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We Instead of Me

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Isaiah 43:18-19

Isaiah 43:18–19 ESV
18 “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. 19 Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.
The exodus, the plagues, the Red Sea, the supernatural provision of food, water, and protection—all demonstrations of God’s power.
Just like the Jewish exiles in Babylon, God is calling us to not live on past memories, past miracles, past demonstrations of the Spirit.
Just like the Jewish exiles in Babylon, God is calling this church to look for God—and what He accomplished in Egypt as a paradigm of deliverance.
Where there is no clear path forward, God creates one.
Where there is no natural relief or refreshment, God provides it.
There is an exodus that God is leading you and me through with His ultimate goal of His people declaring His praise.
Isaiah 43:21 ESV
21 the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise.

God doing a NEW THING is nothing new.

God reveals to us through HIs written Word that He is all about doing something new.
Whether it is a new covenant like with Noah after the flood.
Whether it is a new direction like with Abraham to a new land God would show him.
Whether it is a new law like with Moses on Mount Sinai.
Whether it is a new disposition like with Gideon from being a coward to a mighty warrior.
Whether it is a new profession like with David from being a shepherd to being a king.
Whether it is a new call like with Elisha from being a farmer to being a prophet.
Whether it is a new life like Paul from being a persecutor of the church to being a proclaimer of Christ.
It would be very easy to believe that even though God did it in the past, He does not do that now.
But, we are reminded of this truth:
Hebrews 13:8 ESV
8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
He is the Creator—He creates.
God rescues, restores, and heals.
When a person or His people veer off course, He lovingly, graciously, and purposefully guides them back to productivity and purpose.
He is always at work doing something new for a people ready and willing to follow Him.
QUESTION: Are we ready and willing to follow Him?
One of the ways we demonstrate a willingness to follow God is for us to do what he says.
BIBLICAL ILLUSTRATION: A socially respected leader in Israel’s society asked Jesus a question:
Matthew 22:36–40 ESV
36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
Jesus quoted from the Old Testament Law: Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18.
All Jewish people were obligated to know and to practice this law. For these commandments encapsulated the idea of total devotion to God.
Transition
But, something happens in the Gospel of John, chapter 13, that takes this to a whole new level of understanding and practice.
Jesus said:
John 13:34–35 ESV
34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
QUESTION: What is love (what does it mean to love one another)?

Love signifies a concrete responsibility to seek the greatest good for another.

QUESTION: Why is this a new commandment? What is different in this commandment?
Jesus taught frequently about loving one another. Why is this new?
They way Jews were taught how to love others:
Matthew 22:39 ESV
39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said it this way:
Matthew 7:12 ESV
12 “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
However, in John 13, Jesus gives a new Commandment concerning loving others.

Genuine followers of Christ are called to love others as Christ loves others.

It is important that we understand the depth of this command.
First, this command is not given just to an individual, but to the community of faith. It is addressed to the community that Jesus established as a result of His death and resurrection. THIS COMMAND IS ADDRESSED TO THE CHURCH!
Second, in the establishment of this community (the Church), this rule of love is absolutely crucial to the community’s health and vitality.
Third, this kind of love—a love motivated by Christ’s love for us—is a love empowered by the Holy Spirit. The indwelling Spirit enables us to love like Jesus (we cannot do this apart from saving faith).
Fourth, it is essential to know the context of this command: “just as I have loved you.” Without understanding Christ’s love for His Church, this commandment has almost no practical meaning.

The Call to love others as Christ loves others is a Call to Self-Sacrifice.

John 15:12–13 ESV
12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
This kind of Self-Sacrifice kind of love takes the initiative. It does not wait for someone to love us like this first—we do it first! And, we continue to love others like this!
This kind of Self-Sacrifice kind of love has no hint selfishness.
Philippians 2:6–8 ESV
6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
And, if you want to know how this passage in Philippians applies to us, just look at the three preceeding verses (verse 3-5)
Philippians 2:3–5 ESV
3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,

The Call to Love Others as Christ Loves Others is a Call to Inclusivity.

We must abandon the “us four and no more” mentality.
In Jesus’ day, the Pharisees were rebuked for their hostility toward others—their hatred of the Gentiles and Samaritans.
In the Old Testament, Jonah was judged by God for his deep-seated intolerance against the Ninevites.
Racism, arrogance, mockery, and belittling, have no place in the Kingdom of God.
ILLUSTRATION: I had a friend in college who confided in me that he could not handle being even near a mentally challenged person. He would get physically ill in his discuss. Later he got married—a few years after that his wife gave birth to a son—a son with mental and physical disabilities. Today, my friend is an advocate of those with these kind of challenges.
We are called to love—even the unlovable.

The Call to Love Others as Christ Loves Others is a Call to Generosity.

John 3:16 ESV
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
God gives!
Generosity is not just connected with giving of money.
Generosity speaks of giving our time. It speaks of listening to others with respect. It speaks of forgiveness and not holding grudges. It speaks of compassion for the hurting, the destitute, the disenfranchised, and the poor.
Transition
QUESTION: What does this have to do with us and our New Vision.
Without loving like Jesus, our vision will be nothing more than a banner on the wall.
Loving like Jesus is the only way we can be the church God has called us to be.
Conclusion
As I conclude this message, I want to introduce to you a key thought to the direction God is calling me to lead this church.
We have to do everything we can to help everyone in this church connect to one another.
We NEED TO BE CONNECTED TO ONE ANOTHER. It is about Real Relationships based on Real Love that facilitates Real Change that affects our life in a Real Way!
ILLUSTRATION: A few days ago my wife called me with frustrating news. Our clothes dryer wasn’t working. This was not in my budget. But, we did have an extra dryer in our basement—but, because it was electric, there was no proper hookup in our laundry room. Not only that, in the basement, there was the correct electrical outlet—but it had no power. It was not connected to the power source. So, I called a friend who was gracious to take time out of his busy life to get me connected. With the connection, the dryer worked—I was happy—at the Walker house life could go on.
We need to be connected—and it requires you to be willing to make the first step.
This church must make the decision: “We, instead of Me.”
Altar Call: Salvation
Altar Call: Connection
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