- Is there something you go to God for time and time again because you think it will satisfy you, even if it seems like a good thing?
- What have you identified as one way you can grow spiritually this year?
- What is something you are currently consuming that already has or could easily consume you if you aren’t careful?
Happy New Year Hope City! I hope that you’ve had an incredible start to your year. I know we are only 6 days in to the new year, but I hope it’s been a good one. I know that 2018 left some of you feeling a bit like this:
You are just happy to get on the other side of 2018. Right?
2018 was an exciting year for us here at Hope City, we celebrated our 1st year anniversary as a church in 2018, we provided clean water to a village in Guatemala by drilling a clean water well. We served our community through Bags of Hope and Serve Days…. We hired our first youth pastor, and launched Hope City Youth Nights… We’ve seen our Hope City Kids program explode… There have been so many highlights from this past year, it’s hard to come up with only one.
I saw a video that Google put out helping recap this past year… Maybe you’ve seen it… If not, check this out…
2018 Year in Search – Google Video
Good things are worth searching for… So true! This is why many of us love new years… Right? Because we are on the beginning of a quest, a journey if you will to figure out how to make the next year the best year. How to fulfill each and every need and want that we have. It seems like every year we are back at it, just like when you eat lunch and then a few hours later you’re hungry again… Looking for the next meal. The next bit of satisfaction.
Why is that? Because we know that Good Things are worth searching for.
Here’s what we know about humanity: from the beginning of time we have been searching for a way to fill our life with meaning, to add value, knowledge, skills, and abilities. To loose weight, gain weight, strengthen our minds, our bodies, and often even our soul.
At the end of 2018, Tiffany and I sat down together and did a year in review. We looked at 4 aspects of our year… In our marriage, in our family, at work, and in our spiritual life. We wrote it down…. We identified exactly where we had been, the good and the bad. It wasn’t all great either! 2018 was hard! 2018 could probably best be defined by 2 words for me… Stress Eating. Like all of the eating… I ate for my whole family… Anyone else?
So, we’ve identified where we’ve been, and now it was a matter of figuring out where we were going. If we’re all honest, we are all searching for something. Every single one of us. We are searching for something. The question is, are you searching for what matters? Or do you even know what you’re searching for? Isn’t it funny how we can feed ourselves everything we can get our hands on and somehow still feel starving?
Here’s the good news… We aren’t the first group of people to ever be in this position of searching for something. We aren’t the first people who are looking down the barrel of a new year, or a new season trying to figure out who or what we want to be or become. In fact, there is a group of people in the New Testament that found themselves in this exact spot….
You can turn with me to the Book of John in your Bible. We’re going to be spending time in the Gospel of John in our series I AM. Throughout this series we are going to be taking a look at 7 statements that Jesus makes about himself. He says 7 statements about himself that define who He is. They all start with the same two words, I AM. The funny thing is, that we’re going to find out that as Jesus further clarifies and defines who He is, we get a better picture and understanding of who we are.
Look with me at John chapter 6, that’s page 728 in the Bibles around you, or you can click over in your YouVersion App on your smart phone. John shares with us 7 statements that Jesus makes about himself, and the first one that we’re going to be looking at is here in John chapter 6. But before we jump right in and read the statement that Jesus makes, we need to know what has happened already…
In the beginning of chapter 6, Jesus has set out across the Sea of Galilee and he met a big crowd of people, scripture tells us that it is about 5,000 men present. And Jesus sat down with his disciples and said, where should we buy bread for these people? They look at one another and say, ‘that’s impossible! And then Jesus says, Hold my cloak… He takes 5 loaves of bread and 2 small fish and feeds every single person there. Not only that, he says, walk around with these baskets and pick up the leftovers. Don’t let anything be wasted!
So Jesus has just fed over 5,000 people, and then he and his disciples crossed to the other side of the Sea of Galilee which was another miracle! But you’ll have to read that one on your own. And now it’s morning. The next day. All of a sudden, this crew of people shows up to Jesus and says, Rabbi, when did you get here?
Look at what Jesus says…
“I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.
Jesus cuts right to the point and says, I know why you’re here… you want something. You don’t want me, you want the food I gave you.
You’ve felt this way before… A friend calls you out of the blue, and you jump in the conversation excited that they may ask you to hang out, and instead, they ask you to help them move. Nobody actually wants to help anyone move! Or even worse, you know that they’re only calling because you have something that they need, and it wasn’t meaningful time together.
Jesus sees right through this mentality, and this thinking. He is keenly aware of everyone’s motivations and desires. He is God, He knows everything, this is what we call omniscience. He sees that these people are consumed by the desires of their stomach.
Which leads us to a very important principle this morning, and that is, WHAT WE CONSUME WILL CONSUME US.
- The things that you think about, will captivate your thoughts…
- The things that you listen to, will be played on repeat in your mind…
- The things that you look at, will train your eyes to see more of those things.
- The way you spend/invest your money, will establish financial patterns that repeat themselves. If you’re generous, you will find ways of being generous. If you’re self-serving, you’ll continue to find ways to spend money on yourself.
I’ve got to say, that as a church, we are headed in the right direction. I’m proud of you all because we have set a goal to bring Hope For All in Jesus name. We have said that in 2019, we want to release more leaders to care for people well here in our church. We want to serve families, parents, students and kids better over the course of 2019, and we want to reach beyond our walls to invest in planting new churches, and supporting 200 Foster Families here in SRQ.
We set a goal of $35,000 this past December to make that happen, and I’m thrilled to be able to share with you that as a Church we collectively gave $35,651.50.
I want to first thank you… Thank you for giving generously, and sacrificially towards this. I know that many of you prayed, and sacrificed, and did without in order to make sure that we could help others in need.
Secondly I want to encourage you with this thought. What we consume will consume us. Don’t limit your generosity to end of the year giving, or giving inspired by Christmas emotions. As a church we are going to be taking bold steps to reach new families and people here in our city. And we can’t do this on our own, or individually. We need to do this together. Why not make 2019 the most generous year of your life yet.
We need to be careful what we consume, because it will consume us. But when we give it out does us. Jesus goes on to talk to these people that have approached him for more food… He says,
27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”
28 Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”
29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
Jesus continues to challenge and shape their thinking, as I hope He is shaping our thinking today. There are things that you and I do that will not produce any fruit. They won’t be helpful…. Like scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Those are moments of my life I’ll never get back. Those moments spoil. Jesus is instructing these individuals to focus on something even greater, something that has more importance than passing feelings, or infatuations. Focus on things that will matter in eternity.
They asked him yet another question. Okay Rabbi, if it’s not about Food that is going to spoil, but food that doesn’t spoil, or will endure to eternity, what do I have to do for God to give me this kind of food?
Jesus says, the only work you have to do, is this. Have Faith, or Believe in the one God sent.
IN other words, Jesus is instructing us today to FOCUS ON THE LASTING NOT THE PASSING. It is far too easy to get consumed with the things that just don’t matter, we get bogged down by the tyranny of the urgent, rather than the important. This is the trick… Right now many of us are worried about our physical appearance, we are worried about our waistline, or we want to see certain muscle gains… and I’ll be the first to tell you that Healthy eating and living is important, and spiritual. But if we are only worried about what the outside of our bodies look like, what shape, and size they are, but we are not worried about the inner condition of our heart, we are focusing on the passing, not the lasting. What is ultimately going to happen? Everyone of us is going to age… And no amount of plastic surgery, or cosmetic conditioning can keep you from aging. That we know. So all of the energy, all of the work that we put into a few good years of looking a certain way, are going to be for what? Don’t sacrifice the lasting accomplishments on the altar of the passing thrills and joys….
I have known men who have thrown away entire marriages and families because of one cheap moment with a woman who was not their wife. And when I asked them, if it was worth it, they overwhelmingly said No. Not in the least bit.
Some of you today are chasing things that are going to leave you wishing you could get that time back or redo those few years… Or make decisions differently. Jesus says, the work of God is to believe in the one He has sent. It isn’t an external work, but an internal work. Which is why in 2019, here at Hope City we want to help you take those next steps in your Journey of Faith. We want to help you do that in several ways. In just a few weeks we have connect groups that are going to be rolling out again. A connect group is an opportunity for you to get together mid-week with a group of people to grow in a meaningful way with God and others. The goal of our church is not to get more people in rows like what you’re sitting in, but to get you into circles in people’s living rooms, or around tables out in our community. Our dream team is one of the fastest ways to begin taking steps in your journey of faith. Getting beyond yourself and serving others is critical in growing in your faith. I also want to point out the very obvious…
Can I encourage you to make it a point to be here at church on Sundays? I know that sounds simple… it is important to gather together at church weekly, to pause once in your week, and gather together to worship God, grow in his word, and encourage one another along the way. What if 2019, you increased your commitment to being present here at church. I think that you would see that you focus would shift from what is passing to what is lasting.
Maybe, you’re not convinced yet. Well, the people weren’t either. Look back…
30 So they asked him, “What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? 31 Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”
They’re still hung up on eating… they’re still hung up on the momentary needs… They’re thinking back to how when their great great great grandfather’s and grandmothers were escaping slavery in Egypt, they wandered through the desert, and God fed millions of their ancestors by providing bread from heaven. Manna would fall from the sky everyday in order to feed their stomachs and keep them moving. So, Jesus, where is this Manna! Give us that sign… Give us that bread…
32 Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
34 “Sir,” they said, “from now on give us this bread.”
35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.
Jesus is revealing an aspect of who He is. He’s telling this crowd, listen, you are looking for a sign from God… I am that sign. You want to know if God loves you? Guess what…. HE DOES, and I’ll prove it to you. Hang on. Less than 3 years from now you’ll know just how much God loves you. Jesus says, I AM the BREAD OF LIFE. You don’t want Manna, it spoils, it doesn’t last. You don’t want sourdough… it will get moldy. You don’t want focaccia… you don’t want pita bread… All of those other things that you’ve been chasing after to fill your stomachs and satisfy your cravings, they don’t last. They won’t keep you full. But listen… I AM THE BREAD OF LIFE. I am the source, I am the one who will fulfill you in everyway you could imagine! Come to me. Believe in Me.
These people were coming to Jesus already… but Jesus was concerned with their heart. Their problem was all they wanted to do was ingest more and more. Just fill us up Jesus. We’ll come back to you. Just fill us up.
And the real question is are we going to Jesus for bread, or because He is our bread? Is Jesus just a magical provider, or is he the provider of our life? When Jesus says that He is the bread of Life, He is saying that we never have to go hungry again. We never have to worry about, or wonder about our spiritual hunger… We can live a full and complete life.
But there is something more to learn here as well… And it is this, EAT TO LIVE.
Is it important to eat food? You better believe it. But if all you do is shove more food in your mouth, and down your throat and into your stomach, and then your body stops processing it, you will bloat up and die. You’ll get sick to your stomach, and your body will forcibly eject the food. Food is the fuel that keeps your body going… EAT TO LIVE. It is meant to fuel your life.
The same thing is true spiritually speaking. If all you do is consume more of the word of God and it does nothing for our soul, than we will grow spiritually sick…. You’ve all met the judgmental Christian who knows too much and has a million and one bible verses memorized to back up their judgements. We’ve seen people abuse others spiritually by wielding scripture in a way that hurts not helps. We’ve seen hypocrisy on every level that simply turns your stomach and causes people to run from the church. This is what happens when all you do is sit at the table and consume.
Jesus is the bread of life, the fuel for life, and that life should cause us to bring life to others.
This is why at the beginning of this year, I want to help our church take steps in their journey of faith. We are introducing a STEP reading plan. Starting this week we have a Scripture reading all planned out for you that will coincide with what we are learning as a church here on Sunday morning’s. Let me help you with this. Everyday you can take a step of faith, and it starts by going to the bread of life. It starts by going to Jesus, and fueling up on His word.
We are going to give you an action plan that will help you grow in your faith, not only your knowledge. So here’s what we’re going to do.
The first thing you’re going to do is go to Scripture. Open your Bible, and read the passage for the day. They are not long, they are intended to be read within 10-15 minutes. No more. You may even have time to read the passage twice. But we are going to feast ourselves on scripture. We’re going to read the word of god, and take it in.
The second thing you’re going to do is Think. Too often we just passively read something without actually thinking about what we just read. So we’re going to slow down and think. What did I just read. What does it make me think about? This is where the next tool is going to come into play. We’ve printed a journal for all of you. This is to help you in the thinking process. You’ll want to write down some thoughts and observations that you have about what you’ve read.
Then we’re going to Execute. What is one thing that you will do differently because of what you read and learned? What can you put into practice after reading… Let me give you all a word of caution. I know it’s January, and you are all excited to tackle the different aspects of your life, but slow down okay? Think about it this way, Don’t try to boil the ocean, just try to get something done this week. Cool? Let’s take the pressure off a bit. Slow and steady is a good mantra here.
The last thing we are going to do is Pray. All of this is good, but if we aren’t bringing it before God, and inviting Him into our thoughts and our lives we will end up simply running on a treadmill, not moving forward at all, but spending a lot of energy trying to get there. Here are a few prayers that you can pray everyday at this time…
- Help any knowledge I have gained to help me to love you and others more.
- Correct any lies I believe about you.
- Guide my steps today according to your word, not my plans.
Together we are going to take steps in our faith. You’ll notice that we haven’t dated the bookmark. That’s because we want you to move through the rhythms of your week. We’ve built in two grace days for you. Days when you can catch up, or simply just rest in your relationship with Christ. Let me encourage you at the beginning of the year, there are many things that we can chase… many things that we can try to stuff in our life that will promise to leave us full, but there is only one thing that never leaves us hungry, and that is Jesus. Which is why He says, I am the bread of Life.
You may find yourself this morning feeling like you’re the guy on the treadmill. You’ve been running, and running, but getting nowhere. Or you’ve been trying to fill up on the bread of accomplishments, the next trophy on the wall.
Maybe you’ve been trying to fill up on the bread of performance, and you’ve been chasing the next career move. Or the bread of momentary pleasure, that porn, alcohol, and over indulgence can tempt you with.
My fear is that we will look at the bread that is in our hands, and we will look back at Jesus, and we will close our hands around that thing and say, “I’ve got all the life I need right here. I have all I need in my job. I have all I need in this addiction. I have all I need in this relationship. I have all I need in my dreams. I have all I need in this sin.
If that’s you, then let me plead with you with this. Jesus is the only bread that will break for you. Of all the breads that are out there, every other bread will break you. Try it. It will leave you wanting. It will leave you broken. Jesus comes along, and he says, “I am the bread of life.” He finds us starving to death with a stomach full of Savior substitutes, eating to become hungry again, drinking to become thirsty again, looking for life and never finding it. Jesus comes, and he says, “I am what you’re looking for. I am all that you need. I am enough for you.”
At the start of 2019, would you fill up on the Bread of Life? When Jesus says I am the Bread of Life, He is saying, I will provide. Even when it looks like there is no food on the table, I still AM.
Even when it looks like there is no money in the bank, I still AM.
Even when it looks like the relationship is going downhill fast, I still AM.
I AM the BREAD OF LIFE. LOOK TO ME. Look to me, and I will care for your soul.
Today, we are going to end our service, and start the new year together by taking communion. Communion is a time where we as Christians remember that God sent His only Son Jesus into the world, that Jesus, The Bread of Life, was broken, was hung on a cross and died for you and me to pay the penalty for our sins. The things we say and do that go against God’s design for our life. On the cross, Jesus stretched out his arms and died in our place.
Later Jesus was at the last meal he would eat with his disciples, and He told them that in a few hours he was going to be arrested, and that His body would be broken, like the breaking of a bread. And that His blood would be poured out like the crushing of a grape. And that he would give his life for the life of the world.
He told them that anytime they eat and drink that they should remember this.
And so today, we come to the table, to remember, and reflect on this. That the Bread of Life came into this world to bring us life, by giving up his life. And that this symbol of bread being broken, and us eating this bread brings us life.
And because of that, we will never be the same.