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 8, 2019 A Healthy Church part 3

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1 Peter 2:1-12:

Do you know who you are?

If you have been at Grace Point at anytime during the last 5 years, you will know that we value prayer as a church. But with all the emphasis on prayer, we still don’t see our prayer times well attended. I have been wrestling with this and have concluded that we don’t have a prayer problem, we have in identity problem. We don’t pray because we don’t really believe our prayers make a difference, because we don’t know who we are in the Kingdom of God. As followers of Jesus, we have an identity problem.  

As Christians, our identity is not our nationality, our education or our career, our identity is to be found in being a child of God, adopted by the creator of the universe and being a member of the eternal kingdom of God. But more than that as Peter wrote in our text this morning, I am part of a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession (see 1 peter 2:9).

If you are a follower of Jesus, someone who has committed your life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, you are a priest, that is your identity.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 1 Peter 2:9

Andrew Murray in his book, “With Christ in the school of prayer” writes, “every member of the Body of Christ – the church, has a right to the priesthood. But not everyone exercises it, many are still entirely ignorant of it. And yet it is the highest privilege if a child of God.”

What does it mean to be a priest in the kingdom of God?

As a church we believe in the priesthood of every believer, we believe that every believer is called to fulltime ministry, whatever their vocation might be (see Revelation 1:5-6).

In the Old Testament, under the Mosaic Law, God’s people had a priesthood. There were definite qualifications for this, and it was an awesome privilege. No man in Israel could serve at the altar, or enter the tabernacle or temple holy places, except those born into the tribe of Levi and consecrated to God for service. The priest’s role was to be the mediator between God and man. And only the High priest could enter the holy of holies in the tabernacle. Once a year, on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the high priest was permitted to enter and sprinkle the blood of a sacrificial animal on the mercy seat of the Ark. By doing so, the high priest atoned for his own sins and those of the people.

The Holy of Holies was separated from the rest of the tabernacle/temple by the veil, a huge, heavy drape made of fine linen that was up to 6 inches thick.

When Jesus died on the cross in Matthew 27:51 we read that this veil was torn by God from top to bottom. It was a supernatural event done by the power of God to declare that man was no longer separated from God. The Old Testament temple system was made obsolete as the New Covenant was ratified. No longer would we have to depend on priests to perform once-a-year sacrifices on our behalf (see Hebrews 10:19-22).

We as followers of Jesus have now a great and eternal High priest, who mediates for us, he represents us before God the Father. More than that, because of the perfect and final sacrifice that Jesus performed on the cross, we are declared righteous before God. Jesus is not only the High priest, but he is also the King of Kings, therefore we are a royal priesthood and a holy nation, because we are forever covered and made holy by the blood of Jesus.

We have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus, to be priests in our culture, praying for our culture and representing God to the culture. Sadly, we don’t realize who we are, we have a case of mistaken identity and we don’t see ourselves as priests, we are happy just to take our salvation and hide from the world until we die, or Jesus comes again. Instead of influencing our culture, we hide from our culture.

But we are called to be priests who as a body of believers represent Christ to the world. When we display Christ, we display the power of the Gospel and people are drawn to the authentic display of the power of the Gospel.

If we want to see miracles, salvations, people set free from addictions, marriages healed and lives restored, we need to act like priests who have unhindered and unlimited access to the Great High Priest. That is what it means to pray, that is why a healthy church prays.  

We cannot work our way into church health, we cannot come up with strategies and programs that will somehow create sustainable church health. The only lasting strategy is prayer. Because we desperately need the holy spirit to give us life, we are a dependent people, unity and community are not possible without the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in our church.

Our worship services need to be permeated with prayer, because prayer is an expression of our dependence on God. A healthy church prays, not only on a Sunday morning, but also during the week as we gather together.

How do you prepare your heart to worship on a Sunday morning?

Do you realize that as a follower of Jesus Christ, you are a priest in the kingdom, not only on a Sunday morning, but also on a Saturday night. How you spend your time during the week in private has a very real and definite effect on our gathering here together.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his book Life Together says, “we are members of a body, not only when we choose to be, but in our whole existence. Every member serves the whole body, either to its health or to its destruction. This is no mere theory; it is a spiritual reality.”

Bonhoeffer went on to write, “A Christian fellowship lives and exists by the intercession of its members for one another, or it collapses. I can no longer condemn or hate a brother for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble he causes me.”

Sermon, Sunday August 25, 2019 – The Healthy Church Part 1

Acts 2:41-47

What is a healthy church? 1 Corinthians 12 describes the church as a body, with each part functioning well so that the whole body is healthy. But we are all broken and hurting people, how can we function together as a healthy body?

In Acts 2, we have a model of a healthy church. One hundred and twenty followers of Jesus, waiting in the upper room, were filled with the Holy Spirit and they went into the streets proclaiming the Gospel message. Three Thousand people were added to the church that day and this same church has influenced every church for the past two thousand years. But what was their secret?

The past three months have been filled with mission trips and praying for those going out to share the message of the Gospel, focusing on the lost in our city and across the nations.

This is all good, but a church that only looks at missions without caring about the discipleship of the members is not healthy. Just like a church that focuses only inward is not healthy.

There needs to be a balance of equipping (discipleship) and mission (going out).

Athletic trainers will tell you that a strong core is vital for all the body to function well, and spend hours strengthening the core. If the core is weak, the whole body is weak and cannot operate at its best. The same applies to the analogy of the church as a body. If the core of the church is weak, the whole body does not function well.

The early church was more than a gathering of like-minded believers who came together once a week for a time of fellowship and worship. It was a body of fully committed people, committed to the lordship of Jesus Christ personally, and committed to each other in fellowship and unity. This church was the healthiest and most effective the church has ever been.

Acts 2:42 begins with the phrase, “And they devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching…”

Devotion means a regular observance. Individual committed devotion is a sign of genuine salvation. Someone who does not desire to spend time daily in God’s word is probably not filled with the Holy Spirit and probably not saved. Saying that you do not desire to read God’s Word regularly is like saying that you are alive, but don’t need to drink water. The foundational mark of a true believer is someone who abides in Christ, who feeds on God’s word (see John 8:31).

So, what were they teaching? The Apostles had sat under the greatest teacher of all time for three years. In the upper room at Pentecost, they were filled with the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth and now they were teaching the new believers who in turn taught others. This is the pattern of the early church and sadly something that we have lost in the church. We have developed this understanding that only the pastor or person who has a master’s degree in theology can teach. We all need to carefully study doctrine, know what we believe, why we believe it and then be able to teach it. This message is intended to come to us and then flow through us (2 Timothy 2:2).

In the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20), Jesus commands all of us to make disciples, to win converts and disciple them. This is not only a command to go to the ends of the earth, but also to the person sitting next to you, or the young person who is desperate for a mentor, a role model to help them walk out the Christian life in the twenty-first century.

The Dead sea is the lowest body of water on the planet and lies between Israel and Jordan. The river Jordan flows into it from the sea of Galilee but does not flow out of it. As a result, the Dead sea has ten times the concentration of salt than the oceans and is unable to sustain any life. This is a picture of many individuals and even churches who pride themselves on their theological knowledge, amassing more and more teaching, but never applying the word.

Such people and churches are deep, salty and dead!

A healthy body of water allows the life-giving resource to flow in and then out again, feeding another pond or stream. Are you stagnating on the word? Or are you allowing the word to flow through you to others?

The early church focused on the resurrection of Jesus and the Gospel message, they preached John 14:6. The Gospel is the good news that Jesus is the eternal Son of God, who spoke all of creation into being. He came to earth in the form of a baby, his mother Mary conceived by the Holy Spirit. Jesus lived a perfect life, he was crucified and buried, but he rose again on the third day, overcoming death and paying the price of the judgment of God for our sins. This Jesus ascended into heaven, where he is seated at the right hand of the Father and where he is preparing praying for us and preparing a place for us to be with him. This same Jesus is coming again to restore all things and judge the earth.

This Gospel message is the message that saves us, but it is also the message that sustains us and keeps us growing in our own personal walk with the Lord. John Piper said, “Therefore, the gospel is the power that gives us victory over temptation to despair and to pride and to greed and to lust. The gospel alone can triumph over every obstacle and bring us to eternal joy.”

We have the blessing of the eternal Word of God and a healthy church loves to devote themselves to the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17 and Hebrews 4:12).

The church and individual that studies and meditates on the Word of God will be healthy.

Jonathan Edwards, the 18th century theologian defined 5 metrics for determining a genuine move of the Holy Spirit in a church.

  1. A growing esteem for Jesus Christ.
  2. A discernible spirit of repentance.
  3. A dogged devotion to the Word of God.
  4. An interest in theology and doctrine.
  5. An evident love for God and neighbor.

Are you healthy?

Pray that God the Holy Spirit gives you a passion for the Word of God, and it will bring you life (Proverbs 4:20-22).

Sermon June 18 2017 What time is it? Part 2

Across the world we are seeing that God is on the move. Millions of people are becoming followers of Jesus, many of them at the risk of losing their lives.

For information on what is happening in the middle east read this article: https://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/stories/muslims-turn-to-christ-in-unprecedented-numbers-pt-1/

In Asia, Africa and South America we are seeing millions coming to know Jesus Christ as Lord and savior.

So you may say, what does all this have to do with our local church here in South Kansas City?

It is important to realize that we as a small church on the hill here in Kansas City, are a part of something glorious, something far bigger and more powerful than we can ever imagine.

Paul writing the churches in the region of Ephesus wrote to people that he had not met personally but he had heard about their faith and their love for the Lord. Reading Ephesians 1:15-23, Paul lets them know that he is praying for them to have the eyes of their hearts enlightened (v 18). He wants them to know that they are not simply a small insignificant group of believers in Asia minor, he wants them to understand that they are a holy people called by God, and that they are precious to God. Sometimes we need that reminder too, do you know how precious the church is to God? Do you know how precious Grace Point is to God?

But not only that, Paul reminds them of the power of God that is for them. He continues in verse 19 and 20 by encouraging them that no matter what forces are opposing them, the power of God is greater and He is able to sustain His church. Paul continues to elaborate that Jesus is far more powerful than any authority, power and dominion; not only in this age, but also in the age to come.

This same Jesus who is God himself, the all-powerful creator God, has been appointed as the head of the church. God placed all things under Jesus’ feet as we see in verse 22.

Finally, in verse 23 Paul says that the church is the body of Christ. We often say that as the church, we are the body of Christ, but do we really understand that? I doubt we can even begin to fathom what that means for us.

Jesus so identifies with his church, he is so committed to his church, that he calls us to be his ambassadors, his holy representatives in the world, having the fulness of Christ in us (see Colossians 1:24-27).

We as Grace Point Baptist church are part of something so much bigger and so much more powerful than we can ever imagine. And the best part of it is that if we simply remain faithful to what God has called us to do, he is responsible for the results as Jesus said in Matthew 16:18, the he will build his church. We need to simply ask him for the plan and do what he says.

There was a conversation that was common at Grace Point a few years ago, it was the conversation of when we are going to have to close the doors, sell the building and find another church.

I am so glad that we don’t have those conversations anymore, not because of any plan or strategy that we have implemented, but because of what Jesus is doing in his church. Jesus, our head is changing the conversation, he is bringing about new life.

The truth is that any talk about closing or running out of money is not grounded in an understanding of our true identity. Our identity as the body of Christ, this is his church and if we grasp, as Paul prayed for the church in Ephesus that we would have the eyes of our hearts enlightened, in order to see who we are in Christ. Knowing our true identity, we will quickly see that he alone is responsible for the results, our responsibility is to be fervent in prayer and quick to obey what he tells us to do.

I recently read a book by Andrew Davis and in it he writes that every church exists for one purpose alone, to bring Glory to God by making progress on two spiritual journeys.

The first is the internal journey of discipleship and growth towards maturity in Christ. Peter commands this in his second letter, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.” 2 Peter 3:18. That is the journey that we are on as individuals, we will never complete this journey of spiritual maturity until Jesus comes again.

The second journey is the external journey of evangelism and missions.

The Great Commission that Jesus left the church in Matthew 28:19-20 still applies to us today.

A healthy church, as Davis writes has both journeys in balance; being committed to discipleship while at the same time being committed to missions and evangelism.

As we ask the question, what is the time on God’s calendar for Grace Point? This church that has over 106 years of fruitful ministry, what is the season we are in right now? What does the Lord have for us to be and to do in our ever-changing society?

In our culture, our traditional programs, simply don’t reach the community the way they once did. But a healthy church, functioning as the body of Christ will reach our community.

Programs are not the sign of a healthy church. Rather, relationships, community and being centered on the Gospel message are signs of a healthy church.

I loved the message that Bob Michaels shared three years ago, as he spoke about the transformational church he said; “the transformational church innovates to advance the Gospel.”

This is definitely an exciting time for us as a church as we see what God is doing in our midst and what He is doing all over the earth.