Becoming His Awesome Church and Christian (Matt 28)
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Becoming His Awesome Church and Christian
A challenge for 2009 and some of the distinctives of FBC
The key was already in your pocket–you had it all the time. So many Christians and churches are just like that, having all the heavenly resources already but not enjoying them.
As we face 2009 we want to enjoy what Christ has for us–not financial resources, not new things, not new programs, but His person and blessings in order to become His awesome church. So today we have three major goals.
#1 To apply these truths from the Word of God to help us become His awesome church and His awesome Christian
#2 To learn some of the distinctives of our church, to help you know who we are as a church, which doesn’t make us better than other churches, but helps you know our uniqueness–the kind of family you’re a part of
#3 Set some spiritual heart-change targets to aim at for 2009–here are some things to shoot for, some truths to be passionate about.
As we begin this year let me ask you–what are you aiming for in ‘09? Never forget, if you aim at nothing you hit it every time. Let me challenge you this morning–decide right now to make 2009 a great year of spiritual growth. Set your mind right now for God to make internal heart change. Make ‘09 a great year for His glory with your life and ours as a church.
You can be His awesome Christian and we can be His awesome church–and to help you do that I have listed today’s principles in an acrostic—A W E S O M E—“awesome” to make it easy to remember. We will look at it again next year to see how you grew. But take your outline and look at point #1.
#1 A is Authority of the Word
What does that mean? We do what the Bible says. Even as Ezra studied the Bible, he tells us how he did it in Ezra 7:10, “For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord, and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel.” He studied it, first to apply it to himself, to live it, and only after that to teach it to others.
Jesus esteemed those who did His Word–in fact our Lord claims that He considers those who obey His Word as closer than his own mother and brothers in Luke 8:21, “But He answered and said to them, ‘My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.’” Jesus challenged all those who heard the Word and didn’t obey it in Luke 6:46, ”Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”
And James confirmed that those who don’t do the Word as self-deceived in James 1:22, “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” The Bible is our authority–it is not merely to be learned, it is to be obeyed, followed and lived out.
We follow the Scripture like it is the actual words coming from Christ’s mouth, as if He was physically standing next to us and sharing with us what we should be doing every moment of every single day. Since that is what the Bible is–the very words of God. The Bible supersedes our own thinking, opinions, feelings, doctrine, ideas, tradition and all programs.
FBC is not committed to whatever works. Most churches today are committed to whatever helps them grow big–things like a facility, lots of staff pastors, big events, or popular programs. At FBC we are committed to doing what God says to do in His Word, even when it seems crazy. Since Christ is the functional head of our church, we do what He says in His Word no matter what–an FBC distinctive. Listen to our doctrinal position.
D-1 We hold the Bible over doctrine
We are reformed–mainly
We are Calvinistic–but not hyper
We are dispensational–sort of
We are pre-millennial–but not hostile
We are Baptistic, history loving, future looking but grounded in today
What does all that mean? The Bible is a higher authority than our doctrine. Now we love sound healthy doctrine drawn from the Scripture alone that makes us more like Christ. But we follow the Scripture over any doctrine, present or historical.
D-2 We seek to follow the Bible in every area of our lives
Matthew 28:19 to 20 says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” The great commission calls us to bring every area of our lives under the authority of the Word–we are to obey everything that Christ has commanded us. The mature believer and mature church is the one that seeks to follow the Scripture in every single area of their life, from driving, talking, eating, marriage, parenting, working, serving, giving, getting dressed, watching TV, what you say, what you do with your time, money—everything.
So here is your goal/challenge this year–honestly examine your life, and that area of your life that the Spirit of God brings to mind that is not fully under the Word of God, bring it under God’s Word. Whether a fear, an idol, a desire–commit to see the Word lived out in an area of your life that has not been according to the Scripture. As the Holy Spirit brings it to mind, write it down on your outline and make it a heart goal to pray about this year. To be His awesome Christian and His awesome church, we must be committed to . . .
#2 W is Worship
There is a lot of worship today–people worship their work, their spouse, kids, material gain, wealth, body, brains, rebellion, some item, a hobby, a sport, a mission, a ministry. But God calls us to worship Him. As a Christian and as a church, our hottest passion is to worship Christ. We want our affections for Christ to be consuming in every way.
John 4:23 says God actually seeks true worshippers. As Jesus talks to the woman at the well He says to her, “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.” But what is worship? Is it when Jesus sort of appears miraculously? Worship is not singing songs on Sunday, or a time of prayer or a special moment of emotion.
Romans 12:1 describes worship perfectly, “I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies [all of you] a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” Worship is the joyous, willing and complete offering of ourselves to Christ. It is what we do when we gather together on Sunday, but for His church and to His Christian it is also what we do 24/7.
Remember 1 Corinthians 10:31, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” This is why God seeks true worshipers. The three main Greek words translated into the English word worship in the New Testament actually mean to serve, to reverence, and to bow down–but all of them mean all of you—for all of Him. You serve Him not yourself, you reverence Him not yourself or others, and you bow down and follow Him not anyone else.
D-1 One of our distinctions as a church is our belief that all of us and each of us at FBC recognize we are deeply flawed sinners and in desperate need of daily amazing grace. People who have it all together, people with all the answers, people who don’t need the Lord or other Christians are not welcome here. Only those in daily desperate need of Christ, who need grace and mercy every single day are the ones who truly worship.
So a goal for this year personally is to give up, or move away from some idol you worship–whatever the Spirit of God brings to mind. Don’t say food, but ask the Lord to help you deal with the heart of an eating problem. Don’t focus on the behavior, but focus on the idol in your heart. Our own Erick Cobb said it this way—“I want God to change my heart so I am the kind of person who naturally _______ instead of the kind of person who naturally _________.”
For example, his heart goal for last year was: “I want God to change my heart so I am the kind of person who naturally turns to prayer when faced with stressful circumstances instead of being the kind of person who naturally allows myself to become anxious.” The goal is something related to the heart, not just behavior. It is easy to get behavior to change when we are driven by self-righteousness or the fear of man, instead of love for God and joy in the Gospel. You want to go after the heart issue that is underneath your behavior.
It could be that your speech is too harsh, you are driving too fast, your service to others is not regular, your sacrifice for others is non-existent, your witness at work is not joyful, you are wasting time in some activity. Determine what is motivating your heart that leads to that behavior and ask the Lord to begin to carve it out of your life this year.
A goal corporately is to give yourself fully to our Sunday gatherings–go to bed early enough to come to church, be on time, sing your heart out, even if it’s a joyful noise. Give sacrificially with hilarious joy, remember Christ with true affection, respond to the Word with a dependent obedience–make every single week count this year. To be His awesome Christian and His awesome church, let’s commit ourselves to . . .
#3 E is Excellence
Psalm 150:2 tells us God is excellent. To glorify God, we are to be excellent as well. But what is excellent? Two godly people can listen to the same piece of music and one would say it’s excellent, the other might say it’s slop from an orchestra of seizure sufferers. So how can you tell what is truly excellent?
Paul prays in Colossians 1:10, “So that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” To live excellent is to live worthy of Christ, to do our best, to work hard and actually perform for Christ.
A pianist performing before a packed audience played his heart out, and when he was done the crowd jumped to their feet in thunderous applause. Everyone was cheering except for one man in the front row who was not standing nor clapping. His manager was elated about the audience response, but the pianist did not rejoice, but in fact was totally dejected. The manager said, “They love you, how can you let one guy affect you so much?”
The pianist said, “He is my piano teacher.” He was not performing for the crowd, but for one man–his teacher.
And that is the way it is for the Church, and for the Christian–what we do, we do for an audience of one, to please Christ. That is how we demonstrate excellence.
This is why the old missionary barrel used to offend me so much. Years ago, to minister to missionaries on the field, people would collect their old clothes, discarded items, and junk–put it all in barrels to ship overseas for the missionaries. Christians gave their leftovers to the missionaries. Why did this offend me? I always thought we should be giving our best to Christ and His work, especially missionaries.
Excellence is giving our best to Christ. I am not talking about extravagance, but on the flipside giving our leftovers, doing the minimum, is not excellence. When you have a little extra, you give a $20 bill on Sunday. When you don’t have friends in town, you come to church. When you have a little extra time, you serve in ministry. That is not excellent–that is not worthy of Christ. True Christians have a heart that wants to give their best to Christ–to be committed to excellence. It is to give our first to Christ, not our leftovers, nor surplus, or merely our convenience. What would Christ say about your giving, serving, worshipping?
D-1 At FBC, we seek to do our best with what we have in all we do. Rented facilities–we are seeking to do the best with what we have, and because we are mobile we seek to have an excellent website that enables us to function more like a family, providing communication, interaction, resources, curriculum, sermons and more for our family.
D-2 Excellence is more than just doing, it is a heart passion. At FBC, we disdain Phariseeism, legalism and treating the church like a business. We believe the Lord expects dependent obedience from the heart to the Scripture as God has written it. We expect our people to be faithful to their spouses, to be honest with their money and faithfully attend church, which are all clear commands. But we disdain extra-Biblical rules, self-righteous standards, or living by secular principles in order to somehow try to please God.
Choose an area in your life where you’re offering Christ second best, sloppy leftovers, (being on time, last minute preparation for teaching, a weak devotional life, half-hearted singing in worship, hit-and-miss parenting) and from a heart passion that wants to do your best for Christ say to the Lord, “Please make this area of my walk with you excellent—my best.” Allow the Spirit to bring an area to mind and write it down.
So the A-uthority of the Word of God, W-orship, E-xcellence and to be His awesome Christian and become His awesome church let’s commit to . . .
#4 S is Service
The greatest among you shall be your servant. Jesus did not come to be served but to serve and give His life. We are commanded to serve one another in Galatians 5:13b, “through love serve one another.” Literally we’re commanded to slave for one another–how about that, we slave for each other.
God is so committed to Christians serving each other, He actually created us, then redeemed us with a special giftedness intended to cause us to want to serve each other even more. First Peter 4:10 to 11 says, “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 11 Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God; whoever serves, let him do so as by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
D-1 FBC is committed to be a church of all servants–everyone who is a part of this church is a minister and has a ministry. If you’re saved, whether you are 7 or 70, you are to be serving this body in some manner–the Bible is not age-graded, all the redeemed are expected to function as ministers.
D-2 FBC’s leadership is to be known for their service. Elders, deacons, department heads all serve individually and sometimes as a team–no one is above being a servant. Even on the eldership, each elder has different gifts and we defer to those gifts. If someone is gifted to lead, then we let them lead–if someone is gifted to exhort, we let them function in their giftedness and defer to their Christ-like strength. In that way we see more of Christ and less of us.
In your ministry, seek to find how people are gifted and let those gifts shine. We try to stay away from titles or position, and seek to honor Christ and allow His giftings to rule. We don’t even have a senior pastor here. I know some of you thought I was the senior pastor–I am not. I am the teaching pastor–I have gifts in preaching, training and leading. Jesus Christ is our Great Shepherd, and He alone is our senior pastor. He’s the head of our church, and we want Him to lead through the gifts he’s given to our church.
Many of you are not gifted with up-front gifts–you are not a mouth or an eye, but you are a liver or a lung. You are hidden and you may appear to be weaker, but you are actually more necessary. First Corinthians 12:22, “On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary.” We can live without an eye or nose–that which you see all the time. But we can’t live without a liver or lungs–we need the hidden (not up-front) gifts at our church. We believe every gift is valuable, important and many of the behind-the-scenes gifts are even more important to the health of our church.
This year choose to serve, or continue to serve, but as you do ask people about your service–where do they see Christ most manifest Himself through your life. Find out how Christ uses you. It’s people who confirm how you’re gifted. If you think you’re a leader, just look behind you–people will be following. If you think you are a teacher but everyone falls asleep while you teach, you probably aren’t. If you think you are gifted to give, but you have three irons at home, two of them as back-ups in case the one breaks, giving is not your gift. If you think you are merciful, but the people you visit in the hospital want to die after you’ve gone you are not merciful.
People will confirm your giftedness, listen to them. God has some work that only you can do. Ephesians 2:10, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Christ has some good works He has designed before the foundation of the world that you should live out–serve through your giftedness. Let’s be a church of 700 ministers. To be His awesome Christian and become His awesome church, let’s commit to . . .
#5 O is Outreach
In our doctrinal circles, there are some really funky views on evangelism. We’ve actually had people who were critical of giving scholarships to non-Christian students for camp to hear the Gospel. They didn’t want those non-Christian kids near our kids–wow. The Bible is not age-graded–once a child truly comes to Christ he or she is to be about the process of showing and sharing the Gospel in some manner to this lost world. I wonder, do you really have God’s heart on evangelism?
The two errant extremes on evangelism are clear–one extreme is you are responsible to share the Gospel with the lost or those lost people will go to hell if you don’t share the Gospel clearly. Or the second extreme is simply that God is responsible to save lost people and you don’t have anything to do with it. The truth actually includes parts of both extreme views and it is this. You are responsible to show and share the Gospel and God is responsible to cause some to respond and be saved.
Brothers and sisters at FBC, the sovereignty of God does not mean God does not have a passionate heart for the lost. In the Old Testament, the psalmist prayed for the nation of Israel to be blessed so that His salvation would be known among the nations in Psalm 67:1 to 2, “God be gracious to us and bless us, and cause His face to shine upon us 2 That Thy way may be known on the earth, Thy salvation among all nations.”
Even God’s call to Abraham in Genesis 12 contained the idea of blessing Israel so they might be a blessing to the nations. God intended His people to dispense the knowledge which leads to faith. Christ called his disciples to be fishers of men. Christ came to seek and to save that which is lost. Christ commissioned us to go and make disciples. And Christ called the Church in Acts 1:8, “and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”
The point is this–if your theology allows you to ignore, be critical of, depreciate, undervalue, or excuse your proclamation of the Gospel–if your understanding of outreach keeps you from sharing, or excuses you from showing or sharing the Gospel–then it is a wrong theology, it is heresy, it is error. We are not merely here to equip the saints and teach sound doctrine. We are also here to show Christ and share the Gospel–to reach out.
D-1 of FBC is we are committed to evangelism. Locally life-on-life, the students sitting next to you in each class, the men or women of your workplace, the neighbors on your block and your unsaved family–proclaim the gospel to them, glorify God by showing Christ through us and believing in the power of the Gospel alone to save and transform the worst sinners. You glorify God by sharing the Gospel–God glorifies Himself by saving some.
We are also committed to be establishing other churches–planting other churches in our region, in the neediest areas–Lake Elsinore, San Marcos, and yes, the neediest place—Hemet. Internationally to support our missionaries to be life-on-life, showing and sharing the Gospel and planting churches worldwide. This is what the Spirit of God did in the book of Acts and nothing has changed today.
Write out a list of people to share the Gospel with–the students who surround you in school, four desks in every class. Adults who you work with, neighbors around you, write their names down, put the list up and pray. Pray God would save them, pray you would share with them, pray you would show them Christ in such a way as to make Christ attractive. And daily pray God would open up opportunities for you to share Christ that you never thought possible–be a good ambassador. And weekly pray for our missionaries, the Thomases and Hurleys.
A-uthority of the Word of God, W-orship, E-xcellence, S-ervice, O-utreach—and to be His awesome Christian and become His awesome church, let’s commit to . . .
#6 M is Maturity
There are two types of people in this room–there are springers and there are crawlers. Springers are those who get up in the morning saying, “Good morning, Lord,” and crawlers are those who get up in the morning and say, “Good lord, it’s morning!” Both types are in our church. Springers are happy, clapper, shouters, amen’ers, sanguine hyper-types. Crawlers are sober, calm, pensive, silent, melancholy, mellow-types. But both kinds are in the church, and both springers and crawlers have the same goal–both aim at the same target. What is it? To become more like Christ.
Outreach reminds us we want everyone to turn to Christ. Maturity reminds us we want everyone to become like Christ. Colossians 2:6 reminds us, “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.” And Romans 8:29 tell us the Holy Spirit’s goal in redeeming us, “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son.”
God is in the process of making us more like His Son. Maturity is not Bible knowledge or ministry experience–that can help. Maturity is not strong giftedness or expressing verbal conviction. Maturity is speaking, thinking, acting, serving and prioritizing like Christ.
D-1 of FBC is a commitment to the priorities that make us like Christ. A lot of churches make the purpose of the Church so simple they miss their calling to display the many qualities of Christ. As a church we know the Christian life and the Church are not simple, but we seek to pursue the most important commands God has given us in His Word so we don’t miss the obvious. And we all will need to be committed to these things if we are going to even come close to putting Christ on display as a church or a Christian.
Because it is complex and principle-driven, we need help to know what to keep focused on, so at FBC we have 4 G’s and 6 E’s. In everything, we do all for God’s Glory–that is all like Christ. And to be like Him we are to be committed to the Great commandment, to love God and love others–otherwise we are just a loud noise. We are committed to the Great commission, to make disciples by going, baptizing and teaching all to obey all that Christ has commanded. And we recognize like the Apostle Paul that to be committed to that which is of first importance, we must be committed to the Gospel—four G’s.
How do we accomplish all this? By 6 E’s–Exalting the Lord, Equipping the saints, Evangelizing the Lost, Establishing other churches, Empathy toward the hurting and needy, and Encouragement of the saints through serving and one anothers.
One area where you are not like Christ, and want to be more like Christ–make one of the G’s or E’s a focus for this year. If your heart is harsh, maybe you should repent of your anger and focus on Empathy or the Great commandment to love God. If you cry when you see a puppy, then find out what makes you so emotional and ask the Lord to help you live by truth, grow deep through Equipping the saints or discipleship. Pick a priority that will cause you to become more like Jesus Christ in every way. Finally to be His awesome Christian and become His awesome church, let’s commit ourselves to . . .
#7 E is ETERNITY
Colossians 3:2 says, “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.” How many are truly daily setting their minds on things above? When life is easy we set our minds on things below, raising our kids, making our paycheck, loving our spouse. When things get really hard we naturally find it easier to set our minds on things above. But awesome churches and awesome Christians look forward to heaven every single day. Our giving is to be laying up treasure in heaven. Our serving comes with rewards in heaven.
This is shocking, hang onto your seats, but there are no rewards given for idleness and indifference. There are no rewards given for things you intended to do when the kids get older. There are no rewards given for what your parents, friends, leaders or pastors do. Rewards are only for your deeds done for His glory by His Spirit. Church buildings are not eternal, new equipment is not eternal, only God’s Word and people are eternal.
All people will spend eternity in heaven or hell, but all will exist eternally–to be heavenly-minded means we invest God’s Word into people. Only what is done in the Spirit is eternal–all things done in the flesh, in your own strength, will burn up. Only what is done in faith is eternal–not fear, not guilt, but faith. We are heavenly people who exist on earth for now, but this is not our home. All Christians have a home they have not yet seen. So stop only living by sight and start living by faith every day.
Live each day with eternity in mind, to make each purchase with eternity in mind, to invest our time and money with eternity in mind, to develop relationships so eternity can be discussed, to keep our eyes focused on our Redeemer who we will be with for eternity. Do you have some goals–things to shoot for, aim at, run after? Let’s run our race to win, let’s long to hear, “Well done good and faithful servant.” Let’s keep our eyes on our Savior, let’s stop being bogged down with those things that are not eternal, let’s live out those truths that are most important, let’s pursue that which shows Him to be awesome in our lives and awesome in His church. How?
#1 Focus inside and outside the church
Start ministering your gift in the church and sharing the Gospel outside in the world.
#2 Remember none of this is yours
This is not your church, it is His. It is not your family to do with what you please, it is His family. Those things you have are not yours, they’re His–you’re a steward. It is not your life, it is His life to use the way He designed. It is not your time, it is His time to be used the way He commands. Stop wasting your life, and don’t even think about wasting this church–it is for Him. And as long as He gives us life we are going to make it all count for Him, by having it all bring Him glory.
#3 Ask the Lord to change your heart
Don’t just alter your behavior, ask the Lord to change you from the inside out, to deal with root issues, to carve out deep fears and destroy well-entrenched idols.
#4 Cry out to the Lord to transform you
Being a Christian is not a religion, but regeneration. The true Jesus is not merely a Savior–He is always your Lord. Real believers follow Christ. If you have not been made new, born again, forgiven, loved, given hope, found peace, then cry out to Jesus Christ to save you.