Go: Live Eternally Today! (Week 1)

“Incomplete and Imperfect!

(Matthew 28:16-20 & Luke 10:1-24)

Today, we start exploring the 3rd of the 4 core values of First Baptist Church. Each of the core values is connected to one of the 4 colors on our logo and each is being taught and reinforced with a wristband of the same color. Today you have received or will receive on the way out, a yellow wristband that says, “Living and Giving Generously.” Please wear it with me for the next 6 weeks as we focus on this. You may continue to wear your previous wristbands that the leaders and staff of the church have provided for you at their own cost, but at a minimum please don’t throw them away. Keep them somewhere noticeable as a reminder of what we are all about.

Our mission statement at FBC is “We exist to transform stories through the gospel of Jesus Christ” and if this mission is happening in us (it must happen in us if we are following Jesus in an abiding relationship) and through us (as fruit of what He is doing in us and not as our own performance goals; it is the Holy Spirit who bears fruit on our branches!) then we will see our vision unfolding inside our fellowship and outside into the communities we live, work, and play: “We desire to see our communities thriving to the glory of God.” It’s all about relationships!

 

Our faith and values provide us with the guard rails by which we can participate in fulfilling our church’s mission and vision by the power of the Holy Spirit. The four core values are: “Loving others as God first loved us” (red); “Developing people for a life of service” (blue); “Living and giving generously” (yellow); and “Growing closer to Jesus in every season of life” (green). Firm in our faith we are to walk in these ways.

 

We are putting up all these banners so that you know who we are and what our mission and vision statements are (in the Gathering Area as you walk in) and what our faith and values are (inside the worship center). We are not investing precious resources for decoration, but to align us (like a car getting its alignment) so that we are all traveling in the same direction on the same mission. Amazing what God can do through a people who are working together and don’t need any credit because their account is already overflowing with God’s grace.

 

For the next 6 weeks we are going to focus on yellow—living and giving generously—and then while I am on sabbatical (August 25 is the final sermon that I will give in this series), we will all focus on green—growing closer to Jesus in every season of life (that 3-month focus culminates on Sunday, November 24, the night I return). We are each in a different season of life, the key is to support one another in our spiritual growth in each and every season of life.

 

This series is also finishing up the 7 big words that we have been learning over the last year: GATHER, FOLLOW, REST, BELONG, LOVE, SERVE, and GO! If you missed some of those Sundays, you can watch or listen to any of the sermons and/or read the sermon notes on our ever-improving website at www.newcastlefbc.com. These 7 big words are the building blocks for us being the people of Jesus Christ, committed and submitted to His teachings for His Father’s purposes and glory. Each of these words is an invitation, a promise, and a way of life.

 

The primary way we have been inviting you to experience the promise and way of life of these 7 big words is FBC’s “7:1 Initiative!” It is our hope that each of you will have 7 friends at FBC who you trust and are growing with as the church, people who connect you in the body and people with whom you belong. We also hope you have 1 place of service at FBC where you are impacting others and multiplying what God has given you for His purposes and glory.

 

The “GO: Living Eternally Today!” series will be constantly reinforcing all this 7:1 initiative because you will see that living the Great Commission life is living both a life of community and service. We are better together when we are in Jesus together!

 

The main scripture for this sermon series called “Go: Live Eternally Today!” is Matthew 28:16-20. Listen to the Great Commission:

 

But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

 

This is the Great Commission, not the great suggestion. It is not an optional “opt-in” activity for those who choose it nor an advanced option for those who want to be radical. This is what part of being in the yoke of Jesus, this is God’s will for your life. Like a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, if you want the chocolate, you have to take the peanut butter. You can’t just lick off the chocolate and then hand back the peanut butter. Well, you can, but what a mess…

 

We are going to dive into the Great Commission in this series, but today we are simply going to focus on the who: To whom did Jesus give the Great Commission? Matthew 28:16-17 teaches:

 

1) To “the Eleven disciples”: They had an incomplete fellowship! Judas was gone, the fellowship was broken, trust has been shattered, betrayals occurred, disappointments erupted, but here is Jesus still giving this group of followers the Great Commission.

 

2) To “some were doubtful”: They had an imperfect faith! Not only was their fellowship incomplete, but they did not all believe. These were imperfect followers of Jesus entrusted with God’s eternal plan to reach all people with the greatest message ever.

 

Jesus gave His Church the Great Commission when they were an incomplete fellowship with an imperfect faith! 2,000 years later, we are still incomplete and imperfect, but God is still calling us to hear the same word: “Go!” Jesus doesn’t wait for you to be ready for Him to send you on His mission. The key ingredient of Jesus’ calling to live life focused on the Great Commission is not your capability, but your availability and willingness to take His yoke and learn from Him.

 

As many of us have heard before, “God doesn’t call the qualified, but qualifies the called!” If we wait until we are ready/complete/equipped to go, then we completely ignore the work of the Holy Spirit to empower us and make us who He wants us to be. His power is made perfect in our weakness. He’s ready to use us right now, where we are!

 

What are some of the ways we disqualify ourselves from living out the Great Commission?

  1. My faith is not strong enough or I don’t know enough…
  2. That is for pastors and missionaries, church workers…
  3. I have sin in my life or I may do/say something that hurts the effort…
  4. I’m too busy…

 

This six-week series is focused on equipping you to “Go” into your everyday life to live out the Great Commission, but today we are focusing on who Jesus is sending out and why. We’ll take the rest of the series to talk about the what’s and the how’s of living and giving generously.

 

Before Jesus ever gave His disciples the Great Commission, He would send them out on real-life training missions. Just like Regan is doing an internship with Kevin this summer before she returns to seminary, so Jesus would send out His disciples as part of their training and growth. There was no graduation or ordination to wait for, there was just today—today is the day of salvation! Let’s look at an example of this from the life of Jesus as He trains up His followers.

 

Turn with me to Luke 10 and we are going to read through this story found in verses 1-24. I will unpack specific details as a I read it…

 

I love this comment from a local church pastor on the Luke 10 passage regarding its application to our lives, “We are not responsible for saving anyone; we are responsible for telling everyone. It’s not their response to our ability; it is their response to His ability, even though it’s our responsibility to tell them.”[1]

 

“Living and Giving Generously” is the way of Jesus to live eternally today! Living eternally today is a means of grace to declare your allegiance to Jesus and not the world. It’s a way to live like Jesus for His Kingdom in a world that is actively opposing Jesus and His Kingdom. Living and giving generously is a revolution against Satan who Jesus saw falling from Heaven (Luke 10:18) when this first group of disciples (still incomplete in their fellowship and imperfect in their faith) walked in the authority of Jesus throughout their communities. And Jesus told them very clearly to not rejoice at what they did, but rejoice in their relationship with the Father through the Son. We rejoice in whose family we belong to—we are children of God!

 

Listen to this insight that further explains the importance of Luke 10:20 combined with the fact that we do not know the names of these 70 people,

 

Since God did not consider it important for us to know the names of the 70 (or 72) disciples He charged with the important task of preparing the way for Jesus, we don’t need to consider it important, either. What Jesus called attention to was not the power He gave them but the fact that their names were written in heaven (Luke 10:20). Similarly, while we may get excited about visible miracles and demonstrations of supernatural power, the greatest miracle of all is the fact that unworthy sinners can become righteous children of God (Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:21; John 1:12). When our focus moves to ourselves and how God is using us, we are headed the wrong direction. It is a good reminder that, since their names are unimportant, ours are, too. It is the name of Jesus Christ alone who deserves all attention and glory (1 Corinthians 1:28–29; Philippians 2:9–11). It is enough that our names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.[2]

 

Family of God, we don’t have to wait until our fellowship is complete or our faith is perfect to be a part of Jesus’ Great Commission plans for our communities and beyond. We are called to bring thriving to our communities to the glory of God today and every day that is called today. We are called to go and make disciples of all people just like we are called to serve all people and love all people. Making disciples starts with you having a relationship with Jesus that transforms your story first! The Holy Spirit uses real people with real faith to make a difference in real history!

 

“You can teach people what you know, but you will only replicate what you are!”

 

We will learn more of how to do this over the next 5 Sundays, but please know that it begins with you realizing that the Great Commission is for each of us, in all of our imperfections and incompleteness. If you are in Jesus Christ, then you are ready today to be sent out. So as you go today, may the Holy Spirit empower you to live and give generously rejoicing that your names are recorded in Heaven (Luke 10:20).
 
Listen to the teaching here:

 

Footnotes:

 

[1] Jack Wellman, “5 Lessons about Jesus sending out the Seventy-Two” (August 22, 2018, accessed July 17, 2019) https://www.patheos.com/blogs/christiancrier/2018/08/22/5-lessons-about-jesus-sending-out-the-seventy-two/.

[2] “Who were the 70 (or 72) disciples in Luke 10?”, Got Questions Ministries, accessed July 27, 2019, [https://www.gotquestions.org/70-or-72-disciples.html].


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SERVE: It’s the Way of Jesus! (Week 6)

“Serve from Grace!”

(Galatians 6:9-10)

I really like going to Chick-fil-A. It’s not only their food, it’s the atmosphere and their service! They are just that good! We have some employees of Chick-fil-A in here, so please shout out that wonderful phrase that we all should use when someone says thank you to us and I’ll give you a hint, it is not “You’re Welcome!” It’s a step up… The employees respond, “My pleasure!”

 

Paul teaches us about serving in Galatians 6:9-10, “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.”

 

Is serving one another in the household of faith a pleasure to you? Have you lost heart in doing good because you can’t see any good reason to do it? Have you grown weary because you are not reaping fruit (maybe your timeline is off or you are looking for results too quickly)? Are you still looking for opportunities to do good to all people?

 

People can tell whether or not it is truly “my pleasure” and your attitude about serving changes the atmosphere of not only what happens here, but out there on a daily basis. Your attitude towards serving can take something ordinary and make it extraordinary! Your attitude can stop something from becoming extraordinary! It only takes one person to turn someone off from this church or from Jesus…

 

Paul would not have told us about the dangers of losing heart in doing good and growing weary if these weren’t real threats to the church. In fact, Jesus Himself invited us in Matthew 11:28-29a, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me…”

 

What can we learn from Jesus’ example on how we are to serve?

 

We are commanded to serve like Jesus: From Grace, in Love, and with Compassion!

 

Firstly, From GraceIt is as Jesus said in John 15:9-10, “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.”

 

Did you hear the comparison in Jesus’ words? The Father loves us with the same love that He loves Jesus! We are to find rest for our souls by remaining in the One who is love. We connect to, abide in, yoke with the One who rescued us from the death penalty of our sin and gave us new life. As Paul says in Ephesians 2:1-5, And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).”

 

It is all from God’s grace. We serve because we are becoming like the One who loved us first because we are now united with Him by grace. That is what I mean when I say “We serve from grace…” We are serving others from the deep well of gratitude to God for our salvation!

 

We serve from grace, [and secondly] in love Paul taught us in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.”

 

Listen to this devotional reading that Scott Underwood shared with me. Read devotion.

 

Paul explains to a group of Christians really struggling in their daily faith in Galatians 5:6, 13-14: “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision [religion nor nonreligion] means anything, but faith working through love [relationship]. For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”

 

To serve in love is to bring Christ to the situation. Love is the energy. If grace is the deep well that motivates our service, then love is the energy that compels it into action. No one will ever know your deep love for God and His grace unless it is seen through your love of another!

 

We serve from Grace, in Love, and [lastly] with Compassion! Compassion directs our service! Grace is what motivates us! Love is what energizes us! Compassion focuses us!

 

Let’s just take a couple snapshots from Jesus’ earthly ministry:

 

  • Matthew 9:36, “Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.”
  • Matthew 14:14, “When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them and healed their sick.” (cf. Mark 6:34)
  • Mark 1:41, “Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I am willing; be cleansed.’”
  • Luke 7:13, “When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her, and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’”

To serve another in love and with compassion is to pull from the deep well of grace that God first served you with. To serve another is to declare your faith in this Jesus and to live like He lived. You don’t serve others because they deserve it, but exactly because it was God’s good pleasure to serve you first. As John said in 1 John 3:1a, “See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are.”

 

I don’t know about you, but I can hear God say in this verse, “My pleasure!”

 

Because of His pleasure, we serve from Grace, in love, and with compassion!

 

In conclusion, we have learned how we are to serve so that we don’t lose heart in doing good or grow weary (from the deep well of grace, in love, and with compassion) and as we go to do this we are left with the question: Who are we to serve?

 

Remembering our scripture lesson for today from Galatians 6:9-10, “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.”

 

It starts in the household of faith. We should have a better atmosphere than Chick-fil-A right here in these relationships. I can make it a part of your job description, but only God can change your heart! We are to do more than practice and perfect the art of saying, “My pleasure!”, we should be motivated by grace to love one another.

 

Serving begins in the household of faith, but continues to the world. How we serve conveys our  message! The gospel is good news! As Jesus Christ commanded His followers after He washed their feet in John 13:34-35: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

 

Remembering that 80% of all communication is non-verbal, are people hearing the message of God’s good news through you by the way you serve? Are they seeing Jesus as you serve?

 

Jesus said in Matthew 20:28, “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” And Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:20, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

 

The same One we gather together to celebrate every Sunday morning for our salvation is the very One we put on display in our service! First, in here [inside this building] and then out there [as the church]! Just like it must start in here [point to my head and heart], but it must be put on display with these [my hands and my feet]!

 

SERVE: IT’S THE WAY OF JESUS!

 
Listen to the message here:
 
 

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SERVE: It’s the Way of Jesus! (Week 5)

“The 5 Steps to Effective Serving!”  (PART 3 of 3)

(Romans 12:1-8)

Today, we are going to walk through the last step of “The 5 Steps to Effective Serving” based on Romans 12:1-8.

Allow me to quickly review the first 4 steps from the last 2 sermons:

Step 1: Everyday, Dedicate Your Everyday life to Jesus! Romans 12:1 calls us to daily submission to God’s Word. Are you experiencing rest in the easy yoke of Jesus Christ?

Step 2: Eliminate Competing Distractions! Romans 12:2 calls us to focus on Jesus and to guard our hearts from that which will distract us from seeking first the Kingdom. Where is your treasure? What are the “patterns of this world” that are taking your mind, heart, calendar or check book away from Jesus and His Kingdom?

Step 3: Remain Humble in God’s Grace! Romans 12:3 calls us to view ourselves humbly through God’s grace by the faith that has been given to us. Nothing we have is from our own hands—not our salvation or even all that which we think we have earned or done. Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking less about yourself.

Step 4: Commit to Being a Functional Member of Jesus’ Church! Romans 12:4-5 commands us to not see ourselves as a lone ranger Christian, but to become healthy members of a local congregation by seeing ourselves as each having an important function. Are you willing to be a healthy member of Jesus’ body by being a functional member of a local congregation?

 

Before I move on, I want to discuss a concern that has been expressed to me recently. First of all, let me say that I appreciate it when people share their concerns with me, the elders, or other members of the leadership. That is the right way to handle concerns, by being healthy and helpful. Please talk to us. I know trust is hard, but this is the better way. A concern has been expressed to me that there is no place to serve for some people. I hope the report I have received is isolated. As a pastor and fellow elder, speaking for the elders of the church, I want to publicly say that we want every person to find a place of service in and through the church—we desire to be a safe place for you to grow in Christ in every season of your life because we don’t believe in retirement from serving God. While there is process for some positions in the church (e.g. worship team try outs or qualifications for eldership), that does not mean that we don’t want people to find the right place of service. We are not in the business of hurting people, but healing people. But what happens when hurting people are not willing to be a part of God’s therapy through the church for their healing? We want each person in our church to find God’s will for his or her life. So, if you are actively taking yourself out of ministry, stop! If you are actively working against others, stop! If you feel like you have no place to serve here or have been told that by anyone, then talk to me or one of the elders or come to talk to the elders as a team or write us a letter (and please sign your name to it). We want every person who calls FBC their home to have a place of service, whether in the church walls or outside in the community. That is the 1 in our 7:1 Initiative!

 

Now, let’s finish with the last step of learning how to effectively serve as found in Romans 12:1-8. This step is important to the above issue because it is not our goal to get you busy, it is our goal to guide you in all righteousness to serve as God designed you to serve. The elders do not feel called to either direct your steps for you or derail you from using your gifts, but to disciple you into great fruitfulness for the ministry of the gospel of Jesus Christ; the journey of maturity!

 

Step 5: Multiply what God has given you to use! Romans 12:6-8 brings it back to God’s grace and how He has given you a S.H.A.P.E. for ministry by giving you spiritual gifts: “Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.”

 

Romans 12:6-8 is not a comprehensive list of spiritual gifts, but it is an exhortation to fully engage with what you have been given by God’s grace to do God’s will.

 

What is a spiritual gift? It is a special ability, given by the Holy Spirit to every believer upon being saved, to be used to minister to others and therefore build up the body of Christ. All gifts are given to help the Church fulfill its purposes to the glory of God.

 

Here are three Bible verses to help us better understand the Bible’s view of spiritual gifts: Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:1 & 7, “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware.” & “But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” Peter says in 1 Peter 4:10, “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”

 

The Bible does not lock us into tight restrictions as to the number of spiritual gifts, or even their definitions. If you like would like to further explore the major lists of gifts beyond Romans 12:6-8; check out 1 Corinthians 12:1-11, 27-31; Ephesians 4:11-12; and 1 Peter 4:9-11.

 

The bottom line about spiritual gifts is found in 1 Corinthians 12—14: spiritual gifts are the temporary to build the eternal; don’t worship the gifts (nor those who are working more maturely in their gifts), but only worship the Gift-giver! Everything we have and every service we render unto King Jesus is by God’s grace and for God’s glory! All glory to God!

 

A couple teaching points regarding spiritual gifts: They show your ministry whereas the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) shows your maturity in Christ. At conversion, you are saved and given everything in Christ through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. No one person has all the spiritual gifts and there is no one gift everyone is to have (i.e. tongues) that manifests at conversion to prove you’re a Christian! The sign of salvation is a life that exalts Jesus Christ; God will grow up those who are His! That is His promise to His people; to you!

 

By following the steps in Romans 12:1-8, you will grow in His grace in your maturity and in the ministry Christ has gifted you. This is the means of grace found in Christian discipleship!

 

Let’s review the 5 steps as we wrap up these three messages on the steps to effective serving: 1) Submit to God in every area of your life, every day; 2) Keep your eyes on Jesus and get rid of the distractions; 3) Stay humble in God’s grace; 4) Be a functional member of the body of Christ; and 5) Multiply what God has given you to use!

 

We want to equip you to learn more about spiritual gifts so we are making inventories with information sheets available for you on both the welcome and resources desks. Please grab a packet and work through this information. If you would like to learn even more, please email me or get in touch with the church office and we will send you even more information. God has given you a S.H.A.P.E. for service. Do you know it and are you using it?

 

God formed you in your mother’s womb with service in mind. When you came into union with Christ, the Holy Spirit sealed you for eternity with His presence and power. At the time of your salvation, God gave you spiritual gift(s) to build up the body of Christ, to fulfill your design for ministry, all to bring glory to God! Always for God’s glory!

 

Do you know how good God is and what He has given you to do the good works He prepared in advance for you to do for His glory?

 

What does this look like? I will need some youth to help me illustrate what this looks like. We are going to have some fun to help us all remember today’s lesson.

 

With the youth acting out parts, tell the story of Jesus’ Parable of the Talents from Matthew 25:14-30.

 

Are you multiplying what God has given you for His purposes and His glory?

 

As Paul said in Colossians 3:23-24, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.”
 
Listen to this message here:
 
 

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SERVE: It’s the Way of Jesus! (Week 4)

“The 5 Steps to Effective Serving!” (PART 2)

(Romans 12:1-8)

Today, we are going to walk through the last 2 steps of “The 5 Steps to Effective Serving” based on Romans 12:1-8.

Allow me to quickly review the first 3 steps from last week’s sermon:

Step 1: Everyday, Dedicate Your Everyday life to Jesus!
Romans 12:1 calls us to daily submission to God’s Word. Are you experiencing rest in the easy yoke of Jesus Christ?
 
Step 2: Eliminate Competing Distractions!
Romans 12:2 calls us to focus on Jesus and to guard our hearts from that which will distract us from seeking first the Kingdom. Where is your treasure? What are the “patterns of this world” that are taking your mind, heart, calendar or check book away from Jesus and His Kingdom?
 
Step 3: Remain Humble in God’s Grace!
Romans 12:3 calls us to view ourselves humbly through God’s grace by the faith that has been given to us. Nothing we have is from our own hands—not our salvation or even all that which we think we have earned or done. Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking less about yourself.

 

Now, let’s continue with the last 2 steps of effective serving found in Romans 12:4-8.

 

Step 4: Commit to Being a Functional Member of Jesus’ Church!
Romans 12:4-5 communicates, “For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function,  so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” (emphasis mine)

 

As the Scripture is worded, everyone has a function. No one is called to sit on the sidelines. There are no stand-alone Christians, just like there are no coals outside the fire that are red hot for very long. We are members of a body, gathered by the Holy Spirit through the gospel of Jesus Christ, to do God’s will for God’s glory. Apart from the body of Christ we are neither healthy nor able to faithfully function as God designed us. Finding your place of service in a local church is an essential piece of God’s program. In fact, it’s what builds the body of Christ!

 

Ephesians 4:11-16 emphasizes this point, “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.” (emphasis mine)

 

There can be no lone rangers in Christianity. We already have our hero and His name is Jesus. That job opening is closed. I am not asking anyone here to be anyone else’s savior and I’m definitely breaking down any preexisting codependency you may have with a pastor, especially if that pastor is me. I’m a horrible savior; I am a fellow beggar for grace! When I act like a lone ranger or like an omni-competent pastor, then I am doing just that—acting out of my own particular brand of brokenness! We are in this together, each of us doing our part as God calls us, because the health and effectiveness of the church is 100% dependent on each of us doing our own part.

 

One of my friends explained the imagery of “what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part.” In understanding the imagery we see the importance of it. Listen to her explain, “There are so many things happening in the joints of the body. 1) Ligaments attach bone to bone to stabilize the joints of the body. 2) Tendons attach muscle to bone to provide range of motion to the joint. 3) Synovial fluid in the joint is like oil to an engine, and allows all the parts to keep moving freely and without pain (i.e. when someone says they have “bone on bone” joint pain, it means all their synovial fluid is gone).”

 

This biblical imagery explains why the contemporary church looks like it is limping through life and groaning along the way. It is not supposed to be this way! The church accomplishing the mission to bring glory to God is 100% dependent on the individual members being healthy functional members of the body. That is why the Bible says in Hebrews 10:23-25, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”

 

God wants us to be together on a regular basis. To do life together, face to face, in union with Jesus and united to one another. God commands this for His glory, for our usefulness as His Church, and for each of our good. We are designed by God to be in a faith community. Our salvation may be personal, but it is not designed to be private. In fact, salvation comes with commands for a very community-oriented, service-focused life. Are you willing to be a healthy member of Jesus’ body by being a functional member of a local congregation?

 

Step 5: Multiply what God has given you to use!
Romans 12:6-8 brings it back to God’s grace and how He has given you a S.H.A.P.E. for ministry by giving you spiritual gifts: “Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.”

 

This is not a comprehensive list of spiritual gifts and these are different than your natural talents, but it is an exhortation to fully engage with what you have been given by God’s grace to do God’s will! Get off the sidelines and start using all of what God has given you for all of His glory! We want to equip you to learn more about Spiritual Gifts so we are making Spiritual Gifts inventories with information sheets available for you on both the welcome and resources desks. Please grab a packet and work through this information. If you would like to learn even more, please email me or get in touch with the church office and we will send you even more information. God has given you a S.H.A.P.E. for service. Do you know it and are you using it?

 

God formed you in your mother’s womb with service in mind. When you came into union with Christ, the Holy Spirit sealed you for eternity with His presence and power. At the time of your salvation, God gave you spiritual gift(s) to build up the body of Christ, to fulfill your design for ministry, all to bring glory to God! Always for God’s glory!

 

Do you know how good God is and what He has given you to do the good works He prepared in advance for you to do for His glory?

 

What does this look like? I will need some youth to help me illustrate what this looks like. We are going to have some fun to help us all remember today’s lesson.

 

With the youth acting out parts, tell the story of Jesus’ Parable of the Talents from Matthew 25:14-30.

 

Are you serving effectively with what God has entrusted to you? 1) Submit to God in every area of your life, every day; 2) Keep your eyes on Jesus and get rid of the distractions; 3) Stay humble in God’s grace; 4) Be a functional member of the body of Christ; and 5) Multiply what God has given you to use! As Paul said in Colossians 3:23-24, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.”
 
Listen to the message here:
 

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SERVE: It’s the Way of Jesus! (Week 3)

“The 5 Steps to Effective Serving!” (Part 1)

(Romans 12:1-8 & Luke 10:25-37)

In the first week of this series we looked at the heart of ministry by looking at the heart of Jesus Christ, who did not come to be served, but to serve. We saw this truth most clearly displayed through His sacrificial death (Philippians 2:3-11), but also through how He washed the feet of His disciples on the night he was betrayed before going to the cross (John 13:5-20). Last week we dove into the heart of what keeps us from serving. We took time to ask God to check our hearts and minds so that we could hear from Him what He would have us do. The concept of being uniquely designed for service was introduced to you—you were created with good works in mind (Ephesians 2:10).

 

In fact, we each have a unique S.H.A.P.E. (Spiritual Gifts, Heart passions, Abilities and talents, Personalities, and Experiences) for service because God created us and saved us to serve. Your form follows your function—to serve according to God’s design! Are you serving effectively?

 

Over the next 2 Sundays, we are going to walk through Romans 12:1-8, where Paul lays out for us the 5 steps for how we are to serve like Jesus served. We are going to learn how to walk in the good works that God prepared in advance for us to do—we are God’s workmanship (Ephesians 2:10), that is who we are!

 

Today, we will cover the first 3 steps and next Sunday we will cover the last 2 of how we each can know we are serving effectively, as according to God’s design and purposes for us.

 

Step 1: Dedicate Your Everyday Life to Jesus!
Romans 12:1 is an invitation to each of us every day, “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.”

 

Paul is not talking about your initial conversion to faith in Jesus Christ. He is talking to church people, people who have already made a decision to be disciples. The first step every day for disciples of Jesus Christ is to present themselves to God as living and holy sacrifices, by getting into the yoke of Jesus (Matthew 11:28-30).

 

Jesus gives us this promise from Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

 

This is not only a promise; it is a way of life (a daily praxis). Every promise of God is ours to believe, but also ours to live as a praxis of life (as a lifestyle). I get in the yoke of Jesus each morning with my early morning quiet time (a.k.a. “coffee time with Jesus”) because I know that if I am not in the yoke, then one of my 3 A’s—anxiety, ambition, or ambivalence—will take over and lead my day. It has become such an ingrained habit that a majority of the time I am awake before my 5:30 alarm ready to get in the yoke with Jesus. Before, I used to wake up distracted, filled with anxiety for the work that needs to get done or driven by the impulses of my body, but now I wake up desiring to be with Jesus and once again submit and find rest in His yoke.[1]

 

This is the first and most important step: submit to God, dedicate your day to God’s glory! Just like in spiritual warfare, before you have authority to rebuke the devil, you have to first submit to God (James 4:7). It is in submitting to God that Jesus’ authority and power flow through us.

 

Step 2: Eliminate Competing Distractions!
Romans 12:2 is a daily promise to each of us, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

 

But this promise of God—to know the will of God for your life—like all the promises of God, comes with daily challenges! I am an easily distracted person and I have triggers from my past that must be safe-guarded against. For example, TV for me is like one of those old school bug zappers that was on the back porch when I was growing up. ZAP! If the TV is on, then I am glued to it and being sucked in. ZAP! To stay alive, I have to stay away from it! For me that is eliminating a competing distraction. I don’t know what it is for you, but that is part of what it looks like for me to follow Jesus well. You may have better time management skills or more brain space than me, but I don’t have minutes, nevertheless hours, to invest in someone else’s program for my life. It also saves a lot of money which allows us to be even more generous with both time and money! I realize that not everyone will have the same issues that I have, so I don’t command this. I just ask you, “what are you doing to eliminate those things that are after your brain space, your heart space, your calendar and your checkbook?”

 

Remember Jesus’ words from Matthew 6:19-21, 33a, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.” Friends, we do not serve what we love, we love what we serve!

 

So often, I will tell people that spending minutes a day in Jesus’ program for your life is not enough if you are spending hours in the world’s program for your life. Jesus does not want to be one of your priorities, He wants to be “The Priority”. He doesn’t want to be on the top of your checklist of things to get done today, He wants everything on your checklist to be for Him and through Him. Jesus is a jealous God and will not tolerate idols in His people! Why? Because He loves us and knows that those very idols we serve are killing us from the inside out.

 

Your heart will follow that which you treasure—guard it well! Whatever you feed your mind and heart with will influence you the most. Who are you listening to? Where is your treasure?

 

Step 3: Remain Humble in God’s Grace!
Romans 12:3 teaches us, “For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.”

 

Pride comes before the fall. Pride is the ruin of the great servants of God. I have hit the wall of pride and performance in my own life, and I am here to tell you that step #3 is essential to serving in the way of Jesus—be humble in God’s grace! While this is an everyday process, I exhort you to not think more highly of yourself, but as Paul commands us in Philippians 2:3-8,

 

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

 

Having a servant’s heart is critical to serving like Jesus! In fact Jesus said in Matthew 18:3-4, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

 

What does this look like? I will need a whole bunch of children to help me illustrate what this humility looks like. We are going to have some fun to help us all remember today’s lesson.

 

With the children acting out parts, tell the story of the Good Samaritan from Luke 10:25-37.

Being available every day to serve like Jesus is not self-service! We each need to STOP self-serving! The clearest sign of a humble person is not that they think less of themselves, but that they think of themselves less.[2] We need to start being humble servants! It is our willingness to love our neighbor as we love ourselves—by God’s grace! Jesus is our motivation. Grace is our empowerment! Jesus gave you grace so that you can give grace to others! We are blessed to be a blessing! We are saved to serve!
 
Serve Week 3: Listen to it here
 
 
 
 

Footnotes:

 

[1] Do you think you can get to be on time so that you can get up earlier than necessary to start your day by getting in the yoke of Jesus? The following quote reflects the positive ripple effects that come from the spiritual fruit of self-control (Gal. 5:22-23) that can lead to such a morning routine. This is not legalism or an evangelical check list. This is God’s grace to empower the abundant life: “One way in which the self is resourced is through self-discipline. Though it is an unpopular concept in a materialist world propelled by consumerism and expectant of instant gratification, self-control or self-discipline is critical in resilience and can be learnt by practice. Self-control is defined as the self’s ability to alter its states and responses. Since self-control is central to most forms of virtuous behaviour [sic] it can be regarded as the primary or master virtue. It seems to operate like a muscle which is weaker after exertion and replenishes with rest, slowly becoming stronger with repeated exercise and also strengthened by social support. For those in adversity, self-discipline during times of trauma can enable physical escape or psychological protection. After trauma self-discipline helps to deal with anger and hurt, setting boundaries in relationships and the rebuilding of life, as when survivors of childhood trauma make an ongoing, deliberate choice to manage their anger and hurt” (Justine Allain-Chapman, Resilient Pastors: The Role of Adversity in Healing and Growth, New Library of Pastoral Care [London: SPCK, 2012], 28–29).

[2] “The concept of humility is enriched rather than diminished by religious understandings, she argues, because the religious perspective describes one’s place in the world in relation to God, so that one can be smart, but not all-knowing, and have personal power, but not omnipotence. There is a connection between humility and compassion which resonates with the observations already make about empathy. Humility, viewed positively, leads to compassion because of self-forgetfulness, rather than a self-focus that can come with false humility. Thus humility is not a devaluation of oneself but an increase in the valuation of others” (Justine Allain-Chapman, Resilient Pastors: The Role of Adversity in Healing and Growth, New Library of Pastoral Care [London: SPCK, 2012], 32–33).


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SERVE: It’s the Way of Jesus! (Week 2)

“Designed with Service in Mind!”

(Ephesians 2:10)

What is your response to the starving child in Africa commercial? What comes to your mind when you see a person with a card board sign outside of Walmart? What happened inside of your head and heart a month ago when I asked for people to open their homes to a young couple and their 2 children? How do you respond for a request to commit your Saturday morning to help someone move or to bring a dinner to someone in need or go help clean someone’s house? What feelings come up when you are asked to hold babies in the nursery or work with teens one night?

 

Let’s just sit in that for a minute. What happens in your heart when you are asked to do something for someone else that is inconvenient, costly, or uncomfortable?

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SERVE: It’s the Way of Jesus! (Week 1)

“The Example of Jesus!”

John 13:5-17

Parents want what is best for their children so they attempt to give them the very best. I am no different. As a parent, I want my children to grow up to be humble followers of Jesus who love God and express their love to Jesus through their love and service to a local church, their family and community, starting with their spouses and their own kids. I can’t just teach my three children about service; I have to serve them so that they can learn to serve others. I get to model it for them because children learn best through watching someone else do it. We all do!

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Love: It’s who I AM (Week 6)

“The Revealing Love of Jesus!”

(Acts 9:1-19; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13)

The love of Jesus reveals who we are! It is impossible to know the motives of a person’s life, to know what is in a person’s heart, and we must be warned against guessing or presuming to know the mind of another person. Yet, we make evaluations of one another based on words, body language, dispositions, actions, especially when you walk in relationship with a person over time. Our lifestyles reveal who we are and people are always watching.

 

The reality is that we all have bad days and not a single one of us wants to be defined by our worst day. I have bad days at home and I know that Kimberly has 20 years of marriage to measure me by, not just one day. That does not give me permission to give myself over to a bad attitude which leads to me having a bad day, but I know that she will not measure me by that one day. But when I have a bad day at church, especially if it is a Sunday morning service or a leadership meeting, there is nothing scarier because most people don’t know me personally so one day or one conversation or one divergent thought is how I am measured (or at least that is the fear I live with, whether real or not). We all want to be given the benefit of the doubt. We all want people to think the best of us even when we are not at our best. Are we giving others the benefit of the doubt? Are we thinking the best of others, especially when they are having a bad moment?

 

We would be doing what the world can do, on its best day, by giving one another the benefit of the doubt, and trust me, I’ll take that if I can get it from most people on most days. But we are called to do more than give the benefit of the doubt, we are commanded to extend grace – grace that must be extended, not because of a person’s behavior, but despite their behavior. As the church, God intends for us to be a conduit [pull out the garden hose] of His grace to one another (first) and to the world (next). We are to practice and perfect in here who we are called to be out there—love!

 

As one of my friends told me in response to this message, “I can run out of giving ‘the benefit of the doubt’, usually after one or two times, if I base my decisions on other’s performance. The world says, ‘Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.’ We have to be committed to being made foolish time and time again, 70 x 7, in our pursuit of extending grace.”

 

Sound scandalous? It is, because this is how Christ first loved us! It is scandalous because the stakes are high! Our love for one another, for our neighbors, and for our enemies is an essential part of how God is revealing His Kingdom plans to the world! Our theme verse for this sermon series has been 1 John 4:19, “We love, because He first loved us.” This is why for the last 6 weeks we have asked you to wear a red bracelet that proclaims, “Loving others as God first loved us.” Keep wearing this, remember it, memorize it, and most importantly, live it! This is what God is working in you. Through the Holy Spirit, God is working through you to reveal to others the love of Jesus Christ. And as you do this, you will be transformed from the inside out with each act of His love.

 

Our “7:1 Initiative” is an invitation to reveal the love of Jesus in practical ways. It’s a practical application to following Jesus and revealing His love to others! Are we loving well in relationships –who are your 7 people that you are learning to love with a sincere love? Are we serving others well in our communities—where is your 1 place of service that you are giving yourself to others in the name of Jesus?

 

[Display the mud-caked sculpture] We have a whole community that needs to know the doors have been opened to God’s love through the church and that they are safe to come be family with us. People who live in our communities will feel invited and welcomed into the church if they already have been welcomed and invited into your family by you revealing the love of Jesus to them in tangible ways. These people, just like you and me, are invited to come to us just the way they are. You don’t need to clean up to come to Jesus, but in order to become a part of Jesus’ plans to transform the world through He love, you must allow His love to change you!

 

We must be transformed by the love of Jesus! Allow me to share a story with you from the Bible that is one of the most famous illustrations of a life transformed by the love of God through the gospel of Jesus Christ: the conversion of Saul, the Jewish Pharisee and persecutor of the church, who became the Apostle Paul, the author of 13 of the books in the New Testament and the great missionary whose missionary work is recorded in the second half of the Book of Acts. Before Paul could reveal the love of Jesus to others, he first had to have his eyes opened by the revealing love of Jesus.

 

Read Acts 9:1-19.

 

[Start water going over sculpture] In this story, who are the 2 primary change agents in Paul’s conversion: 1) Jesus (obviously and very supernaturally!) and 2) Ananias (not so obviously, but instrumental to Paul’s experience). To reinforce what I taught you last week, had Ananias not been obedient to Jesus, especially when it didn’t make sense, we may not have had Paul who played such an essential role in the growth and expansion of the work of Jesus.

 

Your love for another person will reveal to them the truth of who God is and the truth of who they are in God and what God would have them do with their life.

 

Ananias didn’t want to look foolish! He had solid historical reasons to not like Paul because he only knew him as Saul. He didn’t trust him or his intentions and didn’t want to go help him. But when confronted by the revealing love of Jesus, Ananias obeyed Jesus by loving Paul. Ananias is the one who laid hands on Paul to restore his sight. Paul had a power encounter with Jesus that forever opened his eyes (a truth encounter) because Ananias loved Jesus by obeying Him! Ananias was willing to be used as the person who revealed the love of Jesus to Paul. That is both a sincere love and a revealing love!

 

[Reveal the sculpture] After Paul’s eyes are opened by the revealing love of Jesus, Paul goes on to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to the known world (Acts 13 – 28). After Paul’s eyes are opened, he makes it his life mission to open the eyes of the world to the love of Jesus. We only have a sketch of his ministry through the books of Acts, and a glimpse of all that he said through the preservation of the 13 letters of Paul in the New Testament. But it is clear that Paul teaches us so many wonderful things about Jesus and how to live as disciples of Jesus. Very directly, one of Paul’s constant themes of being a disciple of Jesus is being a person of love. Because love is the power Jesus uses to transform lives! The love of Jesus in you and then through you will reveal to others who you are in Christ, but also who they can be in Christ. You never know how your consistent steady life of love can change another person’s life and outlook on life.

 

Read 1 Corinthians 13:1-13. Can you personalize this scripture to your own life? How is God’s Spirit working in you to love people more and more like Jesus first loved us? What are some areas in your life right now where you need God’s grace to give you a fresh opportunity?

 

Your actions, words, dispositions, attitudes, and life will always reveal something, you are always sending a message. What does your life reveal?
 
 
 
Love Week 6: Listen to it here
 
 
 
 

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Love: It’s who I AM (Week 5)

“The Sincere Love of Jesus!”

1 Peter 1:22-25; Luke 22:31-34 & John 21:15-17

From which of these cups would you prefer to drink a glass of water?
 
 
[With 2 cups on a stand (one clean and one visibly dirty) pour water from a newly opened water bottle into each.]

 

Why? Because one cup is clean and one is dirty—the delivery system matters! You could have the best product in the world, but if it’s not delivered properly, then the message is lost…

 

You could have the best of intentions in how you are going to demonstrate love to another person, but if you aren’t a clean vessel you could end up hurting someone or pushing someone away. Love is like preaching: Great content is not enough, delivery matters.

 

What dirties our cups when it comes to love? Children raised in a deeply dysfunctional family find it difficult to navigate conflict or to believe yelling (or physical hitting) are acceptable ways to deal with anger. People who have found success in life by stepping on others find it nearly impossible to empathize with other people’s needs. Flatterers flatter. Gossips gossip. Neither sees what they are doing is unloving and hurtful. A person who has been deeply betrayed by a parent, boss, coworker, pastor, friend, spouse, or family member finds it difficult to trust again and interpret other people’s actions through their own wounds. The deeper our hurts, the deeper our fears, the more difficult it is to be a clean vessel of love, even as Christians. We all know it is true: hurt people, hurt people!

 

We see what dirties our cup, so now let’s turn to how our cups are cleaned so that we can love with a sincere love. The Apostle Peter teaches,

 

Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. For, “All flesh is like grass, And all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, And the flower falls off, But the word of the Lord endures forever.” And this is the word which was preached to you.[1] (italics added for emphasis; all caps are part of the formatting of NASB to show an OT quote)

 

While yes, this passage does say that we are to fervently love one another, in other words love one another from the heart with our whole being, the emphasis is not how passionately you love, but with what you are loving— a sincere love for the other! According to the BDAG Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament sincere means, “without pretense, genuine, literally ‘without play-acting.’”[2]  It’s got to be the real deal, pure as if from the Source!

We are to have an overflowing love that flows from the Source and out of a cleaned cup. A cup that is purified through “obedience to the truth.” A cleansed vessel comes first through the forgiveness of God in Jesus Christ and then through our forgiveness of others, firsts through the receiving of grace and then through the giving of grace to others. Apart from Jesus, out of His yoke and out of the Father’s will, none of us can love with a genuine love that comes from God. This is the ongoing work of His Holy Spirit in and through us to obey the teachings of Jesus.

 

You have heard me say: “Hurt people, hurt people. Forgiven people, forgive people!”

 

How do we love with a sincere love? How can we do any of this since we are all affected by the dirt of our families of origin, the brokenness of our own choices, the woundedness of other people’s choices, and the general hot mess that is our culture and world that we live in? 

 

Jesus gave us the answer to this by not only His example, but by His very commands to us: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”[3] A sincere love must be purified of all boasting, arrogance, vanity, and selfish gain by following Jesus’ example and putting aside yourself for the other. You cannot love others sincerely when self-interests dominate your life!

 

When you want to hold a grudge against someone, obey Jesus and forgive. When you want to make yourself look better by talking about another person, obey Jesus and keep your mouth shut. When you want to lie, steal, or cheat to get ahead, obey Jesus and be content. When you want to disrespect someone under your authority or disobey someone in authority over you, submit to Jesus! This is the only way for your love to become sincere! By obeying Jesus in every area of your life, you will be forced to die to self, to your own pride and reputation, you will be forced out of your comfort zone and into God’s care for you. This is where your cup is cleaned.

 

This kind of love doesn’t come naturally for any of Jesus’ original followers. Let’s look at the story of Peter who taught us this command. Peter was a proud and boastful man. Jesus said to Peter after one such episode in Luke 22:31-34, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” But he said to Him, “Lord, with You I am ready to go both to prison and to death!” And He said, “I say to you, Peter, the rooster will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know Me.”[4]

 

Peter had expressed a boastful love that we all know led him to betray Jesus when in the crucible of circumstances. Peter had to be broken before he could be used. He was chosen of God, personally trained by Jesus, but still not ready for the social responsibilities of leading the early church, We too, just like Peter and the original apostles and every disciple since to this day, must go through the crucible of circumstances to learn what a sincere love truly is. The world teaches us a political love, but Jesus must purify us to love not as the world does, but as He does!
 
Watch how Jesus cleans the cup of Peter for a life of ministry service. Listen to John 21:15-17,
 

So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My lambs.” He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep.[5]

 

A sincere love is a purified love, one that has been stripped of our desire to use other people, to flatter people for our gain and not their good, to talk about people for our gain and not with their permission, to take from others instead of giving. Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 13:3-8a,

 

And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.[6]

 

God’s love is a cleansing power at work in us and God desires for it be a powerful force in the world through us. When we fall short of giving the kind of love that God first gave us, we then go to root of the issue so that He can cleanse our cup. We want to be clean vessels of God’s sincere love. Jesus Christ loves us with this kind of perfect love and though we fall short, it is God’s will that we love His way, to be like the great I AM, to love sincerely.

 

Throughout this sermon, I have been using the imagery of a clean versus dirty cup. I didn’t come up with the imagery on my own. I borrowed it from the master teacher. Jesus once said to a very religious and moral audience in Matthew 23:25-28,

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.[7]

 

Jesus is asking us to be sincerely in love with Him and in turn sincerely love others! Do you know what Jesus Christ has done for you to show you love and forgiveness? Have you experienced the grace of God at the Cross? When you encounter this love, you are transformed!

Our theme verse for this sermon series is 1 John 4:19, “We love, because He first loved us.”[8] This is why for the last 5 weeks we have asked you to wear a red bracelet that proclaims, “Loving others as God first loved us.” Wear this, remember it, memorize it, and most importantly, live it! This is what God is working in you. Are your daily decisions working in agreement with God’s goal for you to be a clean cup of His sincere love?

 

We ask that you put this value into action through the “7:1 Initiative”. It’s a practical application to following Jesus! Are we loving well in relationships –who are your 7 people that you are learning to love with a sincere love? Are we serving others well in our communities—where is your 1 place of service that you are giving yourself to others in the name of Jesus?

 

We have a whole community that needs to know the doors have been opened and they are safe to come be family with us. They will feel invited and welcomed into the church if they already have been welcomed and invited into your family by you loving them with a sincere love.
 
Love Week 5:  Listen to it here
 
 

FOOTNOTES:

 

[1] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, 1 Pe 1:22–25.

[2] BDAG states, “ἀνυπόκριτος, ον (s. ὑποκρίτης; school. on Aristoph., Av. 798; Iambl., Vi. Pyth. §69, 188 αἰδώς; Ps.-Demetr., De Eloc. 194; Wsd 5:18; 18:15) pert. to being without pretense, genuine, sincere, lit. ‘without play-acting’ ἀγάπη (ApcSed 1:4) Ro 12:9; 2 Cor 6:6. φιλαδελφία 1 Pt 1:22. πίστις 1 Ti 1:5; 2 Ti 1:5. σοφία Js 3:17.—DELG s.v. κρίνω. M-M. TW. Spicq” (William Arndt, Frederick W. Danker, et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000], 91). The Apostle Paul about love states in Romans 12:9, “Let love be without hypocrisy”[2] and in 2 Corinthians 6:6 calls it “genuine love”; about faith in 1 Timothy 1:5, “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith”; and about wisdom by James in James 3:17, “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.”

[3] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Jn 14:15.

[4] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Lk 22:31–34.

[5] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Jn 21:15–17.

[6] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, 1 Co 13:3–8.

[7] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Mt 23:25–28.

[8] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, 1 Jn 4:19.


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Love: It’s who I AM (Week 4)

The Modeling Love of Christ

1 John 4:19

We all need models of Christ’s love around us so we see demonstrations of how we are to love others.  As we learn to love like Christ did, we become models to others in our network of friends and family.  They in turn become models of Christ’s love to others.  Let’s look at examples of this process from God’s Word and then talk about Why, To Whom and How to model Christ’s love…

Ephesians 5:12, 1 Timothy 4:12, 1 Timothy 5:1-2

We see this process in the lives of Paul and Timothy.

Timothy saw this model in his grandmother and mother. (2 Timothy 1:5)

1 Corinthians 1:11, 1 Corinthians 4:16-17

We need to be this kind of interconnected group:

  • Fellow believers Modeling His love to us
  • We go out and are sharing this love with others

This leads us to ask three questions:

  1. Why do we model Christ’s love?
  2. To whom should we model Christ’s love?
  3. How do we model Christ’s love?

 

Question 1:  Why do we model Christ’s love?

 

1 John 4:19          He first loved us!

 

Switchfoot sings, “we become what we believe in” in the song Who We Are and in The World You Want:

 

You start to look like what you believe…
What you say is your religion
How you say it’s your religion
Who you love is your religion
How you love is your religion
All your science, your religion
All your hatred, your religion
All your wars are your religion
Every breath is your religion…

 

We are the “diorama” of Christ to this community…

 

Question 2:  To whom should we model Christ’s love?

 
Our brothers and sisters in Christ  (John 13:34)

Our neighbor – that is everyone else who is not a believer.  (Matthew 22:37-40)

Our enemies!  The unworthy…  Even those who have deeply hurt us.  (Matthew 5:43-48)

An act of love changes us.  And God can use it to change them, too.

 

Romans 5:6-8    He died for us while we were yet sinners.

 

Example:  Mike dressed in black and had a blue mohawk haircut.  He went from judged and rejected to youth pastor because someone modeled Christ’s love to him.
 
Question 3:  How do we model Christ’s love?
 

We love others by our actions.  (1 John 3:18)

We love others by serving them.  (John 13:12-17)
Jesus, the creator, washed filth from his disciples’ feet.
Jesus got dirty as he served others in this broken world.    We will get dirty as we serve others!
 

Example:  Kevin’s story about falling into a mucky pond and the love his grandfather showed to help Kevin get cleaned up.

“Loving others is a dirty job, but someone has to do it.”
We are called to lay down our lives for others that God cares about.   (John 15:12-13)
We lose so they can win… we are to die to ourselves so that others can live!
Jesus died for us.  (1 John 3:16, Mark 8:34-35)
 
We die to our desires so we can love others.  So others can experience God’s love.  (Philippians 2:3-5)
 
Do you have a reputation for loving others, for putting them first?

 

“Love one another as I have loved you.”   (John 15:12-13)
There is no greater love than to lay down your life for another.
 
 
Love Week 4:  Listen to it here.
 
 

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