Well, I got a question. Did you mean it? That's a powerful song. And let's not forget the words that we're singing when we're enjoying the song that we're singing. Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander. How many of you growing up were swimming on the shallow end, looking carefully at the deep end? Yeah. And there were times when you were like, "I don't know that I want to swim over there because my feet can't touch." Is our faith such that we are only willing to go where our feet can touch? Or are we willing to go in a place where all we have is Jesus to get us through? Let me give you a hint. You'll probably be given a situation like that anyway, so get used to it, because God has a way of putting us in unusual circumstances that shows us that we can trust Him above the circumstances.
Well, I'm going to hone in on a passage of scripture in Romans 12 on talking about how we serve Christ together. And the reading of the scripture from where Jesus washed the feet of His disciples reminds me of a time when we planted our church and where we went to what was called basic training for church planters. And the leader of that training event on the second night of the second day of the three days that we were there, had us all sit in a circle and he took a towel and he simply just started wiping each of our feet. We didn't take our shoes and socks off. I've had that happen a couple of times. In fact, when we started our service, our church, before we even got launched, somebody did that for me. And it was a powerful example of servanthood and love, and I grew up going to a church that did that.
But even just wiping the outside of our feet was humbling. And it reminded us that Jesus, the Son of God, the king of the world, the king of the universe, the King, bent down and served his disciples and demonstrated that the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve and to give us life as a ransom for many. We did a series of messages on servanthood in our church when we got start in the early days. And we actually had a towel that was printed up, got our old style logo on it, and it says, "I will serve my Christ, my church, and my community." We handed it out to everyone who was willing to take it to say around here, we're not passing out titles, we're passing out towels because we are servant-minded. I still have a few of these.
If one of you wants to get deputized and be a servant, and we may even print some more up because it's a powerful reminder we are called to serve, and we serve together in Christ's name. How do we do that? And I believe chapter 12 versus three through six kind of gives us a hint as to how to do that. And I'm not going to go into the spiritual gift, mix lists of spiritual gifts, but I want to talk about the practical application of that we have them and how we actually use them for the Lord Jesus Christ.
Christ followers imitate Christ by serving. If you want to look like Jesus, start serving in His name. You don't look like Jesus by being in charge of a bunch of stuff. You might be in charge of a bunch of stuff, but you are in charge of a bunch of stuff as a servant of the people and the situation that you're in charge of. We are all servants in the name of Jesus Christ, and every believer is gifted to serve. Every believer has some kind of a spiritual gift. And I'm not talking about abilities; we'll talk about that in just a few moments. I'm not talking about - some people... we all sang this morning, only a few ought to have a microphone. And that's just, I mean, you know, in fact, I realized, did you all hear me singing through your earpiece? Good, because occasionally I keep it. They'll mute it up there, but then it still goes through the earpieces and my daughter's like, "Yeah, we heard you singing." I'm like, "Oh, I'm sorry," because it still comes through there. And so I'm like, "Eh."
But anyway, but we all have different gifts. I'm not talking about abilities. I'm not talking about talents, things that we're we just kind of naturally good at. Some people are carpenters, some people are mechanics, some people are neither, some people, right brain, left brain. We're going to talk about that a little bit this morning, but I want to hone in on the conversation that every believer is gifted by the Holy Spirit to serve. When you become a Christian, God gives you a spiritual gift. We're going to talk about it in Romans, but it also talks about it in 1 Corinthians 12 In your homework time, you can go look at 1 Corinthians 12, and in 1 Peter 4:10, I'm going to actually hone in on that a little bit later as well to say that we all - in fact, let me read that for you 1 Peter 4:10 says, "Just as each one has received a gift, use it to serve others as good stewards of the varied grace of God." We show the grace of God through the using of our spiritual gifts as we serve people in Jesus' name. And people will not really receive the full grace of God. And I mean, I'm not talking about you get the grace of God, but you won't experience that grace, that unmarried favor unless the body of Christ is functioning well and that we're all serving the way we're gifted so that everybody experiences the grace in a practical way.
You see, God says we're supposed to serve, but he empowers us to serve. Think about it. You may have had an employer or a supervisor or even a teacher that told you to do an assignment, but they didn't equip you to do it. Anybody. And if you're a supervisor, don't do that. A parent says, "Go mow the lawn," but if the parent doesn't show the child how to turn on the lawnmower and safely mow the grass, "straight lines, please," then and then get mad at them because they didn't do it right, that's just cruel. So in the same way, if God has told you to go serve people and then He doesn't give you any ability to do it, He doesn't show you how, that would be unfair. Not right.
There's a saying, you know, when you talk about calling and being called to be a pastor, being called to be in ministry, God doesn't call those who are equipped, He equips those who are called. He takes care of the empowerment part, we just have to show up and be obedient to do the work, and He will come through us and be a blessing to other people. So, we all are gifted to serve. And the reason He changes our lives and the reason that He wants to move in our lives and we become more like Jesus is so that we do serve people in His name. So in Romans 12, it starts out by saying, "Therefore brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. This is your true worship." And then he says verse two, a lot of times you may have heard this, if you've been in church a while, "Do not be conform to this age."
Don't just be a conformist to this age, to the people around you, to what's going on to the culture. No, no, no, be transformed. How do you do that? By the renewing of your mind. And we talk about prayer, bible study, getting around other godly people, being around godly influences, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing and perfect will of God? So that you can do the right thing. And then the word "for" in verse three actually attaches itself back to what he said, "Be transformed by the renewing of your mind. And when your mind is renewed, this is what you're going to do." So let me read for us, verse three, "For By the grace given to me," this is Paul talking through the inspirational Holy Spirit, "I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, he should think sensibly as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one."
Verse four. "Now, as we have many parts in one body, and all the parts do not have the same function in the same way, we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another, according to the grace given to us, we have different gifts. "
Let me pray for us, Father God right now, is we unpack this very meaningful and important and practical passage of how to experience and how to use the gifts you've given us, how to understand what you've done and how to function well as the body of Christ, Lord, may You deliver the message to every heart that's needed this morning. There might be someone who's far from God. They're not even figuring out what it means to have a spiritual gift. They're just trying to figure out how to hold things together. I don't know where people are this morning. I can't read minds. I don't know every heart. I've prayed for a lot of people in this room, but only you know where they are right now. And so, I just pray in Jesus' name that if it's someone who just needs to draw closer to You this morning, may You translate this message in their hearts to know that You love them and You have a purpose for their lives. And You want to work in and through their lives to make a difference in their situation, and that they can live a life of purpose and meaning. And if it's those of us that have lived with You and walked in You for a long time, Lord, wake us up to what You want us to do next, to serve You and to honor You and to be a blessing to You in whatever season of life we're in. And everywhere in between, God, You know what to do in this moment. May you be more important and may you be thought of more, and may I diminish even as I'm talking and I pray this in Jesus name. Amen.
Well, I want to talk about what Christian servants are like this morning. And this passage gives us a pretty clear picture of what servants in the Lord Jesus name are like. It first says in verse three that we are humble. Verse three says don't think of yourself more highly than you should think. We need to be humble. We're not all that more, but we are - I'll get that in a minute. But we need to make sure that we're not thinking puffed up, thinking about, "Oh, look at that. It's like the story of the pastor that's coming home from church and he's in the car and he's just thinking about how he got all the words right. He didn't twist his tongue up like I do occasionally. His kids didn't giggle at him when he messed up, and he just thought, you know, he brought it. You know, dropped the mic moment in the pastor's life, right? And he's just thinking to himself these thoughts. But you know, you don't say that out loud in the car. So he said something to the effect of, 'Aren't there a lot of great preachers out there today that probably preach the word of God?" And his wife heard that and she immediately said, "And probably one less than you think."
We need to make sure that we don't get too full of ourselves. Don't think too much of yourself. But then he goes right around and says, but think sensibly of yourselves. We need to be confident. There's these two bumpers or guardrails that we need to have in our lives. There's the bumper guardrail of pride that says, "I'm all that and more. "And I don't mean you can't use the word proud. I think there's a right way, but don't be proud. God resists the proud, gives grace to the humble. Do you want to be resisted by God? Don't be proud. So that's the bumper. Don't be proud, but don't feel like you're insignificant, like I don't matter to anything. As I said in the early service - worm theology, I'm a worthless worm. There's actually a hymn that we would sing, and it just brought this whole idea that I'm just a groveling nothing. And that is saying that God made junk. That's saying that God didn't make you into something special and important in this world. Like, you were the mistake in the universe. And that is a lie from the pit of hell.
That is an absolute lie, it's a lie that causes people to have more anxiety, more fear, more struggles. It causes people to have identity crisis and it causes people to take their lives, and anywhere in between. And they sit on a shelf and they think, "Well, I'm just not good at anything." You're good at something. You're not good at everything, but you're good at something. So don't be so prideful that you think you're all that more. And don't live life saying I'm not good at anything. That's a lie. God has gifted you. And every Christian in this room has been given a spiritual gift to be used to the glory of God. Again, not a talent or an ability; I'm talking about a spiritual empowerment that so uniquely makes you see the world that you see it in such a way, that sometimes when a brother or sister in Christ sees it a different way, you get a little offended. You're like, "Well, you're just not as merciful as you should be because you're the super mercy.
Or the person says, "Well, you're being a little soft on them," because they're more the teacher or they're the exhorter. A teacher, you know, kind of teaches an exhorter. I'm not getting into the weeds here, but an exhorter says, "Well, here's..." they come alongside and they encourage. There's hard gifts, there's soft gifts, there's gifts that are, you know, gift of giving, gift of mercy. And then there's the gift of forth telling, the prophet that tell it like it is. Frank and Ernest who's done more; those two men have done more to destroy fellowship than anywhere else - just being Frank and Ernest. Don't! No, we work together. I'll talk about that in a minute. I'm getting ahead of myself here. We need to be confident that God has given us a gift, but not so confident that we get high minded.
Sometimes we get too confident and we think we need to have some kind of recognition. God will recognize, and God will use the body of Christ to recognizing you. You don't have to worry about that, God don't take care of that in his timing. You present yourself. If someone's supposed to be in ministry, present yourself. That's a good thing to do. But let the body of Christ work with you and in and through you as you do that. Or to be humble, to be confident, and a Christian servant, we are gifted. Okay, let's just state the obvious. We are gifted. It says in that first verse there, verse three. And think sensibly as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one. Some commentators suggest that that measure faith phrase means "the faith" that God's been measured out, the faith of Jesus Christ, the faith in trusting in Him. And that's it.
Others will say no, that's actually, measure of faith is just a synonym for... it's another way of saying spiritual gifts. He's given you a measure of spiritual gifts. And I think of measure of faith like I've been given my piece of real estate to take care of in a football game, and I got to stay home. That's what one of the things they talk about, stay home. You need to stay where you're supposed to be as a defense to make sure that you're capturing and cleaning up the area that you're responsible for on the field. And just as the offense is supposed to go where they're supposed to go, you don't put two receivers to go the same direction. Maybe you do, but then there's a split off so that there's actually a confusion so that the quarterback can get to somebody who's open. You need to own the real estate you've been assigned to take care of. So you've been given a measure of faith; you have a spiritual gift that you've been given and you're responsible for taking care of it and using it and fostering it into better and stronger so that you might honor God with your life with that spiritual gift.
In verse six it says we have different gifts. We are given these gifts. In 1 Corinthians 12:7, "A manifestation of the spirit is given to each person." The Holy Spirit gives you that gift. And by the way, there are things about our lives sometimes that we get irritated with ourselves about. Why don't we always see things that way? Why is it if I'm a hammer, every time I see a problem, I think it's a nail? And I just bang on things all the time, the way I design to bang on things and it just doesn't work right. Yeah, because I'll talk in a minute here that there's a reason for that, but don't resent the fact that you're a hammer. Don't resent the fact that you see the world that you just - why is it that I just get bent out of shape when I see bad things happening? That just tears me up. I don't know what to do about it. So just thank God that you have sensitivity, some of us don't, like you do.
Sometimes I have to - my wife and I, I don't think either one of us have the gift of mercy. Poor kids! And get hurt in games and we're like, "Get up. Throw some dirt on it." "Yeah, but there's blood on it." "The blood will make the blood clot better, faster." Yeah, just go for it. That's why one kid had a broken ankle for two days before we found out that they had a broken ankle. Yeah, that's God's six sense of humor on our kids. That's awful. Anyway, pray for my kids, pray for my kids. But we all are all gifted in our particular ways. That's no excuse by the way, for us not being merciful. That's why I'm self-confessing this morning. It doesn't mean that you can just forget mercy if you're not merciful.
Alright, let me give you another. I don't have the gift of evangelism, the gift of telling people about Jesus, but we're still called to go and tell people about Jesus. Just because you don't have the ability to help others do it better, and every time I was growing up, the evangelist would come into town, we'd have week long bible worship services each night and this evangel and every time he got on an airplane, it seemed like he was sitting next to somebody and they got saved on his way to somewhere else, or he'd be somewhere. Everywhere he went he'd be like, they all came to Jesus. I was like, man, I'm not that person. I talk to people, I feel like I might take people to the next step, but I just don't - I'm not the closer, I guess you might say. I don't know what it is. But the bottom line to is, people are super gifted to give, but it does not negate all of our responsibility to tell people about Jesus.
So I'm not talking about the commands to go and tell people. I'm talking about the spiritual unction that you have, that spiritual power that's within you that enables you to equip the body of Christ to be something more than they are already. We're gifted, but we are also interdependent. Verse four, "All the parts do not have the same function," which means none of us has all the gifts, only Jesus was perfect. And if we're going to be like Jesus, we got to work together to show what Jesus looks like through all of us doing our particular part in the body of Christ. Verse five, "We are individually members of one another." So we're individuals, but we belong to one another. There is this trend of going off and doing my own little house church by myself, all myself. And sometimes it's because they get offended by other people's spiritual gifts and they have to run off and they go off and they do their own thing, and then they become the hammer that sees the whole world as a nail.
Nonprofits are started in a positive way because of this. Someone has a spiritual gift, and they start a nonprofit ministry to do this, that or the other. And they're given that gift and they go do that, but then they don't realize that they are part of a bigger picture in the body of Christ and they are kind of soloed or they're siloed and they're basically over here doing their thing and they're not being inputted by others who have other spiritual gifts and they kind lose their way or they start resenting how everybody isn't like they are. And there's just that pride thing. And so we need to make sure that we're not... now, some people, they're wounded and there's struggles and there's been bad things that have happened in church. I've had some bad things happen in church, but God still works through the body of Christ, and He works as we are interdependent.
We're better together than we'll ever be by ourselves. We have different gifts. And it says in 1 Corinthians 12:7, "For the common good." Your spiritual gift isn't something for you to profit on by yourself. It's something to be a blessing; not just to you, but to other people as well. We're all in this together, working together blessing one another. In 1 Corinthians 12, it also talks about that each one has gifts, there are different ministries and there are different activities that result from that. Let me just say that maybe you have... like my pastor in the church that I was an intern in Texas would say that he had the gift of servanthood. He just, that was his spiritual gift and yet he's a pastor. Servanthood you would think, oh, he's the janitor, right?
I mean, I'm not saying that are good to say that, well that's how you're the pastor. No, no, no, no. Your giftedness does not necessarily mean what your ministry's going to be. His gift was service. His ministry was calling as a pastor of the church. But then it was God who brought about the activity and the result that was needed in the body of Christ. In that passage, it also says it is the same spirit who gives the gifts. It's the same Lord who gives the ministries and it's the same God who brings about the activity.
And what he would say is that I serve through my motivational gift of servanthood. And he would be the first one in this megachurch of thousands to get up on a Wednesday night dinner. And we had weekly dinners at the church in the family life center. And he would often be getting plates for people and serving. He was also administrating a massive church, but he administrated it as a servant in his spiritual giftedness. And it was God who gave him the gift, who called him into a ministry, who then by the power of the Holy Spirit brought about a result that was honor and glorifying to the one God who brought this all together as interdependent individuals for the common good to do the work together. We all work together to reflect the glory of God. We depend on one another as we all depend on God together. That's what it's all about, because ultimately not only we are we interdependent, but we are united.
How are we united? We who are many are one body in Christ. Our spiritual gifts combine together are meant to display the one Jesus Christ. There is no Jesus Christ superstar in the room. Jesus is the only superstar. And we in our own way, when we blend in unity and He says, "They'll know that you're my disciples if you have love one for another." I pray father that they may be one even as you and I are one," Jesus said. The oneness of the body of Christ is the most powerful witness that God is working and moving in this world. And we must work together to make that happen.
Again, what are the pitfalls? Oftentimes we see things the way we see things and we get a little upset when people don't see things the way we see them. In marriage there's usually an opposite attract, and then after a while opposites rub people the wrong way in a relationship. And yet, it's sort of like - let's just use a simple one, spenders and savers. How many of you live in a household, it's you have both in your home spenders and savers? Yeah, that makes for interesting conversation, doesn't it? Yeah, but if you were both savers, you'd be misers. You might not be generous. Your children would hate you. There's all kinds of things. I don't know. But if you're both spenders, uhoh, I won't ask if anybody's both spenders. You wouldn't have enough money to do anything. I mean, you're always broke because you're spending it all. So that particular, again, that's not a spiritual gift, but the gift of generosity is spiritual gift.
And by the way, people who have the gift of generosity aren't necessarily rich. Some of the most powerful people who have the gift of generosity are some of the poorest people you'll ever meet. And sometimes it aligns with people who have money. But oftentimes the gift of generosity, the gift of giving is possessed by a person who just like the widow give all to the god with faith that God is in control of the right resources. But we come together and as we do that, we sometimes we get upset or offended by the way somebody sees the world with their spiritual gifts. And that's true. Like we have in the benevolence team; we have people that are very merciful and people that are very forth tellers and say how did you get into that situation? And we want to know some more details to be able to kind of help you in a real way. We're not just giving out money. What does the rescue mission say? "Real change, not spare change."
We want to bring real life change. We want discipleship. We are to make disciples not just give out a bunch of money as a church. So if part of the discipleship process is that you help somebody financially, but it also might mean that you help somebody learn how to better manage their resources. And we put both people on the benevolence team and sometimes they fight over what they ought to do. I mean that in a positive way, they have a disagreement, but it works well because they're balancing each other out to represent the body of Christ in a holistic way, not just in one way. We are united for the purpose of glorifying God, fulfilling His purposes in the body of Christ, in the church and in the world. So, that is the explanation in Romans 12.
I want to close this morning with just a couple of thoughts about how to get started. First of all, how do you get started? Consider your shape. Shape - S H A P E. It's a little acronym. It's a word that's an acronym for spiritual gifts, heart abilities, personality experiences. So, what's your "s" your spiritual gifts? And I'll tell you, talk about every one of us has one and I'll talk about how to figure out what that is in just a minute. But consider what you seem to have the most heart passion for doing. Read the list, there's different list in the Bible. I already gave you some passages and if you go online, you'll see those passages on my notes and you can look up all of those.
I some people think that those lists are complete and others think that there's more than what even the lists and the Bible of spiritual gifts that there are. And I would just say be careful to go beyond the Bible, but don't think that you're like locked into, because the Bible never says anywhere. These are the only ones, but it doesn't say you can be creative and do whatever you want either. Yeah, be careful. So there's spiritual gifts, and then what's your heart interest. On Wednesday night we're actually going to have a meeting at 7:30 for anybody who wants to think and talk about how to help the rescue mission, the rescue mission minister team. And so if you are interested and you have a heart passion to help people; think about the rescue mission and the homeless, then come join us. But if you don't, don't feel guilty that you didn't go. That's not your heart passion.
We are a pro-life church. We believe in the life begins at conception. We also believe that we ought not to be practicing euthanasia, right? I mean, you know, we need practice on both sides of the spectrum. But some people are on the front lines of the pro-life movement. Some are out there on the front lines politically to make sure that that people are elected that will protect life and that we will be defeated in public office who don't respect life. Then there are people that they're there to serve and help people who are in crisis and are thinking at the crossroads. They are abortion minded. They're thinking about abortion because the culture says that's your only way out, and they are trying to support ministries. Those are heart desires and we all support life, but some support it in a heart passion that's more than others in the room.
There are people who... anyway, I can just go on and on and on, but those are different ministries, but different heart passions. So what are you interested in? Some people really have a big deal about our children's ministry and others are like, no, not so much. And here's the deal, by the way, let me just be real careful on this. We all ought to be serving that where we're shaped, you know, how God has gifted us to serve. That's our primary thought of where we're serving in the church, but other places we serve where we're needed. And just because you say, "Well, I don't know that I'm gifted to work with children," but you might be one of the safest, best persons to work with children. And we have needs all the time in the children's ministry, so I'm going to ask you right now for thus to have a signup list right here for the children's ministry, and my wife will thank you, and so will all the children and so all the parents of children who depend on our church to help disciple them in their own age appropriate way during our services.
So please don't think, "Well, I'm not so good at that," that doesn't mean you're not qualified to serve. Sometimes the qualify factor is, there's a need; show up, start doing it, come on. And then as we grow and more people come in, then you can hand that off to someone who might need more shaped than you are to serve.
And then we have abilities, we have certain things we're good at, and I mentioned that earlier. Some people are more gifted to do things with their hands. And some people are more right brain, left brain, they can do things. And we have to be careful to know what our abilities are. What are you good at? What do people said you're good at? And your personality; some of you are introverts and some of you are extroverts and somewhere in between. Some of you, you're very logistical minded in your ways of doing things, and some of you, you're all over the map. Wish you could be like me, all over the map anyway.
And then what are your experiences? What have you done? What's happened to you? Some of you come from intact Bible believing homes. Some of you come from good homes that weren't Bible believing. Some of you come from homes that exploded. Some of you are adopted; you that you all come from all different ways of life. You all have are different vocations in this room. You have different hobbies and activities. You've seen things. Some of you been in military, some of you have not. You all have different experiences. And God uses all those experiences for His honor and his glory. And there are some things, there's some things in this room that you've experienced that someone ought never experienced, but you know full well, somebody probably will. And God doesn't waste a hurt. He's going to use your hurt. As He healed you and as you found him in the deeper waters where your feet couldn't touch and you found His strength in the midst of that experience to get through it. And here you are today, victorious because of Jesus Christ, you can be there for someone else who's getting on the journey on that same problem.
God doesn't waste a hurt, consider your shape and then start serving somewhere. Just pick up a towel and start serving. Just get going. Serve where we're needed. There's a lot of entry places here at St. Joe. Just get involved. Ask your connection group leader, what's some things that need to be done? If you're a half decent smiler, we need more people to greet people when they come in. It's like, "thanks for being here. Here's a bulletin." You know, there's all kinds of different ways. If you're in a connection group, you don't have to like do something officially functional in the church life. There are all kinds of other things that we do for and with one another in the body of Christ that's never cataloged as a ministry service project in the church. Just start serving somewhere. And then ask other believers, am I good at this? And be willing to listen to them. Your mom probably thought you were good at everything. You aren't. Just listen to an evaluation. If there's any moms in the house, I'm sorry, your son is the best son in the world. My mom's probably listening to this at some point this week. Thank you, mother. I am the best son anybody could ever have. I'm her favorite son. I'm her only son.
But seriously assess your progress, get people asking you questions, "Am I doing this right? Is am I good at this?" Assess yourself. You know, I really don't get into this. At some point I need to give this away, and then keep it up. Keep it up. Retirement is not a biblical concept. Now, we may slow down, we may retool when we get older. We have seasons of serving in particular areas of the church life, of life in general. We have seasons of serving. We've gone on mission trips and there's things we've done on those mission trips that like... we've done unspeakable things on mission trip. I mean, down and dirty work that just needs to be done. Very hard stuff. And then you come home, you're like, "Man, I don't know if I'll ever do that again." And you're thanking God that you'll never do that again.
And then there's times when you go on that mission trip and you go, "Man!" It unlocks your whole door of like, if I could do this here in this mission field over here, I can do this when I get home. And that's why we take people on mission to do things because it gets you outside of your thinking of where you are just thinking, maybe I'm good at that, maybe I'll do this or that. And we just got to keep it up. Keep going, keep going, keep it up. So my final prayer this morning is that we will glorify Jesus Christ with our lives. And I'm just going to say, you can't do that if you don't know Jesus. You can't do that if you haven't put your life in His hands. You can't go deeper because you don't even have the one that you trust in your life to begin with.
And I pray this morning that if you've been listening on the outside of an inside conversation in our family talk this morning, we invite you to come into the family. We invite you to walk into the presence of the family by putting your faith and trust in Jesus Christ, by just admitting that you don't have the spiritual strength to do what you know is right and wrong. And you know that you've offended a holy God that deserves your allegiance. And you just say, "God, I can't do enough to earn my way into your favor." I can't do enough to earn my way into heaven. I'm a good person, but I'm not a perfect person. And only perfect people get to heaven. You know when you become perfect because you've trusted in Jesus to forgive your sins and you become the righteousness. His righteousness becomes our righteousness. We become like Jesus when we put our faith in Him. And we get in not because of how much good we've done, but because we've trusted in the one who did it all for us when he died on the cross. We trusted Jesus.
And this morning, that's the step you need to take this morning, is to put your faith in Him. Maybe to come forward and say, Pastor, I like to know more about what it means to be a Christian. Or go in the back and we'll have some people in the back praying. And if you want to have some prayer time with them, say I need to know more about this trusting in Christ. I want in on what God's up to in the world. I don't want to miss eternity without Him. And then I pray that we will demonstrate the love and the unity in Christ's name, that we will together display the unity of the body of Christ by the way in which we serve with one another in His name.
The world needs to learn how to get along in their differences. God's given us a prescription, and I think the world and our nation especially needs a better answer than anybody else is giving. We can give it to them by demonstrating our unity in Christ as we serve together. And finally, that we will serve one another with our unique gifts so that God's grace will be experienced.
It says in 1 Peter 4, "Just as each one has received a gift, use it to serve others as good stewards of the varied grace of God." My final appeal this morning is that we all have the grace of God if we're a Christian, but we may not be experiencing the grace of God, the unmarried favor of God, the love of God, because somebody in this room is sitting on their gifts and not expressing them in such a way that we all experience the grace of God like we need to.
So I pray in Jesus' name, will you get up and go and start serving in His name, trusting that, yeah, I don't have all the gifts, but I got something. Show up, get going, that others might experience God's grace in their lives. Now let me just give you a little secret. No, it's no secret. The Bible says it is more blessed to give than to receive. You'll go in thinking that you're the blessing; I've gone into many times at Greystone Nursing Home and Cindy listens to us all the time in the live broadcast. And I go in there thinking, and I don't mean it in a prideful way. I say, "I'm going to go in there and try to be a blessing." You just try to go be a blessing and you walk away more blessed than when you thought. You probably gained more than you gave. So, you want to live the best life ever; show up, start serving and trust what God's empowered you to do.
How We Serve Christ Together
October 16, 2022
Christ followers imitate Christ by serving (Matthew 20:28)
Every believer is gifted to serve
1 Corinthians 12
1 Peter 4:10
We are being renewed to serve others in Christ’s name
Romans 12:3 is connected to Romans 12:1-2
Christian Servants Are…
How to get started
Consider your SHAPE: Spiritual Gift, Heart interests, Abilities, Personality, Experiences
Start serving somewhere
-ask other believers
-assess your progress
Keep it up!
-retirement is not a Biblical concept
-we may slow down, retool, etc, but we don’t stop serving!
I don't know where this is, you know, And I remember it being lost in my grandma's neighborhood, but every brick house looked like every other brick house in Dayton, Ohio, West Carrolton. And they all these little ranch style houses. And my mom said, "Just go down the block." She dropped us off, gone. And people one block over didn't know where Schenley Avenue was. I'm like, "What in the world?" 2999 Schenley Avenue. I can still see it to this day. I couldn't find it to save my - I mean, it's awful. Asking directions, we were totally lost. I don't even know how we got to where we ended up, but it took forever, which would've taken three minutes if we'd known how to get there.
But I remember one time when we were really lost; I was a trustee for a seminary out in San Francisco Golden Gate Seminary. And another friend of mine, he was from the East Coast, I'm from Indiana. We were the representatives there. And we had a meeting that evening. When you're on this side of the country, you can fly out there and get there in time. You're dead tired, but you can leave out in the early morning and with all the lag time of the time change, you can be there in time to actually enjoy the afternoon if you're awake. And you can actually then be, even then for a six o'clock meal and then in a meeting. And we were in our business attire after a little bit nicer dress than this actually that day. And I had my street shoes on, my kind of dress shoes with no tread. I'm just giving you a hint here. And we went to go see Mere Woods.
Mere Woods is right up north of the Golden Gate Bridge. And it's just these big cedar, I mean, it's redwood forest, It's just the massive. You can't even take a picture to get the understanding of the grandeur of these. They had one, it had fallen and they cut it and they said, "This is when Columbus came, and this is..." You're like, "That's how old the tree is." It's just huge and it's just so amazing. And we said, "Well, let's walk around. We got time." So Ronnie and I, he's a police officer, retired now from the Capital Police Department in Washington DC and he had his little go bag. He always had a little bag with him. Washington Redskins, I didn't hold it against him that he rooted for the wrong team, but that's okay.
But he would have his little go-bag and I thought his go-bag had all the important stuff in it, which I think it had some things in it, but it didn't have what we needed because by the time we got off the pavement, big mistake. We start walking up into more of a gravel area. And then we start going up and up and up and up and up, and we're talking and we're talking about family and catching up because we don't see each other every six months because we were on this board together. And finally, it dawns on us we're lost. Like where are we? We had the paper map and our GPS wasn't working because in the middle of those woods they didn't have anything set up for us to get any signal and we didn't have any water with us.
I thought the go-bag. I mean, come on dude, you're the officer, you know what's going on. And we didn't have any preparation. Did I tell you we were in our street clothes and at some point we get over this summit and we're too far in to go, go back and we don't have... it's also a time crunch. We got to get to this meeting, right? I told you about that. And so we're like, we got this meeting to get to, but now we got like, we need to survive. We need to like not... And so we're looking at the map and we're trying to figure it out. And pretty soon the Sierra Club - I don't know what they were, we call them the Sierra Club people. And they had ponchos and they had rain gear and they had walking sticks and they had hiking boots and they had a tire that was fitting the trail we were on.
And we're looking at them like, you know, we're sitting there like getting ready to go to a business meeting and they're like, and they frown at us and I'm sure they had names for us when they walked away. Anyway, I won't say them out loud, but they just thought we were the craziest people. And we were. Like, what in the world are we doing? And when we finally find our way out of that, we get down to the ranger at the little information booth and we say, "You know, I think we got off the path that we were supposed to be on. We wanted to do this one." And they said, "Oh no, you were on that one." She says, "Not very many people take that trail." I said, "Yeah, that was crazy." It was a fun thing afterwards. And it's a fun story to talk about, but it's no fun being lost.
It's no fun being lost, especially when our pride gets in the way because we don't want to ask how do we get unlost, if that's the right way to say, it's not, but that's what I'm saying. At some point we got to admit we're lost. At some point we have to say, "I need help." And that's where we find Zacchaeus in this story. And the key verse, I'm going to read it first and then I'm going to read the whole passage, but I'm going to read it first. The whole point of this story is, Luke 29:10 says, "For the son of man has come to seek and save the lost." Jesus, referring to himself, the Son of Man, His favorite term for himself, identifying himself and His humanity; fully God, fully man, but identifying himself and His humanity and His humility to come down to us, to seek and to save the lost.
Now, as you think about the punchline that Luke intended every reader to understand, let's read this story in the context of Jesus being the hero and the subject and the whole point of this story. Yes, Zacchaeus is a part of it. You're important, God's working in your life and you're important to God. But the biggest thing in this world is not your story; it's God's story working in and through to make your story something special. Let's look at the story. "He entered Jericho," Jesus did, "and was passing through. There was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector and he was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but he was not able because of the crowd since he was a short man. So running ahead, he climbed up a sycamore tree to see Jesus since He, Jesus, was about to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, 'Zacchaeus, hurry and come down because today it is necessary for me to stay at your house'. So he quickly came down and welcomed Him joyfully. All who saw it began to complain, 'He's gone to stay with a sinful man.' Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, 'Look, I'll give half my possessions to the poor, Lord. And if I have rent extorted anything from anyone, I'll pay back four times as much.' 'Today salvation has come to this house,' Jesus told him, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost." Jesus came to seek and save the loss. That is the point of this story, and that's the point of our time together this morning.
You see, we know that Jesus is the one who seeks us and we don't see God. He seeks us. He's seeking you, He's seeking me, He's seeking all of us. I stand at the door and I knock, if anyone will open the door, I'll come in, I'll have supper with him. We'll have fellowship together, we'll have a relationship conversation. We will be with one another. Jesus is seeking us. It said He was passing through Jericho. Now in this story, in the life and times of Jesus Christ, Jesus has crossed, He's forded the Jordan River. They don't really describe how and when, but He'd been ministering on the other side of the Jordan. He's now coming across and He comes across the Jordan River to Jericho, which is a town on the outskirts, which was a pretty big town at that time period. I don't know what it's like today, but at that time period, it was a pretty big metropolis little place. And it was on the outskirts of Jerusalem. And it was possible for Him to actually get to Jerusalem from Jericho that day. He didn't have to stop there at Zacchaeus' house.
We don't know if maybe he even spent the night there. We're not sure, We're not told exactly the whole details, but we do know that he said, I got to stay at your house Zacchaeus, but He didn't have to. Logistically, He's also very popular at this moment because this is before he's crucified. So they're all kind looking at Him like the savior, like a military savior. Like He's going to come and he is going to conquer, He's going to bring the Israelite back to their glory, that they're going to get back into the way that they believe that God would want them to be. They would throw off this Roman oppression and there would be this wonderful euphoria. And so this crowd is building - He's a celebrity. And so these people are lining the streets and they're looking at Him and they're coming with Him down. It's this mob of people that are following Him, walking with Him as He goes to Jerusalem, the city. And it's getting close to Passover, so people are already coming that way for the high holy moment of Passover season. And so, the Israelite pilgrims were coming that way.
Jericho was also a, an area where it seems as though the Roman government had set up a tax office there, instead of setting it up in Jerusalem, which would've incited a lot of rebellion and a lot of angst, they put it on the outskirts. And it was very strategic because all of the commerce and all of the stuff had to come through Jericho to get into Jerusalem. And so the Romans who taxed everything and anything there was to tax, whether it be the wheels on your cart, the cart itself, everything in the cart, all the people in the cart and even the clothes on your back. Whatever they could find a way to extort you and take taxes from you they did.
And here is Zacchaeus called the chief tax collector, not just a tax collector like Matthew, who he was at his little booth and Jesus said, "Come follow me." This is the chief tax collector. It looks like he was kind of like in charge of tax collecting in that area. He was a rich man, which is nothing wrong with being rich, but for him to have been a Jew who had been extorted by the Roman government because he's a Jew, he's an occupied nation, and here he is a tax collector, but now he is a chief tax collector. There's some indication possibly by saying that he was a rich man, that he actually had extorted even more than he should have, and he had far more wealth than he deserved to have in any quite a normal occupation that he would've had as Zacchaeus is the Hebrew.
Again, just giving you color to the picture based on exactly what the scriptures are saying here and based on the timeline that all the other scriptures talk about his timeline of where Jesus was going. But it said he was passing through Jericho and he seeks us. What is he saying? We'll look at the story. "He looked up and he spoke to Zacchaeus." Now Zacchaeus had climbed out on this limb, probably might possibly climbed out to the point where he's over the top of the trail where Jesus was coming and he is looking down at Jesus. Or maybe he's to the side and he is looking down at Jesus. We don't know exactly how, but we do know that Jesus looked up, saw Zacchaeus.
Now, of all the people in the crowds, he spoke to Zacchaeus. Of all the places that we see in the scripture where Jesus is with a bunch of people, it seems like he singles out one person, or at least the Holy Spirit inspires the writers to described to us moments in time, snapshots of the life of Jesus where He singled out people by name. How did Jesus know his name? Did people know it? Was he popular? Was this commonly known as the human Jesus or did Jesus supernaturally know it? We're not really told that. All we know is that Jesus saw the man and he called out to him, "Zacchaeus." Jesus seeks us. In fact, it is creation itself that's all around us that declares the glory of God. When you see the sun, when you see the things that we see in nature, it's to point us to the fact that there's a creator behind that, that loves us and cares about us.
When we see the stars that have been flung out into the sky at night and we look at or we see them at night, we see them in the day if we had the eyes to see it. But at nighttime it's when you really see it in the reflection of the sun on those stars, and we see all those stars out there, even beyond our own star being reflected on by other. It, it's amazing all the things, those little stars that are all out there, those suns that are all out there that's just like ours and go, what were they there? They're there far enjoyment, the Bible says. All to point us back to that God is God and that He has a purpose and a plan for our life. He's seeking us in creation, and it's the Holy Spirit that testifies.
Don't think, "Oh man, Greg's talking to me. I do not sit up in my office, look on Facebook and see who needs to be talked to. I just don't. I may look on Facebook, but I don't do my sermons according to, so don't go screaming out of here, "You read my mail." No, I don't think I... I might have read David's mail because if it came through here anyway. No, but seriously, I don't have a plan or an agenda for any one person in this room, but God does. He's seeking you, He's seeking me. He wants, if you don't know him already a relationship with you. And if you have a relationship with Him, He wants to walk with you and help you pursue those purposes and things in life that matter and to pursue a life of meaning that is part of His plan and His purpose for this world.
He seeks us. But not only that, but Jesus saves us. Skipping down to this whole story at the bottom of the story, it says there in verse nine, "'Today, salvation has come to this house because he too is a son of Abraham,' Jesus declares. Zacchaeus became a spiritual descendant of Abraham. He fulfilled the prophecy that God gave Abraham in the Old Testament, "you will have descendants as many as the sands of the seashore, as many as the stars in the sky, you're going to have descendants." And some people thought, "Well, those are just physical descendants." And as time progressed and as we see the New Testament revealing, it's the spiritual descendants of Abraham. We don't have to be blood relatives to Abraham to be related to him, because it's all one story of God's redemptive plan to save the world, to seek and to save the lost.
Now, Luke doesn't explain the details of how Zacchaeus is became a follower of his. We don't see where Jesus got out the Roman road. Now some of you in church, the Roman Road is based on the book of Romans and it wasn't even written yet, okay? He didn't get out the four spiritual laws. Bill Bright that wrote the little pamphlet called the Four Spiritual Laws, he wasn't alive yet, so we didn't have that. I don't know how Jesus did it. I have a favorite way of sharing Jesus called share Jesus without fear, and it goes through the New Testament. Oh yeah, the New Testament hadn't been written yet. We don't know exactly what happened. What we do know is that Zacchaeus gave his allegiance to Jesus Christ. In fact, it seems as though in the scripture's testimony, this was the last publicly identified convert to Jesus Christ before His crucifixion in Jerusalem.
And we know he was saved because of the things that will - and we'll talk about this in just a moment. He stood there and said to the Lord - Zacchaeus at some point, we don't know how he became a Christian. But in verse eight it says here, "He stood there and said to the Lord," it's like everybody was having a party at his house. Jesus is here, the buzz, what's going on here? And we'll talk in a minute about the naysayers of what was going on. But it's just like everybody's having this party and finally Zacchaeus stands up in the middle of the house. Everybody goes, "Zacchaeus going to say something." He says, "My life has changed and I'm going to give half of everything I own to the poor and I'm going to pay back everybody I stole from four times over."
Jesus saved him. There was an evidence of change in his life because again, as I've said this morning, Jesus saves the lost. Jesus himself identified Zacchaeus as a lost person who was found. What is it to be lost? Well, it's what Jesus describes us as before we know him. G Campbell Morgan in his book, "The Great Physician" says, he, Zacchaeus, was lost, was of no value to God, of no value to people, contributing nothing, having purpose and power in the procedures of life, contributing nothing to the wellbeing of his fellow man. And so by the calculations of eternity, he was spiritually lost. He was morally lost. And the tragedy of a lost soul in the last analysis is that God is robbed of His glory.
When we are lost, when we are apart from God, when we have refused or we just don't know and have not yet put our faith in Jesus Christ, we are robbing God of the glory of working through us to make a difference in the world for His name's sake. We're not in on His agenda or His plans. We don't have the Holy Spirit to empower us to do what he's asked us to do. And the kind of life that's fulfilling and meaningful and is a blessing not only to us, but to people around us - we're lost. And Jesus came to save the lost.
Zacchaeus is identified as lost, as a sinner, in three different ways. First of all, he's commonly labeled a sinner because it says he was a chief tax collector. It was synonymous with being a sinner. It is like many times today, and not every person is this way. And I've met many people in public office, but oftentimes when someone is way up in public office, even in a city you might say, "I'm sure they got their hands dirty getting there." We just have a suspicion about people in public office because you don't just get there without a little graft, without a little bit of wheeling and dealing behind the scenes, things that people don't want to talk about. The dirty side of politics. Again, I'm not saying that's true for every politician; I'm just telling you, isn't that kind of what we think about? And so when they said he was the chief tax collector, he wasn't just a trader to his nation taking taxes from his fellow people to give to an occupying nation. He was a tax collector of the worst kind. He was in charge of tax collecting. He was labeled publicly as a sinner.
He was also publicly declared by this crowd as a sinner. What'd they say? He's going to stay, Jesus, with a sinful man. What is that Jesus doing going to Zacchaeus' is house? What's he doing going to that kind of a person's house? Why? What's Pastor Greg talking to that person for? Why? And you just named somebody in our church that you think is really spiritually and godly; what is that person having a relation, a conversation with that person over there? Why would they go talk to that person? This us-them mentality? Dare I say discrimination, which is interesting because aren't we all sinners? Here's what part that I caught me in the middle of this passage as I hadn't seen it this before and it's like, they all said he's gone to a sinful man's house. They all said.
Now who's in the crowd? Friends, people that were on the bandwagon to see change in Israel but not real change the way God wanted. But who else was in the crowd? His disciples, the people that had watched Him reach out to sinners, The woman at the well, they'd heard Jesus say he left the 99 to find the one. The woman found one coin told all her neighbors and friends, "I found my lost coin." They knew the story of Jesus. Take this little child, puts it on his lap and says, "This is the kind of person that enters into the kingdom of heaven, child-like faith." They knew this kind of person; they still didn't get it. The moment we start seeing in us, them, those people out there, let's run to the church and hide from the sinner. Let's just fill the church with people running from sinner and then you'll have a church full of sinners running from sinner.
We're all in the same boat. We're saved by grace, but we're all sinners. And the moment churches get an us-them mentality ingrained in their system, they die. The moment we start thinking the us-them mentality, that we're better than those people at our workplace in the neighborhood, at the coffee shop. And the moment we start breaking a conversations with people who desperately need to know Jesus, the lost people who have not yet found Jesus is the moment we step off the path of the mission God intends for his people to be a part of.
He was commonly labeled, He was publicly declared, but He was also a self-feed center. Because at some point it doesn't matter what people think, we need to take stock in who we are in front of an almighty holy God and admit who we are. He himself said, "If I have extorted anybody, I will repay them back." And the way that Greek actually is written, it's not, "Well if I happen to have offended somebody," no, no, no. If I have and I know I have offended people and stolen from them, I will pay back. That's what Zacchaeus was saying. He wasn't saying. "Well," it's sort of like the person that truly offended you with their words. I mean they like really trampled all on top of you with what they said. And then they come to you and say, "Well, if I offended you, please forgive me." That's like a limp handshake. You know, like if you offended me - you know you did. Those words were like cutting and biting and they hurt and you know you did. Don't do this, "Well if I offended anybody, just ask forgive." No, no, no, no. Get specific. And that's what Zacchaeus is doing. He's like, I've offended people, I extorted them. I'm a sinner and I need to repay back. I get right with God and I got to make restitution with people around me that I've sinned against.
Zacchaeus is himself admitted that he had been lost and now he's found. When did you admit you were lost? When was it? I can remember. I was sitting on a second or third row on a hard pew bench in a church service and Eaton, Ohio on a Sunday morning. And the preacher wasn't talking to anybody else, he was talking to me. I can hear people say, "Oh, I was here." You don't have to know the exact day or time or was it the full moon, half moon. You just need to know there was a moment when you got arrested by the Holy Spirit, stopped in your tracks, the lights came on behind you and you pulled over and you didn't say, "What was I doing officer?" You know what you were doing. You were lost and you needed Jesus. When did you admit you were lost? I didn't ask you when you got wet. I'm asking you when you got right in front of a Holy God.
Now I want to point to a couple more things and then we're going to close this morning. I want to show you in this passage proof that Jesus is seeking and saving. And I want to, by using this story, maybe highlight proof in this room that Jesus is still seeking and saving people today, the lost. First of all, the proof that Jesus is seeking people out. We become curious, we become curious, we want to know more. Isn't this Zacchaeus, three piece suit, Zacchaeus climbing a tree? Is that not bizarre? I mean if you went downtown and in the business sector, they're still wearing suits and ties, especially around the courthouse, and you see these lawyers and business people and you see a big crowd coming through a parade of something special coming through. And then you see this guy that he says, "There's a tree" and he in his three piece suit with his slick shoes goes up into the tree in order to see this celebrity that's driving by or walking by. It's as crazy as two guys walking in Mere Woods in their street clothes. It's unusual.
Zacchaeus was curious. He had no idea that Jesus would call out him by name. Zacchaeus may not have even known that Jesus knew his name, but he was looking for Jesus because Jesus was looking for him. Lost people do whatever it takes to find Jesus. They ask questions, they read the Bible, they attend worship and Bible studies. They pray, they admit their inability to say themselves. They say, "I need help to show me what to do." One of my favorite questions is, I don't know what to do next. And you know what? That's God's favorite question from me.
I can remember when I was at my wits end in a situation and I didn't know what to do. I mean, I had tried everything under the sun to fix whatever the problem was that I was facing. And I remember falling flat on my face night after night after night. I go into our spare bedroom, before you have kids, you have something like that. And after that, it's a storage spare. Anyway, but I had this room and I would just flat on the face go, "God, I am bankrupt. I don't know what to do next." Now, I wasn't lost, I was saved, but I was lost in my moment of what to do next in my life spiritually and things that were going on. And I got to thinking about that earlier this week, that I have less times on my face before God because I don't often want to admit I need help as much as I do. And that's the curse of living a long time in the Lord, is that you get too familiar with God that you forget to talk to God more carefully, more desperately. But a lost person asks questions, reads the Bible, they attend worship. They do whatever it takes to find what they need to find. They're curious. That's got at work in their life. We've become committed.
I have no desire for you to make a decision because I've somehow emotionally manipulated you into coming here. Or I've given you some kind of a logical, it just makes sense to be part of a church because that's the new social club in town that's the most important thing for you to belong to. I'm not here to convince you with my wisdom of words. I'm not here to convince you with my great oratory skills of which there are many people who have much better than I do. We're not here to woo you with the way in which we do things. We're here to see, is God working on your heart so that you would want to commit your life to Jesus Christ. We become committed, we start obeying Jesus. "Zacchaeus, come down from there. I'm coming to your house today." "Okay." He climbs down quickly and follows Jesus and takes Him right to his house. He immediately begins to do what Jesus tells him to do.
We know that Jesus is working in our lives. When we start wanting to do what we might not have ever wanted to do before that, we start wanting to follow Jesus and do what He says. How do we tell the world that we're a Christian? In Romans 10:9-10, it says that we must believe in our heart that God raised Him from the dead. And we confess with our mouth, Jesus is Lord. We tell the world that we're Christian. What did it say in Acts 2? I talked about it last week. Repent, turn away from the things you used to do that God says an abomination to himself, things that you ought not ever do. The Bible says it's not about legalism, it's saying that I'm not going to be in charge of me anymore. I'm done being the boss. I want Jesus to be the boss, and get baptized.
That's why on October 23rd for someone that is ready to follow Christ, we want to give you the opportunity to publicly declare your faith in baptism. We get committed to Jesus. And the third thing we know, when Jesus is seeking and saving and lost, our lives change. Zacchaeus made an obvious commitment to change. He publicly stood up, he made a public statement. But not only that, he began to do things that were not just the natural thing to do as a Christian. They were pretty supernatural. When you think about it, he said, "I'm going to give away half of everything I own." That's like radical life change. That's like people selling out and saying, "I'm all in for Jesus. I'm going to live on less so that God can have more. I'm going to do more for God, so I'm going to start increasing what I give my time, my talent, my treasures, so that God is honored and glorified in my life." That's radical transformation of someone's life. That's not someone manipulating them into some kind of a plan so that they have some kind of an earthly thing that everybody says, "Oh, look at that person." It's just saying, "God, I want to live my life with you and everything I have is yours, and so I just want to do the right thing by it."
And you know, the Old Testament would've required him to give one and a half times what he stole from people. So give back and then another half of whatever you stole. That was the legal requirement. And somebody would've said, even if he said, "I'm going to give back two or three times more," nobody would've said, "Oh, you should've given even more than that." Nobody would've expected him to give more than one and a half times what he had stolen. He just prompted by this newfound faith in Jesus said, it's time for me to really do the right thing, and I'm going to give back four times what I stole from people as an extorting chief tax collector. His life was changed.
I have a question to ask you this morning. What is Jesus asking you to do? What is Jesus asking me to do? I'm not asking you what's the easiest thing He's asking you to do? It might be easy in your mind, I don't know. But what's He asking you? I'm not asking you to do the toughest thing. I always thought, if I surrender to the ministry, I'm going to be in Africa or I'm going to be in some nation that I have no idea about. I mean, that's just what you do, right? Following Jesus is following Jesus right where you are. And many people will never leave the places where they have grown up and gone to and are working and living. Some will. But most of us are going to be here and be missionaries in our own hometown. We're going to be sharing Jesus and being on mission for Jesus right here in Northeast Indiana. So what's He asking us to do? What is He asking you to do? What is He asking me to do?
For the new believer, for the person is seeking Jesus, what's He asking you to do? To tell the world you're a Christian? And for those of us that are already Christians, what's he asking you to do to keep moving forward and growing in your faith in Jesus Christ? I already said it and I'm going to say it again, "Jesus came to seek and save the lost." We got to recognize and realize we're lost. We need to recognize and realize that God has the answer. I'm going to ask you a question, a couple more and then we're going to be done. Our team can go ahead and come forward. Where is the place that you found Jesus?
Again, where is that place? Where is it that you can mark, you can reference that you found Jesus because you saw that Jesus was seeking you? I told you where mine was, where was yours? At what spot? I'm not trying to put doubt in your life, that's the last thing I want to do. But we all need to have a moment where we recognized I was lost and Jesus found me. I was in my sins and I realized Jesus was there to forgive me and clean me up so that I didn't have to live in the shame of what I used to do.
Another question is, what's the proof? When you found Jesus and you made a commitment to follow Him, was it real? Are you identifiable by people inside and outside the body of Christ that you are following Jesus and that your life is marked by a life of truly obedience, true obedience to Jesus Christ? What proof shows that Jesus has saved and changed your life? Those are the two questions that I would ask in a room full of people that I don't know everybody's heart. Only the Lord knows our hearts this morning.
I've been in church long enough to know that there's some people that do a pretty good job of hiding into the church as a cultural Christian, but they're not a committed Christian. And so, I just say before it's too late, before you face eternity and you didn't really have a relationship with Jesus, I implore you, I ask you, I beg of you; openly put your faith in Him and let Him begin to change your life the way He has always wanted to, but you've not let Him.
And finally this morning, for those of us that would say, "Well no, I've already done that. And there is change. And while it's not as much change as I'd like, I'm not there yet." Welcome to the club. We're hypocrites in recovery. But the last question I would ask us as believers, are we on mission with Jesus to seek and find the lost? How concerned are we for people who don't know Jesus or have we developed an us-them mentality?
If you're coming here to church to run from the world Jesus is seeking to save, you've come to the wrong place because there's that little... we did this last night at the concert. Here's the church, here's the steeple, open the church, here's all the people. But in about 10, 15 minutes, it's going to look like this - the church and the steeple. Where's all the people? They're out there. They're on mission with Jesus, seeking and saving the lost. What part are you in the mission of God? What names do you know don't know Jesus?
You know when I get serious about seeking and saving the lost, it's when I know the person that I know is not a follower of Jesus and I start praying for him and I start weeping about their lostness. And as much as I want Jesus to come back at any moment, and I hear that a lot lately, "Oh Jesus, come quickly, this world is going crazy." When was the world not crazy? But I mean, there's just people that are ready for just Armageddon to take place and just let the bombs reign and let's go home to Jesus because I'm done with this place. The problem with that for me, is that I know a bunch of people that will not enter into eternity with me. And I really don't want that to happen anytime too soon because I want my loved ones to know Jesus. I just pray that you and I will never forget where God found us as we pursue people who need that story in their life as well.
Jesus Finds Zacchaeus
Ever been lost?
Not fun, humbling to admit, wastes time/energy
-illust: lost in Muir woods with Ronnie Sweetman
Jesus came to seek and save the lost
1. Jesus Seeks Us
-passing through Jericho
-looked up and spoke to Zachaeus
-Jesus singles everyone one of us out in the crowd!
-Creation declares the presence and majesty of God
-The Bible reveals who Jesus is and how to find him
-The Holy Spirit testifies about Jesus and convicts us of our sin
-see John 15:26-16:11
2. Jesus Saves Us
-“Today salvation has come to this house”
-Zacchaeus became a spiritual descendant of Abraham
-Luke doesn’t explain how long or the details of Zacchaeus’s
-vs “But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord…”
-he openly declared his commitment to Jesus with action
-2 Corinthians 5:15 we no longer live for ourselves, but for
him who died and was raised.”
3. Jesus saves the Lost
-Lost = this is how Jesus describes the people he came to save
-quotes from G. Campbell Morgan
-the person most concerned is Jesus, not the sinner!
-Zachaeus is identified as a sinner in three ways:
-commonly labeled: Chief Tax Collector- Hebrew traitor
-publicly declared: the crowd labeled him a sinner
-declared an us/them discrimination, as if they weren’t sinners!
-we may assume Christ’s disciples joined in on this too!
-churches die when members forget they once were lost
-self-confessed: he “extorted”, knew he owed restitution
-great sinners love Jesus greatly
-spiritually sick people seek a spiritual physician
-needy people come to Jesus with childlike faith
When did you admit you were lost?
Proof that Jesus is seeking and saving:
1. We become curious
-Zacchaeus overcame his stature and pride- climbed a tree
-Lost people do whatever it takes to find Jesus
-ask questions, read the Bible, attend worship and Bible
studies, pray, admit their inability to save themselves
2. We become committed
-We start obeying Jesus Christ!
-Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and welcomed Jesus into his
-Romans 10:9-10 Believe and Confess Openly
3. Our lives change
-Zacchaeus made an obviouscommitment to change
-public- he “stood up” ie, made a public statement
-supernatural- wanted to pay back 4 times what he stole
-What is Jesus asking me to do?
Jesus came to seek and to save the lost!
Where is “the place” you found Jesus?
-is it today, right now? Or when?
What’s the proof?
-What proof shows Jesus has saved and changed your life?
Are we on mission with Jesus to seek and find the lost?
-How concerned are we for people who don’t know Jesus?
-Have we developed an us/them discrimination attitude?
G. Campbell Morgan. The Great Physician: The Method of Jesus with Individuals. Tarrytown, NY: Fleming H. Revel Company, 1982.
“He [Zacchaeus] was lost, of no value, I repeat, to God, of no value to man; contributing nothing having purpose and power in the procedure of life, contributing nothing to the well being of his fellow man; and so by the calculations of eternity, he was spiritually lost, morally lost.
“The tragedy of a lost soul in the last analysis, is that God is robbed.”
Hello all, Steve Mante has graciously agreed to lead the small group this Sunday because Becky and I will be in Florida, have a great weekend and see you guys in a week!
Jerry and Becky
In Acts 2, for those of you that have come here for quite a while, you will be familiar with part of what I'm going to read aloud this morning because it is what we would often used to introduce people being baptized and the reason why we baptize people. And we'll be doing that in a couple of weeks. And if you're interested in learning more about that, please put that on your connection card. We'd love to talk with you. We chat with anybody before that happens, to help you solidify and understand and to think through God's word, according to the truth of God's word, your testimony and your faith in Jesus Christ. We actually are going to be describing and talking about baptism today in our members' class. We always share the gospel, the good news of Jesus. And we talk about baptism and Lord Supper and the basics of our church life together.
But this passage is pretty common, commonly read Acts chapter two, verse 37 and following. And as Peter had shared the message of Jesus Christ, that he had come and died, rose again and ascended into heaven. Peter was announcing that a new thing was about, was occurring in this very moment, the people that are in Jerusalem, thousands upon thousands of people had gathered for a high holy moment in the Jewish life, in the Israeli nation's life. People from all over different countries had come. They were Jewish descendants or they were maybe Proselyte. They were people that were not Jews, but they had trusted in the Jewish faith like the Ethiopian Munich that was saved later on. He was from Ethiopia. We know that Philip came and witnessed to him and he gave his life to Jesus Christ. And so, there were all these crush of nationalities and the Holy Spirit fell on the apostles and the believers that had been eyewitnesses of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
And they began to speak in other languages. They began to speak in languages that were understandable to all the people, that their heart language was what they were saying and like, how can this possibly be? And other people were looking and saying, how silly those people look, and they must be drunk in the middle of the day. What in the world is going on? And they said, this isn't something that this isn't... they're not drunk. This isn't some aberration that is human made. This is a supernatural moment where God is anointing the people of God to say He is starting a new thing, the church is born - the Day of Pentecost, we call it.
And in this moment, these people are receiving new information about how to live life and how to honor God. And I would suggest to you that new information requires action. How many here love the roundabouts that we have in this? Any roundabouts fans? How many of here are ready to just wipe them off the face of the earth? Anybody here? Back to four way stops where we can really head on crash and side crash and all those things? You see my bias on that one? If you crash, at least it's a side crash instead of a T-bone, right? I mean, that's kind of the theory behind it.
But new information requires action. I need to do something about this. You learn how to do something new. You learn a different pattern of how life is, and you kind of figure it out and you adjust your life accordingly. New information - I don't like it when you do that, honey. That's new information, right? Which means, Tucker, you need to change your habits for your new bride. Just a suggestion. He does a great job of that already, I'm sure, right Anne? Yeah. Anyway, they're saying yes right here. They're doing good. They're teaching our bible study, I get to know them a little bit better this semester, so it's kind of fun.
New information requires action. We have to change. And in this moment, the church is birthed, and those who had practiced the legalistic system and the sacrificial system, Jesus replaced all of that. And now they needed to put their allegiance in God through faith in Jesus Christ, the savior of the world. They needed to join a new team. I brought some props today. Well, I'll start with this one. How many of here have something similar to this - or your own team? Or some of you have been thrifting and you have some cowboys wear. I'm just kidding. Ah, that was so wrong. I set you up for that earlier, right? Yeah, I did. I did.
We have our teams and we put our jerseys on and we go, you know, he's going to win the day for us, right? But we still have the jersey, right? Pretty clean, we haven't used it so much. Anyway, and then I brought another one just so that, you know, equal opportunity person here. I don't know whose jersey this is. This was some high school kids that I won't show his name on tv. But anyway, it was in my daughter's car - my other daughter I think, and her friends or whatever. And he was on a particular team, but he wore the jersey and he didn't wear it anymore. He like threw it away. So we're not using it anymore. Nobody has even asked us for the jersey, I mean, it's been three years and they still don't want it.
I mean, how many people - you know, you see wearing a jersey, being on the team, it's more than just wearing a jersey to be a Christian. It's more than just saying, I'm on the team, to be a Christian. Now, I'm not here to tell you, you work your way into heaven. We are saved by faith alone. There is no works involved because we could boast about how we got into heaven on what we did and how impressive we looked as a Christian.
So, I do believe that once you're saved, you're secure in Christ. The Bible talks about that. But I also believe that once you're saved, a change begins to happen. You begin to look like you're on the team. And I want to use the motif of wearing a jersey and being on a team that again, the illustration can break down. And you've already stopped listening to me if you're a Bears fan or if you're a Baltimore's fan, you hate the Colts, right? And I won't tell you I went to the OSU football game yesterday. Oh, I just did. And so those of you from Michigan, I'm so sorry for your loss. No, you won yesterday. Oh, I'm so sorry. I mean, or maybe Notre Dame fans. I mean, I don't know what you are this morning, I'll offend everybody and anybody, and I'm offended sometimes, you know, that's just the way it is. It's games.
But we don't play games when it comes to Christianity, so I'm using the motif, but it does break down a little bit because no illustration is complete. The best illustrations are biblical illustrations, but I thought I can bring it into the real world with the jersey this morning. So what should we do when we hear about the good news of Jesus Christ? Well, let me give you an example. Let me give you a model of what Peter said they ought to do when they learned that Jesus was the Savior of the world. Verse 37, "When they heard this, they were pierced to their heart. And they said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, 'Brothers, what should we do?'" And I hope that's what you're asking this morning. What do we do to follow Jesus? And Peter replied, Verse 38, "Repent and be baptized, each of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call. With many other words he testified and strongly urged them, saying, 'Be saved from this corrupt generation.'"
And verse 41, which I read oftentimes when we baptized, "So those who accepted his message we're baptized. And that day, about 3000 people were added to them. They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe. And many wonders and signs were being performed through the apostles. Now, all the believers were together and held all things in common. They sold their possessions in property and distributed the proceeds to all as any had need. Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with joyful and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. Every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved."
What's going on here? What should we do? Peter tells them what to do. And then we see the evidence of how they did this and what God continued to do in their midst, to bless and to bring more people to faith in Jesus Christ. What should we do? The first thing we need to do is go public. We got to go public. Repent and be baptized. Repent! That means I'm going to turn away from doing this life and I'm going to go towards this life.
The young man that said, "Coach, I want to join the high school football team." He says, "Great, we've got practice every day this week. You can come get your jersey and you can start playing." All week long he never shows up. On the following Monday at lunchtime, he sees coach and says, "Coach, I really want to be on the team." He says, "Great, come get your jerseys, come get onto the team and practice with us and belong to the team, and you will be part of the football team at the high school." This goes on for several weeks, to which finally the coach says, "You want to, but you are not a part of the football team." You've never changed your behavior from not being a part of the team to being part of the team, to not committing, to not going to practice, and to doing whatever you want to do, to pledging your allegiance and living under the authority of Jesus Christ and choosing to turn from a life of not committed to Jesus, to a life of being committed to Jesus Christ.
And you've not even put on a jersey, you've never even said that you're part of the team. You don't wear the colors. You're not on the team young man, you just have dreams of being on the team, but you will never participate in, nor you enjoy the victory of our team because you've not joined. We go public by turning away from living a life of our own, doing by our own selfish ambition, or whatever the world is telling us to do, that we enjoy doing more than honoring God. And we say, "I'm no longer going to do that, and I'm going to start following Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior." I'm going to start submitting to what Jesus wants me to do instead of doing whatever I want to do. And I'm going to show the world I'm a Christian by putting on the jersey, I'm going to get baptized.
Baptism is like a wedding ring. Done three weddings in three weekends, two of which were brand new weddings. One was a renewal. But during those weddings and even during, during the renewal, there were some wedding rings. Now, I don't know about you, but we never trust the little tiny ring bearers with the rings. You know, they're going to toss them, throw them in the sand, eat them. I don't know what they're going to do, but we want to make sure they make it down here, so we usually give them to the best man. So I get it from the best man and I start talking about the ring. But what if the best man forgets the ring? Well, we wait in the cold like we did for one wedding for a long time to go back to the hotel and go get it and bring it back. But what if we didn't even have that option available?
If a couple's up here and they pledged their lives, they pledged their allegiance to one another for life, I'm going to sign that document and they're going to be married, even without the wedding ring because the wedding ring doesn't make them married. The wedding ring shows the world that they are. It's a symbol, an outward symbol of an inward commitment and a lifelong commitment to one another in marriage. And that's what baptism is. Baptism doesn't make us a Christian. You can go in a wet rebellious center that doesn't want to follow Jesus and come out a wet... a dry and come out wet and not be any more changed than if you went to a swimming pool.
Our trust in Jesus Christ is saying, "I'm wearing the jersey and I'm for real. I'm going to live for Jesus Christ." They accept the message and they're baptized and they're brought into the body of Christ. They're added. The Lord added to their number - 3000 people. When you come into baptism, you are added to publicly declared, marked off. You're a part of the body of Christ when you get baptized. Whenever somebody says they're on a football team, you're marked off as a person who is a part of the football team. You are on a roster. You are a member of the football team. You're a member of the body of Christ when you become baptized. True Christians will want to obey Jesus and openly commit to Him. But what's the next thing that they do? Well, and then they devoted themselves to a few things.
Well, first thing we devote ourselves is we need to study the Bible. We need to learn the playbook. We need to practice the playbook. Now, there's this football quarterback, is it Matt Ryan now? Is it the Colts? Some of you don't care, but those that might follow these things, his first game, what they say? He doesn't know the system very well, they don't know him very well. He's still learning the system. He's still learning the playbook. They're still learning the playbook, the way he runs the playbook as the quarterback. And then the next game they tied. It's like kissing your sister, but they win, they win. You know, that was just wrong, I shouldn't have said that out. Can you bleep that out on the online version? And then they win against a formidable team last week. And what they say? He's in the groove. He's learned the system better.
Isn't that true with Christian life? You don't just show up and be a Christian. You learn what it means to grow. It's called discipleship. Being discipled or under the discipline of the Bible. And this was a Bible that was not just something they tucked away and did by themselves; it was the apostles teachings. It was under the authority of the local church. Now, none of us needs one person to tell the other person what to do about what the Bible says. We all had the Holy Spirit within us. That's another whole Bible study in itself. We're all equal when it comes to knowing the word of God. But we all need one another to be stronger in knowing how to apply and live out the Bible together. And that's why it's through the local church that we learn, and that's why the church is called to go make disciples, baptizing them in the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I've said to you. It's the church's responsibility to help. It's just like parenting. As parents, we are responsible to teach our kids how to live life and hopefully move away and be self-sustaining and all that fun. But our job is to raise our kids up and to teach them what is right and wrong, just as the church is responsible to teach and help the body of Christ know what it is.
Now, Bible study here was mostly apostles, the eyewitnesses of Jesus Christ, the leaders, because they only had the Old Testament, and they didn't call it the Old Testament. Until they had the New Testament, then we start calling it Old and New Testament. They only had the testament. They had the law. They had the word of God, and they used the word of God to explain this new thing that was going on as they lifted out. And from spiritual eyes and the Holy Spirit living within them, and the Holy Spirit giving them an unction that was unusually special because we see inspired scripture coming along later on that we don't see today. And they were explaining the Bible to this new group of believers, and they started to get together. They were replacing what they knew what was wrong with what was right.
When we study the Bible, we figure out that we have a lot of what you might kindly say, are thinking errors. There's a counselor here in town, trained doctor counselor, who wrote a manual for the penal system here in the state of Indiana. And it was kind of nickname, or it might have been on the title, "Thinking errors: How to replace thinking errors with what is right errors." And it was used throughout the whole system, and that manual when it was taught well, the men and women who went through replacing their thinking errors with the right kind of thinking and the right kind of living and making decisions in their lives, were less likely to go back to prison. And if you know anything about prison life, it just seems like people, that's like a revolving door. They get out, they go back in, they go out, go back in, because they don't replace what they're thinking. They don't change their behavior, they don't change their lifestyle; they go right back to their old ways.
Christianity is about replacing our human selfishness with what God wants us to do. We need to get the playbook in our hearts and minds. And we come to the people of God to make that happen. We not only studied the Bible, but it says here, they devoted themselves to the fellowship. We need to develop Christian friendships. We need to bond with the team, build loyalty, build trust, know who the teams are. A quarterback that comes into a new system doesn't say, "Okay, receiver number three, I'll throw that to you." No, they know who they are. A good leader of a team will oftentimes gift the team. When they win a game and all the accolades go usually to the superstars on the team, they usually spread the wealth and they go out and they're benefiting, the rest of the team. Even the second and third strings know that they're part of a group of people that we're moving forward and winning. They know each other. That's why teams take retreats and they get away from one another.
They go to training camp every year. They get away in a locker room and they kind of work together. They have practices together. They spend time with one another. And oftentimes, they hang out with one another. We need to develop Christian friendships. In verse 44-45, it says they shared their possessions with one another. They made sure everyone was properly provided for. And by the way, they were working through the local church to make that happen. We have started a... we have always had a benevolence team, but it's been a team of like two or three people. But now we have a team that is much broader, much more diverse and the different personalities of people and their spiritual gifts so that they can carefully and adequately assess the basic needs of people when they come to us asking for help.
And so, we want to make sure that we're doing this responsibly. That we're not just haphazardly throwing stuff out to help people or completely missing people who truly have needs. And we just don't have the capacity to properly process their situation. And this was happening in the church. This isn't communism or socialism where everybody sold everything and everybody just, they all had this common. It just said that they basically, and it seems like the pattern of the New Testament continues to show throughout the other letters, that they did what they could to take care of who they needed to take care of when the time came to take care of them.
Paul, he organized an offering to give to the Jewish community, the church in Jerusalem, because a great famine had had come out. And so the people in Macedonia, they were absolutely broke, totally broke, and yet they gave out of their poverty to help people in need in Jerusalem. And so this isn't about - this is the church just being the church. When food is all you need, nothing else will do. They need to be taken care of. Developing Christian friendships is also about accountability. It's a about saying, I'm going to do what I say I'm going to do and I've got someone around me to help me say, "Hey, I don't know that that was the right thing to do."
If you're working on your language a little bit, like you have vocabulary that you don't want to use anymore, get around Christians more than you're not around Christians because the Bible is pretty clear. And I think you've learned this before in your own lives probably, that bad company corrupts good morals - 1 Corinthians 15:33. That's why oftentimes I would ask our kids, "So, who you sitting around with at the lunch table? Who's on the bus sitting with you? Well, okay, you join that club, who's in the club with you?" I went to parent teacher conferences. Yeah, I wanted to know the teacher. I wanted to know some of the parents. I wanted to know who these families were that my kids knew. In fact, they didn't go to a house that I didn't know who the family was.
It's important that we know who our kids are around. Why? Because we want them to be successful, and the only way you're successful is if you're around people who are trying to do the right thing. It's important for us to develop Christian friendships, that our closest friends ought to be people who are following God in their own personal lives as well. It doesn't mean that we aren't friends with people who aren't Christians. It just means that we are gaining our strength from and getting encouraged by the people who are following God. And by the way, I'm really excited that we've had this semester of connection groups. We have the highest percentage of people comparatively to like our average attendance on Sunday. And then the average attendance of people coming to our connection groups; we have the highest percentage of participation this semester than we've had in a long, long time. And so in fact, probably the highest we've had in the last 15 to 20 years, at least 15 years at least. We're not even quite 20 years old. And so, I'm just excited about that and seeing that you have that built in opportunity to live life with other people.
And we can't guarantee that you're going to make a friend in a connection group. Nobody can make friends happen. But I guarantee you, you will not make friends with our church family if you don't go to a connection group. It just harder to do. You might on the outskirts here in the parking lot on Sunday mornings, but the best way to build Christian friendships is not just in rows on Sundays, but in circles when we're together in a smaller group to know and to be known by other people.
What's another thing that devoted themselves? Well, they devoted themselves to worship with other Christians. It says here, they devoted themselves to the breaking of bread into prayer. That seems to indicate that they were practicing the Lord's Supper together. At least they were eating together, but breaking bread was a symbolism for the Lord's Supper. And in verse 46 it says, "They went from in the temple courts and from house to house." They were identifying with the team all the time. They were always wearing their jerseys, constantly. Every day it said they were worshiping. You see, every day is game day for the Christian. It isn't just on hype day, the day that's scheduled on the day of event. We just from a crass point, you know, we got to go to see Ohio State play yesterday and we got off into a suburb of Columbus to eat dinner before we parted our ways.
We went back to Fort Wayne and Grant went back to Munsey, and we all had our Red Jerseys on and had our hats and all that stuff, and then we'd see other people walk in. And it's like 20 minutes away from the game, but you could see, "Oh, they were at the game too. Oh, they were at the game too." And you'd see these people and like if you go to the Colts game, you see people or on our way to Purdue last year we saw all these Michigan State Green going down Highway 25 to get to the campus. And then they went slower back home because they lost. But anyway, you see gold and black and you see green and you see blue for the Colts and you see red for whatever team you're on.
And all this Jersey stuff shows up, but then, you know, Jena didn't wear a jersey today. She didn't want to offend everybody. YI didn't wear my stuff today. No, because we're fair weather. You know, we don't wear the jersey all the time. In fact, it's not even my team, right? I mean, you say, ""How are our Colts doing?" "Oh really? Do you own the Colts? Do you have stock in the Colts? Are you Jim Irsay's like cousin or something? No, I don't own anything to do with the team. I just own some stuff that they put their logos on, right? I didn't even go to Ohio State. I went to Ball State. I just want to root for a team that won more often.
You know, they're doing the amateur and all that, it was homecoming, and I'm like, "I'm not homecoming anything. I'm a Buckeye because I grew up there." You know, a Christian is on the team for keeps all the time 24/7. You're always flying the colors. You're not just a fair weather friend; you're worshiping God all the time, not just occasionally. Well, I'll worship him at church and then Monday I turn on whatever I want to turn on. I want to do whatever I want to do. I'll listen to whatever I want to listen to. And you're thinking that by just coming here one hour on a Sunday and maybe another hour in a connection group, you're actually going to figure that out. No! Worship is a 24 / all in moment in life for the believer.
We worship with other Christians. We celebrate when we find another believer at work. Not because, "Oh, we're in and they're out." No, because we got, we got a teammate, we're walking alongside, we're getting some help from. And finally this morning as we look at this passage, and this is an inherent thing, this isn't something that you can do; it's just that when you do these things, when you are going public, when you're studying the Bible, when you're developing Christian friends and when you're worshiping with Christians, you're going to show evidence of changed lives. Team members look like they belong on the team. They keep getting stronger, they remain more loyal. Their jerseys are dirty.
I was in the marching band at Ball State and Sean and Allison, that play on our team, Sean and I played at least one year together at the same time. And they used to position us behind the visiting team, which was a mistake because we get in trouble taunting the visiting team. And we would pick out a jersey in the third quarter that was completely clean, which, what does that mean? They were in a game. And this is back when we had a grassfield. So, if you're in the game, at least for a little bit, you got your jersey dirty, and they didn't have anything on them. And so we'd pick them out and we'd start saying, "Hey, put in number 32, put in number 32. He hasn't played a second today. He's feeling lonely on the bench. It's kind of cold. The bench isn't that warm. He's warming it, but it's not where..." you know, we would just taunt number 33, put number 33 and put number, whatever number it was, that the guy Jersey was completely clean.
He's not getting any play time. And one day when the middle of all this, the whole band is in, we're in the visiting section in the middle, but then the visitors are kind of on both sides. And finally this mom goes, "Hey, that's my son. Quit picking on him." How many guys would just love it if your mom said that? So what does the band kindly say after that? "Oh, we're so sorry." No, no, no. "Mama's boy! Mama's boy!" It was horrible. If she's listening today, I'm sorry. I was part of a mass movement that was wrong. It's all part of the game, right?
If you're a Christian, you're going to show like you've been living for Jesus. You're going to get persecuted. People aren't going to like you because you're a Christian. You're going to do things that are look weird to other people. They're not weird. They just different than the steps of the world. You're going to show evidence. They were publicly added to the church in verse 41 through 47, you're going to belong somewhere, not just be a freelancer. "They were devoted, openly committed," verse 42, "to these things I already mentioned." And in verse 43, it shows there that everyone was filled with awe and many wonders and signs were being performed through the apostles." There was something special going on. There was supernatural activity. There were miracles being performed. And I want to say to you, that we don't need some supernatural miracle of people falling backwards and somebody go... I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about that your life looks different and nobody can explain it other than there's something going on inside of you because you have a want to that you never had before.
You start walking away from addiction instead of towards it. You start walking away from the temptations instead of towards it. You start doing what God wants you to do instead of what you want to do or what the world says you ought to do to be popular and powerful and pleasured. You find more pleasure in honoring God than the pleasure you had in anything that didn't honor God in your life. That's the evidence that God's working in and through you. It starts with putting on the jersey and saying, "I want to follow Jesus." It continues as you study the playbook and you say, "God, I want to know what you want me to do with my life." It continues when you hang around other Christians and you get in a group and say, "Hey guys, I don't want to do this anymore. Can you help me not do that anymore?" And you have people in your life that encourage you and egg you on and help you to do the right things instead of the wrong things. You and I have all been in a crowd somewhere, where you ended up doing something you shouldn't have done because the crowd encouraged you to do it.
Am I the only one in the house oh me, say, "Oh me!" If that was you. Oh me! Oh me! We've all been there. But you've also, I hope there's a few of us in the room that have others in our lives that have encouraged us to do the right thing, and we've been victorious because God put those people in our lives to help us, say amen if that's someone like you. And those people egg you on, and as that happens and as God's spirit begins to work inside of you and you start to understand the system, not just from a mental but from a heart standpoint. You start to wear this jersey and it gets dirty and gets tattered, it gets ripped up, but you're on a team. I always find it funny when we call it the World Series Baseball, right? When you talk about the Super Bowl, and they're the world champions, the national, the champions of the world, and the rest of the world just laughs.
First of all, football for most of the world is actually something that you don't touch with your hands - soccer. We're not world champions in America. You know who the world champions are? The champion - we are the champions. Who's that? Christians. Because we have a victor, Jesus Christ, who has been victorious over everything we struggle with, including death. And we are on a team that in the end, wins, has already won and it's just waiting for the coronation, waiting for the trophy. When someday we will be receiving our crowns, our trophies of what we have done to honor and glorify God, and we're going to throw it right back at the feet of Jesus and say it was all because of you that this was even possible. And all of that difficulty, and all of that blood, sweat and tears, and all of that way in which we've lived that was so counterculture, but we knew was right and was much more enjoyable than not, will have all been for everything. Because we're not just on a team that comes and goes; we're on a team that lasts forever.
I pray this morning that you and I will show up and be counted on the team of Jesus Christ. That will show up not just to get wet in a pool, but to actually start doing something about what he said we ought to do; living with people who are trying to do the same thing and openly worshiping Him, not just on Sunday morning, but every day of our life. I hope this hits somebody somewhere this morning and I pray that if it did that you will do something about it. What should we do? Well, that's a good question. What is God telling you to do? What is your step that you must take to move forward and to be counted on the team that lasts forever? It might be to declare your faith in Jesus for the very first time. It might be to sign up and tell the world you're Christian by getting baptized. It might mean to go to this class in a couple of minutes that we're going to have and learn what it means to truly belong to the body of Christ here at St. Joe and in general, some good principles for wherever you land in a city and learn what it means to follow Jesus in a church. I don't know what God wants you to do, but I pray you will not hesitate to step forward and be counted.
What should we do?
New information requires action!
-We often change what we do when we learn new info
-Peter explained that Jesus was the Savior that the Old
Testament had prophesied would come
-they needed to trust in Jesus, not the sacrificial system
What should we do? …to follow Jesus Christ?
-vs 38 Repent- turn from living a sinful life apart from Jesus
-vs 41 Accept the message that Jesus provides forgiveness
-vs 41 Get baptized into the church (…added to them)
-baptism is like a wedding ring- it symbolizes our commitment
-True Christians want to obey Jesus, openly commit to Him
Study the Bible
-Apostle’s teaching- the full Bible was still being inspired
-the early church depended primarily on the Old Testament
-Bible study is a community activity- not a solo activity
-Every believer is equally able to know and do God’s will
-Every believer needs other believers to do this well!
-we must replace our thinking errors with God’s truth
Develop Christian friendships
-vs 44-45 they shared their possessions with one another
-made sure everyone was properly provided for
-they worked through the church leadership to do this
-many were likely shunned by family, employers
-this pattern is more descriptive than prescriptive
-bad company corrupts good character
Worship with Christians
-breaking bread- likely the Lord’s Supper
-vs 46 in the temple and from house to house
Show evidence of changed lives!
-vs 41, 47 publicly added to the church
-vs 42 devoted: openly commited to the church
-vs 43 spiritual freedom
-signs and wonders happed through the apostles
-God announced to the world he was now working through
-Missionaries report this type of supernatural activity where
The gospel is introduced for the first time.
-Today we see the supernatural power of God working in
people: freedom from addictions, relationship
reconciliations, and more!
What should we do?
What must you do right now to obey the message of Jesus?
How are you openly committed to the church of Jesus Christ?
What must you do to grow spiritually?
Connection Card, Prayer Team, online contact form
The New Covenant
1 Corinthians 11:25
September 18, 2022
Covenant- a relationship agreement/pledge/promise
What did Jesus mean when he said “new covenant”
God initiates a love relationship with us!
God initiated a covenant with Noah and humanity
-Genesis 9:12-17 God’s grace (unmerited favor), no more flood,
-There will always be seasons until the end of the earth
-God’s promise was unconditional
God initiates a covenant with Abram
-Genesis 15:17 God alone made a promise, not Abram
-God reveals we are made righteous through faith alone
-God’s promise to save Abram was unconditional
God initiates a covenant with Israel through Moses
-built on God’s covenant with Abraham, their forefather
-God reveals his demand of righteousness (the Law)
-Jesus transformed the Passover to become our Lord’s Supper
-Jesus Christ became the perfect atonement (John 1:29)
God initiates a covenant with David
-2 Samuel 7:15-16, 28-29
-Jesus was born into the family line of David
God initiates the New Covenant 1 Corinthians 11:25
-The Passover reminded the Israelites how God set them free
from Egypt and slavery
-The Lord’s Supper reminds us how God set us free from the
sin and shame
2 Corinthians 1:20 For every one of God’s promises is “Yes” in him. Therefore, through him we also say “Amen” to the glory of God.
-This New Covenant fulfilled and replaced all the others!
The Lord’s Supper
We affirm our faith in the New Covenant Jesus established through his shed blood on the cross
-1 Corinthians 11:25
-The Lord’s Supper is only for followers of Jesus Christ
We must examine ourselves
-God’s gift of salvation that does not require good works does
NOT diminish God’s demand for righteous living
-Pause to confess and turn from your sins right now
1 Corinthians 11:24-25
Come to the table when you are ready, down the center aisle
-with friends, family, or by yourself
Take the elements and exit the front by using the side aisles
Pause, pray and take the bread and cup
Remain quiet until everyone has finished
available Wednesday 9/14/22 by 9:00 am
Start With Love
September 11, 2022
Where do we start?
-Where do we begin when living our lives?
-What must we prioritize?
-what do we do first in good or bad times?
-how do we untangle this worldly mess we are in?
Jesus says we must start with love
-vs 31a “There is no command greater than these”
-We often don’t think to start loving others when we are hurting
-Humanity tries to fix our worldly problems apart from
worshipping our creator- and we are failing miserably!
-The scribes were asking Jesus to weigh in on where to start
-they ranked of all the 613 command in the Law, Old Testament
-365 negative & 248 positive, heavy weight & light weight
-the scribe was asking Jesus to “weigh in” on where to start
Love God wholeheartedly
ONE God- Jesus affirms there is only one God
-Christianity says there is no other god except God
-humanity continues to promote polytheism- a refusal to accept
that people have created false gods to worship apart from God
Love the Lord your God
-supreme authority over all
-God first loved us through Creation, Covenant, and Christ!
with all your heart, soul, mind and strength
-wholeheartedly, your total being, not necessarily a statement
on the different parts of a person’s life
-love God more than self, family, possessions, popularity, power
-1 Jn 4:19 We love because he first loved us
-Ray Stedman quote
-Worshipping/loving God is our first purpose in life!
-We start loving God to solve life’s problems, to find fulfillment in
good experiences and to discover our ultimate purpose for living
Love People like we love ourselves
-Jesus unites love for God WITH love for people
-start loving people in every situation!
-God is motivated by His love for us in all he does
-We must also be motivated by love for others when we make
decisions and take action
Love your neighbor
-the scribes would have excluded most people
-humanity is still trying to excuse exclusive love!
-Luke 10:30-37 Jesus denounces prejudice attitudes, racism
-our neighbor is ANYONE near enough to love!
-love = serving others
-self-preservation is the most powerful human instinct
-note: mental illness twists this natural instinct
-Jesus says we must love people like we love ourselves
-Luke 6:31 Just as you want others to do for you, do the same
for them (the Golden Rule)
-We start with love when facing human conflict
-Love for others diminishes selfishness and pride
-loving/serving people is another purpose God designed us to fulfill- start loving people in practical ways the way God S.H.A.P.E.d you!
You are not far from the kingdom of God
-the scribe realized God primarily wants a love relationship with us, and for love to permeate our human relationships
-Jesus commended him, but we don’t know if this man ever
fully trusted in Jesus Christ to save him
How far are you from completely trusting Jesus Christ?
-John 3:16 God showed is love for us first!
-Love God back by surrendering your life to Jesus Christ
-loving/worshipping God is our first purpose in life
How often do you start with loving God and people?
-loving/serving people is another life purpose
Man's responsibility is to respond to God's love, which is reaching out to us on every side -- reaching out in nature, reaching out in the supply of all that is being given to us day by day. We are never to forget that the things we enjoy -- the food, the air, the sunshine, the shelter -- all these material things of life that we need -- come from the hand of God. It is God who gives them. It is God's goodness protecting us, sheltering us, and watching over us that keeps us from being ravished and destroyed by the forces that are at work for evil in our lives. God's sheltering hand is protecting us. So when you think about the love of God, and especially the love that redeems us, the proper and only response of the heart is to love God back with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.
Mark 12 is where we're at this morning. We're pausing in the middle of some series of messages to talk specifically about the purposes of our church. And we're coming up on October when in 2002, 20 years ago, we actually started to organize what we do as a church family. And we launched in Easter of 2003, and we started to rally around two particular verses of scripture, Matthew 22 and Matthew 28. The great commandment of God - love God love people, and the great commission of God to go make disciples, baptize, teach them and everything I have commanded you. And so, we used those and kind of came up with five particular purposes and we've rallied around that ever since, as kind of our mission and purpose as a church family. Not unlike, very much like, and in fact, every New Testament church in one way or the other fulfills these five purposes, they may say it different ways. They may describe them in three different purposes, but we're all in some way, moving in that direction.
We spell that out more clearly in our discovering membership class that I mentioned we'll be doing again in October. But I wanted to talk about this particular passage and actually, the command to love God and love people was recorded. This interaction with the scribes was recorded in three of the four gospels. It was recorded in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. And we're going to look at - Mark's account has a couple of interesting pieces to it in the conversation that Jesus was having with the scribe that I want to bring out. But I want to start with the question, where do we start? In other words, our world's a mess always, has been by the way, but it's a mess. I don't know about you, but I'm a little opinionated. How many here are opinionated? Anybody here? We're all opinionated. Some less than others, but we all have opinions.
And I've discovered that when I go online to look for my opinion, it doesn't help me. Well, it does help me, helps me be more right, and have righteous indignation for those who are wrong, right? I mean, it just gets us. We start talking about it with somebody and our blood pressure rises. It just happens. "You're raising your voice." "No, I'm not, I'm just being adamant in my opinion." Where do we begin? Where do we begin even living our lives in good situations, in bad situations, when good things are happening? Why is it that when things are going really well, people don't think about as much of God. And when things are going really bad, we think about God, but we're more looking to God to be our Santa Claus, to be the fix it. God wants today in a relationship with us in the good and the bad.
I mentioned 9-11, church attendance went to an all-time high the Sunday after 9-11. And it dropped down to the average attendance that it was before 9-11 just a month later. It's like, we needed God to get through the crisis, but now we don't need God. What? We start in every moment of our life with where God tells us to start. I mean, how do we untangle this world mess that we are in? What must me prioritize in our lives? What's more important? God, family church - by the way, God in church and family, I mean, family in church are so intricately; like if you pit family against church, don't do that. We definitely have the priority of raising our children and we've made that a priority. But boy, if you make, like children come first and church comes - no, the church is a part of making family first. It's a together thing. Anyway, that's another whole sermon.
Jesus says, we must start with love. I hope before the end of this message, you will have it ingrained. Where do I start today? When you hear something you don't like, where do you start? Love! When you see somebody you don't like - does everybody like everybody around? Not everybody. You know, you're supposed to love everybody, but you'll always like everybody, right? Love, you start with love. I'm having an argument with you. Start with love in that argument. How do you do that? We'll talk about that. Jesus said there's no greater command than these. No command is greater than this. Love God, love people. We start with love. Humanity tries to fix our world problems apart from worshiping our creator. It starts with something else and then if God works into the equation, it's okay.
Some people are trying to create justice systems apart from almighty God. And I'm just going to say; no governmental agency will solve our world's problems apart from being guided and directed by the truth of God and by God himself, there's a lot of good agencies out there. Don't get me wrong. There's a lot of good things to do out there. But if we don't start with worshiping God and loving Him completely first, we will miss the mark of what He wants us to do.
Everything we're trying to do in this world it seems like is failing miserably because we're not starting with love. In fact, there are particular thoughts that have been developed in the United States. In order to write the wrongs of the oppressors who were truly wicked in the way they oppressed in our nation, the solution in many people's eyes is to rise up a new set of oppressors to oppress the people who oppressed. And it's a system not built on love, but on justice and revenge. Be careful that you do not hit your wagon to a philosophy of thought in our world that is all about whoever's in charge is the person who's right.
Be careful that you don't add to the mess of this world, by trying to advocate for people groups, or for movements in our nation and in our world for a matter of fact, that are trying to simply change the power structure, but never change the heart of the power. It starts with love. Now, the Scribes we're asking Jesus, this question. And in fact, we note in this passage that not only does it seem that the scribe that was engaging Jesus was acting positively towards Jesus, unusual. Most of them hated Jesus. We’re trying to trap Him and trying to trick Him, and eventually were part of the mob that destroyed His life, which they couldn't destroy Him, but they destroyed His body. And God used that as the sacrifice for our sins, but this Scribe was positive. And this was actually a moment where Jesus actually commended the Scribe because in like fashion, Jesus was calling them out from their hypocrisy. He was calling them out from their wickedness, but in this particular incidence, He actually commends the Scribe.
But this scribe was asking a question that the scribes themselves were asking for centuries. What's the greater commandments? They had figured out that there were 613 commands of the law in what we call the Old Testament, that 365 of them were negative. Don't do this, don't do that. And 248 of them were positive. Do this, do that. And then they, not to make it even more complicated; they decided that there were a category of dos and don'ts that were heavier or more important. They were weightier. And then they were those commands that were lighter; not so important or big deal. Jesus kind of turned that all in its head when he hit the Sermon on the Mount when He said, "You've heard it said don't murder somebody. I tell you, if you hate somebody you've murdered them in your heart." He kind of collapsed that whole system and said, bad is bad.
You've heard it say don't commit adultery, but I say to you, if you have lust in your heart for someone in a sexual way, that you are an adulterer just as if you did it. Whoa, he collapses this weightier and lighter sins into... so here's the question. If I were to have a glass of water, I've got my coffee here. I'm going to say - would you ever drink after me if I'd said, Here, take it"? Who here would not care? Said I need coffee, I don't care. See, some of you would do that. I had a coach one time, he says, I need coffee. I says, 'Well, I got mine." He says, Oh please." And I poured some in. Thank you, Jesus. Anyway, pour a cup of hot coffee in Jesus name. A.
But let's just say that - raised your hand; how many drops of toilet water would you let me put in here before you would stop drinking out of my cup? Zero. Yeah, but I just cleaned the toilet yesterday. Probably wasn't used. Anybody? Takers? The coffee's tainted. Some of you said one sip from you and you've tainted it with you sipping in it. If it was a clean cup and he gave it to me, I'll take it. But if you took one drink out of it, I'm not drinking out of it. Some of you said that. One sin makes us what? A sinner. We've all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. So they're asking Jesus to weigh in on the weight to your lighter sins. But the reality is, He's going to boil it down to the greatest commandments, and we're going to see in a moment how all of the commandments fit into, if we've get this right and we get this right, we're going to get the other things, right?
Let me read for us Mark 12:28, "One of the Scribes approached, when he heard them debating and saw that Jesus answered them well, he asked Him, 'Which command is the most important of all?' Jesus answered; 'The most important is, listen O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is, love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other command greater than these.' Than the Scribe said to Him, 'You are right teacher, you have correctly said that he is one and there is no one else except him. And to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength and love your neighbor as yourself is far more important than all the burn offerings and sacrifices.' When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, 'You are not far from the kingdom of God.' And no one dared to question him any longer."
If we're going to start solving our personal life problems, if we're going to start living life to the fullest and live purposefully in a way that's pleasing to God, but is a way that's enjoyable to live. We're going to start with loving God wholeheartedly. Start loving God wholeheartedly. Jesus is quoting from Deuteronomy, The Shima, that statement of faith, that was the crux of all the commands of God. Love God completely. And Mark records that he actually quoted the entire portion where it begins with the Lord of Israel. Listen O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. He is one God. He is not multiple gods that get to the same place. You can stack up every God. Other than the God of the Bible, on this side of my podium here, and you can stack God up on this side in terms of there are two categories of gods in the world. There are gods in the world and that is other than Christianity God and the Old Testament, New Testament God I'm talking about here that say to us, we must appease that God, in order to get our salvation. We must do something to earn the favor of that God, which really feeds right into our selfishness and pride.
I can rule my life without anybody ruling it for me. I can earn my way into favor of being right and perfect at the end of my life. I can be in charge of me. You say, "Yeah, but you're submitting to a God." Yeah, but you're submitting to a God that is manmade; that is tapping into your system of thought that you don't have to surrender yourself to a higher being. Every system in the world, Islam included says, you must earn the favor of God, and maybe if you're good enough, you'll get eternal life or whatever it is they're promising. But when you pin down the philosopher and the theologians of any other religion in the world, they will say to you, you have no guarantee that you'll ever get what you're looking for, you hope maybe you will.
On the other side of this podium stands one God and one God alone, and that's the God of the Bible, the one who in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. And that one God says, I loved you first, and I gave you opportunity to know me and love me. And all I'm asking for you to do is to respond back to me with love. I'm not asking for your favor. I'm not asking you to earn it. I'm not asking you to work. I am asking you to simply accept my love for you by loving me back. Humanity continues to promote polytheism. They continue to refuse to accept the fact that people were created by the one true God, and that in that alone and our worship of God is perverting the very way in which we're trying to solve our world problems.
There is one God. And he says, you must love the Lord your God. He puts the Lord your God. He puts in the word for authority. That God is a God of ultimate authority. He is the Supreme authority of the world. Now, when you start to create worlds and you start to spin them around this big thing called a sun, and you start to create universes and galaxies, then let's talk about you being God for a minute. But until then, let's bow to the one on who deserves our praise and our love. God first loved us through creation. He gave us this world that we live in. Who gave it to you? What's that joke about says, well, I'm going to start making stuff and start makes it? Yeah, but you need to start, you need to create your own dirt.
God created something out of nothing. We create everything we have out of what He gave us to create it with. He not only gave us creation, showed us His love through creation; He also showed us His love through covenant. And he started a covenant with Adam and Eve. He started that covenant with Noah after he came out of the arc after the flood. And then there's a covenant that he called Abraham out, and so come and I'll take you to a place where I will show you and you'll be a father of many nations. He showed his love and covenant through him. Throughout the Old Testament, there are these covenants. He made a covenant with King David, you will always have someone on the throne. And that fulfillment of that promise He gave to David was actually Jesus, who came from the lineage of David's family, physically.
And now we live in the new covenant, a covenant of grace where Jesus paid the price for the covenant, He fulfilled the righteousness of the law, and indeed, just like he gave us Eden and said live in it and love me. And he gave Noah and Abraham the covenant that said, not because you earned it, but because I simply bestowed upon you my love, I'm giving you an opportunity to grace the world with my presence through you, just love me back. And they did. And then throughout history we see this, and now Jesus shows up and says, for God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son that whosoever believes in him with not perish, but have everlasting life. He's loving you first. Why do I have inscribed in my ring 1 John 4:19, because I know that in my marriage, I know and my wife knows that we love because he first loved us.
Love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength, wholeheartedly, completely. Now, we can dissect or we made up of four parts in our body, and that's an interesting conversation. And you're welcome to do that this week, as you think about your Bible studies. But as we look at this passage in the most general sense; the emphasis of this is completely love God. We need to love and worship God when we're at work, not just when we're here in the sanctuary. We need to love God and worship him alone in our homes. We need to worship and love God in our neighborhood, when we're mowing the grass, when we're digging ditches, when we're driving trucks, when we're driving down the road, we need to worship and love God completely. We start with love. When we get on social media, love and worship God
Love God completely. Love God more than ourself, our family, our possessions; love God more than our popularity, more than the power that we want to earn or have in this world to influence other people. And I want to just even add to that, that if you are saying that you love your kids, like they're the most important thing to you be careful that you don't put your kids above God. Because whatever is above God, and your love and your focus and your thoughts; that's what you're worshiping. And if you're worshiping your children; not only are you setting yourself up for a lot of yoyos and heartaches, but you're also setting them up to fail miserably because the pressure's too much. No one can handle God status, except God. You can't handle it so don't be trying to be your own little God. People worship you - don't! Don't! Push that aside.
I worship the ground you walk on. That sounds like a wonderful romantic phrase, but guess what? Even if you do that, you need to worship God first, because you'll never be the spouse you know how to be in your home if you don't put God first in your relationship. And by the way, God's not a killjoy. He does not sit there and say, "I have a path for this guy and I have a path for this girl," and they're not even the same. That would be like a cruel joke. Wouldn't it be? As I was talking to Pete and Ashley who came here and declared their vows before the Lord yesterday. They had already been married in the courthouse; they came here to tell the world that they want Christian marriage. They've been baptized, they're moving forward in their faith. And it was just so fun to work with them this past few months and talking with them. And I always use this pyramid of how husband and wife and God as the centerpiece, that when we get close to God, we get closer to one another in our relationship.
When we both get our worship right in our home, we get more right with one another. It's not that simple, it takes time, and I'm not trying to unravel a tangled mess right now this morning, but it starts getting untangled when we start with loving God. Let me finalize my thoughts here by a pastor named Gray Steadman who said, "Man's responsibility is to respond to God's love, which is reaching out to us on every side, reaching out in nature, reaching out in the supply of all that is being given to us day by day. We are never to forget the that the things we enjoy; the food, the air, the sunshine, the shelter," all these material things of life that we need come from the hand of God.
It is God who gives them. It is God's goodness, protecting us, sheltering us, and watching over us that keeps us from being ravished and destroyed by the forces that are at work for evil in our lives. God's sheltering hand is protecting us. So when you think about the love of God, and especially the love that redeems us, the proper and only response of the heart is the love God back with all your heart, soul strength and might. Love God. But then Jesus turns right around, and instead of just stopping there, he goes beyond what was said in Deuteronomy. And he says what actually the Scribes and the Pharisees and all the religious leaders had kind of realized that really this vertical relationship with God, love God, was also completely... I couldn't say it last service either. It was completely tied to our love for other people. Love God, love people. The horizontal, the people we're with on this side of heaven, we ought to love like we love God. We love God. And it flows naturally into - if we're going to love God wholeheartedly, it also flows in that we're going to love our neighbors ourself. Love people like we love ourselves.
He unites love with God, for God, with love for people. We need to start loving God, loving people in every situation. God is motivated by His love for us. If He wasn't motivated by love, you and I would be - what's that Old Testament; we'd be smitten from the earth. I mean, you know how you get, when you're upset with somebody, if you had control of the lightning button, there'd be a lot of scorched earth going around. Wouldn't you? Don't get me... am I the only one that's like, "Man, smite that person. I mean, in Jesus' name." You know, you try to get righteous when you're saying it and you're just getting into trouble as you're thinking it. I mean, you know, we just... we know better, and they don't. What's that Greek word? They're an idiot. I mean, that's just the wrong thing to say. That's just wrong. I mean, but we do this. You're laughing because some of you have said that to the person you're sitting next to. Anyway, that's wrong.
We must, just as God is motivated to not smite us immediately, we must be motivated by love even if we're really upset with the person we're next to. Our motivation, we start with love just as God did with us. "Love your neighbor," he says. Now the Scribes would've excluded most people from who their neighbor was. Luke 10, actually right after this little incident, the guy says, and who is my neighbor? Like, who do I get to not love like I love myself? And then Jesus, again, another Bible study for you to go on your own. Yu can ferret that out to say it was the good Samaritan story. And he took the very person, the half-Jew, the Jewish people that had intermarried with non-Jews, which was forbidden in the Old Testament, and they were basically, there was a racial prejudice and hatred towards that particular group of people.
And he used the Samaritan as the hero of a story to indicate what a real neighbor was. You can go look at that for yourself. But when he basically says, he destroys all the boundaries that we put on this world for how we're supposed to love people and who we're allowed to love and not love. The guy next to you, that's the person you love. The person next to you, that's the person you love. The person in your life, that's the person you love. I can't love a person. In fact, some of us have a better feeling about loving somebody with our money, our resources, maybe even going a mission trip to another part of the world. And we do it much more easily than to just be a missionary in our own hometown and love the people we're around. I'll tell you what; I have fallen in love with the people of Ecuador. Been there five or six times and I go back in November. I love the people there, but you know what? They're easier to love. I don't have to live with them.
Let's just be honest. The people God called you to love or the people that are in your life. Don't go looking to replace the people in your life, replace the attitude. In our church we actually talk about loving in terms of service. And we talk about our shape and how God shaped us, and that we touch on it in our class 101. But really, how we love is really adapted to the way God wired us to love. And that's another whole Bible study in itself. And so, we talk about how one of our purposes is to love people by acts of service, by serving people in His name. Because just saying I love you, but we don't actually solve a problem in those lives or we don't show love in a practical way, that's not really love. Jesus goes to say, love your neighbor as yourself.
Now, I took psychology. That was my major in college. And I know some people, they get psychological on this and say, "Well, if you don't love yourself, you can't love people so you got to love yourself first." I get that. If you have a perverted sense of your love for yourself, if you have an ungodly sense of loving yourself, if you don't love yourself in the way - if you don't see yourself and view yourself the way God sees you and you don't grace yourself with the grace that God gives you, you are going to struggle with this. So that's of course, Jesus wasn't being a psychologist when He said this, the most general sense and the way in which it's written. It basically, He is appealing to the idea that self-preservation and self-love is one of the most ultimate forms and powerful forces in our lives.
Self-Preservation is so powerful that when you're training military personnel, you're training them to go against their self-preservation instincts and run towards the firefight. Firefighters have to train to fight against the natural instinct to run from danger so that they can run into a burning building. Now, some men and women are more wired than others to do that. But generally speaking, the ability and the desire to love yourself is a natural instinct. We are in suicide awareness and prevention month, and I hope and pray that if you're struggling with thoughts of self-harm, that you will reach out to somebody because we want you to know that you are valued and loved, and that God loves you and that we love you. And that there is a pathway towards wellness and wholeness away from what is happening in your mind that is causing you to think that the best form of self-preservation is to jump self-preservation and to hurt yourself in order to relieve yourself of the pain you're going through.
That really, when someone takes their life, they are so fighting against that natural instinct; it's like they're so unwired to their natural instinct of self-preservation that they go into that, not only thoughts of it, but then moving into the action. Self-preservation and self-love is a normal way of living. And if that's not something that's going on in you, you need to reach out for somebody for help. But for the rest of us, where that is, you know, I like what I like, right? You like what you like. Some of you, you sit in the same spot and you love your spot here in the church. And if someone sits in your spot, well, God bless them, but hopefully you'll get there before they do next week because I'm just telling, I mean, I'm just giving you a for instance. We just sort of like what we like. The world be a whole lot better if everybody thought like I did.
Has anybody said that? Yeah. Yeah. I mean, the world will be a whole lot better if when I got to the where and where and such and such, they had what I wanted and they did what I asked before I had to tell them twice. They'll get a better tip if I - no, start with love, and love the people like you love yourself. You go into a restaurant and you love that server the way you want to be loved, you're going to have a better relationship and they may not spit in your food. I mean, this is just a suggestion, just a suggestion. Let's get back to the text.
We start with love when facing who in conflict? Love for others, diminishes our selfishness and pride, loving and serving people is what God's calling us to do. Just as we want to be loved and served, we ought to be loving and serving the people in our lives. Love God, love people. Let's start with love. And the Scribe says, "You got it Jesus. I agree with you. In fact, this love God love people, that's more important than the ritual sacrifice in burnt offerings." Let's start with that. And you don't have so many sacrifices in burnt offerings. I mean, religious practice is less important. If we get this right, that flows naturally the right way. Start with love. And Jesus says a very interesting comment to him; "You are not far from the kingdom of God." Huh? See, the Scribe realize that God primarily wants love relationships. He wants a love relationship with us, and He wants that to flow into our relationship with other people. Jesus commended this man, but He didn't say you're in the kingdom. He said, you're not far from the kingdom.
You see, almost is only right in horseshoe and hand grenades. I almost became a Christian. Paul is appealing to a higher authority in politics and the guy who had the right to yay or nay is death. And he said, "Almost thou persuades me" in the King James. You almost convinced me you're right, Paul. But that leader didn't get it. He didn't cross the line. In fact, when you're in a race, the only people who get recorded to have completed the race is if they cross the finish line. And the finish line for finding the grace and the forgiveness and the love of God that saves us forever is putting our faith in Jesus Christ. There's no indication in scripture or history that this person who was talking with Jesus, who Jesus commended and who seemed to be in agreement with Jesus; there's no indication that that man ever put his faith in Jesus Christ to be saved.
He may or may not be in heaven, in other words. We know at this moment he was not in heaven because he was not far from the kingdom of God, but he was not in the kingdom of God. And so my question this morning is, you agree with me, start with love, but have you put your faith in Jesus Christ? Have you crossed that line? Have you told the world you're a Christian through baptism? In October, we're going to have two people get baptized. I welcome you to join that group so that you can tell the world you're a Christian. Not that that makes you a Christian, but that shows the world that you've put your allegiance in the name and the person of Jesus Christ.
How far are you from completely trusting Jesus Christ with your life? Maybe better question is how close are you? How close are you trusting him? A pastor's greatest heartache is to look out and see people, and I know a lot of you put your faith in Him and you said you're a Christian, and only God knows the heart. And by evidence, so many people they give evidence that they are, but I know people that lived a good, righteous, good life, moral life for a long time, and later said that was all me. It wasn't God. And they put their faith in Jesus. Billy Graham, a great evangelist said that there's probably a percentage of people on every Sunday morning of people in the room that say they're Christians, but they really have never crossed the line. They've made an attempt to be a religious person, but they've never built a relationship with Jesus Christ. And so my question this morning is, is that you, is it time for you to cross that line?
Will you put on the connection card I'm committing my life to Christ? Will you come and let me talk with you? Put some people in the back, we'll have some people back there for you to actually talk with and pray through and know for sure that you know Jesus as your Lord and savior. How far are you? You're not close enough if you've not surrendered to Jesus Christ. And then the last question I want to ask those of us who are followers of Jesus, how often do you start with loving God and loving people? How quickly will you start this week with love first?
Summary Advice for a Local Church
1 Thessalonians 5:12-28
August 28, 2022
A letter for all churches
-Paul wrote this to the Thessalonians under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit
-An enduring letter of encouragement all ages
1 Thessalonians 5:12-28
Support spiritual leaders vs 12-13
-leaders who labor- servants, not just people with titles
-in the Lord- growing followers of Christ, true to the Bible
-who also admonish- speak the truth in love, no compromise
-recognize them openly- support practically, affirm openly
-regard them highly in love- build a Christlike relationship
-1 Corinthians 13 love!
Build up other believers vs 14-15
-warn the idle
-comfort the discouraged
-help the weak
-be patient with everyone
-suspend your right to pay back evil with evil
-do what is good for “one another” and everyone
Follow God carefully vs 16-22
-Basic steps to knowing God’s will: rejoice, pray, give thanks
-Depend on the Holy Spirit
-don’t stifle Him- quench, oppose, try to suppress
-“prophecies”= what God has said to us
-today we are highlighting God’s prophecies
-The Thessalonians did not yet have the complete Bible
-“test all things” God will never contradict himself!
-Pursue what is good; stay away from what is evil!
A final prayer and personal comments vs 23-27
-God of peace-
-sanctify you completely
-spirit, soul and body kept blameless- all, not part of our lives!
-at the coming of Jesus- HE IS COMING AGAIN!
-vs 24 Jesus will complete this work in us!
-Paul expresses his dependence on and affection for the church
-Paul sent this letter to more than one church body
“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”
-Will you submit your life to Jesus Christ today?
-Admit you are a sinner
-Believe Jesus died for your sins and was raised
-Commit your entire life to Jesus right now
-Will you continue growing as a follower of Jesus Christ?
-Follow God’s advice for your life and the church
-stop stifling what God wants to do in your life and in our
-re-surrender your entire life to Jesus right now
The Day of the Lord
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
August 21, 2022
Jesus is coming again!
-see previous message on 1 Thes 4:13-18
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Time and the seasons
-time and era- sequence and events
-Matthew 24:36 We aren’t supposed to know when
The day of the Lord will come vs 2-3
-Day of the Lord- Old Testament- day of wrath, judgment
-Acts 17:31 Jesus is the Lord (in charge of) this day
-This day is when Christ returns to judge the world
-thief in the night- unannounced, unexpectedly
-illust: no thief calls ahead of time to say he is coming!
-Matt 24:43; 2 Peter 3:10
-People saying “Peace and security” will be destroyed
-Destruction of unbelievers is as certain as birth when a woman goes into labor- unavoidable, no second chances
But you are not in the dark vs 4-5
-Paul is talking to followers of Jesus Christ (Christians)
-We will not be surprised when Christ returns
-Christians live in the daylight/light- fully aware
Let us stay awake and be self-controlled vs 6-10
-don’t sleep- don’t ignore the fact that Jesus is coming!
-be self-controlled (stated twice)- remain sober
-we must remain in control of our minds and bodies
How to remain awake and self-controlled
-put on the armor of faith and love
-this is how we stay awake and self-controlled
-our faith must affect every area of our lives!
-Christ-like love must define how we relate to others,
And how we take care of ourselves!
-put on the helmet of the hope of salvation in Christ
-facts must override our feelings!
-trust the facts of faith in Christ
-Christians do not face God’s wrath for their sins
-we obtain salvation because of our faith in Christ
“who died for us” – in our place, confessional truth
-we are saved from God’s wrath/condemnation of sin
-we will dwell personally with Jesus Christ forever
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up
-Christ followers must help one another until Jesus comes again
-encourage one another- cheer each other on to remain alert
-build each other up- we need others to help us when we are
down, when we slip spiritually, when we get discouraged
Wake Up! Trust in Jesus Christ Now!
-you don’t have to be surprised by or afraid of Christ’s return
1 Thessalonians 5, we're continuing a series of messages from this letter that Paul wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit during the pandemic. It seemed as though all kinds of crazy stuff was going on. It was going on. It didn't seem - it was. We all faced major decisions. In the middle of that, was a little bit of an election that took place, and there was all kinds of other decisions that people were making. And just like any other place in the world, our church was no different. We had people that agreed to disagree and hopefully mostly agreeably, and it was just something we had to work through and navigate; who believed this, who believed that, who thought about this, who was trusting this? Sometimes it came down to who was listening to this particular group of news and this group of new. And it just seemed to all collide in the middle of us. We were no different than anywhere else. We had to navigate the waters of disagreeing agreeably.
And I want to say to you that I'm praising God and thanking God that the spirit of Christ prevailed. That all of us arrived eventually at the same conclusion, that God's bigger and more important than anything we agree to disagree on here on earth, amen. And I remember one of the elders said, "Make a decision, you'll be wrong, make it anyway." And we did. And we went through the trails of making decisions and trying to do what was right, but I'm telling you what, there are churches that died in the midst of the pandemic. There are churches that no longer exist. There are churches that are selling off property. There are things that are happening in other places in our city and in our region and in our country where their church, there's a sadness.
And I certainly know that we experienced loss in our church family as well. And we actually had people that when we stopped meeting, it sort of stopped being a habit, and that made me very sad. And then when we came back together and started meeting, it seemed like God replenished with different people and new people. And with the two services, we now are at the point where we did two services to stay apart from one another and to kind of bear the differences agreeably with each other and what was going on and how we did things. And then now it's like, it's by necessity because God has blessed us with more families and more individuals and more opportunities to serve and minister together and walk together in of spirit of Christ. And so by default, this building would not handle one service any longer, and so I thank God for that.
And we'll continue to - again, we're not presuming upon anything. We're just saying God did some positive things. And when I think of all the letters that Paul wrote in the New Testament that God's inspired him to write that we still have for us today to look at; this is one of the most encouraging letters you could read about the church. He continued to say, "You guys are doing this right, I know, but let me remind you to keep doing it, but you're doing, doing it right. Oh, you love one another, I don't need to remind you that. The whole region knows that. You're setting an example for believers all over the place." And I would say we are setting an example by the power of God, by the glory of God, for His credit alone, you all are setting an example.
And Paul is saying that to this church, and so I thought, what a great letter to write, to listen to, and to read and to understand to preach on, but a letter that might be similar in attitude towards that church as I have towards ours. And so, we've continued through that. We're in chapter five today. And last week we talked about the day of the Lord, how Jesus is coming again, and you can go back and listen to that and look at the notes online. Today Paul kind of wraps up his conversation with the church when he is talking about the day of the Lord; the day when Jesus comes again. And we want to talk about that, unpack that just a little bit and ask, are you ready? Are you ready for the return of Jesus Christ? Are you ready for it all to be over? Are you ready to answer to God for where you stand with Him in relation to have you put your faith in Jesus, or have you not put your faith in Jesus?
You know, we always hit what we aim for. Well, we work on hitting what we aim for. We more likely hit what we aim for. When we put our eye on the ball, we usually catch it with our mit. When we throw a baseball at a particular spot, we normally hit the spot where our eyes are looking, and our arm follows through with where we're looking. If you're target shooting with bows and arrows or a gun or a rifle; you aim, you look at, you pay attention to the bull's eye. We have darts in the back room, and there are a few places where you can tell where I have not... well, we need to do some drywall speckling. Anyway, it just is what it is. Keep your eyes on the road when you're driving. Don't text and drive.
Have you ever been with somebody, might have been me, "Oh, look at the farmland over there." And your car goes... yeah, thank you, John. I hear that. I hear that grown. And what you're looking at, you go towards. It is a part of life. In your calendar, how do you know where you're going this week? Now, if you're retired, you're laughing at us. "Ha-ha. What calendar? I don't care." But for those of us that still have one and we're working, or we got something going on, we look at the calendar, because we're not going to show up for the appointments we don't remember. We're not going to show up for the appointments we don't look at and make sure we're aiming for on our schedule during the week. And if we aren't careful, we will not do what matters most and what lasts forever if our eye is not on eternity.
Some of you may know this, or may have known a lady named D. Young, and D. Young on December 7th went home to be with the Lord. And yesterday or Friday, we had her graveside service or kind of a home-going, a small crowd of people. She was about 90 years old. I think she was 90 years old, and she knew the Lord. And she knows now what she did that lasted forever and what she did that didn't matter forever. And it's a sobering moment for us to come to a moment of reckoning, to understand that we all someday will face God for our actions. For the Christian, we will face God not to get into heaven, but did what we invest in, in our lives matter for eternity or not? And for the believer it's, I now have to pay for eternity for the sins that Jesus died for and I could have asked His forgiveness for, but I didn't. We need to have our eye on eternity, or we may aimlessly live life in such a way that what we do will not matter in eternity. It will matter, but it will matter in ways that we may not have planned.
1 Thessalonian 5, let me read for us 11 verses, unpack them, and let's see if maybe we can do something about what God tells us this morning before we leave and as we leave. "About the times and seasons, brothers and sisters, you don't need anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. When they say peace and security, then sudden destruction will come upon them like labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you brothers and sisters are not in the dark, for this day to surprise you like a thief, for you are all children of light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or the darkness. So then, let us not sleep like the rest, but let us stay awake and be self-controlled. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled and put on the armor of faith and love and a helmet of the hope of salvation. For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with Him. Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up as you are already doing."
I want to add that my intentions of going through this letter was more to talk about the encouragement, but it was to talk about the totality of that encouragement and how to encourage one another. It is not to join the chorus of people that are all talking about end times. We're talking about in times because oh, that happens to be the next chapter that we're talking about. And so, that's kind of want to make sure you're aware of that, that we need to listen to all of what God has to say, and so this happens to be the next in line of what we need to hear. 1 Thessalonian 5, Paul talks about the times and seasons, about the epics or the chronologically and the chiros, the seasons or the way in which things are going to happen; about the sequence of events and the events that actually will happen, I don't need to talk to you about.
Now, did Paul already talk to them about this or did he get wind that somebody had taught them more carefully about the coming of the Lord, Jesus Christ? We don't know that for certain, but it seems that Paul is just reemphasizing what they already know. And I would say that in this room; there are people here, we know Jesus is coming again. I'm just reemphasizing what you already know and kind of filling in the gaps a little bit on some things that might be a little fuzzy or you might have possibly forgotten.
We're not here to put a circle on the calendar and say, this is when it's going to happen. We want to listen to Matthew 24:36, where Jesus said, "I's not for you to know the times or days." Acts 1, "The father knows that. I'm not here to tell you. I don't know. It's the father's business when I come again, but you will be my witnesses. You're going to keep on doing what I've asked you to do until it comes. He's coming, I'm coming, but we're not putting it on the calendar." I don't need to write you about this, you already know this, Paul is saying. And I might say the same to this church today.
Verse 2-3nd three, the day of the Lord will come. The day of the Lord will come. This day of the Lord; the Old Testament would talk about this day of the Lord is the day of wrath, the day of judgment, the day of reckoning, the day when all will be made right, and all the wrong will be dealt with. When I walk with victims of deep tragedy in our city and in our community right here in this church family, there is no interest of mine ever to see someone face eternity without Jesus. I just don't want that. In fact, that passage, I look all the time; I'm not really excited about the return of Christ coming like today, as much as I also know there's a lot of people that will miss heaven if He came today, and that grieves me.
I still have loved ones that refuse to trust in Jesus. I want them to know Jesus before Jesus comes again. I am looking forward to Him coming, I embrace the moment He decides to come; I'm not in charge of time, so when He comes, it'll be the right time. And I'm not arguing with God about that. That's not what I mean. I'm just saying that I'm excited to be there, but I'm also excited for there be a waiting period for a few more people to get in and to find the forgiveness and love and to live for Christ in ways that would bless them and bless others and be honorable to God. That's my prayer. But I also am going to say this; there are some wrongs that will be righted that on this side of eternity have never been righted by a jury of 12 or a judge that ought to have been righted. Justice will prevail.
And my eye is not on the judges and juries of our land, although I'm grateful for them. My eye is on the one who will make all things right. And that day of the Lord, for those that don't know Jesus, it ought to be a day of terror and of sadness. But for those who are believers in Him, our whole trust is in what God has been doing, is doing and will do for eternity. The day of the Lord will come. In the New Testament, it is announced in Acts 17, that Jesus is the Lord of the Lord of the day of the Lord. He's the one in charge of that, and He is the one who will judge. He even said in his own teachings as is recorded in scripture, that there'll be a separation of the sheep and the goats; those who trusted in Christ and those who did not trust in Him. There'll be a day of pulling the weeds from the wheat, the wheat and the tears. This is a common conversation that the New Testament fleshes out in the fact that Jesus will be overseeing this moment. And what is this day like? It's like a thief in the night.
Tucker! Ann and Tucker up front here, newly-weds. Not quite, but yeah, it's good. Isn't it awesome to be newly-wed? Isn't it awesome? By the way, I'm coming to your house. I'm free Thursday and I'm going to steal from your house. You have things - I saw your registry. I've been married 29 years, some of our stuff is worn out and I'd like to trade. So I'm not even bringing my stuff to you because you'd have to have a garage sale. I'm just going to take your stuff. Is that okay? I mean, I'm just letting you know I'm coming and I'm going to steal from you. So, I don't know what you're going to do about it, but I'm coming.
Does a thief do that? No. A thief comes when you think not because now Tucker is saying, "I'm going to prepare for this. I'm double locking the door. I'm buying a Doberman." He might buy a gun. I don't know what he's going to do, but I now know that I probably wouldn't... he'd be the last person I would go to. In fact, everybody in the room knows I'm free on Thursday. You're all shoring up your houses now because Tucker knows I'm coming, but Bob doesn't know I'm coming - whatever. Anyway, so a thief doesn't do that. Nor will Jesus say, "Oh, by the way, on Thursday I'll be here." He comes like a thief in the night. In a moment that you think not, it will be a surprise to those that don't know Jesus. It will be unexpected.
"There are people that are saying peace and security. It's okay, don't worry. For centuries He hasn't come back." These same naysayers had cousins and uncles that were saying, Jesus is not the Messiah that was proclaimed in the Old Testament. They had cousins that sat there on the day He was crucified and say, "If he's the savior of the world, why don't you get yourself off that cross?" And they were mocking him. And three days later He rose from the dead. One of the most identifiably provable historical facts in the world history happened. It split time in half AD, BC. It so rules our lives. Even people who don't trust in God are ruled by the rhythm of the fact that Jesus came, died and rose again; even if they don't believe it. And that fact, as fact and true as it was, as true as he ascended into heaven and the angel said he is coming again - He's coming again. He's going to come. And there will be people that will be saying, there's no way.
You can do whatever you want. You can ignore God in his rules. You can do anything. Do what you feel like doing instead of what God says to do, because it's okay, you're safe. You just need to join the right crowd of people so that you won't feel guilty about it. And they will be destroyed, it says. Sudden destruction will come upon them. As certain as birth when a woman goes into labor, he says like a woman in labor pains. We scheduled three of our kids. I mean, God did, but the doctor said we're going to make it kind of happen with drugs and medicine. It was wonderful. I could clear my calendar and I took my vacation days, and I just was relaxing to me.
Now you know how to pray for your pastor's wife that she gets a better husband. But our last one... was our last one? Came like - Jannie decided to come when she wanted to come and I got a phone call, like many of you did. How many got the phone call? I'm in labor. How many of you are like; "Whoa!"? And then suddenly everything changed. You can't stop it. Well, could we like wait till Thursday because I got some appointments today? No. Like, can I go unpack real quick? No. Once that begins, you can't stop it. Paul is saying just like a woman going into labor, you're not going to stop this; there's no second chances. There's no going back and saying, "Oh, B, B, B, wait, wait, wait. I was going to go and follow you Jesus." No, no, no, it's over.
Your opportunity to make a decision is before the day of the Lord, not the day of the Lord. But then Paul says, "But you're not in the dark believers, brothers and sisters." He's talking to the Christian. We're not going to be surprised when Christ returns. We'll be pleasantly... I think I'll be pleasantly surprised. I've been with two or three, maybe four people that were facing imminent death from this world and transition into eternity. And some over the last years or two of their life would just wonder how they could ever have received the grace of God and the forgiveness of their sins; my friend John, was that way. He was so in love with Jesus. I'd show up and he'd just honoring God with his life and praying for people. And he would use that prayer room when he was alive in our great room. There's a side room, it's a prayer room, and he was just praying to God.
And he tried to live his life for God and we'd joke around and stuff, and I'd be like, "Oh yeah, I'm supposed to be more spiritual. Thank you, John, for reminding me of that." And yet even he would say, "I can't believe I get to go to heaven to be with Jesus. I'm a sinner. I've sinned. I don't deserve this. Why did you die for me, Jesus?" And he just would weep over that. He said, "How in the world Jesus, would me?" And I'm like, you? If you're struggling to figure it out, what about all of us that aren't as spiritual as you are? And even so, he knew he wasn't in the dark. He knew Jesus was coming again. And I know that when he met Jesus, he was pleasantly surprised to know what he believed in was true. "But you are not in the dark," Paul says. We live in the daylight. We are fully aware, but even as we are fully aware, he reminds us to stay awake and be self-controlled in verse six. "So then let us not sleep like the rest, but let us stay awake and be self-controlled."
There are times when we could oftentimes slow our lives down or do our lives according to the rhythm of the world instead of God's kingdom. Augustine in the first century wrote to the church, this book called City of God. And that city of God talks about the fact that we have a kingdom citizenship. We live in a kingdom of God as a Christian, but we also have a citizenship on earth. And our citizenship on earth ought to be affected by our citizenship in heaven and not the other way around. That how we live our lives, ought to be set to the temple of God and His word, and the power of the Holy Spirit within us; not the temple of the world. It has been said that if you went to New York City right now, and we're deposited there as a tourist, you would start walking faster because it is the fastest walking city in the world.
We went on mission trips there, and a few people can testify that their feet were about worn out when we got done. Amen. Few of you? Yeah, where's that bus and subway? I'm ready to stop walking. Fast-paced - you literally change your gate, your walking pace just by walking into that city. You don't change the city. That city changes you. And that's the way it ought to be for Christian; that our citizenship in heaven ought to change the pace of our life. And how do we do that? Well, Paul gives us some ideas. Don't sleep. Don't ignore the fact that Jesus is coming. Let's keep that in mind and not consume us to the point of like, I'm not... again, we don't know when hasn't come back yet. A few generations have passed obviously, and so still keep your life insurance, still get on that retirement plan. That 401k is going to be more helpful if He doesn't come back than if you thought he came back, let's not worry about it and He doesn't.
I mean, keep your job. Don't give all your furniture away, just live life, do what you're supposed to be doing and be excited when he comes the moment he comes, but let's be self-controlled. He says this twice, be self-controlled, really to remain sober, to remain in control of the way we act and live our lives; to be in control of our minds, our bodies, our attitudes, our actions. And how do we do this? He says, put on the armor, the armor of faith and love. This is in reference; He also talks about this in Ephesians. He fleshes this out a little more carefully in Ephesians talking about the armor, put on the full armor of God. And there are some things about the armor of God that we see that we can extrapolate.
Well, there's the breast plate and there's the different places of our body. And we know that it's a frontal armor. It's not behind us, so we're always moving forward in our life. We're not retreating backwards. We can talk about all that. But Paul doesn't seem to give us a lot of clues about it, and I think it probably not do justice to read too far into the analogies of the particular things he's saying here, but enough to say that we need to put on the armor. That is, our faith must affect every area of our life.
You need to take your faith to work with you. You need to take your faith to school with you. You need to take your faith to your neighborhood. You need to have a confidence in Jesus Christ, wherever you go. You need to have a confidence that you're trusting in him to direct your life, instead of letting the world direct your life. Instead of letting your attitude and actions or your flesh direct your life. Our Christ-like love; we must have the armor of love, unconditional favor of love, defining how we relate to other people and how we take care of ourselves. We need to look in the mirror and say, "I am loved by the Lord. Jesus Christ. I am a new creation in Christ. God loves me. And I should love me too." And I don't mean that in a self-service way, but some people, they don't love themselves. They hate themselves. They see themselves in a mirror the way God does is see them.
And you need to remember, that armor of love says that God loves you. And you must also love who God made in you and God is working a work in you. And then you must express that love in your relationships with other people. It must prevail among your family members. It must prevail in your neighborhood. It must prevail wherever you go; not just on Sunday morning, not just during connection groups, but all the time that you live your life. And put on the helmet of hope. Now, I'm going to go just a moment there. He does mention one particular piece of armor; he uses the word helmet. So I'm going to violate what I just said just a little bit, but this might be me, not the scripture, but let me say it. The helmet of hope; the helmet covers the head, right? And hope is something.... I mean, can you get through something if you have hope that there's a better ending at the end?
There was a study done. I was a psychology major in Ball State, and I was reading about this. All these students would come in, it's probably students that did this, and they had a bucket of ice water. And the goal was that they would put somebody in a chair and they put their bare feet in ice water and say I'd like for you to keep it in the water as long as possible. And they'd time them. Well, the first group they would bring in and they would just let them sit there, and they'd time them - time. And then the next group would come in, and every few moments they'd say, "You're doing okay there?" "Yeah, I'm doing okay there," and they'd time them. And then the next group would come in and put their feet in the water and there'd be people around them. "All right, you got this, come on, let's go a little bit more. Just keep a little bit more." And they would root them on. And there was different varying degrees of encouragement who lasted the longest? The people with hope. The people said, "Oh, we got someone around me encouraging me, get me going here. I'm going to get through this."
They suddenly had a goal in mind. They suddenly knew where they were... "Oh, I'm going to keep doing this." And especially if you said, "You know that last group didn't last very long. I bet you could last longer." Ooh, now I have a goal - and a little competition in there. It's human nature to give up sometimes. Not everybody has an internal hope clock. But if you've got Jesus, you've got hope. Your eyes on eternity; you know that whatever you do lasts forever that lasts forever, and whatever you're doing that doesn't - doesn't, and so you accordingly live your life and you have a hope and our hope must supersede our feelings because there are times when we doubt. There are times when we get down and our feelings betray us. We must trust facts, not feelings. But I feel like this. I feel like that. What does the Bible say? "Well, I don't know what the Bible says. I feel this way." Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Feelings are valid when they validate what the scriptures say and feelings are not valid when they don't. We trust what God says above how we feel.
You will be on a rollercoaster the rest of your life if your goal is to feel God, and to feel right. You will feel right often, maybe. I don't know. You may not. But are you living right according to the facts of scripture? Let your feelings catch up to the facts. Don't feel yourself towards facts because often our feelings will take us to things that are not factual. We trust the facts of faith in Christ who died for us. It's a statement of faith. It is a doctrinal statement. It is a statement that Paul mentions throughout. He doesn't flush it out in this particular passage, but it says He died for us, He died in our place. It is a statement of truth that we put our trust in that we don't have to pay for our sins. They're paid for. We don't have to wonder if we get into heaven. We are in heaven. We have a relationship with God. Our faith is in Jesus Christ, who is our anchor. On the other side of that veil, in Hebrews it talks about, he went through there to the holy of holies and he interceded on us. And he paid that all ultimate price once for all. And we put our faith in hope in that; not only we think are hope or not in what we feel about that.
And then he says, "We may live together with Him." In other words, our fellowship with Jesus will be with Him. And it said earlier in chapter four, that personal time with Him and those who've gone before us, as they're raised up and we are raised up and we join him together, we will never be separated from Jesus Christ. That's our hope. And so therefore Paul says, encourage one another and build one another up. Christ followers must help one another until Jesus comes again.
That that's why I always say - even yesterday I did a graveside service for somebody else; this was on Friday. And we're praying for Tien and her family and Mike for their mother's home-going Memorial tomorrow. And but I said, I said, you know where you find comfort in all this? You find comfort in a faith family. And I told them, non-partial [unclear30:44], one in town. I like one particularly, mine. And I hope you all come, but go somewhere. Be a part of something. You need a faith fellowship. You need people to encourage each other. And so well, we do this in our own home by ourselves. You need other family members. You need other people. Some of the best marriage counseling does not happen in my study. It happens in a small group when other couples get together and say, oh, you do the same. You have the same stuff we go, you have the same problems we have. Parenting gets better when you have other parents around you.
Being a single adult, you got the same struggles I've got; I got the same struggles here. We need one another. We need to encourage each other and build each other up. You can do this. Let's go! Friday night lights has started. And most of the teams, if not all the teams have practiced so hard and they're ready to go. And some of them they're still getting ironing out the details, but they have their plays down pat in their heads and they've got them on their arms and they're running the plays. And last Friday night was a day of reckoning for those teams to say who was more prepared than the others. But before the game, they probably had a pep talk in the locker room and they got around each other. And the coach said, "You're going to do this and we're going to do that." And he reminded him what he told him all season long, so far. And then you'd see some of the teams, if they were really united and he'd see them, the guys would be doing this thing, right.
And they started woohoo, and then all a sudden the stands are going, "Hey, where's my popcorn or whatever?" We're just there to watch a good game, right? And then they're all just Woohoo, and they go, whoa, and they're ready to go, and they break the huddle and they're ready to play the game while they do it together as a team, and they get stronger together. And I know our particular team at the last third quarter, they all come together. This last one, this is the last quarter, and let's all make this happen. It's rally cry, because they're in this together. They're not just a bunch of individuals. We're a team and we need one another. We need to show up for practice, working out each other's, and helping each other, growing our faith.
We need to be with each other on Sundays. We need to be with each other in rhythm during the week and in groups and do what we can. We need to be helping one another. We need me texting one another and helping each other, asking each other how they're doing. I need you to get in my face sometimes and tell me to get over it.
Even I, I'm still growing in my faith. I was going through something really tough. And last week somebody walked into my office and they said, "How you doing?" I says, "I'm having a cruddy week," and I let him have it. No, I told them what was going on. And he just walked with me and he encouraged me. And there were some things I was thinking, he says, "It's going to be fine. This will work out. Oh, that's not going to happen." You know the “what if” game that you lose every time you think it? And he was just there encouraging me. I needed that. So I need that, you need that; we all need that to be encouraged together.
So my final thought this morning is wake up, wake up. There are two kinds of people in this room right now. There's was a timeline on this stage and this meant I put my faith in Jesus Christ. It was my spiritual birthday. I trusted in Jesus as my savior and Lord, I said, Jesus, forgive me for my sins. I believe you died and rose again, come into my life and be in charge of my life. I now want to walk with you. If this is that, then there's people on this side that have not yet done that. They have not yet put their faith in Jesus. They may be close to it. They may be thinking about it. They may want to do it, but they haven't. They may be so far away from God. And that's not the case, but sometimes that's the case where someone says, "I hate Jesus. I want nothing to do with him. I can't stand him. I don't believe in him." There's other people; "Well, I'm courteous. You know, He might be real. And I know people that believe he is, so I'm respectful of that.
And then you got people that are, I want to know more and people that are just within moments of trusting in Jesus, but they're still on this side and the day of the Lord will not be a good day for them. It's a day of wrath. It's a day of reckoning. It's a day of paying for the consequences of not trusting in Jesus. But then there's those that have put their faith in Jesus, and they're on this side of the line. They may be a baby Christian, they may be brand new, they may have just put their faith in Jesus, they may have put their faith in Jesus a while back, and they never really grew a whole lot. And they're still just sort of sucking their thumb spiritually.
But they're on this side of heaven. They're on this side of trusting in Jesus. They've put their faith in Jesus and they, and you and I, and I would put myself in that category - can be confident that he who began good work in you will be faithful to complete it to the day of Christ Jesus. And I know whom I believe, and I'm convinced that he is able to guard what I've entrusted to him for that day. I'm trusting, not in me, but in Him, the one who saved me. And that day of the Lord will be, yes, a surprise, but it will not be a bad surprise. It will be a pleasant surprise. When all is said and done, I will be with Jesus forever.
And those of us that have trusted him are here. So my word to us as believers in Jesus; let's stay awake, let's stay alert. Let's stay sober. Let's stay right. Let's keep moving towards. Let's encourage one another. Let's live in the day and not in the night. And for those that are still living in the darkness, they're still not trusting in Jesus; my prayer this morning is that today would be the day of your salvation. Today you would put your trust in Him. Let's just stand to our feet right now, quietly and reverently as our team comes forward.
I just like to say a prayer out loud this morning. I don't do this all the time, but this morning I'd like to do this. Maybe this would be your prayer that you want to put your faith in Jesus. How do I do that, Pastor? Let me just lead you right now in a private prayer. You just pray to God as I pray with you this morning, just say to God right now, just in your heart of hearts. "Jesus, I know that I have sinned against you." Just tell him that in your heart of hearts, I believe you died on the cross and came back to life three days later. Just tell him that trust in him. Say I trust in what you did for me. Jesus, as best I know how I give you my life to do with as you please. I ask that you forgive me for all of my sins, everything I'm ever done; will you make me clean? Help me, Jesus.
And then just say, "Jesus, whatever you want me to do next, I'm willing to do. I'm trusting in you all the way." I don't know how you pray in your own prayer time with God, and maybe that's the word you've used in the past. But however, just get right with God. Get serious with God. The Bible says that those who confess Jesus openly and publicly are the ones that he will confess before the father. And the ones that refuse to confess Jesus publicly; He has no ability to confess you before the father. Why would you ever declare someone what they have never declared themselves to be? And so this morning, I want to invite you to take a connection card and put on it, "I've put my faith in Jesus. I've trusted in Jesus." Maybe come down and maybe we can talk about that this morning. I could chat with you up here in the front before you leave today.
Go to the back, Jerry, and Becky will be back there just to pray with you and encourage you. If you have questions you say, "Man, I think I want to do this, but I need to know where information." Please, no question is a silly question. The day of the Lord is coming, are you prepared? And if you're prepared, are you staying awake? Lord help us to honor you in whatever way you've called us to move forward in our faith today, in Jesus name.
Jesus Is Coming Again!
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
August 14, 2022
We believe in the real and personal return of Jesus Christ
-read belief statement
Why does this matter?
-they thought their loved ones had missed out on Christ’s return!
-we must all consider our appointment with death
-some people avoid talking about death (fear, distracted)
-death to some is popular, a way to escape
(possibly in pain, lacking proper information)
-The Bible says Jesus is coming again
-We must trust the whole Bible, or none of the Bible!
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
We do not grieve like the rest, who have no hope
-Christ followers have real hope!
-We follow someone who solved our greatest problem: death!
-1 John 5:11-13 …you may KNOW that you have eternal life
-Yes Christians grieve over death, but with HOPE!
Jesus died and rose again, and so will we!
-John 11:25-26 “I am the resurrection and the life…”
What believers experience when they die:
Jesus is coming back!
-This can happen at any time!
-Paul and the Thessalonians anticipated Christ’s return
-Acts 1:7 Jesus tells us not to worry about when
Paul tells us how (vs 16-17)
-The Lord will personally come down
-This will be noisy!
-A shout- a cry, command, announcement
-Archangel’s voice- Mark 8:38
-Trumpet of God- no one will miss this event!!
-The dead will rise first to join Jesus
-No description of how, nature of bodies,
-We who are alive will (also) be “caught up”
-Same word in Acts 8:39; 2 Cor 12:2-4
-Happens along with resurrected dead
-We meet Jesus in the clouds- Mark 13:26; Acts 1:11
-This is where we get the belief in the Rapture
-1 Thes 4:15-17 does not offer a clear timeline
-differing beliefs on the timing of the rapture come from
Multiple verses in the Bible
-Our church believes in the second coming of Christ and the
Rapture of His church, we agree to disagree on exactly
when this occurs in relation to the final judgment of the world
-see our Belief Statement about Last Things
We will always be with the Lord
-Our reunion with Jesus physically is forever!
Jesus is coming again!
Therefore encourage one another with these words
-Every believer should be encouraged by this promise!
-Every unbeliever CAN be encouraged: trust Jesus now!
-1 John 5:11-13
St Joe Community Church
Belief Statement about Last Things
God, in His own time and in His own way, will bring the world to its appropriate end. According to His promise, Jesus Christ will return personally and visibly in glory to the earth; the dead will be raised; and Christ will judge all men in righteousness. The unrighteous will be consigned to Hell, the place of everlasting punishment. The righteous in their resurrected and glorified bodies will receive their reward and will dwell forever in Heaven with the Lord.
Isaiah 2:4; 11:9; Matthew 16:27; 18:8-9; 19:28; 24:27,30,36,44; 25:31-46; 26:64; Mark 8:38; 9:43-48; Luke 12:40,48; 16:19-26; 17:22-37; 21:27-28; John 14:1-3; Acts 1:11; 17:31; Romans 14:10; 1 Corinthians 4:5; 15:24-28,35-58; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Philippians 3:20-21; Colossians 1:5; 3:4; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18; 5:1ff.; 2 Thessalonians 1:7ff.; 2; 1 Timothy 6:14; 2 Timothy 4:1,8; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 9:27-28; James 5:8; 2 Peter 3:7ff.; 1 John 2:28; 3:2; Jude 14; Revelation 1:18; 3:11; 20:1-22:13.
1 Thessalonian 4, Jesus is coming again. Amen. He's coming again. As much as He came, as true as He came to this earth, as true as He died and rose again, as true as He ascended into heaven and people saw Him do that. A multitude of people saw this happen. He's coming again. The Bible is as true about His coming the first time as it is about His coming again that we've not yet known. The Old Testament was full of prophecy that said He was coming. He's coming, He's coming, He's coming. The God of the Old Testament, the same God of the New Testament; there's no difference, no change. The message isn't different. He operated in different ways and seasons, but God was the same when He started in Genesis, all the way when He said, Hey, there's something going to happen. And you can read there for yourself that He predicted. And then all the way through the prophets and all the way through the journey of the Israelite nation, as it foreshadowed the coming of Jesus Christ, that He would die and rise again.
And He did, He came, He died, He rose again, and He was sending into heaven. And just as He said that He is coming again, a second coming, we believe that as a church family. In fact, let me read for us the statement of faith that we all signed that says, this is what we believe about the end times. Last things is sometimes how it's said in doctrinal statements. And there are many scripture verses, and you can find this online. And if you go online to my Bible sermon notes, you'll find it at the end of my sermon notes this morning as well. God in His own time and in His own way will bring the world to its appropriate end.
There's going to be a final moment. I don't know when that is, but it's going to happen. According to His promise, Jesus Christ will return personally and visibly in glory to the earth. The dead will be raised and Christ will judge all men in righteousness. The unrighteous will be consigned to hell, the place of everlasting punishment. And the righteous in their resurrected and glorified bodies will receive their reward and will dwell forever in heaven with the Lord. Multiple verses attest to that doctrinal statement. And yet - let's just make sure that we know that's a human statement about Bible truths. It is a finite statement. It's something that will pass away, but God's word will never pass away. But it's a way for us to encapsulate multiple verses in scripture for us to come together and say, we're united on this. We're not united on anything other than this, in other words; we're united on this.
And we together believe and agree together on this, where we disagree or we add to, or we say, well, I think there's another series of things that we may have different convictions and there are in this room, but we agree to disagree agreeably -we have the liberty to do that. But in all our beliefs, whether it is this true belief, this doctrinal statement that we all as members believe, or the things that we agree to disagree on, exactly how it's going to happen and eschatology stories of different systems of thought about how that's going to happen. We all operate out of love for one another because we can believe the exact right things and not have any love and it doesn't really matter.
And so this morning, I want to open up for us a passes of scripture that it's not mysterious, but it's a mystery. It's not something that is sort of this fantastical thing that I can't even understand it. We can't because it is otherworldly and the way it's described. And yet, wasn't the resurrection and other worldly thing. Isn't the coming of Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, the God man, isn't that another worldly thing? And so too is this topic this morning.
Now, I'm just going to be honest. I had a lot of things on my plate this past week, a lot of things that were going on a lot of moving parts; things that were already scheduled well in advance, a bunch of things thrown in on top of that, and then a bunch of things thrown in on top of that. How many can relate? That's the kind of week you might've had. I'm just flat tired, and on Friday I'm going... I'm staring at this passage, I looked at it, I kind of studied a little bit about it, and I've read this and I was reading all the theologians and I'm trying to go back and get my commentaries. And I'm trying to put together, God, what do you want me to say? And there's this block party coming up. And I thought, you know what? I'm just going to pull out something that's real easy to preach on. I mean, I'm going to... Thank you, Darrell. There's nothing easy to preach on, but there's easier topics. Yeah. Topics I really love to talk about and that's why you let the Bible tell you what to teach, not just your feelings. And I was just going to say, well, I'll just push this off. Not skip it, but I'll do it another Sunday. And I know that Bill's wife Lynette, would've said, "That's going to mess up my journaling. Don't do that." See, she's got her journal down here. I knew. Testify!
And so, I'm staying on schedule and said, you know what? So I buckled down and I'm so grateful I did. And then this morning somebody came up said, man, I'm so glad you did that. And I feel so inadequate sometimes when I'm coming all the time, so many times - God, you've got to just speak through me. And He spoke this morning and it was confirmation that in spite of all of the midnight oil and the things that I was doing to get ready for this, God is in charge of this. And He was in charge of the time schedule. And if you're here today, you are here on the timing schedule of God, not mine. I was gone a couple of Sundays this summer, as somebody who thought you were going to get a new pastor. I don't know. So I was gone so often, somebody's going to put a for sale sign in my front yard. I mean, so I have pushed this off. This is the Sunday when this sermon comes, and it's, God's timing, not mine. And here we are, about the perfect timing of Jesus' return, whenever that is. And isn't this something that people are talking about.
For some, the Christians are like, "Oh, I'm just waiting for Jesus to return. I'm done with this world." How many kind of sometimes are that way? How many of you are tired of dealing with the sin in your life? And you're like, "I'm done. I'm ready for Jesus to come back." That's more me than about the times and the epics of what's going on. Some people are really into a timeline and they say, this is how it is. I always use that wall as if somebody someday, maybe they did have a timeline there maybe. I don't know, I'll go over here. And they have this whole timing of how the events are going to happen in the current geopolitical scheme of things and there's wars going on. And it's horrible. We need to keep praying for Ukraine. We need to keep praying for Taiwan, and we need to keep praying for these hotspots in the world. We need to keep praying for the church in the Middle East, where Christians are being martyred on a regular basis for their faith in Jesus. We need to pray for the church in China that is thriving under great persecution. And we need to pray for the church in America that is not thriving under great freedom to share our faith. Did you hear me? Sometimes freedom isn't always free spiritually. It's a cost.
This topic matters. We need to believe and trust in and look forward to the return of Christ because first of all, the Bible says, so it's going to happen. Now in this particular passage, it seems as though Paul was answering a question that was being asked of the church. They're like, "Hey, we've had some loved ones died. Did they miss Jesus? Because He said He is coming back." They assumed He was coming back. And because they so assumed it was so real to them that He was coming back, that the fact that He was coming back and their loved ones had died before He came back, it was a mystery to them. Are they going to miss it? Is that's it, they're dead and gone and what's going to happen to them? And Paul's trying to answer that for them.
This is in their temper in their first century moment in life, this letter was written to answer a question, but it's also an answer to a question to bring us hope in our circumstances because we must all consider our appointment with death. I jokingly said yesterday, Fair Haven Funeral Home sponsored us. We're going to have them come by, try out the hearse, go inside, sit down in it, lay in it, see if you like it. I mean, just like the show and tell at the police station; how many would've done that? Anybody here morbid enough to do that? Jean would've done it. All right, and we would've taken tons of pictures and said she is nuts. But we do have a picture of one of our elders laying in a hearse. I'm just going to tell you, I haven't shown it to his wife yet. No, we put it online, she said, look at this. And some guy had a used hearse that he... anyway, that's a whole nother story. And he looked pretty comfortable in there.
But we don't want to think about death. We pop into Walmart, we pop into the gas station. We pop into this or that. We pop to see a friend. How many of you pop into the funeral home? We don't. I just pop in. Now, I do. I'm morbid. I have friends over there. They work the funeral home. I was like, "Hey Mark, how's it going? Hey Britain!" I'm good friends with the four guys that own Fair Haven, and so I'll stop in just to say hi, Hey, let's go to lunch. I mean, you know, that sounds very, very sacrilegious, doesn't it? But you know what, it's part of life. But most of you are saying, "No, I don't normally do that." I make a plan to be at the funeral home because I have to think about what, death. And as someone who has lived more years than he is going to, I agree with you. I don't always want to think about that, but we got to. The Bible says in Ecclesiastic 7:2, "It's better to go to the house of mourning than it is to go the house of feasting."
Because if we're just having a party all the time, we're going to get to the end of our life, and did we live it the way God intended for us to? Did we fulfill the plans that He had for us? Did we do what He called us to do while He had us on His earth? Because once we're gone, we can't. We got to live it to the fullest, and not just eat, sleep and for tomorrow we may die; eat, sleep, go to party - party with a purpose. The block party, do the fun things in life with purpose. I'm not saying not have fun. I'm a fun guy. You all are a bunch of bullies. Tell you, that's just not right. I think I am, but I like to have fun. But man, if you just live your life, having fun all the time and you forget, what's really important, you're going to miss a lot of stuff. In a flash, my daughter's a senior, the last one. In a flash I take my daughter to go start her junior year this week at Purdue. In a flash, two kids are married. In a flash, it's gone in a moment. What are you doing with the moment you got? We got to think about the end times because how we end matters as much - it has to do with how we live right now.
And quite frankly, the Bible says He's coming again, so if we believe the Bible to save us from our sins, if we believe the Bible that Jesus died to pay for our sins on the cross, if we believe that He died and rose again, a fabulous story, an incredible story, a miraculous story. If we believe that we got to also believe what the Bible says about His return. He's coming again. He's coming again. And if a church doesn't believe that, if you don't believe that you're saying, I believe part of the Bible, not all the Bible. I'm saying, if you don't believe some of the Bible, you can't believe any of the Bible; it all stands or falls on itself. If something's not true, then God's a liar. Why would we trust God if He lied here and He didn't lie over there? That's a shifty guy to me, I wouldn't trust Him.
I trust Him to be true, and even if we don't understand it, even if we stare at it and go, what is that all about? We have to believe it as a fact, as much as we believe anything else that the Bible says. So let's read 1 Thessalonians 4:13, "We do not want you to be uninformed brothers and sisters concerning those who are asleep so that you will not grieve like the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, in the same way through Jesus, God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep. For we say this to you by a word from the Lord. We who are still alive at the Lord's coming, will certainly not proceed those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from the heaven with a shout, with the archangel's voice and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first, then we who are still alive who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore, encourage one another with these words."
What is Paul saying here in this brief passage that is concise, it's not all inclusive, it doesn't give every detail, but it gives a lot of detail. First of all, we do not grieve like the rest who have no hope. Every time that I'm giving a funeral for a person who knows Jesus, who's gone home, they have gone home to be with the Lord. And while there's grieving, there's always going to be grieving when someone dies. Maybe not as much for some than others in terms of, I feel comfortable with where they're going. An elderly person that passes away, maybe they've been struggling, whether they be younger or old, they've been struggling with a debilitating illness. Or my grandma, I didn't weep uncontrollably at her death. I had an uncontrollable sorrowful moment when I realized she had so much dementia she didn't remember me. That's when I said goodbye to my grandmother. And so, I was not happy when she went home to the Lord, but I was grateful that she was no longer in the prison of a body that was no longer functioning the way she functioned when I knew her as my grandma.
We're going to grieve. We're going to be sad. That's normal. But we don't grieve like people who say that person I'll never see again. We're going to see him again. I say, see you later. How many have lost a loved one in heaven? You lost them in heaven, really? They're lost. I just absolutely tricked you just now. No one is lost if they're in Jesus. They're found in Jesus and they're forever with Jesus. And somebody asked me, you didn't get into the idea of where they're at before this all happens in this passage. No, I'm not going to. Well, we can talk later about that, but it says to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. Whatever that means, I don't know. We're not on pause, somehow we're with God, but in some other sense, we are. And there's conversation about that, but the quickest answer is, we're with Jesus when we go to heaven or when we die, but this is something that will definitely happen at a moment that we think not. Jesus died and rose again and so will we.
What does it say in verse 14, "For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again," and that if could also be a sense we believe, or in other words, of course you believe that Jesus died and rose again. Well, in the same way through Jesus, God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep. We will rise again too. When we baptize people in our church, they are baptized, buried in the lightness of Christ, raised to walk a newness of life. We baptized by immersion by simple fact that the word baptism means immersion, but it's a word picture of a death, burial of resurrection. It's a symbolic gesture that I am buried with Christ raised to walk with Christ. Someday I will be buried if I die before He comes again and I'll be raised up just as Christ was raised from the grave. We symbolize that in baptism. We talk about that as a body of Christ. We are resurrected spiritually into a new kind of a person. We're transformed into the kind of person that God intended for us to be when we become a Christian. But there'll be someday when our body will catch up with what's happened already, spiritually inside.
You know when believers die they experience a freedom, a relief from the temptations, a relief from this earthly body. They receive fellowship with Jesus and all the other believers. And there was a man that died that he spoke to our church two different times. I went to see him just before he died at the age of 33 years old, I believe it was. And he's on he's deathbed, and I just had a few moments with him, me and somebody else. And he said, "You know, a lot of people want to go home to be with Jesus; a lot of times everybody said, 'oh, I want to go be with grandma and grandpa. I want to go be with mom and dad that died already. I want to be with my child that died.'" And certainly, I can't even imagine in those experiences what you might feel like, but you know what he said? He says, I'm telling you what; I want to meet personally the one who died for my sins. I want to personally say hi and thank you and follow at His feet and worship the one who bled and died for me. That's who I'm looking forward to seeing in heaven. I'm looking forward to seeing grandma, but I want to see Jesus. He is the king of Kings and He's the Lord of Lords, and He is the most important person in heaven that I ever want to see. And I'll see the others too, but it's because I see Him that I get to see them. Yes, because we all trusted in Him. He's our hope.
He's the resurrection in the life. That's what He said in John 11, "I am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in me will never die." Do you believe this Martha? He's about ready to raise Lazarus, and Jesus, almost like he's asking you, do you believe this? He raised Lazarus. You know, that was such a miracle, that Lazarus came back from death. In that same time period, not only are they trying to kill Jesus, but because Lazarus was a testimony to the power of the resurrection in Jesus Christ, they put a death warrant out for him as well. Let's see if we can kill Lazarus too. There's no indication that I can find in history that they followed through with that. But they were like, he is evidence that Jesus is somebody that is taking our power away from us, and we got to erase the evidence of his power.
This Jesus is the one who has life and death in His hands. Verse 15 kind of describes how He's coming back. Jesus is coming back. He's coming again. Acts 1:9-11 tells us that He had ascended into heaven, all this crowd saw Him; they're gazing up into heaven. Okay, he's gone now, what do we do? He had told them what to do, but they're just standing there. And it's like you got your orientation for your job, and then you're just looking at your boss and your boss's like, "Now go, go do what I said to do." This is kind of the church looking at this fabulous thing of Jesus going up into heaven. And while He was going, they were gazing into heaven and suddenly two men and white clothes stood by them. And they said, 'Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up into heaven?’" The same Jesus who has been taken from you into heaven will come in the same way that you have seen Him going into heaven. He's coming back. They knew that from the very beginning.
And in fact, Acts 1:7, they were saying, 'When you're coming back? When's this going to happen?" And Jesus even said, "It is not for you to know the times or periods that the father has set by His own authority." I'm not here to tell you how it's going to happen. And by the way, if Jesus didn't come to tell you how it's going to happen, this pastor not going to tell you how it's going to happen either. I can give you some ideas. I can point you some scriptures, but it's going to happen. That's what I can point to for sure that He's coming back and we must be ready.
Are you going to be ready if He came in a moment? Would you go to heaven or hell? In your trust right now where you're at - I'm not here to put anybody in stark fear, but you need a spiritual reality check is, have you put your faith in the one who can give you eternal life? Have you trusted in the one who, if He came in a moment, He would take you home to be with himself forever? Or are you still waffling, wavering or rejecting? So Paul tells us a little bit how verse 16 and following, and let me just break it down. He's going to come personally. He's coming down. It's him. It's not some mystical mist, you know. And people can have apparitions and ideas and mystical things that they've seen. There's a farmer in Iowa that probably had crop circles that he didn't see the teenagers go in and do that.
I don't know if it's true or not. I don't know. I don't have to believe in crop circles to believe in Jesus and have a life and hope. That might or may not have happened. UFOs - anybody seen something weird? Don't raise your hand. That you're like, I can't explain it. I've seen a few things; I can't explain it, but my faith is not based on that mysticism that I don't know. My faith is based on truth that I do know. And my hope is based on that. Not on something that somebody's told me that they might have thought of that they saw. And again, I'm not here to clarify it or disagree with that person. I'm just saying, I trust in what I know is true, and that is that He's coming again personally.
Oh, and it says here it's going to be pretty noisy; a shout, a cry, a command, an announcement, the archangel's voice. This is also referred to in Mark 8:38, the trumpet of God. Great instrument. We played trumpet in Ball State together; my wife and I did too. That's a great instrument, right. And God's going to blow His clarinet. I'm sorry for any clarinet people. No, He didn't say that. He said trumpet. I'm sorry. His bass guitar, maybe. No, trumpet. Anyway, now I'm stepping on everybody's toes this morning. But it's going to be loud. This is going to be noticeable. Now for the flat air society, they're like, "Yeah, He is going to come one spot where I going to see it." I don't know how He is going to do it globally. I don't know. I don't know how it's going to happen, but it's going to happen. And we're going to know that it happens. We're not going to miss it. Pull a prank on your friend, go to their door tomorrow morning at 6:00 AM and bang on it, "Hey, the rapture happened and we missed it." Don't do it.
Well, I know where I'm going, I don't know about you. We're just fine anyway. That actually happened to somebody and it was weird, so don't do that. But it says here, here's the timing, "The dead in Christ will rise first," be first to join Jesus, "and then we who are alive will be caught up with them together." Now, that, what the Bible says there's a sequence, the dead and Christ rise than us who are alive. But it also, the way it's worded to say, it's a simultaneous - in other words, Paul is addressing a problem that they had in their minds. Did they miss it? No, they're actually going to get ahead of the line. But it's not about who gets there first. We're all getting there together. We're all together going to be caught up.
Again, a fantastic, wonderful moment in this world event of history that's going to happen. And it says, we hear a lot "caught up" same word in Acts 8:39, 2 Corinthians 12:2-4. In fact, Paul even used this word, "I was caught up into the heavenly," the third heaven, maybe your version says, and he had a vision from God. Maybe this was one of those visions. We don't know. He didn't quite explain what he learned or even how that meant, if it was an out of body experience, if God actually physically took him up there or not. I don't know. We know Elijah had a chariot come down, pick him up and take him home. That was kind of crazy. Enoch walked with God. He was no more. Walked with God, and he just walked right up into heaven with God. Wow. Wouldn't that be cool?
But you know, those are unique moments in history. This happened. What did Paul mean by that? We don't know what he meant by his experience, but he's using the same word that we are going to have this personal reunion with our savior Jesus. And this is where we get the belief in what's called the rapture. Does your church believe in the rapture? You'll notice that in our doctrinal statement, the word rapture does not appear. You know why, because the word rapture doesn't appear in the Bible. However, the concept of it does. That word meaning - a Latin word, meaning carrying off or a snatching away.
So yes, we believe in that, but we don't use that word because that's not a word - but we can use that word because it's interchangeable; if you want to put it in the terms of what we're talking about here in 1 Thessalonians 4. There's no clear timeline, by the way. Paul does not give a clear timeline. He doesn't say these are the world events that are going to happen when it happens. He just says it's going to happen. And he says we will be caught up with them. We wonder maybe even if Paul even thought that in his lifetime it might happen. There's some conversation about that. Or maybe he might, we, like whoever's alive at the time that it happens, it will happen, will be caught up with the dead in Christ.
Again, Paul isn't overly clear, but it seemed to make sense and it worked well for the people who were receiving the letter. And I think that if we don't make it too complicated, it's going to make sense to us as well as we trust the Holy Spirit and His timing in our life. See, our church does believe in the second coming of Christ. We believe that. He's coming again. That's what we urgently appeal to people; be reconciled to God, connect people with God, connect people with the body of Christ. There is no plan B or C or D. The plan A is the local church. And if you're in a local church, participating in and helping pursue the mission of God, to declare His glory to the whole world, by declaring the good news of Jesus Christ and making disciples and helping them to grow in their faith, that they might go and do the same with their friends and family that we might, all of us, have multi-generations of believers in our lives. Just as we might have children who are physically born to us, it is natural for us to have spiritually born people around us that we've led to Christ and we've grown in Christ. And it is unnatural for any of us to be spiritual orphans or to be spiritually childless.
In other words, who are you telling people about Jesus? And if you aren't, why aren't you because that's what God's all about. Connecting people with God, connecting people with himself, connecting people with the body of Christ. And that's why we say we are pursuing the lost and unchurch. We're unashamed to say we want to tell the whole world about Jesus Christ and we warmly welcome people who want to come in and transfer in and help us to do that who are already follows of Christ. Join us in the mission of what we're trying to do here, that we might see God be honored and glorified, and that we'll see multiple generations of spiritual babies growing up to become mature Christians, to see other people come to Jesus, spiritual babies, mature Christians. And that cycle continues until Jesus comes again, as we await the second coming of Christ and the rapture of His church.
And then it says at the end there, we will always be with the Lord. At that moment, there'll be no separation. Oh, they were clinging to Jesus when He was eating with them and talking with them and teaching them the last things and really investing in them for those several days that He was on earth as a resurrected body person, showing them His wounds, helping them to have clear evidence, evidence that was so clear that most of the people that trusted in Jesus were martyred for their faith. Some were tortured for their faith. There's tradition that most of the disciples died a horrific death because they clung to the fact that Jesus rose again and they were unwilling to renounce it to their peril.
And only one guy we know of that we know for sure was probably John who died of old age, but God used him in his old age to give us the revelation at the end of the Bible and gave us such great wisdom and ministry to the local church as he lived out his old age life, but most others were martyred for their faith. This was such a fact that was true to them. And they were looking forward to the return of Christ. They were looking forward to all that Jesus said was to take place through the church, through them and for the end of time. But even as they anticipated and they saw this separation from them and Jesus in bodily form, they weren't going to be with them, that all ends when it all ends. That all ends when it all ends. We're with Him forever. There's no more separation.
There's no more, well I'm going to go away for a while then I'll come back and be with you. No, that's over. It's done. And we're with Jesus forever, our savior. So Jesus is coming again. He's coming again. Do you believe that? Therefore, encourage one another with these words, don't be discouraged. In fact, I want to read a passage here to just keep us on track with this because some of you, you've got a timeline in your brain of how this is going to happen. "Now, pastor, I heard you say this, but do you believe this too?" Well, I might, but here's what I know. There's a lot that we agree to disagree on. And there's some basic things that I already told you we agree on with unity. And if you don't believe that, then you wouldn't want to be a member here because that's what we believe.
But let me just share a quote from somebody about this idea of the rapture of the church. It's an glorious event that we should all be longing for. We will finally be free from sin. We'll be in God's presence forever. There's far too much debate over the meaning and scope of the rapture. This is not God's intent. Rather, the rapture should be a comforting doctrine full of hope. God wants us to encourage each other with these words. And if you are looking at this as a discouragement, there's only one reason you should be discouraged by it. You're not going to be a part of it. There's only reason you should be discouraged by it, that you do not have hope in Jesus Christ. You have hope in a religious system; you have hope in some kind of a way of living that doesn't include surrendering your life to Jesus Christ. You don't have any hope and you should be floundering and you should be very unhappy about what I talked about today. But if you have put your faith in Jesus Christ - Paul said in Romans, "Whoever puts their hope in Him, will never be put to shame." His grip doesn't slip.
I've walked my toddler children across icy parking lots. And I can remember times when I said, let me hold your hand. I don't want them to hold my hand. It was too weak to hang onto when their feet slipped. And I've told my children this, and I hope you've told your children, this there's things you can't do for kids when they go places and do things and they've got to deal with real life grown up situations. But I've told my kids this and it's a word picture of God's love; there is nothing you'll tell me that ever stopped me from loving you. There is nothing you will ever do that will stop me from pursuing you. There was nothing you will ever do that will stop me from ever wanting to have a fellowship and a love for you. I will always be your father. I gave you my last name because I believe that that's who you were. You are mine. I am yours. And as your father, that will never... You can take away my name from you if you want to legally, but I will never take my name away from you.
Now, some of you, you never had that kind of a father. And it breaks my heart if that's ever the case. But it's a word picture of the father's love for us. He gives us a new name. He gives us a new life. He gives us a new way of living. He gives us a new heart. And I plead with you just as Paul did, I plead with you on Christ's behalf. Be reconciled to God, put your faith in Jesus this morning.
Let's stand together. Our worship team's going to bring one more song to us and help us to come and worship Him in music. But this isn't a time to show off how good we can sing in this room. It's a time for us to get serious with God. Be encouraged by these words this morning. If you're a believer in Jesus Christ, be encouraged that He's got you in the Palm of His hand, and that he's got a purpose and a plan for you, and you're saying, 'Oh, I better be ready for that moment." Well then, maybe it's time for you to surrender and get going with what God's called you to do and stop waiting for something else and go do it.
Maybe for you this morning, it's time for you to stop playing around with this thing about Jesus Christ. Put your faith in Him, or I'll be honest; there's some of you, "I don't have enough information pieces. I'm really confused. I've been given all kinds of other information and I don't know what to believe." Your best step is just to simply say that. Maybe your best step today, yes, put your faith in Christ. But yes, put your faith in Christ like saying I want to put my faith in Christ. Ask the questions. We're going back to school some of you, I don't have to. I'm back in school too. We're all going back to school, and what they say - the dumbest question is the question that you don't ask. There is no silly question. Use the connection card. Connect with us, email us, text us, ask us the questions. But I believe this, is that true? Well, I don't know about this, is that right? But I don't know about this, is this...? Help us help you take that step of faith that God's asking you to take today.
Pastor Greg: As I've shared before, our church that supports life and is a pro-life church. And we pray for what God is doing in our State to help protect life. But you know what, at the front lines is how we serve people who are in crisis, dealing with life and death issues with their own lives and situations. And a Hope Center is our key partner in supporting people who are in time of need when they're finding unplanned, or we might call crisis pregnancies. And a Hope Center is having Strides of Hope. Strides of Hope is a walkathon every year, and for the past handful of years, it's been in Columbia city. And it's in your bulletin, a little flyer, to know how to participate in that. Jerry and Becky Jones, faithfully attend and participate in that and ask for sponsors. And it's one of their fundraisers, and it's just a great way to come out and join other people who support life and support good things and want to be part of helping people make good choices and also just financially supporting a great ministry here in town. And they can do for many people what the local church or any one particular church could never do by themselves. It is good to work together for the Lord, Jesus Christ.
The bulletin has all kinds of stuff in it as well. In just a little bit, Bray, during the message time actually, before we have the Lord Supper is going to share with us his report, his testimony from his experiences in Brazil as a six week volunteer missionary. And so, I was in the first service and I already put some notes down on mine on the back of the bulletin as a blank area for you to write down thoughts, maybe one thought, maybe a scripture, maybe something that the Lord might be sharing with your heart. It's I always say the weakest ink is stronger than the strongest memory. It reminds us of what God is saying to us.
And some of you are digital, you just need to open up a note on your phone and get rid of all your different alerts and everything, because that'll just distract you and take you right out of here. But if you can take your phone on airplane mode and somehow get in there and put notes that way, however you record thoughts of what God is saying to you, I pray that you'll do that, and that you'll use that as a reference this week, as you continue to walk through and pray through what God does this morning in our time of worship. Our connection card obviously is their best way to communicate with one another. And if you have a change of address, a prayer request, as you take your next right step and move forward in your faith, what is God saying to you, put that in the offering box or at the end of, or during the Lord Supper. Come to a person to, for prayer, for encouragement, for strengthening, for resourcing.
John 15 is where we're going to read this morning. John 15, and if you wouldn't mind, please turn there. If you have your Bibles, I'm reading from the Christian Standard Bible version, John chapter 15. And if you would, let's stand together as I read this aloud. "I am the true vine and my father is the gardener. Every branch in me that does not produce fruit He removes and He prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit. You are already clean because of the word I've spoken to you; remain in me and I in you. Just as the branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, neither can you, unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him produce as much fruit because you can do nothing without me. If anyone does not remain in me, he is thrown aside like a branch and he withers. They gather them, throw them into the fire and they're burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in, you ask whatever you want and it will be done for you. My father is glorified by this that you produce much fruit and prove to be my disciples."
Heavenly father right now, as we worship you in song, as we worship you in prayer and hearing the word spoken aloud and hearing the testimony that Bray is about to bring to us, may you be pleased. May the aroma of our worship be enjoyable to you this morning. And as we come fully committed to the Lord's Supper and proclaim your death until you come again, may this indeed also be worthy of worship as we come to you. Change us, make us into more like you. Help us this week to display what it means to be a fully committed follower of Christ because of our time together. May your Holy Spirit come upon us in a fresh way this morning, fill us, change us, and we pray this in Jesus name. Amen.
Bray Snyder: Amen. Good morning. Grab a seat. It's good to see you all. No clapping, no clapping. It is good to see you all for real. So I was gone for those of you who don't know for six weeks. Who am I? Because I see some new faces here, which is amazing. My name is Bray, so I on a normal Sunday would probably be leading worship for us. Clearly, I'm not needed to do that because of how well things went this summertime, right? I was able to check in a little bit; that's what I normally do on Sunday mornings. I work at Purdue, Fort Wayne. I make videos. I do some broadcasting. I love St. Joe and I love being around you guys.
So in January, this past year, I'll give you the quick little story of why I just went to Brazil. Starting out, I went to a conference in January called Cross Con. I'm not a big conference guy. I've shared this with most of you before. I won't rehash all that, but I went into this conference just open, went in to see what it was going to be, hung out with 20 cool college students or college age students. And the Lord opened up some doors through a few conversations that I had with an organization called Reaching and Teaching. So the conference itself was awesome. It was all about missions and sending. But in particular, this organization called Reaching and Teaching that I met through the will of God, just a funny conversation that I had one off; this organization loves and cares about planting churches internationally.
So we know that in the United States, we come from just a culture and a context that has a lot of blessings. One of them is the access to information and education that we have. And I don't know that we think about that very often. Any of you who have traveled overseas, maybe have seen that, but this church organization is just super passionate about planting churches in different countries and helping edify and build up those healthy churches. That's the whole organization. That's all they do. Planting healthy churches, making the mature disciples, equipping the church so that they can continue fulfilling the great commission, so it's an amazing organization.
So I came back from this conference and it was on my heart, but I was just kind of not sure what it looked like this opportunity to work with this organization. So I talked to Greg, I talked to John Moody, talked to my parents, talked to a few of you guys and said, "Hey, this is like a pretty quick turnaround. It'd be this summertime. It'd be going to another country in June," which at that point was like three months away. So you can imagine raising support and preparing to go to another country in that quick turnaround - for six weeks, kind of crazy. And then it's kind of not too.
The Lord worked, the Lord moved. You guys, as my church, blessed me and supported me and sent me. And so, today I just want to share and give a report for you about what the summer was like. And we'll have a great time of it, hope to share some really fun things with you, hope to speak toward each of your lives a little bit in some way this morning. But first let's pray together. Let's come before the Lord and then we'll get started.
Lord, I thank you so much for our time this morning. I thank you that we get to be together in a building with air conditioning in the summertime. But more than that, I pray that each of us who are gathered in this room, our paths are overlapping for a reason this morning and we get to be a part of your church body grow together and be built up together. I pray that you use this time to do just that. And then as we approach you for the Lord's Supper afterward, I pray that you be moving in our lives and making yourselves evident to those of us who know you, Lord, I thank you. It's in your name that I pray, amen.
So Brazil - kind of crazy, right? Have any of you been to Brazil before? Nope. I hadn't neither. Guess what they speak Portuguese in Brazil. We talked about that. I spoke no Portuguese before I went down to Brazil. I didn't know too much about the church in Brazil before I went down to Brazil. I didn't know too much at all before I went down there and I still don't know a lot, but this summertime was amazing for me. First things first, I'm going to jump into real quick, a little bit more about reaching and teaching and some of the preparation and training that we did before we went to Brazil. And then I'll share with you a little bit about our team in Brazil, and then I'll just sort of walk you through what I did for six weeks there, so you can get a little glimpse into what it looked like.
So first of all, getting to know what life means to be a missionary overseas; I don't know what your preconceptions are about that. I know there are even some people in this room who are considering that and considering what it would be like to help build up the church overseas. What does that mean to each of us here? For me that was kind of a foreign concept, something that we're all familiar with, we talk a lot about, but what does it actually mean? What does it look like to be somebody who is sent out from your country and to go to another country and to share the gospel?
One thing that we did is, we first went to Atlanta before we even went to Brazil. Myself, my teammate, Zach, who I'll share with you about in just a second, and 20 other people our age, who are being partnered with this organization, going to different churches around the entire globe: France, Turkey, Thailand, Vietnam, some closed countries. We just had a team get back from Argentina last night. So I got back about two weeks ago; this team just got back last night. So a whole bunch of different people going to different places, but we all got together in Atlanta for three days and spent time studying the word and being encouraged by some awesome pastors and some awesome organization leaders in RTIM. And one of the big things that we talked about before we even went is the language of calling.
Now, I use that word and that's probably going to bring up different thoughts for each of you, but we talk about calling. What does it mean to be called? What does it mean to be called to the pastorate or to be called to ministry as a missionary? And sometimes those words just get kind of fuzzy, right? We don't know exactly what they mean, and it's hard to describe. It can mean different things to each of us. But one thing that we talked about is the bride of Christ and really putting our focus on the bride of Christ and what it means to love the church.
So the church is the bride of Christ, right? First service, I did a pop quiz. What is the bride of Christ? And they all answered. So I'll just give you that answer now, but we know that that Christ talks about the bride and we know in Ephesians, in the love chapter, when we're talking about husbands and wives, that Paul says, "Husbands, lay down your lives as Christ lay down his life for the church. Love your wives, lay down your lives for your wives as Christ love the church and lay down his life for the church." That applies to all of us. That doesn't apply just to people sent out overseas, that doesn't apply just to people here in this room; that applies to all of us, we're to love the church. And so missions work is an aspect of loving the church, but it's all about loving the church, right? So that's one thing that we talked about before we even went to Brazil for the summertime.
Our church in Brazil was awesome. I'm going to share a little bit with you about that, but before even jumping down there, we talked and we spent time talking about what it means to love the church and love the bride. We just read about the vine and the branches in John 15. What does it mean to be connected to the vine and how are we connected to the vine and how do we grow? Well, one of the best ways to do that is to be in the word and be spending time with the Lord. And that points us to being in community in church.
I know some of you visiting from out of town; this isn't your church, every single week. Each of us though, we have to have a church. We have to be connected to the bride of Christ and we've got to be loving the bride of Christ. And this summertime, not that I haven't seen that here at St. Joe, but this summertime, I saw that so well and so clearly in a different context too, in a language that I learned in six weeks, maybe like that much. I don't know. I got to the point where I was able to speak a little bit with some kids, which is a good sign. Whenever you can have a little bit of a conversation with a kid, so a kid will come running up to you like three years old and be like, "Da, da, da." And you're like, "I don't think I know any words that she just said." You're like, "Eh, [speaking foreign]," you know, you can say things like that. If you can have a little bit of a conversation with a kid, you know you're getting somewhere.
I got there a little bit, but we had so many people in the church who spoke English too, that made it really easy not only for us to see church context in Brazil going through translation; that helped a lot. Being able to see it, but being able to see it and have it communicated to us in English was amazing. For each of you in this room, every single one of you sit in seats right now, what's the Lord's will for your life? For me, this summertime, that's kind of what I was thinking of before I went to Brazil, right? That's what I was considering is the Lord's will for me to move in this way. What's the Lord's will for each of our lives every single day?
This is something that I want us to be thinking about today and every day. But for me, this summertime, it was taking a step of faith. And you as a church sent me and it was amazing and it was a blessing and there's so many good things that came out of this summertime. But I don't want to make it greater than, or more than what it means to be a church here in Fort Wayne, Indiana, or to be in Indianapolis or to be in France or to be in Thailand, wherever you're at the church and loving the bride. This is our calling - going and making disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the father and the son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey and observe the commandments that I've given to you. Love the church guys. I saw that this summertime. And I'm back, and I want to continue doing that. And I want to encourage each of you in each of the ways that you know how to do that. And we'll talk a little bit about that. I'll get going here now, but I want to set the theme for what I share with you. This is something that I did in Brazil, but everything, even the stuff that was focused on the church context in Brazil, I want us to apply to our church here in Fort Wayne. Sound good?
So summertime in Brazil - we head out from Atlanta. We spend a bunch of good time talking about what it means to be a missionary, loving God's word, loving God, loving His word, loving His people. We know that all of us are created in the image and likeness of God, right? We know that. But we also know that loving the church and wanting to draw others into the church has to be a huge motivation for us. Loving hospitality and more than just that; loving the fruit of the spirit, and all of that really just pointing us to love of the church. Setting the theme for what we did this summertime.
We get on a plane - I've got a teammate, Zach, that I've talked to a few times on FaceTime and I've got my missionary host, Brian, that I've talked to twice on Zoom, get in a plane and I'm ready to go. I don't know if you guys remember our sendoff service on Sunday for me. Bymans were out of town, we talked plenty of time before they headed out, but I remember being here on Sunday, like I'm leaving in two days. It doesn't feel that crazy. You know, it's like, this is going to be a really big summer, but it was just kind of like, "All right, Lord, this is what's next. Let's do it."
We get to the airport, it's the exact same feeling I have. We're walking into Brazil, there's Portuguese everywhere, hardly any English, and it's just like, all right, let's do this. And we get out of the airport, Zack and I, we got our bags with us, and I see this six foot tall, white dude, shaved head, beard. And I'm like, "That's Brian. All right!" It's the one guy that looks like that here in the airport in Brazil. And we go hop in his car, and immediately, right away, speaking in English was great - that was one of the first release, but immediately right away he's just, "So, how did you guys travel? What did you guys do this past week? Where are you coming from?" We've been communicating with him a little bit. And then immediately we're diving into the word with him on our two hour car ride from Sao Paulo, which is the city, that's like the big city, the economic hub of Brazil, really in the south. And we drive two hour car ride to our city of Campinas, Brazil, which is where I told you I was going.
Campinas is a city of about 1.5 million people, and has some surrounding cities two in particular are Sumare and Valinhos that are small cities of about 200,000. So that's about population of Fort Wayne, right? Somebody help me out with that. Is that about the size? Yeah. Little smaller, yeah. So it's big - their small cities, I mean, they're kind of big, it's surrounding this big city of Campinas. A lot of young people, and a lot of young people coming to this area to study the word. But more than that, there's a lot of universities where people are studying engineering, finances, programming and things like that. And so we get out of the car after this two hour car ride on a Sunday morning, and guess where we go? We go straight to church service.
We just had a 10 hour flight, get in the car for two hours, and we're immediately into church service with this church, this community, this awesome group of people for their Sunday morning prayer gatherings that they do together. Immediately we're right into being with the church and serving the church. And we're just getting to learn, we're getting to spend time with them as they're walking through Matthew, they were in Matthew 8 at the time. And then we go home, get our bags unpacked. Yeah, those were in the car with us whenever we're at church. Unpack our bags, chill for a little bit, and we went back to church service again that Sunday evening. What a great time and a great way to get us right into what we did for the whole summertime.
What this summer was about was about building up and equipping the church for me. What I got to learn and what I got to see was all about building up and equipping the church, something that all of us should be doing wherever we're at. Whatever you're doing, however your own life takes you, whatever job you have during the daytime or whatever seat you sit in here on a Sunday morning or whatever, small group you're in; all of us, all of us all the time, we want to be thinking about how to be drawn near to God through spending time in the word and spending time with His body of believers at our church here.
So we got to do that in Brazil - and let me tell you, Brazilian community is something kind of different. When I say church service, I think some of you might be thinking like today, come here for an hour, hour and a half, have some coffee, go get lunch afterward, head home. Brazil is a warm climate culture, which is what we refer to as cultures and climates that are warm. They spend a lot of time together. Community is really important. A church service in Brazil on a Sunday morning means you get there at eight and you leave at noon. That's four hours, do the quick math on that.
And so they don't show you how much they love you or how much they value you by when they show up to events though, they show you how much they love you and value you by just not leaving. Which for me, the first few times is kind of like my goodness, it's midnight and we're having dinner right now on a Sunday morning after four hours of church in the morning and four hours of church in the evening. And I loving being around you, but again, this is my first day in Brazil so I kind of want to go sleep. The whole summertime though, that is what life is like in Brazil - a little bit different here. Next time that Greg gives a sermon that's 50 minutes long or 55 minutes long and you're checking your watch, I want you to be convicted about that.
Spend more time here, spend more time, it was great to see, but what we got to see throughout the entire summertime is not just church services on Sundays, but the radical commitment that's shaped by their culture, but the radical commitment to community that the whole church had. And so in our time in Campinas and in Sumare and Valinhos, we spent a whole bunch of time, every single week with believers. Now, part of this, you just got to be thinking in your mind, is this just because we're the Americans coming in? And it's kind of like, "Oh, the Americans are here, everybody wants to hang out with Americans." I asked that question a few times. No, we were treated well. And I loved getting to meet all the people that we got to meet, being an American carries with it just some advantages that I don't think you really think about until you go and you're in a different culture. And sometimes those can be benefits, sometimes those can hurt, but in this case, people just love spending time with us, but it's the church. It's the church.
There was not a single night that we were in Brazil where we didn't get breakfast, lunch or dinner. Sometimes two, sometimes all three, with different people from the church and just spend two hours hanging out and talking. Every single day that we were there, Zach and I, my friend from Tennessee, 19 years old, he's a year older than my younger brother. We got close, just spending time, we being in the same room with each other going through all these different places with each other, but we both really saw, and we talked about this a lot; as Americans seeing the community and seeing how committed the church was to being in community with each other, it was fantastic. So, that kind of shapes everything that we saw.
We get down to Brazil and I'm thinking through all of these things, what does it mean to love the church? How am I going to love the church? How am I going to serve a church in a country with a language that I don't speak? Did any of you pray for me for that while I was gone? You did. Okay, I appreciate that. Thank you for your prayers. It was very impactful. There's a lot of English speaking in Brazil, which is very helpful. Brazil's pretty westernized in the two cities that we were in, were pretty Western, which was great, but there's a lot of poverty too. And so, this picture right here is in Rio. Has anybody been to Rio before? Has anybody watched the movie Rio before? Great. We're counting it. We're counting that.
This is from Cristo Redentor, which is Christ the Redeemer, the big Jesus statue. You guys familiar with that? Like my pose right here! This is overlooking gosh, maybe a quarter of the city. What you see, the way I describe it is, just imagine there's these kind of like rolling hills and mountains and you just sprinkle sand on top of it. And then where the sand falls, those are just houses and buildings everywhere. It's just everywhere is city. So this right here is the bay. To the right of us is the Pacific Ocean here. There's a whole bunch of areas over here and there's a whole bunch more to the left, but the city just sprawls everywhere. And so, this is an example of one of the cities we went to.
There's so much urban development. You get to be in a city for a little bit, but there's also so much poverty. The Favelas, I don't know if you know what the Favelas are, but they're basically self-governing neighborhoods that have their own community police, to put it nicely, which means that drug cartels control the neighborhoods and provide safety for the neighborhoods. And when I'm saying neighborhood, I'm not talking about like 500 people living together; I'm talking about like 200,000 at the biggest. A neighborhood with 200,000 people crammed in stacked in, in an area a few miles wide, right next to sprawling high rises, Copacabana beach, Tijuca beach; there's just a lot mixed in these cities.
And so in our time in Brazil, we saw and spoke to people who were very well educated, who knew the scriptures had been to seminary, spoke good English. And then we spoke to people who didn't speak English at all and were very new to the faith and didn't have much familiarity with how to study the word, just getting to know scripture. We saw a lot of different types of people and a few different types of churches, but the big church that we spent most of our time with was called IBJM. It means Minnesota Garden Baptist Church. And so, go ahead and go to the next slide for me Lynette. This right here is a picture of me not smiling; as we go through, I'll start smiling more and more, I promise.
So these guys right here in particular are amazing. So let's go right to left, reverse for you guys. Right beside me is Brian. That guy looks American, right? He and his wife, his wife was born in Brazil. She was born to American missionaries, but she was born in Brazil, speaks Portuguese fluently and like a native, they met in the States and they're back in Brazil right now. And they've been there for about five years, sent through this organization, reaching and teaching where they are building and edifying and helping a church grow. Flip to the other side. The guy in the polo, or I guess this side is Alex, Alex Dyer. And he is a Brazilian who went to university, went to a small seminary in Brazil and realized, "Oh, I want more than this." Transferred to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, learned English, is very good in English. He speaks Portuguese, but he's very good in English. And then came back down to the States and lead a revitalization effort at this church that they are currently at. When he got there about five years ago the church had maybe 15 members. There was a lot of mess caused by sin, that had just caused this church slowly over years to be very hurt and to be very unhealthy. And Alex came in along with Brian. Brian came about a year and a half later. But Alex came in and just lead a charge, focused on two big things; one, creating culture and two, focusing on explicit discipleship in the church. And so for the past five years, that's what they've been doing.
Sunday mornings, they get together for Sunday school, about two, three hours of hang out and talking after Sunday school. Sunday evenings they have worship services together where Alex will preach. Thursday nights they have prayer meeting with each other, go for about 30 minutes to an hour and a half somewhere in there where they'll do some preaching of the word and then praying for each other as a church, and then praying for all of the members of the church as well. And then throughout the entire week, they're just doing community with each other.
Now, proof of their discipleship is these two guys in the middle in the black shirts. The guy above is Kaiki. Kaiki is 27 and he's a worship leader. He's a sound guy, he's a tech guy. He loves soccer, Fucci ball, but he's not really known as any of those things. What he's known as is just a man of the Lord and a man who loves the church, sacrifices for the church and disciples others in the church. The guy right underneath him, his name is Douglas. Douglas has a heart for young people. He was a very good athlete, was playing some - from what I was able to understand some minor league soccer in Brazil. I don't know if you know this, Brazil takes soccer very seriously. So if you're playing minor league soccer in Brazil, you're doing something right. He ends up being radically committed to the church and he just loves serving and loves teaching young kids.
This group right here, and there are a few other key people in this church, but this group right here took in Zach and I. So Zach's the guy in the middle with a white shirt. Again, 19 years old, Tennessee, going into his sophomore year he wants to be a pastor. He has a heart for the nations as well. It was really cool getting to know him. So this church took us in, and every day we're with Brian living in his house with his family. He has two young kids, a nine year old and a four year old. I grew up with a younger brother and two younger sisters, so I remember the crazy days, but I got to see them again. Nine year old bouncing off the walls like crazy, four year old is a quiet kid until he's singing the Avengers theme song at the top of his lungs for 30 minutes or the Imperial March.
These kids are homeschooled, they're around each other all the time, but their family - ah, their family's amazing. Their family was such a blessing to us, and showed us what it means to live overseas in a culture and in a context that isn't yours, but not visit - to get to know the culture and dive in and commit to planting in the culture so that you can effectively serve and grow the church. Such a blessing this summertime.
Go ahead and go to the next slide for me Lynette. So this right here is the inside of IBJM, this is on a prayer night. So this is about 30 or 40 people on a Thursday night, able to take time out from work and come. Zach and I gave our testimonies on the first prayer meeting night that we were able to go to. And then Zach gave a devotional out of Galatians and we had some other pastors come in and do some teaching times in these prayer meetings. This was just a great time of being able to be together with each other. This happened every week that we were in Campinas for four cities. And we did some traveling that I'll get to in just a second, but this was our home base. This is a church that is not perfect. Be under no illusions that any church is perfect.
Greg, what do you say - when you find a perfect church run from it, because it's not perfect or something like that? Say it better for me. Do you guys anybody remember how he...? Yeah, there we go. Don't join the perfect church or you'll mess it up. It's very factual. I was just so encouraged and so impressed by this church culture, and seeing just the simple commitment to doing ministry in attractive ways and in unattractive ways, just boring ways. Just loving each other and spending time with each other, holding each other accountable and being in the word almost daily with each other. We talk about being in the word weekly and being in the word in your quiet times, a church that it's just routine to meet with each other throughout the week, each week, and spend time hanging out, talking about life and spending time in the word.
Go to the next slide for me Lynette. So this right here, see, I start smiling, goofy smiles. This is the leadership team and the families of the leadership teams here. So there's too many people for me to name all by names. Zach's on the left side. There we go, I'm getting it down. Kaiki, Brian, Douglas you see at the bottom with his wife, we have a visiting pastor from a rural area of Brazil named Edson and his wife, Gabby, who spent about two weeks with us or three weeks with us. And this is the families of men who are in the church, in the pastoral internship training program that this church does. Where again, education in Brazil just isn't as widely available. And so this church as a natural part of being a church, is committed every year to spending a year taking four or five or one or two men who are mature and have a passion for the church and maybe have eldership or pastoring a church in the future laid on their hearts. They spend a year just walking through what that means practically.
And this church, one of the awesome things about it, a church with its problems, but one of the awesome things about it is that it wasn't just the pastor's responsibility to disciple. It wasn't just the youth pastors responsibility to work with the youth. There were about 30 people my age, which is amazing. I mean, it's awesome. A church of maybe about 120, 150 or so members, more than that on a Sunday morning, but so many young people who are committed and desire to be under people who are older and wiser in the faith. So encouraging! And people who want to do that for them, people who want to spend time discipling them, people who are radically committed to what it means to serve the church. It's just so encouraging. So, we had a great time with them.
This was at [Ashoka, Ashoka32:07] is, and my pronunciation will be terrible having been gone for two weeks from Brazil. It was terrible when I was there; imagine two weeks removed from that. So if anybody who speaks Portuguese ever hears this they'll laugh, but that's okay, you won't know. Ashoka is a cookout. Anybody do any 4th of July cookouts? Anything like that? Anything around there? Yeah, I missed those myself a little bit until we had this. Okay, so imagine you've got an oven open fire and just really good steak and chicken and sausage, and you just throw it on top of the fire, roll it around for a little bit, take it out and you're just eating that for like an hour and a half, and community's just happening the whole time. They've got a really cool meat called picanha. If you watch Blue, again, everybody, you can add this to your reading or your movie watch list, go watch the animated movie Blue. They're at this little steakhouse and this guy comes in with a big knife and goes, "Ah, picanha." It's the steak that they have. Slide off steak is so good.
These people though, it's all about community and it's all about being together and growing together, and it's super encouraging. Be praying for them as a church - I should have shared this at the last service, but be praying for them as a church as they're working right now, planning out, launching small groups for the first time, intentional small groups for the first time. That's something that we've done for a while. I don't know how long we've done that as a church; for them, it's going to be something that's new. Their culture and their context is already super specific about doing that with each other, but just be praying for them as they go into that season.
So next up Lynette, this right here is the first place that we went on the road. This is a city called Lucas do Rio Verde, which just means Lucas Green River. And this is a group of about 40, 45 pastors in Brazil, without access to seminary who faithfully serve their church. Some churches are smaller, some churches are a little bit bigger, 100, 120, 150, the number isn't what matters - just to give you an idea of the size of church that some of these men are coming from. And RTIM, specifically, Brian, who's right above my head there I think; yeah, that's him. They get together and they put on these training conferences about three or four times a year, and they go through modules together. It's kind of like a class, but it's not formal. It's just getting together in a church sanctuary. It's very similar to this and just spending a weekend, three, four days together being in community.
We woke up, it's 90 degrees where we were at in this particular city, wake up coffee with each other, spend 30 minutes drinking coffee tea with each other, go into the sanctuary, be in the word for about four hours. Come back out, somebody in the church would prepare lunch for us. We would all eat lunch together., Go back in, do it again for another four or five hours, come back out, have dinner, go home, come back to it the next day. This was a teaching trip that was phenomenal for me. I feel vastly under qualified to speak and to preach and to share to men, especially men who are older than me like this, but the Lord used this time to build up and edify these pastors, and also just to speak into my life to show me what it looks like to be radically sold out and radically committed to building up the church, which was amazing.
And we had one funny conversation - go to the next slide for me Lynette. There's a guy named Marcos, Marcos at IBJM who has a son who does Brazilian jujitsu. I don't do Brazilian jujitsu. I didn't try it while I was there; probably would've died if I had tried it. But this guy right here, is named Gabrielle, and Marcos told me something that Gabrielle ended up telling me again later, just reminding me of how lucky we are and how humbled we should be to be born into the situation that we are in America and just to have the blessings of education around us because we go to this, this right here, this is a English class. These are about, I can't remember, about 50 or so young people. I mean maybe up until the age of like 25 or so, right around my age, who are just learning English. Not tied to a church context.
So we go in and this guy, Gabrielle goes to the church that we were at. This guy is 18 years old, speaks five languages, wants to be a diplomat someday, loves the Lord. I was kind of impressed being around him. His English was maybe better than my English. Like, he was really good. Seriously! We get invited to this time of sharing with unchurched people. Most of our church was focused on building up the church and growing the church. But we get to spend time for about three hours speaking to people, people who have some who have some church familiarity and some who came from very, very, very different worldviews. And we just used the in of English and teaching English and having fun. My exercise was with about 15 of them. I got to be a waiter and we got to walk through ordering food in English, which is hilarious - because you know we do that in Spanish class? And it's like, oh, I don't get the exercise. And then I'm doing it in English. I was like, oh, I see what's going on here, okay. We get to use the time to speak into some of these people's lives and get them connected with a few churches, some who had gotten disconnected from churches. It was just a great time.
Go to the next one for me Lynette. This right here is Pastor Mauricio and his wife Hosanne. When we left Lucas do Rio Verde, we came back to our home base for a few weeks. This is about the middle time of our time in the summer, the first week and a half or so was in Campinas, and then we went to Lucas do Rio Verde, which I just showed you for about four or five days. We met way more amazing men than I could list right now. I'd run out of time if we stayed here till two. We go to Rio after we get back. Rio's amazing. I just have the big skyline picture of Rio in there that I took on my iPhone. Rio's amazing. It's a cool city. There's a lot of hurt. There's a lot of wealth. It's a mixed city, but it's a very fun city to be in. But this couple right here and the church that they have faithfully pastored for the past 27 years was such an encouragement.
Pastor Mauricio is a very well read guy. He's a guy who's English might be better than my English. Seriously! People who learn and speak multiple languages, sometimes there's just something different that happens where they really understand everything that's going on. Do any of you know Andrew Peterson? I think that he wrote "How he loves" and that few other songs. So he also writes some kids books. I haven't read them. Pastor Mauricio is the guy responsible for translating them to Portuguese. I don't know how big the books are, but translating a well-published author's books into another language, like that's a cool gig, right?
These guys took us into their home and we spent time at their church. If you go to the next slide for me Lynette; this church seats about a hundred at max capacity and they don't necessarily have the same fire code that we do, you might be able to squeeze more in, but this church was packed and is tiny. I mean, to give you an idea, maybe wall to wall from the stage to maybe Joel and Abby and Jenay where you're sitting. I mean, it's a tiny room and this is a church that's been here for 27 years. This is right downtown in the middle of Rio. The church is here, and then you walk around the block and the pastor's family, Pastor Mauricio and his wife live right around the corner. They've been invested and planted in this community for 27 years, faithfully serving and faithfully growing over the long haul. Reminds me of another couple, another family that's been doing that here in Fort Wayne, the Byman, who again, if I think I got the math right, have been here for 19 years, doing this at least for 19 years, coming up on the 20th soon.
There's something to be said about the testament that comes from being radically committed over the long haul. It's easy to go do something for six weeks. I'll be honest with you. I enjoyed it. We got to talk sometimes about what you're good at, what other people tell you you're good at, what you enjoyed doing and what the church needs. If you've got those four things and those are intersecting; for each of you in your lives, I don't know what that might be. I can give you a few examples of somebody who likes and enjoys and can bless the church by running [unclear39:47] for you guys every single Sunday, which is the thing that puts these slides up on the screen. That'd be Lynette and Cathy and Beth, Claire. I mean, there's so many of you who help out with this - Isaac upstairs doing audio today, doing the live stream. Intersections of what you can do, what you enjoy doing, what you're good at doing, what blesses the church; a pastor that does that is special.
It's easy to do in the short term and to leave when things get hard. It's much more difficult to love the church for 20 years, 27 years - for decades. One thing that we talked to a pastor who was in his sixties, I believe; he gave us some practical tips for young men and for the young guys in the room, I want to give you this, but then also for everybody here. Just seven practical tips from a pastor and no particular order for loving the church and for loving the Lord, which is, one, to know the word. Know your word. You can't fake it. You can't fake it. You can't be in the word once a year and see the growth the Lord wants to see in your life. Know the word and love the word. Live a life of prayer. Learn under older and wiser men and women. For the young guys in the room, really talking to myself, speak less and listen more. Speak less, listen more. Love the church. And how do you love the church? You can promote a culture of peace in the church, but love the church and love the church's problems.
You know what's hard to do for 27 years? Loving the church. You know why? because loving the church comes with loving her problems. Again, what's the bride of Christ. I didn't hear, sorry. Just let me know, let me know that you're awake. The church, yes. Thank you. I don't think we're excited about the church this morning. No, I'm kidding. Loving the church. Husbands love your wives. Husbands love your wives. And I'm again, waiting into territory that I'm going to be careful about because I don't have a ring on my finger. I have no experience in this matter so that's my blanket for this whole thing. I didn't get in trouble for saying this last service, so I'm going to say it carefully again and bite my head off later if I do. Loving the church comes alongside loving her problems just as loving your bride comes alongside loving her problems.
It goes both ways, but if you love the church and you run from the church's problems; that's not loving the church. What I saw this summertime is in a different context; loving the church and men and women who are committed to spending their whole lives doing something that in the eyes of others might be boring. Staying in a place in a city, loving people and helping the church grow over the long haul. I don't know what was going on in your life this morning, most of you - I don't know what's on the horizon in your life this morning. For me, in January, Brazil was not on my horizon for July and June. It's a pretty quick turnaround, right? I know some people have some pretty big life changes coming up in these next few weeks. What is the Lord's will for your life and what is his purpose for your life? Loving the church if you're a believer, I can tell you that.
If you want a word from the Lord maybe pray that it comes to you in a dream like it did to Solomon. I'm not going to give you that this morning. I can't give you that this morning. What I can speak into your life is scripture and saying that whatever step you're at in your life right now, young or old, experienced or inexperienced, love the church and grow together with the church and the body of believers, because we all need each other. We all need each other. For those of you who live here, for those of you who don't, for those of you who are here every week, for those of you who aren't, for those of you who travel a lot, for those of you who never travel, for those of you who are in school right now, for those of you, who've been out of school for five decades; love the church wherever you're at. I want to encourage you with that this morning.
And practically, what does that mean for each of you? I don't know specifically necessarily. I know that we have some needs in the church right now. For example, we got a block party coming up. Did we mention that this morning? Yeah, basically seeing if you guys actually listen this morning. We got a block party coming up in two weeks. I know that we still have some needs and some ways that we could use some help for that block party. We've got always, we could be using extra help on Sunday mornings, helping with our tech team, helping with worship team; we need help with kids and nursery volunteers. We need help with refreshments and greeters. There's so many ways to serve and love the church, and it doesn't have to be going to Brazil, or going to Mexico, or going to Ecuador, or going to Germany.
There's so many different ways in our daily lives that we can love the Lord. And I think that it all comes back to really being in the word and being convinced that there's no higher calling for any of your lives than loving the church and loving the bride. If you're feeling a calling in a direction that takes you away from that, I would caution you carefully if that's coming from the Lord. Now people move, you know, we move, we bounce around; life takes you in different directions, but for us as believers, be tethered to the community. That's what I saw the summertime in such an encouraging way. And Lynette go to that next picture for me. This is just a picture of Brian preaching, a man who's so encouraging to meet; so many fun conversations, again, watching Rio with his kids who watch Pirates of the Caribbean, Pirates of the Caribbean one and two.
We went and watched Thor. I'll show you a picture about that in just a second. Yeah, mixed. Talk to me after about that if you want. Spending time with him and with Pastor Alex, having so many good deep, serious conversations and so many just simple encouragement conversations was so good this summertime, and seeing how to love the church very practically overseas in a different context. Lynette, go to that next one for me. So I'll just show you real quick. This is just an example of community, going around the table to myself, smiling, Pastor Alex and his wife, Patricia, [unclear45:34]. And then we have Christa, Brian, Zach, and then we have Edson and Gabby who are from Northern Brazil, who are with us for a short time. And go to the next one. This is myself, Mathios, a really smart guy. He works for Disney. If you've ever gone to Disneyland or Disney world, he's responsible for programming the app on your phone that you use. Yeah, it's pretty cool, isn't it?
We've got Caleb in the Thor hat right at the bottom. That's Brian's oldest kid. Like me in a lot of ways when I was a kid, such a fun kid and difficult because I know I was a difficult kid. Yeah, that's basically what I'm saying. No, their family's awesome. And then Zach and Alex Montero in the Captain America shirt. Just two guys, and I think this was Friday night. This was our last week here. We went to a movie theater mall, hung out with these guys, talked about what we liked and didn't like about Thor for like 20 minutes. And then over McDonald's and some sparkling water just talked about the Lord's doing in our lives and encouraging each other. Such a fun summertime.
I want to leave you with this the church prepared to move into Lord Supper. I am so grateful and I'm so thankful that you sent me this summertime because for those of you who did pray and who helped support me to go this summertime, it happened because of you, it happened because of you, and I'm so thankful. For all the prayer support and preparation for me going and while I was there and please continue as I'm adjusting - mostly adjusted. I mean, it was pretty easy for me to be honest with you. I loved it so much, but it was easy getting back. I want you all to know that it was a very big summer for me, and it was also a mundane summer. I'm telling you Brazil was mundane. You know why? Because it wasn't a vacation. It was living regular life with a whole bunch of people for six weeks in a different place.
And I don't know if I was good at it or not. I had a lot of good conversations and people encouraged me that I was encouraging to them, which is good to hear. But seeing and experiencing what it's like to be overseas, and for me at least in particular, knowing that I was able to go because of you church and because of the time in my life that the Lord has put me in, able to walk with open hands for a season and looking forward to whatever the next seasons of life are like for me and for you and your lives, I just want to say thank you. This has been fun and I'm glad to be back and we've got a big fall ahead. So, I'll be looking forward to what we have going on and we can talk after. I'll be out in foyer a little bit.
I made some videos while I was there. Nothing that's really good. Just kind of some fun. Here's what we did today videos, but I basically just gave you the long and the short of it. Yeah, so blessed by you guys. Thank you. I want to pray for our time real quick as we get ready to move into a time of being quiet and approaching the Lord for communion together. So let's pray together real fast and then Greg will come up and we'll walk into that.
Lord, thank you so much for your grace and for your goodness and for your providence. Thank you for how you speak into each of our lives. Every single person in this room, every single person; where can we run, or where can we hide that we're not known by you? I thank you the Lord for what you did and for me this summertime in Brazil and the opportunity that I was given and that I was able to move into because of this church that loves and supports you, Lord. And I thank you that they were trusting of me to do just a little bit of that work this summertime. And I, I pray specifically for IBJM and PB and Rio de Janeiro and some of the other churches that we saw that you would just continue to bless them through the work of the godly men and women who are serving your churches there, that you would build them up and strengthen them. And for us here in St Joe, Lord, in Fort Wayne, Indiana, I just pray that you be with us today and that you write our hearts for those of us who know you and believe in you and trust you with our lives and have received the Holy Spirit. And for any who haven't today, Lord, I pray that you'd be using us as witnesses to speak into their lives to share the good news and the hope of Christ that we have in you, Lord. I thank you. It's in your name that I pray for us this morning, amen. Thanks guys.
Church Health Check-up
1 Thessalonians 3:1-13
July 3, 2022
Jesus is building His church
Matthew 16:18 “I will build my church”
-Jesus is building his church
-Paul planted the church in Thessalonica under Christ’s
authority (Acts 26:12-18; Rom 1:1; Gal 1:1)
-the church is plan a; there is no plan b!
Acts 1:8 “…and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
-Jesus does not lie, we WILL be and ARE his witnesses
Jesus is the Head of the church (Ephesians 1:2-23)
-Paul reminds the church that we follow Jesus, not men
-1 Pet 5:4 Pastors answer to the Chief Shepherd
-Hebrews 13:17 Pastors will answer to God for their work
A church must continually examine her spiritual health
-Celebrate changed lives- what Christ has already done
-Examine the spiritual health of believers
-Examine how well church is following Christ and His Word
-Pray for the church’s future until Christ returns
Church Health Check-up: 1 Thessalonians 3:1-13
Check-up #1: How well do leaders care for the church?
-Paul cared deeply about their faith- a father’s heart
-He sent Timothy to check on them
-Paul wondered if they had survived persecution
-Real pastors and elders care deeply for the church
-they can control how they serve and what they teach
-they cannot control the final outcome! Just like parenting
-Every church leader must care deeply about the spiritual wellbeing of believers
-Every ministry (preaching, singing, property care, etc)
ultimately aims to build up believers!
-church leaders must never have personal agendas!
Check-up #2: What is the church’s current testimony?
-Timothy reported good news to Paul and his ministry team!
-They still appreciated their church planter
-They stood firm in their newfound faith despite persecution
-Their spiritual growth gave Paul joy and thankfulness
-Who is encouraged by our church’s testimony?
-how have we persevered through opposition and trials?
Check-up #3: A vision for more spiritual growth
-Paul prayed he would be allowed to be with them again
-Paul did return later!
-Believers must continually grow in their love for one another
-John 13:34-35; John 15:17
-Believers must become more blameless and holy
-We answer to God, not ourselves, feelings, the culture
-Believers look forward to Christ’s second coming!
-Every day is spent knowing it may be our last
-We continually confess and forsake sin, and re-surrender
constantly to our Lord and Savior who we will answer to for
What would our church health check-up reveal?
-Do our spiritual leaders really care about every believer?
-Are we growing despite cultural opposition?
-Do we overflow with love for one another?
-Are we becoming more blameless and holy as we await Christ’s return?
How must we grow our love for one another?
-keeping the main thing the main thing, forgiving one another
-serving one another, bearing one another’s burdens, ??
What must we change to become more blameless and holy for Jesus Christ?
-Trust in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord
-Submit to God’s Word to change our attitudes and behaviors
-Live within the accountability of the local church community
-Connection Card, Discovering Church Membership Class
-Seek out our Prayer Team Today- in person or online
Well, we are back in 1 Thessalonian 3 now and continuing on. For some of you, you may have come the last two Sundays and said, who's that guy up there? I'm the pastor of St. Joe Community Church. I have been absent for two Sundays and my son got married the 18th, and we were out that weekend. And then we went straight to church camp with our kids on Monday, and then Friday, we turned everything around, including our laundry. My family did, and we loaded up in Saturday morning, my wife and I, and our kids went to Myrtle Beach to be with my mom and dad and my sisters and their families. So we've been out for this last week, enjoying the sunshine, some rain, but bad weather at the beach is still the beach, so we've had a great, great time.
And I'm just thankful for St. Joe and your support for our family to be able to get away and to do things that we do, and just enjoy family. I say work hard, play hard. And if you don't have time off to refresh and rejuvenate, then you need to find time if you can. Sometimes it's just finding that one day or two a week and try to protect time to just rejuvenate and grow and just rest. Just take lots of naps. I believe in naps. I just think it's great. Just awesome. Anyway, Jesus slept in a boat. I mean, I'm thinking, it was a storm, but He didn't care, He was asleep. Anyway, it was good. And thanks Jacobs Well, they're going to be with us this Sunday, next Sunday, the band, to help us worship while Brae is still on his mission trip in Brazil. And for those of you that are connected with him, I pray you'll continue to pray for him and hear his reports, and as our worship leader, prayerfully considers his future and what God has for him. And just appreciate young people saying, I've got time, I've got energy, I've got ambition, what does God want me to do with my life? Yay, that's the best question you could ask. And when you don't have a lot of responsibilities or newlyweds, like you got, go for it, go do something for God, go do something big.
Some people, they save up a bunch of money and then they take a year off to hike the Appalachian Trail. Bonita has a cousin that did that, and he just raised enough money for himself and went on the Appalachian Trail and did it, the whole thing, found his wife along the way. I mean, he found a girl that he married along the way, sorry, let's say that the correct way. And she was doing the same thing. And so, we quit and we invest to do all kinds of crazy stuff. And I think it's really important for us to invest and think about what does God want me to do and spend time thinking about that, especially you who are younger. And but for us who are whatever age we are, we need to keep thinking about that as well. But I'm thankful for our church. And I believe that as we think about that tomorrow we celebrate the 4th of July, the birth of our nation or the celebration of our independence. Yeah, and we praise God for that. But you know what, the best thing we can do is to be the church that God wants for our nation. That's the best we can be.
We may have voted and everything went south and wrong in whatever we voted in the last 15, 20 years, it doesn't matter. God's in charge and He's building His church. He builds nations. He tears down nations, but He is always, and will it be about until Jesus comes again, building His church. The church is what has stood the test of time. Local churches come and go. Sometimes local churches last a long time. And sometimes churches last a short time, but God, Jesus Christ said, I will build my church, so today is a church health checkup. We're going to talk about in chapter three, how Paul is excited about wondering how they were, he hears the report of how they are, and then he praised for them in their future.
And we're going to use that as kind of a way of thinking about our church, because we, as a church, have much to offer the community of people around us. We have our faith, we have our convictions, we have our beliefs, we have our energy and time and talents. Just recently, and I am celebrating the 4th of July in a fresh way because we now have an opportunity to enact laws that protect the unborn. We as a pro-life church, and we praise God for that, and we celebrate that. We celebrate the fact that we have an opportunity to do something that I wasn't even sure would even be possible in my lifetime to turn the clock back on a culture of death, to maybe pursue a culture of life. However, even as we have made a legal maneuver that I think was strategic and thoughtful, and people were a part of that, and some people voted their conscience in order for that to happen, and I think God worked in all of that in all of those different ways, we have much to pray about as well.
So while we celebrate, we have a lot to pray about. Even one of our local churches was graffiti by pro-choice people. And I'm like, what? And I actually was kind of holding my breath to hear while we were out for two weeks, if somebody might graffiti us because we talk openly about supporting a Hope Center and we talk openly about supporting adoption and supporting pro-life things in our community, and so I wondered, would that happen to us? And I'm grateful it hasn't, I hope and pray it doesn't. I'm not living in fear, don't get me wrong. But there was a church that somebody online from the Gospel Coalition article that they actually had a mob of people come and absolutely smash out every window on the first floor of their building. It's like a block of buildings, and wrote all kinds of horrible [epitas05:52] and graffiti all over their building because they knew that they stood for life. And these people were standing for not life. And it was just a sad moment to realize that people not only do not like when you are pro-life, but some are becoming more hostile.
I'm praying for safety as people continue to pursue life. And I'm also praying that we will be able to in a loving way, help people find and follow Christ and know what the Bible says about that, because our culture's not going to change until the heart changes in the culture. And that means that we need to be about the business of sharing the love and the life of Jesus Christ with our friends, our family, our neighbors, people all around us with our community. We need to be missionaries in our own hometown to share the good news of Jesus. Laws aren't going to change lives. Laws are important, but they don't change hearts. Jesus changes hearts. And so, let's just keep praying for that. So celebrate, but pray.
I'm going to say something much more carefully prayed over and thought out and edited in a way that I would like to say it in this week's newsletter in the eNewsletter, and I hope you'll look at that and prayerfully consider some thoughts that I have when I say that.
1 Thessalonians 3, I just want, as we head into this chapter to remind ourselves that Jesus is building his church. We're not building it, it's not about our budgets and baptisms; it's about what Jesus is doing to change lives. We have a budget, we love to baptize. We're supposed to, the Bible says to. We receive resources so that we can spend those resources to invest in lives, to help people find and follow Christ and to grow in Christ and to go in Christ, but Jesus is the one building His church. It's not my church. How's your church doing, Greg? It's not my church. It's Christ church. How's your church doing, they might ask you. If your neighbor says, how's your church doing? What is your church? Because you're part of this church, but it's really Christ church. It's His church.
He said at Matthew 16:18, "I will build my church," emphatically, and He continues to do that. Acts 1:8, "You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth." The church is going to invade every culture everywhere, the whole world. That wasn't one of those, "Well, you might be my witness." No, you will be my witnesses. You are going to tell about my resurrection and the salvation of me through faith in me because there's no one gets to the father, except through me. Jesus was very emphatic about that. He says, "And you're going to be my witnesses of this fact. You're going to be witnesses that I'm alive, that I came back from death after dying for the sins of the world, and you're going to be telling the whole world about me.
Ephesians 1:23, that He is the head of the church. He is the head of the church. In fact, we know that in 1 Peter 5:4 that pastors, although we are called shepherds, pastors named shepherd in the Greek, that we're just the under shepherds underneath the chief shepherd. Jesus is in charge of this church, not me. Yeah, the elders and myself; at the end of the day, we are responsible for the spiritual wellbeing and where we go up or down, right or left, east or west. We have to finally account to God and to kind of discern. And we, as a congregation must discern together. We are congregationally led, so there's an accountability to the whole body of Christ, but we're underneath the authority and headship of Jesus Christ. He's the one that's building His church, and He's the one that's in charge of His church.
It says, by the way, in Hebrews 13:17, that we are going to answer. Pastors are going to answer for their work. It says, obey your leaders because they're the ones that are going to give an account. It's not like, obey your leaders because they're in charge. No! Just help them do better as leaders because someday they're going to answer to God for their actions. There's accountability to your pastors and elders that is above and beyond the accountability that you'll have to the Lord Jesus Christ for what happens in this church.
It is just like in our political cycles; if you're in charge of a city, a State or a nation, at the end of the day - "Well, yeah, but I can't help what inflation does." Some presidents, they benefit from the great decisions that were made by their predecessor, and then the ones get to not benefit from their predecessor, but who gets blamed? The guy at the top. Well, that's kind of generally true, but you know what? That is true in the church. At the end of the day, I'm the one that has to answer to God for how I served you all and how through my actions, God worked in a way or didn't work. It's up to Him to do the work, but at the end of the day, I have to answer to God for the work as I was responsible as your pastor. It's not what I think it is, it's what does the Bible say we ought to do. What does Jesus think we ought to do? I've made a lot of unpopular - I've made decisions I don't even like to make because it's not what I think, it's not my feelings, it's not my personal preferences; it's what does God think? What does he already said we ought to do? And we have to answer to him for that.
A church must continually examine her spiritual health. We need to celebrate our changed lives, what Christ has already done. We need to examine the spiritual health of believers on an ongoing basis, that's why we believe in small groups, connection groups. Why we believe that even being on a worship team; that's a small group in itself. And we make sure that people are spiritually growing. Examine how well our church is following Christ in His word. And we need to keep praying for our church's future until Christ returns. We're not in a holding pattern. We're not in a holding pattern.
How many here, your flower bed is in a holding pattern? What does it look like if it's in a holding pattern? It's not looking so good. You got to keep tending to it. But what does your car look like if it's in a holding pattern? It's full of junk. You got to clean it out, guys. Come on. What does your garage look like? We don't talk about garages. I don't want to talk about my garage. Anything you don't tend to gets worse. That's a scientific principle, isn't it? Things go from order to chaos, not miraculously from chaos to order. The only crazy thing that happens from chaos to order is when Jesus enters our life and takes our chaos and turns it into order. Amen. That's when life happens. And once He's in our lives, we have to keep tending the spirit, tending ourselves and doing the examination of, are we living up to what God has called us to live up to? Are we investing in His word? Are we growing?
As we look at these three different sections in 1 Thessalonian 3, I want us to think about our own church health checkup. Checkup number one is, how well are leaders caring for the church? 1 Thessalonian 3:1, "Therefore, when we could no longer stand it, we thought it was better to be left alone in Athens. And we sent Timothy our brother and God's coworker in the gospel of Christ to strengthen and encourage you concerning your faith so that no one will be shaken by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are appointed to this. In fact, when we were with you, we told you in advance that we were going to experience afflictions. And as you know, it happened. For this reason when I could no longer stand it, I also sent him (that was Timothy) to find out about your faith, fearing that the tempter had tempted you and that our labor might be for nothing."
This is a more personal moment in Paul's letter to Thessalonians where he is saying, "I really care about your faith. I really want to know how you're doing and I couldn't be with you," as we learned in previous messages, a persecution broke out. Paul had to kind of go in hiding after three weeks of serving and seeing people come to know Jesus as their Lord and savior, including some very prominent women, probably prominent business women in that community. But people got upset with this new movement and started to make false accusations against them.
And they even took them to the authorities and said, "These people have got bad religion, this is bad stuff for our city. It's not helping us at all and you need to get rid of them." And these guys are housing those bad people, and they're wanting to beat him up and they're wanting to imprison them. And literally, the guy that was hosting Paul, he actually paid off - he paid a fine to the authorities so they wouldn't come against them. And Paul disappeared from their midst and went on to the next town to share the gospel, knowing that his presence was not helpful in the building up of that church, it was more of a detriment than a benefit. And so, he had to abandon them right after he had planted the church. And he was really concerned, how are you doing? Are you okay?
"And I sent Timothy," he says, he sent young Timothy; his protégé in the faith was growing up to be a pastor. And he said, "I sent him to go see how you guys are getting along." And so he was caring about them. He wondered if they had even survived the persecution. He was wondering if our labor was in vain. There's pastors that have been called to plant churches, they planted them and then they move on to the next church and they go back and they find that there's a church there, and sometimes they find there's no church there. In Ecuador, it was so clear when we were... and by the way, some of you knew that my daughter and I were praying about going to Ecuador. And that actually disappeared that we're not going to go to Ecuador this week on a mission trip with another church in Evansville. We had talked about doing that and was trying to get Janae to the country. I've taken all my kids there and this opportunity presented itself, we thought, but there's political unrest, there's civil unrest, and so it's not safe for us to go to Ecuador right now so that's on hold.
But I remember being there and we would share the faith and we would start these little churches. We, the teams of people, and I was just part of a little tiny cog and a big wheel of cogs of activity, that we would go in there and we would go up to this mountaintop area and say, is this church even here still? Are they still meeting? Are they still gathering for worship? Are they still following Jesus Christ? And sometimes we'd see them flourishing and sometimes we'd see them struggling. It was kind of a back and forth thing. In one church, they kept abandoning so much that Dave Wilson, the missionary finally said, "Look, you guys are going to have to decide whether you're going to follow Christ or follow culture, your choice. I can't keep coming up here if you're going to just only do things when I'm here and do nothing when I leave." And he said, "There are people that are hungering for us to be in their cities. And if you don't hunger for us to be here to grow the church, I'm going to have to find..." It was a heartbreaking tearful moment when he realized these people really don't want a church; they just want him to show up once in a while.
And it was heartbreaking to see the investment that was made, that there was no spiritual activity to show for it after the fact. Paul didn't know if they were going to survive. In 2003 when we launched St. Joe Community Church, we had no idea what God was going to do. This is like parenting. When you have kids, you raise them up, you help them to find God, you help them to grow in their faith, but at the end of the day, we all have freedom to choose whether we're going to follow God or not follow God. As Grant was getting married to Sarah, I said to my son, "You know, I look..." He says, "Man, thank you, dad." And we were having those moments. I teared up a little bit - a lot, and it's like emotional and it was fun. And it's like, "Oh, it's my second born son getting married. Oh my goodness, what's this all about?"
But I said to him on more than one occasion, and I believe I kind of said it that weekend, or maybe over break this past vacation time, I'll know that I've done my job, if God gives you kids, follow God, because you've passed on the faith that I've given you to them. And maybe even more so, great-grandchildren, if I'm alive then, I probably won't be. But if I am, that they're growing in their faith. But I have no control over that; I have no control over that. And so, you do what you're supposed to do; Paul did what he was supposed to do, plant the church and hope that God did the work. And He did. This church was flourishing. It was happening and He was excited about it. But a good leader cares well for their church.
If you're a leader in our church and all you care about is your little sphere of influence and your budget line item, then you shouldn't be a leader. It's not about having a title. It's about carrying a towel in order to serve people in Jesus name. If I were to stop being a pastor of this church, like that position, the title pastor, would I be diminished as a person or as my identity in Christ, not in my position? That's a hard one for us, pastors, by the way. When you're not a pastor anymore, does that mean you're... What's your status? It's important for us to know that it's not about what we're doing and what our title is or what ministry position is, is that what we're doing as a leader is growing the greater cause, and that is helping people find and follow and grow in Jesus Christ. And if you're in charge of cutting the grass, if you're in charge of singing on a worship team, or you're in charge of something that nobody even knows is going on in the church, but is necessary in order to keep the church functioning well; you're doing it to the honor and the glory of Jesus Christ. That's what a leader does. They care about the people they're serving, not the position they're performing in.
How well do leaders care for the church? That's a church health checkup for all of us, not just for the pastor; although I think about it often, but for all of us who are in leadership in the church. Checkup number two, what's the church's current testimony? Let's read in chapter three verse six, "But now Timothy has come to us from you and brought us good news about your faith and love. He reported that you always have good memories of us and that you long to see us as we also long to see you. Therefore brothers and sisters, in all our distress and affliction, we were encouraged about you through your faith. For now we live if you stand firm in the Lord. How can we thank God for you in return for all the joy we experienced before our God, because of you; as we pray very earnestly night and day to see you face to face and to complete what is lacking in your faith."
What's the current testimony of a local church? Well, Timothy came back and said, "Great things are happening, Paul. This church is flourishing. Good things are happening. They still love Jesus. They're still following God. They love one another." In fact, earlier in the chapters as I talked about it in other sermons, they were an example for other churches of how to be a church. Isn't that the kind of church we ought be that people want to emulate us? They want to say, "I want to be that kind of church. I want to be part of that kind of church family. I want that kind of church to be in my town, in my city, in my community, across town." If we were to start another church, we want one to be sort of like St. Joe, not like St Joe, but sort of like in the way in which we do things that we're spiritually healthy. And that's what Timothy is saying. There's some good things going on. They still appreciated their church planter.
It's enjoyable to go and see people from previous churches I've pastored, and we still have fond memories of our time together. I enjoy that. I still have friendships from people from my very first church. And I'm grateful for that. But I'm more grateful when I see these same people who I'm friends with growing in their faith, not just, "Oh, that was a good time. And did that. Been there. Got a t-shirt. Moving on with life." Is they're actually growing in their faith. They're still involved in church. They're still becoming what Jesus wants them to become in their own local church, beyond my presence as their church planter. These people stood firm in their newfound faith in spite of the persecution.
I imagine, we can only imagine that these prominent people who had come to faith may have lost their jobs. They lost their prominence. They didn't have their social status that they had because they were followers of Christ. And that was not popular. It's still kind of okay to be a follower of Christ in America. It's okay to be a follower of Christ in America. There's a time when it was really popular to be a follower Christ in America. There are places in the world where it is totally unpopular to be a follower of Christ. And you may even be in some work environments where it's unpopular to be the preacher boy or the preacher girl. I don't know. I know that to be true in some personal instances where I hear people talk. And so these people in spite of the cultural opposition to their faith were standing firm.
Is that true of us? Are we standing firm? Not like in some like militant, oh, there we are. No. It's oh, we love Jesus too much to abandon Him. We love the word of God too much to abandon what it says on how we ought to live our lives, and how we ought to practice our faith, and how we ought to be the kind of people we ought to be. And the citizens that we are, and the families that we are, raising our children the way we do, believing in marriage, the way we believe in marriage, believing in all the things that God has put forth in His word, the way God has put forth in his word; boldly standing even when it's unpopular culturally to do so.
What's our current testimony? Collectively, do we represent what God wants to be doing in local churches all over the world? We have our own unique footprint and fingerprints of how we do church and life. But in generally, are we following the New Testament pattern of a local New Testament church? What's the church's current testimony? Who is encouraged by our church's testimony? How have we persevered through our own oppositions and trials as a church family? If we stopped existing tomorrow, how many people outside of our fellowships and friendships would care? Would Fort Wayne notice if we disappeared tomorrow, other than the building's vacant? How little or much are we making a difference in our community for Jesus' sake will determine the answer to that question?
If you disappeared tomorrow from your workplace, from your neighborhood; would Christ's presence be diminished or would it be a non-issue? Nobody knew that you were a follower of Christ. It matters what our testimony is for the Lord. Jesus Christ. It matters that we're making a difference in our time and place until Jesus comes again. And then finally, in this checkup, we need to have a vision for more spiritual growth.
What does it say in verse 11, "Now may our God and father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you." That was a personal request. He wanted to get back to see them again, and he did get to see them again, by the way later. In verse 12, this is the prayer that I believe we ought to pray over our church all the time. "And may the Lord cause you to increase and overflow with love for one another and for everyone just as we do for you. May he make your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints, amen.
Real quickly, as I closed this morning, we need to have a vision for more spiritual growth. We must continually grow in our love for one another. We don't come from the same political landscape from each other. We don't come from the same. We may have had diametrically different ideas within this body of how to handle this current pandemic. We may have all kinds of ideas. Some of you might be conspiracy theorists. Some of you don't believe in any conspiracies at all. I don't think anybody has a bunker, but if you do, you're not supposed to tell anybody. All I'm saying is, we don't sit here and try to figure out how different we are from one another. We're trying to figure out how we're moving together in the name of Jesus Christ together. And love, you know, we have a vision, it says, around our beliefs, we have unity. Our convictions, those core statements, we have core belief statements in our doctrine, doctrinal statement. You can learn that in the new members class that we teach, and it's just basic Christian beliefs. It's based on the word of God. It's our own way of saying what God says. And again, it's pretty common to so many churches and we have unity around that. And if somebody doesn't believe that, well, there might be nuances they may have to maybe attend a different church, but those are our unity unifying statements.
But in those areas where we don't have those unifying statements, those things that we don't openly talk about; they're the absent of conversation about in our convictions, we have agreement to disagree agreeably with one another. We don't all come at it from the same angle. Some people they strategically voted for what happened at the Supreme Court. Some people said, you know what, God's going to do what God's going to do and voted their conscience in a different way than some other people. But at the end of the day, what brings us together is our love for Christ and His word that we are all trying to be Christ-like. And we all going to answer for whatever we did at the ballot box. Not trying to make everybody toe in line exactly what you ought to do what I think you ought to do. I've said many times before; I have opinions nobody's asked me about - may not ever want to.
If you want to know my thoughts, I'll take you to lunch sometime, maybe, but up here, it's God's opinion about His word and how we move together in the spirit and the love of Christ. And we walk together in the spirit of Christ and that spirit of Christ involves loving, increasing in our love. John 13 says that we must love one another. That's how people know we're his disciples, that we love each other. We love each other even sometimes when we don't like each other, because we've got to love each other. And love is practical. It's not like a feeling. We're talking about laying down our lives for one another, caring for one another, truly stepping up to the plate. When you're going through crisis, we want to be there for you. We want to help you grow and go. Through whatever circumstance, we want to be a true body of Christ for one another. We do that best through small groups, by the way, it's hard to do just to know what's going on generally on a Sunday morning, but when your connection group knows what's going on, that's when we can really minister and serve and show God's love in a practical way.
Do we overflow in love for one another? And then finally, we need to be blameless and holy knowing that we are going to finally answer to Jesus who could come at any moment and make us accountable for our lives. We're looking forward to the second return of Jesus Christ. We're looking forward to Him finally finishing and putting a period on the end of the sentence of history in a world. Some people say, "Boy, I'm ready for Jesus to come today." Well, I am too, but you know what? I know a lot of people that aren't and they'll be separated from God forever if Jesus came right now.
Here's another scary thought. Are you ready to face God and be accountable for wherever you're standing right now in him spiritually? If he were to show up right now, have you prayed up? Have you been able to confess up and to recant and to move away from the things you know that He's asked you not to do - He's told you not to do in His word? Are you right with your brothers and sisters in Christ? Are you harboring bitterness and unforgiveness? How can you go to the throne of God and say, "Oh, I still hate so and so"? That's not going to fly in front of God. Are you ready to meet Jesus? I'm ready for the return of Christ, are you?
Are you blameless and holy in God? Blameless doesn't mean perfect. Blameless like we said earlier, Paul said he was blameless. It meant that he was continually confessing his sins, repenting and turning away from and re-surrendering to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in his life. Is that where you are right now? You're ready to meet Jesus. Do you have a vision for more spiritual growth in your life? Or do you feel like you've arrived, you got enough of Jesus, now I'm going to get into little more of this, a little more of that, get a little bit of Jesus, move on? Is coming to church just a stop along the way of many things to do or does what we do here affect the rest of what you do during the week?
So, what would our church health checkup reveal? What would it look like? Jesus, you're a consultant. You're the Lord. You're not a consultant. Jesus come down here. What do you think? What do you think our church looks like? What do I look like in front of you, Jesus? Do I really care as the leader of this church the way I ought care for this church? Are we still growing in our faith in spite of the spiritual and cultural opposition that's around us? Are we really growing in spite of the tendency for people not to grow in their faith? Jesus, do we overflow in our love for one another? Or do we find getting along with people in our church a chore, some sort of a legalistic habit that we got to come up with because it's the right thing to do? Do we really love one another? Are we leading blameless lives? Are we hypocrites in real recovery? Christians or sinner, we're just saved as there's bumper stickers. You know, we're not perfect. We're just forgiven.
Well, is that an excuse to do whatever you want because you got free grace? No.
What would our church health checkup reveal? How must we grow in our love for one another in our church? What step do you need to take to be part of the love growth in our church family? What must we change to become more blameless and holy for Jesus Christ? I hope that you'll take this connection card and you'll let us know how to pray for you, how to encourage you that you'll go online and look at the contact information area on our website and get in touch with us so that we know how to help you move forward. It might be this altar. This could become the place where you publicly say something to God in prayer. It might be that you go back in the back and talk to a prayer team that will be waiting to receive you and to pray with you about whatever's going on.
Let's just honor God with whatever decision we make, that might be the example that He wants for us to be here in little old Fort Wayne, Indiana. Father, God help us to step forward in our faith and to honor you with our lives. For someone this morning, it might be for the first time they put their faith in you. And that would be their first step to tell the world that they're a Christian and have the courageous bold step of getting baptized. I pray that they will identify themselves this morning if that be their need. And for all of us who know you, I pray that you'll show us how to take our next right steps. Maybe someone's contemplating their faith and they're still not there; I pray that they would just hang on and keep coming and learning and growing and being around us. Not because we're special by ourselves, but because we follow one who is so special and worthy of our worship and adoration. I pray that our lives will be an example and a testimony that will cause them to want to know you. I pray these things in Christ's name, amen.
B: Bible book