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Relationships 関係

I have to warn you that there is quite a bit of scripture in my sermon today. But let me ask you this, is that a bad thing? We gather here to hear and learn about the Word of God, so I’m giving you a big dose today!

First, I’d like us to get to know the people around us a little better. Please greet the people on either side of you, in front and behind. Make sure you know their names and a little about them. If you already know some of them well, spend more time with the ones you don’t. I’ll quiz you in a few minutes.

Greeting Time

For the past couple weeks, Mike has been talking about the spiritual battle that is happening all around us, all the time, and how we are to deal with it. What I would like to talk about today is how we deal with more tangible things: Our relationships; because they too can seem like battles. First, let’s think about who we have relationships with. (elicit from the congregation)

1. Our relationship with God
I hope you will all agree that the most important relationship we need to have is with God.
The first step in having a relationship with God is to truly believe in Him and to have faith that He is who He says He is.

Hebrews 11:6(NIV): And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

So, without real belief in God’s existence, we cannot have a relationship with Him.
Once we “earnestly seek him,” we must go to Him.

In Revelation 3:20 (NIV), Jesus says: Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

Now, our relationship begins! God, in the form of the Holy Spirit, comes into our house; in other words, our hearts. He sits down and shares a meal with us; that is, He builds a relationship with us. Because, that’s what people do when they get together to share a meal. They also share what’s happening in their lives and build relationships. Then what?

James 4:6-10 (NIV): 6 … “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”[a] 7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
しかし神は、いや増しに恵みを賜う。であるから、「神は高ぶる者をしりぞけ、へりくだる者に恵みを賜う」とある。そういうわけだから、神に従いなさい。そして、悪魔に立ちむかいなさい。そうすれば、彼はあなたがたから逃げ去るであろう。神に近づきなさい。そうすれば、神はあなたがたに近づいて下さるであろう。 罪人どもよ、手をきよめよ。二心の者どもよ、心を清くせよ。苦しめ、悲しめ、泣け。あなたがたの笑いを悲しみに、喜びを憂いに変えよ。主のみまえにへりくだれ。そうすれば、主は、あなたがたを高くして下さるであろう。

Basically, this is telling us that there is more to life than just having fun when things are going well. That having a relationship with God is what will “lift us up.” I believe this has two meanings. One is that we will be more like God; lifted up to His standards. The other is that when we die in this world, we will be lifted up to Heaven.

God then promises us in Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV): For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

What all this tells us is how important it is for us to read and understand the Bible. God uses scripture to talk to us. We can find our purpose in this world by reading God’s word.

A few more verses that show the importance of us having a relationship with Him, are in John 1:10-13 (NIV): 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

Amen? What an honor it is to be called a child of God! God knew us before we were even born, and it is our job in this world to go back to him and build a relationship with him. Because of Jesus dying on the cross for us, all this is possible.

2. We build our relationship with God through prayer
So, God speaks to us through the Bible, and of course, we speak to Him through prayer. Jesus taught us how to pray in Matthew 6.9~15. Let’s read this together. You can read with me in English, with Mayumi in Japanese, or both. …

“‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

And this leads us into the relationships we are to have with each other.

3. Forgiveness is key to relationships
We are told to forgive each other. In the 6 short verses above from 10~15, Jesus used the word “forgive” 6 times! We all make mistakes, therefore we must learn to forgive each other.
* Husbands must forgive their wives, even if their wives claim they are perfect and never do anything wrong (ha ha).

* Wives must forgive their husbands, even if this turns out to be a daily occurrence. (ha ha).

* Parents must forgive their children, again and again and again. (ha ha).

* Children must forgive their parents, because even if we don’t like to show it, we too are not perfect and sometimes make mistakes. Even the moms (ha ha).

* Siblings must forgive each other. Yes, even when your brother shoves a McDonald’s ice-cream cone in your face and you inhale a cone full of cold ice-cream. And even after your brain freeze wears off and you are stuck with the smell of rotten milk in your head for a month or so, and only you can smell the stench. EVEN THEN, we are to forgive. You may have guessed that this happened to me… when I was fifteen. I think I’ll forgive him this summer. No, just joking! I’ve forgiven him long ago and have even thanked him for giving such a funny story to tell. But the main thing here is FORGIVENESS.

* Friends must forgive friends.

* Neighbors are to forgive neighbors.

* We are even called to forgive our enemies.

* And we are to forgive our brothers and sisters in Christ; in our church congregation.

We are not only to forgive each other, but we are to “greet each other with a holy kiss” as it says in Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:26; and1 Peter 5:14. The kiss is called “holy” to distinguish it from a sexual one and from a hypocritical and deceitful one, such as Judas gave to Jesus when he betrayed Him into the hands of His enemies. This holy kiss displays love, sincere affection, and friendship for each other. Now I’m not saying that we should all start kissing each other, as that might cause Andrew, Mike, Michael, Nicholas and all the other married men in here to punch your lights out, but we should at least be acknowledging each other with a “hello” and a “how are ya” with maybe a handshake or a half hug. Let’s let each other know that we care for each other.

The Bible also tells us how we are to deal with conflict and build relationships with one another.

4. Unity and Maturity in the Body of Christ
Ephesians 4 (NIV) talks about Unity and Maturity in the Body of Christ:
4 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.

We are to live a life worthy of a child of God. This means that we are not to just stay as we are, but we are to grow and mature in the way we are taught in the Bible. We are to grow the fruits of the Spirit. In verse 2 and 3 above, four of the fruits are mentioned by name: we are to be gentle, patient, loving, and peaceful. We are to understand that we all have the same purpose in this life, and that is to be reconciled to the one true God and to help others be reconciled to God (2 Cor 5:10). Romans 15:7 says to Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

Wow! We have been accepted by Jesus himself. How could we not accept others?
Jesus loves us, has patience with us, is gentle with us, is good to us, and so on. We need to to do the same with each other.
I think it is easy for us to see why this is important between members of the church. I think all of us here are friendly and kind to each other and try to show love by helping each other out from time to time and pray for each other. But what about the people you live with, your family? Do you constantly think about how you are building your relationships with them (your family)? Or do you take it for granted that they are your family and no matter what you do, that won’t change?
Because of the “love” family members have for each other, is it Ok to treat each other rudely, or even cruelly? I’ve seen family members treat each other more badly than they would treat a stranger who did them wrong. Why is that? Our family members are also, or potentially, part of the body of Christ. if they don’t yet know God, it is up to us to show them God’s character through how we act. And hope that some day they too will not only believe in God, but build a relationship with Him.

We are also to treat our friends, neighbors, co-workers, and fellow believers in the church in the same, loving way.

So be humble and gentle, be patient, bearing with one another in love. With God, with the Holy Spirit living in us, it is not only possible but is to be expected and enjoyed.

ヨハネによる福音書17:21/John 17:21
That all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
Let’s pray.