Sunday Gathering – Jesus Masterclass – Identifying with each other.
August 27, 2023

Sunday Gathering – Jesus Masterclass – Identifying with each other.


This week we continue our Jesus Masterclass series with Nick speaking on Transforming your relationships with Trust.


The sermon by Chris Simpson revolves around the theme of identifying with others, emphasizing the significance of understanding how God identifies with humanity through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Here are the main points highlighted in the sermon, along with the relevant Bible verses:

1. **God's Identifying Mark on Humanity:**
- God created mankind in His own image, emphasizing a special relationship with men and women that sets them apart from other creatures.
- Scripture Reference: Genesis 1:27 - "So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them."

2. **God Became Flesh and Identified with Us:**
- The Word became flesh as Jesus Christ, who moved into the neighborhood of humanity.
- Jesus emptied Himself and took on the form of a servant.
- Scripture Reference: Philippians 2:7 - "rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness."

3. **Jesus Understands Our Weaknesses:**
- Jesus, the Son of God, faced the same tests and temptations as humans but did not sin.
- He experienced the full force of human trials and temptations, yet remained sinless.
- Scripture Reference: Hebrews 4:15 - "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin."

4. **Adoption into God's Family:**
- God chose in advance to adopt believers into His family through Jesus Christ, bringing great pleasure to Him.
- Scripture Reference: Ephesians 1:5 - "he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will."

5. **Loving God and Neighbor:**
- The two greatest commandments are to love God with all one's heart, soul, and mind, and to love one's neighbor as oneself.
- These commandments emphasize the interconnectedness of loving God and loving others.
- Scripture References: Mark 12:30-31 - "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength... Love your neighbor as yourself."

6. **Working with God's Guidance:**
- Christians are called to work hard in obeying God with reverence and fear.
- God's work within believers gives them both the desire and the power to do what pleases Him.
- Scripture Reference: Philippians 2:12-13 - "Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose."

The sermon concludes with a reminder to focus on Jesus Christ as the ultimate example and the key to understanding how to live as Christians. It emphasizes the importance of seeking God's work in all aspects of life and loving both God and neighbor wholeheartedly.

Throughout the sermon, Bible references are interwoven to support each point, providing a scriptural foundation for the ideas presented.


you look out this morning, in Jesus' name, amen.
Good morning, everyone.
Just wait for the slide to come up.
Well, maybe I start anyway.
So the subject this morning is identifying with others.
But this reminded me of something that happened to me
at the end of my first year at university.
So they had final exams for the end of year
and I turned up for my history exam
feeling quite well prepared.
I went into the room and it was up
because I didn't recognize other people who were there.
And then when I looked at the paper,
it wasn't for my subject at all.
So I thought, oh, come to the room building.
So I came out and on the wall,
they had all the timetables up when they were.
And I studied them and I thought,
well, I'm in the right building.
And then the horrible truth dawned on me.
The exam was the previous day.
And that wasn't out there.
But it's sort of reminding me that if you get the basics wrong,
it doesn't matter how prepared you are.
And in thinking about this subject,
I do see real risks.
So let me talk about two risks I see with this subject.
And the first risk is that I give you
some popular psychology on identifying with each other.
Perhaps with a few Bible verses to bring it out
because we're in church, that would be awful.
The second pitfall is that I give you good advice.
And you might think, well, actually,
we could all do a bit of good advice.
That would be fine.
But the thing about good advice is that it never saved anybody.
If good advice was enough, we didn't need Jesus.
Good advice is not enough.
And so we do need Jesus.
And so I want to kind of look at this whole subject
in the light of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
So we're going to look at it from the God perspective.
And only by doing that will we get true insight.
So let's have the next slide up, please.
God created mankind in his own image.
In the image of God, he created them.
Male and female, he created them.
There's a double emphasis on God creating men and women
in his image.
And that's not said about anything else in all creation.
If you think about the whole universe, in its complexity
and its diversity, it's only said about men and women
that God created them in his own image.
And that tells us that right from the beginning,
God identified worse.
He put his identifying mark on us.
And he was looking to have a special relationship
with men and women that was different from his relationship
with other species.
And that's important.
And there's more like it.
Next slide.
The word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.
Imagine that after this, you go home
and you look at your mobile phone, checking the news,
or go on TV.
And there's that kind of headline.
Top headline in the news is that the prime minister
has resigned, and he's got to take a full-time job
working as a cleaner in a public toilet.
Imagine the shock waves that would say.
That would be the biggest item on the news
across the world, wouldn't it?
And people would be saying, gosh, that's a step down, isn't it?
You prime minister, and then you're going to do this.
But you know, that's nothing to the step that Jesus told,
that God Almighty, who always was and always will be,
who created the entire universe, becomes a human being.
And it says in Philippians 2 verse 7,
he emptied himself, thinking the form of a servant.
Is that a huge step down?
And it doesn't just come to be with us.
He comes to be with us as one of us.
God becomes a human being.
God becomes flesh and blood.
That's identified with human beings in a most remarkable way.
Next slide.
Jesus, the Son of God, understands our weaknesses.
For he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.
And that tells us something about the nature of Jesus' life
as a human being.
He did not live a protected life.
He did not live a kind of closeted life.
He doesn't observe the world through the air-conditioned
windows of a tourist bus.
As he is not a sheltered existence,
he's exposed to the full force of the awfulness of human life.
I mean, you've only got to think about the circumstances
of his trial.
He's arrested by people who hate him on entirely bogus charges.
He's brought before a weak judge by corrupt prosecutors.
He has no defense team.
No one speaks up in his defense.
He's sentenced to death and then tortured to death.
Jesus does not live a sheltered life.
And the same story about temptation.
Jesus was exposed to the full force of the devil's temptations.
None of us quite experienced that, because we all
gave in before it gets to that point.
But Jesus who never gave in was stood all that Satan
could throw at him by way of temptation.
So God has identified with us in the mess and the pain
and the heart of human life, because he's experienced it all.
Next slide.
Time for a true story, actually.
So this may feel like a diversion, but it does have a point.
In the end of June 1976, a near France
playing with 248 passengers on board
was hijacked and flown to in Tebe, which
was the main airport in Uganda.
And the terrorists then took all the passengers
into the old terminal building.
And they quickly divided them into two groups.
So in one room, they put all the Israeli passengers.
And then what else they could obviously
spot as Jewish.
And then the rest of the passengers were in a different room.
And then after a time had passed, I think
probably a few days maybe even a week,
they then announced that they were going to release
all of the passengers who weren't part of the Israeli Jewish
And another Air France plane arrived.
And they took all those people away.
And of course, for the most part, those who were in the kind
of Israeli Jewish group had any choice about the matter.
But some people did have choices.
And it's interesting what happened is that in the original
division of passengers, three passengers
who were Jewish or Jewish Israeli, who weren't
called by the terrorists, just went with the Jewish Israeli
So they chose to identify with the fellow believers
and fellow countrymen.
But at the end, when one group is getting entirely
free, you think, well, what would it mean to choose to stay
with the Israeli group that was clearly
in great danger of their life?
And actually, this two parts of the story.
First of all, the captain of the Air France
airplane announced that he would not go with those who
were being released, the terrorists that
intended to release the air crew.
But he said, I will stay.
These are my passengers and I will stay with them.
And the rest of the crew followed suit.
So the Air France crew decided to stay with the Israelis
and the Jews.
And then a French nun said, well, I'm not
going to go either.
I'm going to stay.
And I want to take the place of one of the Israeli or Jewish
So I'll take your place and you can send on.
In fact, they wouldn't let that happen.
So Ugandan soldiers bundled their onto the flight
and they took her away anyway, despite her
processations that she wanted to stay.
And you might think, well, so where am I going with all this?
Let's have the next slide.
And I'm thinking about, I'm thinking about that French nun.
And I'm wondering what she was thinking about.
Was she thinking of Jesus?
Was she thinking of these verses?
Because you know, this is the truth of the matter,
is that Jesus who didn't belong with sinners, who
wasn't a sinner, who didn't belong in that group,
nevertheless chooses to give up his freedom and his life
to take the place of us who did belong in that group.
So we walk free while he takes our place.
I'll have to identify.
That's identifying.
Next slide.
God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family
by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ.
This is what he wanted to do and it gave him great pleasure.
You know, adoption is a big deal.
It's a huge decision and no one should adopt lightly
without carefully considering it.
It has lasting legal and practical consequences
to bring a child into your family and count them as one
as yours.
But that's what God does for us.
He adopts us into his own family.
It's hard to think of what could be more identifying
when adopting us into his family.
God has identified with us completely.
Next slide.
If this man were a prophet,
he would know what kind of woman is touching him.
She's a sinner.
So the context for this quote is a kind of Jewish religious figure
is holding a big dinner party.
He's invited lots of people to that and Jesus has been invited.
Jesus is probably actually the guest of honor at this dinner party.
But then during proceedings, a woman with a dodgy background
embarrases everybody by trying over Jesus,
by touching him, by washing his feet with her tears.
And so the Jewish leader then comes out and says,
if he was a prophet, he would know what kind of woman
is touching him.
And I guess that Jewish leader is probably just expressing
something that some people, even today, still think
that if you're a genuinely holy people person,
you need to kind of keep your distance from people who are a bit dodgy.
But you know, he's 100% wrong.
Because Jesus who is a prophet, who is more than a prophet,
knows exactly what kind of woman this is.
He probably knows a lot more about her sins than that Pharisee
would ever know.
And he's entirely comfortable with her touching him.
He's entirely comfortable with it.
He doesn't bother him at all.
And in fact, you know, this is not an isolated story in the gospels.
The gospels are peppered with stories that are very much like this.
In fact, the whole impression we get of Jesus Christ
is he's much more comfortable hanging out with sinners
than he is with people who are outwardly decent.
So God is comfortable with us.
You know, some people think that God loves us
because deep down we're all kind of lovable people.
And I think that's bad theology.
I think it's sentimental thinking.
But I also would go on and say,
I don't think it's actually very helpful.
Because it's all really well me thinking on a nice day
and I'm feeling good about myself,
that yes, God loves me because deep down I'm a lovable person.
But what about the other times?
What if I'm not really a lovable person?
What if I do something that shows that I'm not a lovable person?
Know the truth is we better than the sentimental lie.
Because the truth is that God loves us because that is who he is.
And he loves us knowing the worst about us.
And he always will.
Next slide.
What's the most important commandment?
Again, a Jewish leader asked Jesus that question, didn't he?
I'm sure probably most people here could repeat the answer.
And Jesus says,
the most important commandment is this.
Love the Lord, your God.
The most important commandment is this.
Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul
and with all your mind.
This is the most important commandment.
And the second is like it.
Love your neighbor as yourself.
So that's what Jesus said.
I've paraphrased it, but it's there.
It's there more than once in the gospel.
Now, you know, some people, when you ask them a question,
they give you more information than you need.
And it's just, I guess, the way people work.
It's not criticism.
But, you know, we probably all know people about that.
You say something to them and you get a lot of extra stuff.
And that's just, as I said, the way some people are wired.
Jesus, emphatically, was not like that.
You know, if you think about things in the gospel,
Jesus is the master of the one-liner.
Before one-liner's ever became a thing.
You remember him with the woman called an adultery?
And they're all kind of watching it.
And what does Jesus say to us?
Let him or us know sin through the first stone.
So Jesus is not given to using more words than are strictly necessary.
So the fact that he includes love your neighbor as yourself
with the first commandment to love God tells us a huge amount
about how they belong together and are really important.
It's as if Jesus is saying, you know,
you can't have this loving God stuff unless you're also
involved in the loving your neighbor stuff.
And I think that's right.
And I think, in many ways, if we understand how much God
is identified with people, it makes perfect sense.
I try not to imagine a conversation.
Imagine somebody came to me.
So that's in Chris.
I can't like you.
And I'd like to be your friend.
But you just need to know what.
I can't abide your family.
I don't know what I would say to that.
But I think I might be tempted to say,
I'm sorry, it can't work that way.
You know, I come as a package.
You can't.
You can't just, you know.
And I think, you know, it's a bit like that with God, you know.
If we love God, we're called to love the people that God loves.
You know, it's included.
It's included.
And that's important.
And it tells us that, you know, we think, well, I've got this wonderful
vertical relationship with God.
And things between me and God are really good.
And, yeah, but some of those other people, you know,
the people I'm kind of beating a grudge against or feel resentful towards.
Well, you see, God's not happy with that.
That's not enough.
That's not enough.
We're called to love God and we're called to love our neighbor.
It's not like one of those exam questions.
It's a tempt anyone from two.
You know, we're called to do the whole thing.
Next slide.
Work hard obeying God with deep reverence and fear.
For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him.
And there's definitely an emphasis in that quote, isn't there about working hard?
And we are called to work.
We are called to follow Jesus Christ.
That's what it means to be a Christian.
It's to be a follower of Jesus Christ.
But, you know, Jesus is far more than an example to follow.
He is also at work in our lives.
And, you know, we're all building sites.
And I don't really know how building sites like it's noisy, it's dirty, it's untidy,
but stuff is getting done.
We're all a work in progress.
We are not the finished article.
But there's something else, I think, in this.
You know, it seems to me that God is someone who is full of grace and kindness.
He's full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.
That's the character of God.
And that means that God doesn't kind of barge into rooms that are close to Him.
He waits to be invited.
And I think there's a big role for us in being hungry for God to work to the end degree,
to work fully in our lives, that there will be no dark corners that we're saying to God,
I don't want you in that room, is that we want the full treatment.
If necessary, God could pull the whole building down and start again.
But God, I want you working in every corner of my life.
Next slide.
In conclusion.
Well, I think the first thing was kind of where I started would say that, you know,
when a question comes up, like, I didn't find one, you know, a question about lifestyle,
about how we as Christians should live.
Then, you know, don't launch into it, start with,
what do we know about this from the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ?
Paul once said, I think, in writing to Corinthians, he said,
when I was with you, I decided to concentrate solely on Jesus Christ, crucified.
And so we need to see life and see the challenges of what it means in my life,
in the light of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
Fix your eyes on Jesus is really good advice.
To God loves us and identifies with us in ways that go way beyond what we can grasp.
You know, it's vast God's love and identification with us.
To God identifies with sinners.
God loves us, not because we're lovable, because that is who he is.
And fourth, in loving God, we are called to love our neighbor,
and we're called to get, seek his help, be hungry for God to all he wants to do in our life.
Let's pray.
Father God, we thank You supremely for Jesus Christ, to empty Himself,
took the form of a servant, was obedient even to the point of going to the cross
and dying in our place.
Thank You for Jesus Christ.
And Lord Jesus, we want to say to you, have your way in us Lord.
Do it all Lord.

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