Monthly Archives: May 2016

An I Exam_Main (1)

Commitment Service
Acts 2:36-47 (p. 759) May 29, 2016
(Read verses 36-41 to begin)

Introduction:

In Acts Chapter 2 Peter has just presented Jesus as God’s promised Messiah. He and the other Apostles are under the power of the promised gift of the Holy Spirit and His power is felt. He concludes this inspired message with a no “punches” pulled statement:

“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified both Lord and Messiah.”

You and I don’t make Jesus Lord and Savior…He was obedient to everything His father planned and GOD MADE HIM LORD AND SAVIOR. God gave Him “All Authority.” “God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven, and on earth and under the earth. And every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”

Our choice by faith is whether we agree with this truth and surrender to it. It’s true whether we do or not…but our salvation depends on whether we agree with it…That’s what the word “confess” means, “I agree.” But if confession doesn’t lead to faith…it’s just an empty belief.

When the Israelites heard Peter’s message, the Holy Spirit convicted them of the sin…It’s what He was sent here to do…“to convict us in regard to sin, righteousness and the judgment.” (John 16:8)

It’s why after the message it says, “They were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other Apostles…”Brothers, what shall we do?”

This is the salvation question! It’s the moment when you understand what God planned and did though Jesus; death, burial and resurrection…It’s the moment you feel the guilt of your sin and its ultimate consequence…judgment…Jesus is righteous…I am not righteous.

What do I do with this “knowledge” and this “conviction?”

I. PETER’S ANSWER: REPENT AND BE BAPTIZED

They are linked together for a very very good reason…Repentance means “you turn away from something.” Baptism means you are “immersed into something or someone.” God’s Holy Spirit exists to turn us away from our sin…and immerse us in Christ.

You can’t really leave your old life unless you choose a new way. Jesus is that new way…it’s why He said, “No one can come to the Father unless through me…I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.

As Savior He is the forgiver of our sins…with His Spirit given to us as we identify with His death, burial and resurrection…He now lives inside us…speaking…influencing as Lord.

This promise is for everyone who the Lord calls…but not everyone will listen to the call…3,000 died on this day, but I promise there were more than 3,000 Israelites there that day on Pentecost.

The Church doesn’t need people who were sorry for their sin but never made Jesus Lord nor does it need people who were baptized but never were sorry for their sin…it needs people who experienced the conviction of the Holy Spirit for their sin and surrendered to make Him Lord by being immersed into a new way.

[I’ve been christened, sprinkled…and when I was 8 years old I was immersed…I was immersed to do what my mom and dad were doing…my brother and sister were doing…it was all on the same day…I also wanted to eat the juice and crackers in Jr. Church…you could only do that if you were “baptized.” I felt no conviction for my sin…nor did I really think about surrendering my life…But in 1978 three months before my 18th birthday…I experienced God’s call…The message of Jesus as Savior and Lord…I know my sin and rebellion…and even though I didn’t know how He could forgive it all…I turned from it toward’s God…and I was baptized into Christ..not for my parents…not to eat communion…but for the forgiveness of my sins…and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit…I got both…and much, much more as I started down that “new way.”]

I wrestled with God’s call for over 6 months before I surrendered…I knew it was commitment day on January 17, 1978…I’ve never rejected that eternal decision to agree with God about Jesus being Savior and Lord…How ’bout you? Repentance and baptism are the response of faith when God calls us from our sin. Is He calling you? Have you been wrestling with Him?

But let me share that when God adds you to His family…that commitment flows into His Church. A fellowship of believers who:

II. SHARE LIFE AND HAVE A COMMON PURPOSE

ACTS 2:42-47 (p. 759)

If you leave a corrupt generation and lifestyle you’d better devote yourself to different relationships and a different lifestyle…these 6 verses in Acts 2 show how the family of God, the Church, nourishes new believers…and how it impacts their family and friends for eternity…

They devoted themselves…Everyone was filled with awe…all the believers were together…they sold property…to give to anyone in need. Every day they continued to meet together…they ate together in their homes…with glad and sincere hearts…praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people…the Lord added people daily to their number as they were saved. They shared life with a common purpose!

Church wasn’t a building they went to…it wasn’t an organization or club…It’s a family devoted to nurturing and caring for each other…spending time with each other…loving those who were hurting and sharing the goodness of it with others who weren’t a part of the family…devoted, open, joyful…connected…growing to be like Jesus… “A family committed to loving Jesus and others so their neighbors, community and world could experience good news.”

The Holy Spirit filled them with a deep love for Jesus, and each other…He also filled them with a compassionate seeking heart for those that were not saved…Jesus’ Spirit, given as promised, was working as He planned.

Our future here at Gardenside will be fueled by that same power and that same purpose.

“A family committed to loving Jesus and others so our neighbors, community and world can experience good news.”

It’s what we are devoting ourselves to and we are asking you to do the same…

One Church…One Lord…One Purpose.

Our new vision statement:

“A family committed to loving Jesus and others so our neighbors, community and world can experience Good News.”

Belong, Love, Go…

An I Exam_Main (1)

Every Member a Minister by Rick Burdette

Ephesians 4:1-4:16

AN “I” EXAM: Restoring Our Vision for Christ’s Mission – Every Member a Minister
Ephesians 4:1-16 (p. 815) May 22, 2016

Introduction:

So the other day I get a call from the Church Research Group of America and one of their first questions is “How many ministers do you have?” And I said, “Around 300.” There was a significant pause and the lady said, “Your payroll must be massive!” I laughed and said, “You didn’t ask me how many staff members we had, you asked me how many ministers we had at Gardenside.” And since the word minister simply means “servant” I believe that every active member at our church is a minister…a servant.

I didn’t give her nearly as hard of a time with the other questions, but that first question was absolutely vital if we are to have revival through an “I” exam where we refocus our vision on Christ’s mission.

We gave everyone here last week a new member’s packet. We have more available today if you’d like one…and I wrote something about membership that came from my heart and my understanding of scripturally how the church functions.

It says:

One of the most debated issues in modern Christianity: Why should I be a member of any local church? Where does Scripture talk about Church membership? Well, let me share with you that according to Scripture, Acts 2:47 that God adds us to the church…”And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” When you repent of your sins, turn to God in obedience, and are baptized into Christ Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38)…God adds you to His family….you don’t join…it’s automatic. When you are born again and God becomes your “Father,” you instantly have brothers and sisters…the family of God…His Church. So in one sense, saying you don’t need the church is like saying, I’m part of a family, but I really don’t want to have anything to do with the people who make it up. God designed His family so we need each other, and even if we disagree or get our feelings hurt sometimes…we’re still brothers and sisters.

The scriptures compare Church membership with parts that make up the human body:

“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all it’s many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body…” (1 Corinthians 12:12…He goes on to say, “The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” (1 Corinthians 12:21) God put His body together… and you might ask, why? His answer, “So that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, so every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part

rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ and each one of you is a part of it.”
(1 Corinthians 12:25-26)

You see, every single one of us have a rebellious and independent nature (a sinful nature). It’s something we inherited from Adam and Eve’s fall in the Garden. And we don’t want to be dependent on anyone. When we become Christians it’s that nature that’s crucified in Christ (Galatians 2:20). Church membership places me in the position where Christ is my head, and I am part of His body. That means I’m dependent upon Jesus and my brothers and sisters…as my brothers and sisters are dependent upon me. If we’ve never crucified that independent spirit we will never understand God’s design for His body, the Church, and why being a member of it is so essential to fulfilling His mission. Can you go to heaven and not be part of God’s family? I don’t know, can you be a student and not go to any school or have any teachers? Can you be a soldier, but not part of any army? Can you be an arm amputated from the body and still function? Can you be part of a family, but have no relationship with your brothers and sisters?

So, If you are one of God’s children who have been obedient to His call to repentance, If you’ve been baptized into Christ and received forgiveness for your sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit, congratulations on being added to the Church….we pray that Gardenside Christian will be a family you want to join and share your life and ministry with as a member of His body. You can do this at anytime, but during invitation time on Sunday mornings is very appropriate.

Being added to the Church…Big “C,” is something God does when we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior and when we are baptized into Him for the forgiveness of our sin and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit…It’s what happened in Acts 2 on the day of Pentecost…and it then continued daily in the early church as family, friends and neighbors were impacted by these 3,000 plus.

But aligning yourself with a local body of believers, whether its Corinth, Ephesus, Southland or Gardenside…is a choice. It’s why the writer to the Hebrews says:

HEBREWS 10:23-26 (p. 843)

The local Church is where we assemble…we worship Jesus…celebrate His resurrection, remember His sacrifice..and we use our gifts and abilities to fulfill His mission…and help others find their place in doing so…we spur people on…we encourage…and we are encouraged by others…It becomes our habit…our lifestyle…and we don’t give up…we help others not give up…because the day of Jesus’ return for us is approaching.

We are ending this series on May 29th, next week. It’s a fifth Sunday and we will have one service together as ONE church at 11:11am. We hope many who have thought about making decisions to be baptized or join this local body of Christ will do so on that day…and we are going to ask every current member to sign the same covenant that our new members do…why a covenant, because we believe this covenant allows us to unashamedly and publicly acknowledge we believe in the scriptural and spiritual principles in it…commitment to each other and the body of Christ is something we take seriously. The covenant says:

I openly confess that the Holy Spirit led me to repent of my sins, believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. I was immersed into Christ through baptism in the name of the Father, and the Son, and The Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of my sins, and to receive the gift of God’s Holy Spirit. Because I have been wonderfully saved by His grace through faith I joyfully enter into a covenant relationship with others who have done the same at Gardenside Christian Church.

I WILL…

*submit to the authority of Scripture as the guide for my decisions and life. (2 Tim. 3:16, Heb. 4:12)
*pursue a relationship with Jesus through regular Bible study, prayer, fellowship and commit to teaching my children the same. (Acts 2:42-47, Eph. 6:4)
*repent quickly of sin and submit myself to the accountability of others who will guide me to restoration. (Acts 3:19, James 5:16)
*seek holiness in my daily walk with Christ as an act of worship. (Rom. 12:1)
*actively participate in the life of this church by attending weekly services, joining it’s community as a Family, and serving both within and outside of Gardenside Christian Church. (Acts 2:42-47)
*love my brothers and sisters in Christ and consider their interests of greater value than my own. (Phil. 2:3-4)
*pray for the ministers, leaders, members, mission and ministries of Gardenside Christian Church. (1 Tim. 2:1-3)
*encourage other believers on to love and good deeds, and I will refrain from any words or actions that cause disunity or division in the body of Christ. (Heb. 10:24-25, Eph. 4:29-32)
*be a good steward of the resources God has given me. I believe in cheerful generosity and that will lead me to tithe and sacrifice for Kingdom growth, locally and globally. (2 Cor. 9:6-11)
*pray for opportunities to share the gospel in fulfillment of Jesus’ Great Commission, and take advantage of those opportunities when they are available. I will live life with a gospel intentionality. (Matt. 28:18-20)
*use the gifts given to me by the Holy Spirit to edify and build up God’s Kingdom, and others at Gardenside Christian Church. (Eph. 4:7-16)
*submit to and honor the leadership which God has entrusted to care for His flock. (Rom. 13:1, Titus 3:1-2)
*take seriously the responsibility of Christian freedom. I will not use my opinions and preferences so they become a stumbling block to others. (1 Cor. 8:9)

If we move from this family of believers we will do so having resolved any conflicts and will unite as quickly as possible with another Church who helps us continue to love Jesus, and others.
Jesus said, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when He comes in His Father’s glory with the holy angels.” (Mk. 8:38)

This covenant is a declaration that we are bound unashamedly together in Christ and His Word.

Our text in Ephesians begins: “As a prisoner for the Lord, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.”

It’s important that every committed believer…every minister here at Gardenside:

I. UNDERSTAND OUR LIFE’S CALLING

Christianity isn’t a religion…it’s a relationship with Jesus that affects all our other relationships.

The Apostle Paul says in Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”

When the Holy Spirit calls us to follow Jesus, it’s a call to die to self and be resurrected in Christ Jesus…our lives are no longer our own…they are under His ownership…His Lordship…may we never forget our calling…and may God help us reexamine it if we never understood this truth…

When Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me they must deny themselves, take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Lk. 9:23)

This is our calling…it’s a lifelong calling, and I’m afraid many believe it’s a one time event where after it occurs Jesus then has nothing to do with their everyday decisions. Many want a Savior…but reject the idea that He then becomes Lord…This is possibly the greatest lie of Satan…because we fail to understand why Jesus calls us as His people…as His Church.

1. It’s so we can be “ONE.”

EPHESIANS 4:2-6 (p. 815)

[If I take this piece of thread and ask you to break it…do you think you’d have any problem doing it…No? Me either…but if I take 2 or 3 or 3,000 pieces of thread and wrap them together do you think you’d have trouble breaking it? Yeah? Me too.]

These verses are about what brings us together in humility, gentleness and love…It’s a spiritual bond. Our strength is together in Christ…We have a hope for the future and right now…we share His Lordship, we have a unified faith, our baptism unites us in His death, burial and resurrection. We are born again with God as our “Abba,” Father. He wraps us together as cords that cannot be broken.

So Satan tries to convince us we are threads that don’t need other threads…and he tries to divide us so we can be broken over things that don’t really matter a “Hill of Beans.”

It’s why:

2. Jesus give gifts to His people, the Church.

EPHESIANS 4:7-13 (p. 815)

Our salvation comes because we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit…we are “adopted sons and daughters” because of this wonderful, beautiful, mystical union that occurs when we are baptized with Christ, just like on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2.

But the Holy Spirit is given for a purpose. Jesus apportions His grace…He enables us to serve others through His plan. We aren’t saved to rest on our blessed assurance…we are saved to serve. He makes us all “ministers.” In fact, listen to

EPHESIANS 2:4-10 (p. 814)

His purpose for ascending and descending was to rescue those captive to sin…me and you. And He gave me and you gifts so that the body of Christ, His church, would grow and grow up…until we attain maturity…the measure of that fullness and maturity, Jesus.

Let me end today by sharing this challenge:

II. THIS IS THE ONLY WAY YOU AND I CAN HAVE STABILITY IN AN UNSTABLE WORLD

EPHESIANS 4:14-16 (p. 815)

There are only two ways you and I can live our lives…for ourselves or for God. Yes, it’s really that simple…one lifestyle gives us a rock solid foundation. One lifestyle keeps us trying to find satisfaction in an ever changing sandy one. Where waves crash in from all sides. One lifestyle has the unchanging Word of God as its guide…one has us depending on our own schemes, and the advice of others…some who don’t have our best interests at heart…One lifestyle gives us a forever family…one gives us the friends from the bar, the team, the hope that the other person will make us feel valuable.

The truth is life here and now isn’t heaven! There will be storms and there will be difficulties and the foundation we built our lives on will determine our stability…If we build on things of this world we’ll be tossed around like a ship on the ocean in a storm…but if we build our lives on Jesus, and His Word we have a rock solid base…we are connected to Him and supported by others who do the same. “From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does it’s work.” (Eph. 4:16)

Jesus ended the greatest sermon ever preached with these words:

MATTHEW 7:24-27 (p. 679)

Why is it important for every member of Christ’s church to be a minister? Because its God’s plan for an abundant life…a stable life…If our lives are a house…Then Jesus is the foundation…rock solid, never wavering…and each of us are the 2×4’s, the joists, the nails, the bricks and mortar that connect the house together…without each part doing it’s work, the house is in trouble…and so is our life.

Let’s pray.

An I Exam_Main (1)

AN “I” EXAM: Restoring Our Vision for Christ’s Mission – Choose Who You Follow Carefully
Exodus 15:22-27 (p. 49) May 15, 2016

Introduction:

[I remember hearing about a woman who got off work and started home, but it was extremely foggy that evening so as she got on the interstate she followed the taillights of the car in front of her…she continued to do this for quite a while even as they exited the interstate together…through curves and streets as she made her way home…until the car in front of her stopped abruptly…and just sat there…she honked her horn and a large man got out of the car and started back to hers…she reached for the mace she had in her purse as he tapped on her window…she rolled it down a crack and angrily said “What are you doing stopping in the middle of the street?” and he said “Ma’am, this isn’t a street…it’s my driveway.”]

Folks, it’s extremely important to choose who we follow because if we choose wrong it might lead us to a place we never wanted to go.

Jesus’ mission for the Church is “Go and make disciples of all nations.” (Matt. 28:19)

In the original Greek it was an aorist participle…”Poreuthentes”…What that really means is it’s an imperative command…It assumes that you will be going…you will be leaving the Church assembly…you will be leaving your house for work…you will be leaving to go out with friends or be engaged in your children’s school activities or events…and what it means…is “when this happens…make disciples…look for the opportunity to share your faith in Christ.

One writer put it this way…“A ship in a harbor is safe, but that is not what ships were built for.”

Christians are safe when we assemble together…Christians are safe when we are in our homes, and when we are with other believers…but that is not what Christians are built for…Christians are built to “Go” and as we “go,” make disciples.

Jesus led the 12 apostles and others to do just this…the 12 apostles and Paul the Apostle led others to do this…and those followers then led others to do this.

It’s extremely important that present day teachers and leaders in the Church hear the same passion to go…or will get lost in the fog following the wrong tail lights and stuck in the driveway.

In our study this morning you know the story…God has called Moses to rescue the Israelites from slavery in Egypt…with his brother Aaron at his side, Moses proclaims “Let my people go” to Pharaoh…But its only after 10 plagues…including the death of the first born of every house that is not covered in the blood of the passover lamb that Pharaoh relents…and even then he changes his mind, chases the Israelites to the Red Sea…where God provides an escape for His children by dividing the waters…and sends it crashing down on the Egyptians…the Israelites even sing God’s praises for this miraculous rescue.

“Sing to the Lord, for He is highly
exalted. Both horse and driver,
he has hurled into the Sea.” (Ex. 15:21)

I’m sure they loved following Moses as these words sprang from their lips in song…but 3 days later that song turned to grumbling…as:

I. THEY TRAVELLED ON A NEW WAY

Remember these folks had been in slavery for 400 years…This is all these folks had ever known, as well as their children and families. And they had also just experienced the 10 plagues and God’s protection from the Passover Lamb, as well as his delivering at the Red Sea. But slavery breeds fear…and 3 days later they questioned their decision…and grumbled against their leader…3 days in the desert without water made them uncomfortable, and when they came to water it was “bitter,” undrinkable…so they grumbled against Moses.

I believe it’s important we stop right here and remember whose idea this is!

And whose people these are! God’s covenant had been established with the Israelites through Abraham many years before…when God called him in Genesis 12 He said,

“Go from your country, your people, your household, to a land I will show you.
I will make you into a great nation
and I will bless you.
I will make your name great
and you will be a blessing
I will bless those who bless you
and whoever curses you I will curse
And all the peoples on earth will be
blessed through you.” And then it says:

“So Abram went, as the Lord had told him.” (Genesis 12:1-4)

It was a blood covenant…it was God’s plan…His promise…which He always kept…which He never broke…His people did…over and over…that’s the primary reason they were in slavery in the first place.

And now after 400 years they h ave another chance…a chance once again to be a people of covenant faith…and get to the place God has always wanted to get them.

This is true for the Church as well…even more powerfully than the Israelites. Sin, and its enslavement is a worse captivity than Egypt’s taskmasters. The Passover Lamb for us was the perfect “Lamb of God” applied to our lives so the death angel passes over because of His resurrection. Heaven is the Promised Land…but this world and this life can sure seem like a desert! (Baptism is our Red Sea)

I believe with all my heart that the New Testament is written to us so we can survive the new way as God leads us through the desert…so we can know Him…follow trusted leaders…and make it home.

Moses was just an archetype of Jesus the supreme rescuer…and our mission is to “go” and rescue a world caught in spiritual slavery…it’s important we understand

1. There will be times we get thirsty on the desert road.

3 days is a long time without water in the desert. It’s at the limit physically…and it’s gonna get uncomfortable…why would God allow this to happen to His covenant people?

Because He’s more interested in growing our faith and trust in Him than giving immediate gratification. It’s in this place where you discover “grumblers.” But it’s also where you discover “trusters.”

[In ministry I’ve had many times of 3 days without water…but 2007 was my most thirsty time…a son at war…a son going through a divorce…severe physical pain every day in my back, neck and hips…my dad was gone…I’d had a heart attack just 10 years before and I had 3 stints put in later that year…the Church was good but we’d reached a time of stagnancy in our new facilities…I was beaten, hurting, weary and very very thirsty…and there were “grumblers” too.]

But I trusted…I trusted the God who had miraculously saved me through His Son…I trusted the One who had begun this good work in me and I trusted He would bring it to completion…in my dry weariness I kept walking after Him to the Promised Land…and He brought sweetness where there was bitterness…He brought living water where there seemed to be a stagnant pond…And if you asked me if I would trade where I’m at with Him in my faith because of that desert, so I didn’t have to go through it…I’d tell you NO WAY!

Without the bitterness of Marah…God’s people would never have seen how He provides or how sweet the 12 springs and 70 palms of Elim were.

It’s easy to forget our way because:

2. Grumblers always breed more grumblers.

The people grumbled against Moses, saying “what are we to drink” You and I both know it started with a few…it became a private supper like in Corinth… “what’s the deal with Moses…he doesn’t know what he’s doing!” It was better in the good old days in Egypt…at least we had food and water.” Grumblers always breed more grumblers…Encouragers and trusters always breed more encouragers and trusters…Man we’d better choose carefully who we follow! Following those who would walk through the well known roads of Egypt…or Following those who would take the new way home…Following one keeps you in slavery…Following the others lets you experience God’s promise.

You see our spiritual health depends on whether we pass God’s test…that test is:

II. LISTENING TO GOD AND DOING WHAT IS RIGHT

EXODUS 15:25b-26 (p. 49)

The two keys for the Israelites and for us “listening” and understanding what God wants us to do…and then…“doing it.”

Every church, and I mean “EVERY CHURCH” will decide whether they are guided in their journey by the “grumblers” or by the Almighty God…and there’s always going to be the temptation to take the easy way out…pleasing people instead of pleasing God…But if you do, welcome to the place Corinth reached where many were “weak, sick and had fallen asleep in their faith.” (1 Cor. 11:30) Welcome to a place where the same diseases that plague unbelievers will place you…discontent, discouragement, selfishness, dissatisfaction and “every form of malice”…a place where grumbling and gossips hold your hand as you walk back into slavery.

Knowing God’s Word…even teaching God’s Word doesn’t make someone a leader worth following. In fact if you follow a teacher that only knows and understands God’s Word but doesn’t do it…you’ve done more harm to your faith than good…choose who you follow carefully…and make it your goal to become a leader whose worth following

I think you can tell when a person is listening carefully and doing what is right by the fruit they produce…and by fruit i mean “disciples.”

Jesus said “A good tree doesn’t produce bad fruit” (Matt. 7:18). He follows that with a similar but true statement: “A bad tree cannot bear good fruit.” Pretty simple, but an effective way to test who is worth following.

A good leader shares God’s truth passionately with joy…it’s who they are. They fan a flame into a desire to follow Jesus and His mission…you leave their presence challenged, but better…Disciples are created that carry the torch and set the world ablaze…Church exists for that purpose…but often it can become a place we just sit by the fire and get warm. I remember this story from when I was a child:

“When frost was on the pumpkin, and the wind was rising higher,
He spent his time just this way, sitting by the fire.
While others worked to win the lost, he never seems to tire,
For he spend his time just this way, sitting by the fire.
And when he died by slow degrees, some said he’d gone up higher,
Bt if he’s doing what he used to do, he’s siting by the fire!”
-Author Unknown

Let’s pray.

An I Exam_Main (1)

AN “I” EXAM: Restoring Our Vision for Christ’s Mission – Loving for the Future
Philippians 2:1-5 (p. 819) May 1, 2016

Introduction:

At one of our recent leadership meetings, one of our servant hearted elders, Brad Kidd, shared this poem called “The Bridge Builder” by Will Allen Droomgoole:

An old man going a lone highway,
Came, at the evening cold and gray,
To a chasm vast and deep and wide.
Through which was flowing a sullen tide
The old man crossed in the twilight dim,
The sullen stream had no fear for him;
But he turned when safe on the other side
And built a bridge to span the tide.

“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim near,
“You are wasting your strength with building here;
Your journey will end with the ending day,
You never again will pass this way;
You’ve crossed the chasm, deep and wide,
Why build this bridge at evening tide?”

The builder lifted his old gray head;
“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said,
“There followed after me to-day
A youth whose feet must pass this way.
This chasm that has been as naught to me
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be;
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building this bridge for him!”

Christianity is built on the principle of bridge building…it’s a future focused belief system, that affects how we live in the here and now.

“Our faith is the assurance of things hoped (for, and a conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

In fact we are told by the writer to the Hebrews…“Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

We believe in an invisible God who called us from our sin. We believe in His son’s sacrifice and resurrection…someone we’ve never seen, but we’ve read about…we believe in a Holy Spirit that convicts human hearts and leads us to repentance…And when we respond to this invisible spirit’s internal promptings we surrender in faith…we’re baptized in water to visibly connect with his death, burial and resurrection…we then believe God gives us the gift of His Spirit to live inside these earthly bodies…we believe we become His temple as we are born again to live forever…to await His promised return of our death…either way to “live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Phil 1:21)

But what does faith mean for me and you right now? It means we understand our mission…“To go into the world and make disciples, baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and teaching them to observe everything Jesus has commanded us.” (Matt. 28:19-20)

Every person mentioned in Hebrews 11, the faith chapter that pleased God…trusted God’s promise for the future…by what they did in the here and now.

I believe that’s exactly what the Apostle Paul was telling the Philippians and us in Philippians 2:1-5

I. BUILD BRIDGES NOT WALLS

I used to sing this little song in youth group…it went something like this.

(Sing it)
“You can build a bridge or you can build a wall
It all depends upon the love you give.
If you build a wall your world is small
But a bridge of love can conquer all.”

Paul uses the word “IF” 4 times in Phil. 2:1. “If” you have any encouragement from being united with Christ…“If” any comfort from His love…“If” any common sharing in the Spirit, “If” any tenderness and compassion.

I know how I’d feel if Kari looked at me and said, “If” you love me take care of the family…“If” you love us put us first…“If” you love us be “kinder”…“be gentler”…“If” we’re in this together let’s be on the same page.

I’d get mad…I’d get defensive…want to mention and list all the stuff I do…but if she really questioned whether I loved her…and my family, above myself it would break my heart…and get my attention pretty quick.

Paul is in jail when he writes this letter…He’s in chains for the cause of Christ…He’s not questioning the Philippians allegiance to Christ…but he is thinking of the future of the Church…and He’s challenging them to never stop loving for the future…Listen to how much he loved these folks:

PHILIPPIANS 1:3-11 (p. 818)

I love you! I’m thankful for you…when I think about you I feel joy…God’s got a plan…He’s working through you…even while I’m here in prison I want you to grow…to love people even more…to understand His will even clearer…I want you to have nothing to regret when our Lord returns.

Real faith builds bridges for the future…not walls that divide the house…Real faith builds up other believers and sacrifices for a future generation…It’s what being united with Christ does to our self centered hearts…

The problem occurs when we forgot this truth…when the Church does, it becomes a museum instead of a grace Hospital…I believe “if” means we constantly have a choice to either build bridges or walls…Paul is encouraging believers to always build bridges as I will encourage you to do as well.

So how do we experience complete joy? How can we be like minded and experience the same love as Christ wants His family to enjoy? How can we be one in spirit and one in our thinking?

The answer:

II. PUT A GREAT VALUE ON THE NEEDS OF OTHERS

Have you ever seen a church make decisions because they didn’t want to make someone mad? Have you ever seen a church that is proud of its past, but has forgotten it exists to build bridges for the future? I have…Listen:

REVELATION 3:1-6 (p. 862)

The church at Sardis had “a reputation of being alive.” They had knowledge they needed…They’s received it and heard it…but they went to sleep spiritually…or at least most of them…there were still a few bridge builders among them…I share this because the book of Revelation is written by John, one of the original 12 disciples…That’s how quickly “if” can occur…That’s how quickly selfish ambition and vain conceit can smother humility.

In Thom Rainer’s book “Autopsy of a Deceased Church” he also uses the churches of Philippi and Sardis as examples.

He says “The Philippians knew what they were supposed to do. They were to live the gospel. They were to proclaim the gospel…vibrant and living churches look after the interests of others. They are concerned for their community. They open their hearts and doors to others.”

But he also says Sardis was engaged in an activity called, “We’ve always done it this way.” Instead of having a gospel centered purpose and a heart and minister for it’s community they were on the path toward death…They were doing church…not being the Church.”

“The most pervasive and common thread of our autopsies was that the deceased churches lived for a long time with the past as hero. They held on more tightly with each progressive year. They often clung to things of the past with desperation and fear. And when any internal or external force tried to change the past, they responded with anger and resolution: “We will die before we change.”

– Thom S. Rainer, Autopsy of a Deceased Church: 12 Ways to Keep Yours Alive

When Paul writes “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit” he’s dealing with the two main attitudes that kill a church’s mission and spiritual alertness.

The cure? Put a higher value on the needs of others…put others before yourself…Look out for their interests before you demand your own…verse 5 tells us… “In your relationships with one another have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.”

What was that mindset? Lost people come first…“The Son of Man came to seek and save that which is lost.” (Luke 19:10) Children and young people had a high value…“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” (Luke 18:16) Hurting and sick people had a high value…“I did not come to call righteous people but the sick. It’s not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” (Mark 2:17)

And Jesus also had the mindset where He spoke truth powerfully to religious people who only appeared to do good, but on the inside were dead…“In the same way on the outside you appear to people as righteous, but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” (Matt. 23:28)

Jesus put a very very high value on the needs of others…He came to serve…not to be served…He went to the cross to die…for the needs of others…How high a value is that?

You see only His Spirit living and working in me and you can turn our hearts from self centeredness to humility…only when we see through his eyes can we find value where the world sees worthlessness.

His mission is our mission…“Go make disciples…Baptize them…Teach them.” It’s impossible to be obedient to His commission if the most important person we see everyday is the one in the mirror.

It takes an “I” exam to restore our vision for Christ’s mission…and it starts with a holy Spirit examination of how we value others…Inside and outside His Church.

As you all know “Messy Spirituality” by Mike Yaconelli is one of my favorite books and he shares a story about how we should treat others…How we should value people…Especially those who are “broken and messy.” He writes…

It’s difficult to be odd in a culture of sameness. Society is not kind to the odd, the strange, the different, the broken, and the outcast. But Jesus is. Sophisticated culture doesn’t like aliens and rejects. But Jesus like us. Most people would not choose odd people, but Jesus chooses us.

In his marvelous book Letters to My Children, Daniel Taylor describes an experience he had in the sixth grade. Periodically the students were taught how to dance. Thank God this kind of thing isn’t done anymore, but the teacher would line up the boys at the door of the classroom to choose their partners. Imagine what it would have been like to be one of the girls waiting to be chosen, wondering if they were going to be chosen, wondering if they would be chosen by someone they didn’t like.

One girl, Mary, was always chosen last. Because of a childhood illness, one of her arms was drawn up and she had a bad leg. She wasn’t pretty, she wasn’t smart, and she was…well…fat. The assistant teacher of Dan’s class happened to attend his church. One day, she pulled Dan aside and said, “Dan, next time we have dancing, I want you to choose Mary.” Dan couldn’t believe it. Why would anyone pick Mary when there was Linda, Shelley, or even Doreen? Dan’s teacher told him it is what Jesus would have done, and deep inside, he knew she was right, which didn’t make it any easier. All Dan could hope for was that he wouldn’t be last in line. That way, he could choose Mary, do the right thing, and no one would be the wiser. Instead, Dan was first in line.

The faces of the girls were turned toward me, some smiling. I looked at Mary and saw that she was only half-turned to the back of the room. (She knew no now would pick her first.) Mr Jenkins said, “Okay, Dan – choose your partner!”

I remember feeling very far away. I heard my voice say, “I choose Mary.”

Never has reluctant virtue been so rewarded. I still see her face undimmed in my memory. She lifted her head, and on her face, reddened with pleasure and surprise and embarrassment all at once, was the most genuine look of delight and even pride that I have ever seen, before or since. It was so pure that I had to look away because I knew I didn’t deserve it.

Mary came and took my arm, as we had been instructed, and she walked beside me, bad leg and all, just like a princess.

Mary is my age now. I never saw her after that year I don’t know what her life’ s been like or what she’s doing. But I’d like to think she has a fond memory of at least one day in sixth grade.

I know I do.

There was nothing Mary could do. She was chosen, and she was chosen first. I have a feeling all of heaven stood and applauded.

Most of us want to put ourselves in the place of Daniel…the chooser…but in reality we are all in the position of Mary…the chosen…and understanding that spiritual truth changes how we value others.

Let’s Pray.