We have many choices in life. Our choices impact our lives.
The decisions that we make determines our future.
Take this example, if we choose to marry we are choosing many things all at once.
We are choosing our parenting partner, our eating companion for about 20,000 meals, our travel partner for about 100 vacations, our primary leisure time and retirement friend, our career therapist… and someone whose days you’ll hear about 18,000 times.
Maybe you have a similar experience with a close friend that you have chosen to know over the years.
When we choose to be in a relationship with someone and really spend time with them, whether it is a spouse or close friend, we truly get to know them over the years.
Often the more we know someone the more we like them. That is how love is. Love grows over time.
When we choose to have a relationship with Jesus our lives are never the same. That decision to know Jesus changes our lives and our hearts.
Today is Epiphany Sunday. On this day we celebrate the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles. This means that on this day we remember that Christ came for all people, for all nations.
The wise men from the East, foreigners come to worship the new born king, Jesus who is the Savior for all people.
On this day we remember that Jesus wants to be our Lord as well.
So on this day we renew our relationship with Jesus, the one whom we desire to know and to love.
As we close another year and look forward to a New Year think about how your life has been shaped by Jesus over the years.
Think about how your life is different because you know Jesus.
Think about all the church services that you have attended over the years, the hours that you have spent reading Scripture over the years, all the prayers you have prayed to God, the offering gifts that you have given, and the people that you have shared your faith with.
Knowing Jesus changes us. And through knowing Jesus we know God. Jesus reveals to us the true character of God.
Who is God?
God is gracious, loving, kind, merciful, and God is faithful.
As we come to know Jesus we ourselves have an epiphany. These characteristics of God are the same characteristics that we are to imitate in our own lives.
As God is merciful we are to show mercy to others. As God is gracious we are to be gracious towards others. As God is giving we are to be giving towards others. As God is kind we are to be kind towards others.
As God is faithful we are to be faithful to one another.
Recall those great words from Scripture from the book of Micah. What does the Lord require of us? The Lord requires us to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with God.
As we come to know Jesus we begin to live as Jesus lived. God’s nature is to abundantly share with us God’s grace and compassion. God’s true nature is to reveal to us God’s love and God’s undying faithfulness for us.
In Christ we too model these qualities not as a path to salvation but as a sign of our life with Christ.
The Christian faith is not something that we keep at arm’s length. Rather, it is something that we live by. We attend worship and live out our faith more out of conviction then out of routine.
Living out our faith is not like brushing our teeth. We brush our teeth out of routine and habit not necessarily out of conviction.
In Christ we attend worship and live out our faith out of conviction and passion.
One way that Jesus continues to manifest himself to me is through the faith of other people. Time and time again I am inspired by the ways that Jesus’ followers live out their faith.
I am moved by the passion of God’s people.
I remember Henry who attended the church of my childhood in rural Wellsburg, Iowa. Henry would arrive at church one hour early. Church was at 10:00 and every Sunday Henry would get to church at 9:00.
I once asked my Dad why Henry would come to church a whole hour early. I have never forgotten what my father told me.
He said, “Tom, Henry comes a whole hour early just so that he can be with God.”
Now you have to realize that was at a time in my life, I was probably seven or eight, when I could not stand being in church for one hour on a Sunday morning let alone for two hours.
As a child it made me pause and think. Something is happening here. Pay attention to it!
Henry, his deep spirituality and his witness impacted me as a child. Henry was a man who wanted to know Jesus.
I think of Betty who was a homebound member of the church that I served as an intern pastor.
When I came by the nursing home to bring her communion she was often playing Bingo and she would immediately stop playing bingo, grab her walker and, for a ninety-three year old, very quickly exit her bingo game because she was so excited about receiving communion.
I once told her, “Now Betty you don’t have to leave your Bingo game I can come back another time.”
She replied to me, Oh, Pastor Communion is so much more important than Bingo!”
Betty was a woman who wanted to know Jesus.
I think of Bill who used to be a neighbor when I lived in Illinois.
Bill would stop by the house to drop off tomatoes and Billy Graham magazines and newspaper clippings.
Bill was an extremely shy man but he believed so strongly in evangelism so he would occasionally write articles for the local newspaper about his faith.
He would write about Jesus and about living a life of faith.
He would share his own testimony and how God was working in his life.
He would than cut those articles out of the paper and drop them off for me to read.
Bill was a man who wanted to know Jesus.
Because of the ways in which God’s people continue to live out their faith I know that the Holy Spirit continues to be active and alive in the world.
Every day people are coming to know Jesus in a deeper way and new Christians continue to hear the Word of God and respond to Jesus.
We have many choices in life. What about our choice to know Jesus.
The Apostle Paul once said, “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”
Last Sunday I spoke about how our faith in Jesus is a gift from God.
What does this gift mean to you? How does this gift change your life? How might you share this gift with others?
Together how might we know Christ more this coming year?
Every New Year has its unforeseen challenges, problems, and trials but this fact should not hold us back from anticipating the blessings of a New Year.
This coming year may our decision to know Jesus together as a faith community be reflected in our life together as passionate disciples of Christ.