Why Am I HERE? Because I Want to Grow Like Christ

… OF FIRST IMPORTANCE. That’s the phrase Paul uses. Wow. What is of first importance with you?… ‘Need to think about it? Not Paul. His answer is certain, immediate, passionate, clear. First things first in his life, in ours. That’s what Paul says. First: Christ died for our sins in accordance with scripture. He really died: ‘was even buried. But second, on the third day he was raised in accord with scripture. Third, real folks have really seen him! Peter. The twelve. Hundreds! James saw him. Paul, too. Paul knows he’s an unlikely candidate for such blessing. But of first importance, Paul knows, “by the grace of God I am what I am.” For all his efforts, even working harder than the rest, he’s become what he is, not by himself, but by, “the grace of God which is with me.” I Cor. 15: 10

Thank God for first things first… if we know them. But this is no place to stop. Not in life or in faith. There’s another imperative. In life and in faith, we simply have to grow…or we will shrink and die. Even Jesus! Don’t miss what Luke writes. Even twelve year old Jesus, home from his adventures at the Temple [Poor Mary and Joseph, scared witless they’d lost him (many a twelve year old’s parents have known the feeling)], even Jesus needs to grow. And not just in height. Jesus, “grew in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man.” Lk. 2: 52 … OF FIRST IMPORTANCE, you and I need to know, to our bones, what’s of first importance. And then we require a good stature-stretching. Friends, we’ve been asking of late, “Why am I here?” In church. In worship, study, fellowship and praise. In life. Here’s why. Because we desire to know and declare what’s of first importance with us. And we want to grow; we want to grow like Christ!

It’s June 22. You’re in church. Lots of others are already at play. So why are you here? I pray, to get and keep first things first. It’s not easy. The world and the devil will see to that, even here, holy as we try to be. (Cue “Dude DVD: Begin to .44 gum) We get caught up in ourselves. (Cue “Dude DVD: .53 to 1.20 phone) Other messages seem more urgent. (Cue “Dude DVD: 1.30 to 1.51 asleep) We’re too exhausted to focus. [(Skip “Dude DVD: 1.58 to 2:11 piano) Occasionally we get it. (Cue “Dude DVD: 2.22 to 2.42 ear phones) [More] often we prefer to hear what we want. (Cue “Dude DVD: 2.50 to 3.11late) God does not seem urgent to us. …So-it-goes-out-there all week, and even in here sometimes, as we’ve seen. So let Paul and me give you the first things first. And let a picture (in your head and on your heart) be worth a 1000 words.

The wooden cradle.

The outstretched hand.

The footprint in the sand.

The sinner called. (“Zaccheaus, come down.”)

The sinner by the cross forgiven. (Adulteress.)

The evidence He’s risen. (Tomb.)

Now, if six-things-first is far too many, picture this, first above any.

(Cue “Dude DVD: 3.21 to end. Jn. 3: 16)

It’s not that any of what we’ve shared is new, at least not to most of us. It’s just that it gets crowded out, pushed aside, missed ‘cause we’re just too tired to see. Christ-first gets tuned out by all our me-first tunes. Our Ipod wrestles with our God. As we counsel our kids, we counsel each other. Think of where-you-live-and-how like a box with six sides. Step into it today. Cradle, hand, footprint in the sand; sinner called, sinner by the cross forgiven, Christ is risen. A life so bordered, so first-things-first, graces the best and bests the worst!

But this box keeps getting bigger, deeper, wider, higher. We, too. God has programmed growing into us. Shall we follow the program? Only Luke gives us Jesus as a youth. And he can’t let Jesus get more than 32 verses from the manger without noting that the Savior can and must grow. The body-thing is obvious. Not so, the heart, the mind, the spirit, “Favor with God and man.” O, I’ve had numbers of well-meaning, deep-believing souls tell me over time. “Jesus came into this world knowing everything about everything. Afterall, he was God. Jesus could do anything… from birth. Afterall, he was God. Jesus understood everything, foresaw all things. Afterall, he was God.” Well, one thing’s Biblically right here. He was one with the Father. He says so. ‘More than once. But Luke insists from the start, Jesus grows. The other gospels join in painting the picture. Christ tempted, 1ce, 2ce, 3ce in the wilderness, each time passing the test, putting to use the learnings of his youth for the calling of his soul. His only teachers were the rabbis. But time and time again, counseled by the Spirit, he says, “You have heard it said of old… but I say unto you….” He grows in relation to the disciples and in his teaching. On the one hand, he refuses help, saying God’s people Israel first; on the other, the hated Samaritan a hero and, “I have other sheep who are not of this fold.” On his knees in the Garden, “Let this cup pass.” On his feet before Pilate (who executed him), “You have no power over me.” And “Freely I lay my life down, that I may pick it up again.” Friends, Scripture is clear, if we want to go with Jesus, we will have to grow like Jesus! I believe that’s why we’re here. Because even on summer’s 1st Sunday, we are those who want to grow like Christ. We’re up for the journey, the Discipleship Adventure!

If you (and I) want to grow/walk/be like Christ, then surely how he grew will guide our growing. Let me suggest 4 very practical things to guide our gait this summer. 1) Jesus constantly brings his circumstances before God. Do you? Do I? We frequently feel our lives turned upside down. Like a tipped-over turtle, rarely can we get right again by our own struggling. Jesus knew the feeling. O, he never gassed a donkey at $4/gal. ‘Never saw his IRA drop 450 points with the Dow. ‘Never got that word from the doc, “This is no Stage 1 illness; you’re up to #3 already.” But when deeply challenged, he constantly drew apart. He laid it before God. He listened. Deeply. He encountered God, living between the awful and the awesome, and having seen, saw new ways for his days. He carried scripture in his heart. There were no books then. But he went to the Word like a parched lip to a full ladle. This summer, bring what’s on top of you, over you, against you… before God. Jesus will help. You will grow, more and more like Jesus. 2) Christ never forsakes the worshipping community for long. He travels more than we-in-summer. But his constant refuge is the synagogue or Temple. Jesus always lashes the unknowns of his journey to the knowns, the assurances of worship and praise. We can learn from this. We can grow like this. 3) Jesus grows by constant contact and deep fellowship with the community of faith. He doesn’t travel alone. He never tries to believe alone. He never claims a victory alone. How many summers give us recreation but not renewal because we lose our spiritual way, apart from the spirit community?

One last lesson. Jesus saw every step as a mission, not just a misery or a moment. For him, this remained of first importance. Many have been saturated with memorials to Tim Russert. One printed word described him as a “Sermon-on the-Mount-Catholic.” OK. But can’t we grow a little more ourselves to live as “Sermon-on the-Mount-Christians”, seeking to grow more and more like our “Sermon-on the-Mount Savior?” Like Jesus: our God talk always a God walk. Maybe that’d set us right-side-up, and others all around.

I want to grow like Jesus. First things first. Nearer, closer. I wanna get to the place where folks can look at me and see more and more of him. It’s why I’m here. And you? Together with Jesus, we’ve got some walking to do.

RSS feed


No comments yet.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.