The Power of the Chruch!

BELIEVE       THE POWER OF THE CHURCH!

Studying the Power of Our Beliefs.  What do you Believe?  Why do you Believe it?  How are your Beliefs – guiding and empowering your life?

This morning – going to look at what do you believe about the power of the Church?  Does the Church have power?  Or is the Church full of too many problems to be effective anymore?

I think it might be helpful to start by asking:  What is the Church?  Is the Church this Building that we are sitting in?  Is the Church the collection of all of our Ministries – Worship Services, Sunday School Classes, Growth Groups, Evangelism and Missions?  What is the Church?

The main word for the Church in the Bible is ECLESSIA – which means the People who have been Called Out.  We have been Called Out from the crowd – to Follow, Serve, and Share the Good News of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

So why did God call you, me, and every other Christian in our world – Out from the crowds?  Why did God create the Church?  The first lesson the Bible gives us as to why God called people out – is to build a community for the world to see that is focused on sharing God’s blessings and helping God’s blessings to continue to grow. 

Called to  BUILD  BLESSINGS!

Can you picture in your mind what it was like when God called Abram – to be His partner in building up a people who would spread God’s message to the world?  Abram is out in the desert trying to figure out where he is going with his life.  God calls Abram to come out of his tent.  Shows him future possibilities.  Then God says, Here is the bottom line – I am going to bless you so that you can share My blessings with the whole world!  

Genesis 12:1-3 (NLT)    I will bless you and you will be a blessing…  All the people on earth will be blessed through you!

Think about how incredible the possibilities are to share God’s blessings.  Help people see how much God loves them.  Help people to see that if they follow God’s plan – they will build an abundant and eternal life for themselves and all of their future generations.

Jesus took God the Father’s original call to bless the world the next step forward – by focusing the method for sharing God’s blessings.  Jesus revealed to us that the best way to share God’s blessings with our world is to Make Disciples.  Jesus’ call to Make Disciples raises another question – What is a disciple?

What is a disciple?  Do you have to wear a long robe and sandals and walk everywhere to be a disciple?  What is a Disciple?  The word in the Bible is Mathetes – it comes from the root Math.  It gives us a picture that a Disciple is a student who is committed and focused like a Math student.  A Mathetes – Disciple – is like a math student who is determined to get it right and then to pass on those critical life lessons to others.  According to the Bible – a Disciple is a: A Student of Jesus’ Salvation lessons.  A committed follower of Jesus – who is ready to help others learn how to follow Jesus.

Sometimes we get strange pictures of a disciple.  You have to wear a robe and sandals and walk everywhere you go – so that you can live exactly the same way that Jesus lived.  But Jesus never said that we had to copy every detail of His life.  As we will see a little later – Jesus said the key is receiving a new life through Baptism and then making the commitment to share that new birth and new life – by loving yourself and loving other people – the way that He loves us.  

Matthew 28:18-20 (NLT/MSG)    Jesus told His disciples, “Go and make disciples of all nations.  Train all people in this new way of life.  Baptize them in the threefold name:   Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”   

Sometimes we try to make the job of making disciples a lot harder than it needs to be.  We feel like need a PhD in theology.  Jesus said we are much more effective when we keep it simple.  Making disciples is all about sharing Good News!  How hard is it to share Good News?

Do you like to share Good News?  Can you think of places where you like to share Good News besides the Good News of Jesus?  I am very happy to tell people about what I think is the good news of Wegmans.  I like to tell people about Wegmans – because I think they have amazing service and great produce.  I’m into good value and good health – so I like to be able to tell people where they can go to find good service and good health.

Another thing I like to tell people about is Amazon.  I like to tell people about Amazon – because it helps to support our youngest son’s job, building Conveyor systems for Amazon.  But more importantly I like to tell people about Amazon because they are dependable – they deliver.  When they tell you something is going to get to you – it gets to you!

Of course, telling people about Wegmans and Amazon might be nice.  But telling people about Jesus is essential.  Jesus gives us something much more important than good produce or good delivery of our orders – Jesus gives us the greatest Good News the world has ever received – the Good News of Salvation.  You are loved.  You are forgiven.  You are gifted by God to accomplish good things with your life.  You are being led on an eternal journey – that starts the moment you decide to follow Jesus.  Jesus is leading you to an eternity that is far different from being thrown in the ground and becoming worm food or suffering in the fires of hell forever.  Through the ultimate blessing of Jesus’ salvation – you are being led on the path of Abundant Life while you are in this world and ultimately to be raised up to heaven – where everything will be perfect forever.

Acts 1:8 (NLT)    Jesus declared, You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.  You will be My witnesses, telling people about Me everywhere!

God created the church to share His blessings with the whole world.  We have been called out – to Make Disciples of Jesus Christ – to share the gift of Salvation through the power of the Holy Spirit.  As the Church, God has been given a great job.  But we know the job isn’t finished is it?  We still have a long way to go to complete God’s mission.  To stay with the job – God wants to help us keep asking the question – What could our world look like – if we could help everyone to open God’s gifts of blessings and salvation? 

What Could the  WORLD  LOOK  LIKE?

Throughout the Bible – God keeps challenging us to open our minds and expand our thinking.  God wants to help us to dream bigger dreams.  The prophet Isaiah was focused on helping the nation of Israel to recover from invasions and the loss of holiness.  God grabs hold of Isaiah – and says – Take another look.  I have a much bigger job for you to do than just to help rebuild Israel.  I want you to see the ultimate goal – of sharing God’s salvation with the entire world. 

Isaiah 49:6 (NLT)    The LORD declares, “You will do more than restore the people of Israel to Me.  I will make you a light to all the Nations.  You will bring My salvation to the entire world.”

God wanted to help Isaiah to take a fresh look at the world.  And God wants to help you and me to take a fresh look at our world.  It’s easy to complain about what’s wrong with the world – there are lots of problems all over the world.  Jesus reminds us – God didn’t put us here to be whiners.  God put us here to be His catalyst to work with Him to transform the world.  Remember how we start our worship every Sunday?  Our Mission is: To make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.  God doesn’t want us to get stuck at seeing what’s wrong with the world.  God is empowering us to be His partners in transforming the world and making it better for everyone! 

Matthew 5:13-16 (MSG)    Jesus said, You are here to be the salt that brings out the God-flavors of this earth.  …You are here to be the light, that brings out the God-colors in the world.  

Jesus invites us as His Church – to join Isaiah in dreaming a bigger dream.  Think about what the world could become – as the Church shares the salt of Jesus’ truth!  Think about what the world could look like – if the Church helped everyone to grow in living in the light of Jesus’ love!

We have been Called Out – to be God’s partners in sharing God’s blessings and transforming the world by sharing the ultimate gift of Salvation.  And there is only one way to get the job done – by helping each other to live out the Good News that we have been called to share.  The only way anyone is going to listen to our Good News – is if they can see us actually putting it into practice in our own lives.

Ephesians 4:1-6 (TLB)    Live and act in a way that is worthy of the life of blessing God has called you to.  …Make allowances for each other’s faults because of your love.  …There is only one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism.  We all have the same God and Father Who is over us all…

We are called out to live a life that is worthy of the blessings God has given us – and this is where we need a lot of help.  Because we have a lot of weaknesses to overcome.

WORKING  Through Our  WEAKNESSES  — TOGETHER! 

We have been given a great job!  The possibilities are amazing!  But we have a long history of making huge mistakes.  How long has it taken the church to run into problems living out its calling?

When Moses went toe to toe with Pharaoh, fought through ten epic battles – and finally was able to set the nation of Israel free from 430 years of slavery – What was the thanks he got?  Instead of shouting and rejoicing that they were finally free from 430 years of slavery – the people started complaining while they were still leaving Egypt.   Moses, why did you bring us out here to die?  Moses, we were better off in Egypt.  Moses, it’s better to be a live slave than a dead free person.  During the 40 years that Moses led the nation of Israel on the Exodus – out of Egypt and into the Promised Land – how long were the people complaining?  The whole time!

Of course, it wasn’t just Moses who had trouble trying to get God’s people to cooperate and accomplish God’s mission.  Even Jesus had trouble trying to get the Apostles to understand and to work together.  Jesus was right there – to go over the lessons with the Apostles every day and He was giving them the perfect living example – and they kept on making huge mistakes – even while Jesus was standing right there with them!

Mark 10:41-43 (NLT)    When the ten other disciples heard that James and John wanted the top places — they were mad.   So Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people…  But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant. 

As the Church, we know that God has called us out to be different and show the world how to follow Jesus – but we have a hard time actually doing it.  Think about the day that the Christian Church was officially born on – The Day of Pentecost.  The Day of Pentecost was incredible!  People from all over the world – hearing the Good News in their own language.  Over 3,000 people converted.  The church was born.  People shared everything.  It was amazing – for a couple of weeks.  Then problems started creeping in.

This pattern of great high points – followed by lots of problems and fighting – has continued throughout the history of the Church.  Mahatma Gandhi said he was in awe of Jesus – but the Church turned him off because he couldn’t see much of Jesus’ truth and love being lived out in the Church – so he decided not to become a Christian.  Ann Rice – the famous author – said that she loves Jesus but hates the Church because the Church is not living out its calling.

This year is the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation – that was officially launched on October 31, 1517 when a monk named Martin Luther posted his 95 thesis for debate on the door of the Wittenberg church.  Martin Luther thought that he could change the world and get all Christians to agree with each other after he helped everyone to get the Bible in their own language.  Unfortunately, the Reformation had some effects that were the opposite of what was expected.  The Reformation did a good job of helping Christians to examine more carefully the kind of life Jesus is calling us to live.  But instead of uniting Christians in one denomination – the Protestant Reformation has led to the creation of over 32,000 Protestant denominations.

When the church is doing what it is supposed to do – living out a life worthy of its calling and helping people to see and grow in Jesus’ salvation and love – the Church is incredible.  But, when the church takes its eyes off of Jesus – it can be incredibly bad.

So, what do we do?  Do we say that it’s hopeless – withdraw from the world and just go to the church of Me, Myself, and I?

The Bible shows us that there is another way.  The Church is imperfect – and everyone one of us is imperfect.  Christians make mistakes – lots of them.  But instead of giving up on each other – God wants to help us to keep renewing our commitment to help each other grow up – to mature.

It’s similar to what Penny and I had to deal with in raising 3 sons.  We kept thinking it was supposed to get easier.  When they sleep through the night – everything will be great.  When they’re potty trained – everything will be great.  When they start going to school – everything will be great.  But – instead of getting easier – it seemed to get harder.  We discovered that when you have little children – you have little problems.  When you have big children – you have bigger problems.  Why couldn’t we just ship them off somewhere for 10 years – and have them come back as fully formed adults?

The job that God gave Penny and me – to help our children grow up and mature – is the same job God has given to the Church.

Ephesians 4:13-15 (NCV/MSG)   God’s work in His Church – must continue until we become mature in the Lord.    We refuse to remain as babies, blown around by every problem and every wind of new teaching.  Instead, we will speak the truth in love to each other.  We will help each other keep growing in every way – to become more and more like Jesus – Who is the Head of His Body, the Church. None of us are perfect.  No church is perfect.  We still have a lot of work to do, to help each other grow up.  Thankfully, we don’t have to give up – because we know that we can make progress.

The Church is far from perfect – but when we focus on Jesus – we can be truly amazing.  Think about all of the good things that we are able to accomplish together as God’s partners – Leading people to salvation.  Helping people to grow in living out Jesus’ love.  Building hospitals, schools, feeding the hungry, helping with flood and hurricane recovery.

God gives us the tenacity we need to refuse to give up on each other.  God keeps pouring out His power on us – so that we can keep making progress in helping each other grow in Jesus’ love.

Help Each Other  GROW  In  LOVE! 

If anyone had a right to give up on people – it was Jesus.  The Apostles, His closest friends and followers, kept making huge mistakes.  Anyone else would have said it’s hopeless.  Jesus kept going back to basics.  Listen guys – here is how you can make sense out of life.  Love each other.  The only way that you are going to impress this world – is when you show them your love in action.

John 13:34-35 (NLT)   Jesus said, I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.  Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are My disciples.

Most of us have heard the expression – Churches are not intended to be museums for saints.  Instead – God created the Church to be a hospital for sinners.  We all sin – and thankfully – God keeps giving us fresh grace and love to bring us back to Jesus’ basics.

Ephesians 4:30-32 (NLT)    Do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live.  …Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior.  Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God has forgiven you through Jesus Christ.

We’ve got a big job to do.  The most important of all jobs.  Sharing God’s blessings and leading people to salvation.  We have been Called Out by God to share the abundant and eternal life that is available to everyone – by helping them to choose to be a disciple of Jesus.

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