Goodbye “Leap of Faith”…Hello “Leap of Action”

We often think of accepting Jesus as a “leap of faith”. That you can learn all you can about him, but eventually you have to decide if he is true. You have to decide if Jesus is worth trusting, following, and believing in. We often call this in Christian circles a “leap of faith”. And I agree in all of that.

The thing I don’t agree with is the term “leap of faith”. It’s not that it’s wrong, or that we don’t need to do it. It’s that – that term or phrase is so misunderstood that it leads us down the wrong path. It actually can stop discipleship and confuse the whole process. So I’d like to replace that phrase with a new one. To no longer think of following Jesus as a “leap of faith” but instead as a “leap of action” because that is what true trust requires.

Following Jesus isn’t about becoming so mentally certain in Jesus’ salvation, divinity, or truth that we don’t have any disbelief. It isn’t about having a rational and intellectual leap of faith where we overcome all doubt and believe all the right doctrine about Jesus. Faith, in the biblical sense, is about so much more than that. To have faith in someone is to trust and follow them. It’s not about becoming intellectually certain of key convictions (though that is important). Faith is about becoming certain enough to follow, trust, and obey. And through trusting, following, and obeying Jesus, we become more certain as we experience faith in action and Jesus’ transformation.

Faith is much more about a “leap of action” than just a “leap of thought, belief, or faith”. Because as we know true faith and trust results in change in our lives. The point isn’t just to change what we know; it’s to have a deep change in who we are because of Jesus Christ.

So my point is simple. Following Jesus does require a leap of faith, but this leap of faith needs to lead to a leap of action. The point of faith isn’t to become convinced about Jesus, it’s about becoming changed by Jesus. So from now on I doubt I’ll use the phrase “leap of faith” but I might be using the phrase “leap of action”. Because what I’ve discovered over my years is that as I practice trusting in Jesus practically…my convictions on who Jesus is deepen dramatically…

Followers of Jesus ~ Actually Follow Him and Step Out of the Boat

st_peterLast Sunday we looked at an interesting passage where Jesus comes to the disciples walking on the water. In the next moment Peter asks Jesus to call him out on the wind and waves. Jesus does, and Peter steps out. Then Peter starts to sink…

This seems to be the part that most of us remember and focus on. Somehow this has become a picture of Peter’s failure, when that misses the point completely. This isn’t a picture of Peter’s failure…but of Peter’s growth.

No one does anything perfectly the first time (expect maybe for Jesus). All of us learn through failing, succeeding, and trying again. What we forget is that growing often starts with failing. So when Peter starts to sink it’s not a failure, per say, but instead a moment where he grows.

Earlier that day Jesus had given him a clear command to feed the people. Peter refused. This time Jesus give Peter another clear command to come to him on the wind and waves. This time Peter doesn’t refuse but jumps over the side of the boat into the dark, turbulent waters. Peter is learning. And yes he sinks, but Jesus grabs him and together hand in hand they walk back to the boat. Peter learns that he can only do this thing  through and in Jesus.

This is the point for us, that we often are scared of failing. We don’t follow Jesus when he gives us clear commands (forgive, serve, give, follow, etc) because we are scared of failing. But here is the thing. Jesus isn’t scared of us failing, he is worried about us staying in the boat. Because Jesus knows that theory will never teach us better than hands on experience.

So if you want to grow as a disciple the next step is clear. Step out of the boat. When Jesus calls us…follow. Because that’s what disciples do.

We ended off the sermon with three ways to follow. First, get to know Jesus by reading the gospels this week. Read them and search not for information on Jesus, but for direction from him. Secondly, when you have direction, follow him and act on it. If you are moved by the difficulty of greed – step out of the boat – and give. If you are moved by the need to serve the poor – step out of the boat – and start. And lastly, get together with some other people because this isn’t meant to be a journey alone…but with Jesus and others…as we all try to step out of the boat to follow him…

Sermon Notes

Big Idea: Apprentices follow Jesus in action

Take Aways…

  • “Grace isn’t opposed to effort, its opposed to earning” Dallas Willard
  • The action of an apprentice is all about following
  • We see learning as becoming theory experts where Jesus sees it as mastering a craft
  • You will not grow without attempting things you cannot do
  • If Jesus is doing it, we can be part of it
  • Jesus doesn’t want to do ministry for the disciples but through the disciples
  • An apprentice follows Jesus even out into the wind and waves
  • You learn more through practice than through theory
  • Get to Know Jesus: Read the gospels this week listening for Jesus voice
  • Get Practicing: Take a step out when Jesus calls you
  • Get Together: Gather with friends to discuss the next steps Jesus is asking you to take

Adult / Group Discussion Questions: What surprised you? What made you think? What made you laugh? What did you take away? What did you think of the difference between earning grace and showing effort because of grace? How do you make sure we don’t just end up “knowing lots about Jesus” without actually “becoming like Jesus”? Has Jesus ever called you to do something before (i.e. get rid of anger, forgive, start a ministry, etc)? Did you follow through? What was the outcome? What might Jesus be calling you to do today? How will you do it? Who can help you in it?

Discussion Questions for Young Families: Take a moment to sit down with your kids and talk about what “following Jesus” looks like to them. Talk about how for them it might look like sharing, forgiving, and reaching out to kids who don’t have friends. Talk about the specific things Jesus has called you to do in your life (maybe change jobs, talk to someone, or give up a grudge). Share how it made a difference and why it matters. Also share with them how you’d like to follow Jesus together as a family.

Challenge for this Week:

Get to Know Jesus (Read the Gospels), Start Following (Put into Practice what Jesus asks), Get Together (Share with Friends how you are trying to follow Jesus)

 

Failures You Learn from Aren’t Failures

1-Duccio_Calling1On Sunday we are going to be looking at one of the best known stories and misunderstood. Isn’t that funny? How the ones that are most familiar are actually the ones we often need to listen tomost. So on Sunday we are going to look at Peter’s failure as he sinks in the waves, water, and wind. We are going to look as his faith breaks, and he starts to slip. The problem is that we think of this moment as a failure. We think of this moment as a mistake. We miss the point that 11 other disciples are sitting in the boat, and that actually in this one moment Peter is making up for a previous mistake in the day.

So on Sunday we are going to look at how mistakes or seeming failures can be so much more than that. My guess is ~  that you already know what I’m talking about. That if you look back on your life some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned have come from mistakes or failures.

Personally, while it might seem odd, I have a list called “My List of Failures”. It’s fairly self-explanatory, and also long and growing. But like Peter if I fail, I want to learn from it and grow through it. Then it doesn’t become a regret, but part of the process of being an apprentice of Jesus…and that’s what following Jesus is all about…

Faith is Trust in Action

On Sunday we talked about how faith is really trust. It’s an active trust in Jesus. Brennan Manning writes this;

“If a random sample of one thousand American Christians were taken today, the majority would define faith as belief in the existence of God. In earlier times – almost nobody took that for granted. Rather, faith had to do with one’s relationship to God – whether one trusted in God. The difference between faith as “belief in something that may or may not exist” and faith as “trusting in God” is enormous. The first is a matter of the head, the second a matter of the heart.”

That’s what we explored, the matter of the heart trusting in Jesus. The point isn’t to believe that there is a God out there. The point is to have active trust in the person of Jesus as the Son of God who gives us life through his grace and gift. This is the point of being an apprentice to trust in Jesus. But this type of trust isn’t intellectual assent, or rational agreement. This is the type of trust with action, with movement, that actually has feet. Meaning that this type of trust needs to change how we live. That’s the whole point, that what we truly trust in we need to act on.

So I ended with this challenge and I think it’s a good challenge for anyone. To ask ourselves: What is one way we can actively trust Jesus this week? What is one thing we can do to act on our trust?

And depending on where you are at with Jesus what he might tell you is different. But I know he will be telling us all to take a step, and to take action. Because that’s what faith is – trust in action.

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: The heart of an apprentice is active trust

Take Aways…

  • The most crucial challenge for the church is whether or not we will become disciples of Jesus.
  • The world needs more people living like Jesus
  • Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. Jesus Matthew 7:24
  • Can you say, “I know my next step to grow…”?
  • Faith is active trust in something, or someone.
  • Being an apprentice of Jesus starts with trusting in him
  • The difference between faith as “belief in something that may or may not exist” and faith as “trusting in God” is enormous. The first is a matter of the head, the second a matter of the heart.” – Brennan Manning

Adult / Group Discussion Questions: What do you think the greatest challenge facing the church is? Where is your relationship with God right now – are you exploring him, growing with him, close to him, or centred on him? What is your next step to grow? What next step do you need to take to put your trust into action? What might Jesus be asking you to do? What is faith to you?

Discussion Questions for Young Families: Take a moment to talk with you kids about “faith”. Say how it is like trusting, that just as how your kids trust you to provide for them, help them, guide them, by actively trusting – asking for help – and obeying. That trusting Jesus is like that. Ask them if they would like to trust Jesus or if they do.

Challenge for this Week:

Find one way to actively trust Jesus this week

What is “Faith”?

This Sunday we are starting a brand new series looking at one of the most important aspects of our faith, becoming an apprentice of Jesus. Dallas Willard writes this:“The greatest issue facing the world today, with all its heartbreaking needs, is whether those who, by profession or culture, are identified as ‘Christians’ will become disciples – students, apprentices, practitioners – of Jesus Christ, steadily learning from him how to live the life of the Kingdom of the Heavens into every corner of human existence.”

I think this is true. The world doesn’t need more people who know about Jesus. The world doesn’t need more people who like Jesus. The world needs more people who are willing to follow, sacrifice, and become like Jesus. This is what the world needs; this is what your community, family, and neighborhood needs too. I know this is what I need too in my life.

So on Sunday we are going to start looking at how to become an apprentice of Jesus. We are going to discover how it starts and how we can start to practice our faith. Because I’m sure of one thing, becoming an apprentice doesn’t mean just learning more things about Jesus. It means starting to practice living like Jesus. In Matthew 7:24 Jesus says the wisemen hears his words, and puts them into practice. So on Sunday we are going to discover the very first and most important practice disciples are to take to start to follow Jesus. It has everything to do with where your heart is at and faith.

So before we get there I want to ask a simple question that I’ll try to answer on Sunday. What is faith?

Because I’ve seen pastors struggle to answer it, I’ve heard theologians muddle answers, and I think that’s where following Jesus starts. So how would you answer it – What’s faith?

The Depth of Love: Family, Faithfulness, and Hesed

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about love. And not so much the gooey, lovey-dovey feeling of love. Instead I’ve been thinking about love in the faithful, committed, covenanted, never give up, type of love.

In our church family there have been new babies born recently and each group of parents talk about how quickly they love their new little ones. Not just a “feeling” but also a firm resolve to protect them, care for them, be with them, guide them, and walk alongside them. I know that feeling from when Hudson was born, and I look forward to that experience again with our new baby due any day.

The amazing thing is that this idea of love as, deep loyalty, unending commitment, patient endurance, faithfulness, is what is found in the Bible. The idea of love in the Bible isn’t just a feeling but a commitment and a covenant – that never ends.

In the Old Testament when the Bible often uses the word “loving-kindness, mercy, steadfast love.” The word is “hesed” in Hebrew. It speaks of God’s commitment to his promises, to his people, and his plans because of his deep love, commitment and fidelity.

The idea is simple: love isn’t simply a feeling or a contract. Love, or Hesed, is a covenant promise that cannot be broken. This is why when the Bible speaks of God as love (1 John 4) the point isn’t just that God has loving-feelings towards us. No, it is so much more than that. God being love means that he is defined by a passionate commitment, unfailing fidelity, a covenant of mercy, and a faithful promise to keep choosing to love you each and every day. This gets to the heart of God, and the scandal of God’s love. God’s love goes beyond just feelings and moves into action and deep commitment. So when we speak of God’s unconditional love for us, it isn’t just never-ending, good feelings about his people. God’s unconditional love means that his posture to us is one of faithful grace, active commitment, purposeful mercy, and consistent care because that is his promise to us.

In 1 John 4:8b – 9 we read, “God is love. God showed us how much he loved us by sending his only Son into the world so that we might have true life through him. This is real love. It is not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to rescue us from our brokenness”

This is love. Love that is about action. Love that is about commitment. Love that is about sacrifice, fidelity, and a decision to reach out and give while we don’t deserve it. And this is what makes God so beautiful.

And this is also what makes me excited, because soon I will have a new son or daughter. That deep connection and desire to be committed to them for life I now know isn’t a biological evolution thing, it isn’t a psychological phenomenon thing, it isn’t even a socially prescribed thing. That deep desire for life-long love and commitment is a God thing. It starts with God, comes from God, is modeled by God, and is given by God.

And that, my friends, is a beautiful thing….