Big Idea: Jesus’ clarity about his identity led him to know what God wanted him to do AND it will in turn do the same for us.
To do God’s will is to do the purposes of God with God.
I recently came across a story of someone reflecting on their work with Christian college students. He was commenting on his work with the students and how the closer graduation came, the more they started “flipping out.” They had had “drilled into them that they were the cream of the crop, most educated and resourced Christians.”
And so as life post-college approached, they were consumed with the desire to know God’s path for their life – the desire to not miss God’s will.
My interpretation? These students were “flipping out” because they were experiencing anxiety about finding the “center” of God’s will for their lives – their exact calling as they came to graduation asking, “God what do you want me to do in this world?”
In my world as pastor to young adults here with Access, this is a common question, common anxiety from our incoming freshmen to our collegians to anyone in that young adult age.
It reminded me that I remember feeling this way, asking such questions both in high school and again in college.
- What’s your will for me? Your plan?
- What major? Even when I changed it my sophomore year, I continued to ask, “Did I make the right decision?”
And of course there were the closely related questions in college:
· Who am I supposed to marry? What if I miss meeting her somehow?
· What if my roommate failed to choose the right girl for our pick-a-date? (that’s for you, my Taylor friends)
Anxiety popped up as a common emotion when I wondered too:
- What if I miss it? What if I miss your will for my life?
ALL of these “specific questions” rested under the umbrella of the overarching question:
- “God, what do you want me to do with my life?” as I lived under the assumption that in every situation, God had an exact, precise will that I had to find – to know – in order to be faithful and obedient.
Did you find yourself asking questions like these in the past?
Do you still at times? I know I do – they still come up.
You’ve asked, “God what is your will for me?”
You’ve prayed to God– maybe even over and over again, “God I just want to do what YOU want me to do so show me!”
You’ve talked with friends, family, a mentor about your fear that you might miss God’s calling on your life.
Or you’ve wrestled - ARE WRESTLING - with questions about:
…a job change
…where to live
…whether or not to stay home with the kids or work
…should you invest in going back to school?
…is this person the “one” for you to marry?
You are asking: “God, what is your will in this situation – with regard to this decision – what’s your will for my life – our family’s life!?!”
WHAT DO YOU WANT ME / US TO DO IN THIS WORLD?”
Though it may not seem like it at first, our story today from Jesus’ life, I believe, speaks poignantly to this and related types of questions. It speaks to all of us no matter our life stage regarding God’s will for our lives.
RE-CAP and OVERVIEW:
Last week Tim led us through the story of Jesus’ call of Matthew the tax collector. He showed us how this story was a clarifying moment regarding Jesus’ mission on earth – why he came.
Today we come to a story where Jesus clarifies his identity – where he communicates exactly who he is (though not everyone will realize the depth of what he is saying yet) AND in doing so, we see what led him to do what he did on this earth.
And in turn, this identity leading to action will show us what God wants us to do with our lives – what God’s will is for our lives.
So let’s look at this story together: turn with me to John 5:16 in the house Bibles.
And as you are turning…
Context of John 5:
· Had been in Galilee but here in this story, he has gone up to Jerusalem (“up” because even though Jerusalem was South of Galilee, it was at a higher elevation) to one of the Jewish festivals.
READ – listen for his identity and what that said about his action
16 So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath (he had just healed a lame man, telling him to “get up, pick up your mat, and walk”), the Jews persecuted him. 17 Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.” 18 For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
19 Jesus gave them this answer: "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these. 21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. 22 Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him. 24 "I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. 25 I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man. 28 "Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29 and come out--those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. 30 By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.
Did you catch the designations? The titles that speak to the identity of who Jesus is?
The first is indicated in vs. 17 – Jesus calls God “my Father.” Then nine (9) times in this short passage starting in vs. 25, Jesus refers to himself as “son” and more directly like in vs. 25, “son of God.”
Jesus is the Son of God.
[CG note: I am not reading this Scripture; put up as I am saying the paragraph above. Thanks!]
John 5:17, 25
“My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.[…] 25 I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.”
So what’s the big deal about this identity?
First in claiming that He is the “Son of God,” Jesus is claiming that He is God - He is deity by virtue of his relationship with God the Father. And because Jesus is in eternal unity with God, his claim is something more than just what other humans might claim in terms of being “sons of God.”
The evidence of this unity – this claim of divinity – is in vs. 17. When Jesus equates his working to the Father’s working, he is speaking of their unity as God – they are both God.
That this claim of Jesus meant something more than just an ordinary human acknowledgment of the God in heaven being a “heavenly Father” is evident by the fact that the Jewish leaders wanted to kill him for it (vs. 18).
But he goes on to explain what this identity as Son of God meant for him. Notice again vs. 19:
"I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does.”
There is a relationship of love and obedience here that demonstrates the unity between the Father and the Son. The Father loves the Son. And the Son lives in obedience to do what the Father does. Theologian Lesslie Newbigin says it this way:
“Jesus ‘sees’ what the Father does because the Father ‘shows’ him, and so Jesus can offer total obedience to the Father – like a faithful son who is apprenticed to his father in the same craft.” Lesslie Newbigin (The Light and the Glory 66-67)
This naturally leads to the explanation then of what Jesus did while on this earth.
In this story, Jesus first clarifies his identity as the Son of God who – like a son apprenticing to his father in a craft - does what the Father does.
There is a second key identity in this passage. Though it is only mentioned once, it is critical because it spoke significantly in the religious context of the day - look at vs. 26 again:
26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.
Jesus is Son of God. Jesus is the Son of Man.
Now, what does that identification (Son of Man) mean? Why is it significant?
For Jews, the title “a son of man” echoed the prophetic words of Daniel 7:13-14:
13 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.”
When Jesus says that he is “son of man,” He is claiming to fulfill this prophecy!
With authority to heal, to give life, and to judge, Jesus claims royalty! He clarifies his identity to say that he is King and his kingdom that is established will never end.
I love how NT Wright explains the impact of this stated identity:
“You could put it like this: God has longed to put the world to rights; now, with his apprentice son on the job, he is doing so at last.” (John for Everyone – Part 1 64)
“This is the story, in other words, of how God becomes king.”
(Simply Jesus 162)
God the Father confers on Jesus his Son the authority to be king and inaugurate His kingdom on earth – the pursuit of putting the world to rights.
Just as Jesus clarifies his identity as the Son of God who – like a son apprenticing to his father in a craft - does what the Father does…
Jesus clarifies his identity as Son of man who – like the apprenticing son on the job –does what the Father has given him authority to do.
Now, these claims to such identity were not just Jesus’ idea. In fact he says in vs. 5:31,"If I testify about myself, my testimony is not valid.”
And so knowing this, Jesus spends the balance of this story in chapter 5 acknowledging the witnesses that testify to the truth of his identifies as Son of God / Man. He names:
· Vs. 33 - John the Baptist
· Vs. 36 - The works Jesus did / was doing
· Vs. 37 – The Father Himself
· Vs. 39 - The Scriptures, in particular the words of Moses
Each of these validated the truth / veracity of Jesus’ claims:
· Jesus is the Son of God - the Savior - through whom life has come.
· Jesus is the Son of Man – the King - through whom the kingdom comes.
And it is precisely BECAUSE Jesus is Son of God and Son of Man that he could say of Himself in our story:
24 "I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”
So to Jesus we pause now to come and celebrate who HE is in the sacrament of communion.
On the night he was betrayed, Jesus took bread and broke it saying, “This is my body broken for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way he took the cup saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood – drink of it all of you in remembrance of me.”
And when we do, we proclaim not only His life, death, and resurrection. We DECLARE our trust, our belief, our surrender to His identity – who He is – Son of God, Son of Man – Savior and King! We declare our desire through Jesus to cross over from death to life.
I invite the servers to come. Receive the elements and partake of them as you are ready.
MESSAGE PART TWO
Jesus - Son of God; Son of Man. This clarity about Jesus’ identity led him to know what God wanted him to do – AND as I said earlier, I believe it, in turn, does the same for us.
The question is “how?”
How does clarity about Jesus’ identity help you and me to know what God wants us to do in this life – to know His will? Here’s what I see.
Like a son apprenticed to his father’s craft, Jesus followed the Father - as Son of God and Son of man - in order to do what he saw his Father doing – do what his Father sent Him with authority to do.
SIMILARLY, we follow Jesus as disciples in order to do as our identity says. The Scriptures – e.g.: Galatians 4 - tell us that we, through relationship with Jesus, are sons and daughters of God, whom we call “Abba Father.”
And the gospel accounts make clear in multiple places – as Dave and Steve have even spoken about in recent weeks - that as disciples we are servants of King Jesus with His authority given to us to make evident His kingdom desires.
AND SO just as Jesus’ identities led to His doing what he saw the Father doing, SO TOO our identities as sons / daughters AND agents of the kingdom lead us to do what we see the Father and Jesus doing.
Like Jesus, we live our lives doing God’s purposes with Him.
I began this message raising questions about finding God’s will for our lives. I believe that seeking out God’s will can be one of the biggest distractions for a follower of Jesus. It can even paralyze us. We get caught up in the idea of a micro-managed, connect-the-dots, cause-effect, “one-plan-and-one-plan-only - sorry for you if you miss it” WILL of God. That’s how I think many of us learned OR have in the past heard it explained. We often talk like that at least.
And so we fret and fuss and analyze DESPERATE to make sure we are on the right road / have found God’s perfect plan for our lives AS IF he is secretly micro-managing it and it’s some kind of game to listen well enough to God to know what that plan is. And this leads us to worry that if we make one wrong decision, we have ruined our lives because we missed God’s will.
But I don’t believe that is the way we are to understand God’s will for our lives.
Rather, God’s will for our lives – like Jesus as we see here in this story - is to do what we see God doing and join Him.
To do God’s will is to do the purposes of God with God.
You want to know God’s will for your life? Look to see where God the Father and Jesus the Son are at work in the world and we join them – work with them. (In doing so…)
Let go of the pursuit to find God’s will for your life IN ORDER TO embrace doing God’s purposes with Him in this life.
Now… how might that practically play out for you?
What does “doing God’s purposes with Him” mean for the questions you are wrestling with as you wonder about God’s thoughts for you related to a job change? A potential mate? Where you live? Who you should invest your time in? Whether or not to stay home with the kids or go back to work? If you should you invest in going back to school?
I have one primary suggestion. I think it comes down to matchmaking:
Engage your personality / gifts / talents in the evidences of the kingdom – in other words, match who you are with what God is doing in the world.
One of the primary ways we get our life around God’s purposes at Grace is by speaking of these “evidences of the kingdom.” They are “what God is doing in the world” because engagement in these evidences bring healing to the 6 broken places of the world.
You’ve seen these before, but here they are once again:
· Evidences of the kingdom
o Spiritual reconciliation with God
o Healing and wholeness of bodies, mind, spirits
o Authentic, loving relationships
o Peace and reconciliation among people groups
o Care for Creation
o Justice for the poor and marginalized
Now, knowing those, engage who you are – as a masterpiece of God created to do good works (Eph. 2:10) – based on your story, gifts, talents, personality, experiences – in one or more of these kingdom evidences.
Maybe this story of one of our adult leaders in Access can help illustrate this:
IL: Tasha Simons and Center for Global Impact (CGI)
· Fall – introduced to CGI at Access
o CGI in Cambodia battling the trafficking of young ladies
· Learned more about what they do and recognized how it was a broken place in the world, but CGI was evidencing the kingdom to bring healing – so she got involved with CGI and goes to Cambodia in two weeks.
· Tasha’s email: Finding my calling has been a process. I am truly thankful to be at a place where God has given me passion and vision to help others in an area of brokenness (preventing child abuse) that at one time was absolutely disruptive to my life. It seems to be a path of saying 'yes' to God in incremental steps along the way. On my own, I have fears and insecurities that would prevent me from stepping out of my comfort zone and saying yes to God. However, Christ seems to strengthen me to have courage to do what I couldn't do without him. All this to say I can say 'yes' to God because I know he's with me.
What she doesn’t mention that we see as friends is not only how her story intersects with God’s work through CGI, but how her gifts of hospitality and mercy as well as her character trait of compassion and her training as a counselor have made following God’s leading to engage in healing and justice for these young ladies in Cambodia such a good fit for Tasha.
Here are some questions to get you thinking about your engagement in God’s purposes – listen to these:
· Will making this decision align you, your life, your work, your ________ more closely to God’s purposes being accomplished in the world?
§ E.g. – my question to couples considering marriage
· Does it – the decision – engage you in an evidence of the kingdom to bring healing to a broken place in this world? How?
o Does it get you doing what you see God doing in the world?
· Are your gifts, talents, personality being used to make the kingdom evident?
o In other words, is this a good fit?
You could ask these questions simply of your life right now – where you are at, what you are doing, am I doing God’s will?
Well…are you doing the purposes of God with God in this world?
Ultimately, if you are doing the purposes of God with Him, no matter what you are doing, you can’t go wrong. I don’t mean you won’t do wrong – won’t make mistakes, won’t sin.
What I mean is, if you are genuinely following Jesus, seeking to walk with God in relationship – where you are keeping company with God in order to engage the purposes of God THEN you can’t go wrong.
You will be with God in what He is doing in the world JUST LIKE Jesus saw what His Father was doing and did that with Him! You will be doing God’s will.
I was going to end this message nice and calm today without much fanfare. That may still happen, but my ending changed after catching a few minutes of news late last night.
It was a stirring reminder that as the church – sons and daughters of God / servants of the King – we need to get off our __________ and get in the game of God’s purposes, doing what Jesus was and is doing as Son and King.
· (the stories I saw of) Corporate greed being chosen at the expense of human dignity
· A “normal, responsible” young adult causing horrific tragedy yesterday at a movie theater in Colorado
· The senseless harm (shooting) done to a child on our own city streets last night
…the LAST THING we need is to be paralyzed by worrying and fussing over finding God’s will.
God’s will is already in front of us. We just need to engage in it!
As my 22 month old daughter has learned to pray with me at night in her sweet little voice, we MUST “change world with Jesus!.”
Jesus’ clarity about his identity led him to know what God wanted him to do AND that identity in turn does the same for us. As sons and daughters, servants of the King…
To do God’s will is to do the purposes of God with God.
So CHURCH – DO IT!
Let go of the pursuit to find God’s will for your life; embrace doing God’s purposes with Him in this life!