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Monday, July 18, 2011

Sermon Lessons: Courage

48"In a word, what I'm saying is, Grow up. You're kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you."
(Matthew 5:48)

13Do you want to be counted wise, to build a reputation for wisdom? Here's what you do: Live well, live wisely, live humbly. It's the way you live, not the way you talk, that counts.
(James 3:13)

I think it takes great courage to live out the Christian life.  When you really begin to examine what Jesus outlines in this Sermon on the Mount, he is focusing on his disciples living by a standard that is just a little higher than the rest of what other "religions" require.  For example, he says to live as "kingdom subjects" - living out our God-created identity.  Before we can do that, we have to discover what that identity entails.  We have spent a couple weeks now outlining the "criteria" of our identity in Christ.  So, in capping this off, Jesus says, "Now, live like you are a new creation!  Stop living by the old ways of thinking and acting!"

Two characteristics he emphasizes of a man or woman that has taken this "God-created identity" to heart - graciousness toward others and generosity.  Why does he focus on these two when he describes us living "grown up" lives? It is simply because when we finally "grow up" in Christ, we learn to look beyond our own needs and wants - connecting with the needs of others.  We learn that always being right is not always going to be the best for relationship development.  In turn, we learn to be gracious to overlook offenses, or let another "win" on occasion.

These seem like strong words for Jesus to use.  Remember, he is speaking to those disciples who were his constant companions.  He wants more for them, and he is requiring more of them.  The words to "grow up" imply that they may not have been living very mature lives.  It gives me great joy and hope in knowing that others struggle with making mature decisions, too!  As "old" as I am in a physical sense has nothing to do with the "maturity" of my decisions.  I have been a Christian for 41 years now...but I still struggle with living like a "grown up" in the spiritual sense sometimes. 

I demand my own way - whining and complaining when others seem to be getting theirs.  I whimper and act annoyed when the demands of another's life interfere with my plans.  I run into circumstances that present me with all kinds of temptations to act wrong, talk boastfully, and live out of sync with my new identity.  The truth is, we all do!  In fact, none of us is above another in this "living out" of our Christian faith.  The message to "grow up" is to all of us  - if we count ourselves as disciples of Christ.

Courage is defined as the quality of mind and spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear.  This is not "bravado" - the boastful, puffed up, kind of "courage" that puts self out there for all to see.  It is the quiet connection with our source of strength (Christ) that enables us to face life head-on.  "Grown up" people exhibit this type of "head-on" courage.  There is a desire to "be all we can be" in Christ.  Today will present some opportunities for "grown up" decisions - are you ready?