Wednesday 24th Jul 2024Lighthouse

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What makes Christ's followers different - what does it mean to be counter-cultural? 

 

Often we can be seen as those who only are critical of others, thinking we are somehow better than others. When we understand the grace of God in our lives we see people who like us need a Saviour. It's not with an air of superiority but passion to see people set free from the evil works of darkness.

 

However evil prevails when good people say nothing, who are the ones to speak out.  Perhaps like the prophets of old, we need to call out things in our Western culture that are anti-gospel, 

 

Those without Christ, trapped in their sin, need a Saviour, they need our compassion and love, but if we love someone who is falling into a ditch we pull them out, and not follow them in afterwards.

 

Jesus called out those in his day who were not following the way of the Lord. He called out those who were virtue-signalling. Something we see a lot in our culture today. To the blind guides, he called them out and said to his followers do as they say but not as they do.

 

There is meant to be a difference between those following Christ and the world around us.  The difference we know is by the grace of God and the presence of the Holy Spirit. God’s gift of the new creation me as we are called to be in the world but not of it.

 

Every time we open the scripture we expect to be open to hear what the spirit is saying to us, ready to be inspired and challenged, encourage you to make notes and listen to the scriptures.

 

Reading Luke 9 begins with calling the 12, and it’s packed full of teachings as saying of Christ feeding 5000, transfiguration and the prediction of Christ's death. Then, 10 begins with setting the 70 out. Right at the end of 9 Jesus is asked, I’ll follow you but first let me see my family or bury my father, sounding maybe harsh but Jesus was clear that following him meant that we don’t look back. 

 

“Jesus said, “Anyone who begins to plough a field but keeps looking back is of no use in the kingdom of God.”

Luke 9:62 NCV

 

The call to follow Christ is to keep looking forward, being focused and not entangled with things of the world that would keep us from God’s best. 

 

There is a challenge to us today, who follow Christ, will we allow God to be first in our lives?

 

Some are purely seeking comfort and medicating themselves to make life easy.

 

Sometimes we tend to be comfortable rather than pressing into the more that God has for us. 

 

It’s okay to be uncomfortable, shocking news for those who would teach that coming to Christ is the easy way.

 

 “I do not mean that I am already as God wants me to be. I have not yet reached that goal, but I continue trying to reach it and to make it mine. Christ wants me to do that, which is the reason he made me his. Brothers and sisters, I know that I have not yet reached that goal, but there is one thing I always do. Forgetting the past and straining toward what is ahead, I keep trying to reach the goal and get the prize for which God called me through Christ to the life above. All of us who are spiritually mature should think this way, too. And if there are things you do not agree with, God will make them clear to you. But we should continue following the truth we already have. Brothers and sisters, all of you should try to follow my example and copy those who live the way we showed you. Many people live like enemies of the cross of Christ. I have often told you about them, and it makes me cry to tell you about them now. In the end, they will be destroyed. They do whatever their bodies want, they are proud of their shameful acts, and they think only about earthly things. But our homeland is in heaven, and we are waiting for our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, to come from heaven. By his power to rule all things, he will change our humble bodies and make them like his own glorious body.”

Philippians 3:12-21 NCV

 

What aspects of being a Christian are counter-cultural?

 

The call of Christ for his disciples was to deny ourselves take up our cross and follow him, a challenge for our twenty-first century generation.

 

Israel was called to be Faithful - not serve the foreign gods there was to be something different about them as a nation to serve as a light to the Gentiles.

 

If we hide our light or lose our salt we are no different from the world. If you love only those who love you, love your enemy and pray for those who are spiteful towards you. Etc 

 

Jesus spoke of kingdom realities and in the kingdom of God our priorities are different 

 

There are or there should be Contrasts today in our lives that make us Christ-followers.

 

The apostle Paul wrote 

 

“So brothers and sisters, since God has shown us great mercy, I beg you to offer your lives as a living sacrifice to him. Your offering must be only for God and pleasing to him, which is the spiritual way for you to worship. Do not be shaped by this world; instead, be changed within by a new way of thinking. Then you will be able to decide what God wants for you; you will know what is good and pleasing to him and what is perfect.”

Romans 12:1-2 NCV

 

 

Common beliefs in our culture do not line up with what is taught by Jesus in the gospels 

 

1 Follow your heart 

 

Jesus never said that he said follow me, because the heart is deceitful 

 

2 be true to yourself 

 

Jesus never said that either he said whoever wants to be my disciple denies themselves follow me. 

 

3 Believe in yourself 

 

Jesus said Believe in me I am the way truth and life no one comes to the Father but through me 

 

4 live your truth 

 

Jesus said I am the truth and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free 

 

5 As long as you’re happy. That’s all that matters. Jesus never said that he will profit if he gains and loses his soul.

 

The contrast comes in knowing and walking in the light as he is in the light as  John writes, this means acting in love and forgiveness 

 

Twofold command to be different means to Keep yourself from the world while being in the world we are not of. And to be the bringer of hope of the gospel.

 

“You did not choose me; I chose you. And I gave you this work: to go and produce fruit, fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you anything you ask for in my name. This is my command: Love each other. “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as it loves its own. But I have chosen you out of the world, so you don’t belong to it. That is why the world hates you.”

John 15:16-19 NCV

 

Jesus’ great prayer in John 17 sums up Jesus' plan for his disciples and those who believe because of their teaching. Remember he prefaces this with the gift of the Holy Spirit as their helper 

 

14. “I have given them your teaching. And the world has hated them because they don’t belong to the world, just as I don’t belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world but to keep them safe from the Evil One. They don’t belong to the world, just as I don’t belong to the world. Make them ready for your service through your truth; your teaching is truth. I have sent them into the world, just as you sent me into the world. For their sake, I am making myself ready to serve so that they can be ready for their service of the truth.

 

 “I pray for these followers, but I am also praying for all those who will believe in me because of their teaching. Father, I pray that they can be one. As you are in me and I am in you, I pray that they can also be one in us. Then the world will believe that you sent me. I have given these people the glory that you gave me so that they can be one, just as you and I are one. I will be in them and you will be in me so that they will be completely one. Then the world will know that you sent me and that you loved them just as much as you loved me. “Father, I want these people that you gave me to be with me where I am. I want them to see my glory, which you gave me because you loved me before the world was made. Father, you are the One who is good. The world does not know you, but I know you, and these people know you sent me. I showed them what you are like, and I will show them again. Then they will have the same love that you have for me, and I will live in them.”

John 17:14-26 NCV

 

Close with these thoughts from James. While you find James 1 

 

To summarise 

 

So makes us different to the culture around us. It’s in the character of Christ 

 

Many focus too much on comfort and not on character 

 

The call to follow Christ is to keep looking forward, being focused and not entangled with things of the world that would keep us from God’s best. 

 

As the writer of Hebrews notes “We are surrounded by a great cloud of people whose lives tell us what faith means. So let us run the race that is before us and never give up. We should remove from our lives anything that would get in the way and the sin that so easily holds us back. Let us look only to Jesus, the One who began our faith and who makes it perfect. He suffered death on the cross. But he accepted the shame as if it were nothing because of the joy that God put before him. And now he is sitting on the right side of God’s throne. Think about Jesus’ example. He held on while wicked people were doing evil things to him. So do not get tired and stop trying.”

Hebrews 12:1-3 NCV

 

Be the kind of person who doesn’t look back once the hand is on the plough 

 

Things like generosity instead of selfishness, love not to hate, and faithfulness instead of idolatry.

 

 

“My dear brothers and sisters, always be willing to listen and slow to speak. Do not become angry easily, because anger will not help you live the right kind of life God wants. So put out of your life every evil thing and every kind of wrong. Then in gentleness accept God’s teaching that is planted in your hearts, which can save you. Do what God’s teaching says; when you only listen and do nothing, you are fooling yourselves. Those who hear God’s teaching and do nothing are like people who look at themselves in a mirror. They see their faces and then go away and quickly forget what they looked like. But the truly happy people are those who carefully study God’s perfect law that makes people free, and they continue to study it. They do not forget what they heard, but they obey what God’s teaching says. Those who do this will be made happy. People who think they are religious but say things they should not say are just fooling themselves. Their “religion” is worth nothing. Religion that God accepts as pure and without fault is this: caring for orphans or widows who need help, and keeping yourself free from the world’s evil influence.”

James 1:19-27 NCV

 

There is meant to be a difference between those following Christ and the world around us.  The difference we know is by the grace of God and the presence of the Holy Spirit. God’s gift of the new creation me as we are called to be in the world but not of it.

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