Forward In Love (5/6/18)

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Do you know of someone who no longer serves in ministry or no longer attends worship services because someone has said or done something unloving to them? Unfortunately, some Christians can be very selfish and very unloving towards others when they don’t get their way. As followers of Jesus, we aren’t supposed to act this way.

Colossians 3:12-15 says, “12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”

The peace of Christ in us should make us the most peaceful and loving people on earth. Is this how people outside of the church view Christians? Is this how your family, co-workers and family view you?

One reason some Christians aren’t known for being peaceful and loving is because often they can easily get distracted from what’s really important and start focusing on, and even arguing over, things that don’t matter at all. So, with that being said, what should we be focusing on?

There are certain things we have to believe if we’re really Christians. They’re called Absolutes. According to Bible scholar Norman L. Geiser, there are eight things the Bible says we have to accept in order to have salvation. They are:

*Human depravity – We’re all sinners.

*Christ’s deity – Jesus is 100% God.

*Christ’s humanity – Jesus is also 100% human.

*God’s unity – God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit are not three separate Gods. They are one.

*Necessity of God’s grace – We’re lost without God’s grace giving us salvation.

*Necessity of faith – We have to believe Jesus is the Messiah.

*Christ’s atoning death – He died for our sins.

*Christ’s bodily resurrection – Jesus rose from the dead to overcome death, the penalty for sin.

We also have to wrestle with our Convictions. These are topics that are found in the Bible but can be interpreted in ways which lead to different conclusions. Examples include:

*Head covering – Do women need to wear a head covering?

*Eternal salvation – Can we lose our salvation.

*Women in ministry – Can women serve as pastors, bishops, deacons, etc.?

*Role of divorced – Can divorced people be deacons or pastors?

*Leadership qualifications – Who characteristics must people have before they can lead?

*All other theological viewpoints

Convictions are important because they are how we live out our faith in practical ways. However, they aren’t worth falling out over because those who disagree with our viewpoint really are trying to be faithful to their interpretation of the scriptures. We also need to acknowledge the other person might be the one who’s right.

There’s another category that affects every follower of Jesus. They are Preferences. Preferences are influenced by the culture we live in and aren’t mentioned in the Bible at all. Some examples in our modern culture are:

*Type of music – Do we sing hymns, contemporary music or both?

*Order of worship – How should the service be arranged?

*Method of prayer – Do we have group prayers, pass a microphone around for requests or do something else?

*Type of seating – Do we have pews or chairs?

Which category do you think Christians spend the most time debating? Absolutes, Convictions or Preferences.

We all know the answer – Preferences. Satan loves nothing better than to keep us focusing on our personal wants. Every minute we spend on debating or even arguing about them is a moment we aren’t putting energy into sharing the love of Jesus with those inside and outside of the church.

Several people have asked me, “Have you seen the changes that have happened since you got here?” The simple truth is all of these changes have happened within the system you had in place when I arrived. Yes, I constantly change up the order of worship and we’re praying in different ways, but I really haven’t changed the main ways this congregation functions.

Please let me ask you a question. How many of you have friends or family members who are not attending church and you wish they would come here and worship with us?

If they did decide to attend our worship services, where would we put them? Many Sundays, our sanctuary is past full. The general rule is once a sanctuary gets 70-80 % full, new people are uncomfortable with attending. Our Sunday School classes are also full. Last Sunday, there were 3 High School students here for Sunday School. That’s great. Except that class is held in the sound room where there isn’t room for a table. There will be 3 more students in that class next year. Where will we put them? The system we’re currently using is maxed out.

Are we willing to give up our preferences and make room for others?

It’s been said some people come here because they like a small, country church. That very well may be true. There is a great atmosphere here. However, Colossians 1:18a says, “He (Jesus Christ) is the head of the body, the church.” It’s not up to us to determine how big our congregation becomes. That’s up to Jesus.

If Jesus says I want Snake Spring Valley Church of the Brethren to keep growing in numbers, are you willing to tell him “no?”

If we decide that we aren’t going to do anything to make room for more people to worship with us, do you know what we’re really saying to our neighbors who are outside of the kingdom of God? We’re telling them to, “Go to hell.” This is where the Bible says they’re going if they don’t know Jesus as their Lord and Savior when they die.

It’s time for us to take action and make room for more people to join us in worshipping Jesus. We have to step out in faith. The main reason we don’t like to step out in faith is because of one simple thing – Fear. We’re afraid of where God may take us.

According to Pastor Ron Edmonson, we’re afraid of what we might lose if we make changes. With change comes the:

-Loss of power

-Loss of comfort

-Loss of information

-Loss of familiarity

-Loss of tradition

-Loss of stability

These come from real emotions. It can be hard to let go of these things. I understand this. As you know, God has brought many changes in Stephanie’s and my life. We’ve dealt with every one of these losses over and over again as God has called us to different places. The simple truth is Jesus asks us to give up these things over and over as his kingdom unfolds around us.

But, we also know we don’t have to fear the future. Romans 8:15 states, 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”

As disciples of Jesus, we aren’t supposed to look at change by fearing the future or mourning our losses. We’re to keep our eyes on Jesus and rejoice that change is necessary because the family of God is growing as more people become his sons and daughters. In order for this to happen, we’ll need to let go of some of our preferences.

I truly believe God is getting ready to give us his vision for what we need to do to reach more people with the gospel of Jesus Christ. God isn’t going to give me this vision. He’s going to come from you – the congregation.

For every idea that comes up and for every item we discuss, there are reasons we “can’t do it.” But let’s think about something. If God can create the universe in six days, can’t he provide for whatever needs that come our way? If Jesus can rise from the dead, can’t he give us a vision for the future?

Let’s be honest about something and not make excuses. Most of the time, when we say, “we can’t do that,” what we’re really saying is, “I don’t want to do that because it isn’t my preference.” If we have this type of attitude when God is telling us to move, we’re not only telling the lost people around us to “go to hell,” we’re telling God to do that too.

Are we willing to let go of our preferences, step out in faith and trust Jesus? Are we ready to show our friends, co-workers and neighbors how much we really love them?

Are we willing to let the peace of Christ guide us so we can make room for others to know Jesus Christ?