The Church

The Church: A Reaching Community

A Reaching Community full manuscript

The Church: A Called-Out Reaching Community

Pastor Paul Davis

Sunday, September 24, 2017

We have been talking about the Church and misconceptions that have developed over time. We have been attempting to build a greater understanding of what the church is and what she is supposed to do.

The question goes something like this: “If Jesus is the only way to heaven, what happens to the billions of people who have never believed in Him?”

Sometimes our diversions are God’s divine plans.

Acts 26:16-18

There is a powerful glimpse of God’s grace and the purpose of the church in this passage—we must not miss it:

1. We are sent (end of verse 17) – if we are believers in Jesus Christ, we have been sent on the same mission as Jesus and Paul (Matthew 28:18-20)

2. We are sent on a mission to open eyes (Isaiah 35:5, 42:7; 1 Timothy 2:3-4; 2 Peter 3:9) – God does not desire that billions go to Hell. God’s desire is that all men be saved.

3. We are sent on a mission to open eyes so the nations might turn from darkness to light (2 Corinthians 4:4) – We, the Church, are God’s gracious provision to bring people trapped in darkness into His glorious Light!

4. We are sent on a mission to open eyes so the nations might turn from darkness to light and turn from the power of Satan to God (2 Timothy 2:24-26)

5. We are sent on a mission to also receive forgiveness of sins  – The Church is God’s gracious plan to share this Good News with those drowning in sin and guilt.

6. We are sent on a mission to receive forgiveness of sins and be given a place among God’s people, who are set apart by faith in Jesus.

Summary: “Does God really send everyone who does not know Jesus to Hell?” The answer is No! God is sending you and I, His church to the nations to open their eyes, so they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God. Then they will receive forgiveness for their sins and be given a place among God’s people.

The Church: A Learning Community

A Learning Community full sermon manuscript

The Church: A Called Out Learning Community

Passage: Various

Pastor Paul Davis

Sunday, September 17, 2017

 

We have been talking about the Church and misconceptions that have developed over time. We have been attempting to build a greater understanding of what the church is and what she is supposed to do.

One distinctively American misconception is “church” is often viewed as a spectator event. It becomes something to come to and watch. We may fit it into our busy week if we can and we may or may not show up based on our availability.

But, the Church is meant to be a community not an event. It is a community whose goal is to proclaim the Gospel to unbelievers and grow to maturity those who have believed.

As the Church we are called out to be a community of believers proclaiming the Gospel to unbelievers and devoted to growing as disciples.

 

Here are six community activities of discipleship:

Community Activity #1: Worship (Psalm 100:1-4; Revelation 14:7; James 1:22)

Community Activity #2: Confession (1 John 1:9; James 5:16)

Community Activity #3: Prayer (Psalm 5:3)

Community Activity #4: Word-Study (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

Community Activity #5: Fellowship (Acts 2:42-47)

Community Activity #6: Mutual Submission (Ephesians 5:19-21; Philippians 2:3)

 

Church is not a spectator sport. When we gather, let us be intentional to:

Use our minds, emotions, and wills to fear, praise and adore God

Communally acknowledge our sins to the Lord and each other

Communally bring our requests and petitions to the Lord

Read, study, and meditate on the Scriptures, looking for them to renew our minds and make us more like Christ

Care and sacrifice for and with each other to meet the needs of the community

Humble ourselves in our relationship with God and others

The Church: A Giving Community

A Giving Community full sermon manuscript

We have looked at six very different passages. Let me wrap up with some conclusions from them.

 

1. If you are not faithfully, consistently and sacrificially giving to the Lord’s work, your heart is somewhere else.

Let’s quit fooling around; this is eternity we are talking about. If you find it difficult if not impossible to at least tithe, according to the passages we looked at this morning, your heart is somewhere but it is not fully devoted to the Lord. God’s Word says it is impossible to serve two masters. Take a moment to search your heart. If you have been devoting your life to lust for or the attainment of money, repent this morning.

 

2. Giving reveals in whom or what we are trusting and loving. I had an ethics professor in seminary that was brutally honest on this point. He would say, “Let me look at your checkbook, and in five minutes I’ll know whether you are a disciple of Jesus Christ.“ The righteous are givers. Where our hearts are, our dollars flow.

 

3. There are great and eternal rewards for secretly giving. Please do not miss a key truth tucked in each of these passages. The reason why covetousness and hoarding earthly treasures are so maligned is because they are horrible investments! They rot and rust and burn up. Humbly and secretly giving of your time, talent and resources builds an eternal portfolio of heavenly riches that never burn, rust or rot. Listen to how Paul told his disciple Timothy to teach these issues to the wealthy in his congregation. 1 Timothy 6:17–19 As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. Why should we share and be generous? Because it builds the foundation for our eternal future, treasures and rewards that are the true and abundant life that Jesus promised.

 

Final Challenge: So, Calvary, let us set our hearts against covetousness and seeking earthly pleasures and instead seek those things which are above, where Christ is seated on the throne of glory. Let us give and serve and love in ways that store up treasures that will never rot nor rust. As a church, let us be known for our compassion, generosity and willingness to sacrifice for those in need.

The Church: A Sending Community

A Sending Community sermon notes

A Sending Community

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Pastor Paul Davis

 

As I explore the Scriptures, I think God has something more in mind for his church and his children than ‘coming and getting’ good stuff.

 

Turn with me to Acts Chapter 2 for a moment. This is the very first time we see the actual church in Scripture. The Holy Spirit has just been given at Pentecost and Peter has just preached his sermon where over 3000 received Christ. The church is born!

 

Acts 2

Immediately at its birth the church gave herself over (the idea of ‘devoted’) to teaching, fellowship and prayer. Teaching was specifically about Jesus –Since the Bible did not exist the only records of Jesus’ words and teaching were from the apostles. Fellowship is sharing a meal together, sharing the load of a project, bearing burdens, meeting needs. The Prayers were short prayers that petitioned God for salvation, redemption, knowledge, forgiveness, righteousness and praised God for his holiness, might and blessings.

 

Acts 6:7 (ESV) 7 And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.

 

Why was the church growing? The Church was growing because of clear teaching, daily fellowship, unrelenting prayer, generous giving, and faithful serving.

 

When a church is teaching, fellowshipping, praying, giving and serving the Holy Spirit will call some people to extra-ordinary missions.

 

Not everyone is sent on extra-ordinary missions. Some believes are sent on extra ordinary missions, God calls the rest of the church to send people on extra-ordinary missions.

 

What does this mean for us today?

1. We need to grow in unrelenting prayer. Almost every passage we walked through this morning had prayer as part of it. I am not going to lay the guilt trip of prayer on you this morning, but I will remind us that Scripture clearly teaches us that prayer is the activator of God’s holy will. If we want to see lives changed, we must pray about it.

 

2. We need to earnestly identify those that God is sending on extra-ordinary missions. Who are the people in our church that hear the Holy Spirit sending them? Where does God want us to send them? If there will be missionaries and pastors for the generation beyond us, they will only come from Calvary if we intentionally listen to the Holy Spirit and train and support those God is calling to extra-ordinary missions.

 

3. We need to work on biblical giving and receiving. The church flourishes when she gives. I’m not talking about tithes and offerings and figuring out what 10% of our incomes are. I’m talking about selling stuff and making sure our missionaries are supported, knowing the names and the needs of our missionaries. They are the ones we are sending on extra-ordinary missions. Is our youth pastor being properly taken care of? Do we have young men we need to send to seminary?

 

Giving and receiving is a central piece of being the church. There are huge blessings on both sides of the equation.

The Church: A Serving Community

A Serving Community sermon notes

The Church: A Called-Out Serving Community

Passage: Various

Sunday August 13, 2017

Pastor Paul L. Davis

Key Goals: (Know) Understand the power of servanthood. (Feel) Develop a desire to serve God. (Do) Serve.

Introduction: There are only a few times in my life when I have been utterly amazed, but this was one of them. When I was a youth pastor, I decided that a fun way to begin group one night would be to do a limbo stick. Now I chose the game on purpose because generally the smallest youngest girl wins. We had several young jr. high girls, so I thought it would be a morale booster for them to win a game—they usually lost at dodgeball. As the game progressed, all the guys got out except one senior named Danny. It was just he and 5 girls. When we finally got to the lowest point, only Danny made it, and he could have gone lower! Let me come back to this story in a minute.

Over the last several weeks we have been studying the church. What you may not be aware of is that I have been taking you on a journey. We have been doing what Bible scholars call a “biblical theology.” The idea of a biblical theology is to come to an understanding about a subject by looking at the whole Bible. I cannot think of a subject with more misconceptions today than the church.

Common misconceptions of the church:

  • We think of church as a building, not a body of people.
  • We think of church as an event that happens once a week.
  • We think of church as a “TED talk” to better our lives.
  • We think of church as optional.
  • We think of church as a networking tool—a place to further our interests.
  • We think of church as entertainment, meant to please our senses.

This morning we are going to jump into a passage that you are probably familiar with, but it has huge implications on understanding what church is. Turn to Matthew 20:20–28. Jesus and his disciples have traveled to Judea just outside of Jerusalem where Jesus is teaching larger and larger crowds of people.

20 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something.

Context: Let me give you some background. The apostles James and John were the sons of Zebedee. Zebedee was a wealthy fisherman who came from a well-connected family and was married to Salome. Salome shows up several times in the Gospels. She was the sister of Jesus’ mother, Mary, which means she was Jesus' aunt (Jn. 19:25). She was one of the women who watched the crucifixion with Mary (Mark 15:40). She was also one of the three women who found Jesus’ tomb empty on resurrection morning (Matt 27:56). She was very close to Jesus. James and John, Salome and Zebedee’s sons, were, along with Peter, the disciples closest to Jesus. They followed him faithfully and were two of the very first men called to be disciples. Being sons of Salome, they were Jesus’ first cousins and they would have known Jesus from the time they were small children. As we read this, what we are seeing is Jesus’ aunt and his two closest disciples—all very intimate relatives—coming to Jesus with a request.

 21 And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” 22 Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.”

“Cup” was a common Old Testament metaphor for suffering, especially suffering caused by God’s wrath (Ps 75:8; Isa 51:17). Jesus is asking if John and James are prepared to experience rejection and persecution for their faith.[1] In essence, he is asking, “Are you willing to die for me?” And without hesitation they say, “Yes.” To their credit, there is no lack of faith here. They are willing to follow Jesus to the end, and they will. James will be the very first disciple killed for following Jesus (by Herod Agrippa, Acts 12:2). John lives a long life but spends several years exiled to the island of Patmos (Rev. 1:9). These men have a strong faith, but it is faith mixed with a little self-promotion.

 23 He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” 24 And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers.

The Greek word translated as indignant is ἀγανακτέω. It means to be angry, resentful, annoyed, or offended regarding unfair treatment. I guarantee you that every one of those ten disciples thought to themselves, "John and James are using their family connections to get ahead." What Jesus does in verse 25 is beautiful, because relationally things have broken down amongst the 12 disciples. But Jesus called them to him. Once again, just like we saw last week, Jesus calls his disciples close and he tells them a little something about being his disciple.

25 But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, 28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  

Do we want to be first? We must be last. Do we want to be the leader? Serve others. Do we want to be great? Be a servant. Do we want to be number one? Become a slave. If you have been in church for any time at all, you have probably heard these verses, but have you ever considered how truly radical Jesus’ words are? Jesus’ interaction here radically reassigned for his disciples what was important and what wasn’t. He revealed that what his church would value would be very different from what the world values.

Think of how this passage contradicts our American culture of self. We love our rights, we love options from which to choose, we hate to wait in lines or be stuck in traffic, we hate being told what to do, and we resent people who have what we don’t. This passage, on the other hand, gives us three key truths about ourselves and the church that we cannot miss!

 

1. Personal privilege, status and power are antithetical to Christ’s church.

The Roman world of Jesus’ time was very binary, much more so than our world today. Then you were either a slave or a free man, either a ruler or being ruled. It was a very “top down” society. Kingdoms like Rome and Greece ruled the people through power and dominance. “To lord it over” is a strong term that means to “rule down on someone.” Since the world functioned this way, James and John thought that this was an appropriate way for the church to operate.

Jesus is very clear that power and dominance will not be the leadership model of the church. Peter picked up on this. In the section of his book where he is speaking to pastors and church leaders, Peter tells them to shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock (1 Peter 5:2–3). Domination has no place in the church. Instead leaders lead through serving, helping, giving, and being examples. 

James picked up on this when he talked about quarrels within the church in James 4:1–2. What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. When we are in a fight or a quarrel with someone within the church, that should be a warning sign that we may be overlooking a key aspect of being the church.

 

2. Greatness in the church is derived from service.

Look at verse 26. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant. The word servant here is the Greek word from which we get our word deacon. The word represents humble tasks done quietly and faithfully, for example a waitress carefully and quietly serving tables. It is the opposite of the flashy “Hey, look what I can do!” kind of service. There is a strong “me second” mindset that Jesus is teaching here.

Men—as husbands, fathers, employees or employers, we must remember that our ‘greatness’ must not be derived from our maleness, strength, skills, organizational abilities, or position. Our greatness is derived from how we serve our family, church, and community.

Ladies—as wives, mothers, community leaders or employees, greatness should not be derived from physical beauty, managerial skills, intelligence or social status. Being active, engaged and willing servants is how we build Christ’s church and attain greatness. And, by the way, it’s also how you will win the hearts of your husband and children. Proverbs 31 describes a truly great woman:

She is energetic and strong, a hard worker. She makes sure her dealings are profitable; her lamp burns late into the night. Her hands are busy spinning thread, her fingers twisting fiber.  She extends a helping hand to the poor and opens her arms to the needy. She has no fear of winter for her household, for everyone has warm clothes. She makes belted linen garments and sashes to sell to the merchants. She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. 27 She carefully watches everything in her household and suffers nothing from laziness. Her children stand and bless her. Her husband praises he and says: There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all!

Jesus turns our sense of importance on its head and says greatness in the church flows from sacrificing—first and most. Greatness means serving longer than those around us, working harder than expected. Jesus used examples like “going the extra mile” and “turning the other cheek” for us to see that the church is an inverted pyramid: instead of us all trying to fight to get to the top, it is a race to the bottom. The third point is particularly important and particularly convicting.

 

3. The very greatest in the church will be the slaves.

Look at verse 27…and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. The word slave here is very different than the word “servant” that we were just talking about. While a servant is someone who does humble tasks quietly and faithfully, he is still his own person; he can go and do what he wants. A slave's life is not his own; he is the personal property of his master. A slave’s life is his master’s. Jesus uses himself as the example of perfect slavery (although the disciples would not have picked up on it at the time). Jesus could have come to earth and accumulated power to himself but instead he gave his life.

With this sentence in verse 27, Jesus singlehandedly changed the way the world viewed slavery. Up until that point in history, the humility of slavery was viewed as bad, even sinful. If someone was a slave, clearly they deserved it. We have heard the words of this verse far too many times for them to stun us like they would have the disciples. Slaves were chattel—property to be beaten, used, and discarded. Their food was the trash that fell under their masters' tables; their foreheads were branded with the marks of their owners; their backs were filled with scars from beatings and whippings. Some Roman slave owners' wives would have their male slaves beaten daily just so they would fear them.[2] When Jesus says he wants his church to be salt and light to the community, this is what he means. The church at its very greatest seeks the lowest of the low.

The goal of that limbo game that Danny won is the same goal our church is to have every time we gather: we are to constantly seek to find how low we can go.

 

11 practical ways to “get low” and start serving today:

  • Volunteer to rock babies in the nursery. They are the perfect group to serve—helpless and never say thank you. It takes pure servant-heartedness.
  • Pick a missionary and pray for them, write them, encourage them and if you can, send them a check or support them.
  • Adopt a grandma or grandpa here at church or at a nursing home. Love on them regularly. If you are a grandparent, adopt a kid!
  • Teach children’s Sunday School and give it your all. This was the first real ministry given to me. I grew like crazy teaching sixth graders!
  • Arrive early to church. There is much to do every Sunday; offer to help with anything.
  • Be an Equipping U “Shepherd.” The job is simple, really: build community within an Equipping U class. Simple but takes servant-heartedness.
  • Sit close to the front. This creates a greater sense of community and ministers to those who come in late.
  • Be an “unofficial greeter.” There are official ones who “have” to greet. Be an unofficial one. Look around, meet and encourage people you do not know.
  • Send a care package to a college student. We have kids all over the country.
  • Come to the pre-service prayer meeting at 8:30am on Sundays. Pray for people. Sounds simple, but if you do it seriously, it is powerful
  • Take pictures at church events and post them online.

Danny won limbo that night because he got lower than anyone else could. As we seek to serve our Lord, we all win the lower we go.

 

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to use and reproduce this material in any format for spiritual, non-commercial purposes. We only ask that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed material: by Paul L. Davis. © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland.

 

[1] Craig Blomberg, Matthew, vol. 22, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 307.

[2] Hubbard, Moyer Christianity in the Greco-Roman World, Baker Academic 2010. Pgs. 190-195.

The Church: The Message

The Message sermon notes

The Message of the Church

Calvary Baptist Church

The Church @ Hamilton

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Pastor Paul Davis

 

What an amazing week of Vacation Bible School! This week, as we were teaching The Gospel, we summarized the entire story of the Bible into 5 truths. Every one of these truths are powerful and fascinating:

Truth #1: God is the creator and ruler of the universe (Genesis 1:1, 26)

We find in the Bible that the Holy God of the Bible created a perfect world.

Truth #2: We sinned (Genesis 3; Romans 5:12)

This is where it gets awkward... The humans that were created in the image of God rebelled against Him.

Truth #3: God provided a way of forgiveness, rescue, salvation, and hope: Jesus Christ (John 3:16-17; Ephesians 2:8-9).

Jesus' birth was miraculous. Jesus' life was unique. He walked this earth for 33 years, teaching, healing, loving, and performing miracles. He never sinned. He literally lived a perfect life. He is the perfect solution to our sin problem.

Truth #4: Jesus willingly, obediently, and unselfishly died on the cross to pay for the sins of mankind (1 Peter 3:18; Isaiah 53; 1 John 2:2; Romans 3:25)

This would have been a tragedy if we did not know two things: 1. Jesus signed up for it; 2. Jesus had the power to overcome it (He rose from the dead after three days).

"People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood." - Romans 3:25

Truth #5: God wants you to be a part of His story to worship Him, serve Him, and enjoy a relationship with Him. We must respond. (Ephesians 2:8-9; John 14:6)

It will take believing God is who He says He is and has done what He has said He has done. It will also take buying into the fact that your sins and your disobedience to God have put you in a place where you need a Savior.

 

You must put your faith in Jesus and His power alone. No one can force you to believe...you either believe these 5 truths or you don't. Those who desire to believe have this singular thought running through their heads: "I've sinned...I need the forgiveness that Jesus provides."

If you are convinced that God created you for more than you are experiencing right now...

If you are persuaded that you are a sinner and that sin has and will continue to wreck your life...

If you believe that Jesus is God's Son and that He died to pay for your sins... 

Don't you want to trust Him right now? Pray this prayer of faith:

"God, I have sinned my whole life. I could never stand in front of your holiness, but I am looking to Your Son, Jesus. I understand and believe that His death on the cross paid for my sins. God, I am turning from my sin to my only hope: Jesus. I trust Him to be my salvation, my hope, and to give me eternal life."

The Church: A Reconciling Community

A Reconciling Community sermon notes

The Church: Called Out as a Reconciling Community

Passage:  Various, 2 Corinthians 5:17-21

Sunday July 30th, 2017

Pastor Paul L. Davis

 

Key Goals: (Know) To understand the importance of reconciliation. (Feel) To appreciate reconciliation. (Do) become a force for reconciliation.

Introduction:  This morning we are continuing our series on the church. We began with the very core of the church, Jesus Christ. He is what “church” is all about. He is The Pearl of Great Price that we sell everything to attain. He is the treasure hidden in the field; our love for Him surpasses our love for anything or anyone else in this world! It’s so surpassing, that our love for family looks like hate. The church is a Christ-centered community. Last week we looked at the church being a “new creation” community. We are a people of newness, new life, new hearts, new minds. And because “in Christ” all things have become new, we are no longer enslaved to sin or this world. We have been set free in Christ!

I would like to read our passage together this morning, and every time we read any form of the word “reconciled” I want you to put a finger up. We are going to count the number of times this word shows up in these five verses.

2 Corinthians 5:17–21 (ESV)

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

καταλλαγῆναι (kata-ang–GAY-nai ) is the Greek word for “reconcile” used in this passage.  It communicates the idea of a “restoration of a proper interpersonal relationship after it had been disrupted or broken.”[1] Enemies turned to friends, hurt feelings turned to forgiveness, hate turned to love.

It worked like this in Biblical times: Two parties in a bargain settled their differences, or were ‘reconciled,’ by one paying the exchange or balance to the other. Or two parties at enmity settle their differences, or were ‘reconciled,’ by one making a satisfaction to the other. In each instance the transaction was called in Greek καταλλαγή.[2] Jesus paid our “exchange” or “satisfaction” price on the cross thus “reconciling” us to God.

Interestingly, this Greek word is only ever used of man – never of God. God reconciles us, or the world, to Himself through Jesus. God Himself is never in need of being reconciled. Nowhere in Scripture do we ever see God reconciling Himself to the world. Whenever reconciliation comes up, we are always the ones being reconciled. (R. 5:10, 2 C. 5:20).

We were the enemies of God who needed to be changed. The apostle Paul said that before reconciliation we were “powerless, ungodly, sinners, and enemies; we were under God's wrath” (Rom 5:9). But because of Christ and the reconciliation He brings, we become new creatures, once enemies but now friends.[3]

 

This 2 Corinthians passage can be boiled down to two key messages for the church.

1.  Foundationally, church is a community of people reconciled to God through Christ.

All of the newness that we talked about last week comes through our reconciled relationship with God. This is the “good news” part of the gospel. We are no longer strangers and aliens from God. Through our Lord’s death, the justice of God is satisfied; the foundation of the church is this new relationship. Everything else the church is to be and do is built on the foundation of our new and glorious right relationship with God. [4]

 

2. Functionally, the stated ministry of the church is reconciliation.

Verse 18 is so clear: “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation…” 

What is the “ministry of reconciliation?” It is a “service” or a ministry that happens on multiple levels. First, the ministry of reconciliation is sharing the gospel (Mark 16:15).  God does not want to us to be separated from Him, but rather to experience a renewed relationship through Christ. We, the church, are to be God’s ambassadors to get the message of the Gospel to the world. Look at verse 20... “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.”

 Secondly, the ministry of reconciliation is a pursuit of reconciliation with each other. Last week we saw that one cannot biblically separate being a “new creation” from being actively engaged in the church. Here is something else we cannot separate. You cannot separate being reconciled with God from pursuing reconciliation with men.  Matthew 5:23–24 (ESV) 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

 

My favorite passages in the Bible tend to be the passages that I first learned in Sunday school. Turn with me to Luke Chapter 19. Let’s look at one of the best reconciliation stories in the Bible. Luke 19:1–10 (ESV) 1 [Jesus] entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich.

If we were Jewish we would all chuckle every time we read these first two verses. A tax collector with the name Zacchaeus would have been a hilarious joke. You probably know that tax collectors in Israel were viewed as traitorous crooks who worked for Rome. What you may not know is that Zacchaeus means “purity,” as in moral purity. Can you hear the sarcastic comments in the town square? “Well, I need to go see “Mr. Purity” about my taxes. Verses 3 & 4:  And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. 4 So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way.

He wants to see Jesus, but you get the sense that he is more than just curious because Jesus had a reputation of being Rabbi that “ate with tax collectors and sinners” (Mark 2:13-17). In fact, Matthew, one of Jesus’ disciples was a former tax collector. Is there hope for Mr. Purity?  5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully.

If there was ever a man who needed to be reconciled to God, it would have been Zacchaeus. Instead of waiting for Zacchaeus to make the first move, Jesus takes the initiative. He calls him by name and invited himself into his house.  7 And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” It is almost impossible for me to communicate the social capital Jesus burned with this one move, and Zacchaeus would have known it. Jesus’ bold first move causes Zacchaeus to put his faith in Jesus. But look closely how Luke lets us know this. Verses 8-10:  8 And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” 9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Did you catch what happened? Zacchaeus’ faith produced an immediate reconciliation with God. Jesus tells us explicitly that “salvation has come to this house.” Zacchaeus was a new person, the sarcasm is gone. He has been made right with God through Jesus. But there is more! Without being told, Zacchaeus gives to the poor and makes restitution to those he has swindled. The ministry of reconciliation is believers taking the initiative to build bridges of forgiveness, compassion and unity with God and with each other.

 

I would like to wrap this morning up with two very specific challenges for this week.

1. I challenge you to take the initiative to reconcile with a fellow believer. Be like Zacchaeus and don’t wait. If you know you have caused a rift, make it right today, this week. Don’t wait. God has given you the ministry of reconciliation! Swallow your pride, seek forgiveness, pay your debt, say I’m sorry, shake a hand. Pay the price it will take to restore the relationship.

2. I challenge you to initiate three gospel conversations this week. Jesus took the initiative and reached out to Zacchaeus and his response was almost immediate. I guarantee you that there are people you know who are feeling far away from God, who long to know him as intimately as you do. Initiate three conversations! Let me help by giving you . . .

 

3 Non-Awkward Ways to Begin a Gospel Conversation:

  1.  “How was your weekend?” –  Mine was great. At church my mind was blown when we started talking about reconciliation…
  2. I’ve been thinking about praying for people. “When was the last time someone really prayed for you?” –as you each share a story you can share when you prayed to receive Christ.
  3. “Do you trust religious people?” This question always starts a good conversation! The answers can lead right into a discussion about trusting Jesus verses trusting “religion.”

 

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to use and reproduce this material in any format for spiritual, non-commercial purposes. We only ask that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed material: by Paul L. Davis. © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

 

[1] Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 501.

[2] Walvoord, John F. Reconciliation. https://bible.org/seriespage/12-reconciliation

[3] Friedrich Büchsel, “Ἀλλάσσω, Ἀντάλλαγμα, Ἀπ-, Δι-, Καταλλάσσω, Καταλλαγή, Ἀποκατ-, Μεταλλάσσω,” ed. Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964–), 255.

[4] The difficulty of helping people reconcile with God is so few of us feel like the need it. So many think, “I may not completely live for God, but, I am certainly not his enemy.” Except, when you do things that you know displeases God, and you do it without any guilt, and you do the same thing again and again, secretly savoring your sin. What does that prove? Doesn’t it prove that in your heart you are secretly rebel against God? Doesn’t prove that you are at best disloyal? “By their fruits you shall know them,” is our Lord’s own test (Matt 7:16-20). Look, at the fruits of your life, what do they tell you? Are you a converted, committed, reconciled Christ follower or no?

Would I be mistaken if I said, you think the Bible is boring? Isn’t it true you would rather do almost anything than spend Sunday mornings in church? Put this to your conscience… Don’t you really think that being a committed Christ follower is boring? When you think of “pleasure” aren’t you really thinking of sin? Come on, wouldn’t you really be happier if there were no God at all? No commandments, no rules, no judgment, no Jesus… Don’t you really want to make your own rules?

If that is you, I’m sorry, but you don’t really love God! The truth of it is that you would destroy God, if you could, so that you would be free to do whatever you wanted to do.

Let’s be serious. If this is you, you need to be reconciled to God.

The Church: A Christ-Centered Community

A Christ-Centered Community sermon notes

The Church: Called out as a Christ-Centered Community

Passage: Various

Sunday July 16, 2017

Pastor Paul L. Davis

 

Key Goals: (Know) To understand the centrality of Christ in the church. (Feel) To develop a primary love for Christ. (Do) To love the Lord with all of our heart.

Introduction: It begins when we are very young. As children, it looks like snatching a toy away from someone else and saying, “Mine!” Or in elementary school it is when we clamor and fight to be the first in line or the first chosen. In middle school, it often shows up as pouting, sulking, or moodiness. It is the thought behind grabbing the last three pieces of pizza when there are still people in line behind you. In high school, it is revealed through cheating on tests, aggressive driving, and sneaking around in order to sin. It comes out in simple things from being grouchy in the morning to coming home late without calling. As we get older, it often becomes a little subtler, but it is still there: padding a resume, cheating on taxes, and stealing from work. It can look like excess: excess alcohol, buying more than we can afford, pursuing wealth, position, or secret affairs. But it is all fruit of the same problem: putting yourself first. It’s a bigger problem than we often think.

This isn’t a new problem. Putting yourself first began with Lucifer the “shining morning star,” second only to God in his beauty, one of the archangels created for the sole purpose of worshipping God in his holy presence. But he was not content to be second place; he wanted first. So Lucifer said this in his heart, “I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high… 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.“ (Isaiah 14:13–14)[1] Discontent with serving God, Lucifer wanted to be the “most high.” Ezekiel 28:17 tells us how God responded to Lucifer’s rebellion. “Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor. I cast you to the ground.” God expelled Lucifer from heaven and cast him down to the earth, where he now destroys, deceives, and distracts us from putting God first in our lives.[2] I’ll come back to this problem in a minute.

This morning we are beginning a series on the church. We are going to tackle some tough questions very honestly. Questions like: Are we doing church right? Why do I have to be at church every week? Is church really something you have to join? Can I really trust church leadership? To begin, we need some definitions. What is the church? Well, it is not a denomination, a building, an organization, a club, or even a place of worship. The Greek word used in Scripture for church (Gk: ekklesia) literally means “those called out.” The idea is a group of people that have gathered because they were called to. Definition: Church - a called assembly of believers joined to Christ’s spiritual body by the Holy Spirit at the moment of regeneration, when they individually place their faith in the Lord Jesus as their Savior - who are committed to meet regularly for edification, worship, and participation in the ordinances.[3] We will dive deeper into this definition over the coming weeks, but this morning we are going to focus like a laser on the core of the church: our Lord Jesus Christ.

Nine years ago, the leadership of our church created a mission statement for this ministry. As we worked through the biblical texts for why our local church exists, we created a statement that communicates two purposes wrapped around a core: we exist to “Passionately pursue Christ and lovingly pursue others for Christ.” That’s it; it’s not complicated. Our church has two primary functions: the pursuit of Jesus Christ and the loving pursuit of other people for Jesus Christ. Two functions, but notice those functions revolve around Christ. He is at the core of our mission. He is the focal point of everything we are to be and do.

In Phil 3:7-9, the apostle Paul expressed this when he said, 7“I once thought other things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. 8 Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ 9 and become one with him.” Paul believed that the infinite value of knowing Christ made everything else in his life seem worthless. For the sake of knowing Christ, he discarded everything else. He counted everything else as garbage (literally excrement) when it was compared to knowing Christ. Is this our mindset? This is such critical thinking, especially when it comes to the church. It is so easy to think of our church in terms of programs, people, ministries, or even responsibility. When we think this way, it is easy to grow bitter, weary, and selfish—especially when we are under appreciated, overlooked, or left out. All of that is garbage compared to knowing Christ.

If you have ever been to a funeral that I have preached, you have heard me talk from Matthew 13. Please turn there for a moment. I go to this passage often, as it acts as a compass in my life, steering my heart in the right direction. Here we see two very short stories with one powerful message. 44 The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. 45 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, 46 who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it. Only three verses, so simple you almost want to skim them and move on. Jesus was explaining to those who would follow him what following looks like. The two word pictures are a great pearl and a hidden treasure.

 

The Hidden Treasure (Matt 13:44)

In biblical times, wealth was troublesome because of its insecurity. Before the days of banks and safety deposit boxes, every man had to devise a way of concealing his wealth, or at least find some place where money, jewels, and other valuables might remain free from thieves and swindlers. Sometimes they would hide their treasures in secret closets in the house or in storage vaults under the house. It was common to have a secret burial spot in a field unknown to everyone except the owner. The best example of this happening is in Joshua 7:21 when Achan, after stealing treasures from Jericho, digs a hole under his tent to conceal them. Sometimes the owner went away and died and his secret died with him. Times of war left many treasures concealed. Even to this day, archeologists find buried treasures that were hidden in the ancient past. This year (2017) on March 19th, construction workers building a highway in Tel Aviv unearthed an ancient home and in a wall was treasure of bronze coins, hidden away for safekeeping.[4]

Jewish law was very clear. If you were the owner of a field with treasure in it, you were the automatic owner of that treasure.[5] In this parable, the man finds a great treasure! This treasure is worth everything. In his joy of finding the treasure, the man sells all that he has to attain the field. There is no halfway commitment. He is not double-minded. He has assessed the value of the treasure and it is more than worth everything he has. So, he sells it all to attain the treasure. Why? Why does he have to sell in order to buy? Jesus put it this way in Luke 16:13. No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.

At the very heart of our gathering, serving, teaching, praying, singing, and giving must be a pursuit of the treasure—the treasure of knowing Jesus Christ! When it is your turn to serve in the nursery and you wake up not wanting to do it, do not tell yourself that you “have an obligation.” That’s not the treasure! Remind yourself that your service to children this morning is you counting your comfort as garbage compared to the treasure of Christ. There is nothing more important in this world than us pursuing the treasure of Christ and leading our children to find that same hidden treasure.

 

The Pearl of Great Price (Matt 13:45-46)

This parable is just as simple but with a different nuance. 45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, 46 who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it. Every one of us spends our lives “seeking pearls.” I don’t care who you are, we all go through life looking for what is valuable, and we barter and trade for it. We trade time for education, money for homes and cars. We trade singleness for marriage and sometimes we trade our career for the sake of children or family.

In this parable, we are the merchants in search of some of those fine pearls. There are certainly many good and fine pearls in this life to pursue (spouse, children, friendship). But the merchant finds one pearl of great value, Jesus Christ, and he is willing to part with everything to attain it; he again sells all that he has to have this one thing. The question that should come to your mind is, in all our trading as merchants, have we attained the Pearl? We can spend our life trading for trinkets, or we can look for, pursue, go after the pearl of great value. Nothing compares to him. Nothing.

Look, this is a sermon about the church. I am not telling you that “church” has to be the most important thing in your life, but Jesus does. If there is anything in your life that stands in opposition to Christ, sell it! If there is anything in your life in competition with him, sell it! The pattern of passionately pursuing Christ is leaving all and following him.

 

Jesus was very clear with his disciples about who was to be first in their lives.

  • Jesus called his disciples to leave all and follow him (Luke 5:11, 28).
  • Jesus told his disciples that unless their love for him made their love for their father and mother look like hate, they were not worthy of him (Luke 14:26).
  • Jesus sent the rich young ruler away sad because he refused to put Christ above his covetousness (Mk. 10:17-27).

 

Why? Because Jesus is selfish and wants us all to himself? No! Because getting him, knowing him, is of infinite worth! His value is stunning! His beauty and holiness are beyond compare. Everything else is trash and worthless compared to him. 

 

Let me finish very practically. Every Sunday when you wake up, what should your mindset be? How do we practically, as a church, put Christ first? Sunday mornings are a time to savor our treasure. Listen to Eph. 1:4-5. Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. 5 God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. God derived “great pleasure” from adopting us into his family. Bringing us to him is his great joy. On Sunday mornings, we have the joy of gathering together as family and enjoying him, savoring him, worshipping him. The Scriptures encourage us to “taste and see that the Lord is good!” (Ps 34:8)

Sunday mornings are a time to sell our selfishness, comfort, and covetousness. I met with a guy not long ago who told me that he honestly struggled being with the church on Sundays. This is what he said, “When I get there, I’m always glad I did, but it is so hard motivating myself to get going in the morning.” I think that is an honest description of what everyone feels from time to time. But—and this is important—fighting our flesh and selfishness early on Sunday mornings is a central piece of living a Christ-centered life.

The community of the church is uniquely designed to help us sell our selfishness. We have to work together, prefer others over ourselves, give up our seat, serve in the nursery, give from our wealth, teach a class, lead a group. All of these acts are unselfish and many times downright uncomfortable. But when you find the treasure, when you find the pearl…you sell everything you have to get it!

 

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to use and reproduce this material in any format for spiritual, non-commercial purposes. We only ask that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed material: by Paul L. Davis. © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

 

 

[1] Scripture quotations are from the ESV Bible.

[2] M. S. Mills, The Life of Christ: A Study Guide to the Gospel Record (Dallas, TX: 3E Ministries, 1999), Is 14:12–Eze 28:19.

[3] Norman L. Geisler, Systematic Theology, Volume Four: Church, Last Things (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2005).

[4] http://hamodia.com/2017/03/19/ancient-buried-treasure-discovered-under-brand-new-highway/

[5] Read more about this in…Freeman, J. M., & Chadwick, H. J. (1998). Manners & customs of the Bible (Rev. ed.].) (438). North Brunswick, NJ: Bridge-Logos Publishers.