Sermon Sunday May 22, 2022 Love One Another

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Church numerical growth has been a topic of study for decades. Many books have been written and seminars delivered. However, there is a very simple three-word prescription for church growth, “Love One Another”.

It might sound simplistic, but it is one of the most challenging things to do.

The apostle John is a succinct writer who simplifies the Christian life down to the essential elements, know Jesus, obey God, and love others.

John uses the term “beloved” six times in this letter. John makes the case that the love of God is essential for us to be able to love our brothers and sisters. We aren’t called to love out of duty or legalism, that would be hypocritical. What John is writing about is a supernatural love, seen and experienced in those who abide in Jesus. This is the love that is the fruit of the Spirit.

There is way more to this supernatural love than a mushy, warm and fuzzy experience, there is power in this love. As we see in verse 8, perfect love as revealed in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ has dealt a death blow to darkness. Darkness is on the run, and it cannot outrun the light. How we love one another gives evidence of all of this.

The love of Christ in us is not a shallow sentimental emotion. It is a matter of the will not of feelings. Christlike love is a determined decision to allow the love of God to reach others through you. Christlike love is the essential ingredient of true evangelism.

The best explanation of Christian love is found in 1 Corinthians 13. This chapter is not a text for weddings or valentine’s day messages, it is a day-to-day church passage. It is the prescription for how we are to live as the body of Christ.

The love of God is given to the church supernaturally for the building up of the church (Romans 5:5). God has poured his love into the hearts of everyone who has given their lives to the Lordship of Jesus.

John’s life was transformed by this supernatural love. He was not always loving, he and his brother James were known as the “sons of thunder”, because of their emotional outbursts. In Luke 9, James and John asked Jesus if they could call down fire from heaven to destroy the Samaritan village who rejected Jesus. John was transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit, and he loved as Jesus loved.

And there is good reason why this love is supernatural, because it is a cosmic war between light and darkness. The world of light and love always go together (1 John 2:9-10).

The natural question that follows is, who is my brother? The Greek word used for brother here means a person who lives close by, literally my neighbor. Well, who is my neighbor? Jesus addressed this in Luke 10 by telling the parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus explained that our neighbor is the person in front of us right now. The person in need, the person we work with or the person we bump into while walking into the store. Are you aware of your neighbor? Those daily opportunities to love the way Jesus loved.

Verse 11 returns to those who are in darkness, “But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.”

If you hate someone, you are walking blindly in continual darkness. This kind of darkness is spiritual death. Hatred is blinding people today and this happens in the church as little disagreements creep in, and relationships are broken.

This kind of blindness can creep into the church in many ways. It is not necessarily through arguments. Sometimes blindness can creep into the church in the form of doctrine and spiritual elitism. People have their favorite doctrine, theology, or experience and if they are not careful, they become critical of others who do not share the same view or experience. This kind of person thinks he is a spiritual giant, having it all figured out, but really, he is a spiritual babe, lacking the ability to discern what is important, loving one another. Some people are so in love with their doctrine and “rightness”, that they have lost their love for their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

In recent years it seems that we have lost the ability to disagree and still love each other.

It is impossible to be in fellowship with the Father and out of fellowship with another Christian at the same time. The Christian life has two relationships: the vertical (Godward) and the horizontal (manward). We need both, which is why gathering for worship and fellowship on a Sunday morning is so vital to our spiritual health.

If you put a group of people in a room long enough, someone is going to get offended. So how do we respond?

The follower of Jesus who has been offended must understand two things;

1) I have no right to be offended. I gave up my rights when I asked Jesus to be Lord of my life.

2) Harboring unforgiveness only harms the offended person.

“Unforgiveness is like drinking poison yourself and waiting for the other person to die.”

Marianne Williamson

Loving one another in the church is very practical and essential for the health of the church.

Practically we love each other by:

  • Serving one another.  Stepping up and volunteering when there is a need.
  • Love one another through theological differences. Jesus was critical of the pharisees, not because of their doctrine, but because they didn’t care for the flock.
  • Love one another through joy and pain. Carry one another’s burdens, look for practical ways to care when someone is hurting.
  • Love one another on mission. Serving alongside each other as we share the Gospel in our community.  
  • Love one another by confronting sin. Do we love one another enough to call out a brother or sister who is living in sin?
  • Love one another to grow spiritually. Just as the fruits and flowers need sunshine, so God’s people need love if they are going to grow.

How are you loving each other today?

Sermon Sunday September 15, 2019 A Healthy Church part 4

Growth

Acts 2:41-47

I’ve had two trees in our backyard since we moved into our house five years ago.  They have grown rapidly and have quickly exceeded my ability to manage their growth.

As I was thinking about this problem, I realized that this is a common problem in churches that are experiencing growth. When the growth exceeds the capacity to manage the growth, the result is a poorly maintained organization that leaves people frustrated on the outside and burnt out on the inside.

Growth can be challenging, so how does a healthy church grow?

The early church is a model of church health and as we have seen in Acts 2:42, there were 4 distinctive indicators of a healthy church.

  1. Devoted to the study of the Word of God
  2. Devoted to community and fellowship
  3. Devoted to breaking bread together
  4. Devoted to prayer.

These are the four devotions of a healthy church and being devoted to these four principles leads to dramatic results as we see from verse 43 to 47.

  • Awe resulting from miracles (v 43)

The apostles had walked with Jesus, they had seen his many powerful miracles and they began to do the same things. Signs and wonders are for the express purpose of bringing glory to God. Today, all over the world, amazing miracles are happening, and the primary purpose is to declare the glory of God and the Gospel message. We see this throughout the book of Acts; signs and wonders lead to salvations. Awe or fear came upon everyone because they recognized a greater power at work, they couldn’t ignore that God was working in power and it caused a reverent fear (See Hebrews 2:3-4).

  • They were a unified church (verse 44)

This was the church in its infancy.  There were no arguments over false teaching, doctrine or opinions. This was before the church began to argue about buildings and programs. A church that is devoted to the things of God, will be a unified church. The moment we lack unity, it is because we have lost our purpose.

The early church had an intense feeling of responsibility towards one another (see John 17:21-22). The early church as described in Acts 2, was an answer to that prayer of Jesus, and many were drawn to the Savior as a result.

  • They were a generous church (verse 45)

This verse is not promoting a form of socialism, rather this was a voluntary caring for each other as they shared their wealth to help those in need.

The rapid growth of the early church resulted in many physical needs. During Pentecost, there were Jews from every nation of the world, who had been converted and most of them stayed in Jerusalem. They would have quickly run out of money and food, and they needed places to stay. There was an outpouring of generosity as the unity of the church led to caring for these needs.

Generosity must be an essential mark of the church (see 1 John 3:16-18).

William Barclay wrote, “a real Christian cannot bear to have too much while others have too little.”

  • They were a rejoicing church (verse 46).

Daily the believers were celebrating their salvation, they were celebrating that Jesus was alive and that their lives had purpose. They weren’t simply following a religion of going through the weekly and yearly festivals, this new devotion to Christ affected every aspect of their lives.

There was not a separation between secular and sacred, they didn’t only gather once a week for a time to dress up in their Sunday best and try to impress people with their holiness. Their lives were transformed by being totally committed to the Lordship of Jesus in their lives and it affected every aspect of their lives.

This is such a challenge for us in the western culture, we have bought into the idea that we can be Christians so long as we attend church regularly and give to the church. This is not what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Being a Christian affects every minute of every day of our lives, whether it is at home, work, school or in fellowship with other believers.

We don’t add Jesus to our lives, we give our lives to Jesus, that is Lordship, and real Christianity.

  • They were an attractive church (verse 47).

There have been many books and seminars regarding the subject of church growth, encouraging churches to change the décor, the music, the lighting, the website and much more. Some even encourage pastors to reduce the amount of teaching using the Bible and please don’t tell people that they are sinners! These books and seminars have made a lot of people rich, but what they have also done is created a church culture that is so focused on the desires of the attendees that the church has forgotten their reason for gathering.

A consumer driven church culture has been created and it is extremely damaging to the understanding of the Church. If we cater to what people want in order to gather a crowd, it will necessitate a deviation from the Gospel message.

The church is good at religion, creating a list of things to do that a good Christian should do. But the early church focused not on what they should do, rather they focused on what has already been done by Jesus’ death and resurrection.  

The early church praised God for all that He has done, they were not seeking any fame or notoriety, they gave all the glory to God. As a result, they grew in number. People were attracted to the miracles that were being done, and to the genuine, authentic worship of the early church.

True church growth must be a work of God as it is an authentic display of individuals living as followers of Christ which will draw others to want the same.

We can do our part to welcome people and invite people and witness to people, but ultimately Jesus is the one who builds the church (see Matthew 16:18).