Check-Up: Are you Engaging with Jesus?
Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5
At First Methodist Church our mission is to Encounter Jesus. But it's time we see that encountering Jesus is just a first step. It's the critical first step that sets a trajectory towards a life of holiness and Kingdom living, but it's still only a first step.
I started drinking coffee about the time I began seminary in Kentucky. Naturally I didn't know anything at first. Yet the roasting and brewing processes tickled my inner chemistry nerd curiosity. The culture related to coffee and coffee houses also intrigued me. Instead of the fast-paced productivity driven food lines of McDonald's, local coffee houses in Kentucky had a relaxed and studious vibe. Eventually this curiosity led me to spend a little time at coffee houses and try out different coffees. I had officially encountered coffee (and this critical first step would mean I would never be the same...)
Pretty soon after encountering coffee I started working in the coffee industry. What had previously only piqued my interest was now a field of study for me. I learned the techniques, I studied the culture, and I invested quite a lot of myself into it. I had officially engaged with coffee.
Okay, so all analogies can be stretched a little too far... but here's my point:
Once we Encounter Jesus, we need the next step - to engage with Jesus. Engaging with Jesus means you shift from curiosity about Him to companionship with Him. It's the difference between being informed about Jesus and being transformed by Jesus. There are many ways we find engagement with Jesus. The obvious are what we Methodists have called "ordinary means of grace" - reading scripture, prayer, fasting, communion, and works of service. Along side these core ways that Jesus has promised to engage with us are countless others.
Christian faith cannot be sustained by drive-by encounters with Jesus. Your faith requires the full dine-in experience! The more we engage with Jesus the more we are made new by Him and the more we become like him. We stop being simply close to Jesus and we start claiming Him as our own.
This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:17
Jesus taught us about this sort of intimate engagement with himself when He spoke of abiding from John 15. The bottom line is this - "apart from me (Jesus) you can do nothing."
How are you engaging with Jesus in this season of life? We've got a number of groups at the church that can help you do that. Bible Study on Wednesday nights, Sunday School on Sunday mornings, Propel Women's group on Monday nights, Methodist Men on Wednesday mornings. Do none of those times line up? Let me help you plant something. You just have to let me know you are looking for an opportunity to engage with Jesus but can't find one. There's no more important work I have to do than to help people engage with Jesus.
The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23
When we engage with Jesus, we bear fruit. We are made new. And our strained relationships with our family, our community, our wallet, or our work all are mended by the healing grace of Jesus Christ. But when we don't engage with Jesus, "we can do nothing."
October is a classic midpoint month in our culture. The rush of starting school and beginning new routines and rhythms has subsided. The end of recouping financial losses from a summer of vacationing are nearly over. The looming season of holidays is just far enough away that you can still pretend they're not right around the corner. It's a month ripe for asking a simple check-up question.
So, I'm just checking-up on you. Are you engaging with Jesus?
May God's unknowable peace be unmistakably yours today,