New Series - It’s Personal. Have you ever felt distant from God? Have you ever asked, “Where are you God?” Or maybe this, you’ve wondered if God even knew you. You’ve thought God is so busy, that he does’nt have time to learn every one of us.
This month as we lead to Easter we’re talking about that what Jesus came to do and what he still does is personal. That is he wants to have a personal relationship with you. Not a distant one. But one that’s personal and growing and one to one with him. So, it’s personal because Jesus made it personal. He died for you and me personally. So that you and I can personally know him.
Faith is Personal – 2 reasons why.
1. Something that you Personally experience - Jesus came in Person2. Something you Personally share – Share this message
And I want to be upfront with you, at the end of this service I’m going to ask you write someone’s name on that card who you’ll commit to personally invite them to Easter. So start thinking.
But first, I want to show you how
1. faith is something you and I personally experience
Jesus answered a question that we all have had at one time in our life. He answered the question through his actions. He answered a question through his life. He answered this question through his words. Does God want to have a personal relationship with me? Does God care about me?
Jesus was God’s answer to this question. In order to understand this we’ve got to look at what happened in Israel’s history before Jesus. You’ve heard the stories of the Kings of Israel. There was Saul, then David, then Solomon. And at Solomon’s reign Israel was a powerhouse in the middle east. In fact, many nations went to Israel just to see how great they were. But after Solomon, numerous kings came to power who weakened the nation of Israel. And in 587B.C. Babylon brought an enormous army against the city of Jerusalem and destroyed it. As was there custom, those they didn’t kill they took back to Babylon with them. The Jewish nation would call this exile. Exile is when you’ve been kicked out of your home country. To be taken into exile meant they couldn’t go home again, it meant they would never see the city they loved, or the people they loved, or have the luxuries they knew. But the worst thing about exile for a Jew was that they couldn’t go to the Temple anymore. And imagine, if your relationship with God is bound around visiting the temple and suddenly that’s taken away. They began to wonder has God forgotten us? God are you there? God where are you? God do you even care about us?
Years later, many of the Jewish families would make their way back into Israel. But it was never the same. They never experienced the kind of peace they knew during the time of King David and Solomon. Because Nation after nation would rise to power and push the Jews out of their homeland. Then the Romans came to power, overthrew Israel. They allowed the Jews to live in Jerusalem, but they made it clear that the Romans were in charge. And as long as the Romans were in charge, as long as other nations are in charge, the Jews still felt like prisoners, they were still treated harsh, they were still abused, and though they could live in the city they loved, they still felt like they were in exile. They still waited to be restored to the days of David and Solomon. They still longed for peace. And they still wondered, God where are you? Have you forgotten us? Are you there? Why haven’t you saved us?
And this is the world that Jesus is born into. A world of exile. A world of wondering if God even cared. And he came because he was God’s answer to the question. He came to allow his followers, allow you and I not just to get the answer but to experience the answer. When they wondered if God cared. Or Does he really want a relationship with me? God sent his son, to tell them yes and this is how much - I’ll send my son to tell you personally.
And perhaps you’ve asked the same question: God where are you? Perhaps you’ve thought God abandoned you. Maybe you’ve wondered if God even cares. Or maybe you grew up in church, but only knew it as a place of judgment and pain. Maybe you knew what it was like to experience God, but lately you’re life feels dry, a place without God, and you wonder God where are you?
And when God wanted to show them that He still cared, He still loved, He was still close he didn’t send a telegram, or an email, or a text, he sent his son. Because God is personal.
Faith is something you personally experience. It’s not about a religion its about the person of Jesus Christ.
One of the disciples, Matthew, shows us the personal side to Jesus. He shows us how Jesus first answered this question. Matthew who knew how personal Jesus was. Matthew who watched Jesus heal the sick personally. Matthew who had seen Jesus push past the crowds to personally show up to the poor and the outcasts of society. Matthew tells us this:
And Matthew tells us of how Jesus called him. Matthew tells us that he was a tax collector. And if you were a tax collector you were considered worse than a sinner. Because tax collectors worked for the Romans. The Romans would give tax collectors instructions of how much to collect in taxes, but the way tax collectors made their money was to ask for more taxes than was required. So they’d collect taxes and then some. They’d give the Romans their share, but would keep the profit. And if you were a tax collector, it was bad enough that you worked for the Enemy, but what made it worse is that you cheated your own people. So tax collectors were hated. But Matthew tells us that one day he’s collecting taxes when…
Matthew 9:9 -
As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,”he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.
He caught Matthew redhanded. He didn’t find him at the market, or at the temple. He sees him at the tax collection booth. Ripping People off. Can’t you see Matthew, surprised that Jesus is even speaking to him, much less inviting him personally to join him. If you could talk to Matthew, I’m sure he would tell us that he didn’t feel worthy. He knew he had cheated people, he had joined the enemy. He was a traitor to his own people. And not only would he be asking, “God where are you?” But he’d probably be wondering, “God could you ever forgive me?” But Jesus showed up at Matthew’s door, a guy that had been written off by his own people. A guy who no doubt given up on faith because he knew he was too far gone. But Jesus didn’t think so. Jesus showed him that it didn’t matter what he had done, it didn’t matter how far gone he thought he was, God had sent him to answer the question: Does God care? And he didn’t post it on his Facebook, or tweet it, he got personal and sent him his son.
See when God wanted to rescue you and me he made it personal because faith is something you experience, its not a religion, its much more than that. It’s about the person of Jesus Christ. He sent his Son in the flesh. He walked, he talked, he loved, he shared, and he died. And his death had a personal meaning for you and me. And one of the disciples John, would try to explain Jesus death and what it meant for you and me. He never would have imagined that this sentence would have become so popular. But he sat down to write and thought this is what it meant.
John 3:16 -
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
When the Jews wondered God are you ever going to answer our prayers, God sent his son. And when Matthew wondered am I too far gone, God sent his son. And he sent him to personally welcome them back.
And you can insert your name in this sentence and read that For God so loved Jeremy that he gave his only Son. Does He care? He cares so much that He sent his son. Does He love? He loves so greatly that He gets personal and sends his son.
And this is the story that we focus on this month as we approach Easter. That Jesus was without sin, but he was arrested, he was beaten, he was insulted, he was whipped, and he was crucified for you and me. Because loving you and me and the world was personal to him. You mattered so much that he died. But the power of God infiltrated his dead body and raised him back to life.
And the disciples are just in awe that He’s alive. And they began putting the puzzle pieced together and realizing that this was God’s answer to their question: Do we matter? When will you rescue us?
2. Faith is something you personally share
Later on, after Jesus had invited everyone of his disciples to follow him, to come and join him, Matthew records a powerful question that Jesus asked. Matthew tells us that one day Jesus and his disciples were camping out near Caesarea Philip. A place that had been named after Caesar’s death to honor him. Today its located in what its called the Golan Heights. During the time Jesus would have passed by the city would have been mainly a city for Roman soldiers. And as they walked into the city they walked past Roman soldiers, Roman statues, roman buildings. They were reminded on their journey, just as they had been reminded every day of their lives that the Romans were in charge. And as long as the Romans were still in charge they would be left wondering when will God save us. Every roman sword they saw would remind them that they weren’t living under peace. Every time a Roman soldier arrested someone, abused someone or killed someone they were reminded that God had not yet answered their prayers for peace.
And in light of all of this, Jesus takes his disciples into the city that was filled with Romans as if to take them right into the heart of the Israel’s problem. As if to walk right into the place that spoke the loudest that God was not answering their prayers for freedom. There Jesus turned to his disciples and he predicted you and me. But first he asked them this question…
13 he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
Who do people say that I am? Have they caught on yet to who I am? Do they know? Has my presence brought them hope?
But the disciples answered differently…
14They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
Everyone of the options was some kind of prophet. And that’s exactly the way people thought about him. They think you’re a reincarnated prophet like John the Baptist.
Elijah one of the greatest prophets in the history of Israel.
Jeremiah the weeping prophet. Who’s heart broke over Israel’s lostness. But none of the answers were correct. Jesus was still looking for something more.
15 “But what about you?”he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
16Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
You are the answer to our prayers. We’ve begged God to send help. We’ve begged God to rescue us. We’ve begged God bring us peace. And you, Jesus, are the answer. And this again, is because faith is something that you personally experience. Jesus asks each one of us this question. And how you answer this question is important. It signifies how you experience Jesus. If he’s just a prophet, if he’s just a good teacher then you’ll respect maybe. You’ll maybe take his advice now and again. You might pick out things you like about him. But if you’re answer to this question is He’s the Son of God it changes everything. Because now, he’s more than a teacher, he’s the answer to your deepest question: Has God forgotten about me? Does He care? Yes, because he stepped out of heaven and died to save me.
17Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.
And then Jesus said something incredible. He then told them the plan he said.
18And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church,
On this rock I will build my church. This is what I’m going to build my church on. This confession of faith. This belief that I am the answer to your prayers. That Jesus was the Son of God. That He was the only one who could save us. That he didn’t just come to give us the answer but he came to be the answer. When you asked does God care, he sent Jesus. And Jesus predicted that he would build his church on this belief.
And this is so big. In that moment Jesus showed them that Faith is something you personally share. In that moment Jesus gave them their marching orders. Its in that moment that Jesus revealed to them the plan. And it all depends on how you answer the question: Who is Jesus? In that moment he told them he was the Son of God and on that confession He would build his church. When Jesus said he would build a church, he did not mean he would build a place with a steeple, 4 walls, an agreed upon carpet color, the perfect style of music to make everyone happy.
The word he uses is the word ekklesia which means a gathering. A group of people. He said, he would build a huge gathering of people on this confession that He was the promised one. That he was the one who loved so much. On the fact that He was the answer to the question, Does God care? Yes, because he sent Jesus. And the reason that you’re here today is because the thing that joins all of us together right now is the answer, is the belief that Jesus was more than a prophet, more than a teacher, but that he was the Son of God who you and I can personally experience. He’s the one who loves us so much that he would die. He’s the one that everyone of our stories of change starts with His name. Because he came to build a following of people who confess him as Son of God.
And this is how you personally share faith. You tell others of the difference Jesus has made in your life. You invite them to come and join the following of people that Jesus promised to build. You confess to those friends and family members who are unchurched that Jesus is more than a good man, He’s the answer to our deepest hopes, and hurts. He’s the one who loves us enough to die for us. And the thing that’s easy to miss in this verse is that in order for Jesus to gather a people you and I have to be sharing with others that Jesus is the answer. You and I have to go to those who are hurting and tell them come with me, Jesus is the answer. You and I have to go to those who are broken and tell them Jesus is the answer. You and I have the answer, but we can’t keep it to ourselves. Jesus said, he would build his gathering of people on our confession, not his.
And he came for a purpose, he came to die for you. And that’s what we remember this month as Easter approaches. That Jesus died for you and me.
And you know there are others out there who need to hear this message. They need to hear that God cares. They need hope. So here’s your moment. Jesus made faith personal when he came and died. It’s something you personally experience, but its something you personally share. Why? Because Jesus personally came and died. And now you and I make it personal when we personally invite someone to sit with us. We are ramping up for Easter. And I’m excited to tell you that its going to be the best Easter we’ve ever had. But we want to give your an easy way to personally invite people to experience life change on Easter. So I’ve given you time to think about it. Now, I want you to write down a name that you will invite to sit with you this Easter. I’m telling you if you can get them here, God will plant the seed.
Imagine, if everyone of us went into our neighborhoods, jobs, schools, and invited people to sit with us. Not just come to church, but sit with me. Imagine if everyone of us got in the habit of personally sharing our testimony. Imagine what could happen this Easter in the lives of our friends, family, jobs.
I want you to hold that card in your hand. And before you drop it in the offering on the way by let’s pray.