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Tag: love

Worship in Ekklesia

Well, last Sunday I kinda left you hanging…  For the past few weeks, we’ve been talking about the purpose of the church – or the purpose of God’s Ekklesia – the gathering of God’s family. And by last Sunday, we had already talked about the main over-arching purpose of the church – which is to bring glory to God. In everything we say or do, we aim to display and declare God’s goodness to the world around us.

But then we narrowed our focus just a little bit and began to discuss the specific tasks of the local church. Bringing glory to God is the ultimate aim for the church as a whole – but what is God’s purpose in establishing local congregations? How are we to bring glory to God together as a community in ways that we simply couldn’t on our own?

And so last week, we divided these tasks of the church into three main categories. They were: 

  • To bring glory to God through worshipping Him together.
  • To bring glory to God by edifying His people.
  • To bring glory to God by evangelizing the world.

And so we started last week by digging into what it means to worship God – and that’s where I kinda left you hanging! We talked primarily about what the word ‘worship’ means – but we didn’t really dig into what that looks like as one of the primary tasks of the local church. But that’s where I want to go today.

So to do that, let me first refresh your memory as to what worship is all about – because today’s message really does build on what we talked about last week.

You’ll remember that last Sunday we looked at the old english word “weorthscipe” – which basically means to ‘declare the worth of’ something. And it’s from this old word ‘weorthscipe’ that we get our modern word ‘worship’.

When we worship something, we are declaring it’s worth or its worthiness. But worship isn’t simply about the words we say or the songs we sing in church. Worship is much more about the daily decisions we make and the priorities we have in life. It’s about showing how we esteem and value God (or anything else for that matter) by the choices we make every day.

Because whatever it is that is our highest priority, whatever it is that we value above all else, whatever it is that is our greatest consideration in every decision – that is what we worship.

It’s like what Jesus said in Matthew 6:21… 

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21 NIV

Whatever it is that we hold most dearly, whatever it is that we choose above all else – that’s what we treasure – that’s what we worship in our hearts.

We don’t have to sing any particular songs. We don’t have to physically bow down. We don’t have to bring any offerings or sacrifices. We can do those things, but they only have meaning if they are outward reflections of what’s already going on inside in our hearts. We need to worship God in spirit and in truth, like Jesus said in John 4:23. He says…

23 But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. 24 For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.” John 4:23-24

That’s why the object of our worship isn’t necessarily revealed by what songs we sing on Sunday morning. The object of our worship is revealed by our daily decisions and choices. It’s those choices that truly reveal what we value in our hearts – what we worship.

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Living In Love

Today we are getting back into the book of 1 Peter. We took a bit of a break from Peter last week, as Mike brought us a message from the book of John, but today we’re getting back at it and my goal for today is to finish up this first chapter so that we can start chapter 2 next week. But in case you’ve missed the last couple messages from Peter, let me give you just a quick recap.

In this letter, Peter is writing to Christians who were really going through some really difficult times. At that time and in that part of the world, being a Christian was really not a popular thing. There were social consequences, (if not physical consequences) for pledging allegiance to King Jesus.

And we don’t know specifically what kind of trials these folks were going through, but we do know that it’s not too long after writing this letter that Peter himself is put to death for his faith. So it’s not hard to imagine some of the challenges and struggles some of these Christians might have been experiencing.

And so Peter is writing this letter with two purposes in mind. First of all, He writes to encourage those Christians as they experience these hardships and difficulties. He reminds them of the hope and the joy they have in Jesus. Peter talks about the priceless inheritance that they have to look forward to – and how they are dearly loved by God – chosen by Him to receive endless joy in his presence forever. And so that’s how Peter starts off this letter – with that encouragement.

But his second purpose for this letter is to instruct them on how live in this world until they receive their promised salvation in full. Peter mentions frequently how they are exiles or foreigners or temporary residents – and perhaps some of Peter’s original audience were literally exiled from their homeland because of persecution, but certainly every Christian both then and today – no matter where we are in the world – we understand that this world is not our home. We are citizens of heaven – and thus we are all exiles and foreigners.

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The Value of Doctrine

Last week we began part two of our Visual Theology message series. You’ll recall that there are four main sections that we want to look at – four reasons why we study theology. 

#1. We want to grow close to Christ, 

#2. we want to understand the work of Christ, 

#3. we want to become like Christ, and 

#4. we want to live for Christ.

Those four things really summarize the four basic goals of the Christian life!

So last week we began looking at “Understanding the work of Christ” and we started with a super-condensed summary of everything that God has been doing since time began. We saw how all of history is part of God’s unfolding drama.  It’s like God is the ultimate writer and director, the world is the stage, and all of mankind are the actors. 

And we divided up this drama into four main acts.

  • Act 1 is Creation where God created the world and made everything good. 
  • Act 2 is the Fall where mankind chose to rebel against God and thus introduced sin and its consequences into the world. 
  • Act 3 is Redemption where God sent his Son Jesus to save us from our sin and it’s terrible consequences.
  • Act 4 is New Creation where God will finally eliminate sin and will once again make everything right.

And we discovered that we are currently living in Act 3 – where everyone of us has the opportunity to respond to God’s gracious offer of redemption which was made possible for us by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Now is the time to make that decision. Now is the time to invite others to make that decision. Because at any moment, we could move into Act 4 when Christ returns to judge and eliminate sin and to restore His good creation for all who have been redeemed.

So last week really was a really big picture of what God is doing in the world.

Now today we’re going to shift our focus just a little bit. This morning, I want to spend some time talking about doctrine.

Now the word ‘doctrine’ is just about as intimidating as the word ‘theology’ – but it isn’t as scary as you might think. Doctrine really just means ‘teachings’. In the context of the church, it simply refers to what we believe and teach about God, about the Bible, about salvation, about ourselves, about the church, and all that stuff.

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Seeing God’s Love in His Wrath

Last week we spent some time looking at the lavish generosity of God! 

We began by trying to understand our own jealous tendencies – that feeling that all of us seem to have where, no matter how good we have it, if someone else has it better, we feel envious of them and sometimes even resentful.

We saw this quite clearly in Jesus’ parable of the vineyard owner. You’ll remember in the parable, a vineyard owner hires a whole bunch of different guys throughout the day to work in his vineyard – some work 12 hours, some work 6 hours, some only work 1 hour because they were hired so late in the day. But at the end of the day, the vineyard owner pays them all a full days wage!

Of course, for those who only worked 1 hour, this is an amazing blessing! This is incredible generosity! But those who worked all day, they’re not quite as excited about it. They think it’s rather unfair that the guys who only worked for one hour should be paid the exact same amount as those who worked hard all day long.

And they were probably right. It may not have been fair – but the story wasn’t about fairness – it was about the generosity and kindness of the vineyard owner.

The point of the parable was to illustrate God’s goodness and kindness to us. It was a reminder to us that God isn’t stingy or reluctant to give to us – but rather he is lavishly generous – giving us more than what is needed or expected. 

We saw that theme repeated in the writings of Paul as Paul explained how God loved us and chose to adopt us into his family before time even began – and that doing that gave Him great pleasure! God loves to love us!

David had the very same understanding of God – as we saw in the Psalm 23. David talks about how God is our good shepherd and He takes awesome care of us – providing for our needs, protecting us from evil, even preparing a feast for us in the midst of our enemies.

And then we ended last week’s message by sharing communion together – and we remembered Jesus’ ultimate act of goodness and generosity – giving up his own life and dying on the cross so that we could live.

So I trust that last week was a strong reminder of the generosity of God.

But I want to be careful that I don’t present a lope-sided view of God. That is, I don’t want to emphasis one aspect of his character and leave out some others.

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Contrasting a “Me-Centered” Society

If you’ve ever read through the Gospel of Matthew, you’ve probably noticed that Jesus talks a lot about the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven. I believe it’s about 55 times in Matthew – 126 times throughout all four Gospels – that Jesus talks about this kingdom. He tells all kinds of parables and gives all kinds of illustrations to help us understand what the Kingdom of God is like. And of course, Jesus isn’t talking about a kingdom with physical borders and castles and armies and things like that. The kingdom of God is a different kind of kingdom. In fact, when Jesus was on trial before the Roman governor, Pilate, Pilate asks him, “Are you a king?” And Jesus says in John 18:36…

36 Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.” John 18:36

Jesus was saying his kingdom was very different from the kingdom of Rome or any other kingdom that we might be familiar with. You see, unlike most kingdoms, the Kingdom of God is not centered around some physical location like a city or a castle or a country. The Kingdom of God is centered around God. And God of course is not limited by location – he’s omni-present. He’s present everywhere all the time. So God’s kingdom is not defined by a physical location, but it’s defined by the people who carry out the will of their king.

Two weeks ago we looked at the Lord’s prayer and there’s a key part of that prayer – one that you’re probably familiar with – which goes like this: 

“Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:10 KJV

We talked about how, when we pray that, we are inviting God’s will as King to be done on earth and in our lives and in our community – just as his will is being carried out in heaven. 

And so when Jesus is talking about the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven – he’s talking about the people who submit to and carry out the will of God in their lives.

And it makes sense that we should pray that prayer – “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” – We should be eager to carry out God’s will because we know that God’s will is good and pleasing and perfect. We read that from Romans 12:2 three weeks ago:

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2

Our will is often flawed. I can’t speak for you, but I know that my will is often selfish and sometimes I make decisions that hurt others or even myself. We are not perfect people and we do not make perfect decisions.

But God is perfect. And his will is perfect. It’s good and it’s pleasing. We don’t always understand it. We don’t always see the good immediately. But if God really is how the Bible describes Him – loving, just, faithful, and all those other things – then we can trust that his will is good and pleasing and perfect.

And I’ve certainly seen that to be true in my life. I’ve had a lot of regrets doing things my way, but I’ve never regretted doing things God’s way.

But that’s sure not to say that it’s been easy. Doing things God’s way often means doing things the exact opposite of what everyone else is doing. We’ve talked about how the Kingdom of God is very different from the Kingdom of this world. In fact, that’s probably why Jesus talked about it so often. If we are going to live in the kingdom of God, then we need to be prepared to live very differently – different from how we used to live – different from how the world around us lives.

And so that’s what we’ve been talking about for the last few weeks as we’ve been going through this message series – which we’ve titled “Kingdom Living”.

What is God’s will for us in how we should live? If Jesus is our King and His will is good and pleasing and perfect, it would seem to me that we would want his will to be done on earth and in our lives and in our community – just as it is in heaven. And if so, then what is that good and pleasing and perfect will for us? How does He want us to live? What does Kingdom Living look like?

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