Sunday, November 11, 2012

Congruent means agreement, as when two (or more) of anything are exactly matched.  The seats in our auditorium are congruent in that sense; they are all the same.  When the psychologist speaks of congruence as it relates to people, he is pointing to the inner person and the outer person matching-up.  The opposite would be the one we call a "phony", or one who puts on an act.  I heard about the mascot of an Army company.  He was just a common little "mongrel", and the enlisted men cared for him, and he followed at their tired feet on long hikes, KP, and all.  One day two officers spotted the dog running playfully along.  As soon as the dog spotted the officers it began to limp and hobble along on three legs.  When the dog was well past the officers he began to walk and run just as before.  The explanation is that the dog had learned from the enlisted men that the best way to keep off heavy, nasty work details was to fake sore feet!
Congruence in the believer's life has to do with matching up the reality of Christ in us...with what we do!  When there really isn’t a match, it’s not exactly “phony” but it is what I call "miserable Christianity".  This happens when a person accepts Christ as savior because he's been told there is joy, truth and life in Jesus.  He experiences the wonder of forgiveness, and being part of the family of God.  And all this leads him to join in with a church. 
Now he wants all these wonderful Christians (who seem to have it together) to think well of him.  So he develops a "churchy personality" to take the place of the "real him" while he's in the church house.  The different personality says things like, "Amen", and "righteousness", and "sanctification", words he'd never say down at the job.  And he talks about joy and peace, answered prayers...all that stuff!  But all the while he somehow feels like he's living on the fringe....not quite a part of the whole thing.  He talks about joy, but he feels frustration...He honors truth in his heart, but constantly falls into this "churchy personality" to hide who he really is!  He talks about NEW LIFE in Christ, but somehow it is more an EXISTENCE than abundant living.  He knows it’s a lie, but he’s stuck, feels no joy, and its eating him up inside.  He’s got a full-blown case of Miserable Christianity!
If you have ever felt that way, or known someone who feels like that, please note that there is a reason for this.  The root cause of miserable Christianity is found in the misunderstanding of what makes for a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ.  We can understand this by examining three perspectives about our calling as Christians:
Called to a life of joy!

I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you,                                 
and you’re your joy may be complete.  John 15:11
Jesus was a joyful, happy person; he was “alive with living”.  I can say this with assurance, because I read in the gospel accounts how children came to Him.  Children don't hang around drab and sour people.  Two teenagers were standing in the Sunday school building.  As they talked, a grumbly old sourpuss walked past. One of the teens said to the other, if that's what 30 years of Christianity will do for you, then I want out now! 
Dr. Tommy Starkes was my professor of missions in seminary.  He used to tell us that he enjoyed his Christianity.  It wasn't always so.  When he was growing up the folks in his church seemed to think that "...becoming a Christian was writing down 10 things you wouldn't do anymore, and being miserable for Jesus the rest of your life." 
Dr. Starkes could laugh at himself too.  Once on a mission trip to South America he preached to a large Spanish-speaking crowd through an interpreter.  Dr. Starkes spoke the language, but not very well.  He wanted to “break the ice” so he told a cute little story through the interpreter.  But what the interpreter said to the crowd was:  The white man has told a joke.  I don’t understand it, and I don’t think you will, but let’s be nice to him.  When I count to three, everybody laugh…uno, dos, tres…[1] 
Christians are called to a life of joy.  The word (joy) itself literally means "delight".  The same word is used in Luke (2:10) to announce the birth of Jesus.  In our text (John 15:11) Jesus declared it was this delight that was to be in us.  He used a noun.  It isn't something we DO.  It is a reality within that we ARE!  But it leads to the outward signs of rejoicing (Phil 4:4).  In other words, the joy Jesus places IN us does something TO us. 
A young man got saved on the first night of a five-day revival meeting.  The second night the fella came back, and all through the service he would shout "Amen", "Hallelujah".  He was happy!  The pastor went to him and warned him to be a little quieter, but to no avail.  The third and fourth nights were the same, shouting "Amen, Hallelujah" all through the meeting.  So the pastor got the Lay Leader, and they talked to this joy-filled new believer.  "Son," said the parson, "this'cheres the last night of our meetin’; won't you find a way to settle down?  With all your 'Amen-in', somebody's gonna mistake us for a Pentecostal church. 
Tell you what....if you calm down for tonight we will buy you a brand new pair of boots."  Well the boy agreed.  But about half way through the sermon the joy was bubbling up so that he thought he was going to bust wide-open.  He squirmed and tried his best to contain himself.  Then the choir sang a wonderful praise song and the boy couldn't stand it a moment longer.  He stood right up in the middle of the service and shouted, "Amen, amen.  Boots or no boots, Hallelujah, praise the Lord." 
Someone has said that "...happiness is excitement that has found a settling-down place, but there is always a little corner that keeps flapping around."  Joy does indeed fill the believer, and causes the believer to be happy.  We've got something wonderful that causes us to be filled with joy.  We are sinners who have been rescued, redeemed from the penalty of our own sinfulness.  
PERSPECTIVE #2 – We are: 
Called to a life of discipleship

Then Jesus told his disciples,“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me."  Matthew 16:24
The unmistakable meaning of this verse is that the disciple of Christ must serve in the same way the Master served.  The reality of salvation is that we may not only come to Jesus so He can FORGIVE our sins; we come with the understanding that WE will FORSAKE those sins, placing our lives in His hand.  We become like a tool, ready to be used in His service.  Look at the larger picture, drawn for us by the words Jesus uses...
·        He says "deny self"...that means we fully renounce the ownership of our own life and destiny, making God the captain, the commander of all we do. 

·        He says "take up our cross"...that is the burden of sacrifice; we are ready to place God's kingdom ahead of personal pursuits. 

·        And He says "follow me"...which means perfect obedience. 

I must admit to you that I am not comfortable with all the demands the New Testament makes on my life.  But following Jesus means serving, and a servant does what his Master desires.  We must be faithful servants; understanding or not, we do our part.  God is the Master architect, and He knows how our part will fit together in His plans.  We do the job we're fitted for. 
So…two perspectives;
·        We are called to Joy...
·        We are called to Serve...and…
PERSPECTIVE #3:                           
Joy and Serving are inseparable

But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.   Matthew 6:33 (NRSV)
Throughout the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5-7) Jesus shares the keys to the abundant life of joy.  Many times the Lord says, "Blessed are..." which easily translates "O how happy, how joyful".  And what is connected with that happiness is the life of serving.
Jesus teaches that material things are not the purpose for which we are given life.  But material necessities will be given us because God provides for those who seek His kingdom as first priority.


What is it you are looking for?  Is it a life of joy?  Do you want to live with the deep down feeling of peace and contentment?  Do you desire feel the joy within, and to live a life that matches up with that joy? 
If you have given your sins to Jesus to be forgiven, you will experience the joy of being saved.  But there is deeper joy available.  The answer is to be found in commitment to the Lord, serving Him.  It is when you give your service to Him that you are taking up your cross and following Him. 
God has given instructions for the joy-filled, abundant life.  The instructions are found in the Bible.  In capsule form we could sum up the whole this way:  Love Christ - Live for Christ - Serve Christ.  That’s what leads to real joy; joyfully-fruitful!

[1] As told by Dr. Starkes in a Missions Class at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary 1981

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