The Core of Relationship
I’m glad you’re here. If you’re visiting with us for the first time today, we are in a series together called “The Core.” We’re spending four weeks talking about what the core of our church family is about. And we’re really setting a target on what is the foundation of the church and the purpose for which we exist. We don’t have service on Sunday just to have service on Sunday because that’s what you’re supposed to do on Sunday. We have an intentional purpose for which we created our church family, and if it ever comes about just opening the doors because you’re supposed to open the doors, I don’t want to be any part of it.
God created his church for a purpose to live on mission in that purpose. And so together we’ve been describing what it means to have a win, to celebrate that win together as God’s community. We’ve been putting a target on a map. And the reason that we’re doing that is because when we unify our purpose and intentions as a community, it creates momentum. It creates unity. We all see a common goal in which we’re driving to. And it’s a beautiful way to function as God’s people. And we see that clearly outlined.
To do that, we kind of put it on a baseball diamond. Now, if you’re not a baseball fan, I apologize. If you think of a better illustration, let me know and I’ll draw that out for us. But this is baseball season and you think about what it takes to win in a baseball game. If you start at home plate and you’re able to come back to home plate, your team scores, and if you do that enough times, you win. And so for us as a church family, there are four elements that we have discussed on how we achieve that win together. And we are to second base today. Worship, discipleship, and now we’re going to talk about relationship.
But we want to circle all of those bases on the mission and back to worship. And that’s what it means for us as a church family to win. As a church we have described that together in various aspects. As we talked about worship and discipleship. We get to today in talking about relationship, I want you to know I could have used the word fellowship, because we’re going to emphasize church community. But I feel like the church community is bigger. It leads us to something bigger than just fellowship. Fellowship is an important part, but I think it expands into all relationships and I want to show us how that works. But some of the things that we have talked together about, we started in Mark 12:30-31. Jesus is asked what are the greatest commandments? And he brings it down into two statements, or two commandments: loving God and loving others.
That ties in beautifully with the way God has designed this world and the way that God has created you. God has created you for relationship. When God made us in the beginning, he made you different than anything else he made in this world. He forms you intimately, the Bible tells us. Everything else God created he spoke, it existed. When he created you, he formed you. It shows the intimacy of his creation. He breathes into you the breath of life and he makes you in His image. And that says, you being different than anything God created, you can relate to God. You can have a relationship with God. A part of being a being that relates to God is that you’re designed for worship.
Worship is what attributes worth back to God. You will find your identity in what you worship. It is impossible for you not to worship something. When you worship something, you attribute worth, value, and meaning to it. You devote your time, resources and talents to magnify the beauty of what is. Whatever it is that you worship. And in so doing, when you do that, you look for your worth, value, and your significance as a being from the thing you attribute your worth to. Now, if what you worship isn’t worth worshiping, you’ll end up bankrupt. And I think ultimately in life, the only thing you’re designed to truly worship and to glorify in is God. And God created you for relationships.
So we talked about the significance of worship and how that transforming relationship with God will ultimately transform your relationship with others. And we started to talk about how God created his church to express that relationship with God that transforms our relationship with others. In Matthew 16:18 Jesus said, when he creates his church that the gates of hell will not prevail. That you will literally stormed down the gates of hell. Even if you have to charge it with a squirt gun, we’re after the sucker, right? You stormed down the gates of hell and they will not prevail.
We talked about something significant when it relates to you worship and these gates. Anytime a city was built in ancient times, if you went to visit that city, people appreciated the value of the city because it left them protected from bandits and robbers. If you lived outside of the gates of a wall, you were exposed to the elements exposed to people. If you were inside of the gates, you are protected. If you journey to a city and you wanted to visit people of influence, you would go to the gates. The gates determine what went into the city, came out of the city, what influenced the city, the place they ruled and reigned and made wise decisions for the city or attempted to, were at the gates. The gates were influential. When it comes to God’s kingdom, He helps us to recognize there’s really only two kingdoms at war.
It’s God’s kingdom or Satan’s kingdom. That’s why Satan’s called the ruler of this world. The prince of power of the air. When Satan is in control of our lives, we don’t walk around and say, “I worship Satan.” No one does that. Well, like four people, but no one else. So when it comes to our lives, when Satan’s in control, it’s not about us making much of Satan. What Satan has done since the beginning of the garden of Eden. When you see God creating Adam and Eve, Satan comes to the garden and he challenges what God says to Adam and Eve. He says, surely God didn’t say that. You should eat the tree of the knowledge of the fruit of good and evil and the moment you eat the tree of the knowledge getting fruit of good and evil, then you’ll be able to tell God what’s right and what’s wrong.
That’s what’s at stake there. God has declared what’s right and wrong. Adam and Eve usurped the position of God and insert themselves in that position to declare to God what is right and wrong. The knowledge of the tree of good and evil. They become god of their lives. When we align ourselves, not with God’s kingdom but what’s contrary to God’s kingdom, we make ourselves God of this world. And everything that exists within this world becomes an end to our glory. We use everything God created as a tool for our benefit. We become the end in itself. And we’ve gone through what that means for us in several different aspects, but it sort of drives to that philosophy with whatever makes you happy. Use everything in this world as a tool for you as you are king, ruling and reigning and everything is designed for your glory.
All the way down to even described, when we take advantage of people. Like the idea of pornography. Pornography exists for the purpose of someone using someone else as a tool for their pleasure. It’s all about you. Yet we know being created by God, God has created everyone intentionally, purposefully, uniquely, and for His glory. And we aren’t too devalue people in that way. God didn’t create creation for our glory to make ourselves king, but for His glory and our benefit. And so when we worship him, what it means in our lives, is we submit the gates of who we are. We lay down on ourselves and rather then controlling everything for our glory, we allow the Lord to have control for his glory. Matthew 16:18 talks about that in the idea of worship and in His church overpowering the gates. And not only do we allow God to have control of our gates, but when the church lives on mission to conquer these gates, the things that we are after in this world isn’t to accomplish task, but rather to reach hearts. Storming down the gates is about reaching hearts.
When you think about what Jesus has done in our lives, he came to earth in pursuit of your heart. Ministry does not exist to accomplish tasks. Ministry exists to reach hearts. Sometimes we get that backwards, legalistically as people. We see it as a checklist. In order to prove to God how wonderful we are so that God has to accept us. There’s no more love that God could ever express to you than what he’s already done by dying for you on the cross. So God loves you where you are, and He loves you too much to leave you that way. But ministry isn’t about accomplishing tasks. Ministry is about reaching hearts. And so we stormed down the gates of hell. The purpose of the church in storming down the gates is to reach the hearts of people so they can see the significance of who God is as it transpires throughout our lives. As God uses us, as we surrender our gates for his glory.
And in Matthew 28 Jesus said this, he said, “Make disciples of all nations.” He says this to his church. And I gave us this picture last week. I talked about how God created his creation as ruler, King of authority. We saw it in the seven days of creation. I don’t have time to go back to it. But when you get to the end of Revelation 21:1-5, you see God dwelling with his people and he says, there’s no more pain, no more suffering. The first has gone away. So you see this, this kingdom at the beginning of Genesis, God’s established this kingdom at the end and its perfection that God has reestablished. And we’re in that middle. Where sin has its destruction. Now what do we do with that? Well, the Bible tells us that Jesus is the Prince of Peace. That what you long for in your heart is peace. And in Isaiah 9:6, that Prince of Peace is coming to bring his peace as the ruler, as the prince, as the one who rules and reigns.
Jesus desires to establish that peace in your relationship with him so you can enjoy him for all of eternity. And ultimately he will establish that relationship again of ultimate peace when he restores all things in him in Revelation 21. But as God lays that out for us, he’s always called a people to declare his glory to all nations. In Genesis, beginning in chapter 12 he calls Abraham. He tells Abraham through you all nations will be blessed. And we see as the story starts to unfold as Jesus comes, that in the gospels, the Jewish nation by and large reject the Messiah. And so Jesus says, I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail. And he tells that church in Matthew 28 to make disciples of all nations, God continuing to call his people to reach all nations.
In fact, in Acts 1:8, he says to us how that church is capable of doing it. It says, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit is come upon you and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea and Sumeria, and to the remotest parts of the earth.” God’s called us to impact the world. And you see how it expands here. Notice it starts locally as a local community. In Jerusalem where Jesus was crucified and resurrected. Then it spreads to Judea, and then it spreads even further to Sumeria, all the way to the remotest part of the earth. And one of the things that we recognize when we read a passage like this.
When God calls his people to this, is that we cannot accomplish this alone. God’s community becomes important. You need a place to belong. God’s church is God’s tool to make an impact in this world. That fellowship as His community will begin to affect all relationships in this world. And I kind of want to lay down why that so today. But when you consider the significance of this body. God creates a universal body that also becomes a local body. That Jesus died for his church. Jesus refers to the church as his bride.
You think about the marital relationships, how important that is. Someone comes along and insults your bride? You sock them, right? You protect that. That’s special to me. Jesus uses that language for the church. It’s his bride. I love her. So much so that I’ve given my life for her to the ultimate expression of laying down everything for her benefit. To his glory. You can consider what you represent to the church, how you’re a part of that community.
Now, when we think about the universal church versus the local church. As a human being when you were born into this world, you became a part of the human race, so welcome. But the minute someone took you home from the hospital, you became a part of a family. You were adopted or included in that local context. The same is true with God’s people. When you are reborn, you are a part of the universal church. When you become a part of a local community, you’re adopted into that. You have this context of a local family. A Christian without a local home is an orphan. It’s not God’s intentions for us to live our lives that way, but in understanding what God has called us to in the world, it becomes important to see the value of each one of us in the context of God’s community.
In Romans 12:5 it says this, “So we were many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another.” So he’s saying, well here we are as one body. Jesus is bride, but individually we belong to each other and God has gifted us in particular ways in order to be a blessing to one another’s lives. Acts 2, which is where we conclude the last week, I’m going to pick up there this morning. Acts 2 describes for us what it looks like to be a part of God’s family. And how God uses this family to accomplish his purpose for the target that he has put on the map.
Acts 2, it’s important to recognize is descriptive and not prescriptive. And what I mean is, when you turn to the New Testament and you start looking at how is the church supposed to function? There’s not really a whole lot of specifics on the order of a gathering time. How many minutes you’re supposed to spend singing a few songs and praying a few prayers and reading God’s word. And that structure of a worship gathering is not outlined in scripture. You have some elements described to us like in Acts 2, but there’s not a prescription outline for us for exactly how services to take place. And I appreciate that about the Bible. Because what it says to us is there are some elements that are significant, we’ll talk about those in a minute, but by and large, the worship service has flexibility. And that flexibility is important to the context of any community gathering.
Because I think what the Bible is saying to us is that what inspires the heart to worship in west Africa may not be what inspires the heart to worship in west Alaska. And people are different. Cultures are different. And so God gives us the freedom and flexibility to worship him in a way that best encouraged the context in which you’re in. Now, yes, there are some elements to that, but God gives freedom and flexibility. And that gives an important identity to what exactly the church is. The church is not an organization, it’s not an institution. But the church when it was created was a movement. And with movement means there is flexibility. Oftentimes people refer to the church as organic.
Organic is an important expression. Just think about for a minute. Organic gives the idea that something is alive. Now that this is true about every organism in this world. Every organism in this world has structure. If it didn’t, it couldn’t survive. It would be chaos. But the organization, within an organism gives it the opportunity to thrive. So I would say in the context of a local church, there are certain things that church does that helps it function within its culture to make much of God and encourages people to glorify the Lord. Every organism has to have organization. But too much organization and you become a statue.
And so when it comes to the purpose of God creating his church and what God desires for us, there are certain elements God wants us to include within the church. But as far as the structure of how that organization happens, there’s freedom and flexibility. I think one of the reasons Paul outlines for us in 1 Corinthians 9:19 he says this, “I have become all things to all people for the sake of the Gospel”. And he goes on, he starts to list different people groups, Jew, gentile, Greek, barbarian, slave, free, rich, poor. There are different ways in which you can leverage your place in Christ before an individual that speaks to them a way that helps them honor Jesus in their lives. And so culture always provides a platform for us to better communicate the gospel.
Any church that marries a method, will run the risk of becoming irrelevant to the next generation. You’ve got to always be asking yourself this question, how can God use me to best speak into the cultural context in which I live? It’s important to recognize just our area. We live in a fast growing location, one of the youngest, actually the youngest state in America. Knowing details about the area in which you live, prescription drug abuse, suicide rate, that knowledge about your environment helps you understand how to best engage the culture. You want to do it in a way that’s relevant. I don’t mean trendy, I don’t think a church is called to be trendy, because trends always go and they’re exhausting. But relevant. And one of the beautiful things about God’s Word is God’s Word is timeless. Truth is timeless and therefore it’s always timely. But there’s a way that you can communicate to best speak to the culture in which you are engaged in.
For example, I’m not going to go to a senior living facility and talk about how to raise kids. That would be ridiculous. I’ll talk about godly children. What does that look like? No. It’s beyond the audience. So there’s a way to relate to the culture. And I think when God describes His church in the New Testament, he doesn’t give a prescription of exactly how a gathering should go, because he wants us to have flexibility to best penetrate in the culture and encourage one another’s lives. Get to know one another. Share how the truth of God’s word impacts your life and can impact my life and where we are. And when you recognize the flexibility of the church, I think one of the things that starts to highlight for us is that everybody’s important.
There are certain things that are pronounced but not necessarily prominent when it comes to the church. Like here I am today, I’m standing up like this. This is kind of pronounced. When I was a little kid, one of the things that used to concern me was that my head was always bigger than everybody else’s. And my ears stuck out. Like the older I get, the fatter my head gets and my ears aren’t quite as big, but it’s like it’s there, right? It’s not necessarily that it’s prominent to me, but it’s definitely you see as pronounced, right? Pronounced. What’s more prominent to me is probably, I would say rather than my ears, my internal organs. Not always things that you see, but very significant to the health of my body. What I mean is on Sunday someone may stand up on stage and deliver a sermon, but that doesn’t make them any more important than the rest of the body.
In fact, according to that, I’m an ear and that’s really not as big of a deal. When it comes to being in God’s community and seeing how God wants you to be relevant, speaking to your culture, just keep your eyes open in the way God’s moving and allow himself to be used. One of the things we’d like to say to our churches, I guess we can’t do that in rows. If God’s given you a talent and we’re all facing this direction today, you can’t really use that talent in the seat. And so when God calls us to do things for him, it requires us to get in circles to think beyond the walls.
We’re kidding ourselves that we think what it means to live a Christian life is show up on Sunday for an hour. And especially when you start to read Acts 2, because when you look at the context of this verse, it says they were continually devoting themselves. So don’t overlook this word, devoting themselves, to the apostles teaching and the fellowship and the breaking of bread and prayer. These guys are dedicated to one another and what God desires to accomplish and when you don’t know each other, it’s hard to share that devotion together. And so one hour on Sunday doesn’t get what God is calling his community into.
But nonetheless, when you look at Acts 2, we’re going to see this description of what they did. But I want us to just realize that there’s flexibility in this stuff. That yeah, there’s some things in here that are important, but the church should always seek how it can leverage its platform to speak into the context in which it exists. We’re not marrying a method. If somebody told me that one Sunday that if you could demonstrate that painting the walls hot pink and throwing in shag carpet would somehow further the gospel and the encouragement of God’s people, I can tell you next Sunday when you show up, walls are pink, shag carpet on the floor. But if that’s what it takes, that’s what I’m willing to do.
And so what Paul is expressing and saying, “I become all things to all people,” is that the body of Christ is not about serving me. Church is not about my preference. But it’s the success of the church is the way it’s demonstrating God’s people, laying himself down for the benefit of all people. Whatever it takes, short of sin and be willing to do to speak to the hearts of people.
When the early Church did that in Acts 2, the Spirit of God, which was promised to the people of God in the Old Testament. Jeremiah 31:31, that God would take their heart of stone and make it a new heart, a heart of His Spirit and the heart of flesh.
Acts 2:42 then shares what the church did. Peter preaches a sermon and the church is off and running. And it says this, “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles teaching,” which we have written down as God’s Word, “and to fellowship.” So this communion together, “and the breaking of bread.” So breaking of bread is that communion. And they’re having a meal together and some prayer. So they were seeking God’s face, prayer and teaching God’s word. And they were doing this in community.
With one another, encouraging one another, as God had called the church collectively to storm down the gates of hell with squirt guns if they have to. And to make disciples of all nations. They needed one another in order to accomplish this purpose, to celebrate that win. And from this verse, I want you to think about this verse, verse 42 hold it in our brains here, the apostles teaching fellowship, breaking of bread, prayer. Verse 43 to 46 is the result of all of that.
“Everyone kept feeling the sense of awe. And many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all of those who had believed were together and had all things in common”. So you see this beautiful unity. “And they were selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all as anyone might have need.” So you see this idea of generosity in verse 47, “Then praising God and having favor with all the people. And The Lord was adding to their number day by day those were being saved.”
So this community looks so attractive in it’s grace and love and giving to one another, and the encouragement that it brought to each other that people were just attracted to the life that existed there. I think by and large, people want to be a part of something that’s life-giving. And in this community they see this life giving elements.
So you see verse 42 what they did. Verse 43 to 46 sort of the results of that. In verse 47 how the church continued to grow. When you just break down the two elements in verse 42 what you see as they’re pursuing the truth of who God is and encouraging one another in fellowship. And so some of the elements that I say are just significant to the church, though I just argue that that there’s no definite way a service has to play out, but two of the significant elements are seeking God and truth and to fellowship with one another.
What does this look like? That can undermined the significance of God’s truth. What you communicate as God’s community is important. And the foundation of understanding of what we should communicate in order to encourage one another is found in God’s word. The obstacle for living for the Lord in this world is not knowing God’s Word. You can’t make up for not knowing God’s word. When God’s community is gathering the thing that they’re encouraging one another in is the identity they have that’s been shaped in the Lord.
And so this idea of God’s word’s where you find wisdom, identity, purpose, truth, and they were, verse 42 tells us, devoted to this. And so we acknowledge that truth for us is the catalyst for life change. That truth is timeless and therefore timely. So not only is true foundational to God’s community, the way you communicate truth is also important.
So hold on to verse 42 in your mind for a second because I’m going to jump off of this, but I want to keep referring back to the idea of what’s communicated here. So it’s important that you establish yourself in truth. Because that’s the foundational identity of who we are, what God’s called us to in this world. Wisdom, value, purpose, meaning all of that found there. But Paul says it’s not only that you know the truth, but it becomes important the way you share the truth. And the Ephesians 4:15 Paul said, “Speak the truth in love. And we are to grow up in all aspects into him. Who is the head, even Christ.” 2 Peter 3:15 says it like this, “Share truth with gentleness and reverence.” And so what Paul and Peter are both getting at in the declaration of truth is the motivation behind it.
The purpose of sharing truth, isn’t t to prove you’re right and someone else is wrong. It’s not to bash people or to beat up people. The truth, by it’s very nature will expose the lie. Oftentimes in in church, there are thousands of lies that are taught throughout the world. Maybe millions. And it’s funny when I think about a truth that I’ll share on Sunday morning, Yeah, that denies this lie, but also denies this lie, and this lie, and this lie. And this lie. And this lie. Well, I could share all those lies, but nah. I’ll just share the truth. And the truth just naturally will just alienate from what isn’t true.
And so sharing the truth is important, but the way you share the truth is important, because the intentions in sharing the truth, it’s to serve. It’s not to beat people up. It’s not to show you’re better than somebody else. It’s not the dominate. I realized when you watch the news, or anything where anyone’s allowed to have any sort of opinion, that seems to be what it’s about when we have these rebuttals take place. I’m smarter than you and you’re an idiot and let me tell you six reasons why. And it’s all about not only just trying to propagate what they believe, but diminishing the value of the person that they’re talking with, as if to discredit them. Truth will naturally do that. You don’t have to devalue people and you shouldn’t devalue people. We’re all created in the image of God.
So truth is about serving. And so when we communicate here as a church family, we gather in community. It’s not about just weighing people down and making them feel beneath you because you’re better than them. That’s not the purpose of truth at all. In fact, when 1 Peter tells us to do it in gentleness and reverence, the reason he tells us to do is because we’re apt to fall into the same error. We wrestled with sin too. And when that happens in my life, I need someone to come beside me and encourage me. “Hey, don’t put shag carpet in the church. That’s not going to help us, right? I need to encourage you.” Not, “Hey, that’s an idiot decision. Don’t do that!” That just doesn’t go over as well.
And so the point of God’s truth is to serve. So it’s not just knowing the truth, but the way that you communicate the truth that becomes important. And in addition to that, it’s also how it applies. Because the reality is, the truth should lead you to deeper fellowship. Because when you look at the way that the church interacted in the first century, when the Spirit of God came into their lives, they were devoted to the apostles teaching and look, “and to fellowship.”
God’s truth drew them into deeper community. The reality is within our culture we have been grossly misled in what it means to follow Christ. Because somewhere along the way, I think it’s the Roman cultural influence upon our society today, but we’ve equated information with spirituality. Just because you know something about the Bible doesn’t make you wise, nor does it make you spiritual. And so information doesn’t mean spirituality. And the reality is we as people were educated beyond our obedience. But what it’s saying in this text, if truth doesn’t lead you to love and serve others, you need to check what you’re calling truth. Because the purpose for truth which God has revealed himself is to serve us so that we can identify who He is and walk in that truth in this world.
So truth leads to fellowship. And deeper fellowship as we grew closer to the Lord. That’s why Jesus said the greatest commandments are to love God and love others. Because if you love God, you’re going to love the things that God loves. And the things that God loves is people, because God created people in his image. And to say that you love God, but you treat other people like dirt is to deny the very one that you claim to follow. And so truth in God as it saturates our hearts to transform our lives and the way that we impact this world.
In fact, one of the things I told you is that the promise of the New Testament is the spirit of God will take a heart of stone and it will turn it into a heart of flesh. And when you look in Galatians 5, as Paul talks about the spirit for us, it says this, “But I say walk in the Spirit,” or walk by the Spirit. That means literally surrendered to Spirit. The the gates of life, you’re not in control of, but you’ve allowed God to be in control of. “But I say walk by the spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh.
And look at this, “But the fruit of the Spirit,” this is what it looks like he’s saying for the Spirit to work in our lives, “is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control. Against such things, there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with it’s passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” So let’s say if you belong to Jesus, you’ve laid yourself down, so walk in that Spirit.
Now, if we start the question, what does it look like to live as God’s community? Religiously, legalistically thinking, oftentimes we’d want a checklist. A ministry tasks to accomplish, as if to say to God, “God I’ve performed this. Now you owe me some greater standing in eternity one day.” But God doesn’t need you to do anything. There’s nothing that you can ever do in this world that’s going to impress God. God’s the one that created you. He could just do it himself. God created you for relationship.
And when you look in the context of what it means for the Spirit of God to work in our lives, it’s not tasks being accomplished. Everything that it says the Spirit of God does in our lives as we come to know God and enjoy him, they’re all relational words. All of them. Look at them. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control. Against such things there is no law. It’s not this legalistically rule or law.
When God transforms our heart, he transforms our lives to impact the relationships with those around us. So when God is on the move, spiritually speaking, not only do we saturate ourselves in the truth of who God is, but he deepens our fellowship and relationship. Now, this is why I said when we looked at the baseball diamond just a minute ago, I could have used the word fellowship in reference to the church because we’re going to talk about the church, but I didn’t want to just talk about the church. I wanted to talk about relationships holistically.
Because the church becomes the foundation as God’s instrument to encourage all of us in the relationships throughout this world. And when the Spirit of God is moving in our lives, it doesn’t just impact the fellowship within God’s community, it impacts the relationships we have abroad. And so when the Spirit is working, the Spirit encourages me in the way I interact in this world. It’s not just about information and knowledge. It’s about God changing my heart.
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness. Well, notice in this verse it says “fruit,” singular. When it talks about our works, it refers to it as plural, but when it talks about the Spirit moving, it’s talking about “fruit,” singular. And so what it’s saying in the Spirit is that the Spirit doesn’t just do one of these things. When we’re surrendered to God in our lives, the Spirit will do all of these things collectively. And so legalistically here’s what we tend to do with this list. We’ll go through this list and we’ll think, you know, I’ve got some love and some whatever, joy and peace. But I really blew it on patience. I want to try harder with patience. And then the rest I’ll take care of later.
And so you look at this list legalistic and you think, I’m going to try harder at this. But can I tell you, the very reason you fail at living out the fruit of the Spirit it’s because of you. And so the solution is not try harder in one of the areas you’re failing in. The solution he gives us in Galatians 5, it’s surrendering yourself to the Spirit of God. And the reason is this, when I’m not loving, it’s because I feel like someone has come against me who is king of my universe. Therefore I react to their response. And when I’m not patient, it’s because someone has come against me who is king of the universe. Therefore, as Lord of my life, I respond in the flesh.
And it goes on and on from there. And so the solution isn’t try harder. The solution is surrender myself to what God has called me to. Now Christians, I want you to know that doesn’t equate passivity. That doesn’t mean you become a coward and you tuck tell when life gets hard. In fact, I think love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, the place the spirit really makes itself known is when it’s difficult because anyone can love when it’s easy to love and anyone can be patient. When it’s easy to be patient.
It’s when those things are tested that you truly see what’s driving your life. Is that your flesh just responding because it’s convenient or is it the Spirit of God rising above the circumstances, valuing another person, even though they may be maligning against you. What controls your life? And in that you get to fearlessly move forward, storming down the gates because you understand the very reason God has come for you.
Let me just say it like this. Sometimes in life we meet challenging people. We just think to ourselves, we justify, “If they were more like me, they’d be easy to love.” But the truth is, just consider what it took for Jesus to love you. He gave His life. You weren’t easy to love. He had to give his life. When Jesus calls you to love other people, he’s not calling you to love other people as they would act more like you. He’s calling you to love other people the way he’s demonstrated his love towards you.
Now you’ve got purpose and meaning behind all of that, that drives you as lord that’s not been loved and have to be patient all the time. You get to overcome you as lord of your life and let Jesus rule and reign in that circumstance. God calls us to be peacemakers, not peacekeepers. Peacekeepers just slide things under the rug. Peacemakers, pursue the challenge. They care and love enough about the relationships around them, which is what the spirit of God wants to work in, to do something about it. That’s what the church needs.
So he calls us into this and then Galatians to storm down these gates of hell and what we’re pursuing after when the Spirit of God is at work is relationships. To impact through relationships as God impacts our lives in our relationship with him. It’s not about my strength, but about it His working through me.
One of the stories I love, 1990 Stacy King was a rookie for the Chicago Bulls and you know who played for the Chicago Bulls in 1990. It was god of the basketball court, Michael Jordan, right? And Michael Jordan in 1990 he played a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers and he scored 69 points, one of his greatest games of all time. And afterwards reporters were in the locker room talking to Stacy King and they were talking about Michael Jordan, of course, not about Stacey King. But they go to Stacy King and they said, what was it like to play with Michael Jordan on such a historical night?0 Scoring 69 points and eh, what was it like to be there, be present, be a part of that? Stacy King was like, “I’ll never forget about the time Michael Jordan and I worked together to score 70 points against the Cleveland Cavaliers.” And the point was Stacy King was trying to make so much about the one little measly point he had the offer next to Michael Jordan.
Let me just give you some encouragement. If you’re ever on a basketball court with Michael Jordan, don’t talk about how great you are at basketball. When you’re living your life for the Lord, it’s not about your glory. It’s about His glory working through you.
God has called you into something significant in this world. Storming down the gates of hell. And a community that understands what it means to live for Christ and enjoy his presence and to make an impact of all nations. If I were to show in the context of how that community should operate, talking about the church family and living this out, knowing that this isn’t going to be easy, it’s not going to be easy to be loving when people aren’t loving. It’s not going to be easy to experience joy when other people are just complaining all the time on the news. It’s not going to be easy to have peace when people just are not nice to deal with or patience or kindness is not going to be easy. And so God’s community becomes important because they understand the mission for which were created.
And so in Hebrews, they tell us how that should look as a church. He says, “Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good, eat good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another all the more, as you see the day drawing near.” So he gives us this imperative statement and it’s in the negative form. Don’t forsake attending together and gathering together. Don’t do that because in doing that you’re, you’re recognizing that you don’t see the value of who you are in God’s community and the value of other people in God’s can be. Don’t do that. T.
hat’s a negative, but he’s given us now the positive as to why. It’s surrounded in these positive statements, “because we’re called to stimulate one another to love and good deeds and encourage one another, as you see the day drawing near. This idea of stimulating means to provoke or contend. There’s only one other time this Greek word is used in the New Testament. It happens in Acts 15. Paul and Barnabas have an argument and it’s not a pretty argument and it is heated. But God in the passage in Hebrews uses the same word to describe not a negative argument, but the heat of of which we are to bring to one another with a passion to encourage each other, to keep storming down the gates of hell. Stimulate, contend to provoke.
Then he says this to encourage one another. And what he means by encouragement is this. People need encouraged. If the person next to you is breathing this morning, they need encouraged. And we need encouraged, especially in the idea of relationship because that’s where the Spirit of God wants to work in our lives to help one another.
This idea of of encouragement comes from the Greek word, parakletos. It’s where we get the New Testament word for Holy Spirit. He’s literally saying you mimic the Holy Spirit. And it makes sense because the person that wants to work through you is the Spirit of God. And so your actions mimic the way the Spirit of God wants to move in the life of those around you. To comfort, encourage, console, connect, change, transform. Because the day is approaching.
The result of all this. It’s an attractive community. Acts 2:47 said, “The Lord was adding to them day by day those who were coming to know Him.” How do we live out Acts 2? How do we live like a church community? I think it told us in verse 42. They were committed. They’re committed to get into God’s Word. They were committed to fellowship.
When you see verse 43 and on, in that section that we read together, it’s beautiful. In verse 47 the power of that community. I’ll look at that and I want that. I want to experience what God’s community is doing. And I’m not saying I haven’t experienced that in some degrees at different times and walking with Christ, but I want to live it every day. How? Bing committed to know God more and allow that impact the relationship with others, which in turn becomes the place in which God encourages them to impact all of the relationships in this world. I want that.
God’s community provides the basis to encourage all other communities and relationships we experience. Why? Because they’re committed to it. It doesn’t happen one hour on Sunday. That intimate care is something that we developed throughout the duration of our relationships together. It happens when we go beyond these walls. I know as a church family, we keep growing and I know that we can’t know everybody. Listen guys, everyone deserves to be known. So I encourage you in the context of our community to find a tribe, to find a group that becomes your people, to encourage you on this path together. And allow God to use that on Sunday to keep encouraging people.
It’s why as a church family, one of the foundational things that we have our community groups, we call them connection groups, a place for you to connect. I’m going to tell you why that’s more important here in a minute, but a place for you to connect and encourage one another. To not just sit in rows but to get in circles. And to use your gifts to invest in one another’s lives, to inspire and encourage us what God’s called us to in this world.
Because I think in the context of which we live, there are obstacles to the fellowship that God calls us to as his people. Let me just give you a few of them. One is one that we have by default as people. It’s religious legalism. And religious legalism puts us in the place where we always feel like we’re under the gun to perform. In fact, if you want to read the effects of that, look at Matthew 23 when Jesus finally just preaches the woes against the Pharisees. How their religious legalism oppresses people and puts people in a position where they just feel weighed down.
And when you feel like you’re living your life like that, like you have to perform and people are examining you, you got to look a certain way. It is difficult to just enjoy life. I’m gonna tell you one of the beautiful things about God’s community is what the Gospel truly is. And the Gospel for us, and biblically speaking, it’s a place where we recognize Jesus already knows every sin we’ve ever done and ever will do any died for us anyway. No one is ever going to love you to that degree that Christ loves you. And Jesus loves you where you are and he loves you too much to leave you that way. God wants to do a transforming work in your life and here’s the beauty: because God loves you like that, that gives you the opportunity just to be open. I don’t have to impress anybody anymore.
If I’m already accepted in Christ because I’ve embraced Jesus and what he’s done for me. Who gives a flip? Jesus loves me and he wants to transform in me and part of the healing process in that for God to just work on me is for me to just to be transparent with the struggles I have in my life. And let God’s community encourage me. I don’t want to put myself in that performance mentality that oppresses me, but to rest in Jesus. That’s what Christ said in Matthew 11:28, come to me all you who are weary laden and I will give you rest.
Jesus is saying that on the backdrop of religion, after he just criticized religious leaders for oppressing people. Rest. I already know. I already know your struggles, your weaknesses, your failures. I already know how you get down on yourself because of it. I love you and I died for you. And I’m here to transform you. God works through this community to do that.
Let me give you another one. Sometimes we’re lonely because we have unhealthy views of relationships. We put expectations on relationships that just can’t deliver. But sometimes we’re lonely because it’s completely normal and human to be lonely. I think there’s a healthy part of loneliness because it recognizes how important relationships really are. Intimate relationships, not just a relationship, but intimate relationships. And so it causes us to want to seek and pursue those things because we’re created for them. Love God, love others.
One of the things that I never anticipated in moving to Utah, one of the struggles I think that we have with fellowship, and I’m just gonna give you the mess and you tell me how to deal with it. I don’t have a tie bow to put on this. But one of the things I didn’t anticipate in moving here as the rate people move away. I read a book after I moved here and I saw how quickly, how transient people are, especially in the area that’s exploding like this is.
It said in a major city, an average church will see 20% of the congregation move away in a year, and when I say move away, I mean like hundreds of miles. They move away, 20%. But for whatever reason here in Utah, I guess because of the exceptional growth that we’ve had I’ve noticed in the last three years, one third of our church moves away in a year. In fact, over the last four months, it’s been about 25%. What’s crazy is our attendance hasn’t dropped. 25% of our church gone in four months and our attendance has not dropped, it’s gone up. That is insane. You have one third of your church move away in a year.
Now, here’s, here’s another crazy step. When I first moved here I also read an article that talked about some of the stressful things people go through in life. It labeled the top five most stressful things you go through in life. In those top five, three of these included death of a close loved one or friend, job change, and moving. In fact, when I read a little further in the article as it related to moving, it said when anytime anyone moves, it takes you two to three years before you feel like you put your roots down in an area and start to call it home. Let me just position these two stats together for you for just a minute so you can think about this with me. This is my challenge.
God calls us in the community. God calls us to fellowship. If one third of your church moves in a year, but it takes three years before you feel like a place is home, we’re all homeless. I mean statistically when you think about that, no one feels at home. So let me just encourage you this way. As a church family, if you’re looking around and you’re like, man, I don’t know anybody, no one does! No one knows anybody. We’re all new to this. So in knowing God calls you to fellowship and encouraging one another, everyone around you is new, so that gives you a great slate to just start with each other.
But this is what I’m saying. I don’t think these obstacles can’t be overcome. But I think it becomes very important and to recognize the significance of fellowship. Because here’s what happens for people that are transient in our area, you come in, you know you’re only going to be here for three years. Wherever you move next, it might take you three more years to put your roots down. That’s a long time of unsettling. At the same time, if you know you’re here for the duration, it becomes difficult for you to sometimes put relationships out there. Because you’re like, in three years you may be gone. Are you worth investing in? That’s a challenge. I don’t like it. I tell people when you move, I’m going to act like a baby. If you ever tell him you’re going to move, I’m going to cry like a three year old. Not because I don’t think it’s great people have opportunities in this world and I’m glad when people can go other places and expand for the Kingdom of God. That’s wonderful. But honestly, when people leave, it’s kind of like grieving the death. You love people. You want to have a relationship with you. I’m moved here because I care about people. When that happens, it’s like a third of death every year. So what does that mean?
I think the crux of it all, and if we want to be effective, fellowship becomes important. As a church community, because of the nature of where we are, I think this is just a seasonal life in Utah, this rapid growth rate. Because of the nature of where we are, that makes fellowship so much more important. I can tell you last week I brought up the word loneliness one time. I said the biggest struggle I think we have here in Utah is loneliness and like from up here, looking at your heads, half of them are “yes, yes.” I can’t make people fellowship. But I can tell you we can create a platform for that to exist. And I can’t make you make that your tribe, but I can tell you how important it is to experience that and transparency to have a place to let your hair down.
Now I want you to know highlighting fellowship today. The one thing I don’t want you to do, I don’t want you to walk out of here and go buck wild and be like, man you’re right relationships. I’m making myself friends with 50,000 people. Because you know, just like your Facebook status, you might have 1,500 friends, but you’re not friends with all of those people. No one can have 1,500 friends. So I’m not telling you to go out and make 1,500 friends. I’m saying just go out and make some friends. Have a tribe within your community to encourage you in what God has called us to. Because when that’s expressed and lived out in this world, it becomes attractive to the rest of the world.
So let me just say this. Number one, recognize the importance of community. I’ve heard people use community groups and describe it as preventative counseling. And what I mean is if you own a car, you drive that car, you how important it is to do some regular maintenance. If you decide you’re going to drive that car and your car is special and it doesn’t need an oil change and about 10,000 miles, you’re going to be reminded of how important that oil change is. And in fact, rather than paying 30 or 40 bucks for your oil change, you’re now paying thousands of dollars to replace your engine. So regular maintenance becomes important for you to live healthy or for you to drive healthy. I think community groups work the same way. When your groups about fellowship and diving into God’s word together and encouraging one another in life, whatever season you find yourself in, it becomes a way of preventative counseling.
It becomes a way to encourage your family where they are, to inspire them to be all that God has called them to be. Because here’s what’s going to happen. If you don’t invest in God’s community, at some point in your life, you’re going to find yourself stuck between a rock and a hard place. And at that point, it might be too late to have those people around you to encourage you in your life where you are. It’s far better to invest now because one day you’re gonna need it. And if you don’t, someone else does. And God’s called you to be a part of the encouragement within that community.
Number two, be transparent. The depth of our fellowship is only as good as the transparency that we carry for one another, and the concern that we have. Don’t, don’t over commit, but commit. Don’t spread yourself too thin, but develop some relationships the Lord can use to encourage your life. And number four, we were all a part of God’s plan together. No one’s more important than anyone else, but God has gifted us all uniquely as a part of his body.
In noting we all struggle with loneliness sometimes, one of the people I love is Charles Spurgeon. One of the reasons I love Charles Spurgeon is because, I don’t care about the size of his church, but he did have one of the largest churches to ever exist at that time. Before there was audio ability to orate his church was in the thousands and he would speak multiple times publicly and people could hear him. The man was loud.
But one of the crazy things about Charles Spurgeon is that he struggled deeply with depression. And you read about the things that he faces in life and the comments that his wife made. He spent his life in the pits. But you know, one of the cool things about the struggles that he faced is that he was very candid and I think that’s why people came to the church. They saw a guy that was just transparent. And they saw how he walked with Jesus. And in their struggles they wanted to walk with Jesus too.
And in his struggle, Charles Spurgeon used to fight his depression. And then he started to talk about how he embraced it because he recognized that it was also the tool that God used to draw him closer to Him. Now I’m not saying, enjoy your loneliness, see you later. What I’m saying is sometimes in the depth of our struggles, there’s a place where God calls us to him. I think those are important times to meet the Lord. To walk with Him, and to let him strengthen us.
But in all of this guys, when we consider what it means to live victorious in Christ, I want us to not walk out realizing that we do it alone and that we should do it alone. Worship and your growth as a disciple is important. But it happens in the context of community. And that community, as it lives itself out reaches the world. We’re going to talk about missions next week. But the value of the church, and this is Jesus bride, you’re a part of it.