Summary: Joining with others to follow Christ is the clear model for Christian living according to Paul. We need examples to follow, fellow followers to journey with, and to be examples for others to follow. Many will not do it. You and I must!

Happy New Year Signal Mountain! Welcome to the first Sunday of 2012!

This is a good time of year to look back and see where we’ve been, look around and see where we are, and look ahead to see where we need to go next. But the first thing to do is look up and acknowledge our sovereign God who holds it all in His hands and knows the end from the beginning. We need to look at His book to get the big picture to guide us. We need to keep coming back to the Bible, spending time with God, both alone and together with others as we continue our journey home to glory.

At our traditional family Christmas gathering with Jenny’s side of the family, somebody always brings a puzzle (usually 1000 piece) to put together as part of the festivities. Later, Jenny’s mom will frame it and put it on the wall in their family room where there are over 14 Christmas puzzles on the walls representing the spirit of each Christmas past. Every one has the year of that particular Christmas printed on it with the theme of that year’s Christmas.

Putting together a puzzle illustrates how we build our lives in Christ. First: To do a puzzle we need to look at the box for the big picture. That’s where we see what the finished product is supposed to look like, once it’s all put together properly. As a Christian, what image am I to look upon and fix my eyes on? What image am I to become? Phil. 3:21, 1 John 3:1-3, 1 Cor. 15:49 all tell us. As Hebrews 12:2 and Col. 3:1-3 state: Jesus is our ultimate image! To follow Jesus we need to look in the Book for the big picture... reading your Bible and seeing God’s big plan for your life.

Second, for a puzzle, we usually dump out all the pieces and turn them all face up so you can see their shapes and colors. To follow Christ that’s like starting the Christian life, turning all the pieces of my life upward to Him, repenting and committing to follow Jesus in faith and obedience. But what are we turning from and who are we turning to? Lke 15:11-24, Acts 26:18-20 and 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 all tell us. We turn from death to life, from lost to found, from darkness to light. To do this we look to Christ, listen to Christ, learn from Christ and decide to live for Christ. We commit to Jesus by faith and baptism into Christ and the journey is begun.

Third... Normally, with a puzzle we start by gathering all the pieces with a flat edge on them to put together our boarders and boundaries. These are the outside edges or the boundaries of the puzzle. In following Christ, that’s like the first steps of faith as a Christian. 2 Peter 1:5-9, 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1 and Ephesians 6:10f give us clear instructions about building our behaviors and boundaries in Christ. Peter insturcts us in adding to our faith so that we never fall but are fruitful, Paul tells the Corinthians to come out from darkness into light and walk separately from the world. We must honor the distinction between the saved and the lost! And we mush arm ourselves against the enemy of Christ. We put begin to build boundaries in our behavior, doing what is right and resisting what is wrong. We put together our Christian first principles and start putting on the armor of God.

Fourth... With a puzzle, then comes the tedious part of finding where all the inner parts fit together. Puzzle pieces are designed to fit together just right. You can’t do it your way and come out with the right image. Sometimes you have to search and study to discover what goes where. In following Christ that’s like God’s work on building the image of Christ into your heart and mind. Look at Philippians 2:5-11 and notice how Paul imitates Christ in Phil. 3:7-13. This is our example too. We must humble ourselves like Jesus, and obey without resistance to God’s will, no matter what. That takes patience and faith. It also takes careful observation, understanding and then putting those together to work. Like a puzzle, you really need to study the box over and over as you work to figure out where to put those pieces and be encouraged that it will all come together if we persist. We must constantly turn our eyes and hearts and minds to Jesus and consider Him as we put into practice His commands and put on His image. Jesus tells us: Be faithful unto death and I will give you the crown of life!

And like our Christmas puzzles. As Christians we are not alone on the journey. At Jenny’s family gathering, there are lots of helpers working together and making the work a joy. We join together and find a lot of enjoyment just doing it as a family.

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