Faithful - Dust - w3
Faithful • Sermon • Submitted
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God’s Faithfulness is not just what He does for you, but its also what He believes about you.
Good evening on the internet!
My name is Charlie Kae and I’m the lead pastor at Grace Empire in Wesley Chapel, Florida and I would like to welcome everyone to week 43 of Grace Empire online.
Our vision is to restore, revitalize, and refresh the community of Tampa Bay through an intimate relationship with Jesus.
Everyone is welcome at Grace Empire, but if you were to ask us what our focus is, we started Grace Empire to reach the non-affiliated, gnostics, and non-believers. If you or someone you know has been hurt by religion or has been burned out by doing church, Grace Empire fits a unique role for those that are looking to reengage their faith or find an accepting community.
As a church, we try to keep Jesus at the center of everything we do, so we are praying that you encounter and experience our living God tonight.
We love interaction. So feel free to comment, ask questions, and ask for prayer while you’re watching and the admins will address them ASAP.
But before we continue, our online disclaimer.
Grace Empire Online focus on giving you sermons - so without a doubt - this is an incomplete version of church.
As we move forward with this online church thing, I wanted to urge you and remind you that online church should never replace the community you get from your local church.
We love and are so very honored that you tuned in with us today and by no means am I saying this to guilt trip you, hurt you or make you feel inadequate in anyway. We know everyone is on a different journey with God and the fact that some of you are watching is a huge step and I applaud you for that.
At Grace Empire, our goal is to keep Jesus at the center of everything we do and a big part of that is understanding our place within the church. It’s not just that you need people (which you do); but it’s that people need you.
But as I said, the online church is an incomplete version of what God intended the church to be. The local church also gives you a place to
1. Worship / Praise / Sing
2. Met with other believers in Fellowship and discipleship
3. To serve our community through social action
4. Fulfill the Sacraments of the church
a. Which for us is baptism and communion
b. We plan to continue to do online communion, at the start of every month.
5. And lastly, gives our tithes and offering
a. At GXE we teach that we give to give, not give to get. We give our tithes and offerings because we are thankful to God for providing for our needs. It is also to acknowledge that we live, work, and are sustained because He allows us to be. And because of the advancements in technology giving is an easy one.
b. You can give online through our website www.graceempire.com, or via text by texting the words GraceEmpire to the number 77977 and then follow the link texted to you.
You can either do that now, or at the end of the message.
Alright with all that out the way…lets get to Jesus shall we?
Well this is week 3 of our series titled Faithful, where we tackle the very real question, is God faithful 100% of the time? And if He is, what do we do when we don’t feel like He is. In week 1, we began answering this question by creating a foundation for our premise to stand on. God’s faithfulness has everything to do with who he is; it is his DNA. Faithfulness is not what he does, but it is his very nature. In week 2, we observed the life of Paul the apostle. God’s faithfulness in Paul’s life was always paved with golden roads. Paul went through some real hardships and those hardships spanned for many years. Life throws trials and hardships our way and sometimes, the lasting effects of those tribulations can take years. When that happens, it’s easy to loss faith. It’s easy to begin wondering where God is in all of this. Is He really as faithful as everyone says he is? God’s faithfulness to us doesn’t always look like how we want it to look like, but he is faithful just the same.
Today we will unpack one of the more famous stories of Jesus and see if we can learn something about God’s faithfulness in them.
So if you have your bibles you can turn to Ephesians 2:10 because this will be our umbrella verse for today. This will be the overarching theme of today and also a great verse to memorize. Ephesians 2:10 says,
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
We are God’s masterpiece. I love this. When God created us, He did it with purpose. When God created us, He did it with a plan. After God created you, he looked at you, and thought, I did it. This is my handiest work. This is my magnum opus. This is my masterpiece. Everyones response to this idea is different. Some roll your eyes at this; sounds like a cheesy lifetime movie. I know others of you desperately need to hear this cause you have never seen yourself this way. Whatever your response, this is what I want you to focus on today. This is what God thinks. Whatever your response is to you own reflection or whatever your response is to this truth, lay that aside and focus on the fact that this is what God thinks of you. And it is His thoughts that will be the overarching theme of today.
Now, lets turn to Matthew 14:22-33 and read from there. If you don’t have a bible you can read along with us on screen.
22 Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. 23 After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone. 24 Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. 25 About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!” 27 But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!” 28 Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”
Now I want to stop right here and ask a question. If this is your first time reading this, I am thrilled for you because this is a classic story and one that comes with many incredible lessons. Im glad you are here to read this with us. But if you are more like me, as a Christian I have read, heard, and preached this passage an exorbitant amount of times and sometimes when I do that, I have a tendancy to fly past a story without stopping to reflect on it. This is a bad habit and one I am trying to break. What can I learn new from this passage? That question is usually answered by another question.
So Jesus tells his disciples to go ahead of him and Jesus would catch up later. Sometimes even God needs some alone time, you feel me? Well the disciples get caught up in a storm and it leaves them in a bad state…just cause God tells you to do something doesn’t mean its not going to come with any struggles, and the disciples are out there rowing and rowing, and they can’t seem to get to land. I know some of us feel the same way right? But at about 3 in the morning, Jesus does catch up with them, but not in a speed boat as they imagined. Jesus is straight up walking on water, in a storm with heavy waves mind you. The disciples freak out! It’s a ghost they cry! Makes total sense…they are on the water, in a heavy storm. I imagine it’s dark, no moon, no stars because they are covered by the storm clouds. The water is black as night, and is thrashing the boat. You might as well add some scary music to this cause this is a scene straight out of a horror movie. So when they see a being, walking on the tumultuous water, their response totally makes sense.
But Jesus comforts then, he says, “Yo disciples, chill…it’s all good homies. Everything is going to be alright cause Jesus is here.”
And then Peter calls out to Jesus, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”
And this is where I want to stop because this was my first question. Why would Peter say this? I get the response of the disciples…it’s a ghost. I get that. But after being in the heavy waves all night, rowing for their lives, Peter wants to GET OUT of the boat and go to Jesus? Why would that be his response? Honestly, when I put myself in that situation, I dont think that thought would have even occured to me. So why does Peter do this? What is he thinking and why does he believe he can walk on water?
See what I’ve come to learn is that this story makes way more sense when you understand the culture that the disciples are living in. Jesus is a jewish rabbi, with jewish disciples, living in a first century Jewish world. Jesus and the disciples are from a region called Galilee and Jews from that region, and from all over the world even to this day, believe that God gave to a man named Moses (one the great historical leaders of the Jewish culture) the inspiration to write the first five books of the Bible. They called these books the Torah. Torah means teaching, or instruction, or simply The Way. So the Torah was incredibly important to the Jews living in that time and became the basis, the center, the foundation of their lives. They based their whole way of life around the Torah, INCLUDING their educational system. The Torah is how every jewish boy learned about God and the Torah also would be the rubric in which their lives were determined.
So around 6 years old, most jewish boys and girls would begin going to school for the first time to learn the Torah, which would probably be held in the local synagogue and be taught by a local Torah teacher, who was a rabbi. The first level of this education was called Bet Safar, and lasted until around 10 years old. In this first level of education, most kids would have the first 5 books of the bible, the Torah, memorized. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy memorized. Now at the end of Bet Safar, most kids would stop going to school and be apprenticing in the family trade, or learning to manage a home, but a few of the kids, the best of the best, would continue their Torah education. This next level was called Bet Talmud. And these best of the best kids, the ones that had the most aptitude and natural ability, would be chosen to continue learning the Hebrew scriptures and would memorize ALL of it. From Genesis to Malachi.
This is hard, obviously. And by 14 or 15 years old, most kids cannot cut it and go back to apprenticing for the family business, blacksmithing, fishing, tanning, but a few…we are talking about the best of the best of the best, would continue on to the next level of jewish education and that was called Bet Midrash, and in this level, those kids would go to a rabbi and apply to that rabbi to become one of his disciples. It reminds me of being chosen to be a TA for a professor at Harvard or something…but with more honor and respect.
Now when we think disciple, we generally think of education, to be a disciple is to know what the teacher knows, but back in 1st century jewish culture, the term disciple was more nuanced then that. To be someones disciple was a desire to become just like their rabbi. To not only know what they know but to be a mirror of that rabbi. They want to do what the rabbi does. Walk as he walk, talk as he talk.
Now each rabbi interpreted the Scriptures slightly differently, one rabbi might look at a particular passage and say, ah this is what it means to live out this scripture, but another rabbi might look at that same scripture and say, “no I think it means something different.” This differing interpretation of scripture, or a rabbi’s set of interpretations was called a rabbi’s yolk. So when a would be disciple applied to a rabbi to become his disciple, it would be said that you would take on that rabbi’s yolk. Talking on the rabbi’s yolk means that you know what the rabbi knows so that you can do what the rabbi does. Make sense?
So when that kid has chosen whos yolk they want to take on, they go to that rabbi and ask, can I be your disciple? The rabbi would then begin interviewing or grilling the kid. He would ask questions about the Torah, would ask questions about the prophets, and ask questions about the oral traditions, because what the rabbi is trying to ascertain is, can this kid hack it? Can this kid really stand in front of me and learn? Can this person walk behind me and follow in my footsteps? Can he do what I do?
And if the rabbi thinks, well he does know his Torah and he does love God, but he doesn’t have the eye. He’s pretty good, but just not good enough, the rabbi might say, “kid you’re good, but I think at this point, it would be better for you to go and learn the family trade. You’re not cut out for this.” Savage, right? BUT if the rabbi does think…this kid is one of the best of the best of the best, hes got the eye of the tiger, this is Adonis Creed to my Rocky Balboa, then the rabbi will take this kid on. At this point, this 14 or 15 year old kid would leave everything, family, friends, synagogue, village, his entire life and begin following this rabbi. You would devote your entire life to becoming just like your rabbi, to knowing what he knows and doing what he does. This is what it means to be a disciple.
So as the rabbi travels from place to place doing what the rabbi does, his disciples are doing his best following behind him, trying to do what the rabbi does, and be the end of the day, the disciples would be caked in whatever the rabbi was walking in. I mean, the roads are dusty and unpaved, and filled with all kinds of grossness and unspeakables, and if you have ever walked on a dusty road behind someone, you will eventually get dust on your face and on your clothes and on your person, so legend says that a saying developed among the wisemen and the sages, and the wisemen would say, “may you be covered in the dust of your rabbi.”
So now that you know this brief history lesson about Jewish education and discipleship, you can see how this applies to Jesus. Most rabbis begin their discipleships around 30, which just happened to be when Jesus begins his ministry. This was obviously not a coincidence; Jesus in many ways was sensitive to traditions of his culture. So when Jesus began walking, he comes across Peter and Andrew and they are fisherman and he tells them, come follow me. Well if they are fisherman, they have already dropped out of jewish school. They are already NOT the best of the best of the best. So when Scripture continues, and it says they dropped their nets and followed him, it begins to make sense. It was more than just Jesus electric personality or the fact he did this fishing miracle, in this culture, only the best of the best of the best was allowed to follow a rabbi. It was the highest honor a man could have. It was the dream and ambition of every Jewish kid, and for Peter and Andrew, they had to let go of that dream, but now, they are asked to follow this rabbi? All of a sudden, dropping everything to follow Jesus makes a little more sense doesn’t it? It’s like Jesus looked at Peter and Andrew and said, I think you could do what I do. I think you could be like me.
Then the story continues, Jesus will come across James and John and they are fishing with their father Zebedee, and what does that mean, that mean they are apprentices. They also dropped out. They also were shown to NOT be the best of the best of the best. Matter of fact, the fact they are fishing with their father probably means they were still learning the trade. These are young kids. When we think of the disciples we have a tendency to think of them as grown men, but here we are starting to see that many of these disciples were just young boys. High school kids just entering puberty. Why does Jesus choose these NOT good enoughs? Because Jesus is trying to say, that this movement is for everybody. It doesn’t matter if you werent good enough over there, over here, on J-squad, you are.
So lets go back to the walking on water thing, you got this boat full of unexceptional people, and they are being tossed by the waves and things are not going well for them, then Jesus shows up walking on a 20 foot wave, and they are terrified cause they think he’s Jason Voorhees or something, and when Jesus tells them, it’s okay…its me…your rabbi. Peter’s first response is let me come out to you. Do you see why this is his first response? Because he is a disciple, Peter has reoriented his whole life to know what Jesus knows and to do what Jesus does. So he sees his rabbi walking on water and he’s like, I need to do what my rabbi is doing. But what happens? Lets continue reading.
29 “Yes, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted. 31 Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?” 32 When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped. 33 Then the disciples worshiped him. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed.
So Peter gets out of the boat, and for a few miraculous moments, Peter is doing it. Hes walking on water. He is being like his rabbi. But then he looks around, sees the winds and the gnarly waves, and begins to sink. Peter will cry out “save me Lord!” something I must have said a thousand times in my life. And Jesus does. He immediately grabs him and said, you of little faith, why did you doubt?
And here is my next pause. Who did he doubt? Whenever I hear this story, Peter’s sinking is always attributed to Peter taking his eyes off Jesus and focusing on the storm. Oh it’s cause Peter looked at the winds and the waves and thats why he started to sink. And that very well be true, but Jesus response to Peter isn’t, why did you take your eyes of me? But he looks into Peter’s heart, not his actions, and tells him why did you doubt? So who does Peter doubt here?
Well the obvious answer was, maybe he doubted Jesus? But Jesus isn’t sinking AND Peter calls out to Jesus whom he can rely on. Peter doesn’t see himself sinking and bee line for the boat. Peter reaches out and calls out for the only person he know can save him in this situation…Jesus. So it would go to stand that Peter isn’t doubting Jesus. So who does Peter doubt? Yup you guessed it. The person Peter doubts is the only other person in this scenario, he doubts himself.
He loses faith in the idea that he could be like Jesus. He’s walking on water because he wants to be like Jesus. He followed Jesus because he wants to be like his rabbi. AND Jesus wouldnt have called him, if he thought Peter couldn’t be like Jesus. Remember, you dont choose the rabbi, the rabbi chooses you and the rabbi doesn’t choose you if he thinks you can’t do what the rabbi is doing.
And this brings us to the big idea of today…All my life I have heard people talking about believing in God…but God believes in us. God believes in you. We’ve been talking about the faithfulness of God and it’s through this story I am starting to realize that God’s faithfulness is not just what God does for me, but it’s also about how God feels about me.
God’s faithfulness is not just what He does FOR you, but its also what He believes ABOUT you.
Faith in Jesus is important, but have you ever considered Jesus faith in us? I mean he must have faith in us because he left his work to us. Jesus last words to us were, now you go and make more disciples.
Guys, this is incredible. Jesus beleives in you. How do I know this? Because you are here, you are listening to the message right now. Many of you already call yourself a Christian, you have decided to follow Jesus and I know many more of you will come to do so in the future. You have chosen to follow God, but understand this, God also choose you.
4 Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. 5 God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.
So as I close, I leave you with this. What if we could be the people that Jesus believes we could be? What if we could do walk with Jesus they way be believes we can? Look, Jesus has faith that you can follow him like that, if he didn’t he wouldn’t have called you and that’s an incredible declaration. God believes that you and I can be like him. And even when we are like Peter, and we doubt ourselves, Jesus reminds us that He believes in us and that should matter.
May you believe in God, but may you come to believe that God believes in you. May you be like Jesus, but may you come to believe that Jesus believes you can be like him. A person of love, compassion, and truth. Of forgiveness, power, and peace. Of joy, serenity, and hope. And may you be covered in the dust of your rabbi, your rabbi that believes in you. Your rabbi, Jesus.