Posted by: lepages | January 1, 2012

Healthy living – a healthy heart!

We started a new series of teaching at Rutland Road Church today. The notes below formed the basis for my preach earlier.


So a new series to start a New Year – Healthy Living – a popular sort of theme at this time of the year!

If other years are anything to go by I can pretty much guarantee that the gym at Kempston Pool will get busier over the next few weeks, with a good number of new faces… I can also pretty much guarantee that in 6-8 weeks time the gym will go back to its normal level and a lot of the new faces will fade away….

Getting into ‘Healthy Living’ is a popular thing at this time of year, particularly with the whole cultural idea of ‘New Year’s Resolutions’, and much as I’d encourage you to get into healthy living on a day to day basis – eating well, taking regular exercise – because those things will be a blessing to you in body, mind and spirit – our focus through this series is to think what do we need to do to be healthy spiritually as a church, and personally as individuals.

It’s a few years since we’ve taken the time to reflect on our values as a church, and as we start this year, we’re going to take the time to reflect on our values and what it means to live them out.

A number of years ago Laurence Singlehurst and Trevor Withers from CellUK stimulated us with their thinking on values – if you value something, you do it! You might believe something to be true, but in reality, you don’t really value it if you don’t live it out.

Up at the gym at Kempston Pool there’s a bunch of folk of all ages, backgrounds and sizes who value working out…. even when they don’t feel like it… because they turn up and put their bodies through the paces…. I’m expecting that in the next few weeks others will come and join in who believe that doing a good workout is a valuable thing to do for your heath… but whether they really value healthy living will be seen in 6 weeks or so when they decide whether to continue or not!

The themes we are going to look at over the next few weeks are I am sure all things which, if we are Bible believing Christians, we would all say we would believe to be good and true…. but do we value them? Do we put them into practice?

As elders, we believe these themes are not just good things to believe, but are things that it is essential for us to value and put into practice if we are to be a healthy church….

In the same way that they are essential for a healthy church, the way we work these things out into practice in our lives personally will help to give us a healthy spiritual life personally – the personal and the corporate are inextricably linked – if we are not healthy spiritually personally it will be to the detriment of the church as a whole, and equally, if we don’t live out these values corporately it will be to the detriment of our spiritual health personally – personal and corporate go together, belong together in the church, in the same way that Father, Son and Spirit exist as three persons, making up the one godhead.

So, you may be saying, well it’s all very well talking about these values…. but what are they??!!

Essential to healthy living, is having a Healthy heart and at the heart of the Christian faith is the person of Jesus, so our first and central value is – putting Jesus at the centre.

What does this mean?
Singing songs which are focused on him?
Reading scripture about him?
Praying to him?

Well, yes, I believe it does mean those things, but I believe if we stop there we have fallen short of the fullness of what it means to have Jesus at the centre as a church and in our lives personally.

Putting Jesus at the centre means:-

a living relationship

The Christian faith isn’t just about head knowledge – it’s about heart experience.

Putting Jesus at the centre isn’t just about knowing about him – good though that is – and it’s always good to study, to explore, to increase our understanding and our knowledge – but, putting Jesus at the centre is about getting to know him, not just know about him!

Turn with me if you would to John 10:1-18

READ John 10:1-18

v14 is a key verse ‘I know my sheep and my sheep know me’

If you’re a Christian you are a sheep.
I don’t know whether you know that or not? or whether it’s a shock to you?
but that’s the truth – you are a sheep, and you have a great shepherd, who’s name is Jesus.
He has come, as he explains in v10 to give you life and to give it to you full on!
It’s not his intention for the Christian faith to be some nice little add-on to life, an extra app. to add to your phone – the Christian life is meant to bring to you ‘life to the full’.
And it does so by giving you a living relationship with Jesus – not just an understanding or knowledge of him.
Jesus says ‘I know my sheep and my sheep know me….’
He speaks about how he ‘calls his own sheep by name’ v3 and of how his sheep follow him ‘because they know his voice’.v4

You become familiar with a person’s voice by spending time with them, by talking with them.
If Julie calls me on the phone, I know who it is (not because it says ‘Julie’ on my mobile!) but because I know her voice! There can be others who call me and it can take me a few minutes to register who it is that’s calling.

Jesus wants us to be so familiar with his voice so that when he calls, we know and recognise his voice.
We can become familiar with his voice through reading scripture and hearing his voice there, so that when he calls in other ways – through prophetically speaking into our hearts and minds, through dreams and visions, words of knowledge and wisdom, that we then recognise his voice.
We can become familiar with his voice through spending time with him in prayer – not just us talking to him, but also listening to him, being still in his presence.

We need to do these things personally – if you’re not in the habit of reading the Bible regularly yourself, well how about starting to day? A New Year’s resolution for healthy spiritual living!
There’s loads of resources to help you do that.
Speak to JO or BL for paper Bible reading aids, or go into the Word bookshop in Castle Road.
If you have a smartphone or regular computer access, then there’s plenty of online reading plans available – YouVersion has over 100 different Bible reading plans to choose from, from just a few verses a day, to reading through the whole Bible in a year – why not join me in doing it and encourage me along!

Truly putting Jesus at the centre means expecting to hear from him as you would in any living relationship with another human being.

We need to value and expect this not only personally, but also corporately.
As we gather for worship on a Sunday, as we gather in our groups during the week, we should expect that if Jesus is at the centre that we would hear from him, so let us in our worship and in our praying and intercession keep our hearts and minds open to anything he wants to communicate to us – and then lets share anything he stirs within us, reveals to us.
Lets not just focus on the people on the platform leading us, or bringing the Bible teaching – important though both of those roles and responsibilities are – but let’s put Jesus at the centre and expect to hear from him and know him interacting with us – that’s what happens in a living relationship – we don’t want to be part of a dead marriage.

Putting Jesus at the centre means it’s about:-
– him, not us!

Can any one tell me what Jesus said the greatest commandment was and is?

That’s correct, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ Jesus said in response to a question in Matthew 22 about which was the greatest commandment.

Turn with me if you would to where the commandment was given:-
Deuteronomy 6:4-8

READ Deuteronomy 6:4-8

Here is a model for a God-centred life, not a self-centred life.

Sadly so much of the Christian world today is caught up with a self-centred approach to life.
On the one extreme is the Prosperity Gospel teaching which is all along the lines of personal health and wealth. That’s appealing on a human level isn’t it?
Who, humanly speaking, wouldn’t want to be healthy and wealthy.
But that’s not about putting Jesus at the centre, it’s about putting self there and God coming along to help us and bless us.

We don’t have to be right out on the wing of prosperity teaching though to be guilty of putting self in the centre rather than Jesus.

Who’s guilty of going away from church sometimes and saying
‘I didn’t get much out of that today.’
– have you noticed who’s at the centre of a statement like that?
Me! The person speaking. It’s all about me.
But it’s not supposed to be about us, it’s supposed to be about him!
‘It’s all about you Jesus, and all this is for you, for your glory and for your fame. It’s not about me, as if you should do things my way, you alone are God and I surrender, to your ways.’
There are sadly too many songs that are all about us – and there is a place for personal stuff in our worship – I will worship, I will bow down – but when it becomes it’s all about me and not much about him, somehow we’ve missed the point.

Praise God, in recent years a lot of hymn and song writing has become much more about him, rather than about us.

Let’s be Jesus centred people and come together to worship him – to love the LORD our God with all our hearts, with all our souls and with all our strength.

Let’s reflect on him and all he calls us to at all times.
Let’s talk about him in our families.
Let’s put reminders about him in different places at different times, whether in our physical worlds or our virtual worlds of Facebook, Twitter etc.

I want to suggest to you a third thing about putting Jesus at the centre:- It’s about:-
endurance, not exhaustion

Very often when folk get into exercise to try and pursue the idea of ‘Healthy Living’ they throw themselves into it with great gusto – they give their all…. and within a couple of minutes they’re shattered. I’ve been there myself! I remember years ago trying to run down to church because I was late for a Youth Club responsibility – think I just about got round the corner of the top of our street and I was done in… and staggered down to club late….

The result of this for many folk is that they give up…. when if they’d got their focus right and trained in the right way, they’d actually be able to achieve far more than they might have imagined.

Putting Jesus at the centre so we can have a healthy heart spiritually as a church, and personally in our individual lives is not about a quick dash for a spiritual buzz, so that we find ourselves shattered and burnt out. It’s about building a living relationship with Jesus; it’s about putting him first and not us.

Hebrews 12:1-3 gives us some wise advice on putting Jesus at the centre to enable us to have endurance in our spiritual lives, rather than exhaustion. Turn with me if you would to Hebrews 12:1-3

READ Hebrews 12:1-3

If people are going to pursue the Healthy Living agenda on a physical level, there may well be things they need to throw off… like that extra slice of cake… like yet another takeaway… that packet of cigarettes…. that extra pint of beer or glass of wine….

If we, as a church, and as individuals are going to pursue healthy living spiritually, then there’s maybe things that we need to throw off, sins that easily entangle us and hold us back from being all that we can be in Christ.

How do we throw them off?

We begin by fixing our eyes on Jesus – not on the problem!
If we focus on the problem it’s likely to pull us down.
Instead we need to focus on the solution to the problem, Jesus!
When we lift our eyes to him, he lifts our spirits to himself.
When we make him the centre, other things get pushed out.
When we consider him and what he went through for us it gives us strength to go on, to persevere in living out what he has called us to – even when life throws curl balls at us which are apt to knock us off track, if we focus our hearts and lives on him at the centre, he will enable us to carry on the race of life with perseverance, to keep going and not grow weary and lose heart when we might otherwise do so.

As a central part of our worship each week, as with the majority of Christian churches across the world, we celebrate communion each week. We take bread and wine, we break it, we eat it. We drink the fruit of the vine as a reminder of what Jesus went through for us, of what he endured for us, of the shame he bore for us, that we might have life to the full!

This is all part of putting Jesus at the centre; of having a healthy spiritual heart as a church and as individuals.

Lets make sure in this year 2012 that we make it a year of healthy living, in every sense.
That as a church, and personally we make sure we have a healthy spiritual heart by putting Jesus at the centre of all we do and are; that we live out of a living relationship with him, not just a distant knowledge of him; that our focus is on him and not us; then maybe we will run the race of life with endurance rather than exhaustion.


Jesus, be the centre


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