On December 2, my pastor, Sean Walker, graciously let me preach the sermon at my church at Chapel on the Hill in Lake Geneva.
I had a message on my heart I wanted to say and grateful for the experience to share it with others. Through my study and exploration, I discovered Christ lives in our hearts every day. All we need to do is awaken to the Christ within us.
Here’s the link to listen to my audio sermon of the message on Awakening the Christ Within.
Below is the manuscript even though I didn’t say it word for word in the live version. Either way, my hope is this will inspire your faith in a way that’s best for you.
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
I have a confession to make. Last April I was struggling. Struggling to feel Christ. Struggling to see Christ. Struggling to connect with Christ.
I kept looking this way. Searching that way. But I came across… nothing. Christ continued to elude me.
I asked myself “Why can’t I feel him?” I needed to know if he was with me so, I asked him. “Jesus, please let me know you are here and in my life.”
I waited. Nothing. Until a couple weeks later. I had a dream. I dreamt I heard a knock on my bedroom door. When I opened the door, I saw the words “Revelation 3:20”.
Suddenly I woke up. Curious, I reached for my Bible on my nightstand and turned to Revelation 3:20.
“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.”
However, it’s my nature to doubt myself even when the writing is on the wall… or in my case… a dream. So, I dismissed it. It’s common God needs to send a million messages before I believe He’s talking to me.
I could’ve driven by a big billboard with large black text and bright flashing lights saying “TO JODI: THE ANSWER TO YOUR QUESTION IS …. FROM GOD.” And I still would say, “Naaahhh…I’m imagining things. That’s not for me!”
Two weeks later a group of us girls drove to Green Bay for the Beth Moore conference. I had no idea what Beth Moore was going to say or what the theme was. On Friday opening night, Beth arrived on stage and began to speak. And guess what the message theme was?
The doors God opens and closes. The doors to walk through or not to walk through. The doors He know what’s best or what’s not best. Then, a list of scriptures with door metaphors scrolled down the screen. The first scripture on the list was… Revelation 3:20.
Now I believed Christ answered me with a message from God I needed to hear.
But I didn’t understand the entire message until two weeks later. I had another dream. It was a vision of a heart with a pink door and a white cross on it.
I prayed about, read scripture… and then… I got it.
The Bible says, “I am crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.”—Galatians 2:20
Jesus lives within me. And you. And all of us. He’s alive in our hearts. All. The Time. The doors to open to Jesus are on our hearts. All we need is to wake up and be open to receive him.
With the few scriptures I found on how Christ lives in us, I realized I was looking outside myself for Christ instead of within. So, if Christ already lives in our hearts, the question is what are we doing that’s disturbing that or what do we need to do to see it.
Remember the movie ET at the end when the spaceship waits for ET to get on board to go back home? Elliot was crying because the friend he loved was moving far away.
Elliot pleaded him to stay. ET looked at Elliot’s tear-filled eyes, lit up his finger and points to Elliot’s heart and said, “I will be right here.”
That’s what Jesus tells us.” I am right here.”
Even though Jesus is not with us physically, he’s right here living in our hearts every day in every moment waiting for us to wake up to his presence.
Since April, I’ve continued to study, pray and develop spiritually to help me awaken the Christ within me. It’s a work in progress, but I want to share these steps with you and hope they will help you too.
1: Know you are worthy. Jesus Christ is in as much awe in us and we are in him, if not more. We are amazed by his miracles, his wisdom, his capacity to love and how he lived a perfect, Godly life.
But he’s amazed at us too.
Christ sees our ability to love deeply and serve God to create a positive difference in the world. He’s amazed by our humble humanity, our perfection in being imperfectly human and the miracle of life God has created here on earth.
Christ proves we are worthy by how he connected with everyone regardless of who they were, what they did or where they came from. He shared meals with a tax collector. He stood up for an adulteress to save her life. He didn’t follow the “rules” of who he should talk to or not talk to. He acted as a humble servant and friend to his disciples.
He welcomed everyone and anyone because he loved everyone. If Christ didn’t believe we are worthy, he wouldn’t have obeyed God’s will to die on the cross and pay for our sins.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life..” John 3:16
The company I work for, Signalfire, had a photoshoot for our team. It was a day filled with laughs ending with a yummy lunch. We couldn’t wait to see the photos.
The next day, our photographer emailed the link for the photo gallery. As we looked at each other’s photos, we were amazed by how wonderful our co-workers looked.
But then we looked at our own photos.
Lisa: “Look at the scar on my face!”
Me: “I don’t see your scar. I see your bright smile!”
Sarah: “My hair looks bad!”
Me: “I see how your hair beautifully frames your face.”
Bryan: “My expression makes me look weird!”
Me: “Your joyous spirit shines right through.”
Heather: “The photos zoom in too close to my face. Who wants to see my face that close!”
Me: “I see your vibrant, youthful energy!”
Ian: “Looks good.”
Me: “Ian your ruining my momentum! Not fair lol!”
Me…out loud: “My teeth look weird. Look at all my wrinkles. And those bags under my eyes!”
Me ranting a checklist of internal criticisms in my head: “I am an idiot with no creative ideas. I am a bad mom for yelling at my son today. I am failure because I can’t pay off my debts. I overslept and missed my workout again this week. My house is a mess. I never finished that project I started 10 years ago. My hair hurts. And I burnt my breakfast this morning.
Lisa: “Jodi, I am drawn to your compassionate eyes.”
Don’t we all do this? We’re so hard on ourselves. It’s exhausting! We beat up ourselves so much we don’t see the beauty of who we are. Instead being our own bully, we should be our own cheerleader praising the unique attributes making us special.
Us: “I feel so unworthy.”
Jesus: “You are worthy because I love you.”
Jesus loves us because he sees us. The real us. He cuts through our flaws, imperfections, issues and sins to see right through into our hearts and souls to who we really are.
The Bible says in Genesis 1:27: So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them;
Christ sees the loving, gifted, and talented people we are made in God’s image. He wants us to see this in ourselves too. Because we are all worthy.
2: Develop a Spiritual Practice. Since God created us in his image, we were made with the power of Christ’s love deep in our hearts. Yes, we are sinful creatures, but we are also Christlike by nature. The sun is hidden beneath dark clouds in strong thunderstorms. But the sun is always there. Our Christlike nature is hidden beneath our deepest sins. But our Christlike nature is always there. It’s not something to achieve or attain, but something we always have given by the grace of God.
The seed of Christ was planted in our lives when we accepted him as our Savior. But for the seed to grow and thrive, we must water it daily with spiritual practice. Our development from a small, planted seed to deep rooted spiritual maturity requires patience, perseverance and consistency.
This spiritual practice is outlined in the 7 marks of discipleship. Pray daily, worship weekly, study the Bible, service, fellowship, sharing our faith with others, and giving our time, talents and resources. Through this spiritual practice we become confident in our faith changing our hearts bit by bit to see the light of Christ within.
After salvation, learning to be like Christ is an ongoing process. There’s no magic wand to tap on our heads and poof! We’re transformed into grand spiritual beings. It doesn’t happen that way! We must work at it. All. The. Time.
Spiritual maturity requires change from the inside out with a radical shift in our mindset. We all have bad habits to break, people to forgive, issues to deal with and learning to love more deeply. But all is possible if we walk in the Holy Spirit learning more about God and how Christ works through us.
3: Be Aware: Being aware of what’s happening as it’s happening opens our senses to see Christ working in our lives. If our minds are elsewhere ruminating about the past, fussing about the present or fantasizing about the future, it’s too difficult to hear God’s voice.
The Bible says, “Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10.
This means we need quiet our minds. We can’t hear Him with all that noise going on between our ears. It’s like when we are on the phone with static and bad reception. We can’t hear the other person on the line!
But if we slow down, be quiet and listen, God will give us the wisdom we need to hear.
With increased awareness, we’ll peel layers off the masks we wear reaching the center of who we are. The true self God created us to be and what Christ sees instead of the persona we present. We’ll appreciate the small things making every moment Holy moments. Seeing the beauty and feeling the texture of life is like creating Heaven here on Earth.
4: Commit to Christ: Commit to Christ with all your heart, mind and soul in complete faith and trust. When you sacrifice and surrender, you’ll be filled deeply with the Holy Spirit.
I’ve been in martial arts and Judo for many years. Judo is the art of throwing another person. Total commitment with ultimate sacrifice and surrender to Jesus reminds of a judo sacrifice throw.
A sacrifice throw is when the Tori (in Japanese means the person throwing) allows himself to fall or drop in the process of performing the throw. One throw called tomoe-nagi, is a great example how important commitment is to make things work.
When learning tomoe-nagi, it requires commitment from the person throwing (Tori) and the person being thrown, the Uki (in Japanese means person being thrown). If you don’t commit, the throw won’t work or you’ll get hurt.
When the Tori performs the throw, they grip onto the Uki’s uniform lapel, puts one foot on the Uki’s hip and swings their entire body through the Uki’s legs landing on the floor while throwing the them over the top. Both land on their backs head to head. You commit using your bodyweight to execute the throw. Scary!
For the Tori to learn the throw, it’s vital to have a good Uki who’s willing to take the fall. When the Tori throws, a good Uki moves their bodyweight forward with a slight jump to fly over the top. The Uki helps to make the throw feel effortless and smooth.
When I was learning tomoe-nagi, I didn’t want to do it! It was scary! During class, I would pray, “Please let’s not do tomoe-nagi”. And of course, my instructor would say…” Let’s do tomoe-nagi!” “No!!!! I don’t want to do it!” But since it was required, I did it anyway.
One of the students I worked with, Pat, was a great Uki for me. When I gripped up ready to do the throw, Pat looked at me straight in the eye chanting “Commit, commit, commit”. With weak and not so confident smile I said, “Ok, Pat!”. And away I went. My throw was clunky and clumsy at first, but I did my best.
With consistent practice, I became more confident, more aware of the technique and felt worthy of performing the throw. I went from the weak and unconfident “Ok, Pat” to the strong and confident “Yes! I got this!”
Practicing Tomoe-Nagi reminds me of our relationship with Jesus. To connect with Christ and receive God’s full blessings, we must be 100% committed surrendering our lives to Christ.
There’s no ishing it. No half-asked attempts. No “under only these conditions will I commit.” No “Well, today I will follow you, but not over the weekend.” Either you’re in or you’re not. It’s a yes or no. That simple.
When you begin your relationship with Christ, it’s scary. God will ask you to do things in the name of Christ you may not want to do. You’ll say “No!!! I don’t want to do it! But it requires change at every level moving us out of our comfort zone to grow in Christ.
If you trust Jesus, you’ll have the best Uki you’ll ever have. When you’re brave and ready to walk with him, He’ll look in your eyes chanting, “Commit, commit, commit.”
Your relationship will be clunky and clumsy at first. You might respond with a weak and unconfident, “Ok, Jesus.” But that’s ok… because you’ll do your best.
Over time with consistent spiritual practice, you’ll become more confident in your faith, more aware of Christ working in your life and know you are worthy because he loves you.
When you commit, sacrifice and surrender to Christ, you’ll go from the weak and unconfident, “Ok, Jesus” to the strong and confident, “Yes, Jesus. We got this!” When you get that level of deep commitment and trust, he will fly, jump, and take any fall for you.
If you’re the one falling from life’s struggles whether it’s divorce, illness, job loss, depression, loss of a loved one or just from a no good bad day, he’ll catch you in his strong, loving arms.
He’ll look in your tear-filled eyes, light up his finger and touch your heart saying, “Have no fear…I’ll be right here.”
It’s this hope of Christ, the one who saved us and continues to save us, we can count on more than anything else in the world. He will always be here, knocking on door, waiting to be let in.
Let’s open the door to awaken the Christ within our hearts and glorify God shining His light into our souls and to the world around us.
Blessings to you all,