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Defining the Church

It is certainly exciting to be able to hold our first Sunday morning worship service here in this building! We have been working towards this day for quite some time now and God has done some amazing things to get us to this point, and I know God will continue to amaze us with what He does through this church in the future.

And of course, when I say that “God will continue to do amazing things through this church” – I’m not actually talking about this building. You see, as wonderful as it is, this building is not actually the church.

And I know that might seem a bit confusing… the english language doesn’t really convey the idea of church very well.

I mean, really, when you think about it, we use the word ‘church’ in all kinds of different ways. For example, we might say.,..

    • “Let’s go out for lunch after church.”
    • “We need to fix the church roof.”
    • “We want to reach the unchurched families in our community.”
    • “Kids, please change out of your church clothes before you go play.”

And you can see why this can be confusing! Judging by those four statements, the church is an event, its a building, its a social status, and its a type of clothing.

I don’t think any of those convey the true definition of what the church really is. If you look at how the Bible talks about the church – it sounds like something very different. Let me show you a few examples:

      • “But while Peter was in prison, the church prayed very earnestly for him.” Acts 12:5
      • “Finally, the church decided to send Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem.” Acts 15:2
      • “After you have read this letter, pass it on to the church at Laodicea so they can read it, too.” Colossians 4:16
      • “Upon arriving in Antioch, they called the church together and reported everything God had done through them.” Acts 14:27

In these verses, church doesn’t sound like an event, a building, a social status, or a type of clothing. Look at the action verbs there – Praying, deciding, reading, meeting together – those all sound like things that people do. Building don’t pray and events don’t read. People do these things. 

Now of course, if we were Greek speaking Christians back when these verses were originally written, this wouldn’t even be an issue for us. We would understand that the english word ‘church’ used in these verses, or the word ‘ekklesia’ in greek, meant a gathering of people – or an assembly. It had the idea of people being called together for a public meeting. In the Greek language, that’s what an ‘ekkesia’ was – it wasn’t even anything to do with religion, it was just people called together for a public assembly.

So it seems from the language of the Bible that the church is simply people. 

If you’re my age or older, you might know the little poem – Here is the church, here is the steeple. Open the doors and here are the people. 

It’s a nice little poem, but I’m afraid it’s just not very accurate! The people are the church. The church is not a building. No steeple is required. The church is people.

And of course, the church isn’t just any people. The church isn’t simply anyone who shows up Sunday morning. The church is made up of specific people. So who are these specific people? Are you one of them? Let’s find out.

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The Sordid Tale of Abner

Two weeks ago we began our study of 2 Samuel – which is really just a continuation of our study of 1 Samuel which we concluded back in 2021! So in a lot of ways, we’re jumping right into the middle of the story – a story that many of us either missed the first half or have forgotten how it all started. But don’t worry – even if you don’t remember part one of this story, I’ll do my best to remind us of the key details as we go along.

For now, probably the key thing you need to know is that the nation Israel is currently in a bit of a state of civil war. In our passage today, Israel is still a very young nation – it’s had only one king thus far in it’s history and that king has just died. So now Israel is at a crucial conjuction. Who will lead Israel next?

One of the twelve tribes of Israel (Judah) has chosen David to be their new King – while all the rest of Israel has pledged their loyalties to King’s Saul’s son, Ishbosheth.

However, our passage today doesn’t really revolve around either David or Ishbosheth – but rather around their respective army commanders – Joab (the commander of David’s army) & Abner (the commander of Ishbosheth’s army).

Now before we read today’s passage, let me just re-read the last verses we looked at last week. This is kinda the setup for today’s story. 2 Samuel chapter 2, verses 8-11.

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David Waits for the Lord

So last Sunday we either started a new series or continued an old one – both statements are true – it just depends on how you think about it! We began working through the book of 2 Samuel – which is really just a continuation of 1 Samuel.

Back in 2020/2021, we worked our way through the book of 1 Samuel – looking at characters like Hannah, Eli, Samuel, Saul, eventually David. We concluded that book with the death of Saul after he was mortally wounded in a battle against the Philistines.

Now of course, years before Saul’s death, David had been chosen by God and anointed by Samuel to be the future king of Israel. That had happened when David was still a boy. But now David had grown up, had risen through the ranks of the armies of Israel (very successfully, I might add), and was now quite famous throughout the land of Israel. However, King Saul was so jealous of David’s success and popularity, that he had become determined to kill David. And so David and a band of his faithful men had been on the run from Saul that for the last several years – hiding out in Philistine territory – pretending to be allied with them so that Saul would leave them alone!

But now, the Philistines had just defeated Saul’s army at Mount Gilboa and both Saul and his three sons were killed. And that’s about where 1 Samuel concludes and 2 Samuel begins.

We read in 2 Samuel chapter 1 last Sunday how an Amalekite had brought David the news that Saul and his sons were killed in battle. This Amalekite even claimed to be the guy to put Saul out of his misery after he had been mortally wounded by the Philistines. Of course, we’re not entire sure if that was true, since 1 Samuel 31 says that Saul fell on his own sword and died – while this Amalekite claimed that he killed Saul after Saul asked him end his suffering and spare him from being captured by the Philistines.

But however it actually happened, this young Amalekite man tells David that he was the one to end the life of Saul and that he has now brought to David King Saul’s crown and royal armband.

And this is where we’re going to pick up the story today.

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David Learns of Saul’s Death

This morning I am excited to begin a new sermon series – although technically, we are not starting a new one as much as we are continuing an old one!

Way back in September of 2020 we began working our way through the book of 1 Samuel – studying the characters of Samuel, Saul, and David. Well, that series lasted just over a year and we concluded First Samuel just before Christmas of 2021.

Well, this morning, I’d like to continue working through that story – starting today in the book of Second Samuel. Now originally, 1 & 2 Samuel were written as one book. They were really only divided because, back when things were written on scrolls, they couldn’t fit the whole story on one scroll and so they cut it in half and thus we got first and second Samuel.

But that means, as we begin 2 Samuel today, we really are jumping right into the middle of the story. It’s like skipping the first half of a movie!

Now if you’re like me, you may not remember what you had for breakfast this morning – let alone what the preacher talked about 3 years ago, so I understand if your memory of some of the characters and events of 1 Samuel are a little fuzzy. What’s more, many of you weren’t even part of our church yet back in 2020 – so you might not have any idea about who these people are or what they did.

So before we jump into Second Samuel today, I want to give you a quick recap of 1 Samuel. And to do that, I want to show you the Bible Project’s overview video of 1 Samuel. This will give you at least the big picture of the story – and will roughly explain where we are in the story as we begin part 2 today. So we’ll start with that video and then we’ll get going into our passage this morning.

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A Fully-Mature, Fruit-Producing Believer

Throughout the month of July we have been looking at what it’s like to grow up as a Christian! We have used the different stages of our physical development to serve as a template to help us understand how we grow and change as followers of Christ. And I’ll quickly give you a brief summary of what we’ve looked at so far.

To use the Biblical phrase, we were all born ‘dead in our sin’. Even at the moment of our physical birth, we had no spiritual life apart from God. And so the very first step in every believer’s journey is to accept Christ as their Lord and Saviour. At that moment, when we put our trust in Jesus, we become ‘born again’ and become spiritually alive as spiritual infants. 

Now spiritual infants have a huge learning curve as they really know very little about following Christ, but through the guidance of older brothers and sisters in the family of God – and of course, with the guidance of the Bible, they begin to grow up. They learn to feed themselves spiritually by cultivating those disciplines such as Bible reading, prayer, and being part of a church family.

And as they do this, before long, they will find themselves moving into the next stage of being spiritual children. Now of course, at this stage, life pretty much revolves around them – Christianity is all about what Jesus can do for me – because they haven’t yet learned to give much thought to anyone else! But before long (hopefully), as they experienced the goodness and faithfulness of God, they begin to follow in His footsteps – serving and loving others just like how Christ served and loved us!

At this stage they begin to become spiritual teenagers or spiritual young adults! They begin taking responsibility for their own spiritual growth – and they also start taking responsibility for others too! They begin serving in the church – building the kingdom of God according to their gifts and abilities.

And while there are many good things done for the kingdom of God during this time, most spiritual young adults struggle to realize that God isn’t primarily concerned about the good things we do for him, but more importantly, God is concerned that we are growing into the person that He created us to be. 

The outward actions of our life may be good and right – but God is really more concerned about our inner transformation where our heart and our inner desires aligned with His – where we truly began to take on the character of Jesus!

And unfortunately, for many people, it usually takes some sort of life crisis for them to begin to grasp this and really begin to move into the next stage of spiritual maturity. We really have to come to the end of ourselves to realize who we are in Christ and how much God loves us simply because we are his child – and not because of anything we do or don’t do!

A great example of this from the Bible was Peter – as a disciple of Jesus He was as zealous for the Kingdom of God as anyone – but it took Jesus’ crucifixion and his own bitter denial of Jesus that led him into the final stage of his transformation.

Likewise, for us, moving through this stage of our spiritual growth may be one of the most difficult things we go through in life, but it will also be one of the most rewarding and life-changing!

And so today, I want to describe what this final stage of spiritual growth looks like. This is kinda the end-goal of Christianity. When God says He wants to transform us into in new people by changing the way we think – this is the kind of person that He wants to transform us into!

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Accepting (Not Earning) God’s Love

This morning we are continuing to look at the process of Transformational Discipleship. The premise of this series is that God desires to totally transform our lives – making us into new Creations.

Now of course, some of that happens instantaneously – the moment we become a believer! As 2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us:

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

2 Corinthians 5:17

This is where we get the idea of being born-again! When we accept God’s gift of salvation and forgiveness, it’s like we become brand new people! So certainly, there is an element of instantaneous change in our lives!

But just like how every person must physically grow up – from an infant to a child to a teenager to an adult – every Christian must go through a similar process of learning and growing and changing! Our theme verse of this series is Romans 12:1 which says:

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 12:1

This verse makes it clear that even though we are new Creations the moment we accept Christ as our Lord and Saviour, there is still a process through which God transforms us as we learn (over a lifetime) to know God’s will for our lives!

And so, it’s this process of growing up spiritually that we’ve been looking at for the last few weeks.

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