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This is the second week of our fall sermon series, "Viva La Vida Christus: Living the Life of Christ" dealing with Romans 12-16. Part 2, this week, is titled "Humility, our Gifts, and Real Life" and works with Romans 12:3-8 and issues of pride, humility, and our spiritual gifts. This sermon was originally preached September 14th, 2008 at The Resolved Church in San Diego, CA.

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September 14th, 2008
Pastor Duane M. Smets

Series: Viva La Vida | Romans 12-16
"Humility, Our Gifts, and Real Life"
Romans 12:3-8


Introduction

Good morning everyone. This is our second week in our new sermon series, "Viva La Vida Christus: Living the Life of Christ." Today we're working with verses 3-8 of Romans 12. So we'll read the text and then get right into it. Read text and pray.

Lord God we thank you for your book the Bible. I pray you would use it's words and our study of them today to teach us, to humble us, to learn about ourselves and to grow up together into Jesus Christ our Lord who is our head. Jesus you promised to build your church and said the gates of hell would not overcome it. So bulid up up, teach us what it means to be a church and act like a church. Holy Spirit purify us and fill us that we might use our gifts for the glory of God. Amen.

For several weeks now a book titled "Devil Bones" by Kathy Reichs has been on the New York Times best seller list. It was made into a hit TV series called "Bones" which is now on its' third season. The book is about some human bones which were discovered accidently when a plumber was fixing something in a house and knocked a whole through the wall. The quest then becomes to try and unravel the mystery of who the killer is. As the story progresses several people become potential suspects. Is it the work of a devoted wiccan or voodoo artist? Or is it the evangelical preacher who is trying so hard to pin it on a wiccan or voodoo practicioner? Or is it the professor at the college who seemingly knows too much about these particular bones?

What you discover as the story progresses is that the real story isn't so much the bones themselves or even the murder itself but how each of the characters is deeply flawed and fully capable of doing such a horrible thing. The moral lesson the reader is to pick up on is that there is a devil in all of us, deep down we've got evil bones.

The origin of story of the devil in the Bible comes primarily from a few snapshots in Job and the description in the book of Isaiah, chapter 14, where God reveals the story of what happened in heaven. The devil or Satan is called the great "day star" or "son of dawn," an angel. One days this angels says, "I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God. I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High."

This seems to be the earliest sin ever recorded in the Bible, going back even before the sin of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. In it Satan, the prideful daystar, a bright, beautiful and powerful angel, surely far beyond any earthly glory we have encountered…did not consider that enough but wanted more. In arrogance he wanted recognition and status of God himself, he wanted the place where only God can sit, the supreme throne of heaven.

Pride. Many theologians have noted that pride is in many ways at the heart and essence of sin itself. Our contending for supremacy with God. C.S. Lewis said, "The essential vice, the utmost evil, is pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison. It was through pride that the devil became the devil. Pride leads to every other vice. It is the complete anti-God state of mind."

Pride. Addressing it is perhaps the most fitting way that Paul, the human author, of Romans could introduce a section of Scripture which talks about the best parts of who we are as individuals, our gifts given to us from Jesus.

Verses 1-2 of Romans 12 address our attitude toward God after embracing the gospel, we are recipients of mercy and live a life of worship. Our verses for today address our attitude toward ourselves, we are conduits of humility and live a life of service.

There is a great reversal a sort of roller coaster of emotions that happen in the course of becoming a Christian. You become a Christian when you truly realize that you are helpless, only have made a mess of things, are crooked deep down, and truly deserve judgment from God for being a terrible person. If you don't think you're a terrible person deep down, then I dare say you may not yet truly be a Christian.

So on the roller coaster of emotions…we start out thinking we are really good people. But then we realize we're really not very good and in fact we are far worse of then we thought. Like the man who gets caught cheating on his wife. He feels terrible and pleads with her, "I'm sorry, just give me another chance, have mercy." But deep down he knows there is just something wrong with him and he knows even with another chance he will surely do it again. Knowing that, realizing that we will surely do it again, is that point when we realize we are far worse off then we previously thought.

Then we encounter the gospel which says not only my punishment gets taken care of by Jesus on the cross but real change in me becomes a reality and a real possibility for me. So we start feeling better about ourselves again on this side of Jesus. God starts working in you and showing you that you are not completely useless and in fact are useful to him and he has in fact given you gifts to help you in that…the next step is that we can easily start slipping back into that horrible pride we started out in, pride is sneaky and often subtle.

So Paul starts off this section with a warning for us. He's about to tell us that though were sinners, we've been given gifts by Jesus himself, but he must first warn us about pride. It truly is a roller coaster of emotions of sorts. It may take years sometimes to traverse all those stages where we go from thinking great about ourselves, to thinking horrible about ourselves, to thinking great about ourselves in Jesus, and then finally moving to thinking soberly or humbly about ourselves. But true humility and using our Jesus given gifts is where we want to go.


Godly Leadership Quelles Rebellion

So let's see how Scripture walks us through humilty and using our gifts. First, Paul re-asserts his apostolic authority. Here are the very first words of the book of Romans, " Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God." Here in Romans 12:3, he reminds of that, "By the grace given to me I say to (you)…" What is the grace given to Paul? That is an authortative leader in the church, so that when he says, "I say to you." That is significant.

Now, Paul was also a writer of Scripture, at the end of this book he says he was writing by the command of God (Rom 16:25-26), basically he says God told him to write this book. That's a big deal. Here in our verses for today, that surely applies, but I think there is also a principle of leadership at work here. He is about to talk about the graces or gifts given by Jesus to people and so he refers to his own gift first off as an example about how to be humble with it…"By the grace give to me I say to (you)."

Paul was a leader in the church and for leaders there are two side to this. One side is the lure and lust for power. Christian or non-Christian, president or citizen, business owner or business worker, pastor or parishoner…there is always a lure and lust to have more say, more influence, more control. Everybody wants things to go their way and wishes the world would bend and bow to their will.

Even if you are not a type A, overconfident, outgoing person…you still get frustrated when things don't go the way you want them to. As a Christian, you want or wish God would be this way or that way and do this thing for you. As a Californian, you want this person or that person to be president. At your job, you wish your boss would do things differently or if you are the boss you wish your employees would behave this way or do this for you. If you're a pastor you wish you could make people stop doing dumb things and if you're a parishoner, you wish you're pastor would get off your back.

Most people who become control-obsessed megalomaniacs do not start out that way. They usually start out with some natural talent or insight and become successful. But that success is like a drug and then they want it more and more. That's one side of this for leaders.

The other side is more subtle. It is the leader who is so afraid of those he is leading that he is afraid to speak. He doesn't want to be prideful or overbearing so he holds back. You may have a good idea but you afraid to speak because you're afraid of getting shut down. Or maybe you know God means you to be a leader but you are consumed with past faults or failures and so you hesitate and hold back from stepping forward and being who God has called you to be. This too is a prideful lust and lure, only this one is not so much for power but for approval, the approval of people.

The godly leader avoids both of these extremes and says, "by the grace of God I am what I am (1 Cor 15:10)" and then walks forward in that confidence. I think that is what is going on here. I think Paul is saying, "By the grace of God, I am what I am" so listen to me.

You see, as we'll learn today, God specifically gifts some people to be leaders and other people to be followers. And that is okay. It is good and healthy. Everyone is to be both a leader and a follower on some level, but some will primarily be leader and some will primarily be followers. And even ones who are primarily leaders need to be lead and need to be following someone. This is one of the principles of Christian living and Christian maturity.

We start out sinners in prideful rebellion against God. So when we embrace the gospel and become Christians one of the things God wants to teach us and do in us is make us humble and submissive to leaders he has placed over us. And that is not always very easy. To do something we don't really like because we recognize that God has placed someone over us. That is very humbling.

So for example, I am your pastor. That means God has called me and place me in this position to lead this church. That means you got to listen to me. I'm sorry. I don't know how you guys do it, listening to me preach week after week. You're crazy. But that's just the way it is. That's the way Jesus set it up. Hebrews 13:17 says "Obey your leaders and submit to them for they are keeping watch over your souls." Unless I am in sin, you got to listen because otherwise you are rebelling against Jesus and the leaders and leadership he has put in place. The gifts God has given me put me in this position and by the grace of God I am what I am and so I say along with Paul, "I say to you…" listen up.


Humility is the Platform for Jesus' Gifts

Okay, now that sounds like a weird way to start out talking about all the gifts and using them humbly, but we're just following the text and that's what the text does so maybe it's better that way. Let's look at the next part…"I say to everyone among you not think of himself ore highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned."

How do you think of yourself? How do others think of you? If you asked your spouse, your friends, your co-workers…what would they say? What would they say you are like? Does your self-perception line up with how you really are? Do you think higher of yourself than you really are or ought to? Do you think lower of yourself than you really are or ought to? Who are you?

John Owen said, "There are two things suited to humble the souls of men…a due consideration of God and then of ourselves." Some of you may know that we have a leadership development group here at The Resolved Church as a way of raising up other pastors from within and attracting solid dudes from the outside. Currently, our group is working through an in-depth self-evaluation project.

The self-evaluation is about a 15 page packet with 22 main questions, and each question has like a paragraph of questions to stimulate thinking and self-reflection. Here's an example…

Do you serve willingly? Do you serve yourself or others primarily? Do you truly serve the well-being of others and shepherd them under the Lord? Do you strive for personal glory either aggressively (compulsively driven "on an ego trip") or passively (preoccupied with your "low self-esteem")? Do you manifest the combination of forcefulness and sensitivity, commitment and flexibility, which characterizes servants of the Lord's glory? Do you lord it over other people? Do you resist or avoid serving and loving others? Do you serve compulsively? Do you serve other people slavishly, kowtowing to their demands, expectations and whims. Do you let others lord it over you? Are you confused about what it means to serve and love others? Do you know how to say "No" realistically, firmly and graciously? Do you regularly rest and lay aside your work?

I share that with you as an example of one way you can work at having your self-perception line up with how you really are so that your not thinking of yourself more highly or lowly than you ought but with sober judgment. R.C. Sproul wisely points out that "our tendency is to see only the best of oursleves and only exalt our strengths as being the important ones."

Let's go back to our verse. We're told to think about ourselves humbly "according to the measure of faith that God has assigned." Now, just so you know there is some debate about this word measure. Some think measure means quantity, so that each has a different amount of faith that corresponds to their gift, so that some gifts require more faith than others. Others think meansure means quality, so that each has the same faith, the essential beliefs of Christianity, called the analogy of faith, by which we judge everything, especially ourselves.

There is good exegetical warrant for both views and there are good scholars on each side. Personally I think it is probably both because certainly we all have the same faith in Jesus and are to judge everything by those essential beliefs, but it also is true that within those essential beliefs we believe it is God who gives faith and certainly to people with their gifts for specific tasks (1 Cor 12:9) as we see throughout Scripture.

But I don't want to get into that too much for fear that we lose the main focus here which is any consideration of ourselves and our gifts must begin with humility, a sober self-estimation in light of God and his mercy.


Our Gifts Belong to One Another

My third point for today is, "Our Gifts Belong to One Another." It comes from verse 4-5, "For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we though many, are one body in Christ, and indivudally members of one another."

Okay, the body of Christ. We have learned here at The Resolved Church on several occassions that church is a group of people who believe in Jesus and are committed to each other. The church is not a building. The church is not a institution or a business. The church is not a Sunday service or gathering. The church is a body. It is a group of people who are members committed to one another.

That is one of the reasons why we have official church membership here. We have an eight-week membership class, we just had ten people take the class this summer and five have actually decided to sign our membership covenant and become a part of the church and we'll present them all to you next week. Some of you have yet to take that class or commit as a member. We'll offer the class again soon, we just chose not to do it this fall because we have so many new things going on.

Now, back to the idea of being a body. Obviously the idea of the church being a body is a metaphor for our personal human bodies. The metaphor is used several places in the Bible to talk about the church. Here's the analogy or the comparsion…it's simple. The body is composed of several parts, if certain parts are missing the body is not going to function correctly. With no mouth you couldn't eat or be fed. With no eyes, ears, or limbs you could not see or sense. With no heart there would be no blood or life flowing through you. And with no head you'd have no brain and not be able to do anything. The body is a diversity of unique parts which all work together in order to create this amazing result.

God looks at that, the body he made, and says that is what the church is like. There are all these unique parts that are intended to work together as one and when they do it is an amazing result. It is a beautiful and complex thing. Unity in diversity. This is what the Bible calls us to, this is what makes things truly amazing. Different people, different backgrounds, different interests, different gifts, coming together and working together and loving each other because of our common bond in Jesus. Revelation 5:9 pictures the church this way, people from every tribe and tongue.

I've said this before and I'll say it again today…but one of our problems is that often we only want to be around people who are like us, who have the same interests and background as we do. That is because of pride, because we love ourselves to much. The ironic thing is that the people who are most not like us are the one we need the most because they are the ones who truly end up helping us grow the most.

Look at the part where it says, "they do not all have the same function." One of the problems we sometimes face is where we think everybody ought to do or be the same way. Sometimes people falsly think, "Oh, if I'm going to be a real Christian or good Christian, then I should probably become a pastor." No, that's not true.

Or we're tempted to start resenting our gifting or area of service and think, "Well, somebody else should do this, or why doesn't that person ever do this or that." The thing is it may not be their gifting and you got to let them be free to be who they are. It can be so frustrating and devestating to try and force a person to perform in a way they are not gifted in, that can be crushing.

It has been a personal area of growth for me to let go of a lot of things. I used to think that because I am a pastor that I need to do everything. But that is not true and it's actually pride and actually hinders many of you from having an opportunity and area to serve. My gift is preaching. That is my area of service and I can be free to let others serve in the ways they are gifted.

One more thing on this part of the verse and then we'll move on to actually talking about the actual gifts. Look where it says, "(we are) indivudally members of one another." "We though many, are one body in Christ, and indivudally members of one another." This is a huge, paradigm worldview shaking statement…"we are members of one another." It's saying we belong to one another! You and I, if we are Christians and are committed to being members of the same church, then we belong to one another.

It's like in marriage. I had a pre-marital counseling session yesterday and I was explaining this to the couple that when you get married, that according to the Bible in 1 Corinthians 7, even the wife's physical body becomes the property of the husband and the husband's body becomes the property of the wife. They become one and belong to one another physicially and spiritually.

This is saying a similar things about the church as a whole. It is the same idea. The Bible often compares family and marriage relationships as being analogous to the church. We as the church are members of each other and we become one together. I'm not making this up. Look at it again, "We though many, are one body in Christ, and indivudally members of one another."

This is one of the reasons why we are trying to make a huge shift to focus on community groups this fall. It feels a little like pulling teeth or trying to turn a big freight ship with a tiny little rudder. But the thing is we cannot and will not experience oneness, being members of one another by only seeing each other once a week on a Sunday, we must get together in the middle of the week in a small group setting.

So again, I implore you. I say to you, do whatever you got to do to shift your priorities so that you can be a part of either the community group on Tuesday nights or the one on Thursday nights. Without being a part of one of those two groups you will really miss out one the heart of the life of this church…you will end up being like an outsider looking in on Sunday and you will not have a place to discover and use your Jesus given gift.


The Gifts

So let's actually talk about the gifts mentioned here in Romans. Let's re-read verses 6-8 and then go through it. "Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy in proportion to our faith; If service, in our serving; The one who teaches, in his teaching; The one who exhorts, in his exhortation; The one who contributes, in generosity; The one who leads, with zeal; The one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness."

Okay, we're finally there. Actually talking about the gifts. How many of you actually know what your spritual gift is or have thought about it? If you don't know you need to think about it.

First, know that Jesus does give us gifts. We have gifts, that are by grace, meaning we don't deserve them and definitely did not do anything to earn them, we have gifts and they are given. By who? Jesus. Ephesians 4 says the same thing it just exands a little. Ephesians 4:7 says, "Grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift."

Think about that. Jesus not only gives us the greatest gift of all in coming into the world, becoming a man, living the life we've failed at, dying the death we deserve, and then rising again, but he also gifts us gifts on top of all of that! Jesus is really really good to us. You got to get ahold of this. If you are a Christian Jesus has personally given you a gift!

Next, what are the actual gifts? There are actually three main gift lists in the New Testament, one in 1 Corinthians, one in Ephesians, and this one here in Romans. If you combine them all together there are 22 gifts. But here is the thing, none of the lists are the same. There is definitely overlap where you see the same gifts listed but then there are gifts that are unique to each list. On top of it many of the gifts just seem like things that are basic to being a Christian. So what is the deal with that.

Here's the deal. Since non of the lists are the same and there is overlap, that leads us to believe that the gifts are not intended to be these tightly knit fixed categories like check boxes you either mark or leave blank. No single Christian has probably ever only had one spiritual gifts and probably no single Christian has had the same spiritual gift in the same degree. Gifts sets come in all different sizes and packages as it were.

In addition, it is true that many of these things are things that ought to be present in the life of every Christian, the point at which one realizes it is a gift is when you extraordinarily excel in that particular gift with an unusual joy and unusual effectiveness.

The gifts are divided into two main categories, as noted in 1 Peter 4:11, gifts of speaking and gifts of serving. The gifts of speaking here in Romans are: prophesying, teaching, and exhorting. The gifts of serving here in Romans are: contributing, leading, and mercy.

Let's talk briefly about each one. First the speaking gifts. Prophecy. Most people when they here the word "prophecy" they think of someone foretelling the future, like some spiritualist guru psychic palm reader or something. Prophecy in the Bible sometimes included foretelling, though not in the ecstatic hyper spiritual possession way, but in a plain and clear communication from God way. So sometimes prophecy included foretelling, but most of the time it was forth telling. Telling it like it is. Just being straight and cutting through all the layers and getting right to the heart of the issue. Most of the time that was prophecy, forth telling.

Today, there are no longer, capital "P" prophets. Now what I mean by that is that there were people who for a given period of time, had a gift of prophecy in an official way, that official way was the command of God for them to right Scripture. In Ephesians 2:20 we learn that the church is built on the foundational writings of the Apostles and Prophets. After the foundation was laid, there was no need for any additional books to be added to the Bible and so when John, the last of the apostle's died, the capital "P" position of prophet ended.

Now, I've been saying capital "P" intentionally…that is because I don't think that means people may not have a prophetic like gifting, like it's talking about here in Romans. They're not writers of Scripture and may not be gifted to supernaturally tell the future, but they may have a real gift at forth telling, telling it like it is and being straight with people. So, following Wayne Grudem, I use his distinction of capital "P" Prophet and little "p" prophet for the gift people in the church today may have. If you want to read up more on that check out is Ph.D. dissertation now in book form titled, "The Gift of Prophecy."

You'll notice that with each of the gifts there is an added qualification. Interestingly, each of the added qualifications seems to indicate a specific way of applying the command to be humble with the use of our gifting. Each gift comes with a specific way for us to use it with sober judgment, not thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought.

We need that because you'll learn that the thing you are most gifted in will be the exact area you are most prone to sin in and usually because of pride. If happens for me all the time. The times I think I preached a really good sermon, nobody says anything and it just feels sort of dull. The times when I really think I bombed it or whatever, people are crying and coming up to me afterward telling me how great that was. Pride. It will attack your gift for sure. So having the specifically additive on how to use our gift humbly is much needed.

With prophecy, it is to be used in proportion to your faith. So for example, if you really believe you are supposed to say something to somebody about their life, be humble about it. Don't say, "The LORD says…" Because what you did then was just put your words on par with Scripture and you were not honest and humble about the potential for you to be wrong since you are sinner. Instead, say something like, "You know, I really feel like God wants me to tell you this and I could be wrong but…" That is using the gift of prophecy with humility.

The next speaking gift is "teaching." Teaching can include a whole host of things. There are many different types and ways of teaching. There are people who love learning and reading and going to school. You know those weirdoes. I'm one of them, I went to college full-time for eight straight years and loved every minute of it. I just wish I could figure out how to get back in! I love homework! Others of you can't stand school and learning and homework and teaching. It's not your gift.

The humility application that is added is to teach. If you're gifted to teach then use your gift to actually teach. You know there is a difference between actually teaching someone something and just imparting information. Just giving a lecture or a speech to someone is not teaching them. Teaching happens when learning happens, so make sure those you are teaching are actually learning and putting what you teach them into practice. Pride would make you think you are done at just saying what you were supposed to say. That's a lot easier but it falls short of teaching.

The final speaking gift mentioned here is "exhortation." This word can mean to encourage or use words to spur someone along. Barnabas, one of the disciples and apostles in the Bible, was called the Son of Encouragement. He had a unique gift of always seeing the best in people and situations, he could see potential and what could be. Some of you are like that, you are visionary and love to encourage others. This is the gift of exhortation. The humility application that is added is to be encouraging or exhorting. If your gift is exhortation/encouragement then use it to really encourage people, because you could easily use that to try and build yourself up rather than the other person.

The first serving gift is "serving." This word is a broad word meaning just service or ministering. In Acts its used of the people who took care of tables, set-up, tear-down, tending them while their up etc. Now everyone who is a Christian is called to serve others and be a servant like Christ Jesus. But someone who is gifted in serving is someone who particularly excels in serving. The don't like to talking in front of people, they enjoy doing the behind the scenes work, being a number 2 or number 3 person. And they are really good at it. They work hard and are reliable and consistent and think of good ways to handle practical details.

The humility application added to serving is to serve. If your gift is serving you will most likely hit a point where you feel burnt out and it starts to feel like a duty and like everything is just dumped on you and now you're just stuck with it and you keep doing it either out of guilt or just wanted to please somebody else. If you're gifted in serving in order to stay humble with this gift you have to have a sacrificial mentality where you are like water always being poured out for others to drink.

The second serving gift is "contributing" or "sharing." This gift is one where a person is uniquely enabled by God to give their time, treasure, and talent to anything that is needed. They are always looking and willing for a place to help out and lend a hand.

The humility application added to "contributing" is to do it generously. If you're gift is contributing there will be a temptation to at times be stingy and not want to help, or a withholding of something you know you could give or do.

The third serving gift is "leading." Leading is truly a serving gift, not a power play. You're a leader if you have people following you. If you think you're a leader but no one's following you, you're not leading you're just taking a walk. Leaders do everything for those who are following them. Interestingly, the word here is where we get our English word, "president" from. It means you are gifted in caring for others, watching out for others, and directing others to right paths.

The humility application added to leading is to lead with zeal or diligence. The temptations for leaders who have others under them is for them to then become slack in their work and not striving forward passionately with intent dedication. Those who are gifted to lead, must stay humble by working hard.

The last serving gift is "mercy." This word most likely has reference to ministering to the poor either in spirit or finances, to either the physically or emotionally sick. This gift is a particular gift where you excel in compassion and love giving aid to others. Some of you are so generous, you are just always giving and will help anyone out with anything they need. That's the gift of mercy.

The humility application added to the gift of mercy is to use it with "cheerfulness." The temptation with a gift of mercy will be to treat it just as if it were a duty or the right thing to do rather than being motivated by the massive joy there is in Christ in being a vessel of mercy to others.

That's the gifts. And they are so needed. Their use and activity is what makes a church strong and healthy. How do you know what gifts you have? How do you discover what Jesus has given you? Sometimes it is just trial and error, you have to try a few things before you find out what you really like. Sometimes is much more natural, you gifts will most likely go hand in hand with the things that you've naturally always been good at. That doesn't make it more or less spiritual. For the Christian, everything is spiritual as we learned last week, that all of life is worship.

Once you know what your gifts are then you have a responsibility before God to use them and use them humbly. I pray that going through these extremely practical things today will greatly enhance and help your walk with God. You see, you are meant by God to be using your gifts and if you're not using them, you have a sort of uncompleted lacking and sometimes aimless feeling. You will be most satisfied in life when you are using everything that you are for the glory of God alone.


Conclusion

Well, it's been a thick and long study today. Let me just wrap it up in a short review and then we'll close. We started off talking about pride and how we've all God devil's bones deep down. The beauty of the gospel is the Jesus has mercy on us and changes us. He takes out the dead man's bones and gives us a new heart. One that loves him, becomes okay and honest with ourselves, and then gives it's life away for others.

We learned first that God places leaders over us to help us with our natural tendencies to prideful rebellion. We learned that humility is the platform for the gifts Jesus gives us and is the only way to be happy and useful with them. Then we went through each of the gifts and learned what they are and how to use them.

Let's conclude this day with Jesus, the life of Christ. To have to true humility, to be able to truly use our gifts for God's glory, we need the death of Jesus. The disciples spent three years with Jesus. One time during the course of one of their journeys they got into an argument about who would sit near Jesus when he took his seat on the throne, they fought about who would be the greatest. Then Jesus utters these words to them, "The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many (Mk 10:45)."

Jesus gave his life for you and I, so that we might be transformed into humble servant like him. It's not about who's greater or who's better. That's pride, it's by nature competitive. Humility, accepts it's place and position and does not strive to improve it but only to be who God wants and do what he wants. That only happens through us dying to ourselves and in order for that to happy we have to be crucified in the cross of Christ so that his life might get imparted to us. Jesus, the most gifted and most human man of all. May he make us like him.

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Last Sunday, the sermon text we studied addressed the spiritual gifts Jesus gives to those who are in his family. This week's journal entry supplements that sermon to hopefully give you some guides to answer the following questions: what are the gifts, who are they for, how do you know what gift(s) you have, and how do you use your gift(s)?




1. What are the gifts?

There are three primary gift lists in the Bible, one in Romans, one in 1 Corinthians, and one in Romans. If you put them all together there are 22 gifts. However, none of the gift lists are the same and there are gifts unique to each list. Because of this, it seems the gifts are not intended to be these tightly knit fixed categories like check boxes you either mark or leave blank. No single Christian has probably ever only had one spiritual gifts and probably no single Christian has had the same spiritual gift in the same degree. Gifts sets come in all different sizes and packages as it were. In addition, several of the gifts are things which ought to be present in the life of every Christian, what makes it a gift is when a person extraordinarily excels in that particular gift with an unusual joy and unusual effectiveness. Below is a chart which shows all gifts and where they are mentioned. For a good description of these gifts see, Wayne Grudem's "Systematic Theology."




2. Who are they for?

The gifts are for three people. One, they are for God and his glory. God is glorified when we use the gifts his son Jesus has given us. God is pleased and it displays how good he is. Two, they are for others. The funny things about the gifts is they are all given so that we might use them to give away to others! The gifts contribute to the body of Christ so that it functions together as one unified group which needs each other. Three, they are for us personally. As individuals we are incomplete and unsatisfied until we are using our gift(s). Using our gift(s) brings a great sense of joy and fulfillment in life.

3. How do you know what gift(s) you have?

Discovering our gifts can take a lot of time. We frequently do not discover our spiritual gift until their is a humbling in us when we open ourselves up to not live for us any longer but to be used as Jesus' vessels for his honor and glory and our joy. Often the gifts are associated with the things we are naturally talented in, good at, and enjoy. Other times it may take some trial and error. Some people may discover by trying out some things to see what they like and what they are good at. There is also an online test you can take that can be a helpful aid sometimes. If you'd like to check it out here it is: www.elca.org/evangelism/assessments/spiritgifts.htm

3. How do you use them?

We use our gifts in two ways. One, in humility. Having gifts and using them and being used by God in other peoples lives can be very dangerous because pride very easily can creep in when it comes to our gifts. We can think we ministered to others because we are just that good rather than recognizing it is God's gifting at work in and through us. Usually the areas we are most gifted in will be the same areas we are most prone to find ourselves falling into sin with. Second, we use our gifts a dependency on the Lord to use them (1 Pet 4:11). It is possible to use our gifts poorly because we do not rely on the strength God provides to use our gifts rightly. We need God's help to use our gifts to the greatest potential as they are intended.

May Jesus continue to help us know what our gifts are and to put them to use.
- Pastor Duane
In last Sundays sermon I talked about an elevator pitch of the gospel. The term elevator pitch comes from business entrepeneurs and the idea is you happen to be in an elevator alone with you and someone like Donald Trump, you got about sixty seconds to saw who and what you are about in hopes to win him over at least to have some sort of interest in your company. Could you do that with the gospel? Can you take someone from creation to the cross to the culmination of all things? Maybe, that's a big task.



If you could there is not only the factual truths of the gospel but there is also your personal story, how your initial life is a microcosm of the big grand story, how you have individual participated in and exemplified that great grand story. Which always takes longer…to tell who you are and how Jesus has changed your life.

So let me give you the elevator pitch of the gospel. The word "gospel" simply means good news. The gospel is a good news message that begins with a story. The story starts with God. The God, the one who created everything in the very beginning and in his creation he made a special garden named Eden where the first man and woman sinned, and did not listen to and love God and that ever since them all of us all human being have been repeating that sin and trapped in the same cycle of loving ourselves and other things more than God and it reaps destruction in us. Think of all the things we try and try and pursue which never really meet our real need deep down.

We so easily to love the creature rather than the eternal Creator which has an eternal consequence called hell. But God did something about hell in a unique point in human history. He became a man, the God-man Jesus and he lived a perfect life, the one we've failed at and continue to fail at and then he died the eternal death we deserve for our failure, our sin on, by dying on a cross.

Jesus rose again to live forevermore and promises that new life both in quality and quantity to all who believe his person and his work on the cross actually can and does deal with who we are deep down as sinners. That new life begins here and now in us and carries on to eternity where we will go to be with him and live life the way it is supposed to be in pure worship with not just singing but fancy meals, exquisite journeys throughout God's lands, amazing conversations with friends and family, all with no more tears and no more pain.

That is good good news. The is the gospel in 60 seconds. Our past, our present, and our future. Broken down, super short, nuts and bolts gospel. 1 Peter 3:15 says, "In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect." Can you do that? Think about it. If you want to see an example of it, check out this video:




So a couple practical updates in regards to the life of our church...
1. We discovered several people were not getting the weekly email, sorry. We are working on it and it should be fixed this week.
2. Our calendar is UP TO DATE and can be found by clicking on "Calendar" picture at the upper right hand side of the website.
3. Kathy Broersma is going to be teaching a women's discipleship course. Read about the details HERE
4. There is updated information on the up and coming camping trip. Check out the details HERE
5. In the past we have helped sponsor events from "The Girls Think Tank." Stay tuned for more information on the second annual community picnic coming up, which we'll help out with again next year. You can check out their website here: http://girlsthinktank.org
6. If you have not yet RSVP'd to one of the community groups starting next week and this week please do so, so the ladies know how much food to prepare. For the Allied Gardens Group: . For the Normal Heights Group:
7. If you missed the last church plant meeting you can download it HERE

Friday night, Sept 26th at San Onofre!

$10 a person. Talk to Aaron Braun about what food you can bring etc.

Aaron Braun
858-565-0406


Reservation: #2-2410517
SAN ONOFRE SB, CA
Site, Loop: G01, Bluff Sites 51-66, Group Camp
Type: GROUP STANDARD
Site Reserve Type: Site-Specific
Checkin Time: 2:00 pm
Checkout Time: 12:00 pm
Type of Use: Overnight
Minimum Number of People: 9
Maximum Number of People: 50
Maximum Number of Vehicles: 12
Driveway Length: 18
Maximum Vehicle Length: 18

A maximum of 12 vehicles are included with the reservation fee, additional vehicles are charged a fee at the park. The campsites are about a half of a mile walk to the beach. Bicycles are allowed San Onofre State Beach Campground is up on a 90' bluff above the ocean. There are 6 dirt trails that access the beach. Some of the trails are steep The campground is close to the railroad tracks and the I-5 freeway, and can get noisy. The nearest services are 5 miles north of the campground in San Clemente. No dogs allowed on the beach!

This campground has outdoor showers with cold water only. Park area offers good walking on 3.5 miles of beaches or through 6 access trails, cut into the bluffs, which is a 1/4 mile hike down the beach. Area is undeveloped and is planning to remain in it's primitive, unspoiled condition. Surfing and skin diving are allowed. NO radios and no one under 18 is allowed to camp without a parent. No dogs allowed on the beach!

Park Kiosk Hours: Hi Season: 8am-9pm Lo Season: 8am-5pm Group Campground: Located behind restroom building #9 and between campsites #66 and #67. This site has an ocean view, 12 parking spaces. Large dirt area for tents, will accommodate up to 50 people.
.
The Journey
by Kathy Broersma

We are very pleased to announce that Kathy Broersma will be teaching a women's discipleship course in her home called, "The Journey." This course is the result of years of female wisdom and study all developed by Kathy herself. Kathy is an immense treasure to our church, you girls will not want to miss being a part of this.

Titus 2:3-4 "Older women...are to teach what is good, and so train the young women."

The course will addressing things like: Is believing in Jesus something good that we simply add into the mix of who we are and how we live our lives - or is it something more radical? More intentional? More intimate? You will learn for yourself how the Bible helps us answer questions like: Who am I? Does my life have meaning? Does it matter how I live my life? What happens when I die?




Schedule

09-24-08 ----- Introduction
10-01-08 ----- The Intentional Life
10-08-08 ----- The Roadmap
10-15-08 ----- The Journey Begins
10-22-08 ----- The Journey Matters
10-29-08 ----- Deserts, Detours & Rules of the Road
11-05-08 ----- Journey's End





This is the first week of our fall sermon series, "Viva La Vida Christus: Living the Life of Christ" dealing with Romans 12-16. Part 1, this week, is titled "All of Life is Worship" and works with Romans 12:1-2 and issues of Christian praxis, life through death, conformation and transformation, and God's will for our lives. This sermon was originally preached September 7th, 2008 at The Resolved Church in San Diego, CA.

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September 7th, 2008
Pastor Duane M. Smets

Series: Viva La Vida | Romans 12-16
"All of Life is Worship"
Romans 12:1-2


Introduction

Good morning everyone. My name is Duane Smets. I pastor here under our head pastor Jesus and I get the privilege being the one who usually preaches God's Word each Sunday. Well, today we start a brand new sermon series here at The Resolved Church, called "Viva La Vida Christus: Living the Life of Christ."

Both the title and the artwork for this series is an unashamed reference to the latest hit single and album from band "Coldplay." Which you probably knew unless you've been living in a cave this last year, or you're just more mature than the rest of us all and don't listen to the radio.

"Viva La Vida" just happened to fit really well with where we are in our study of the book of Romans as church. Viva La Vida is Spanish meaning "Alive is the Life" or "Long Live the Life." Christus is actually Latin for Christ, which I added on there because Christus just sounds so much cooler than the Spanish "Christos." Anyway, you put it together and it means, "Living the Life of Christ" which is exactly what the rest of the book of Romans is all about.

Chapters 1-11 talk about this thick, deep, meaningful, gnarly, awesome, rigorous, soul wrenching, mind bending truths…and then there is a transition in chapter 12 from the high altitudes of theology to the ground level, down to earth, practical outworkings of the gospel in each of our lives.

We have taken the first four years or so during this starting of our church to study the book of Romans in the Bible, which more than any other book so clearly articulates the gospel of Jesus Christ. We want to be a church whose foundation is the gospel, so that's why we started with this book. What we kind of do is split sections up into series and then we go back and forth from studying Romans and studying other things from different places in the Bible in-between series. This will be our last Romans series which both kind of exciting because we'll have finished the book and kind of sad because we've spent so much time in the book.

We've been away from our study in Romans for a month and a half and it could not come at a more timely time both for us and where we are in the life of our church in our focus on living in community together and also for our city and where we are in the time and season of the year entering into fall… Students are back in school, which means parents of the young ones are back to the regular routine and college students are back in town. Summer flings are now over and will either disintegrate or develop into real relationships. Weddings may be on the way for some and broken hearts for others. Tans will fade, hoodies will come out, grass will start growing again, the ocean water will get colder, the beaches sparser, the coffee hotter and the beer better. You gotta love life in San Diego in the fall.

Well let's read our text for this morning and pray over it and then get into our study. There's Bibles on the back table if you need one. I've given this week's sermon the subtitle, "All of Life Is Worship." Let's hear the Word of God.

Romans 12:1-2 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Lord God, would you be so kind to make yourself known today in a way this Word or yours does not return void but hits us and works in us and impels us to a deeper, fuller, farther reaching worship of you then we have yet to experience in our lives. Would it give us a clearer understanding of what it means for us in our day to day lives to be believers in Jesus. Would this passage be a key tool that teaches us to look to your and your will for us first and foremost rather than ourselves as we are so prone to do. God you are good, pleasing and perfect. Do you work today in us…Amen.


Christian Praxis

I want to start today with a question. If someone came up to you and asked you what the gospel is could you share the story of the gospel in 60 seconds, one minute? What would you tell them. Business entrepreneurs call this an "elevator pitch." The idea is you happen to be in an elevator alone with you and someone like Donald Trump, you got about sixty seconds to saw who and what you are about in hopes to win him over at least to have some sort of interest in your company.

Could you do that with the gospel? Can you take someone from creation to the cross to the culmination of all things? Maybe, that's a big task. Paul just spent 11 chapters giving us the gospel. Then there is not only that story but there is your personal story, how your initial life is a microcosm of the big grand story, how you have individual participated in and exemplified that great grand story. That always takes longer. To tell who you are and how Jesus has changed your life.

Some of you it takes really long because it takes so long for you to say anything. I was talking to this dude the other day on the phone and the guy just went on and on and on without a breath…I would hold the phone away for a minute, thinking is this guy serious, and then come back and he is still talking…I finally told him I had to go.

So I want to try and give you an elevator pitch of the gospel because the first word of our text here is the word, "therefore" and I am pretty persuaded because of the change in tone, the change in subject, and the change indicated from the phrase, "by the mercies of…" that Paul, the human author of Romans, is intending to refer to everything he has said so far in the book. So far, for eleven chapters it's been doctrine, theology.

Good and solid doctrine and theology ought always to come first. John Calvin said the difference between the gospel and philosophical speculation is the that philosophical speculation is superstructure without a foundation, like a body without a head. If the gospel is true, it's got to have a foundation, a worldview that makes sense and can support it…that's why when people poo poo theology and say things like, "Who needs theology" or "That's the problem with theology" I always get bummed…Because good theology is essential. You all need to have some good theology otherwise whatever you believe is foundationless, like a body without a head. Everyone has a theology, even no theology is a theology…we just need to have good theology.

So let me give you the elevator pitch of the gospel, the good theology. The Gospel is the good news message that begins with the story that God created everything in the very beginning and in his creation he made a special garden named Eden where the first man and woman sinned, and did not listen to and love God and that ever since them all of us all human being have been repeating that sin and trapped in the same cycle of loving ourselves and other things more than God and it reaps destruction in us.

We so easily to love the creature rather than the eternal Creator which has an eternal consequence called hell. But God did something about hell in a unique point in human history. He became a man, the God-man Jesus and he lived a perfect life, the one we've failed at and continue to fail at and then he died the eternal death we deserve for our failure, our sin on, by dying on a cross.

Jesus rose again to live forevermore and promises that new life both in quality and quantity to all who believe his person and his work on the cross actually can and does deal with who we are deep down as sinners. That new life begins here and now in us and carries on to eternity where we will go to be with him and live life the way it is supposed to be in pure worship with not just singing but fancy meals, exquisite journeys throughout God's lands, amazing conversations with friends and family, all with no more tears and no more pain.

That is good good news. That is the gospel in 60 seconds. Our past, our present, and our future. Broken down, super short, nuts and bolts gospel. Chapter 11 ended by saying that such a gospel is mercy. We have all been disobedient in order that God may have mercy on many. God didn't have to come into the world in Jesus and do anything at all. He would have been a fully good and upright and just God, just to end the story at hell, and all the angels would praise him for keeping true to his word and punishing evil as he ought. But God has mercy in Jesus.

Now Chapter 12 begins, in view of such mercy…this is how we ought to be, this is what ought to drive our lives in how we live them. This is what separates the gospel from religion. Religion says "do these things and you will live" but the Bible here says "live and you will do these things." John Stott says it this way, "There is no greater incentive to holy living than a contemplation of the mercies of God…(it) is the spring and foundation of righteous conduct." We must see ourselves as recipients of mercy.

So today, Viva La Vida begins with an appeal to the practical of life. How we live outside these doors. Even the third word here that gets translated "appeal" is saying something significant. Other translations use phrases like, "call you to, I summon you, I exhort you, I beseech, I encourage you, I implore you, I admonish you, or "I urge you." I was talking to someone the other day who is not a Christian and hasn't really had much exposure to the gospel and they didn't know what a sermon was. And so I was trying to explain what a sermon was and I found myself saying things like, "Well, it's kind of a speech but it's more than a speech…there is an imperative where I am calling people to something, saying 'YOU NEED THIS!"


Life by Death

So let's deal with the next few words, what it is we need so bad. "I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God…(you need this) to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship."

This is the great reversal, life by death. We are to present our bodies living, having life, by sacrificing…sacrifice is death. We live by dying. I want to flush that out a bit. First, know that this cluster of words, "present" "sacrifice" "holy" and "acceptable" are all somewhat technical words which are probably totally inferior to us here in the 21 century living in San Diego, California. They are words which belong to sacrificial systems of worship.

In ancient Judaism, you would sacrifice on an alter either food or certain types of animals based on how much money you made and what particular sin needed to be punished. So the idea in the sacrificial system is that the animal or the grain suffers for you and then appeases God turning away his judgment.

Other world religions both in ancient Mesopotamia and in Rome were not dissimilar. There were temple payments and sacrifices, the main difference was that instead of sacrificing to one God you sacrificed to different gods for different things and you would not only sacrifice for sins but also for hopeful favor…like for good weather, or good crops.

The closest we probably get in our culture to the sacrifices of ancient times or to what still happens in some parts of the world, is when people burn incense or candles to a particular god for one reason or another, usually in the privacy of their own home. In Bible times is it was much more public and out in the open for everyone to see.

Now, here when he says to present or offer our bodies, the Bible is not telling to make physical human sacrifice but is picturing our bodies as our whole person. Not only our all our bodily faculties and things we use to function, but our very selves.

This is an analogy. It is taking the idea of sacrifice and saying…look, instead of going to a public place and making a sacrifice whenever you do something wrong, or always looking to appease some God, remember the mercy you have received in Jesus. Jesus paid the sacrifice once and for all and now our lives become like an ever ongoing sacrifice to God through him. That is the analogy of the Christian life…that you no longer live for yourself. Once you encounter the God who lived and died for you it so changes us that we begin to live for others more than for ourselves. We begin a death of sorts where we die more and more to self and live more and more to God.

1 Peter 2:24 says, [Jesus] himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.

It is life through death. And such a life is holy and acceptable to God. For something to be holy means to be set apart. It is for something to be especially dedicated for something. For example, say you have some special clothes that you only wear on special occasions. Like me, I have a couple suits. I hardly ever wear them except when I'm doing weddings. Or I have to "dress up" for something really important. My suits are set apart, they are holy for special occasions.

Here God says, our lives, through Jesus, now is a continual living sacrifice, special and holy. Our life because holy, special, set apart for him. It is like each day, we are to wake up and put on our suit and live for him and not for ourselves any longer. And now it is possible because we have Jesus, where before him it was maybe a hopeful religious quest doomed to failure.

On top of it all it is pleasing. ESV here says "acceptable." I wish it would have translated this as well-pleasing because acceptable seems like second best. Being made alive in Christ is not second best, it is so pleasing to God and when God is pleased we are most happy and satisfied as humans. We are made for God, not for ourselves, and once we humble ourselves and recognized that and receive Jesus' sacrifice for us trying to live for ourselves…then we are freed to be a creature and to be a happy creature who lives under and for a wise and sufficient God.

This is what life is for the Christian. It is worship. In Romans 1 we fall in downward spiral of foolish worship and here in Romans 12 we are lifted up to reasonable and renewed worship. You see those two words there "spiritual worship"? Well the word spiritual is logikos where we get the word "logic" but it's coupled with another word which means "worship" or "service." The idea is somewhere between spiritual on one hand and rational on the other.

The Greek Philosopher Epictetus used logikos this way, he said "If I were a nightengale, I would do what is proper to a nightengale, and if I were a swan, what is proper to a swan. In fact I am logikos, so I must praise God." The Christian idea goes even farther and says, in light of the gospel, who Jesus is and what he has done, dying to ourselves and ever living for him in everything is the only true and proper response left…it becomes our spiritual and rational worship. Worship is no longer focused on a particular place, like in a temple, or in Israel but is now solely in Jesus…we worship him in Spirit and in Truth (John 4:24).


Conformation and Transformation

Sounds simple enough right? Ya right? If any of you have been a Christian for any amount of time you know it is really really hard. Yes, it is great and true and pleasing to God and is satisfying and Jesus is really really good. But being a Christian is not easy. Why? Because we're still in the world and because of that there is still remaining sin and depravity both in us and all around us.

That's why before Jesus went to die for us he prayed a long prayer for us in John 17 and he asks that the Father would sanctify us in his truth because we are still in the world and we need to be purified from the evil in us and protected from the evil one around us. Here, Paul says it a different way…he says, "Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind."

So let's talk about the conformation and transformation in us in light of the gospel. We're given this injunction, this call, to not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of our minds.

Conformity and non-conformity, transformation and stagnation…these are some of the biggest barriers and challenges to the work of the gospel in us while we are in the world. Interestingly, the word here for world is not the normal word that is used. Instead, it's actually the word aeon, which is this age or this time or this period in the course of all of history.

The Bible divides all of history and by all I mean ALL of history into three periods. The past, which is the first and original age, the one perfection in paradise in the garden of Eden. The present, which is age of evil and sin ever since Adam sinned in the garden. And then the future age, of full redemption and glorification, paradise returned with no more sickness, sin, sorrow and evil. Right now we are still in this present evil age, though we've had a taste of the age to come through Jesus.

But this present evil age in the world in many ways is like a force in us and around us which pressures us and influences us to follow its ideas and its agendas. J.B. Philips translated this verse in Romans this way, he said, "Don't let the world around you squeeze you into its mold."

It begins when we are very young and then just continues and gets more complex and more sophisticated as we get older…the pressure to conform and be squeezed into the mold of other people's expectations. That pressure is so strong, whether it be from friends, family, the media, co-workers…we don't want to be on the out.

Many of you know that I work at a group home for teenagers on Thursday and Friday. All the boys just went back to school and it is ridiculous how much time these boys spend changing outfits, fixing their hair, they'll dump a whole bottle of gel in their hair in one day and spend 45 minutes shaping it.

We get older and it just gets more sophisticated. Then it is trying to make sure you got a good job, you own a nice home, drive a nice car, and go on exotic vacations. Some people are smart…they sense and they feel the pressure to conform and so they decide they'll be non-conformists and not be beat. They make it the goal of their life to be different and stand out.

So they get all tattooed and pierced up and make sure they listen to all the right music and go to all the right shows. I realized this a few years back when I went to a Belle and Sebastian concert. If you don't know who Belle and Sebastian are they're and indie rock band from the UK. And if you don't know what indie rock is, nobody else does either so don't feel bad.

But I showed up at this concert in LA and there were about 500 or so people walking around and I swear everyone of them was wearing converse sneakers, with tight jeans, and jet black dyed hair. It was ridiculous, all these non-conformists together in one place and they were all exactly the same.

My wife Amy took me to the Bob Dylan concert last night for my birthday, which was great. Mr. Zimmerman, Bob Dylan, has a song he didn't sing last night called "Maggie's Farm." In it there's a line that describes exactly what I'm talking about. He says, "Well, I try my best, to be just like I am. But everybody wants you, to be just like them. They sing while you slave and I just get bored. I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more."

What is the deal with the dangers of conformity and non-conformity? It is this, the want and desire for approval…it's the same for both. When we try so hard to conform it's because we want to impress others so that they will like us or love us, because we all want to be loved.

When we refuse to conform, non-conformity, it's because we're afraid people will not love us and so we react and try to be different and stand out…the thing is both of them have this in common, the want for approval. Which isn't necessarily bad, the thing is that only God can give us the approval and the love we are so desiring and the amazing thing about the gospel is that we realize we are far worse off then we ever realized and at the same time more loved than we ever thought possible…nobody's approval can exceed God's in Christ.

The gospel is truly transforming. We are a people who need change. We need to be changed. There are things about all of us that are not good. What happens too often is we start trying to compete with each other to see who is a better Christian or who is more spiritual. That's just our stupid pride rearing it's ugly head again. We all need change, we need to be transformed, we are all sinners.

The word for transformation here is metamorphosis. A change from one thing into another. How does that happen as a Christian, how does change take place, how do people change as they embrace Jesus in their lives. It happens this way, look at the text, the continual, "renewal of your mind." To have our minds renewed is to have them redeemed and set back to thinking about God, the world and ourselves properly…they way we should, like back in Eden before sin.

We just don't think about things properly. We come to any issue or topic or situation with a whole set of baggage from our past experiences and thoughts and then we try to make some sort of judgment about things. Even now, what is happening right now as I talk is you are listening to what I am saying and trying to hold it against what you have previously thought and experienced and trying to make some judgment about it. Right?

The thing is we don't know how to think, we are ignorant and when we usually do try and think we think very foolishly, we've been completely brain-washed because of sin. We need total re-programming. The renewing of our minds has to do with us adjusting our ways of thinking about everything as a Christian, everything is now up for grabs and has to be re-considered. Which is why God gave us a book to help us in that, to tell us what he thinks so we can think his thoughts. That's why we study it so hard and work hard to apply it to our lives.


Not What I Want

Well, let's work with this last phrase of our verse and how the Christian mindset transforms us so the cry of our hearts is, "Not what I want, but what you want Lord." The last part of our verse for today says once the ongoing process of transformation in the gospel is happening then, "by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."

As a pastor, besides preaching, my other big responsibility is counseling. People come to me all the time with questions either about the Bible or about their lives, they come seeking prayer and advice. Many of you have done and do that, which is good, that's my job, it's my joy to serve you that way. You want to know the most popular question I get asked? It's this, it comes out in several different ways…but it can always be boiled down to this simple question, "What is God's will for my life?" That's it, that's the #1 question I get asked for advice and prayer.

Almost every time, maybe not every, but almost every time I refer to this verse because it speaks directly to that question. What does it say? What is God's will for my life? Well, first we know that his will is good, acceptable and perfect, so that is definitely what we want. But how do I come to know that good, acceptable and perfect will? Work backwards…I seek to be transformed by the renewal of my mind, I do not allow myself to be conformed to the patterns of this world, I present myself and my life as a living sacrifice, and I live as a recipient of mercy through the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I guarantee if you follow those steps you will have assurance of God's will for your life. You see, I think what many of us have wanted (me included) when we ask the question of what God's will for our life is God to just tell us straight out, like in a voice out of heaven or something so that we wouldn't have to do any work or seeking him to find out. Right? We just want to know and we want to know now and we want it to be easy.

That's not the way God works. First of all, not that God couldn't or hasn't ever but the primary way that God speaks to us is not in some sort of experiential impression. In fact, I would venture so far to say you ought to be very careful if you think God is telling you something, because we in our own human sinfulness have a great propensity to sort of justify what we really want to do and so we pray about it and if we feel sort of good, because of our excitement or whatever, then we say that is God and so we put our God stamp on it and say, "I think God is telling me to do this. I prayed about it."

So first, the primary way God speaks to us is NOT through experiential senses of his voice. The primary way God speaks to us is through his word. Jesus said, "My sheep hear my voice…they follow me (Jn 10:27)." It is interesting. Do you know what shepherds do or used to do? From the time a little baby sheep is born a shepherd gives them a name. A shepherd names everyone of their sheep and from the time they are small calls them by name. As the little sheep is growing up it learns it's name and the sound of the voice of the shepherd so that when it is old whenever it hears its shepherd voice it knows automatically that it is him and it responds.

Here's the deal, it takes a lot of time before the sheep learns its name and the sound of its shepherd's voice. If you want to know the voice of Jesus and his will for your life your going to have to spend some time listening to him, getting to know what he calls you, what he says about you. How do you do that? Right here. The Bible. We have all his words for us recorded. That's one of the most important reasons why you gotta read your Bible, it's how you get to know Jesus' voice.

What this verse here in Romans is talking about is spiritual maturity. Because if you are walking with Jesus and disciplined in his word and his ways, there really isn't going to be a whole lot of big questions or decisions that you're going to have to face because when you do face them, you're going to know exactly what he wants because you've been walking with him.

What is really going on most of the time, maybe not all, but most of the time when we are "seeking God for his will" is that we want something that deep down we really know is not for us and we're trying to convince God or ourselves that it is okay. But what God wants is not really our first and primary concern, he is sort of an added on check off.

The gospel changes that. What have we learned today? We've learned the only way to live is by dying to ourselves. We've learned that we've been seeking approval from others rather than God either by conformity or non-conformity. And we've learned we need a total transformation of our way of thinking.

This is an extremely practical teaching. This verse teaches us that no matter what the question, if it is where you should live, what job you should work, what major in school you should have, who you should marry, if you should have kids, how you should raise your kids, what hobbies you should have, the first and primary issue to deal with is us…so that our wills our turn to say, I do truly not care about what the answer is, the only thing I care about is that it is what YOU WANT FOR ME GOD, not my will but yours. Because if it is God's will, you can't go wrong, you cannot fail.


Conclusion

Let's conclude today. Jesus is ultimate. I can't help but end this sermon with him. Jesus is the most merciful person I have ever encountered. It does not matter to him who you are or what you have done…thieves, the sexually immoral, the addict, the sick and dying, the outcast…he is full of mercy. I don't know all you're stories, and of the one's I do know, I'm sure I only know half the story…Jesus knows it all and he still loves you and accepts you.

When you read about Jesus' life here on earth, there is probably not a better way to describe it then, he offered up himself a living sacrifice…his life was totally lived in service to others. He did not give into to the immense pressures around him. His followers wanted to make him a king. His enemies wanted him to lash out against them. He did not conform to the patterns of this world…he resisted. He always put the Father's will first in his life. He went to the cross to pay the ultimate price so that you and I might live and have his life.

On the night before he died, in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed a prayer recorded in the Bible for all of us to hear. He was considering all that he was about to do. Jesus was God, he knew exactly what was about to happen. The whipping. Being spit on and disgraced. The thorny crown. The nails. The cross. The spear in his side.

And even more than all of that, he knew he was about to suffer not just physical human pain but God pain, the pain and punishment for sin. He had never sinned, never knew what that was like, and in a single moment would take on all the sin in the world into his being as if it were his very own and then bear the full brunt of God's eternal wrath and hellish anger against him. It must have been the most horrendous cry mankind has ever hear when Jesus screamed on the cross.

He knew all of that ahead of time and he prayed this prayer. Father, if there be any other way I don't want to do this, but not what I will but what you will.

That is what we need. We need Jesus. You see Jesus is not just a good example. We're kidding ourselves if we think we could ever reach that height of sacrifice and surrender of our will. We need something more. We need Jesus himself, we need the good news of the gospel for God to give us Jesus, his life and his death in exchange for all that we are. We have to be transformed and made into a people of mercy.

Maybe you've never put faith in Jesus, turn to him day. Maybe you've just been stagnate for a long time and there's no transformation happening. Trust Jesus today. Let's go to him and allow him to minister to us.

Let's pray.


Well, fall is here. It might be still be hot and humid but students are back in school, which means parents of the young ones are back to the regular routine and college students are back in town. Summer flings are now over and will either disintegrate or develop into real relationships. Weddings may be on the way for some and broken hearts for others. Tans will fade, hoodies will come out, the grass will start growing again, the ocean water will get colder, the beaches sparser, the coffee hotter and the beer better.



Life in the city of San Diego in it's simplist form means many many people. People living life intermixed and intertwined all together here in our great city. Many are embarking on new ventures and so am I, my family, and the church I pastor.

I know the new year is in January but for me, September always seems like the new year. Maybe it is the 22 years I spent in school. Maybe it's because my birthday is at the end of August. Either way, it is the new year for me. I'm 30 years old now and in two months my daughter will be one year old. The church I pastor is thriving. We seriously have some of the best, brightest, funnest and most dedicated people. I've said before that I'm a man on a mission. I have a heart and a vision for San Diego that is bigger than I could ever quite describe. The cool thing is that more and more it seems that there is truly a people who are with me, standing beside me, working it out and pressing forward for the sake of Jesus and his glory. I truly believe it is going to be one of the best seasons in the life of our church yet.

One of the biggest changes ahead for me and my family is opening up our home for a weekly community group. I've been preaching on community groups in the Bible for the last two weeks at church and now comes the time to put it into practice. We are so excited. We started the church in our home over three and half years ago in our home and we are amped to offer hospitality once again.

Homes are a such a big deal in big cities. Big cities can have the effect of people going every which way but being totally disenfranchised, lost and disconnected. Connecting with friends over food, good words, and the new world of Jesus is about as good as it gets. People in our city are longing for it. I read an article called "A New Kind of Urban Christian" by Tim Keller awhile back (Read it Here). In it he says, "Christians should be a community radically committed to the good of the city as a whole." We've got to have a big vision and work through things together and make plans to reach the city together.

In our community groups we'll not only have a meal, and spend some time having real, honest, talks about our lives but we will devote part of our group time each week to "our City" where we will plan together and take on a missional project for a person, group of persons, park or otherwise. In this way we'll maintain mission as being one of the core purposes for community groups. We expect and want many of our non-Christian friend to come, not only to plan for the city but have a chance to tangibly see and hear how Jesus is such an important part of all of our lives.

Maybe some are not feeling excitement but are burdened by the stress of fall. Maybe others have super high expectations and are nervous about how it will all turn out. Either way we have this to look forward to and give us confidence...everything here and now looks forward to and is empowered by the future heavenly city and power of Jesus displayed.

Revelation 21:23 "And the city (the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God) has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb."

Jesus is coming to make all things new and we look forward to it and wait by working hard for his kingdom together. Let us take hold of that promise and seize the mighty help and hope of Christ and do great things for his sake and our joy. Let's keep building a city within our city that points to Jesus soon and coming heavenly city.

Much love to you all
-Pastor Duane


This is the second of a two week series dealing with a theology of community groups. This second part deals primarily with our community praxis, how we apply the theology of community in the life of our church. This sermon was originally preached August 31th, 2008 at The Resolved Church in San Diego, CA.

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August 31st, 2008
Pastor Duane M. Smets

"A Gospel Community" (Part 2 of 2")
Philippians 1:27 "Let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ…standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.


Introduction

Good morning everyone. Today is part two of a super short series we're doing here as we prepare to head into the fall and it's called, "A Gospel Community." Last week was the bulk of the theological and scriptural groundwork for the subject at hand and this week's sermon will primarily focus on how we as a church, that's you and me and everyone else who calls The Resolved Church home…how we as a church plan to take what is clearly said and expected by God in his book and together apply it.

What I did last week was very Edwardsean, very Puritan-esque and started with working with one passage of Scripture, Philippians 1:27, made some exegetical remarks about it and then stepped back and started looking at community systematically throughout all the Bible. I'll review some of those things in a moment but before I do let's read this main gospel community verse again today and pray over this sermon (read text).

Father God thank you for your constant goodness to us, thank you for your book, the Bible and thank you for sending Jesus into our world and calling us to live together in community under his name, for his fame, by his strength and power. Help us today as we take the teaching of your word and seek to apply it to the life of your church expressed here in San Diego among us as The Resolved Church. Amen.


Review of Part 1, "A Gospel Community"

I may be outdating myself a little bit here because I just turned 30 last week, but tell me if any of you remember the hit TV show that had this theme song,

Making your way in the world today takes everything you've got.
Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot.
Wouldn't you like to get away?
Sometimes you want to go…Where everybody knows your name,
and they're always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see, our troubles are all the same.
You wanna be where everybody knows your name.

It's from Cheers right? For those of you who may not know have ever seen it or maybe you did but like me you were not allowed to watch it growing up because the whole show takes place in a bar, so you had to sneak it in along with the Simpsons and MTV. It's an interesting theme song though isn't it. Essentially it is about the human want, need, and desire to be a part of a community of people that actually care about one another and talk about their lives together.

Last week we started first with this passage from Philippians 1, which tells us first of all that the reason life is so hard and filled with worries and troubles is because of our human sin and rebellion against God and the answer to that is the gospel. The gospel is the good news that Jesus, God's Son, came into the world for us and lived the life we have failed at and then died the eternal death we deserve in our place so that we might live and life in his name.

This verse in Philippians says that impacts and effects all of our manner of life, that being a Christian has nothing to do with going to a particular building on one day of the week, it is about "a manner of life" which involves living it out together with other people. See those words, "standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel"? They teach us that we are to live out, in our lives, the gospel together.

After working with that verse in Philippians we stepped back and looked at the word "community" itself in the Bible. 1 John 1:7 says, once we have community with God through the gospel, once we truly connected with him, then we will have community with one another. We learned that the early church, during the first few hundred years of its existence, "devoted themselves to community (Acts 2:42)" in homes which was the primary way Christianity expanded across the world…good, old fashioned, gospel hospitality, and one-anothering.

Last week, I read 30 different phrases from Scripture which tell us to one-another each other in things like being at peace, being loving, joined, devoted, honoring, rejoicing, weeping, living in harmony, accepting, counseling, greeting, agreeing, waiting, caring, serving, carrying burdens, being kind, forgiving, submitting, bear with, teaching, encouraging, building up, spurring on, being hospitable, ministering, being humble, confessing sins, praying, and community-ing…all for and with "one-another." And I made this point, which I repeated several different ways throughout the sermon, "Those things, that kind of life and community, CANNOT HAPPEN JUST ON SUNDAY MORNING."

I'll talk in just a few minutes on what the difference is between our Sunday worship and our community group meetings. But first remember what we learned in the rest of Scripture about community. I'm reviewing a lot of last week for two reasons. One, because this topic and two-week series is probably one of the most important sermons I have ever given as far as critical stages in the life of The Resolved Church go. Moving toward a real focus on community rather than Sunday morning will either make or break us.

The other reason, is because we are human and it takes us awhile to really get things. Studies show it takes the average person hearing something seven times before it really starts to stick. The things is if we are going to focus on community as a church then it better be something that God wants and the way we find out if it is something God wants is by looking at what he has said in his book, The Bible. So I really really reallly really really want us to know and understand the biblical reasons why we are doing what we are doing as a church, so that we'll actually have a true and real foundation behind it.

Okay, so let's finish reviewing. After starting with looking at the meaning of a specific verse, and after looking at the meaning of some specific words like "community" and "one-anothering" we stepped even further back and looked at the nature of God himself. God is a Trinity, three in one. The Father is God, the Son Jesus is God, and the Holy Spirit is God and the three are one, that is the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, God is one God in three persons. God is a community and he calls and invites us into that community.

The whole Bible in many ways can be seen through the lens of community, God calling and forming a people into community with himself. You got Adam and Eve in the garden in the first main type of community, a family, which is one of the main ways the New Testament pictures a church, as a family. You got Noah, Abraham, Moses all being called to form a people into a specific type of God-glorifying community. Even the ten commandments themselves are in many ways designed to create a people that can live in community with one another having God as the center. When God's people do bad things, like a good father, he deals with it, and in the story of the Bible God exiled his people to a place called "Babylon" and while there, what did God do? He had a number of prophets call out to his people and tell them to get into community there.

Jesus shows up on the scene and what does he do, he starts a small community group with 12 dudes and they start eating, and talking, and planning and praying together. Leslie Newbigin in his book, "The Gospel in a Pluralist Society" wrote a chapter called, "The Congregation as Hermeneutic of the Gospel" and in it he says, "Jesus did not write a book but formed a community. This community has at its heart the remembering and rehearsing of his words and deeds…it becomes the place where men and women and children find that the gospel gives them the framework of understanding, the lenses through which they are able to understand and cope with the world."

After Jesus ascended and commissioned them the disciples repeated what Jesus has taught them for three years and started forming both small community group meetings and larger Sunday celebration gatherings.


Sunday Service Versus Community Groups

So what is the difference between Sunday morning and community groups? Is Sunday morning community? Well yes and no. Why do we gather on Sunday mornings and do what we do? Do you know? It is and always has been a big deal to worship God together with his people on Sunday mornings. The reason is because Jesus rose on the third day, that's Sunday, in the morning. Each time we gather on Sunday we meet at that time because we believe that our God, Jesus, is not dead but alive and seated on the throne of heaven and is worthy of our praise… we enjoy worshipping him together.

What we do on Sunday mornings, though it is extremely odd culturally speaking…I mean let's admit it, a bunch of different types of people get together, who probably wouldn't otherwise, we come here and sing, outloud, and only about two of us can actually sing. Then you sit and listen to someone preach, or basically give a speech, for about 45 minutes and then you come up here and tear off a little piece of bread and dip it in some wine. If you are a member, you give some money, and then we sing some more and then leave. SUNDAY CHURCH SERVICES ARE WEIRD! I mean let's be honest. If we we're all drinking and getting drunk each week then maybe all the singing, and listening to a bad comedian, and doing funny things with food would make sense…but we're all sober! J

Here's the thing, we sing because the Bible tells us to and there is something really special about us doing it together. We study the Bible because the Bible tells us to have a trained and equipped pastor help us do that. And we receive the grace of "communion" because Jesus told us to so that we would always focus on his death and resurrection by doing so. Put it all together, Sunday morning is a pretty individual thing. For our church there are really only about 4 or 5 people who contribute publicly, that's up here in front, to the service. For everyone else, it is more of a passive thing, not in your spirit, your active, but it is mainly between you and God. You are not talking about life with the person next to you or praying with each other or our making plans together. You are there and you are attempting use all the means of our service: song, sermon, and the communion sacrament, to be connected in worship to God. Sunday morning is a great and awesome time of worshipping God together with his people in a specific kind of way.

Community groups are worship but in an entirely different way. They happen on a different day and are meant to be places where every person is active and participating and talking and praying and planning together. What needs to happen for there to be real gospel, Bible community, simply CANNOT happen just through Sunday morning. It can't. Community groups are needed in order for us to really share our lives and care for one another.


The Sense of Community

Think about it. Human life, no matter where in the world or what time or age in the world has been one that needs community in order to survive and exist. Everyone is in some form of community with other people.

For some it comes through involvement in sports. You sign up to play on a softball league and you end up making friends with the people there and you have some sense of community.

For many it comes through their job. I don't get it because I think you'd be sick of the people you work with after working with them all day. But most people make friends with their people at work and then when they get off they go hang out together.

For some it comes through music and playing in a band, you find community with your band mates. For some it comes through their neighbors, their family, their pets, or through some cause like politics and who the next president is going to be. There is community of all kinds in many forms.

Here some interesting things about community in general and then we'll talk about how that relates or doesn't to Christian community. This definition is from Wikipedia, not always the most reliable source, but sometimes quite good. "In human communities, intent, belief, resources, preferences, needs, risks, and a number of conditions may be present and common, affecting the identity of the participants and their degree of cohesiveness."

Here are things you find are present when there is a true "sense of community."
1. An individual develops a feeling that they belong, that they are "part of the group."
2. Persons feel the freedom to share personal details because of that security and commitment to get along and work through potential conflict."
3. One may present their needs and have the group hear and provide both emotional and physical help.
4. There is a common idea the person considers themselves as prescribing to along with the group.
5. A person comes to believe they are integral part of the group and their contribution is both vital and necessary.

Those things are not easy. Even several Christian communities fail at those things because Christians are still sinners, messy people who are good at messing things up. The difference with Christian community is the reality we share is Jesus, his person and work which gives us our sense of belonging, freedom, commitment, meeting of needs, and understanding of truth and the world. And Christian community is unique because it is the true ideal that every other form of community longs and reaches for but cannot seem to quite reach because as one person said, "there is a deep yearning in every human soul for compassion." And that can only bet met by God and is meant to be shared and sustained among his people.

For example, one church took the very popular 12 steps program for alcoholics, which has helpful for many people, and attempted to use it show how the Christian view of the world and the liberating work of the gospel really changes things for us. So they took the twelve steps and reworded them to try and show how what we really need is Christian community. Here is what they came up with:

Step 1 - I (not we) declared I was in complete control of my addiction/compulsion, that my life was fine and dandy - thank you very much.
Step 2 - I always knew that there was no power greater than myself, but all of you needed to be restored to sanity.
Step 3 - I made a decision to turn my will and my life over to the care of my addiction/compulsive behavior, because it was the only thing that understood me.
Step 4 - I made a superficial and paranoid immoral inventory of anybody but myself.
Step 5 - I admitted nothing to nobody - ever.
Step 6 - I was entirely ready to have God punish you for all your defects of character.
Step 7 - I humbly asked God to bug somebody else.
Step 8 - I made a list of all persons who had harmed me and became willing to take revenge upon them all.
Step 9 - I took direct revenge whenever possible, especially when to do so would harm or injure them or others.
Step 10 - I continued to take other people's inventory, and when they were wrong promptly told them so.
Step 11 - I sought through alcohol/drugs/relationships/food/sex and so on to maintain unconscious contact with myself, praying only for what I wanted, when I wanted it and the power to get it.
Step 12 - Having had a spiritual death as a result of these steps, I tried to carry this message to other addicted/compulsive people and take as many of them as I could with me.

Though in jest, those fake twelve steps do a good job at showing how individualistic we can be and how what each of us really need is the liberating power of the gospel and gospel people. Otherwise we will always fall short of true gospel community and instead only have pseudo communities where we just "play nice" and only show the most favorable sides of our personalities and never get too deep with anyone.

You see there is such a thing as false community, things which are not true biblical fellowship. We might be tempted to think, oh, I don't really need these church community groups to have what the Bible asks for when he commands us to fellowship. I can do that on my own just through my individual relationships.

The problem is that kind of thinking is still thinking as an individual rather than thinking as a group and it makes some false assumptions about what real Christian community is. Community is not just any warm interchange that you have with a person. Community is not just going to a baseball or football game or hanging out at a party, that may be some form of friendship we enjoy and can be good but falls short of real Christian community.

John Loftness, the editor of Sovereign Grace Magazine and a pastor at Covenant Life Church in Maryland, he helps us out and goes even further. He says this, "Fellowship is not (necessarily) going to a Bible study with someone or sharing doctrinal commitments, or attending a Christian rally where emotions run deep and passions are high. Fellowship is not found in a "group therapy" session where participants all reveal their darkest thoughts. In fact, Christians can (even) be married to one another and still not experience fellowship."

Real fellowship or community (same word) is participating and sharing the life and teaching of Jesus with each other by actually opening up our lives and relationships despite the risks of hurt, misunderstanding, and inconvenience which will result because of the influence and irradiation of sin. In short, real community is messiness. That's what I'm calling us to as a church, let's get messy together and work it out!

If we are really going to be "the family of believers" as the church then we have to start acting like a family. We've got to have community. A few years ago a guy named Robert Putnam did a study looking at community over the past 25 years. Here's what he came up with. Attendance to club meetings has fallen 58%. Family dinners are down 33%. Having friends visit has shrunk 45%. We are a people and a culture who are failing as a community. What are we going to do about it?


The Resolved Church Community Groups

Okay, so here is our plan. Starting in two weeks, so the week of the 14th, we will have two church community groups happening. One in my home on Tuesday night and when in Ron & Kathy Broersma's home on Thursday night. And we want EVERYONE. Everyone, to do everything you can to be a part of these groups.

What will happen at them? Here is what will happen. I told you last week that I took three weeks off of preaching this summer to pray and study and really focus on our direction for this fall and as I studied out community groups in churches I was shocked to find how very few of them actually had done any solid thinking or had any solid theology behind them. Then I did a ton of in depth Bible study on the subject and a ton of in depth study on our culture. I worked with the virtual elders support and counsel, and here is the plan for The Resolved Church community groups.

You can now find this on our website under community groups. "Community groups are the central place where the gospel gets worked out in our lives together as a church and where non-Christian friends get introduced to our love for one another."

Our community groups consist of three main parts: our meal, our lives, and our city. First we eat a meal together. We do this because dining together is a picture of God's glory among us. Acts 2:42 says the church devoted themselves to the breaking of bread together. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says we are to eat and drink to the glory of God. And in Revelation 3:21 Jesus says that he wants to come into his church and dine with them.

One of the main things we do in heaven is eat. There are great meals planned, one's called "the marriage supper of the lamb" and there is new wine and fresh food and sweet fellowship. So the first thing is our meal. Meals are so significant to life, you need food to live, and it teaches us about the spiritual nature of needing each other to live for Jesus. It is very difficult for anyone to have any sense of real community over anything if food and drink isn't shared, it just changes everything.

The second main thing our community groups will do is share our lives. In that we talk together, we get messy and open and honest and real…we get down and dirty and disciple one another and talk about Jesus and where we are at with him and what's going on in our "manner of life." Discussing things together is a picture of Jesus' gospel working itself out in us (Ex. 18:22-23; Mt 28:18-20; Phil 1:27; 1 Thess 2:18;).

In our discussions, it isn't a time just for another teaching or for one person to talk. It is a time for everyone in the group to share and express care and love for one another. We have to process through our lives and the gospel and you just can't do that alone, we need each other to help us figure out what is going on with us and how the gospel applies and how we can help out one another. Both our community groups right now, at the start will be doing the same thing, and for at least the first two weeks, we'll be talking through together the significance and need of community groups.

The third part of our community group time is "our city." This expresses the missional nature of our church. We are going to allot a specific amount of time each week to plan together for our city. This determining together is a picture of the Holy Spirit's empowerment for mission (Jer 29:7; Jn 20:21; Acts 1:8&2:1). So each group will together come up with one missional project to do every two months. It might be something as small as getting together a bag of food and clothes for a person or family who needs it. Or maybe it might be something bigger like a park or school beautification project.

This aspect is significant. Jesus sent us out in the world to disciple and win the lost. The way the early church did that and the way Scripture calls us to do that is to do good deeds for our neighbors, the poor, the widows. In doing those things we show our love and it becomes a pointer to the gospel.

In most churches, including our own, of the ones who actually do some form of social activism, usually it is some sort of event that gets announced at Sunday service and people then either sign up for it or not. This changes all of that. The whole goal is for us to starting thinking and operating as a true community, where mission is all of our responsibilities and not just individually to make relationships with people and talk to them about Jesus but also us as a church. In this new way, mission becomes a responsibility of the community group who dreams together and takes the reigns together. It will enable us to do much more and be much more effective.

Lastly, we pray for one another. Prayer is essential to any true community group. And ours will be a place that we can come and share our lives and then take our issues through the gospel and then to God in prayer. We are commanded to pray for one another (Js 5:16) and community groups are the place for that to happen.

Now, it may be overkill, but in case you are not yet convinced, we also drafted a FAQ document to answer common questions you or anyone else might have. I'll skip the ones we've already addressed but there are a few practical things I should address as a good pastor.

Why are Community Groups so Important?
Truly being a part of a church means participating both in our Sunday gatherings and community groups. Sundays are the time when we celebrate in worshipping our risen Lord Jesus together through singing, hearing the preaching of God's Word, and partaking in communion. Smaller groups are necessary for the building up of the body in our relationships and life together. Both gatherings, the big and the small, meet different needs in the spiritual health and life of the Church.

Are a Community Groups like a Bible Study?
Community groups are the place, where in the context of maturing relationships, we challenge one another to drive God's Word deeply into our lives. Some groups will follow discussion questions from Sunday's sermon, or go through an approved book or video discussion series together. In all cases, the Bible is central and geared toward personal life application and transformation rather than intensive Bible teaching.

Do I have to be a Member of The Resolved Church to Attend a Community Group?
No. If you consider The Resolved Church your home, you are welcome to join a community group before becoming a member. However, we do stress the importance of becoming a member, not only because we believe it is biblical but also because community groups are intended for those who call The Resolved Church home and for the friends and neighbors we are trying to reach together. Our community groups are not intended for those who are attempting to supplement their involvement at other church, which is a disservice to both churches. Membership is required to be a community group leader or host.

I'm not/don't know if I'm a Christian, can I Attend a Community Group?
Yes, please do. Joining a community group is one of the best ways for you to find out more about Jesus and to see what Christians are like. If you have questions then there are people there to gently help you process through them.

Are my Children Welcome to Attend a Community Group?
Yes, church is a family and we love families getting together. It is sometimes chaotic and messy but very healthy for families to see how other Christians families act and deal with situations with their children.

Do you have Community Groups for college age/singles/young married/
married with children/empty nesters?
We treasure the value of relationships between people in various life stages, a healthy church learns and grows most by interacting with people from across the racial, age, and life stage spectrum. For this reason we intentionally encourage our groups to reflect such unity in diversity.

How Big is each Community Group?
Our groups are designed and intended to be small enough for people to get to know each other. When a group grows to 15 or more people we strongly encourage a new group to be started out of that original group.

What if I cannot Attend Regularly?
Consistent participation is very important for the health and stability of the groups. Due to the effect on the group as a whole, a minimum expectation is that individuals should attend more than half the meetings. Challenging schedules are something many people deal with and we encourage individuals and/or families to make community group a priority in the forming of their weekly schedule.

What if I've Tried a Community Group and it wasn't a Good Fit?
We recognize you may need to visit more than one community group before you find the right fit. There is always an adjustment period in getting used to a new group. We encourage people to simply pick a group and stick it out for at least two months before trying another group.

What if there isn't a Community Group near where I live?
It is our goal as a church to plant community groups in as many of the 100 plus different neighborhoods in San Diego. We encourage people to be a part of a community group that is close to them and if not use the ease of travel in San Diego to be involved in a group for a time until one is started in your neighborhood or you are ready to host one there yourself.

Conclusion

Okay, that just felt like I was making a business proposal or something. What we are calling for is real life, together. The word "striving" here in Philippians 1:27 is an interesting word. It is sunathlountes, which sometimes gets translated as "contending together as one person." It was used in athletic contest and has the sense of engaging side by side or helping one another.

We need to have a common community centered on working out the gospel in our lives and in our city. I've done my best to guide us through Scripture and think through some of the practical implications for us.

I'll conclude today by telling a story and preparing us for communion. Matt went surfing with a guy named Simon after work. Simon had just joined the company. They had talked a little during breaks and what not and Matt really saw this as an opportunity for the gospel. After surfing Matt asked Simon if he wanted to go get a ear. Over a drink they were laughing and talking about some of the good waves they got and a few of the one's where they got hammered. Matt then said to Simon, "You ever notice how it seems like God sometimes just hammers us and we get tossed in life…that's what's harder than anything for me." Initially the conversation felt a little awkward, but Simon took a real interest in what Matt was saying. They had common interests like surfing, and they both had families with kids. As they walked out toward their cars Matt said to Simon, "You want to go to a BBQ at my friend's house tomorrow night after work? It's a group of people I belong to called the church and they have an open meal and a discussion about the Bible and life each week." Matt didn't have a whole lot of good friends and so, though it sounded a little weird, he said sure, he'd come and bring his family. Simon showed up the next night and walked nervously around the back of the house to the BBQ and was relieved when he saw Matt. Matt called him over and said, "Great to see you Simon, this is Bobby, he surfs too." It wasn't long before Simon started feeling a little more comfortable, his kids saw some other kids and started playing with them and one of the ladies came up and was talking to his wife. During the Bible and discussion time Simon didn't really say anything, but he just listened intently and was stunned by how much everyone seemed to really care for one another and really open up. The group concluded in prayer and the evening ended and people started to leave. When Simon left, Matt asked him if he wanted to come back next week. Simon said maybe. The next week Matt called Simon and invited him again and soon Simon and his family started coming all the time. Two months went by and Matt received a phone call from Simon. Matt was stoked to hear Simon's voice and even more happy when he heard he hung out with a couple he and his wife met at the BBQ named Chris and Wendy. The next thing Simon said shocked Matt, he said, "We got into a bit of heavy conversation with Chris and Wendy the other day about our lives and they kept talking about things the Bible said and how what we all really need is Jesus and he's what changes things. Simon, I haven't known what to really think about Jesus but I've never seen anything like the kind of lives you live and I've decided I really want me and my family to be a Christians (adapted from chapter three of "Total Church")."

Now wouldn't you love it that story was from something that happening in our church. I long for it to be. And in order for something like that to happen we have to have be moved to embrace gospel community as our church life. But here's the thing. There is going to be a ton of resistance to that. Things I've mentioned already and things I haven't. Practical things like schedules and spiritual things like pride and control. What we need is for Jesus to really change us and give us his heart and mind and strength and conform us to his image and will so that we truly love him and his church. The good news of the gospel is that he has made that available to us and committed himself to us. Martin Luther said, In Jesus, we have been given everything, forgiven everything, and promised everything…we lack nothing except the faith to believe it. Let's pray for him to work in us as we go to his table.

In 1988 Michael Jackson had a hit song called "Man in the Mirror" which is comical in and of itself considering the ever changing face of the Jackson. Apparently he took the lyrics of his hit song literally. "I'm starting with the man in the mirror. I'm asking him to change his ways. If you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make a change." As Christians it is a wise and scriptural thing to take moments and seasons for self-reflection.



James 1:23-24 "If anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like."

We hear things all the time but most of our doings go on without much thought given to them unless we are faced with some sort of ethical dilemma of sorts. In this passage of the Bible true hearing happens when it gets attached to application. When was the last time you looked into the proverbial mirror and took a close look at your life, who you are and who you are becoming. If we are not careful we will develop habits and patterns of life by not taking periods of self-refection.

Lamentation 3:40 "Let us test and examine our ways."

1 Tim 4:16 "Keep a close watch on yourself."

When we look at the life of Jesus in the gospels you notice something interesting if you pay attention to the actions of Jesus between his words. What you notice is there is a consistent interplay between going out and in among the people and his disciples and him hiding or retreating away by himself. Jesus, our greatest example of all and the one whom lives in us, shows us what it is like to continually test, examine, and keep a close watch on ourselves. In order work well, minister well, and love well...we need special times to get away and be with the Lord.

I believe as Christians it is very wise for us to take time out a couple of times throughout the year and to really set out to do some serious spiritual reflection. As we fall approaches fast, it is one of the most prudent times to make some self-assessments.

How do you do that? You ask questions. Questions like what have I learned in this last season of my life? What areas do I need to grow in during this next season? How has my love for Jesus been? Have I been growing in my personal holiness and disciplines? What spiritual practice do I need to improve in? How has my love for others been? Am I keeping things in their proper places and priorities? Are there sins I really need God to work in with me? What practical steps can I take to see change take place? Am I really trusting in Jesus as the savior and Lord of everything in my life? If someone were to hang out with me for 24 hours would they be able to tell that Jesus is a really important part of my everyday life? Where do I need change? Who is around me that God might have me to help, encourage, disciple, or bear their burdens? Have i been talking to my non-Christian friends about theirs lives and their need for Jesus? How is my love for my physical family? How is my love for my spiritual family, the church?

There are many, many questions. And you can probably dream up a ton more. It is my plan to take some time out for some serious reflection during these last couple weeks of summer and I invite you to join me. Let us be a people who look in the mirror and see and trust the grace of Christ's work in us for all that we are and need to be.

-Pastor Duane
This is the first of a two week series dealing with a theology of community groups. It is both an exegetical treatment of Philippians 1:27 and a systematic treatment of community in the Bible. This sermon was originally preached August 24th, 2008 at The Resolved Church in San Diego, CA.

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August 24th, 2008
Pastor Duane M. Smets

"A Gospel Community" (Part 1 of 2")
Philippians 1:27 "Let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ…standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.


Introduction

Good morning everyone. Today we start a short two week series on the gospel and community. I've got four goals in these two sermons.

1. To redirect our conception of church to being a true gospel community rather than church as just coming to a Sunday service.
2. To look at specific texts of the Bible in order to understand where we are, how we got here, and what we need.
3. To clearly explain what gospel community looks like and how we plan to implement it this fall.
4. To respond to potential objections to this particular idea of gospel community.

That will take two weeks. This week we'll primarily talk about the gospel and community and their relationship to one another. Next week we'll primarily talk about the difference between Sunday service and mid-week community and what our new community groups will entail.

I'll read our primary text of the Bible and make a few exegetical points in a moment but first I would like to start our with a few stories. They are based on mixed composites of individuals, so if you thinking I'm talking about you and just renaming the person…then maybe that's true maybe it isn't. J

Wendy - Wendy is exploring her roots and isn't sure what to think about anything anymore. Her family used to take her to a church service every once in awhile while growing up but nothing ever really stuck or became that important to her. She went away to college and fell in love with a boy who she thought she would one day marry. After graduating from college she moved in with him. But things didn't last long and soon he moved out and left her with a broken heart. It's been two years since then and now she lives in an apartment all my herself and works a dead end job because she doesn't know what else she wants to do with her life. All she wanted was to be a wife and a mom but now she feels she must find a career and cannot trust any men. She has thought of going to a church service but doesn't have any friends who do and a service just sounds so intimidating. The other day she confessed she hasn't had a real conversation with anyone in years and wishes so bad she could be a part of a community she knew she could trust, that would love her and talk with her.

Steve - Steve grew up in a military family. Both his dad and his two brothers were Navy men, so Steve went into the military too. He served his four years, got a job right out of the military, but it's been another four years now and he still has no clue what to do with his life. He went to a large church alone a couple times but has no idea what to think about it. He longs for real friends. For the last three years he's spent most his time meeting different girls at parties and going out to clubs with some of his guy friends. But it is starting to seem like just the same cycle over and over again and nobody really knows each other. His brother was just recently diagnosed with Leukemia. His "friends" only answer is to get wasted with him, but that doesn't touch the comfort and encouragement he is longing for. He recently joined a gym with some buddies to try and improve at least his physical life. But he has no clue of what to do about his spiritual turmoil and how it relates to Jesus or the Bible at all.

Gabby - Gabby is married and has two kids. Gabby stays at home with the kids while her husband works. She loves being a mom but sometimes it is just really hard work and wishes she could get a break. Gabby and her husband started attending a church service two years ago because her husband thought they should go to church as a family. While attending Gabby became a Christian and really started enjoying and connecting with the church people. But now her husband is more distant and doesn't really seem to care so much about going to church. As a result, Gabby feels burdened once again. She wishes she could share how she really feels but feels so much pressure to have everything together. Sunday services were nice sometimes but now they are just a lot of work. She wishes she could connect more with women and other families at church because she has a lot on her heart and mind but there just isn't a comfortable place and time outside Sunday and besides what would she do with the kids? It's just another stressful situation.

Micah - Micah became has been a Christian as long as he can remember. When he was in high school he became super involved with his youth group. He used to spend hours every week hanging out with them. Praying and talking together and sharing Jesus with their friends. It's been many years since high school now and Micah misses the closeness he used to feel when he was a part of that group. Grown up Christianity seems much harder. Recently Micah discovered this church service that used art, incense, and meditations and it was intriguing to him for awhile. But when he started getting to know some of the people, some of their practices and the heart motivations behind them just seemed wrong and the group didn't really seem to care too much about the Bible or sharing Jesus with others. Micah had been to a small groups before but it was usually just one person talking most the time and if anyone objected there was tense arguing which made him not want to share what he was going through. Micah doesn't know what to think about God or the church anymore and wishes there was a group he could be a part of who was working through some of the same things he was.

Dave - Dave had some pretty wild high school years but became a Christian while in college. While in college he believed God called him to be a minister. So he went through all the schooling necessary to become a good pastor. He started a church a few years ago with a lot of excitement and optimism about how great it would be. But after three years it's been slow going. There is a number of great things happening in the church. The people love each other. The Bible is taught and is honored. A few people have become Christians and a few more have really been ministered to during their time there. Sunday service has really come together quite amazingly and several of the people have become really good at making friends with non-Christians. Yet, the leap from friendship to service is so big, Dave wishes there was someplace in-between where non-Christians could get exposed the gospel and to the church before ever really being a part of their Sunday celebration.

Maybe you find yourself in one of those stories or in parts of a few of them. Maybe you don't. Those five stories probably only scratch the surface of the stories that exist just in this room. I am convinced that we are a people who are longing for real community but are scared to death of it. So let's read our primary text for today then begin to think through a theology of community.

Philippians 1:27 "Let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ…standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.

Lord God would you help us today as we work through what the gospel is and what community is. By your Spirit, teach us through your word about who you are and who you've made us to be. Make us teachable. In the name of your Son Jesus, Amen.


Historical Background of Philippians

First some historical cultural background notes about Philippians 1:27. Philippians is letter Paul wrote to the church in Philippi, which he founded about 10 years earlier. Philippi is in Greece in Southern Europe and is the place where Lydia, the first European convert became a Christian. The church in Philippi had been doing well. The letter to the Philippians is extremely happy and encouraging.

Paul writes the phrase that is our main text for the next two weeks in response to some challenges the church was facing. There were challenges from the outside and from the inside. From the outside there were apparently physical threats of violence from opposing foes. Christianity was not too popular in that time and many Christians were put to death for becoming Christians. And then there was challenges from the inside, internal friction and conflict among some of the people in the church. He addresses two ladies by name later in the book saying, I urge you, Euodia and Syntyche, to get along in the Lord (Phil 4:2).

And so in response to those outside and inside pressures he writes this phrase, " Let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ…standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel."


The Manner of Gospel Life is Community: An Exegesis of Philippians 1:27

Now I want you to notice a few things. There are three steps here in this verse. First, Look at the phrase, "manner of life." Do you see that? What does that mean? What is one's "manner of life"? Does that just mean going to a church service on Sundays? Does it just mean following a list of do's and don'ts? Does it mean just how you individually behave when your by yourself or at work? What is one's manner of life? Or what does life consist of?

Well, life is everything right? Life is eating, drinking, talking, working, playing, and even sleeping. Manner of life is the way in which you live your life and a regular, daily basis. Now look what he does next, look at the next phrase…"Let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ." Manner of life fl‡ Worthy of the gospel.

This is the next step, here manner of life gets connected to the gospel of Christ. The gospel is to determine how we live our lives. This is huge. Out of 137 references to the word "gospel" in the New Testament, 90% of the uses of the word "gospel" only refer to the content of the message that is shared. That is the factual truths of the gospel, who Jesus and what he has done for us. The gospel is news that is so good to us because we have failed at life and rebelled against God and yet he has had mercy by sending Jesus into our world to live the life we supposed for us and not only that by dying a death which satisfies the eternal death and wrath we deserve for being such crooks. And all that goodness becomes ours simply through faith or belief in Jesus and his work. That's the message of the gospel in short. But here, in Philippians 1:27, the word "gospel" extends to something more than just the message or the proposition of the gospel itself.

Look at the way it's worded. Here "gospel" is something which effects your manner of life! The word of the gospel does a work in our life. Let me say it another way for some of our resident laymen theologians. The gospel, primarily, is the doctrine of justification by faith alone. But the gospel here also includes the doctrine of sanctification. Wayne Grudem defines sanctification this way, "Sanctification is a progressive work of God and man that makes us more free from sin and like Christ in our actual lives." For the rest of us who get confused by big words, that simply means, if you're a Christian and you love Jesus then that is going to have an effect on the way you live your life.

But there is yet another step here in Philippians 1:27 and that is the qualification Paul provides. What I skipped in my quote with the ellipse is a brief digression where Paul talks about making a trip to come see the people of the Philippian church, but he picks it back up at the word standing, so that the verse really does read "Let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ so that standing firm in the one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel."

Do you see the third step? First step is recognizing we have a manner of life, second step is that our manner of life is to be directed by the gospel, the third step is that such a thing only happens through "standing firm in one spirit, with one mind, striving side by side for the faith of the gospel." That is community. I don't now how Paul could have said it clearer? Several spirits coming together as "one spirit." Several minds coming together as "one mind." Several people striving "side by side" together. THIS IS COMMUNITY!!!

Has anyone been watching the Olympics? It is fascinating to me. Some of my favorite things have been watching Volleyball, the team swims, and last night men's basketball for the gold. It is interesting…with many of the sport the gold must be won together as a team as ONE, otherwise they fail. They have to train together, talk together, and practice together and if they don't they will fail. Christianity is the same thing. It is meant to be lived out together as ONE in community.


Koinonia is Christian Community

Now let me ask you a very important question. Think of this "one mind" "one spirit" "side by side" community...can that happen through us just seeing each other on Sunday morning? Well maybe you could make an argument about being in one spirit and one mind in the experience of this day…but not striving side by side. That is something different and on top of it all, he is talking about our manner of life. This verse says our manner of life is to include regular intimate community.

Do you know where does the word community come from? It comes from the Greek word that usually gets translated as "fellowship." The word is koinonia. Here is a good definition of koinonia from J.I. Packer, "[It is] a sharing with our fellow-believers the things that God has made known to us about himself, in hope that we may thus help them know him better and so enrich their fellowship with him. Second, [it is] seeking to share what God has made known of himself to others, as a means to finding strength, refreshment, and instruction for one's own soul."

Community is a uniquely Christian and relational thing. It begins first with a relationship with God and then true relationships with others. The book of 1 John in the Bible says we have fellowship with God and that enables us to have true fellowship with one another. Fellowship is sharing and participating in the life of God with others…it is "how we wrestle with understanding truth and struggling to apply it to our lives (John Loftness)" even with all the problems, hurt, misunderstandings, and inconveniences it brings. That's real life in a world with sin and brokenness both around us and in us.

Many think relationship with Jesus is all they need, you can pray and read your Bible on your own. But this way of thinking limits God's sovereign choice to by his Spirit frequently use people as the means of communicating his truth to us.

To my big words boys. Listen to C.J. Mahaney on this. He puts this together and says a theology of community groups flows out of this understanding. He writes, "If one has truly been justified, that will be evident by a progressive work of sanctification in his life. Small groups contribute to this magnificent and gradual work of grace in our lives." For the rest of us, that means if you love Jesus and you love his church then you will get involved in small community groups that are really focused on the gospel.

Christian community is about life together. This is how the gospel spread so much within the first 30 years so much so that people were saying that the world was being turned upside-down (Acts 17:6). Acts 2:42 says the early church "devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and to community and to the breaking of bread and prayers."

Michael Green, a prominent scholar of the historical and cultural background of the 1st century writes this, "The house [was] the fundamental unit of society…both in Israelite and Roman Culture…[and was] One of the most important methods of spreading the gospel in antiquity. It had positive advantages: the comparatively small numbers involved made real interchange of views and informed discussion among the participants possible…The sheer informality and relaxed atmosphere of the home, not to mention the hospitality which must often have gone with it, all helped to make this form of evangelism particularly successful."


One-Anothering is Christian Community

Homes, small groups, was how they were striving side by side…this is a main work of the gospel. This is how true Christian community happens. An interesting study is looking at all the passages in the Bible which call for us to "one another" each other. They are all commands.

1. Be at peace with one another (Mk 9:50)
2. Love one another (Jn 13:34)
3. Be joined to one another (Rom 12:5)
4. Be devoted to one another (Rom 12:10)
5. Honor one another (Rom 12:10)
6. Rejoice with one another (Rom 12:15)
7. Weep with one another (Rom 12:15)
8. Live in harmony with one another (Rom 12:16)
9. Accept one another (Rom 15:7)
10. Counsel one another (Rom 15:14)
11. Greet one another (Rom 16:16)
12. Agree with one another (1 Cor 1:10)
13. Wait for one another (1 Cor 11:33)
14. Care for one another (1 Cor 12:25)
15. Serve one another (Gal 5:13)
16. Carry one another's burdens (Gal 6:2)
17. Be kind to one another (Eph 4:32)
18. Forgive one another (Eph 4:32)
19. Submit to one another (Eph 5:21)
20. Bear with one another (Col 3:13)
21. Teach and admonish one another (Col 3:16)
22. Encourage one another (1 Thess 5:11)
23. Build up one another (1 Thess 5:11)
24. Spur one another on (Heb 10:24)
25. Offer hospitality to one another (1 Pet 4:9)
26. Minister gifts to one another (1 Pet 4:10)
27. Be humble toward one another (1 Pet 5:5)
28. Confess your sins to one another (Jas 5:16)
29. Pray for one another (Jas 5:16)
30. Community with one another (1 Jn 1:7)

Now, is that possible if we only commit to seeing each other on Sunday morning? I think those commands envision and call for something far different. I told you from the outset today, my intent to is assault you, so if you feel I'm just firing off a gun then good. I am trying with all my might to redirect our conception of being the church to a true gospel community rather than the coming to a Sunday service.

The word "church" itself is ekklesia which means "called out ones" and is described in the Bible as "the body or group of believers in Jesus." But how do we most often use the word? We say, we "going to church?" We don't go to church. Church is not a movie or a football game. CHURCH IS NOT AN EVENT, IT IS A COMMUNITY OF PEOPLE. If we allow ourselves to only be part of The Resolved Church by being connected on Sunday we are not being a church…we are being attendees to an event.

Taking what we've seen in the Bible so far today, if we want to "bring people to church" really what we should mean is we want to have someone come to our group and see how we live and love one another. I vow and you guys can keep accountable to it, never to refer to our Sunday morning church service as "church" ever again. Church is you and me, and us, together.

Perhaps the best definition church to get to an understanding of church in the Bible is family. A number of months ago now, we did a whole series on "The Jesus Family" of the Church. The Bible teaches that a good solid, loving, caring family…is most like what being a church is. We are a family and we love getting together and eating together and talking with one another and working through things together AS A FAMILY. This has got to happen and it will not happen without everyone who considers themselves a part of The Resolved Church committing to regularly being part of a community group.


God is in Community

We'll talk next week about what Christian community is not and why being part of one of the two community groups we're offering this fall is so important…but what I want to do now is step back for a minute and ask the question, "If community is so important and so central to God and his gospel, then wouldn't we expect to see that throughout the whole Bible?" Is this just something that Pastor Duane is drumming up as some new strategy or thing he is hyped on? Or is this really something that God wants and expects?

First, God. We believe that God is a Trinity. The Father is God. The Son Jesus is God. The Holy Spirit is God. And the three are one. It is a mystery that presses the bounds of our finite minds but the Bible as a whole communicates that God himself is a community.


The People of the Old Testament were in Community

Then what does that God do first in the Bible? He creates all the stuff of the earth, the sky and the water and the trees and the animals and then he creates a man. But after that he says, it is not good that the man is alone, so what's he do, he makes a woman. And then tells them to have lots of sex and have a lot of kids. Why? Community. God likes it.

Then what is the story of the rest of Genesis and the whole Old Testament for that matter? It is the story of God creating and calling a community of people. First through Noah and his family. Then through Abraham and his family. Then through Moses and all the people he delivers out of Egypt. In fact, in many ways when you look at the Ten Commandments themselves, they are formed in a unique way so that the people can live together in community. Think about it:

1. The community has one God
…no other gods before me (Ex. 20:3)
2. The community centers in God's presence among it
…no graven images (Ex. 20:4)
3. The community talks rightly about God
…don't take God's name in vain (Ex. 20:7)
4. The community commits to each other
…remember the Sabbath and keep it holy (Ex. 20:8)
5. The community is a family
…honor your father and mother (Ex. 20:12)
6. The community deals with hostility
…do not murder (Ex. 20:13)
7. The community deals with sexuality
…do not commit adultery (Ex. 20:14)
8. The community respects one another
…do not steal (Ex. 20:15)
9. The community is honest with each other
...do not lie (Ex. 20:16)
10. The community serves one another
…do not covet (Ex. 20:17)

There was way too many people for that to happen just in one day of getting together, so Jethro, Moses father-in-law gave Moses good advice and told him to break up the group into a bunch of small group communities (Ex. 18:22-23). Then in the next chapter (Ex. 19) God uses an analogy and says that the whole community is to be like priests for all the other peoples of the world. The idea is that others, outside the community, would be attracted to Israel because of how unique their and awesome their community was and then when they came the community would say it was because of God and his work among them. But even with such clear instructions the community failed.

So the story of the Bible says that then God basically kicked them out and sent them to Babylon. Babylon was the bad city, like "El Cajon" or something. J Getting kicked out isn't good and you don't want to go to Babylon. Jesus calls it spitting a church out of his mouth (Rev 3:16) and is what he does to a church which neglects his clear instructions.

Once God's people are in exile in Babylon he calls them to community again. Jeremiah 29:4-7 "…4 To all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare."


Jesus' was in Community

Jesus comes on the scene a number of years later and what's the first thing he does. He calls out twelve dudes to come live in community with him. And what's he do with them for three years? He has community with them. Sometimes there is a big celebration meeting and there are thousands present…but most of the time, it's just Jesus and the disciples hanging out together, eating, talking and discussion and listening to Jesus. Community groups.


The Early Church was in Community

So what do the disciples do in the New Testament? Jesus dies on the cross, rises, and then ascends to his throne in heaven. After that the disciples then get together in a house, community, and start the church that way and then devote themselves to meeting together, both for big meetings and small community meetings. You get a good picture of the small community group meetings and what was going on in 1 Thessalonians 2:8 "Being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives."


A New Definition of "Church"

Okay, let's start to try and wrap it up and pull it all together. I'm not trying to beat you up and make you feel like everything we are doing is wrong. God is doing great things among us and I am so proud of each of you. Your faith, your commitment, your hard work, your giving...you all do so much it is amazing and I feel so honored and privileged to be working alongside you as your pastor. I want to applaud you and spur us on further!

What I have been attempting to do today is overwhelm you with the sense that being a church means being a community and not putting on a service. And I'm not even just trying to get you to commit to even more on top of what you already do…I'm trying to get us to totally re-orient our thinking around our love, commitment, and regular interaction together. Jesus said people would know us by our love for one another (Jn 13:35) and we must create places and space where that can be seen and experienced!

Okay, so Snoop Dogg. Snoop had a reality show this last year called "Snoop Dogg's Fatherhood." It was the biggest joke I've ever seen. He has his own "Dogg" house out in his backyard where he goes to get away from his family and smoke weed and play video games. In every episode he had a word of the day he would teach on a chalkboard like we were all in school. In one episode was the phrase, ""Chuuch on the move." Which Snoop defines as "the cue for a group of people at a club to move on to the next location."

So what I am after is changing what you think of when you hear the word "church" too…like Snoop. I've been trying to overwhelm you today with the Bible's picture of community so that from now on when you hear the word, "church" you don't think Sunday service but you think community. You think relationships. You think of the web of workings of God's gospel among his people. You think of your Christian community group.

Here's an example. The way most people view life is one where each of us as individuals is basically juggling all this stuff…family, friends, our jobs, our chores, our fun activities, our money, church responsibility, you name it, we try to juggle it. Ever so often, the pressure overwhelms us and we drop one or more of the balls we're juggling and usually church involvement is the first one to go. Gospel community calls for us instead to view all our activities and responsibilities as centering not around each of us as individuals but around us as the Christian community.

So for example, Steve Timmis tells the story of Bob and Mary. "[They] are involved in a local congregation. Mary gives birth to twins. Bob and Mary are now facing the prospect of trying to cope with babies who constantly need feeding and changing. In the first model, juggling the church ball alongside the new family responsibilities becomes impossible. Bob and Mary decide they will have to forget being involved in church activities on anything more than a minimal level for quite some time. So they take a unilateral decision to absent themselves from much of church life. In the alternative [community] model, it not only Bob and Mary's issue when the babies are born. It is an issue for the whole church. The congregation takes on some of the responsibility because their identity and life is that of persons-in-community. So perhaps a couple of people go round early each morning to bath the babies so Bob and Mary can have time together over breakfast. Or someone offers to take Bob to work for a few months [so that he saves gas and money and can take Mary out on a date one night. In this way, the couple becomes intimately wrapped up and enabled to be a part of the Christian community.]

The story of our church, The Resolved Church, is that we began as a community in our home. But after three years we have primarily become a Sunday service with little glimpses of true community here and there, some good some bad. From what I can tell community groups have also been seen as something you elect to "go to" if you feel like it, or if like what the group is talking about, or if it is convenient with your schedule…rather than community groups being something expected for us if we are Christians and love Jesus and his church.

I'm pleading with us today to make a shift in our understanding. We're going to have two main community groups this fall. One that meets in my home on Tuesday nights and one that meets in Ron & Kathy's home on Thursday nights and we're both going to be following the same format and do the same thing and I want everyone to really pray about being a part of one and which one they will be a part of. Next Sunday I'm going to talk more about our plan for community and mission this fall, what these groups and all the ones added after them will look like.


Conclusion

I started out today by telling five different stories of people longing for real community. Then we went through Philippians 1:27 and saw how being in community is a direct result and command of the gospel. After that we backed up and looked at community in God himself and all of Scripture. And now we've ended with a story about a couple named Bob and Mary.

The overall story is always Jesus. Each of us as Christians has been especially reached out to and welcomed unto him, to be close with him and to have his life and death and resurrection change all that we are. All of our needs are met in Jesus and are cared for through the hands of his family, the Church.

If you're not a Christian, or you're new with us, then let me tell you today first, that the ultimate community you are longing for is first with God through his son Jesus. All of our stories are the similar in that we've all been rebels against God and rejected him and yet he has lovingly sought us out and died for us and all our sin so that we might not be cast away from him forever. Embracing that truth has radically changed us and is changing us.

What you've heard today is us being real, wrestling with the Bible about who we are as a church and what we need. I am saying we need true gospel community. We invite you to be a part of that, we would love to have you be part of our family. So if you sense that longing and sense the sufficiency of Jesus to meet your need today then feel free to partake of our special spiritual communion today. Or just wait and keep checking us out until you are ready, that's okay too.

For all of us who are Christians…community with Jesus, your Lord and savior today. Take to him all your questions, worries, cares, and joys and worship him at his table this morning. He is the worthy Lord of the Gospel. Let's adore him together.

Let's pray.