When Jesus teaches us to pray, he says, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” What would this type of prayer look like in our lives today? Using the parable of the sower in Mark 4, and Paul’s prayer for the church in Colossians 1, we can see how too often we pray for the vine, when we should be praying for the soil.
This week I’m trying something a little different. Instead of writing out a full sermon or blog, I’m handing some tools over to you to craft a message (I was pretty sick and didn’t want to talk for 25 minutes). Below is a outline I would usually have early in the process of sermon preparation, with questions I ask myself to help teach the Scriptures and materials. I encourage you this week to spend some time either by yourself or with a friend, and go through this together.
- Pray before you do anything together
- Do a quick read over the sheet so you know where things are going
- Read over the Scriptures
- Share ideas with each other over what you could say for the different points. How do you transition from one to the next? What do you want to make sure people understand?
- Try and keep discussion connected to the Big Idea, it helps prevent rabbit trails.
- If you get stuck at any point, feel free to google stuff or ask Pastor Matthew
Pastor Matthew’s Super Secret Sermon Formula
Big Idea: Developing a habit of continuous praise is vital to a life of spiritual renewal.
Central Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 5:15-22
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.”
Opening Illustration: Some kind of anecdote to set up “why” people should pay attention and listen for the next 20 minutes. Think of situations where praise has made a significant difference.
Scriptural Context: Before diving into the Scripture, it is important to get as much information about it as possible. Verses pulled from the Scriptures and mined like quotes can mean anything. But context and history can teach us a lot.
- Who wrote 1 Thessalonians and who was it written to?
- Are there reoccurring themes in 1 Thessalonians?
- Where does our passage take place? What is the message in the verse and sections before and after it? Are they disconnected strings of commands, or are they leading up to something or stemming forth from something?
Point 1) Rejoice always, give thanks in all circumstances
- What would it look like in a person’s life to always be rejoicing?
- What circumstances make it easy to rejoice?
- What circumstances make it hard to rejoice?
- Can you think of any Bible stories where people rejoiced in suffering? If so, what were the circumstances and how did praise change the situation?
- How does mental illness such as clinical depression change what it means to rejoice always?
Point 2) Pray continually
- What are the functions of prayer?
- Which of those functions would facilitate the development of a mind that continually gives thanks and rejoices in all circumstances?
- What forms of prayer are there?
- What form would continuous prayer look like?
Point 3) Do not quench the Spirit
- What is the relationship between this line and the previous ones we’ve looked at?
- What role do you see praise as having in spiritual revival?
Conclusion: Cap the teaching off with a summary and tangible application. If possible, refer back to your opening illustrations to solidify their message and purpose – or give a new one.
- Colossians 3:1-3
- Luke 17:11-19
- Psalm 77
- Psalm 42
- Philippians 4:4-7
- Acts 5:40-41
A passionate love affair with God. This is what Rob Reimer writes our Christian faith should look like. He says, “That’s what Christianity is all about – it is about a passionate love affair with the God who died for us because he couldn’t stand to be away from us.”
This phrase gave me significant pause. I didn’t really like it. I understood the degree of passion and intimacy that he was trying to convey, but the inclusion of affair really bothered me. The connotations of an affair are overwhelmingly negative in our vernacular. But as I began to reflect on it and read through the picture he was trying to paint throughout the chapter, I realized that affair was really quite an apt term for the degree to which we were to abandon other things in pursuit of God.
We all have relationships with this world an in this world that drive us and are core to our identity. We have ambitions. We have people we care about and are responsible for. We have interests and pursuits of various kinds. Careers, families, hobbies, friends, churches, clubs, ideologies, politics – these are the relationships we have that drive us, that carry us, that define us.
But what this passionate love affair with God is suggesting we do, is abandon these commitments in pursuit of God. That is very strong language. And it paints a picture that many of us would be unwilling to follow. We would be unwilling, not because we don’t love God or because we don’t want to be close to him – but unwilling because we don’t want to abandon those other things – usually with good reason.
I have a family I love so deeply. I have responsibilities to that family.
I have a church that I love deeply. I have responsibilities to it.
I have a prison ministry I care about.
I have ambitions for developing myself and my gifts.
I have friends I care about. Different organizations I am a part of.
I am divided by many things in life. Good things worthy of my time and energy. So I add to that list my faith and longing for God, and I divide myself accordingly as I’m able.
But I find I’m not enough.
I’m not enough to pastor my church, pastor the inmates at the prison, be involved in the community, counsel people in crisis, be an encouragement to my friends and a positive influence on leaders in Grande Cache – all while showing my wife the undying love she deserves and my kids the present and loving father they deserve, then find the energy still to reach out to God in prayer and develop my relationship with him.
But the pursuit of God offers a different path forward. When God truly becomes the center, we will find ourselves more capable of wading through the responsibilities of life. When God becomes the focus of our energy, he becomes the source of new energy, and we have all that we need to do the things in life that he has called us to do.
As I learn about my heavenly Father and grow closer to him, I become a better father to my children. As I learn about his sacrificial love for me, I learn sacrificial love for my wife. As He leads me, I am better equipped to lead. As I see him move throughout communities to reach and save the lost, I develop a spiritual vision for reaching and saving the lost. “Seek ye first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you as well.”
In John 15:4-8, Jesus gives a metaphor for the source of fruit in our lives.
Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
If we find ourselves in passionate pursuit of intimacy with God, we will be grafted on, and the fruit of our lives will grow.
Maybe you once had a passion for God, but its faded over time. As Reimer says, “What began with passion ends with duty.” Perhaps there was a time you loved to read through the Scriptures and just soak up everything you could – now you read them out of obligation because that’s what Christians do. Perhaps you once rejoiced in eager anticipation with each Sunday gathering to worship God with others and be part of his kingdom, and now you come to church because that’s what Christians do.
A great way to tell if the fire is there or not is your perspective on ministries when you engage. Are you looking for God or looking for problems? Are you concerned with what you like, or what God is doing? Do you long to worship God through your favourite songs alone, or are you joyous just to worship regardless of style?
Think of relationships you have in life. When things are going really well, the diversity with which you engage that person grows. How many guys have sat through a romantic comedy that was just the worst simply because it meant time with a woman they love? And then your relationship continues on, and you kind get used to having the other person around, and you hit that phase of – ok, you do your thing, I’ll do mine. The passion and desire dies down. It isn’t that things are bad, or that you’ve stopped caring for each other. But both want to have that fire again. In those situations, it isn’t the big romantic gestures that rekindle those fires. It’s the willingness to be with each other even when things are not ideal for you.
Big romantic gestures are easy, short, and fleeting. Lifestyle changes are hard, long term, and foundational.
So if you want to rekindle your love affair with God, you aren’t going to do so with a weekend retreat. Though a weekend retreat may help. You aren’t going to do so with a massive sacrificial offering donation. Though a massive sacrificial offering donation may help *cough cough*. It’s about lifestyle changes and habits.
So how do we do this? How do we pursue God?
We love one another.
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”
The first thing we need to do is learn about the love of God that we can better reflect it to the world around us. The Bible doesn’t call us just to be recipients of God’s love in this world, but vessels of it that carry that love to the world around us.
- Pray for God. Pray to know Him more. Pray to have His love revealed to you. God does not ask his people to sacrifice and change their lives for an unknown deity. He wants to reveal himself to us. And when we see him for who he is, that fire will burn within us to grow even deeper in love with him. As John wrote in 1 John, we love because he first loved us.
- Indwell your mind with God as you love others.
- Remind yourself of Him during the highs and lows of your day, as well as the times of monotony. When you are peeling potatoes, are you aware of God?
- Prune your life as your love for others refocuses your priorities.
- Social media is not a sin, but if it is keeping you from quiet time with God, it is a sin.
- Rob Reimer tells a story of visiting a vineyard and talking with a man who had been pruning vines for 50 years. He said that 90% of new growth had to be cut off, so that what remained could produce fruit. What in your life is tapping your resources and holding you back?
- Sacrifice as you love others.
- Invest in your relationship with God. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Make sacrifices until they no longer seem like sacrifices. Then give more as God pours into your life.
The pursuit of God requires a lot of little choices. Day to day.
“If you pursue God, you will ultimately be rewarded with more of Him.” – Rob Reimer
Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name;
make known among the nations what he has done.
Sing to him, sing praise to him;
tell of all his wonderful acts.
Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
Look to the Lord and his strength;
seek his face always.
Full Sermon Audio:
There is a thirst for revival. We long to see the movement of the Spirit in our personal lives and in our churches – we long to see Him come and bring a freshness and abundancy of life that draws people to God and shows them the real impact the gospel can have in this world.
Too often we swing the pendulum too far, one way or another, in seeking revival. Sometimes we work really hard, study, learn everything we can, max out all our resources, and wonder why revival isn’t coming. Other times, we sit back, pray, and wait for God, and wonder why He isn’t coming. We swing the pendulum back and forth between these two extremes of, “Everything I can do” and “Everything God should do.” But throughout history, God has wanted to partner with His people to affect the wonderful change in this world that the Gospel longs to do.
The first pathway is personalizing our identity in Christ. Understanding who we are in Christ helps us know the potential of the Spirit in our lives. It helps us draw closer to God. It helps us garner expectations for the experiences of our lives. Our identity in Christ opens up the other pathways to God as we truly learn what it means to be a child of God.
This is a passage that can be hard to understand. The Apostle Paul is writing here about the transition from the Jewish theology about law and salvation to the new theology in Christ and the Spirit that come as a result of the cross. Romans 8 is also a passage that comes from a long build up – the first seven chapters of Romans are all leading up to this, “Therefore…” that the chapter opens up with. The complex context can make Romans 8 hard to understand, but within its verses is a powerful message about who we are in Christ, and what is available to us in His Spirit.
1. We are saved. The opening line of this passage proclaims the wonderful truth that there is no condemnation for those in Christ. We often limit our concept of condemnation to the next life – we proclaim that we are saved from the fires of hell. But we are also saved from condemnation from God in this life. We don’t have to let our sin stand between us and God. Whatever we have done, the cross has taken care of it, and we can be in the presence of God confident and secure.
2. We are adopted. We are welcomed into God’s family. We have the ability to cry out, “Abba! Father!” just as Christ did. God longs to be the perfect representation of a Father in our lives.
3. Sealed in the Spirit. While more explicit in Ephesians 1, this passage in Romans 8 reveals a sense of ownership and promise that God will complete His work in us.
4. The same power that raised Christ from the dead lives in us. Our identity is more than just a status – it is an opportunity to move beyond our own limits into something more. When we seek revival and spiritual strength, it is this Spirit that lives in us that brings it about. As we understand more and more what it means to be in Christ, we will understand more and more exactly what this power of the Spirit makes available to us in our lives.
5. We are called to something greater. This salvation, adoption, seal and power that we are blessed with in Christ, put a wonderful potential in us for something greater in life. Ephesians 1 tells us how we have been gifted to accomplish specific tasks. God as a role for you in this world to share the love of Christ and the strength of the Spirit in the midst of the darkness.
6. We are a new creation. While the cross of Christ was enough to atone for our sins, God loves us too much to keep us in our sinful state. Our identity in Christ is people who are being brought into righteousness by God’s strength. He wants to cleanse us. He wants to restore us. He wants to transform us to be the people He created us to be.
7. We are people who rejoice in suffering. This is a point we don’t often talk about, because it is difficult to talk about. If you look at the first six points, it is easy to think that the Christian life will be filled with harmony and wonderful good times. But the reality is, nobody in this world goes without hardship. Nobody goes without pain. The gospel does not promise us a life free from hurt, but it does promise us a different mindset with which to go through the hurt. “We share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” James 1 talks about the potential for trials to develop maturity. 1 Peter talks about how we all will suffer, but if we suffer for the right reasons, we have hope for something greater. Those who come through severe suffering often have the most impact on the world around them as the strength and perspective they needed to endure gave them wisdom and vision to make the world a better place. I encourage you to skim through the writings of Corrie Ten Boom, a Dutch woman who helped many Jews escape during the holocaust and was herself put into a concentration camp. Her writings are deeply simple and profound having come through such evil and terror.
So how do we make these points of our identity in Christ a part of our reality and the way we live? Romans 8:6 gives us a clue. “The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life.” A lot of what we believe about ourselves and how we live begins with our mind and what we allow to fill it and have sway over it.
Do we spend time in prayer and the word trying to instill our spirits with God’s truth?
In his book, Pathways the King, Rob Reimer has a declaration of identity that he encourages us to read daily. It is a declaration derived from the Scriptures that lays out what it means to be a child of God. He encourages us to speak it and pray it in our daily lives until we see it starting to become the reality we know, not just in our minds, but in the experiences of our lives.
This identity is the first pathway to the King. Knowing who we are opens the door to seeing what we can be
Declaration of Identity in Christ
I am a child of God. I have been justified through faith in Christ. I have been pardoned and acquitted. I have been forgiven. I am clothed with the righteousness of Jesus. My history has been rewritten. I belong to my Father. I am deeply loved by God. God’s love is unconditional.
God’s love for me is unchanging. My performance cannot change it. The demonic hosts cannot stop it. The future will not alter is. No one can separate me from it. I am deeply loved by my Father in Heaven. I am secure in Christ. I belong to God. I am a possessor of grace.
I am chosen by God. I am wanted. I am adopted into his family. I am an heir with God and coheir with Christ. I am a prince/princess in his kingdom. I am included in Christ. I have been marked with a seal. The Holy Spirit lives in me. I am in Christ. And Christ is in me. I am deeply loved by my father. I belong.
I’m on the road to glory. I am God’s friend. I am at peace with God. God is for me. And if God is for me, who can be against me? I have been bought with a price. I am not my own. I have been set free. I have been redeemed. I have no condemnation. I have eternal life. I am a new creation.
I am more than a conqueror. I am victorious. I have been called to the family of God. I have been called to carry His presence. I am an ambassador for Christ. I am a witness. I am the salt and light of the world. I am God’s co-worker. I carry the keys to the kingdom. I am a kingdom carrier.
I am empowered by the Holy Spirit within me. I partner with God to bring his kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven. I am deeply loved by my Father in Heaven. I have eternal significance.