* Can you be a professional Christian?
* How about a professional church?
Is there a such thing as:
professional worship; professional preaching; professional repentance & faith; professional praying & walking in the Spirit of God; professional ministry & care for backsliding, hurting and needy souls; or professional leadership & stewardship of God’s kingdom resources?
You can see professional church with:
Illustrious bulletins with high gloss branding images; skilled musicians; creative audio/visual presentations; polished communicators giving sermons that will make you laugh, cry, wow you with knowledge and cause you to give generously (but not too generous that it hurts).
Professional Christians are the ones that:
Are always “fine” saying “PTL” 10x a day; have families with 2.5 children (1 boy and 1 girl with the .5 either a dog, cat, hamster, gold fish or the infamous “we’re praying about having more children”; gainfully employed at a job they love without ever experiencing the discouragements of unemployment or effects of a staggering economy; and are members at the local church but only go 1-2x a month because they have volunteer involvement with the local PTA, soccer leagues, dance studio and community neighborhood watch association.
Reading the Bible, personal prayer times, going out on mission trips or teams or any other spiritual growth emphasis may be fitted in occasionally if the Pastor is able to guilt people into giving of their time, talents and treasure for God and His kingdom purposes.
In fact, the experience of guilt rather than the amazement of grace is THE motivating factor for the professional Christian and church.
The Christianity that is often sought after today is a professionalized Christianity. And we are guilted when we fall short of this professionalized religion that is ever so distant from what God desires for you.
We have studied the life of Jesus this year (2012) through Luke’s Gospel. We near an end with 2 messages to go. And the challenging part is that there are still many of you who are distant from Christ. You are still living out the Christian faith in a professional manner.
In Luke 1:1-4, Luke reminds us that the writing of his Gospel is not mythical but meaningful. “[I] wrote that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught”. And John’s Gospel offers a similar statement saying, “these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31).
In other words, the Gospel brings about a sincere and humble faith in the person of Jesus Christ. Christianity is not professional but provoking. Jesus was crucified on a cross by professionals but His suffering, dying and death was anything but professional. The cross was excruciating, His death was exacting and we are called to the same unselfish and surrendered life to God; not because of guilt but for invigorating and intoxicating grace. God offers us forgiveness of sin, – yet we misunderstand this significance.
EXAMINE “Father, forgive them” Luke 23:34
Read these Scriptures to see the reality of Jesus’ death and meaning of His provision of forgiveness of sin. 3 truths that are meant to provoke you away from professional religion to personal relationship with Jesus.
Jesus was betrayed Luke 22:47, 52b-53
“While he was still speaking, there came a crowd, and the man called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He drew near to Jesus to kiss him,…. Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders, who had come out against him, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.”
For 3+ years, day after day, Jesus was challenged.
– People doubted His identity that He could have dwindled into insecurity.
– People criticized His purpose that He could have recoiled in cowardice.
– People mocked His family background that He could have turned into a maniac or murderer.
– People violated and betrayed Him personally that He could have spiraled into a victim mentality.
– Yet, Jesus returned their condemnation with compassion;
Jesus acted in confidence of the Father’s plan to go to the cross to die and be raised to life!
ð Jesus was betrayed so that we may be blessed with forgiveness of sin.
Psalm 32:1-2 “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity… I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’, and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.”
ð Amazing Love
I’m forgiven because You were forsaken
I’m accepted, You were condemned
Jesus was innocent
Luke 22:63-65 Jesus was needlessly mocked & beaten
Now the men who were holding Jesus in custody were mocking him as they beat him.64 They also blindfolded him and kept asking him, “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?”65 And they said many other things against him, blaspheming him.
Luke 22:66-71 Jesus did not lower himself to religious politics
When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people gathered together, both chief priests and scribes. And they led him away to their council, and they said,67 “If you are the Christ, tell us.” But he said to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe,68 and if I ask you, you will not answer.69 But from now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God.”70 So they all said, “Are you the Son of God, then?” And he said to them, “You say that I am.”71 Then they said, “What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips.”
Luke 23:1-4, 14-15 Jesus was declared innocent by Pilate
Then the whole company of them arose and brought him before Pilate.2 And they began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a king.”3 And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.”4 Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no guilt in this man…. and [Pilate] said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was misleading the people. And after examining him before you, behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him.15 Neither did Herod, for he sent him back to us. Look, nothing deserving death has been done by him.
Luke 23:47 Jesus was declared innocent by Roman centurion
Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!”
ð Jesus died an innocent death for those who were not innocent; only love could do this.
Romans 5:6-8 “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Jesus was our willing substitute
Luke 23:16-25 Jesus was delivered for punishment
[Pilate & Herod said,] I will therefore punish and release [Jesus].” But [the crowd] all cried out together, “Away with this man, and release to us Barabbas”— a man who had been thrown into prison for an insurrection started in the city and for murder. Pilate addressed them once more, desiring to release Jesus, but they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!” A third time he said to them, “Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no guilt deserving death. I will therefore punish and release him.” But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that he should be crucified. And their voices prevailed. So Pilate decided that their demand should be granted. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, for whom they asked, but he delivered Jesus over to their will.
Jesus was no victim. Yes, He was betrayed by Judas, arrested by religious leaders and brought to trial before Roman authorities (Pilate and Herod). However, God planned and provided Jesus as a willing substitutionary sacrifice for humanity.
ð In every way, God had you in mind when He was betrayed and crucified.
ð Humanity substitutes God for idols; God substitutes His Son for sinners.
Peter says in Acts 2:22-24“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.
Luke 23:34, 43, 46 Jesus delivered atonement for sin.
v.34 “And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
v.43 “And Jesus said to him, ‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
v.46 “Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit! And having said this he breathed his last.”
Atonement and justice is something we all want. And yet, in our search of fairness, making a bad world right, we neglect our own wrongdoing. When we are wronged, we want justice. Yet, when we wrong others we want mercy. At the cross, God shows us that He does not grant mercy without justice. Jesus takes our punishment and delivers atonement so God remains just and graciously gives mercy to human sinners. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection we have forgiveness of sin and hope of eternal life.
µ Do you understand that Jesus died for you?
“For God so loved _____, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
µ Is your name written in that space, God’s Book of Life?
Isaiah 43:25 “I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.”
Psalm 103:11-12 “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is the steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it and it is gone, and its place knows it no more. But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children.”
Ephesians 1:7-8a “In [Christ alone] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us”
 Theme of professional Christianity inspired by John Piper book & blog series “Brothers, We Are Not Professionals”. One reference may be found here: http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/brothers-the-ministry-is-supernatural