Good morning to everybody. We are in a series called “Recap.” If you’re new or maybe you missed last week, this is about as short of a series as we do. It’s only been two weeks. So, if you’re new, it’d be a great sort of time to hear a little bit about what’s going on at the church. If you’re a regular attender, what I wanted to do is I wanted to end 2017 and I wanted to begin 2018 with two specific things in mind.
The first thing that I wanted to do is make sure that we as a church would remember and celebrate what God has done among us. Oftentimes, when we’re doing life and we’re just sort of going through life and God’s doing things, sometimes we don’t pause for a moment and just go, “Wow. God is doing some incredibly great things.”
I mean, we’ve had well over 100 baptisms in the last few years. We’ve grown from 200 to 1,200 people in 3 years. I mean, God is doing some incredible things here. And I just wanted to stop, as a pastor and as a church, and remember and celebrate what God has done among us. And then with the aim of doing that to encourage and inspire us towards the future.
So, what we thought we would do is this: We thought that we would ask for some people to come in and sort of give some testimonies about things that they felt like they wanted to share. Anything that God had done in their life. Anything that had happened. And, of course, in typical Grace fashion, we got way more than we ever bargained for. And so, what we found was we couldn’t use all the testimonies that we got because we’d be here for weeks. So, what we did is we had to select a few. If you did a testimony and you didn’t get picked, don’t feel like somehow we didn’t like what you said. We loved what you said, and we’re going to get all those testimonies out to the body eventually so everybody can share in all the things that went on. But we didn’t have the time to do all of them.
So, what I’m going to do here today — a little bit different message than I normally do — is I’m going to show three quickly sequential videos here. They’re really cool. And then in the latter part of the service, we’re going to talk about going into 2018. I think I’ve got some things that I really think will challenge all of us, and I really think can be life-changing for many of us here.
So, the first three videos are really cool. The first family, the Catones, found us at First Friday. He not only found us at First Friday, but his wife and him have gotten in here and they have been almost like evangelists. I mean, they have drug people in. He’s going to tell you about that. It’s just great. It’s awesome what God is doing in their lives, and you can see that.
The next family are the Dahlbergs. They’re a young, married family. I just love what he has to say. He says, “If you knew me, I was raised to sort of be a lone wolf. I’ve come in here and what I’ve found is how important other human relationships are. It’s just really changed me.”
He makes this statement: “This is not the course of action I would’ve chosen for my life.”
So, God’s done this in him. Then the last video is really dear to my heart. It’s a mother and her son who’ve been around for a long time. They were at the old building, and they’re going to recount some things to us. So, let’s rejoice here and let’s watch these three videos. I think you will absolutely enjoy them. Let’s watch the first one here:
I used to be afraid to talk about church with my non-church friends. Lately, I don’t do that anymore now. Now that I feel more comfortable — and I’ve never had this comfortable feeling before in my life. Again, being at a church for a long time, this church just happened and clicked in me within the last two years. So, now, in my local development, I have brought other people to this church. I now have a group of about probably ten people that now attend Grace. Probably six regularly, and the other four are still tentative, but I think they’re going to be coming to church with us. So, I’ve never done it before. I don’t want to say I’m an evangelist, because I’m not. But it’s sort of like witnessing or not being afraid to just say, “Hey, you need to try this Grace Church with me. Just come.”
Grace Church. I knew nothing about it. I attended my very first Friday on Main Street with my children and my wife. At that particular time, we were at the other side of Main Street, and you guys were up on the opposite side. My daughters came running to me and said, “Dad, we hear Christian music in the distance,” and it happened to be a Chris Tomlin song that we all love. So, they grabbed me and they said, “Let’s go check this out. Let’s go see what’s going on.”
We found a few people that had your Grace shirts on. We asked them, “So, where are you located? What is this all about?”
They said, “Oh, you should come.”
Somebody may have handed me a brochure, pamphlet or whatever you guys had at the time. So, that’s really how we came. It was through Main Street and through the music that we all love and enjoy. I thought that was a good start. The mission statement that this church has, being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ, was amazing to me. I saw that mission statement and I said, “Wow. That’s the kind of church that I want to be involved in.”
That is, again, another way to outreach to people; to bring people that are not churched, that really don’t know anything about it. What a great statement to have for this church to bring an outside people that have no idea what’s going on. Amazing. That just blew me away.
Make sure, when you see the people that are giving testimonies, that you walk up to them and tell them thanks, because sometimes it’s not easy to do these things. I’m just glad that was the night — they thought Chris Tomlin was singing — that I was singing on Main Street. So, I’m thankful. Just kidding.
The next couple is Aimee and Adam Dahlberg. Let’s listen to them. This is a great testimony as well. Let’s watch them.
[Adam]: You first.
[Aimee]: My name’s Aimee.
[Aimee]: Aimee Dahlberg.
[Adam]: We’ve been attending, I would say, as regular attendees, since March of 2016. Right? When we first started coming to this church, we went for like six months, probably. Having not spelled out my character to you, we would sneak in and sneak out. Right? And that was probably more my doing than hers. She’d rather probably hang out and linger and chat with people. I would come into service, quietly sit in the back, and then I would be probably the first to leave afterward. We were raised almost to be like line wolves. Right? To not be so concerned about other people, what they have going on, not be concerned about how they feel about me and just kind of isolate myself. But doing it, to some degree, unintentionally. And I think being able to be reshaped — and, truly, it was a God-given thing because I wouldn’t have done something like this on my own. This isn’t one of the changes that I would’ve gone after on my own. You know?
[Aimee]: Grace’s view hasn’t always been focused on, “This is how you can feel better in this, and this is how you can live your life better in this way.” It’s so focused around Jesus. And His character, and then just learning to follow His lead, because life isn’t about us feeling great, life isn’t about even just us coming to salvation. It’s learning to be more like Jesus so then other people can come to salvation.
[Adam]: You know, my perspective on the inside has changed, too, where I realize that people are so much more important than I ever took the time to realize before. Allowing people to feed into me, and also feeding into other people, letting people share their highs and lows with me and also doing the same with them, and I just don’t think I had ever taken the right time or the right perspective in realizing how important it was for me to be a part of something else besides myself. Right? I mean, we were so inward focused in our upbringing. That, I think, is just a breath of fresh air, too, to be closer to the right track.
Amen. You know, as we start in 2018, and every year and every day and every week, we get to choose the church that we want to be collectively. Let’s make sure that we always remain the church that no matter who comes in, no matter where they’ve been, no matter what they’ve done, they feel valued here and they have worth and dignity, because believe God wants us to be a place that looks like that. Amen? Do you agree with me on that? Okay, great. Let’s make sure that we do that.
The third video is great. The Pedros. They’ve been around for a long time, and many of their other, extended family has ended up here as well. It’s a great testimony. Let’s listen to Keisha and Chris.
[Keisha]: it’s really been transformational being a part of Grace Community Church from the beginning, from six years ago when we relocated from Pennsylvania. The hardest thing for me leaving Pennsylvania was leaving my church family, because my church family had been a part of my life for fifteen years of raising three children as a single mom. When we relocated to Florida, we found this little church called Grace Community Church which was down near Gulfgate at the time. It was so different than the church we had been going to in so many aspects, and I remember thinking, “God, this can’t be the church that you’re sending me to.” I remember sitting down with Pastor Chip and I’m like, “I’m out of here.”
Pastor Chip pulled out the Bible and he said something to me and I was like, “Oh, my gosh. That makes sense.” So, God knew what was best for my family. It wasn’t that long ago that I was sitting in a weekend service, sitting there watching how God moved in my son’s life. He was up playing the keyboard. My daughter was singing on the stage. My youngest son, still in church, 17-year-old, now 18-year-old, standing next to me worshiping the Lord. My ex-mother-in-law worshiping at Grace Community Church.
[Chris]: My aunt, your sister, just got married through Grace.
[Keisha]: My brother and his wife got baptized at Grace.
[Chris]: Just to see that growth.
[Keisha]: A lot of growth.
[Chris]: Yeah. It’s really cool how God has really used Grace in our family. It’s really cool to see, no matter how much we’ve grown, the backbone and the DNA of Grace never really has changed.
[Keisha]: Grace is really special because it’s a church that accepts people no matter where they are in life. We don’t ask questions. Pastor Chip is not judgmental.
[Chris]: It’s really cool that no matter if you walk into the Hub, you get a big hug from Jen, or after every service Pastor Chip is there greeting everybody. It’s that personal aspect of a church family that you can really see that that’s never changed for Grace. And I think that when we first got here, that’s something that we always appreciated. I think no matter how big we get, it’s that part of Pastor Chip, that part of Grace that’s just who we are. And that’s really cool to see in a church body.
Amen. The moral from the Pedros is that Grace Community Church is like the Hotel California. You can check out at any time, but you can never leave. So, there you go. But, listen, there’ve been so many great things that have happened over the last year, and especially over the last several years. But, specifically, last year. I just think it would be appropriate, which is what I wanted to do, as we left out of one year and into a new year, let’s just take a moment here and just thank God for all the great changes that have gone on in lives here at Grace?
Unbelievable. Some incredibly great things. So, probably, if you’re here, some of you are going, “Man, that’s great. You know what? I could get up and testify.”
Maybe some of you are here and you’re new. Maybe it’s a new year’s resolution to be in church. Or maybe some of you are going, “Man, I could use some of that in my life.”
I think everybody finds themselves at a different place. But what I can say — and I think it’s common amongst all of us, even for those who are cynical about this — is when there’s a new calendar year — and many people are cynical, like, “I don’t believe in new year’s resolutions. I’m not doing that.”
But, every single one of us — and this is if we’re just being honest here, because we should be — when we flip into a new calendar year — I don’t call it new year’s resolutions. I call it, as sort of a state of mind that’s what I call it, the “more, better and healthier.” Everybody, at some level, has a more, better and healthier moment. It may not be for long, but it’s there for a moment.
“I want a little bit more of this, or a little bit better this, or a little bit healthier that.”
The band Sugarland had a song called “There’s Gotta be Something More” that was a smash hit, because that resonates with people. And I guarantee at the beginning of every year, whether you get on Facebook and go, “New year’s resolutions are terrible,” and all that stuff, deep down inside, every single one of us has a moment: More. Better. Healthier.
Let me drill into that a little bit so that we can all go, “Yeah, that’s sort of true.”
You know, we talk about a relationship or relationships. Everybody in here has that moment where they’re like, “You know, in that relationship I would like to have a little bit better this, or maybe it would be healthier.”
Or like our health. I mean, many people start off the new year wanting to be healthy. I know last year, in 2017, I did. I was going to lose 10 pounds. I’ve only got 19 more to go. So, health. We want a little bit more health. Better spirituality. You know?
“I’d like to have more God in my life, or better spirituality or a healthier spirituality.”
With conflict, maybe in our lives. Stuff like that. Finances. A lot of people start off the new year going, “I want to get this right.”
Or their marriage. “I want more here. I want better this, or healthier that.”
Our kids. Jobs. All of these things. Every single one of us has a “more, healthier and better moment.” Whether we say it or not, it’s like God’s hard-wired it in us. As those calendar years change, there’s that desire. But here’s what happens. And people don’t like to talk about it. And people don’t like to share it, but here’s what happens: We start off the new year and we have that more, better and healthier moment. We’re thinking about, “I want more here, better here and healthier. I won’t tell anybody.”
The reason we won’t tell anybody is because we know that every year we have that “more, better and healthier” moment, but as soon as February comes around, or June comes around, or August comes around, we bog down. So, we’re like, “Man. We wanted to start off with a more, better and healthier, but what happened was it bogged down. It just didn’t happen.”
You know? Like, you say, “I’m going to have a good job this year. I’m going to get along with my boss. Everything’s going to be good. It’s going to be awesome.”
And then March comes and you’re mad at your boss, and you’re in the car and you’re on the country radio station, and the guy’s singing, “Take this job, and shove it,” and you’re like, “Yes! God is in my car.”
You’re listening to that country music that’s god-awful music. I mean, I don’t know why anybody listens to country music. My wife does, but she’s not even a Christian. So, anyway. But, no. The point is what’s funny about this is it’s true. We want more stuff. We want better stuff. We want healthier stuff in our lives. But what happens is we start moving forward in, say, our marriages, our finances, our kids or whatever, and you try to do the right things. You try to move forward.
And then what happens is it just sort of bogs down and everybody knows that that’s the case, and everybody knows it goes on. But, every year, we have the more, better, healthier. It’s like a beacon. But yet, we get in the middle of the year and it doesn’t work. So, nobody wants to talk about it, because we go, “Man, over here in Scripture it talks about the peace of God that passes all understanding in Philippians 4. And John 10:10: ‘I’ve come to give life, and life more abundantly.’ And Matthew 11. ‘Come to me, you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.’”
We’re like, “Man, I don’t want to tell anybody that that’s not really happening in my life, but it’s not really happening. I mean, I want ‘more, better, healthier,’ but this is where I’m at.”
So, let me use an illustration here that will help you and me understand this. I think this’ll be a good illustration for how we sort of get bogged down. Probably nobody in here knows what the intertropical convergence zone is. The intertropical convergence zone, there’s a word that used to be used in our vocabulary years ago that referred to this. However, as words change over time, it doesn’t mean this anymore. It means something different. That term is called “the doldrums.” You’ve probably heard the doldrums. The doldrums, if you look it up in the dictionary, it’d be like, “A state or period of inactivity, stagnation, depression,” or things like that. And we’d go, “Yeah, yeah. I know what the doldrums are.”
But the doldrums were a term that was used by nautical people hundreds of years ago when there weren’t engines in boats, but there were sails. And what they knew is that there was a period in the globe, what we call now the “intertropical convergence zone,” that they called “the doldrums.” The doldrums were a place where, when you were here, there was wind going, you could get your sails up and you could move. When you were here, there was winds up, and you could get going. When you were here, there were winds, and when you were here.
But in the doldrums, right along the equator, where the winds would meet together, there was this inclement area where it was rainy, nasty and storms, but there was no wind. And if your boat got in the doldrums, it was tough to get out of the doldrums. And that is what many of us experience. We want “more, better, healthy.” Nobody doesn’t want “more, better, healthy.” Everybody wants “more, better, healthy.” In fact, the way we’ve learned to cope by not talking about “more, better, healthy,” is to go, “Ahh, new year’s resolutions? Nobody keeps them. Nobody does that stuff. It’s terrible.”
You know? That’s the way we cope. But, deep down inside, everybody wants “more, better, healthier.” And, as Christians, we definitely want “more, better, healthier,” because we believe that Jesus can change our lives. So, something has to give.
Well, what I want to do is this. This is going to be really simple. It’s not going to be profound. It’s not going to be anything — I mean, it can be profound for your life, but it’s something that’s so simple that oftentimes such simple things are missed. Like, oftentimes, I’ve had counseling before with married couples. I’ve said to the husband or to the wife, “Hey, it’s not what you said. It’s how you said it.”
And they’re like, “Oh, yeah. That’s great.”
Then they get in the car and start arguing again. And it’s like, “Dude, you didn’t listen to a thing I said. You just did exactly the opposite.”
And it’s so simple, yet we just run past it. So, what I want to do is this. I want to just take a moment as your pastor — and I believe this with all of my heart. I believe what I’m going to share in the next few minutes can be life-changing for you. It can be massively changing for your life. It can be a massively different 2018. But it’s simple. And it’s stuff that maybe you already know, but yet, sometimes we just don’t do it.
So, what I want to do is I want to take three things. I can call it a person, people and purpose, or we can call it a number of other things. But I want to talk to you about just three simple things that will make the biggest difference in you and I’s lives. Here’s the first one: The first one is we’ve got to drag this out right here. This is the throne of my life, and somebody’s going to sit on it. It’s either going to be me or something, but the question is who’s going to sit here? Because the person who’s supposed to be sitting here is Jesus.
It’s tough. It’s a tough thing to go — because, typically, what we want to do is we go, “I want to be here. I’m going to stay here. What I’ll do is, Jesus, You can have some part of my life, but I’m not giving everything. Let’s make a little pact here. You can be savior, You just can’t be Lord. That works good for me. You know? You can be my savior. I like that idea. I like forgiveness. I’m just not letting You be Lord. Because if I were to put You here, that means that there’s things that I don’t get to do the way I do them. You know? My marriage is not going to be about what my wife does for me or what my husband does for me. It’s going to be about what I’m supposed to be doing for them if You’re here, and I don’t know if I like that gig. So, let me sit here and give you some of that, but I don’t want to get out of my throne, because that’s where I want to be. And, man, I don’t want to do that with other things in my life. I spent all kinds of — Lord, I just don’t know.”
Well, here’s the thing. Listen. This is what Scripture says. Hebrews 11:6: “Without faith...”
Okay, faith is saying, “I’m going to let You be Lord of my life. I’m going to let You sit on the throne of my life, and I’m not going to be on the throne of my life. I’m going to trust You and that Your ways of running my life are better than my ways of running my life.”
That’s faith. Listen to what it says here.
“Without faith it is impossible to please God.”
You can’t please God without faith. There’s got to be some element where we say, “I trust You, God.”
And listen to what he says: “For he who comes to God must believe that He exists...” — you’ve got to believe there’s a God — “...and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”
At some level, you’ve got to go, “Okay. I believe if I put Him there and I trust Him — because I’m not going to probably do the things the way He wants me to. I’m surely not really wanting to do the ‘turn the other cheek’ thing. That seems crazy. I surely don’t want to love my enemies. I surely don’t want to forgive seventy times seven. But, to do that, I’ve got to trust God that His ways are better than mine. So, at some level here, I’ve got to figure out, ‘Who’s going to be the person in this chair?’”
What I’ve called that is the first step is to give up. Now, when I say give up, I don’t mean that you don’t do anything. I’m talking about how there’s got to be a point here where there’s a surrender. We use the word in the New Testament, and Jesus uses the word “repent.” Many people think that that word means come down to an altar and cry. The word comes from two Greek words. It’s a compound word. Metanoia. Meta is change; noús is mind. It’s a change of mind. It’s, “I’m not longer going to be here. I’m going to turn around and I’m going to do it Your way. I’m going to give up.”
When I was in college, I went to Lee College. I never went to this place, but there was a place called “the blue hole.” It was interesting. Last night, somebody came up to me and said, “Hey, my kid went to Lee. I know about the blue hole.”
I’m like, “Oh, that’s cool.”
I didn’t go there, but it was a place where you could jump off rocks into a body of water that was deep enough, so you didn’t get hurt. And everybody loved to go there and jump into the water and all that stuff. So, somewhere near there, there was a place like the blue hole, but it had a waterfall that cascaded down. So, I guess somebody had jumped into the waterfall. When they went into the waterfall, the current was pulling them under. So, they jumped in, they’re under the water, and they realize, “I’m sinking.”
So, what did they do? They started exerting all of their ability that they could to come up to the top so they could live. Well, it didn’t take them very long to realize, “I don’t have enough strength. There’s no way in the world that I can swim against the current. I’m going to drown.”
And it didn’t take long before they had exhausted themselves and they were fatigued and they gave up. When they gave up, the current pushed them down, further, further and further, and then it hit and that current shot them like a balloon up to the top of the water. So, had they just jumped in and gone down, and come back up, everything would’ve been great. But it was counterintuitive. Well, they lived when they gave up. Oftentimes, in our lives, we don’t realize that life comes not by seizing control and white-knuckling on the throne of our lives, but sometimes we just have to say, “Hey, Jesus. You’re the one that’s supposed to be here.”
And Jesus says things like this. And here’s the cool thing about Jesus, and it’s the cool thing about coming here to Grace: You can belong here before you believe. You can take a moment here to sort of let this sink in, and you can evaluate this. But, as your pastor, I want to tell you the truth here: Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth and the life.”
Here’s the great thing about Jesus: He’s either right or He’s wrong. This is the great thing about Jesus. It’s really simple. He either got it right or He got it wrong. C.S. Lewis said, “He was either the Lord or He was a liar or a lunatic, but He definitely wasn’t just a good dude.”
He never said that. He said, “I’m the way. I’m the truth. I’m the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
That is a strong statement. And sometimes it’s polarizing to us, but that’s what He says. So, it comes down to, “Okay, if He’s the way, the truth and the life, then He really is the way, the truth and the life.”
He also says it in ways like this. He told His disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life, whoever swims really hard is going to lose it. But whoever loses his life for my sake is going to find it.”
You’re not giving up to not get. You’re giving up to experience an incredible life. And He goes, “Listen, what does it profit you, what does it profit any of us if we gain the whole world, but we lose our own soul? What shall a man give in return for his soul?”
At some level, when we start of 2018, when we’re talking about sometimes we start things off and I want “more, better, healthier,” and I want all that stuff, where the real first question is, “Who is the person that’s going to be here?”
Who gets to be here? Do I or does Jesus? And that encompasses all of our lives. In your marriage, with your kids, with your job, with our car, with your finances and with all of those things, who gets to be here? Because, if we really want “more, better, healthier,” if we really want to see abundant life, if we really want to see the life that we feel like God could give us, it starts here. It starts right here. And that’s a really tough place to be. Because, we all do it. “Okay, Jesus. You can have it for a little while until something starts going on. If you could maybe go over here for a minute and stand over there. Let me take control again for just a little bit.”
And if we’re honest, that’s sort of life. Who’s going to be here? Well, for us to really have all the things that I think God has for you and me, we have to settle that. Now, that’s the primary thing. We’ve got to get that right. Okay? But, if you get that right, that’s still not going to be the full-on “more, better, healthier,” because once you get that right and you say, “Jesus is here. I’m going to give up,” the next thing that has to happen in our life is we have to do, then, what Jesus has asked us to do.
And that is what I call “friend up.” This is the right people. See, Jesus taught us all something: We cannot do our spirituality, we cannot live our lives, we cannot accomplish all that we need to accomplish alone. It doesn’t work that way. You can even read it in the creation story. It was not good for Adam to be alone. God created you and me social. We need other people. We need the body. Some of us are fingers, some of us are toes, some of us are noses, some of us are eyes, and all of those things. You need everybody. The Lord’s Prayer is not, “My Father which art in heaven,” it is, “Our Father which art in heaven.”
We want to experience great, abundant life. We’ve got to get Jesus first. But then, we’ve got to get the right people in our lives. This is the way Scripture talks about stuff. It says, “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise.”
This is so true. You know that. You know if you hang around people that are smarter than you, you’re going to become smarter. It’s just the way it works. Paul says it this way: “Don’t be deceived, everybody, that bad company ruins good morals.”
You want to get corrupted? Hang around the wrong people. What people are is soil, and we are a seed. That seed will get deformed or not even grow if it’s in the wrong soil. What God wants for you and me, that’s why He created the Church. That’s why we come together. God knew that, “Hey, Jesus first. You’ve got to get that settled. If you don’t get the Jesus first thing, none of it matters. Jesus first, then friend up. You need to have people in your life that can pour into your life, because you can’t do life alone.”
This is one of the profound passages of Scripture in the pastoral epistles. Paul says here, in 2 Timothy, “May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains.”
Paul was in prison. So many people had left Paul. They were like, “Ah, we don’t deal with him. He’s in prison. He’s in chains.”
Paul said, “No, no. I’ve got a buddy. Onesiphorus. I’ve got somebody in my life that refreshed me. I’ve got somebody in my life that...” — the New Living Translation says — “...put wind, a breath of fresh air into my life.”
Here’s the question. You’ve got to have Jesus first.
“I’ve got Jesus first. He’s the Lord. I’ve got that stuff.”
Well then, the second question we have to ask is who do we have in our lives that we can call at 2 o’clock in the morning, that no matter what we’re going through, no matter if our marriages are in a mess, finances are in a mess, we’ve gotten into an addiction or gotten into a problem or whatever, they’re not ashamed of your chains at all. What they’ll do is they’ll refresh you because they’re a friend.
And see, it’s only when you and I allow people to pour into our lives that are not ashamed of our chains that we learn to return the favor to others and love them in a neighborly way and not be ashamed of their chains. It’s so important. It’s so simple, but so important. We make it so complicated. It’s, “Jesus, You’re first. You’re the right person.”
Then it’s the right people. Getting the right people in our lives. And I’m not talking about you can’t go out and go talk to the lost and do all those things. We need to do all those things. But who are the people that are pouring into our lives? That matters. And then we get that. Typically, at that point, that’s where most churches end. We go, “Okay. Come down and say the prayer. You’re good. Get involved in a small group. You’re good.”
People are like, “No, I’m not good. I’m still having struggles. I’m still not getting where I want to be. I’m still in the doldrums.”
But nobody says anything because nobody wants to say, “Yeah, it’s not working very well,” because then it’s like, “Whoa. What happened to you?”
So, what we do is we’ve created a system where we get people to say a prayer, and then we put them in a small group and what we do is we basically put them in a high chair. We say, “Okay. Just sit here and we’ll feed you and we’ll feed you and we’ll feed you, and all this stuff.”
And when they don’t get fed, they get upset, and they’re crying or whatever. And the reality is God has not called a church to tend the aquarium. God’s called the Church to fish for men. God’s not called us to put people in high chairs. He’s called us to go out and bring other people in and bring them back to the table, which is why the last part of this is huge. You won’t do the last part ever right if Jesus isn’t first. I can assure you of that. And you won’t do the last part right if you don’t have people in your lives that are pouring into your lives, because you’ve got to have people in your lives that will pour into your lives.
The third point is to then give out. This is where it all changes, because this is exactly where Jesus wants you and me to be. He wants you and me to be at places where we are giving out, because it’s in giving that we are massively, massively changed. I mean, it is just absolutely massive when we learn to give out.
And here’s what Paul says. Paul says, “Let each of us please his neighbor for his good to build him up.”
Paul never thought that there would be an institution called “the Church” that wasn’t out doing neighborly things, reaching out to neighbors and building them up. He never even thought about that. And Paul knew. You get Jesus, right? He’s the Lord. You get people in your life. That’s community. That’s why we come to church. That’s why the writer of the Hebrews says, “Don’t neglect getting together. Stir one another up to love and good works.”
In Hebrews 10:24-25, that’s what he says. He says, “You’ve got to come together. You’ve got to be together. You’ve got to be a part. You’ve got to have the right people in your life pouring into you and loving you and treating you as neighbors so that then you and I can go out and start loving on other people.”
Paul says it this way to the Philippian church: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”
He doesn’t say they are more significant. He says, “Count them that way.”
Well, you’re never and I’m never going to. We’re never, as people, going to do that if we haven’t settled who’s on the throne. We’ve got to get the right person. Then, if we don’t have the right people in our lives, we’re never going to do those things because we’re always going to see people as wanting something, needing to get something or it’s a bad investment. You know? We want to take care of our self. It’s when we learn, “Hey, you know what? I can trust others because there’s people that will absolutely not be ashamed of my chains. They will pour their life into me, which means I can then, in turn, pour my life into others.”
So, when you get the right person, the right people and the right purpose going on in your life, all of a sudden things start changing massively. And he says, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but to the interests of others.”
This is simple. It’s who’s Lord or my life. Me? I’m not going to be happy, ever, if that’s the case. I might have moments. I might have periods of time, but it’s not going to be the only. Because if Jesus is the life and He’s right, then the only way that I’m going to have the life that I want is in Him, which means I’ve got to give up to get. I’ve got to lose so that I can gain. I’ve got to give up. Then I’ve got to friend up. I’ve got to really take that seriously. Let me let you in on a little secret here. Some of you may not know this: We do small groups around here, and we do supper clubs, and we do things like that. We call them circles, because we believe relationships are made in circles, not in rows.
We do circles for one reason. We hope that you grow in God, but that’s not why we do small groups. We hope that you get more spiritual, but that’s not why we do small groups. We hope that you learn to pray better, but that’s not why we do small groups. We hope that you learn to Bible more, but we don’t do small groups for those reasons. We hope all those things happen when you do small groups, but the reason we do small groups is for one reason: We want people to find relationships, because we know that relationship matter.
If you don’t have an Onesiphorus in your life, there’s going to be a time that you need an Onesiphorus in your life. And if you don’t have them, life is not good. It’s just not where it needs to be. That’s why we’ve got to have the right friends in our lives. And then, on top of that, we have to be involved in ministry.
And here’s what’s awesome: Paul says, in Ephesians 4 — and this may be a revelation for somebody — that God has set apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers in the body. Those are offices of the Church. Why? To equip the saints. Who are the saints? You. Why do you need to be equipped? So that you can work ministry. Which means every single person in this building, if you’re a saint and you say, “I’m a follower of Jesus,” you have a ministry.
You say, “Well, I don’t feel called to be a pastor.”
That’s not the ministry. Those are offices in the Church to equip saints. All saints have a ministry. All saints have a ministry of reconciliation. All saints have a ministry of bringing people back into Jesus. All saints have a ministry in the local church. There’s a position that they have that they’re desperately needed, and the church does not work as well as it does if they’re not doing what God has called them to do; you and me.
So, that’s where God wants us. We’ll never get to the place of where we’re giving out if we haven’t got the right person. Right? If we haven’t got the right people in our lives. And now we’re able to start giving out. That’s why when we put together this year, we said this is why we exist: We exist because here we’re giving out. We want to reach the unchurched. The component of what we want here at Grace is if you’re here and you’re a part of this church, we want you to be passionate about reaching the lost. That’s the goal here. The goal is to reach out. The goal is not to sit in here and get. The goal is to be able to go. But to be able to go, we have to learn to be intentional neighbors. How do we do that? We do that by working with other Christians in our midst; pouring into lives and allowing them to pour into us. We learn how to love people that are not like us.
What do most people do when they get upset at church? They leave and go to another one. That’s not what God wants you to do. He wants you to work through that situation so that you can learn He is powerful enough. Whenever two Christians get together and they can’t get along, what you’re saying is that God doesn’t have the power to put you guys together. And I reject that. I believe that God always has the power to bring people together. It takes both. Don’t get me wrong. But what we do is we say, “We’re just no different than the world.”
So, why do we want to be intentional neighbors? Because we want to be able to truly love other people. We truly want to love people in their afflictions, in their chains and in their misery, because we have been loved in that way that reflects Christ, the right person. We’ve realized that this is what it’s all about. That’s why this is here, because we realize if people are reaching out and being intentional neighbors, and reflecting Christ, we know that the life that they’re going to have is going to be incredible.
So, here’s what we’re going to do. We did this in every service, and we’re going to do it I this one. We’re going to pray for ourselves for these things in our lives. And I’m going to lead. I’m going to lead. Me first. I’m going to be vulnerable and pray a prayer for me, and show you how I pray this so that maybe you can pray this. And then I’m going to pray for you, as the pastor of this church, that we understand, “God, You’re the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, and I’m not. And God, I need to be humble enough, and I need to have faith enough to have somebody in my life that can pour into my life.”
I’m going to ask You to pray in just a minute that you will find somebody in the church — not a staff member — that you can go to and say, “Would you pour into my life in 2018?”
If you’re someone who gets asked a first time, don’t accept it for the second one. Because everybody needs to be a part of this. Everybody needs to be a part of someone who’s pouring and somebody who’s receiving, because that’s the way this thing is going to work. And if you’re new and you’re like, “I don’t know anybody,” get involved in some small groups, get involved in some serving and you’ll find somebody that you can work with. We all need that in our lives.
Lastly, we need to pray, “God, what do You want me to get involved? I need to be involved I ministry.”
The Church is the ordained institution of God. Oftentimes, we go, “Oh, but I’ve got a ministry outside, over here. I’m doing this here.”
No, no, no, no, no. I’m not saying those ministries are wrong. The only ordained ministry in Scripture is the Church. Who’s supposed to be taking care of the widows? The Church. Who’s supposed to be taking care of the fosters? The Church. Who’s supposed to be taking care of the indigent. The Church. We’re supposed to be doing all of these things. We’ve maybe shirked that responsibility in many ways, but that’s what we’re called to do. That’s why everybody has a role in the Church. Everybody has a ministry, because to really reach everybody, everybody’s got to be pulling from the same end of the rope.
So, what I’m going to do is I’m going to pray. I’m going to pray as vulnerable as I can pray as your pastor. I’m hoping that as you hear me pray, it’ll help you pray. And then I’m going to pray for all of us here at the church. If you would, would you bow your heads with me?
Dear Heavenly Father, I come to You. Lord, the first thing I want to do, starting off 2018, is reaffirm that You are the Lord of my life. I’m not. Lord, I know there’s going to be tendencies. There’s going to be times when I want to grab that authority back, when I want to pull that throne back over to myself. Lord, give me the faith, the courage, the strength and the ability to not do that. It’s better when You are the Lord of my life.
And Lord, give me the faith to trust You. You being the Lord of my life means that the things that You’ve asked me to do in Scripture are the things that I should be doing. Even though they may be contrary, even though it may be hard to turn the other cheek, even though it may be hard to love an enemy, even though it may be hard to do certain things, Lord, give me the faith to trust You. That You are a good God and that You really do have my best interests at heart if I’ll trust You.
Secondly, God, I pray that You would continue to develop me as a human being by having people in my life that will pour into me. Lord, I thank You for the Warren Gages and the Allen Reesors, our board members, that constantly call and ask what’s going on in my life, and are part of my life. And Lord, give me the humility to continue to want their input into my life, to not be prideful and arrogant, and to push that away.
And then, Lord, thirdly, I pray that as I minister and as I fulfill the callings that You’ve placed on my life, Lord, I pray that You would help me to do even more and greater things for the Kingdom of God this year; to give out even more, to spend the body, the breath, the arms, the legs and all of this that You’ve given me, to give in service to You for Your glory.
So, Lord, as I’ve tried to lead and tried to be honest with the way I would pray, Lord, I pray for everybody here that’s in this service right now. Lord, I pray that those who say, “You know what? I do want to see a transformation in my life,” Lord, I pray that right now where they’re at they would say, “Lord, I want You to be on the throne of my life. It’s scary, God. It’s white knuckles, because I really like that control. And it’s hard to give it up. It’s going to be really hard to give it up in areas of my life that I really don’t want to give to You. But, Lord, please give me the faith to trust You and that Your ways are better. If I could just believe You and trust You, I would see so many great things. That You are a rewarder of those who seek You. You are a rewarder of those who put faith in You. Lord, let us have the faith to trust You for that.”
And then, Lord, secondly, I pray that everybody in this church would have the humility, the courage and the faith to find somebody and say, “Would you pour into my life in 2018?”
Lord, let that be something that transforms our local church massively, that somebody’s in our corner, that the Jesus that lives in the friend is pouring into us by not being ashamed of the chains, and refreshing us when nobody else was around.
Lastly, I pray, God, that everybody would realize that there’s a ministry for all of us, and there’s something that we can do. Whether it be in the children’s department, the youth department, the nursery, whether it’s shaking hands and greeting, whether it’s working in the parking lot, whether it’s First Friday, whether it’s a small group, whether it’s music — Lord, whatever it may be, maybe taking photography, maybe helping out and doing other things, Lord, it’s limitless. Working with widows and people that need help, Lord. It’s limitless. But, Lord, give us the faith to also give out.
Lord, I believe with all of my heart that if we as a church will give up and friend up and give out, it will be a magnificently different 2018 than it would’ve been if we wouldn’t have made those commitments here at the beginning. So, Lord, give us the faith, give us the courage, give us the ability to trust You for those things.
And Lord, as we leave here today, I pray that You would continue to watch over, protect, lead and guide everyone here at Grace. And Lord, help us as a church to continue to be a light that truly shines, that truly wants to reach the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ for Your glory and for Your honor. Lord, we look forward to 2018 as we know that you’re going to do great things, exceedingly abundantly above all that we could ever ask or think.
We love You for it. In Jesus’ name, and everybody said, “Amen.”
Give the Lord a big hand clap and tell Him you love Him. God bless everybody. See you soon.