Sermon, Sunday August 22, 2021 – The Church as a Community

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Why do people join a church?

Today there is much confusion regarding the church. What is the church, is it a building, is it a community, how many people constitute a church?

The church is the gathering of followers of Jesus, locally and globally. We join for the purpose of worship, encouragement, spiritual growth and serving together towards the Great Commission.  

The church is not a club or a social construct of the Western culture.

In Ephesians 4, the Apostle Paul implores the church in Ephesus to be all that they are called to be.

The root Greek word for the church is “Ekkaléō”, which means to call out. Paul writes in verse 1, “Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called”. The church is a group of people who have been called out of darkness into light. A group of people, set apart for the Lord to serve him, being on mission for Jesus.

The church is the Body of Christ. This image emphasizes that the church is the center and focal point of Christ’s activity now, just as was his physical body during his time on earth (1 Corinthians 12:27).Christ is the head of the Body (Colossians 1:18). As the body of Christ, we are interconnected and we need each other.

Verse 3-6 focus on the unity of the church, Paul writes in verse 3, “being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” And then he continues to list 7 aspects of our unity; one Body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all (Ephesians 4:4-5).

Notice that we don’t create unity, we have unity because of the Holy Spirit. Our role is to preserve the unity. Unity assumes that we are actually committed followers of Jesus, carrying the same vision and the same mission. It is possible for people to be members of a church that are not actually part of the Body of Christ. Many churches have people on their membership roles who do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ (Matthew 25:31-46).

True church growth is the result of the members of the church being obedient to Christ. Programs don’t grow the church, every member being obedient to the will of God grows the church. The greatest need we have in our communities and world is the church to be the church, in the true sense of the word. We need to return to the principles of the early church in the New Testament.

In our reading today in v11, we see the gifts of ministry that Jesus has given to the church, “

And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers”. Why did Jesus give these gifts to the church? We see the answer in verse 12, “for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ”.   

God’s plan to reach people with the gospel is not primarily evangelists or apologists. God’s plan to reach people with the gospel is the church. You are the plan God has in mind to change the world!

In addition to these five gifts, God has given spiritual gifts to every Christian as we see in 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12. The church will be rich when every member is using their spiritual gifts. Tony Merida writes, “Every member should grow up and use a towel, not wear a bib. They should not be immature consumers but eager servants.”

As the body, the church is edified, or built up by the exercising of the gifts, the church grows spiritually. Individuals grow in their walk with the Lord and the church displays evidence of spiritual health. In Ephesians 4 we see 4 evidences of spiritual health in the church.

  1. Christlikeness: Pastors and teachers equip the church members by teaching and explaining the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17). As we grow together in the Word of God, we become more like our Lord and Savior
  2. Stability: The maturing Christian is not tossed about by every religious novelty that comes along. There are many false teachers and if we are not careful, we get caught up in a false way of thinking that does not line up with the Word of God. The maturing believer recognizes false doctrine and stays clear of it. Are your feet secure on the firm foundation of the Word of God?
  3. Truth joined with love: (Ephesians 4:15). It has been said that “truth without love is brutality, but love without truth is hypocrisy.” It is a mark of maturity when we can share the truth with our fellow Christians and do it in love (Proverbs 27:6).
  4. Co-operation: (Ephesians 4:16). We realize that, as members of the one body, we belong to each other, we affect each other, and we need each other. Each believer, no matter how, extroverted, or introverted, rich, or poor, educated, or uneducated, has a ministry to other believers. In the Body of Christ when one person is in pain, we are all affected, that person is not functioning as God intended. Every person has an important role to play within the church. This is why the isolation many suffered during the lockdown has revealed how much we need to be in fellowship as the church. An isolated Christian cannot minister to others, nor can others minister to him or her, and it is impossible for the gifts to be ministered either way. A virtual church is not the church at all.

Are you ready to step into healthy church community? Exercising your God given gifts for the building up of the church. We need you!

Sermon, Sunday February 7, 2021

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What is the greatest thing you can do for your neighborhood?

We and the global Church, have been praying faithfully for revival, but what if we were praying for revival for the wrong motives? What if our prayers were only focused on church growth?

The real motive for revival should be our community transformed by a move of the Holy Spirit. Praying for revival must be bigger than our church. We must focus on praying for our community.

In Nehemiah chapter 8, we read the account of a revival that took place in Jerusalem in the fifth century before Christ. Under the governorship of Nehemiah, the walls of the city had been rebuilt and now all the people have gathered at the Water gate and request that Ezra, the priest, reads the book of the law of Moses. These are the first five books of our Bible.

 The water gate was an open public place that was large enough for all the people to gather. Scholars estimate that the crowd was around 50 000 people. As Ezra opened the scrolls and began reading from the Law of Moses, all the people stood in reverence and listened attentively. Ezra read aloud from daybreak until noon with 13 men assisting in the reading and 13 Levites mixing amongst the crowd to help with translation and understanding.

It is significant that this reading took place at the water gate. This place was chosen because the temple court was too small, but it is also significant that Gods Word was proclaimed in the marketplace, in the public square.

The Word of God is meant to be proclaimed in the public places, in the marketplace, and as we do that whole communities will be transformed. All too often the only place that the Word of God is proclaimed is in church buildings. We are doing such a disservice to our community by not proclaiming the Gospel message of Jesus Christ in our communities.

This public proclamation of the Law led to an immediate revival, the people were overcome with remorse and wept as Ezra expounded on the Law of God. Their sins were being exposed by the Holy Spirit and they repented.

What is revival? Firstly, it is not is a church meeting. Revival can start in a meeting, but a meeting itself is not revival. The dictionary states that revival is “restoration to life, consciousness, vigor. An awakening, in a church or community, of interest in and care for matters relating to personal religion

Revival is personal. It starts when individuals repent of their sins and openly proclaim Jesus as Lord. The Israelites were overcome with grief as their sins were exposed. This is what happens when we get a glimpse of the Glory of God and of His awesome purity compared to the sin in our lives.

Revival results in changed lives as people live in holiness and walk-in evangelism and social justice. People are no longer satisfied with the entertainment of the world.  Revival breaks the power of the charm of this world and gives us a heavenly perspective.

There have been some incredible revivals throughout history on every continent. All these revivals had one thing in common, an unusual experience with the presence of God and the overwhelming sense of remorse and repentance from the people (2 Corinthians 7:10).

Our churches, our city, our nation, needs revival. By God’s mercy, we will see a move of God that leads nations to repentance and an overwhelming sense of His Glory and majesty.

But every revival seems to have been relatively short lived. We just must look at the North Eastern United States today, it seems to be so dark and far from recognizing Jesus as Lord. But just a few hundred years ago, it was the center of the Great Awakening under the preaching of Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield.

As we see in Nehemiah chapter 13, this occurred in Jerusalem as well. Less than one year after the revival, it seemed that the people had backslidden, and Nehemiah had to take drastic action to bring them back to observing the Sabbath and worshipping God.

Why did they backslide so quickly?

As we cry out to God for revival, how do we ensure that we do not falter in our faith, but rather continue to grow and experience more of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives?

Our Christian lives should be constantly growing, becoming more like Jesus. If you are not more like Jesus today, than you were a year ago, something is wrong, and you need to re-evaluate your walk with the Lord.

Many Christians go from conference to conference or meeting to meeting and experience amazing encounters with God, but between those experiences they barely live a life that represents a relationship with the living God. After every mountain top experience, we must learn to encounter God in the everyday, mundane life.

How do you grow in your walk with the Lord in the mundane?

Here are four Keys to a growing relationship with God.

  • The first is reading and meditating on the Word of God. There is no substitute for prioritizing time immersed in the Bible.  As we feed on God’s word, it teaches us, rebukes us, and trains us (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Are you allowing the Word of God to align your life with His?
  • Secondly, repenting of our sins. Unconfessed sin will prevent you from experience revival and it will also ensure that you remain a spiritual infant. 1 John 1:9, is a promise from God!
  • Thirdly, living in community. Today we are hearing a lot about community, but true community is rare. Even in our churches, community is a goal that is seldom achieved. Community is more than simply attending a weekly life group, community is living life together, encouraging and challenging each other.  
  • Finally, we pray.  Personal prayer and corporate prayer must be the hallmark of every believer. Prayer is a discipline and a treasure that sadly only a few seem to hold dear.

Prayer is the greatest thing that you can do for your neighborhood.

Sermon, Sunday September 20, 2020 – Walking in the Spirit

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Ephesians 5:18-21

2020 has been a year that has challenged us all in many areas of life, but the area of relationships has been under the most stress as we look at society. People have begun to appreciate the value of being connected and living in community.

When we become followers of Jesus, we take on a new identity as we have seen in Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus. One of the most important results of this new identity is that we have new relationships, we have become part of a new family that is an eternal family (Ephesians 1:5). Our relationships within the Body of Christ is eternal, any relationship outside of the fellowship of believers is temporary. 

But sin is the great separator; it separates us from God and separates us from other people. One of the first signs that someone is struggling with sin in their lives, is that they separate themselves from family fellowship.

In Ephesians 5:18-21, the Apostle Paul exhorts his readers to be filled with the Holy Spirit in order to live in healthy relationships. These verses are all about how we are to relate to one another within the Body of Christ. How we speak to one another in verse 19 and how we submit to one another in verse 21. A Spirit filled believer is someone who lives in a right relationship with God and fellow Christians.

Paul uses the example of a person under the influence of alcohol as the opposite of what it means to be filled with the Spirit of God. Drunkenness leads to a diminished ability to control one’s behavior, whereas one of the fruit of the spirit is self-control.

Being filled with the Holy Spirit is not an experience that is reserved for a select few followers of Jesus. This is the normal Christian life and it is a command from the Word of God. While every true follower of Jesus is sealed by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13), we all need a constant filling to be able to live a life of joy, thanksgiving, and love.

So how are we daily filled with the Holy Spirit? It is an ongoing discipline of prayer and spending time meditating on God’s Word. The Word and the Spirit are connected, as He is the author of the Word (Compare Colossians 3:16 and Ephesians 5:18-19). Daily asking God for a fresh sense of His Spirit, knowing that the Father loves to give His children good gifts (Luke 11:13).

As we walk in the Spirit, being filled with the Spirit we experience results, effects of the overflow of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We see this in verses 19 to 21.

1: The first effect of being filled with the Spirit is joy. This overflows in a heart that is constantly singing. Notice in verse 19 that we sing to one another and to the Lord. There is a vertical and a horizontal dimension to our expression of joy. As we sing corporately, we also encourage one another through worship, that is why the active participation and gathering is so vital for the spiritual health of the believers in the church. We have all discovered that sitting and watching a sermon on the internet is not the same as experiencing the presence of the Lord in a gathering of believers.

The Spirit-filled believer has a song in their heart. In spite of the circumstances, the believer knows a deep sense of joy, this is singing from the heart.

2: The second result of being filled with the Spirit is thankfulness (Ephesians 5:20). The words gratitude and grace share the same root, and the Spirit-filled believer who has experienced the grace of God understands that every good and perfect gift comes from God (James 1:17). As a result, the thankful heart is a humble heart.

Paul commands his readers to be thankful at all times, this is impossible to do in our own strength, hence our daily need to be filled with the Spirit of God. When we face challenges in life, we should turn to the Lord with thanksgiving by the power of the Spirit to keep our heart from complaining and anxiety. The Devil creates chaos in our minds when we start complaining and feeding the fire of anxiety. Thanksgiving, by the power of the Spirit of God, defeats the enemy of our souls (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

3: The third effect of living the Spirit-filled life is submission (Ephesians 5:21).

In our sinful nature, we balk at the idea of submission, but submission simply means to prefer others, not always getting what we want. Submission is essential for healthy Christian community and it is only possible as one is filled with the Spirit of God.

The word submit has military roots and means “to arrange under”. Any soldier serving in the military knows that in order to defeat the enemy, he needs to submit his own desires to the orders of the commanding officer. So, it is with the Christian, we submit to the leadership of the Holy Spirit as we together serve one another and the mission of the church.

This does not come naturally, anyone who acts brash or arrogant is not walking in the Spirit. As we walk Spirit-filled we will display the meekness and the gentleness of Christ.

These three effects of being filled with the Spirit are not simply ideals for us to experience, rather they are essential for living in a Christian community. The fountain of healthy relationships within the Body of Christ is the Holy Spirit in our lives.

As we look at the church today, do we see evidence of Spirit-filled lives?

As the Holy Spirit convicts, repent and invite the Holy Spirit into your life to fill you and control you for the glory of God and for the health of the church.

Sermon Sunday September 1, 2019 A Healthy Church part 2

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Fellowship/ community

Romans 15:1-7

We live in an era where we are more connected than any other time in the history of man.

But psychologists tell us that loneliness is the number one health issue of our time. How can it be it that we are so connected but at the same time so lonely?

In Acts 2:42, we read that the early church devoted themselves to fellowship, the Greek word Koinonia, which means; partnership, participation, communion and companionship.

In Romans 15:1-7, the Apostle Paul instructs the Roman church how to live and how to relate to one another in light of the Gospel. In the first verse he gets straight to the point, “We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.” He uses the word obligation, which could also mean, duty, or legal requirement,

We don’t like this kind of language in our culture today, we are free individuals, why should we be obligated to do anything for someone else? Obviously, just as in 2019, this was a problem in the first century. Paul answers the question very clearly in verse 3 of Romans 15, “For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.”

Christ gave himself for us. This is the foundation for the Gospel message, Jesus being obedient to the Father preferred us over his own life and his position in heaven. True unity in the church is an outworking of the Gospel, it is a miracle of God as the Holy Spirit draws us to prefer each other, in light of what Jesus has done for us.

But It still takes work, Paul repeats the phrase “endurance and encouragement” in verse 4 and

It takes endurance, it takes hard work, it takes commitment (that word that our generation seems find troublesome).

Endurance is the ability to endure and continue to do something even when the finish line never seems to get any closer.  Walking in unity requires endurance, there are days when it seems easier than others, but we keep on going, because we are committed to each other.

Along with endurance, we need Encouragement, we are encouraged by the faithfulness of those who have gone before us (see Hebrews 12:1), We are encouraged by the Word of God,

And we are encouraged by the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in the church.

All of these encourage us and keep us moving forward towards greater unity, towards a healthier community.

Community literally means living with unity. But what is the purpose of unity in the church?

Is it so that we can just get along? Is it so that we portray the image of a nice happy family?

Is it so that we attract more people to our happy community and grow? Actually it is significantly important than all of those, unity in the church is to bring glory to God (see Romans 15:6).

How do we display the glory of God as the church? In Ephesians 3:10 we read, “so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.”

God is using the followers of Jesus to display His wisdom to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. The word for manifold is the same word that one would use to describe the many facets of a diamond. God holds the church up like a diamond and points to the church and teaches about himself to the angels and principalities of the spirit world. Even as we are weak, broken and struggling towards unity, because of the Gospel and the righteousness of Jesus, we are used by God more than we will ever know. When we walk in unity and prefer others, we display the Glory of God. In John 17:22 and 23, as Jesus was praying for the church, he prayed that we would display the glory given to him by the Father, in order to draw others to a saving knowledge of himself.

Unity is not simply getting along for the sake of peace, unity is a miracle of God in order to display the glory of God to a lost and dying world. Jesus desires unity more than we do, he went to the cross so that we could be a community of believers in fellowship and love.

There is much at stake, it is vital that we are a healthy community, the eternal destiny of our neighbors is at stake. Our culture is starving for authentic community.

Many people are thirsting for community but are afraid to step into community, reaching out and being proactive, not for what we can get out of it, but for the Glory of God to be displayed. When you do that, you will get more out of a community than you ever imagined.

The focus will be off ourselves and we will lift our heads up and be healthy.

When we grasp how Jesus went to the cross for us, we will easily give ourselves and our self-interests away in order to step into a community where Jesus is glorified. If we struggle to stay in fellowship with each other, it is because we are not allowing the Gospel message to permeate our relationships, we are self-centered rather than grace centered.

We live in a culture of individualism and consumerism and the church can easily fall into the trap of feeding the desires of the consumers, instead of focusing on the glory of God. A healthy church is where people willingly step into community in order to display the glory of Jesus.

So how do we step into community?

Firstly, we need to understand that supernatural unity can only be found in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as the head of the church. A church community that is not centered around a common relationship with Jesus will always leave us wanting (see John 4:13-14a).

Stepping into community requires vulnerability, it requires a risk. Step into community, volunteer to serve, host a meal and invite people around. We are all busy, but we prioritize what we value. What is we prioritized and valued authentic community, what can be a better way to spend our time than displaying the glory of God?

Take a step today.