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Worship Message - His Spiritual Direction

His Spiritual Direction

Early in His ministry, Jesus performed His first public miracle, which was changing

water into wine during a wedding feast.

That miracle was preceded by a very important statement by Jesus’ mother Mary, who

was also at the wedding. When Mary learned of a problem at the feast - the problem of

the wine having run out - she shared the situation with Jesus. She then told the servants

at the feast, “Do whatever He tells you.”

Jesus did tell the servants some things. They did do what He told them. The result was

the miracle, which certainly helped the hosts of the wedding feast.

But what if what Mary said was a challenge that we take? What if we did whatever He -

whatever Jesus - tells us? Will we see miracles? Will we be helped?

I think the answer is yes all around. We should be challenged to obey Jesus. And when

we do obey - when we do what Jesus tells us - we, too, can see miracles. We, too, will be

helped. Including in various categories of our lives. Including in what we will talk about

for the next few Sundays. Including in what we will talk about today concerning what

Jesus tells us about Him wanting us to go His spiritual direction.

This topic seems especially relevant today, shortly after our celebration of the birth of

Jesus, which happened during Advent, and shortly before we think about His suffering,

which we will do during Lent - suffering that culminated in His crucifixion - and about

the glory of His resurrection on the third day following His death, which we will do on

Easter Sunday.

Today’s topic is especially relevant because it needs to be asked what we are going to do

about the joy of His birth, the shock of His suffering, and the glory of His resurrection.

Are those things going to simply be nice things to read about or hear about, or are those

things - is who Jesus is - going to affect us - in all ways, including spiritually?

There are three Bible passages for today, each one having Jesus tell us the spiritual

direction He wants us to go. Let’s each of us examine ourselves to make sure we, like the

servants at the wedding feast where Jesus did His first miracle, do what He tells us.

That is critical because it is only through obedience, including the obedience of

accepting Him as Savior, that we can experience the miracle of salvation. The only way

we can be helped spiritually.

Three passages for today, the first being Mark 1:14-15.

This passage actually tells of something that came before Jesus’ first miracle. He had

been baptized. He had survived three temptations from Satan. Those things had

already happened. This was right before He started selecting His disciples.

The one who had baptized Jesus was John the Baptist. A short time later, John was

arrested. He was eventually killed because he said some politically incorrect things

about a Roman leader’s immoral behavior. It was after the arrest that Jesus made a

comment about the spiritual direction He wants people to take.

Verses 14 and 15 of Mark 1. “Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee,

preaching the Gospel of God and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is

at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel.’”

First, consider some of the important words and phrases that come before what Jesus

had to say about the spiritual direction He wants us to go.

“The Gospel of God.” Gospel means good news. God is the source of good news, is He

not? That is the case because God is the source of truth. Because of God, we do not

need to wonder how we are to live or what the reward might be for obeying what is

taught. We know - we know from the Bible - both those things. Things we can rely upon

now and forever.

God is the source of hope. The hope that through acceptance of Jesus, we can have the

strength we need to obey, and that the promise of Heaven is not a wish, but a certainty,

for those who do accept Jesus.

He is the source of peace. At least peace with God, which should keep our spirits

hopeful.

And He is the source of salvation. We know the words, “all have sinned and fall short of

the glory of God.” We know those words mean that all deserve punishment. But the

Gospel of God - the Gospel of God sending Jesus to save us - is good news. It is the news

we can escape what we deserve. That we will escape eternal punishment if we will

accept Jesus as the Savior He is.

“The time is fulfilled.” That means the time to accept salvation and peace so we can

have hope that is based on the truth of God - the time to accept Jesus - had come. It

came when Jesus began His ministry.

And because of Jesus’ ministry, the Kingdom of God was “at hand.”

That is what Jesus told the people who heard Him in Mark 1. “Therefore,” Jesus added -

this is also what He told those people - “repent, and believe in the Gospel.”

Repent. What an interesting word that is. It means to be sorry for whatever is done

wrong. But it goes beyond just being sorry. It means being so sorry you strive, with the

help of God, to keep from ever doing that wrong thing again.

One of my nieces used to, when she was very young, misbehave in some way. The time I

am thinking of, the misbehavior was minor, but it was some misbehavior.

That evening, she was corrected by her mother. The girl burst into tears. She ran to her

mother, hugged her legs, and promised to never ever do such a bad thing again.

She was forgiven. Five minutes later, she did the very same thing again.

The niece, by the way, grew out of that pretty quickly, but I remember thinking, “You’re

not really sorry at all, are you?” That was my thought because if she was sorry - if she

had truly repented - she would not have returned to the misbehavior. Especially right

away.

Of course, I never had a problem like that. I guess I was just about the most perfect

child who ever lived.

But what did Jesus tell the people in Mark 1? Since it is in the Bible, what does He tell

us even now? Repent. Be sorry for whatever has been done wrong. So sorry that the

one and only goal concerning the misbehavior is that it never be done again.

And believe in the Gospel. Believe. More on that toward the end of this message. But

believe. Do more than just agree with. Believe so much that your life is based on the

truth and the hope and the peace and the salvation of God. Base your life on that good

news.

As Mary said, “Do whatever He tells you.” One thing He tells us is to repent and believe

in the good news of God, which includes the fact that Jesus is the Savior. Have you done

that? If not, will you? If you do, you will see the miracle of salvation. And for all who

repent and believe, we will be helped with blessing after blessing after blessing.

Repent, and believe in the Gospel of God. The first part of that challenge is also found in

chapter 4 of Matthew. Verse 17 has it that when “Jesus began to preach, He said,

‘Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.’”

That was said to people in general. But then He had two more words for certain ones.

That is described this way. “As Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers

- Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother - casting a net into the sea, for they

were fishermen. Jesus said to them, ‘Follow Me.’”

Those are the two words He added. “Follow Me.”

It was common at that time in that culture that those wanting to be disciples of someone

applied for the privilege, hoping that maybe they would be found to be smart enough or

clever enough or promise to be loyal enough to be chosen.

But with Jesus, it was different. He started the process, here with Peter and Andrew.

He sought out them and others He wanted. There was no test of intelligence or loyalty.

There was no surveying to see if the disciples might be able to get along with each other.

Jesus simply called each one to follow.

The fact Peter and Andrew did follow is amazing. That is because they had good jobs.

Of course, fishing was hard work. But it was steady work. They were employed. But as

soon as Jesus said, “Follow Me,” they left their nets and followed Him.

Right after that, Jesus came across two other brothers. They were James and John.

By the way, I do not believe Jesus just came across any of the men He called to be

disciples. I am certain He knew who He wanted as His closest followers. being God, He

knew them to begin with. I think He had scouted them out, knowing where they were

and maybe when they were ready to respond to the challenge to change occupations.

He came across James and John. He called them with what I suspect were the same two

words of “follow Me.”

They, too, responded in a positive way, which is perhaps even more amazing because it

is recorded they were, at that moment, with their father, the three of them working

together as fisherman. They were mending their nets at that time.

It is amazing James and John responded as they did - that they, too, made the decision

to follow Jesus - because there is no indication they talked to their father or asked his

permission. As soon as Jesus called them, they just left the boat and their father and

followed Him.

It was the same for the rest of Jesus’ disciples. And what an interesting mix of men He

called. There were the fishermen just named. There was a tax collector named

Matthew. A collector of Roman taxes, which would have made him very unpopular, but

he, too, was called. As was Simon, who was a zealot. He was one of the men dedicated

to the rights of Jews over the controlling forces of the Roman government, which was

the exact opposite of Matthew. Maybe Simon himself was not a violent man, but many

zealots were as they fought for Jewish freedom. And among others, there was Judas

Iscariot, who ended up betraying Jesus.

What an interesting mix of people. All of whom heard what Jesus said to them, which

was the invitation to change directions away from fishing and tax collecting and

revolution and whatever else - away from families and at least somewhat easy lives - to

following, learning from, and serving the one who had come to be the Savior. All of

them heard Jesus. Each of them obeyed what Jesus told them.

Verses 23 through 25. Right away, they went with Jesus all around Galilee. They

listened to Him teach in synagogues. In His teaching, He preached the Gospel. They

also witnessed Him heal a wide variety of diseases and infirmities among the people. All

of that causing His fame to spread, that causing great crowds to follow Him.

As we know, the disciples had some very difficult times, too. Including times when they

had trouble understanding some of His teachings. Times when many of the religious

leaders argued against Him. Later, when some in the crowds who followed Jesus began

to turn away. And certainly when they watched Jesus being crucified and then buried.

But at the start, the disciples had some very good times. Good times that came because

they obeyed what Jesus told them.

Remember the theme of this message. The overriding theme, which is to do whatever

Jesus tells you, and the subtheme for today of doing what Jesus tells you about the

spiritual direction He wants you to go.

That is the theme because it was not just people back then who were told to repent and

believe. And it was not just the disciples who were told to follow Him. Those words

apply to us now. We, too, are to repent and believe. We, too, are to follow Him, perhaps

including leaving what is familiar or comfortable for us. To do that at least spiritually.

All of that included in the third passage for today, which is in John 6, verses 27 through

29.

Actually, it is in verse 29 that the theme is brought up. But to set the stage, Jesus, in

verse 27, addressed people who followed Him shortly after He had performed the

miracle of multiplying some bread and some fish - a little bit of each - into enough to

feed thousands of people.

Jesus, in addressing them, said this. “Do not labor for the food which perishes.”

Of course, it is certainly my opinion Jesus did not, in those words, teach against eating,

or against working so money can be earned to buy food. It is simply the teaching that

physical food is not as important as something else.

He said, “Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food which endures to

eternal life.” Spiritual food. Whatever will make us stronger spiritually. Closer to God.

More holy. The food which “the Son of man will give to you.”

The challenge Jesus gave hit home. The people responded in such a way it was clear

they wanted to know how to get the spiritual food to which Jesus referred. The people

responded, “What must we do to be doing the works of God? What must we do to get

the food which endures to eternal life?”

Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom God has

sent.”

We have considered the word earlier, but let me now stress that word. The words,

“believe in.”

You know, we can know about Jesus. We can read about Him and hear songs and

sermons about Him. We can know about all of His miracles and memorize all His

teachings. We can have all sorts of head knowledge about Him.

But to believe in Him, more than head knowledge is required. The knowledge has to be

taken from the head and shared with the heart. To believe in Jesus means to accept

Him as the Savior He is. To accept Him to the point of asking for His forgiveness. For

the salvation His forgiveness brings. Which is preceded by repenting. And then to obey

His teachings.

Which is what we have talked about today concerning what Jesus said. Repent and

follow, which shows - which proves - believing in Him.

I have found a story that I think is an interesting example of a modern person following

Jesus. I hope you, too, will find it interesting and helpful.

A young woman named Charlotte had come to a hard time in her life. She was filled

with discontent. Everything seemed wrong. Her friends weren’t very friendly. Her

home was unattractive. She did not much care for her own personality.

Her problems were getting to be too much for her. To try to get some help, Charlotte

went to an older woman who seemed to be leading the kind of life Charlotte wanted to

lead. Charlotte told the older woman of her heartache about her frustrated, unhappy

life.

After a gentle word of sympathy, the older woman said to Charlotte, “You can change all

that if you have the will to do it.” She then went on to suggest something. “For 24

hours, live as if Christ were right beside you, seeing everything you do.”

The older woman asked, “Will you do that?” Though doubtful it would accomplish

anything, Charlotte agreed.

It was late afternoon when Charlotte got home, where she lived with her parents. She

knew she was expected to help get supper onto the table, so she went to the drawer and

took out a tablecloth. She noticed it was wrinkled. When she spread it on the table, she

saw several soiled spots.

Suddenly it came to her. “If Christ were going to eat with us, I would not put on a soiled

cloth.” Which caused her to get a fresh cloth and put it on the table.

With the same thought, Charlotte went to the yard and came back with some flowers,

which she put in a vase that went on the table as a centerpiece.

She then put the butter on a fresh plate instead of on the soiled one it was on. She cut

the bread with care.

“Company tonight?” asked her father. “Just you and mom,” smiled Charlotte.

At supper time, Charlotte’s mother, worn and hot from the day’s work, sat down, saying,

“I don’t know what’s got into her to fix up so just for us. I suppose she’s expecting

someone to drop in before we’re done.” Charlotte’s response? “I don’t know of anyone

I’d rather fix things up for than you.”

The mom and dad simply stared for a minute. This was not like Charlotte.

After supper, in the living room, Charlotte slipped a magazine out from the bottom of a

pile of publications. It had been hidden on the bottom because of its questionable

articles. She began to read the magazine, which she had purchased, but after a few

minutes, she put it down, thinking to herself, “I would not be reading this if Christ were

sitting where He could read with me.” She carried the magazine out of the room to the

trash.

The next day, Charlotte went to work. She disliked her job very much, but as she walked

into the store, she thought, “Christ beside me.” Which caused her to smile when she

said good morning to everyone she met. Which also allowed her to be able to find ways

to solve problems with rude customers. She reminded herself how she would act if

Christ were beside her.

Later that day, Charlotte talked again to the older woman. She reported, “I tried your

suggestion. And guess what. It made everything different. Of course, it did not change

the things that are bothering me. I’m still poor, and I still live in an ugly house. But

things are better.”

Why was it better for Charlotte? It was because she concentrated on Jesus and what He

said about honoring parents and what He had Paul write in Romans 12 - “If possible, so

far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all.” Which is a call, not just from the

older woman, but from Jesus as He taught to repent and believe and follow Him.

In the story, that affected physical, worldly things. Think how much more wonderful

things are spiritually when any of us concentrate on Jesus.

Do whatever Jesus tells you. As obeying that challenge brought a miracle at a wedding

feast a couple thousand years ago, and as it brought a change in the life of Charlotte, so

it can bring miracles even now. The miracle of salvation, which brings the miracle of

blessings now and the miracle of Heaven later.

With all that, why would we not do whatever Jesus tells us?

Lord, thank You for the challenge You give us to change from a life of sin to a direction

of following You. Thank You that the direction is toward mercy and hope and freedom.

Help us to either follow You for the very first time or to keep following You. Help us to

always have a willingness to repent. Help us always to believe in You. Keep us doing

whatever You tell us. Thank You. Amen.

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