and accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, to believe in him, to place our faith in him. To change from rejecting to accepting Jesus. As this parable, and many other passages throughout the Gospels show, Jesus pursues people with that goal that they would repent and believe.  Repentance is only made possible through God’s grace and his drawing us, his pursuit of us. He takes the initiative. True repentance will lead to a changed life. This invitation is open to all and this is great news.

But for some, they see it differently.  As we saw in verse 2, the religious leaders are grumbling and muttering. They don’t want to welcome in some types of people. They see the community of believers as a special Country Club with reserved access, rather than open to all who would repent and believe in Jesus.  Jesus is challenging their mindset.  In the parable, Jesus is showing them that there will be a great party, a celebration in the community for anyone who turns to him!  But will they join in?  Will they share in his heart and join in the celebration?   Jesus further challenged them, with a bit of irony this time, with the line, “Ninety-nine righteous leaders who have no need to repent.” The religious leaders saw themselves as holy and with no need to repent, but they were wrong. Their self-understanding was warped. As we see throughout the Gospels and in Acts and the New Testament, there is a universal need for repentance. What Jesus is really saying is, “There will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine who think they are righteous and have no need to repent.”  In this first parable, Jesus is highlighting how God views and pursues us. He has deep concern, love and mercy for each individual. We matter to God.

The second parable is found in Luke 15:8-10:  Jesus continues — Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?  And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.”  In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.  This second parable is very similar to the first and it reinforces the points that Jesus made in the first parable. Yet the situation now is slightly different. There’s ten coins that the woman has and she loses one.  We don’t know if she was poor or widowed, so each coin would have mattered a lot to her.  Each coin was worth about a day’s wage at that time.  Some scholars have suggested that the coin would have had more than just monetary value; it could have had sentimental value, like part of a 10-piece set that was like a ring, so it was very valuable to her.  We don’t know exactly the details, but what we do see is the great value placed on finding that coin. Once found, the woman again gathers her friends and neighbors together for a celebration. They celebrate and rejoice together.  In verse 10, Jesus concludes the parable by saying:  In the same way, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.

These two parables together are very intentional. Jesus shows that God is merciful. Each and every individual is precious and important in his sight. He has deep love for each person. We matter to God. He wants to be in a relationship with us and there is rejoicing when even one person repents and turns to him.  Throughout these two parables, Jesus is contrasting a communal response of rejoicing and celebration in the community of faith, with the Pharisees’ grumbling and muttering; they don’t want to welcome in these people.

As I thought of these two parables, with the theme of lost and found, in my own life, stories have a way of drawing us in. Jesus even says, “Wouldn’t you go looking for that sheep?  Wouldn’t you go looking for the coin?”  So, a few years back—quite a few years back now—when I was a young boy, I had a best friend.  We did everything together. Everywhere I went, he went.   He was loyal.  He was faithful. His name was Simba. Simba was a stuffed animal, but he was the best. The timing is kind of funny for this sermon because the new Lion King movie just came to theaters this weekend.  But as a young boy, I hung out with Simba all the time.  I took him everywhere.  I was probably too old for stuffed animals, but are you ever too old for stuffed animals? I took him everywhere. One summer, our family was vacationing up in Keystone, here in Colorado. We were standing around Keystone lake and I had my Simba. There was a high railing and the water down below. Well, I proceeded to drop Simba into the lake. My family still talks about this event to this day. I lost it.  I was wailing and shrieking.  I was inconsolable.  I had to get my Simba back.  If I didn’t get him back, I’d have to make real friends and that was going to be a problem.  We tried everything to try and get him. Finally, we asked a worker at a nearby shop and she had a giant net and was able to scoop out sopping wet, smelly Simba. My joy was restored. There was great rejoicing in the Berglund household that day.

When we lose something that has great value to us, we will go to great lengths to find it, to retrieve it. I think these parables give us a glimpse into God’s heart for us. We matter to him and we are important to him. We are worth pursuing. Have you ever thought of that? God pursues you, because you are worth pursuing. You matter to Him.  You are made in His image, you are loved and known by Him.  You are not just some sheep or some coin, but you hold deep importance in the way you are uniquely and wonderfully made.

Through these first two parables we are seeing how God views and pursues us.  But He doesn’t stop at these two parables. I think that’s really important.  Jesus is now building and he’s coming to kind of this main event,  this third parable. He has told the parable of the lost sheep, then the parable of the lost coin, and now he’s going to tell the parable of the lost son (or prodigal son.) This story may be very familiar to you. In fact, two years ago here at South, we did a six week series called “Freeway,” through the parable of the prodigal son. There is so much to see in this story. This morning, I want to encourage you to enter into this story, even if it’s familiar to you, as if you’re hearing it for the first time. Imagine yourself as a part of Jesus’s original audience and what you would have been seeing and feeling.  I truly believe this story has shaped my understanding of God more than any other. I think it’s really powerful.

Let’s read together now, keeping in mind the context and the two parables Jesus told before this one.  It starts in Luke 15, verse 11-16.  Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons.  The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’  So he divided his property between them.   Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.  After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need.   So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs.   He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

So we can already see some differences emerging in this parable as opposed to the two previous ones. There are two sons in the story and that is important.  The first son willfully chooses to go.  He basically goes up to his father—Jesus is identifying himself with the father in this story—and he says, “I don’t even want to be in a relationship with you. I’d rather have your stuff and I’m going to go.”  This would have been seen as very disrespectful and frowned upon at the time.  In a stunning move, the father gives it to him.  He allows the son to make the choice and to go on his way.  It doesn’t work out so well.  The younger son is not only unfaithful to his father but to his people as he goes off into a distant country. He then proceeds to spend everything he has before a famine comes. He comes to the lowest possible point at rock bottom, longing to eat the pods the pigs were eating.  Maybe you find yourself here today.  Perhaps not exactly what this younger son experienced, but you find yourself at a place you never expected. Through a series of decisions or habits or trials, you feel far away from God. You may feel like there is no way God could forgive you or no way you could turn back. If that’s you this morning, be encouraged, because this story is far from done.

Let’s jump back in now in verse 17:   “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!  I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.   I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father.”   At the lowest possible point, the younger son comes to his senses. He realizes his sin is not only against his earthly father, but against his heavenly father as well.  He is repentant.  He makes this change of mind that leads to a change in action.  He makes a turn in his heart and he sets out to go back to his father. But he cannot imagine that his father will accept him as a son, perhaps as a servant, but never as a son.  Maybe for a meal, but never as a member of the family.  After all, he’s brought so much shame and disgrace upon his family with his reckless living.  It’s also possible he won’t even make it home, as the community might go out on the road to meet him and reject him before he gets home. So with fear and nerves, he sets out for home, not knowing what to expect when he returns.

Let’s finish verse 20.  But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.    I love this verse. God has used this verse in my own life in powerful ways that really caused me to rethink the way that He views me. God is not disappointed in me.  For so long I felt like I was not good enough, that I didn’t measure up.  I have a great earthly father, but between coaches and the pressures that I felt, I felt I was never measuring up.  That God was disappointed in me.  But this story began to change that, that he actually delights in me. He runs to me. At this time, the father running would have been completely unexpected and against cultural norms. But look what happens: The father sees his son, which implies he was looking for him, day after day, longing for his son to come home.  He feels compassion for his son, not disgust. He loves him dearly.  He runs to embrace him; I imagine this giant bear hug.  The father ignores social norms; he brought shame upon himself and acts undignified, but he doesn’t care about that. He cares about his son. His son is home, and his son is forgiven and loved.

The son begins his planned speech to his father.  The son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.”  {He gets through the first two lines, but the father interrupts him. The younger son is genuinely repentant. He acknowledges his sin and knows he is not worthy of being his son, but before he can ask to be made like a hired servant….}   But the father said to his servants, “Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.  Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate.  For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”   So they began to celebrate.

This is so amazing that the younger son will not be a made like a hired servant. Far from it. Instead, he is given a robe, a ring, sandals, and the fattened calf is killed for celebration. Each of these symbolize his being welcomed fully back to the family. He is reconciled completely to his father. Not only that, but he is treated as a guest of honor. They are going to have a community-wide celebration to show he is a deeply loved child and he is fully accepted. Note that the father doesn’t say, “Go clean up and then I can love and accept you.” He probably smelled bad, living with the pigs, but his father embraces and accepts him back.  He forgives him and welcomes him back to the family. There’s a community-wide rejoicing and celebration; this is a wonderful day.

You can imagine the shock on the face of Jesus’ original hearers as they heard this story.  How could this happen?   I think, for us, we can get so familiar sometimes with certain stories from Scripture that we can just read on over this.  We’ve heard it before.  “Yep, the father runs….   I know that.”  But imagine hearing this for the first time.  Imagine truly believing this over your own life:  That God is waiting with open arms; that He wants you to come home; that He is running to you; that He delights in you; He loves you, imperfections and all.  By faith, we are part of His family and there’s a celebration for us.  We belong.  We are his children, sons and daughters of God.  Paul puts it this way in Romans 8:14-16:  For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.  The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”  The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.   Like the song says, “I am no longer a slave to fear, I am a child of God.”

I have the privilege of working with students, here at South in the student ministry, now as a full-time teacher and coach. It is one of the greatest joys of my life. I am so excited for this next generation and I am encouraged by their faith.  But I believe one of the most important issues for students AND adults alike is identity.  It’s so important for us to know that our deepest and truest identity is not in our performance, our popularity, or our earthly success, what we can achieve, but as a child of God.  Our identity is not in what we have done, but in what Jesus has done for us. We can live from approval, not for approval. From this place of acceptance, not for acceptance. We are His children and we can walk in freedom and newness of life.   I just love the picture that Jesus paints of the father running.  My hope is that this begins to be the image that comes to mind when you think about God and the way that He views you; that He delights in you that you’re home with Him.

But let’s return now to the passage in Luke 15. The younger son has just come home, the father embraces him, welcomes him back to the family, there is a great celebration, the lost is found, and everyone is happy.  Well, not quite. Jesus could have ended the parable at the end of verse 24.  That’s how the first two parables end, right? There’s a celebration and rejoicing. But there’s also another question that I have wondered about this chapter of the Bible. As you look at the first two parables, the shepherd and the woman go out looking for what is lost: the sheep and the coin. But in this parable, the father lets his son go and he does not go out after him. He certainly is waiting and he runs to him and embraces him with grace, but it is different than the first two parables. Why is that?  Well, culturally, it was the older brother’s job to go out after the younger brother. To his original hearers, they would have immediately known this. That’s when it clicked for me, that when we put it together, we see Jesus is challenging these religious leaders to live in his way with his heart. To pursue the lost and to welcome them. We see this pattern all throughout the Old Testament, too. Jesus is inviting his people to live on mission with him, to share his heart for the lost, and to pursue them in the way that He has pursued us.  To understand his love and then pursue others in the same way.   Recall our big idea from today:  Our understanding of how God views and pursues us will shape how we view and pursue others.

These Pharisees and religious leaders, they didn’t get it.  They didn’t understand God’s heart and the way that he viewed them. They were missing out on this life-giving relationship.  They’re represented by the older brother in the story, so let’s finish this story together in Luke 15:25-32:  Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing.  So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on.   “Your brother has come,” he replied, “and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.”  The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him.  But he answered his father, “Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.   But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!”  “My son,” the father said, “you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.   But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”

The older brother is upset and angry. He won’t even acknowledge his younger brother, he calls him “this son of yours.” He is upset at the father for even welcoming him back.  He’s missing God’s heart. He spent his whole life trying to earn the Father’s affection. He was living in fear and was completely focused on himself. He didn’t care much for others because his whole world revolved around him.  Jesus is just masterful in the way he tells this story as he speaks so clearly to them.

First, the older brother refuses to go in to the party. So what does the father do? Verse 28—He “went out” to the older brother. He calls him “my son.” He is still pursuing him, just like the father went running to the younger son, he is still pursuing the older son. He is still inviting him to the party. He’s saying it’s not too late to join in on my mission.  Jesus is saying this to the religious leaders, calling them to change, to join in, and to live with Jesus’ heart.

Second, in verse 31, the father says, “My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.” I truly believe this was a foreign idea to the older brother. He could not get his mind around this idea of living in the freedom and love that was offered to him as a son. He even says, “All these years I’ve been slaving for you. I’ve been working for you.” He’s been trying to earn the father’s affection.  But he’s missing the point.  He was so focused on earning, and striving, and keeping score, and comparing, that he was bitter and mad.

Lastly, it is ironic how this parable ends.  It’s known as “The Parable of the Lost Son” or “the Prodigal Son.” I prefer the title of “The Parable of the Surprisingly Good Father.” Both of the other two titles refer to the younger son. But which son is truly lost in this story? Jesus flips it. The older brother is the one missing out and missing the point. Whereas the younger son was lost in his rebellion and he comes home, the older son was lost in his religion and the story ends without knowing what will happen next. The younger brother repents and just hoped to be accepted as a slave or a servant, but he is welcomed as a son. The older brother is already accepted as a son, he is with him, but he is living as a slave. He is not living from his father’s approval and love, but he is striving to earn it.  Yet in both cases, the father goes out to each brother.  Each and every person matters.  God is still pursuing them.

As I reflect on these three parables, I really believe that God has used them to really change my perspective.  This idea of God pursuing me, almost seemed radical. A huge part of this journey came from my very first Sunday at South: August 9, 2015, four years ago. My wife and I moved here the day before, not knowing anyone. I was going to start at Seminary in a few weeks.   We sat in the back and heard Pastor Ryan speak. In that message, I will never forget Ryan’s words.  At the end of the sermon, he said a line that has stuck with me. It really sparked a new trajectory for me and my understanding of who God is and how he views me. He said, “God pursues relentlessly, loves always, and refuses to give up on you. He is relentless to the end.”  For some reason, this just felt new to me that the God of the Universe pursues me, imperfections and all.  He loves me deeply, he is not disappointed, but he delights in me. These parables bring out these wonderful truths so clearly.

So what do we do with all of this? How do we put this into practice in our daily lives? We are invited into this journey together with Jesus. We are meant to do this together. Our faith is not a solo act, but a team sport, we need each other.  As each parable shows, celebration occurs in community among the people of faith, so this mission needs to be our heartbeat. So what does it look like?  If you have your bulletins, you may have noticed I titled this message “A Pattern of Pursuit” and I have left a blank for three lines.  You might have been wondering what that is or why I titled it that way.  The reality is, I have read this story many times, and taught on it, and heard it taught many times.  You can get so familiar with it, but awhile back, I was struck with something. It occurs back in verse 20.  The younger son has gone out and now he’s coming home.  This is what we see:  But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.   It struck me because it sounded familiar. I thought about this pattern that is seen all throughout the gospels.  In Jesus’s ministry, this pattern is seen at numerous times. I don’t think that’s a pure coincidence either, when we find a pattern. Jesus sees people, he feels compassion for them, and then moves toward them in love.

Let’s look at a couple of these examples.  In Luke 7:12-15, Jesus raises a widow’s son  — And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.”  Then he camp up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still.  And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.”   He saw the woman, he had compassion on her, he moved towards her in love, and he heals her son.  In the story of the feeding of the 5,000, which is recorded in Matthew 14:13-16 as well as in Mark 6, we see this pattern as well.  The disciples are tired and want to withdraw by themselves.  Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself.  But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns.  When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.  Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.”  But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.”   And Jesus feeds the five thousand.  Jesus sees people, he feels compassion for them, and then he moves toward them in love, through healing, through teaching, through giving them food to eat.

But it doesn’t stop there.  It’s not just in Jesus’s ministry that we see this example, but in his teaching for us.  In Matthew 9:35-38 there’s a similar type passage — Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.  When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”   Jesus is calling us to send us out, to go out, to live on mission with him.

Perhaps the strongest example of all is the Parable of the Good Samaritan, another well known parable, Luke 10:25-37 — An expert in the Law stands up to test Jesus. He notes he should love God and love his neighbor, but to justify himself, he asks, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus has this answer.  Check it out with this pattern in mind.  Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead.  Now by chance a priest {Who should have helped him.} was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side.  So likewise a Levite, {Who should have helped him.} when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.  But a Samaritan, {The last person you would have thought of to help him.  Culturally, it was unthinkable.} as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion.  He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine.  Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him.  And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’   Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”  He said, “The one who showed him mercy.”  And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”   This is the pattern of seeing people, feeling compassion, and moving towards them in love.

Following Jesus’ pattern of pursuit, the first thing we’re called to is to truly see others.  Everyone that we know and everyone that we see bears God’s image.  Seeing others as God sees them starts with knowing how God sees us. Every person you meet has a story. Instead of quickly judging or ignoring others, what if we started noticing them? Think about how much that means to you when someone takes the time to notice you. I think through my story and the men who have noticed me, and pursued me. My volunteer basketball coach Scott in high school.  The Senior captain on the basketball team in college named John.  Pastor Rob in Minnesota while I was finishing college.  Pastor Ryan here at South who was my mentor for three years.  Or Russ Smith at Denver Christian.  These are guys who took notice of me and cared about me.  I think of Kevin Perdew here at South, one of our leaders with the students. He notices and talks to each and every student, he reaches out to the new students, including the students who are quiet and shy. What if we each did this not only here at church, but in our workplaces, neighborhoods, schools, sports teams, and in our community?

Secondly, cultivating compassion for others, following this pattern from Jesus.  How do we get to a place where we feel compassion for others on their journey?  It starts with listening to their story.  Everybody has a story and is on a journey.   Build a relationship with them, engage with them, slow down.   See conversations and relationships, not as interruptions, but as invitations and opportunities.   Ask God to help cultivate this in us, the more we do it, the more we grow and develop it.   To slow down and listen, rather than just rushing on with our own agendas.  Another of our student volunteers, Kevin Rayl, does this so well. He cares so deeply for our students and has a heart of gold. He goes out of his way to build up our students, to pray for them, to follow up with them. He has done that with Hannah and I from day one here at South. It may not seem like a lot, but it matters so much to others.

Lastly, moving toward others in love. Jesus did this over and over and it wasn’t always the same way.  Sometimes it was healing or teaching or feeding or raising a son to life.  But what does it look like for us as we move towards others in love?  Building a relationship.  Meeting a pressing need with the resources that God has entrusted to us.  Extending love and care for people.  Extending forgiveness, maybe to a family member or a friend that we have a difficult relationship with.  Inviting others into community.  All these parables shared the same theme of doing this together in community. Today is our Local Ministry Partner Sunday. This could be a great way to get plugged in and move towards others in love. There are tables in the lobby right after this service to learn about various organizations that South partners with and hear about the work they’re doing right here in our community. Their areas of ministry range from supporting the homeless, ending human trafficking, fighting hunger, tutoring kids, and more. This could be a great opportunity to get plugged in and serving.  If we’re committed to living in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus, then we’re called to do that together as a community in our community.  1 John 4:19: We love because he first loved us.

Putting it altogether: We see how God deeply loves and pursues us. He values us, being made in His image and pursues us. He invites us into a life with Him, as we love and pursue others.

As we end this morning, I have asked Aaron to come up and close with a song. I have left a spot at the end of your bulletin for “My Next Step.”  I want to encourage us to be thinking about what is one next step that we could take from what we have heard today. I love this song, its called “By Your Side” by Tenth Avenue North. Perhaps God did something in your heart, whether you connected with the younger son, or the older son.  Or maybe the way that you view God or the way He views you was challenged or changed today.  This song speaks to us, as we always remember that God pursues relentlessly, He loves always, and He refuses to give up on you.  Let’s sing.

The Parables of Jesus | A Pattern of Pursuit | Luke 15:1-32 | Week 42024-06-12T15:32:30-06:00
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