A Bond of Faithfulness

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Introduction:

Thank you for your encouragement and receptiveness to allow me to be me. Last week when I stood here we trusted for God to fill my mouth with the words He wanted me to share and I trust that it all connected and God helped it make sense.

This morning I want to continue to build on the theme of faith. We talked about Abraham and my friend Shahrokh last week with this idea that we are called to believe, to step out in faith and trust God with all that we are. We talked about taking that step of faith leads to being born again or being given a fresh start as Ron testified to.

William Loader: “No priestly manipulations, no religious powerbrokers, no secret or ceremonial rites, no works prescribed in biblical law are required. It just needs us to believe in this love.”

When we believe in this love, when we step out in faith God will honor it. It may not look like what we want it to and it wont always be easy but “faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” through a constant and abiding trust in Him.

We concluded with the realization that our salvation being by faith will lead us to action, both individually and collectively.

James 2:14-17

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

The way we live will be directly reflective of our faith in God. We have a choice to make in each moment. Sometimes those choices are small and some aren’t. But each choice matters and is a step of faith. You may not always want to be here when we gather but it’s a conscious choice to choose love, to choose community over isolation.

Movement 1:

But why community? Why be a part of a church? What is the church anyway?

As one poet put it:

“The church is never a place but always a people

Never a fold, but always a flock

Never a sacred building, but always a believing assembly

The church is you who pray, not where you pray.”

Peter says not only are we children in the same family, but we are stones in the same building. A physical building isn’t the church–the body of believers is the church! We are the living stones.

The most common word translated church is “ekklesia” and means “the whole body of Christians scattered throughout the earth” and “an assembly of Christians gathered for worship.”

People like to be on the grounds at GracePoint. They enjoy the parking lot, classrooms, foyer with the coffee and donuts, and the sanctuary. Why? It’s not because the grounds are anything special. It’s because the fragrance of the church is left behind. These buildings are nothing more than buildings. But because the church worships, prays, studies and fellowships with the Lord here, this place is filled with the fragrance of Jesus.

The church of Jesus is made up of believers who have come to Christ and founded their life upon Him.

 

The truth is that we can have the latest and greatest technologies, have a great group of artists, have hundreds and thousands of people coming to our services but it can still grieve the heart of God because we can be seeking first the kingdom of music, sound, lighting, art and be pushing the Kingdom of God to the side.

One pastor wrote these words to his congregation in answering the question “Why Go to Church?” to emphasize the importance of gathering as the church.

Why Go To Church? – Joel Atwell

  1. Because we declare something very important about God when we make gathering in his name a high priority – that he is God and is, therefore, worthy of our worship!
  2. Because we declare something very important about us when we make gathering for worship a high priority – that we are desperately in need of God and the community of God’s people!
  3. Because we declare something very important about each other when we make gathering for worship a high priority – that together we are the Body of Christ, and you need me and I need you.
  4. Because we declare something very important to the world (to our friends, family, and others) when we make gathering for worship a high priority – that relationship with God is WAY more important than sports, or hunting, or sleep, or eating, or making an extra buck, or even our biological family.

So it important to gather together as the church. And collectively as the church we are called to love and serve one another (including all of creation and humanity) to proclaim the Good News, and be agents of change in our world.

The Church…

Gathers

  • Communal worship/Other intentional times
  • Small groups/bible study/Sunday School

Hears the Word

  • Preaching/small group settings
  • Reading of scripture

Responds

  • Prayer, giving, serving, sacrament (communion)

Sent

  • Engaging in other ministries/activities for spiritual growth and community building
  • Engaging in your “microworlds” of workplaces, neighborhoods, schools, businesses you frequent, etc.
  • Empowered by Christ through the Holy Spirit to be His hands and feet in the world around us.

Movement 2:

As the church, the body of Christ, we Covenant together through Humility, Integrity, Identity, Perseverance,

2 Corinthians 4:1-2, 5-6, 16-18 (NIV)

Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. 16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Humility – “Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry…”

  • It is only through God’s mercy that we have this ministry, not our own doing based on our own abilities and gifts. Only through God and what he did for us on the cross.
  • Confidence not arrogance

 

Integrity – “…we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God”

  • We preach and live truth based on God’s revelation to us.
  • James 1:22- Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
  • What we say and what we do line up
  • William J. Toms “Be careful how you live; you will be the only Bible some people ever read”
  • Francis of Assisi “Preach the word at all times, and use words when necessary”

 

Identity – “For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.”

  • We are Christian, we are Christ-followers, we are people of the death and resurrection, we are Trinitarian, we are disciples
  • “No spiritual experience is of worth unless it leaves one with an increased consciousness of Christ’s presence”
  • Follow Christ’s example of Servant leadership
    • Do not think of yourself more highly…
    • “Quick to listen and slow to speak”
  • Bonhoeffer – Life Together : “The Ministry of Listening” “The first service that one owes to others in the fellowship consists in listening to them. Just as love to God begins with listening to His Word, so the beginning of love for the brethren is learning to listen to them. It is God’s love for us that He not only gives us His Word but also lends us His ear.

So it is His work that we do for our brother when we learn to listen to him. Many people are looking for an ear that will listen. They do not find it among Christians, because these Christians are talking where they should be listening. But he who can no longer listen to his brother will soon be no longer listening to God either; he will be doing nothing but prattle in the presence of God too.

 

 

 

Perseverance – “Therefore we do not lose heart.”

  • We do not give up on God
    • It is His call on us and through His mercy
  • On the Church
    • The bride of Christ with all of the wonderful and heartbreaking moments. The church is made of people and people are messy
  • Romans 5:1-6, 8 (NIV)

Peace and Hope

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

 

  • The World
    • We are called to care for God’s creation and to
      “go in all the world, preaching the Good News”

 

Movement 3:

As we covenant together through humility, integrity, identity, and perseverance, each of us has a special role to play in this covenant. Scripture talks about the church as the body – many parts that are each unique, have a distinct purpose, but work together for the whole.

1 Corinthians 12:12-31 (NLT)

12 The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. 13 Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.

14 Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. 15 If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?

18 But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. 19 How strange a body would be if it had only one part! 20 Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. 21 The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”

22 In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. 23 And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen, 24 while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. 25 This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. 26 If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.

27 All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.

We each have a part to play and I desire to carry the torch forward in pursuing Christ and allowing the Holy Spirit to shape and mold us. When we seek Christ individually and collectively, how it looks to reach people with the Gospel will be shaped by who Christ is leading us to be. We do not want to just do things to do them but we want the mission of the church to be purposeful in using the people and resources to reach the hurting, the broken, the least of these.

Today is a special day in the life of GracePoint and a special day for me as I am installed as your new Lead Pastor. I am very honored to be called Pastor and to join in on what God is already up to. As I shared when we interviewed I have struggled against being a lead pastor since I was 8 years old. It is humbling that God has continued to guide me and use me for the past 14 years in other capacities as a pastor and leader.

But I want you to know that I believe that my role as the lead pastor of GracePoint is as a shepherd. I am not to be THE minister but to be the LEAD minister, equipping others to be ministers/disciples.  We covenant together.

Ephesians 4:11-13 NLT

11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.

I desire to come along side each of you and help you fulfill all of the potential God has given you and to see you be His hands and feet in your communities and areas of influence.

I heard Dr. Fili Chambo, the director of the Africa Region for the Church of Nazarene speak a couple years ago.

We are called to UNITY, not UNIFORMITY. You cannot insert “form” into unity or it becomes uniformity. We are not called to have the same form. God has created us each unique in His image and we are called to celebrate that diversity. We can be in one heart and mind, yet very different. This is where the church sits culturally at this moment in history. Can we have differing views, opinions, personalities, and political affiliations and still love one another?  If the world does not see us loving each other, they wonder how we can love them.

Unity has to begin with the acceptance that we are different and that’s okay. We are diverse in so many ways and we need to celebrate that diversity while maximizing the impact we can make with our unique skills, abilities, and calling.

Then we submit ourselves to one another, being more concerned about our brother and sister and the whole than about ourselves. We are all members of the body with different parts, many roles, with the same purpose and goal. When we can take this posture of humility, then we can experience the fullness of joy in community with Christ.

Conclusion:

The road will not always be easy. It will not always be clear to us. But as we pursue Christ together, putting our faith in Him, I believe He will give us peace and pour out His Spirit to see His Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.

 

Response:

In response together this morning, we are going to have an opportunity as Dr. Reeder comes to covenant together in God’s work.

Installation and Prayer

The Way of Hope

Talents