Kingdom and Community

Kingdom and Community

The biggest mistake of Christians (especially evangelicals) who are longing for a changed world is where they look for the kingdom of God. 

Sermon Helps

Luke 17:20–21 (NIV) 20 Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, 21 nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.”

They wanted to know signs of the times. They wanted to be able to be the first to predict and be prepared for the in break of God’s kingdom on earth to reestablish David’s rule. You will not see anything different, Jesus told them. The kingdom stands among you right now. People do not have to go out searching for it and come back reporting that they have found it here or there. The kingdom of God is present wherever Jesus is present. It is present in a different manner than they expected. Signs such as the healing of the lepers should show them the presence of the kingdom. – Butler

Matthew 5:13–16 (NIV) “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Philippians 2:14–16a (NIV) Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky…

One thing is certain: in order to be salt and light, you must be confident in the God who entered a sinful world to redeem it. Though we are to be wise, we are not to fear the world in which God has placed us. Yes, things will get messy. But if you are humbled by the messiness of sin in your own life, yet confident in God’s grace to change you, you will not be afraid to get close to other sinners who need that same grace. God will use the messiness you encounter in others to spur your own growth in the gospel. – Tripp/Lane

Being “Salt” & “Light”
What ministry opportunities exist for you with the people God has put in your path?
Is there a struggling family in your neighborhood?
Is there a single parent at your child’s school?
Is there someone in your church who is lonely and discouraged?
Is there a teenager who needs to see how a family functions?
Are there relationships you can pursue through your children’s extracurricular activities?
Where are the needs for service, mercy, and help in your community?
Has God put an elderly person in your life who needs companionship?
Where are the poor in your community? How can you be a part of their lives?
Does your child have a friend who may benefit from time in your home?
Is there a coworker you can invite for dinner and a movie with your friends?
Do you know an elderly person who would enjoy the love of a family during the holidays?
Is there someone who is burdened or in crisis and in need of a retreat?
Is there another family who would enjoy time with your family?
Do you know a younger couple who could be mentored by an older couple?
If you are single, is there a family with young children who would benefit from your help? How might this bless you as well?

Bibliography:
Lane, Timothy S., and Paul David Tripp. Relationships: a Mess Worth Making. New Growth Press, 2006.
Easley, Kendell H., and Christopher W. Morgan. The Community of Jesus: a Theology of the Church. B & H Academic, 2013.
Halter, Hugh, and Matt Smay. The Tangible Kingdom: Creating Incarnational Community. Jossey-Bass, 2008.

 

God’s Presence, Provision & Community

God’s Presence, Provision & Community

Your perception affects your reality in ways you might not realize. Wouldn’t your community be better off if you could put your reality in focus? 

Sermon Helps

When I look at a tree, most of what I “see” I do not see at all. I see a root system beneath the surface, sending tendrils through the soil sucking up nutrients out of the loam. I see the light pouring energy into the leaves. I see the fruit that will appear in a few months. I stare and stare and see the bare branches austere in next winter’s snow and wind. I see all that, I really do—I am not making it up. But I could not photograph it. I see it by means of imagination. If my imagination is stunted or inactive, I will only see what I can use, or something that is in my way. – Eugene Peterson

Ezekiel 36:26 (NIV) I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV) Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

2 Peter 1:4 (NIV) Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

John 14:15–20 (NIV) 15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.

As a result of this promised spirit, the spirit of Jesus himself, Christians now, remarkable though it may seem, are in a better situation even than the followers of Jesus during his lifetime. They were sometimes able to do remarkable things even then; Jesus gave them the power, in the other gospel accounts, to perform healings like his own (e.g. Luke 9:1–6; 10:17). But mostly they were following him in some perplexity, and when he wasn’t there they couldn’t do very much (e.g. Mark 8:18, 28–29). But now, by the spirit, they will be able to do all kinds of things. When Jesus ‘goes to the father’—in other words, when he defeats the power of death through his own death and resurrection—then all sorts of new possibilities will be opened in front of them. The ‘works’ he has been doing, as he says again and again, are the evidence that the father is at work in him. Now he says that the disciples will do even greater works than these! – N.T. Wright

Jesus describes his presence in terms of a family relationship when he says he will not leave us as orphans. God is present. [We] don’t have to resort to speaking words that hurt; [we] can speak words that heal. [We] don’t have to succumb to disappointment, bitterness, and vengeance; they can choose to be patient, kind, forgiving, and compassionate. [We] can encourage rather than condemn. [We] can bear each other’s burdens and serve each other with joy. The promises of new potential don’t have to be seen through jaded eyes; they can be received in a way that fosters new, heartfelt hope and obedience, even if things don’t get better right away. Why? Because our imagination now sees not simply a restored ommunity, but a deeper, moment-by-moment personal relationship with God. This is why we have been created and redeemed. The stakes are high: the reality our imagination embraces is the reality we will live by. If we are not captured by the truth of living in a deeply personal relationship with God, we will shrink our expectations and dreams down to the size of our own selfish wants, desires, and strategies. This is what has happened to community too often. When we don’t see our identity in Christ or his presence and provision for us, we wind up envisioning a God too busy to care about us. Prayer becomes little more than a spiritual 911 call. To get God’s attention, we “make the call” so that God will wake up, see our needs, act on our behalf, and provide rescue. But once he shows up and does what we think he should, we assume that he then retreats to take care of other pressing matters until we call again. – Tripp/Lane

Bibliography:
Lane, Timothy S., and Paul David Tripp. Relationships: a Mess Worth Making. New Growth Press, 2006.
Easley, Kendell H., and Christopher W. Morgan. The Community of Jesus: a Theology of the Church. B & H Academic, 2013.
Halter, Hugh, and Matt Smay. The Tangible Kingdom: Creating Incarnational Community. Jossey-Bass, 2008.

 

Time, Money & Community

Time, Money & Community

There’$ $omething forgotten in mo$t di$cu$$ion$ about community… (that $t Paul remember$)

Sermon Helps

Ephesians 4:25–32 (NIV) 25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need. 29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

2 Corinthians 8:1–9 (NIV) 1 And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. 5 And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. 6 So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. 7 But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving. 8 I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.

Ephesians 5:15–21 (NIV) 15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

How you use time and money in your human relationships says much about your relationship with God. Because God is committed to glorifying himself, he sent his Son to redeem his creation. And at the top of the list of what he intends to redeem are people. He lavishes his resources on us so that we might participate in his kingdom work and dwell with him forever when he brings it to completion. Are your priorities in line with God’s? Do you invest in the things he does? Do other people share in God’s blessings to you, or do you hoard them all for yourself? We are called to love God and use his blessings to love others. But sadly, we often use other people to get the things we love.
When I got married, I did what every other groom does. I repeated vows to my wife that said I would love her sacrificially all the days of my life. Who was I kidding? I look back and see how little I understood what I promised. What I was really thinking, to a large degree, was, This is great! I love me and now you are going to love me! My love was very shallow. It only took a few days of marriage to figure that out! God had plans to use my wife and children to show me just how shallow my love was and to help it deepen as I saw how much I needed to grow. Seeing this caused me to depend on God and his grace all the more. There is not a day that passes that I don’t struggle with the way I use my time and money with my family. And these are people I say I love! I struggle to hold my time loosely when I don’t want to be disturbed. I find myself flinching when one of my children asks me for a few dollars to go out with friends. These daily reminders reveal a heart still in need of a major overhaul. The only thing capable of penetrating the hardness of my heart is the gracious redemption that Father, Son, and Spirit have accomplished on my behalf. If my heart is going to be changed, it has to remain immersed in that grace. – Tripp/Lane

Bibliography:
Lane, Timothy S., and Paul David Tripp. Relationships: a Mess Worth Making. New Growth Press, 2006.
Easley, Kendell H., and Christopher W. Morgan. The Community of Jesus: a Theology of the Church. B & H Academic, 2013.

 

Forgiveness & Community – Matthew 18:21-35

Forgiveness & Community – Matthew 18:21-35

Forgiveness might mend community, but it’s really hard and comes at a high cost. Jesus talks about the high price and what just might motivate Christians to forgive. 

Sermon Notes

Every time you accuse someone else, you accuse yourself. Every time you forgive someone else, though, you pass on a drop of water out of the bucketful that God has already given you. From God’s point of view, the distance between being ordinarily sinful (what we all are) and extremely sinful (what the people we don’t like seem to be) is like the distance between London and Paris seen from the point of view of the sun. And so on. We can all relate to that. The key thing… is not that one should therefore swallow all resentment and ‘forgive and forget’ as though nothing had happened. The key thing is that one should never, ever give up making forgiveness and reconciliation one’s goal. If confrontation has to happen, as it often does, it must always be with forgiveness in mind, never revenge. – N.T. Wright

The king in the parable is none other than King Jesus. He came to absorb the cost of your sin—a sin debt that makes millions of dollars look like chump change. Jesus came and shed his blood for you. The Father emptied heaven of its greatest treasure so that you could be forgiven. Read 1 Peter 1:1-9:

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, 2 who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance. 3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Read this passage again. Now go back and read it five more times! Read it every morning when you get up this week. Read it every night before you go to bed. Read it and think about yourself and the specific people you need to forgive or ask forgiveness from. This is exactly what Jesus wants you to do as he tells the parable in Matthew 18. He wants you to put yourself in the place of the unmerciful servant so that you avoid the terrible error he makes. This parable is a loving warning.
As you ponder your true identity in Christ, do you recognize how wealthy you are? This is the only foundation for the kind of radical forgiveness Jesus calls you to practice. Only by grace can you do this. You can’t read and reread 1 Peter 1 and Matthew 18 and still want to rip someone apart. If you are a beneficiary of God’s costly grace, you will practice costly grace with others… A Turkish officer raided and looted an Armenian home. He killed the aged parents and gave the daughters to the soldiers, keeping the eldest daughter for himself. Some time later she escaped and trained as a nurse. As time passed, she found herself nursing in a ward of Turkish officers. One night, by the light of a lantern, she saw the face of this officer. He was so gravely ill that without exceptional nursing he would die. The days passed, and he recovered. One day, the doctor stood by the bed with her and said to him, “But for her devotion to you, you would be dead.” He looked at her and said, “We have met before, haven’t we?” “Yes,” she said, “we have met before.” “Why didn’t you kill me?” he asked. She replied, “I am a follower of him who said ‘Love your enemies.’” By God’s amazing grace, may we imitate this sister in Christ in our lives and relationships.
-Timothy Lane/Paul David Tripp

Community & Conflict – James 4

Community & Conflict – James 4

What would God say to God-followers trapped in destructive conflicts? What’s the real problem behind it all and what could possible make it better? 

Outline (From Lane/Tripp)

Question 1: Why do we fight with one another?
James 4:1–3 (NIV) 1 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

Question 2: What has become more important to me than my relationship with God?
James 4:4 (NIV) 4 You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.

Question 3: What does God do with people who forsake him for something else?
James 4:5–6 (NIV) 5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? 6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”

Question 4: Once we are rescued, what should we do?
James 4:7–10 (NIV) 7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

After the many times that James has called his readers “brothers” (12; 2:1, 14; 3:1, 10, 12) or even “my dear brothers” (1:16, 19; 2:5), his address you adulterous people really catches our attention… A literal reading would suggest that James is accusing his female readers of engaging in adulterous sexual activity. The clue to the feminine form and to the accusation that James is making here is found in the OT, especially the prophetic books.19 The prophets frequently compare the relationship between Yahweh and his people to a marriage relationship. See, for instance, Isa. 54:5-6: “’For your Maker is your husband – the LORD Almighty is his name – the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth. The LORD will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit – a wife who married young, only to be rejected,’ says your God.” As this text suggests, the Lord is consistently portrayed as the husband and Israel as the wife in this imagery. Accordingly, therefore, when Israel’s relationship with the Lord is threatened by her idolatry, she can be accused of committing adultery; see Jer. 3:20: “’But like a woman unfaithful to her husband, so you have been unfaithful to me, 0 house of Israel,’ declares the LORD” (see also Isa. 57:3; Ezek. 16:38; 23:45). But it is in Hosea that this imagery reaches its pinnacle. The Lord commands Hosea to marry a prostitute so that her unfaithfulness might poignantly and painfully reveal the tragic dalliance of Israel with foreign gods. Israel, God claims, has “been unfaithful,” going after other lovers, Baal and other false gods (Hos. 2:5-7). This marital imagery for the covenant relationship between God and Israel is picked up by Jesus, who called those who rejected him “a wicked and adulterous generation” (Matt. 12:39; 16:4). James, following this tradition, uses “adulteresses” to label his readers as unfaithful people of God. By seeking friendship with the world, they are, in effect, committing spiritual adultery. As Johnson points out, the ancient view of friendship sheds light on the seriousness of the charge that James is making here. We speak rather casually of “friends” in our day, but in the Hellenistic world friendship “involved ‘sharing all things’ in a unity both spiritual and physical.” – Douglas Moo

Bibliography:
Lane, Timothy S., and Paul David Tripp. Relationships: a Mess Worth Making. New Growth Press, 2006.