Monthly Archives: May 2017

His Story: An Introduction

Title: His Story

Text: Genesis

Introduction: We’ll be in Genesis this morning, and then on through the Bible.

When we enter a book of the Bible, it is almost as if we do so as if we’re walking among the trees in a forest. We stop at different points and look at flowers, birds, leaves, limbs, pine needles, dirt, insects. We don’t just pass through the forest, we stop and smell the flowers; we run our fingers through the dirt; we look up into the trees and shield our eyes from the sun, trying to stay in the shadows; we feel the wind, we hear the wind as it passes through the branches. I love with the deepest of passion to go through books like that.

But I want to do something different – gain a different perspective, if you will. I want to rise above the trees – high above the trees; higher than a drone, higher than a bird. I want to approach the Bible from a bird’s eye view – or maybe an aerial perspective, like flying in a plane. From a plane, you can see how the river flows. You can see the bends in the road. You can see the shape of the lake.

If we were to fly across the US, we could see certain cities, towns, mountains, rivers, etc. We would notice certain landmarks from the sky: where the desert is and where the woods begin and where the mountains are and the plains.

Transition: Today, I want to show you the map we’ll be following through the summer. The first sighting on our map is Creation.

  1. Creation: “It was very good”

Ill.: Steven Curtis Chapman’s All Things New

You spoke and made the sunrise, to light up the very first day
You breathed across the water, and started the very first wave
It was You
You introduced Your glory, to every living creature on earth
And they started singing, the first song to ever be heard
They sang for You

You make all things new; You make all things new

I love the story of creation: broken up into six days. One of my Venture students pointed out something very interesting about those six days: the 2nd three days, mirror the 1st three days. On days 1-3 he separates and creates. On days 4-6, he fills what he has made on the 1st three days.

 

Day 1: Separated Light from Darkness                  Good

 

Day 2: Separated Expanse from the Waters

 

 

Day 3: Separated the Water from the Land                       Good; Brought forth plants, trees, vegetation            Good

Day 4: He filled the Expanse w/ Lights

Stars; moons; Sun                                         Good

Day 5: He filled the waters with Fish/Sea creatures; He filled the Expanse with Birds                       Good

Day 6: He filled the the lands, the vegetation

with animals, the beasts of the fields                      Good

 

Also, God made man in His own image:

1.27: So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. …. Then, 31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

Now in Gen. 2, we find deeper details to the creation story concerning the man and the woman. It was a wonderful existence. It wasn’t just that they were the only two people on earth, that they were the happiest people on earth! Rather, their existence with God has made it that there has been no one on earth as happy as they. No one has experienced the garden like they did. No one has walked and talked with the animals or enjoyed life quite like they did. It was all so very good.

But that ended the day Adam and Eve ate the fruit that had been forbidden to them. The serpent had lied to them. He disguised the truth and tricked them. That is so like him! Adam and Eve rebelled against what God had strictly instructed them to do – or rather, not to do. They were no longer perfect. Sin entered the picture. And because of their tarnished nature, they could no longer dwell with a perfect, untarnished God. It just wasn’t possible. So they were banished from the Garden. Things would never be the same again – at least not to them.

But God is so good. While it is true that he cursed them both and the serpent, too, God gave them a promise. The promise was that the offspring of the woman would always be at war with the offspring of the serpent. Now, that sounds bad in itself; however, the promise gets better. God promised that one of her descendants would eventually crush the head of that snake.

Just when that would take place…well, that wasn’t made known…. Yet! But, one day, He would come and he would crush the serpent’s head and restore things.

Transition: Next on the map is…

  1. The Fall: “It was not so very good anymore”

The bad news is that although the promise was in place, nothing appeared to be moving in the direction of the promise being fulfilled. The situation went from bad to worse. Adam and Eve had some kids; two brothers to start with. Abel loved God and his work showed it. Cain loved himself and his work showed it. Each brother brought his gift to God, but Cain’s was rejected. So, some of the very effects of sin rose up in Cain: Jealousy, Anger, and Pride. Cain let those things grab a hold of him and build up inside to the point that Cain plotted and planned how to kill his own brother. Oh, God was merciful to him and gave him a chance to repent and make things right, but he just couldn’t get over his Jealousy, Anger and Pride.

And so Cain killed his brother Abel. Now, that is a bad story in itself, but what is truly amazing is how sin spiraled further and further into chaos and trouble. In fact, the world got so nasty that God decided he would destroy it and start over. In Gen. 6 it records: The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.”

You see, God decided to flood the earth and wipe everything clean. Well, almost! God chose one family to save. The very next verse says: But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.

So God flooded the whole earth, but saved one family by having them build an ark of gopher wood. God then commanded Noah to get his family and the animals on board. God brought the rain and flooded the earth. God’s anger was poured out on a world that had rejected him – and so he rejected them. He started over with a new Adam. There was one problem with this New Adam, though. He was just like the old Adam.

As a matter of fact, so much of the 1st story is repeated in this story. Noah is told to go and be fruitful and multiply just like Adam was. We see one of Noah’s son’s be cursed, just like we saw in the 1st story. Why, Noah and his family had barely gotten the animals off of the boat before Noah starts behaving badly.

And as the people multiplied, so did their sinful behavior. One story in Scripture records how a group of people decided to build a tower that would go up to heaven. They must have thought it was pretty big, but it couldn’t have been that big, because God had to come down to see it. The problem with this work that they were doing is that they thought they could do things without God. It appears they had the same thoughts that Adam and Eve had as the serpent had tricked them. So, God scattered the people and gave them different languages so that they couldn’t work together anymore.

But the story doesn’t end there; it really starts to get pretty good from there. God wasn’t done saving his people.

  1. Abraham: The Promise of a Nation

In the next chapter we meet a man named Abram. God chose him and told him to leave his kin and his country for a new land: a place that he would show him when he got there. From the beginning, God promises Abram some pretty big promises. These are the promises boiled down into a short presentation in 12.1-3:

  • Blessings upon anyone who bless Abram
  • Curses upon anyone who curses Abram
  • A land and a people to dwell in that land. Basically, God promised Abram that he would be the Father of a great nation and that all nations would be blessed through him.

Now, you might think that God chose Abram because he was such a great guy. But the truth of the matter is that Abram could be a liar and deceitful, just like everyone else. But there was something very special about Abram and it was simply this: He had the promise of God and he believed God would keep his promise.

It wasn’t that easy though. While Abram, whose name was changed to Abraham, held to the promise of God, it sometimes seemed like God was never going to keep his promise. For example, Abraham was 100 years old before he had his son Isaac. And added to this problem, God told Abraham to go to a special mountain and offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice. So great was Abraham’s faith in God’s promise, that he believed God would actually raise his son from the dead. But, just before Abraham sacrificed his son, God stopped it and gave a Ram to Abraham to offer instead. I guess it was God’s way of saying to Abraham – Never stop trusting me. I’ll always provide for you and keep my promise to you.

Well, Isaac grew up and got married and had two sons of his own: Esau and Jacob. Esau should have received the blessing because he was older, but God chose the younger brother, Jacob. For some reason, that is another theme we find repeated in Scripture. God doesn’t always do things in a logical manner. He has a plan – and he’s working that plan!

God’s plan was to begin building a nation through Jacob’s sons. Jacob had 12 of them! And it wasn’t the 1st or the 2nd or even the 3rd son who got the blessing, but rather the 4th son! His name was Judah. He was told that through him a king would come – one whose scepter shall not depart from Judah. The kingly line would come through Judah, but even more, the promised one – or the one promised from the beginning would come from the line of Judah.

Now, we could take some time to talk about all of these men. I could spend the entire summer on these guys, telling you horror stories of their sinful, rebellious behavior. But I won’t. What I want to tell you is that in spite of these men, God kept his promises. And while they couldn’t see it exactly, they trusted God that he would keep his promises and bring the one who would crush the serpent’s head. They couldn’t see it because it was so far off in the distance.

  1. Israel: A Nation is Born

So far off indeed! Hundreds of years would pass before God would begin to work with this nation that they would become. More years than all the years of history that these United States have accumulated. Think about it. It would be like God promising the settlers of Jamestown a Messiah. Go back to 1608 – it has been 409 years since then and we would still be waiting! That’s a similar time period for these descendants of Jacob – or as he was also known, Israel. Do you remember the promise of God to Abraham: A land and a people to dwell in that land? That land would be like the garden that Adam and Eve lived in. At least, that is what they would be reminded of …. It would be a beautiful land – a land flowing with milk and honey! But for some reason, it didn’t turn out that way. The way it turned out was the people were enslaved in the land of Egypt. Egypt? You say! Enslaved? You ask! How did that happen? God had promised them the land of Canaan.

Well, it’s a long story about a bunch of brothers who hated their baby brother and sold him into slavery. He was a slave and later an inmate at the local prison. As the years passed he rose up through the ranks and eventually became 2nd in command of all of Egypt. A famine throughout the land brought the brothers there looking for food. Because of Joseph’s position, he took care of his brothers and their families. And for the next few hundred  years, they lived in Egypt.

Through time, a pharaoh rose to power who did not know Joseph and he was bothered by the multiplication thing going on with this tiny nation called, Israel. So he made them slaves. And as the years passed, their oppression was great. So, they cried out to God and God sent them a deliver: Moses! And Moses delivered them from their oppression. Actually, it wasn’t Moses, it was God – but it was Moses God chose to use. Moses was their leader, but God was doing the leading. God led them in a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. He led them across the dry seabed to safety and he drowned the Egyptian army when they tried to follow. As Moses followed God, the people followed, too. God was always at work saving his people.

It’s funny… not funny ha-ha, but funny ironic that He was always having to save his people. When they were in the wilderness, he set them up to be distinct. He gave them his commandments. His commandments were outlined so they would know how to act as his people. If they would only obey his commands, then he would lead them to the Promised Land and life would be good. Their crops would be bountiful and their vats would brim over with new wine. Their storage bins would be too full to handle the plenty.

But, if you know the story, and I’m guessing most of you do: you know that they didn’t. They didn’t obey; they didn’t follow. Like Adam, Like Noah, Like the brothers, they rebelled against God’s design, too. God kept his promise and delivered the people to the promise land. They in turn, didn’t do what they were supposed to do to drive the other people out. That hurt them. Yes, because of their disobedience, but even more so, because the people were a thorn in their side. The people, who were supposed to be driven out, influenced God’s people to do bad things.

The Israelites were always fighting with them, or even worse, adopting their pagan ways and rejecting God’s commands. God sent them prophets to guide them. But they wouldn’t listen to them. God sent them kings to rule over them, but the kings made things even worse.

  1. Kings: A King like the Promised King

As the Israelites dwelt with the people of the land and failed to drive them out, their hearts began to desire the very things God hated. One such desire was for a king. God told them how bad it would be if they had a king, but they didn’t care. They wanted a king like all the other nations had. So God gave them a king.

Their first King was Saul. If we were to list his good traits, well, let’s just say there isn’t much to say. Well, he was tall, but that was about it. God decided to remove Saul and choose a man after his own heart. He did. His name is David. He was what you might have expected to fulfill the promise of God. As a matter of fact, other than that King – the Promised One – there isn’t any other King in all of Israel’s history who was better. That really isn’t saying a whole lot!

But, when David was good, man, was he good. Israel was blessed under David’s leadership. But here is where something interesting happens. When David was in his later years, he wanted to build a house for God. God told him no, but God did make him a promise: a promise that was built on the promises already given. He was told that he would always have a son who would sit on the throne. Remember the promise to Judah – a scepter would never depart from Judah; well, this promise was built upon that one. Now, the people would know that the Promised One would be a son of David.

To be sure, David’s son would not be that promised one. Solomon started off well. But, then, he didn’t finish strong. His son did an even poorer job, creating a split in the kingdom: 10 tribes to the north and 2 tribes to the south. The Northern 10 tribes were called Israel and the southern 2 tribes was called Judah. Israel never had a good king. Never! Nary a one! Every single King in the North – and there were 19 of them over the next couple of hundred years – every one of them led the people astray. The Southern Kings didn’t do much better. Many of them were wicked and evil, as well, leading the People of Judah astray. Every few kings, one would come along and try to make things right, but it never took. After 400 years of rebellion, idolatry, and wickedness, God vomited them out of his land, just as he said he would if they rejected him. They responded like Adam and Eve, like the people after Noah… and the list goes on.

The people were in darkness. Lost and without a land, without a Temple, and without a King. It all appeared that the promises of God were now null and void. It was a very dark time indeed.

  1. Prophets: The Nation will not listen

But God’s promises were never snuffed out! God had promised the Snack crusher, Abraham’s son, Judah’s lion, David’s descendant would come. Prophets were sent to assure the people of those very great and precious promises of God. They were told that he would be born in Bethlehem of Judea; that he’d be born of a virgin; that there would be a messenger to prepare the way. He gave these numerous promises through the prophets.

Israel’s problem was that they were so into themselves that they just disregarded much of what God had to say. The WEBS is in Isaiah. In Isaiah we’re reminded that the people of God would pay God lip service or they would do what they were supposed to do in sacrifices and rituals, but their hearts just weren’t in it.

So God sent them prophets; prophets to rebuke them; prophets to guide them; prophets to weep and mourn for them; prophets who would tell them God’s Word. These prophets came in all shapes and sizes and demeanors. God used these men over and over again. But the people of Israel rejected these prophets. They beat them and shamefully mistreated them. Some, they even killed. So God sent them a prophet to tell them that no more prophets would be coming. God told them through Amos that there would only be silence. 400 years of silence.

After all that God had done for them and their constant refusal to listen and follow – there was nothing from God for 400 years. Adam had failed; Noah had failed; Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had failed. The nation of Israel had failed. Kings had failed. Priests had failed. None could image God like God had designed.

  1. The Messiah: The Promised King – but not like they thought…

And after 4 centuries of silence, God began to speak again. We find him at work in a tiny baby lying in a manger. In this tiny baby, God was giving his people a new prophet, priest and king. He was giving them a new law, a new hope, a new sacrifice. He was making all things new. In giving them this baby, he was keeping his promise.

But it wasn’t the way the people thought it should be. This baby grew into a boy and then into a man. His miracles were legendary. He fed the 5,000 and walked on water. He healed the sick, the lame, the blind and the diseased. He taught with such authority, like none they had ever seen or even heard of. He picked 12 men who didn’t seem to fit together. He rode the foal of a donkey and not a white stallion. He came bearing a cross and not a sword. Instead of riding into Jerusalem and taking his royal, rightful throne, he came to die on a cross between two thieves. This one who was supposed to crush the serpent’s head was crushed himself – by his own father!

And yet, this was the plan of God all along. He was keeping his promises all along. For when the savior died and was buried, that wasn’t the end of the story, but rather, a new beginning.

  1. The Resurrection: It is Finished

A new beginning because this one who died on the cross, didn’t stay that way – dead. No, he rose from the dead by coming back to life! His disciples saw him – not just the twelve, but all of his disciples, men and women, both. He appeared to them in the upper room where they were hiding. Paul records that some 500 people saw him at one time. They ate fish with him by the Sea of Galilee. They told their friends that he is raised from the dead! Many couldn’t believe it. Jesus was to be seen with them at various times over the next 40 days. But after 40 days, Jesus ascended to be with the Father – where he sits at his Father’s right hand. And you know what he did then? He sat down next to his Father. There, he rules and reigns in glory.

  1. The Holy Spirit: A gift for the followers

But Jesus didn’t leave his followers alone! No, he has sent us his precious Holy Spirit to guard and to guide – to protect and provide. He has given us the Holy Spirit to bring us peace. Not the kind of peace that world knows, but a peace that surpasses all human understanding. As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit takes up an abode in our spirits and lives within us. In his coming, he convicts the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in Jesus; 10 concerning righteousness, because Jesus has gone to the Father, and; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

  1. The Return: He’s Coming Again!

But there is even more to the promises of God – Jesus is coming again. The Snake Crusher, Abraham’s son, Judah’s Lion, David’s Descendant, Jesus, the Christ will come again just as he promised. He will come again to restore us to the Garden. One day, according to his promise, we will have a restored relationship where we will walk and talk with God. We will know what Adam and Eve had known as they walked and talked with God in the cool of the Day. And there we will be with him forever and ever. There we will know what it means to be perfectly happy. Oh, glorious day!

Conclusion: There you have His Story; 10 stops along a beautiful journey over the next 10 weeks. We’ll look at the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly.

Before we leave this morning, let me offer you an opportunity to respond to this incredible story.

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Genesis 1-2; Romans 14:12-14

Title: Accountability

Text: Genesis 1-2; Romans 14.12-14

Introduction: We’re in Genesis 1-3 and Romans 14 this morning. We’ll start w/ the Genesis passage – go to Romans 14 for a moment and then come back to Genesis.

I performed a wedding this week and I always try to start the wedding ceremony in Genesis 1 and creation. You see, God created marriage and for the Christian, that is important. If you’ve ever wondered why Christians are so up in arms about marriage, it isn’t because we hate anyone. It’s because we see the world messing with what God has created.

Well, I was reminded in preparing for that ceremony of something incredible; rd Gen 1.26-27; 26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Here’s where I am going with this: God is plural – Elohim; Elohim said, Let ‘us’ make man in ‘our’ image, after ‘our’ likeness. The Triune God created a single man to be like the Triune God – his image, his likeness. Don’t you find that fascinating?

If you’re thinking to yourself that you just don’t get it. Well, that’s ok! No one does. There are a lot of people smarter than you and me who’ve never been able to process that!

So God creates a man and he creates him incomplete. A plural God. A Single man. God has created so much in the 1st 6 days and proclaims it is all good. But, when he creates the man and sees him working alone in the garden, God says, “it is not good for man to be alone.”

Now I’ve always taken that and understood that in the context of marriage. But, I want you to see that there is even more there that we can learn from the creation account. Three lessons of community in creation:

  • Lesson 1: The Trinity is a model for us. God has set for us an example of community in Himself.
  • Lesson 2, Man, that is, mankind, was created for relationships. He was created to exist within the context of community.
  • And Lesson 3, whereas God is the perfect example for us of what Community looks like through the Trinity, we have corrupted the opportunity for perfect community through our sinfulness.

t.s.: Let’s begin with this 1st Lesson…

I.     The Trinity is our model for Community (Genesis 1, 2)

exp.: We saw in Genesis 1 the Three in One at work. They are not independent of each other and they are not co-dependent on each other. They are interdependent – each functioning within the other. One writer commented on such unity and interdependence that it something like God (Father) speaks and The Word of God (Jesus) creates. The Holy Spirit is the breath of the One who is speaking. Perfect Unity and yet, Three persons.

ill.: Julie Gorman, author of Community that is Christian writes: Community is rooted in the very nature of God’s personhood and, therefore, existed before creation. Consider this: we understand our God as one God and yet he is expressed to us in three persons. Talk about perfect unity! So perfect are they and their unity that when Philip asked to see the father, Jesus said if you’ve seen me, you seen the father.

ill.: To be fair, this is mind blowing. No rational, logical person can truly wrap his mind around this concept. Listen to A.W. Tozer: Our sincerest effort to grasp the incomprehensible mystery of the Trinity must remain forever futile, and only by deepest reverence can it be saved from actual presumption. Wow! That is deep what Tozer is saying is that we as humans will never be able to totally comprehend the Trinity. And if we do think that we have–we’re in deep trouble! No one can truly comprehend God.

app.: But we can begin to understand what he has made known to us. And what we know, what we understand is that God created us in his image. In other words, we were created to exist in relationships; we were created to exist in community.

I love in the next chapter in Genesis; God sees that the man he has made is alone. And he says – it is not good for man to be alone. I’ll make a helper suitable for him. He created, he fashioned a woman to be in relationship with the man.

t.s.: So, we see the Trinity is our model for community. But what exactly does that mean for us? What is the implication?

Implication: Because of this (The Trinity is our Model for Community), then Community is not a program.

  1. Community is not a program.

ill.: Joy & Shelton, in their book The People of God: The only thing strong enough to build and sustain Christian Community is the gospel and the refuge found therein. Demographics, money, location, shared interests, curriculum, or good causes will not create the deep, true community for which God designed us.

exp.: just like marriage isn’t a program; raising your children isn’t a program; it is real life. Church isn’t supposed to be a program. And sure, you can be a part of organizations that do good things, but the Church was designed to be more than just a civic organization. It is designed to be a community.

app.: 1st, the Trinity is our Model for Community and the implications is that Community, then, isn’t a program.

t.s.: 2nd lesson, we see…

II.    Humans were created for Community.

exp.: You were created for community. You were created for relationships. As you begin to understand the Trinity is our model for community, you then need to wrap your mind around the truth that God is completely and perfectly happy in Himself. It is interesting to do a word search on the word pleasing and then to link that concept with God and what pleases him, verses people and what pleases them. Are you aware of what brings God pleasure – that is, when he is most pleased? I say the word pleasure and most of you think: bad – no! Me no likey pleasure! God no likey pleasure! This is where you hear the record player scratch across the record…eerrrpt! The reason you think pleasure is wrong is because the sinful nature has corrupted this beautiful trait of the Trinity! God designed us for pleasure – but Satan corrupted that beautiful gift.

ill.: This is so beautifully illustrated in Genesis 2 as our story continues; God creates this couple and places them in the perfect environment for community to take place. 24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

In this moment of Genesis, we find perfection. This couple is experiencing community in perfection. But something happens … and that is our 3rd lesson…

III.   Humans corrupt Community with our sinful behavior.

exp.: let me read that last verse again: 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

What? Naked, and unashamed?!? I don’t know if you’ve noticed it or not, but we’re all wearing clothes here today. And isn’t it wonderful! That’s a big change from what we see at the close of Genesis 2. But something happens in chapter three that mars this perfection, this innocence. Adam and Eve reject and rebel against God’s design. 3.7 reads: Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

app.: here’s the point: You and I were designed to find pleasure in this life through our relationships! We find pleasure in our relationships when we live them out perfectly through community. The problem is this corruption of sin in our lives. We will never be that way – living in community in perfect unity – as long as we have sin in the world. Imperfect people make an imperfect community.

t.s.: So what are further implications are here for us?

 

  1. Community takes work.

exp.: relationships are hard. You’ve heard me say that before, but it fits here so well. You and I are marred by sin’s affects and we have to fight through our desire for sin and self. We argue that others don’t behave that way so why should we? But God doesn’t set our brothers and our sisters as examples. He set himself! The truth that relationships are hard work rings true across the board as it comes to community.

ill.: People leave churches because they’re unhappy. It is easier to leave than to sit down and talk through our differences. In Smith County there are over 400 churches you can move to. You can go to a church for 1 year, then go to another for a year. If you do that, you’ll never have to worry about relationships. With 100 Southern Baptist Churches in Smith County, you won’t even have to change denominations! It is just too easy.

Here’s another implication:

  1. Community brings accountability.

exp.: The Bible teaches us that Community is the source to help us with accountability. Accountability implies responsibility. You are responsible to someone for something. And, for that, you are to give an account. But, here is the problem. As sinful humans, we don’t want to be responsible for each others and we don’t want others to be responsible for us. Because of our sinful nature we don’t want people holding us accountable.

ill.: Bruce Larson,  There’s a Lot More to Health Than Not Being Sick:

Behavioral Sciences in recent years have expounded the simple truth that “Behavior that is observed changes.” People who are accountable by their own choice to a group of friends, to a therapy group, to a psychiatrist or a pastoral counselor, to a study group or prayer group, are people who are serious about changing their behavior, and they are finding that change is possible.

Studies done in factories have proven that both quality and quantity of work increase when the employees know they are being observed. If only God knows what I’m doing, since I know He won’t tell, I tend to make all kinds of excuses for myself. But if I must report to another or a group of others, I begin to monitor my behavior. If someone is keeping an eye on me, my behavior improves.

exp.: Scripture teaches us that we need accountability because we have responsibility. Romans 14.12ff

  1. To God:12 – 12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. This is 1st and greatest responsibility.
  2. To each other: 14.13 – 13 Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. I think this passage is often times misquoted to make others behave in a manner that lines up with our beliefs. We say to someone – you shouldn’t do that because a weaker brother might stumble. The reality is our pharisaical rules and regulations and traditions go against that behavior. What this verse isn’t saying is to make your brother in Christ behave the way you want him to behave. But, what this verse is clearly saying is that we have a responsibility to our brothers and for our brothers and sisters in Christ. Therefore, behave that way.
  3. To ourselves:14 – 14 I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. You are accountable and responsible to yourself. Your conscience should be clear before God.

t.s.: Community helps us in regard to relationships – through accountability, through the hard work of relationships. You were created for relationships. It is hard work, but hard work can be so rewarding. So,

  • The Trinity is a model for us of what community means and looks like.
  • Second, you were created for relationship. And those relationships bring responsibility.
  • And Third, whereas God is the perfect example for us of what Community looks like through the Trinity, we have corrupted the opportunity for perfect community through our sinfulness.

Conclusion: Pamela Reeve in her book Relationships (as recorded by Chuck Swindoll) writes: Not long ago I walked by a wall poster that brought me back for a second look. I can’t remember the artwork, but I’ve never forgotten the pithy, pointed message: “Involvement with people is always a very delicate thing….It requires real maturity to become involved and not get all messed up.”

Community groups are important because they involve relationships – Relationships on a much deeper level than in any other church related activity: It requires real maturity to become involved and not get all messed up.”

Let’s pray…

Invitation: remember the fig leaves – a weak attempt to cover themselves. The end of that chapter tells us that God covered them. He made clothes for them out of animal skins. That was the first sacrifice. That penalty is still the same – the wages of sin. Jesus paid that penalty for us.

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Fellowship (In light of Community Groups) Outside These Walls: 2017

Title: Fellowship (In light of Community Groups; Outside These Walls 2017)

Text: Philippians 1.27-2.1

Introduction: Last summer we experienced with a change of pace: Outside these Walls. For the most part, it went well. We chose to not meet inside these facilities on Wednesday nights, but rather to gather outside the confinement of these walls and instead to meet out in the community. We served, we played, we worshipped. The elders want to build on that idea of going outside these walls this summer.

Outside These Walls: 2017 is similar in fashion but different in design. Here’s how: we still want to meet outside these walls, but we want to refine our attempts by setting some goals.

  1. We want higher participation.

Consider this: if we have 80 people on Sunday morning, we had half of our people participating in OTW in the summer of 2016. That’s ok, but not good. Are you ready for this? I’m praying for 100 people to be participating in Community Groups in 2017. Some of you are thinking I’m crazy. I know, I know! If we only have 85 people in worship, how is it that we’d have 100 in Community Groups? It really is a no-brainer! You and I have to invite families to join ours.

  1. We want bigger buy in.

Consider this: one week we’d have 40 participants and the next week we’d have 12. There are so many reasons folks drop off the next week. Often times, people participate in activities where they have a vested interest. My hope and my prayer is that you’ll buy into a Community Group. There are so many reasons why, and these messages over the rest of May will present some of those reasons. I hoping that everyone will buy into this concept.

Warning: Some of you have started tuning me out. You have a bad attitude about Community Groups and you’re not going to give it a 2nd thought. But can I stop you there. What is your reason? Did you have a bad experience? Please don’t judge all small groups by your bad experience. I find often times that our attitude skews the event we’re participating in. Are you worried about your Bible Study group that meets on Sunday morning? Don’t be. We’re not recommending canceling Sunday morning activities for this.

  1. We want to personalize it.

Each group will be different. Sunday morning Bible Study right now is studying the Gospel Project. I love the Gospel Project. Community Groups will study what they want. Marriage 101, Grace Based Parenting, A book (Kay Arthur, Beth Moore, Dennis Rainey, Jonathan Leeman) A book of the Bible, Digging Deeper into this past week’s sermon. The elders want to provide you with resources.

You might want to choose your group because of the teacher, you might want to choose your group based on its location and closeness to your home or your office, you might choose it based on the curriculum.

This month, you’ll be reading about it in the bulletin and hearing about it in the sermons. I’m hoping to begin having sign-ups for our groups by the 21st of May.

Now, I’m rambling. I know this is a long introduction. However, I felt it important to offer a bit of what’s coming and just how these sermons will impact that event. You see, I don’t want to talk about Community Groups as much as I want to talk about purpose and direction. Community Groups will only be used if they can help us accomplish the principles found in Scripture of what and who we are to be.

Our purpose statement is …developing passionate followers of Christ. Michael Wright led the church to develop this purpose statement. I like it and so have kept it through the years. It contains the elements of worship, discipleship, evangelism, fellowship and ministry. I wonder if we might need an update – only because I’d like the glory of God in it somehow. You know… all for the glory of God; maybe to clean up and clear up and verbiage so that it is concise and says exactly what we do and who we are.

So, who are we? What do we do? I’d like to turn our focus upon answering this question during the Month of May. Turn your attention to Philippians 1.

κοινωνία is the word from which we get our word fellowship. Our biggest problem with this word in English is that, when it is spoken and used in our language, it simply connotes the idea of eating together after church. Rarely do Baptists convey the idea of fellowship without the involvement of food!

ill.: Announcement: we’re having a fellowship in the Fellowship Hall after worship today. What did you think? Most of us identify whatever we’re meeting for and whatever we’re going to accomplish with food being served; at least a desert or sweet of some kind will be served.

In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he uses this word κοινωνία quite often. It appear 6x’s total in 4 chapters in its lexical form or in a compound form. Let me give those to you for your own personal study: 1.5, 7; 2.1; 3.10; 4.14, 15.

These six references form three sections on κοινωνία; however, they have nothing to do with food or fun. This has been eye opening for me. I knew this, but through the years have been lazy about it meaning in the church. Maybe, as we make our way through Philippians this month, you’ll see you’ve taken a laxidazical attitude about this matter as well. Here is my outline: Read the verses where κοινωνία is…

  1. Fellowship in the Gospel (Ministry/Mission) 1.3-11
  2. Fellowship in Unity (Being like minded; one Body; Evangelism; Witness) 1.27-2.2
  3. Fellowship in Christ (Discipleship) 3.1-10
  4. Fellowship in Unity (Being like minded; one Body; Evangelism; Witness) 4.1-9
  5. Fellowship in the Gospel (Ministry/Mission) 4.10-20

Maybe we should call the church The Fellowship. Because fellowship is more of a word that describes more of what we do: Evangelism, Discipleship, Missions, Ministry, and Prayer, Worship.

We could use other synonyms: Sharing, Participating, Partnering, and Having in Common;

Warning: Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying when I say fellowship. You see I did! I wrote out a prospectus for community groups and gave it to our elders. And, in preparing these messages, I’ve found I wasn’t seeing things clearly. I want you to grasp what we’re trying to do here.

ill.: – James Hewett tells the story of a woman who was in between flights at an airport. She had about an hour and a half wait and decided that she would spend the time looking over the newspaper. She had a little twinge of hunger, so she dropped by the lounge and picked up a small package of cookies and sat down at a table to look over her paper.

While she was reading, she began to detect a small rustling sound, almost like cellophane being crinkled and torn. She looked over the top of the newsprint and, to her amazement, a well-dressed man, sitting at the same table, a total stranger to her, was opening her cookies and helping himself.

Flabbergasted, she didn’t want to make a scene, and so she just kept the paper up in front of her face and reached around and deliberately took the package of cookies and slid them toward her and took out one and began to eat it.

About a minute passed and, to her amazement, she heard more crinkling of the cellophane. She looked around the paper and the man, not looking at her, was simply eating another of her cookies.

Before she could reach over (by now they were at the bottom of the stack), he looked at the last cookie and broke it in two and with a frown slid it across to her side. He finished his half cookie, picked up his briefcase, and made his way down the terminal.

She was fuming as she munched on her last half of cookie. Then she heard the call for her flight and began to make her way to the gate where she would get on the plane. She needed her ticket, and so she opened her purse and, to her shock, she saw her package of unopened cookies still in her purse.

Somewhere in that same airport was a man still shaking his head, wondering how this strange lady had the nerve to eat part of his cookies!

app.: Funny how we misread what is right before us. You know you do it, too. I was wrong on this word Fellowship. Let me show you…

Calvary Baptist Church

Community Groups

Outside These Walls 2017

Prospectus

He must increase, but I must decrease. John 3.30

 

Purpose: The purpose of Calvary Community Groups is to foster a sense of community among Calvary Members as we develop passionate followers of Christ.

Community is not the goal in the mission of God; bringing Himself glory through the making of disciples is the goal. Community is the primary context God designed to take the church there. (The People of God, p. 78)

So let me reiterate: the purpose is to foster a sense of community.

 

Goals: To enable members to experience community through (or simply: Making Community Possible through):

  1. F-fellowship
  2. A-accountability
  3. D-discipleship
  4. E-evangelism

Correction: Making Community Possible through fellowship (John 6.58) 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”

  1. B-breaking bread
  2. R-relationship building
  3. E-evangelism
  4. A-accountability
  5. D-discipleship

 

Benefits: So much of our gatherings at Calvary are only surface deep. My heart’s desire is that the membership will benefit as they:

  • Grow in Christ through digging deeper into Scripture
  • Grow in their personal relationships with other community group members
  • Reach out to their community by inviting a lost family

What is Fellowship (κοινωνία)? The Dictionary of Bible Themes (2009) defines it this way…

Fellowship: An association based upon the sharing of something in common.

ill.: I’m reading Steven Curtis Chapman’s Book, Between Heaven and the Real World: My Story. He tells the story in there about how his community group got together to watch the National Championship Game involving the Tennessee Volunteers against Florida State in the Fiesta Bowl. Some of the women left early for various reasons. After the game, Steven writes that their family was all in bed when the phone rings. He learns that a vehicle of one family – a mother and her two daughters was in a tragic car accident. Mary Beth, his wife, stayed at home with their children, but Steven changed into some clothes and headed up to the hospital, where he learned that the mom and one daughter were in critical condition, but one of the little girls had died. A teenage, driving way too fast, lost control of his car and hit them broadside.

Steven’s relating the story is so incredible as you watch this community group that he is a part of come together and minister to the family. But what adds to the storyline is that in 10 years, the Chapman’s world would be rocked in the loss of their own little girl, Maria – also involving a vehicle. This family who had been ministered to by their small group, would now minister to the Chapman family and walk with them through their struggle.

app.: Community Groups bring the larger fellowship stability. As individuals come together in fellowship, they experience: relationships; accountability; acceptance, discipleship, evangelism and ministry. And, can I say, this cannot be accomplished in the corporate setting.

Transition: Stephen’s story shows us the extremes of fellowship – from a football game to a hospital emergency room.

Conclusion: Believers have fellowship with one another simply on the basis of:

  • Their common relationship with God in Christ, (which puts them in relationship with each other); Philippians has 104 verses using 433 different words. Christ appears 61 times in those 104 verses in various forms of nouns and pronouns.
  • Their participation in the blessings of the gospel (Did you know that? You participate in the blessings of the gospel through your marriage, your children, your church…) at times the word κοινωνία appears or is implied in Philippians, so does the word εὐαγγέλιον. 1.5, 6; 1.27 (2); 3.10
  • Their common task of missions and evangelism (I am so proud of our work in missions! It is my prayer, however, that our fellowship may refine and get even better at missions through community groups. I can’t say I have the same pride in our evangelism. It is my prayer that evangelism will begin to take place as we partner together in community groups.) You probably remember from earlier in the message, this letter is bookended with the idea of their partnership in Paul’s work of missions and evangelism. : in 4.15; no church partnered in word with me, but you alone. It appears they committed to this fellowship with Paul in ministry and mission with their words and so followed through with their deeds.

In light of all this, you could then say: True fellowship is demonstrated through personal concern for and practical commitment to one another. Note these two words: Concern/Commitment.

Application:

  1. I hope you’ll begin praying for how you can participate in a community group. Over the next couple of weeks, leading up to June 7th (our launch date), we will be posting our leaders, their groups and their curriculum. This will allow you to pick a group based on location, subject, or your peers. Please start praying now.
  2. We know you can’t be at every Wednesday night session of your community group; however, you can plan to be at most. You will only go to the group meetings you make plans to be at.
  3. Sign up!

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