June 18, 2017

Don’t Forget about Jesus

Thanks, Mike.  Give Mike another round of applause.  It took a lot of courage to share that story.  To share our stories at all with folks we don’t know very well takes a lot of courage.  To do it in front of a whole group of people takes even more.  But, folks, this is the kind of thing God is accomplishing in and through this church.  Life change.  Life transformation.

Hasn’t this been a fun morning?  Mornings like this one are a part of why I love the church so much.  In this hour and change we are getting to celebrate much of why this particular church is so great.  We have a ton of kids who we get to invest with the deep, eternal truths of the Christian faith, and we are seeing lives transformed.  And we are seeing them transformed all across the board.  It’s one thing to get to baptize a bunch of kids.  It’s really exciting, but if all a church baptizes is kids, it might lead the more cynical observer to wonder (maybe even aloud) whether the kids are all really getting it or if the parents and grandparents are just treating it as a rite of passage rather than investing it with the significance it warrants (and you can tell whether this is the case or not by watching those churches for a few years and seeing what percentage of those kids go on to live out their professed faith in any meaningful way).  But when you are able to have adults who had no reason in the world except for a changed heart and transformed life to get baptized you know you are on to something.  I mean, again, wasn’t Mike’s story powerful?!?  I can tell you personally that Rick and Chris and Laura have stories that will leave you equally inspired.  And, to see not just one, but two college students willing to say, “Yep, I’m ready to make public that I have given my life wholly over to Christ,” is pretty stinking impressive as well.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: God is doing a work here at Central Baptist Church.  Anybody with eyes can see it.  There is excitement, momentum, energy, and a growing collection of life-transformation stories.  He may be calling us away, but that doesn’t at all change the work He is doing here.  In fact, given that He’s both doing this great work and moving us somewhere else means He’s moving us out of the way so that He can continue the work.  He’s got the person already picked out to oversee that happening and the search team is working diligently to identify who it is.

But as exciting as this morning is, as much kingdom-forward momentum as we have right now, as great a community as we have built here, and as the church is entering into a time of transition, there’s something of which I wanted to remind you.  This is something that we must not forget as we together pursue becoming fully who God designed us to be.  When I tell you what this thing is at first it may leave you wondering why I would even feel the need to say this.  “Of course this is something we’ll remember!” you might find yourself thinking.  “That’s the whole reason we’re doing everything that we’re doing.”  And yet, as central as this thing might be to our faith and practice, it is frightfully easy to forget about it.  Way too many churches find themselves in just such a place.  When that happens, we won’t necessarily stop doing any of the things we’re doing.  In fact, we might pursue them with an even greater concentration and focus than we were before because we don’t have this other thing to worry about any longer.  We might add new things along the same lines that will seem to expand our impact-making ability to an even greater pool of people than we can currently reach.  It won’t at first seem like anything has changed at all.  Yet that is precisely why this is a reminder I need to give us.  Forgetting about this thing is at one and the same time the equivalent of cutting a flower off from its plant, but also possessing of an impact that is so subtle at first it could easily go unnoticed until it’s too late.  So, what is it?  What is this thing that is so crucial to remember while yet so easy to forget?

Well, it’s not a “what” at all.  It’s a “who.”  In all the hubbub and excitement of kingdom life going on around here, we cannot forget about Jesus.  Don’t forget about Jesus.  I know, I know.  That sounds ridiculous.  How could we forget about someone like Jesus?  As I said a second ago, He’s the reason we’re doing all the things that we’re doing.  We can’t forget about Him.  And yet…we can.  And yet…we do.

The simple fact is: It is far too easy for followers of Jesus to get so caught up in the busyness of church life and all that it takes to make this place work like we are accustomed to having it work that we forget all about Jesus.  Sure, we still pray in His name, and sing songs about Him, read Bible stories about Him, and the like, but we forget to make Him the heart of what we’re doing.  This is actually the same kind of trap we as parents often fall into with our kids.  We get so caught up in doing stuff for them that we forget to do stuff with them.  We can get so caught up in doing stuff for Jesus that we forget to do stuff with Him.  And, the more centrally located in the leadership of the church you are the more people will believe that you’re the least susceptible to it while you know that you’re the most guilty of it.  The fact for this church is: Given our size and the sheer number of kids we have, it really takes an all-hands-on-deck approach to keep the place running and even then we’re often running right up against the edge of flying off the rails.  That’s an exciting and even a good place to be, but what it means is that we are all in danger of this slip in memory.  So I’ll say it again: Don’t forget about Jesus.  Go ahead and plan the party to celebrate everything He’s done, just don’t forget to invite Him to be there with you.  Don’t forget about Jesus.

This is actually a reminder that fits right in with our VBS theme for the next week.  The big idea for VBS this next week will be to remind (or teach for the first time) the kids who Jesus really is so that they’ll understand why it is so important to give their lives to Him.  In our own lives as followers of Jesus, while we “know” who Jesus is, we don’t always know Him very well.  The simple reason for this is we don’t spend very much time with Him.  When we remember who Jesus really is, though—and Paul gives a pretty remarkable description of Him in our theme verse for the week—getting to know Him really well will become an increasingly central goal in our lives.  And who is Jesus, really?  Check this out from Colossians 1:15-16: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.  For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.”  That’s pretty big stuff.  You see that, right?  Jesus isn’t just central to our lives and the life of our church, He’s the central point of the whole of creation.  In light of that, if we forget about Him, if we start doing a bunch of things for Him rather than with Him, those things will invariably fall apart.  They won’t work.  They’ll be a car rolling along with no engine.  It may run on kinetic energy for a little while, but eventually it’s going to stop.  And when it does, it won’t go again.  Don’t forget about Jesus.  This week will help not just the kids, but if we pay attention, all of us, to remember that.

You know, that’s part of the heart of our celebration of baptism around here.  We believe baptism is a declaration that these people have come to know who Jesus is.  There is still much about Him they are going to learn in the years ahead of them—indeed, one of the beautiful things about a relationship with Jesus is that while it is so simple an eight-year-old can grasp it, there is no end to the depths to which it can be explored, meaning there is a lifetime of learning ahead of you no matter how old you are when you start the journey—but they have come to know Him well enough that they want to trust their lives into His hands.  For all of us, when we know that something is a matter of life and death, we pay close attention to it, never letting it leave our minds even for a second.  Well, putting our lives in Jesus’ hands and keeping them there is indeed a matter of life and death.  Keeping Him at the center of everything we do here as a part of His body is a matter of life and death for our whole community.  Don’t forget about Jesus.

Now, next week will be the last time I will be preaching at Central as your pastor.  We’ll deal with some final matters then, but if I could leave this group with anything as the most important thing to remember, above and before everything else I’ll yet say and have said recently, it is this: Don’t forget about Jesus.  Don’t get so caught up in what you are doing that you forget the One for whom you are doing it.  We are serving the Lord of all creation who loves us so much that He gave His life to enable us to do it.  That should infuse everything we do with a holy seriousness regarding its significance (indeed, the importance of a task done on behalf of another person increases in direct proportion to the importance of the person for whom we are doing it), but also an overwhelming sense of joy in knowing that we cannot fail if we are pursuing His ends.  So while there is much yet that I want to make sure you know—and well talk about much of it next week—hold this before everything else: Don’t forget about Jesus.  Don’t forget about Jesus.  He’s the center, so keep Him there.  Don’t forget about Jesus.