There are many paths we take throughout our walk of life. During our walk, there are moments when we can feel God's presence. We can see Him moving, answering our prayers, opening doors, making our lives flourish abundantly. There are other times where maybe He's meeting us when we need Him the most, taking us from the valley to the mountaintop and showing His power and victory in our lives.
But, what about the moments when God seems silent? It may seem as if this in-between path lasts forever. How do we stay faithful when everything is still? It may be easy to look for God when He's speaking to us and it may be easy to live for God when we've been fulfilled, but what do we do in-between?
Good morning everybody, and good morning to those who watch via the mobile app and the internet as well. We’re in a six-week series called “In Between,” and believe it or not this is week number six. And if this is your first time here you’re probably going, “How did I hit the jackpot of coming in at the very end of a series?” Let me put you at ease. I promise you I’ll bring everybody back up to speed, because I’m sure there are a couple of you all that missed a couple of weeks. Some of you have probably been here all five weeks, like me, and you’re just happy to be here today. And you’re like, “If you could please remind us what we’re talking about that would be awesome.” So, let’s all do a re-brief here of what we’re doing, and talk about what we’re doing in this series so that we can get going with the message today.
The bid idea in this series is that we live in the in between, and what I mean by the in between is… I’ll give you some examples. You know, we go to high school and we live in between being in high school and graduating. And when you’re in high school you can’t wait to graduate. We get out of high school and we send off a letter to maybe get accepted to a college, and we live in between getting that letter off and getting that letter back. Maybe we’re single and we’re living in between being single and praying God will bring us a spouse. Or maybe we’re married and we live in between our wives being pregnant and having a child. Or maybe we’re in a relationship that’s not doing very well, and we want that relationship to get better. But we live in the in between of that. Or maybe we got a bad diagnosis at the doctor’s office, and we don’t know what the outcome is going to be. And we’re living in that in between.
And unfortunately for so many of us, if we’re honest, the in between eats our lunch. It’s tough. We don’t know what to do. And so, in this series what we’ve been trying to do is to get some tools for our toolbox so that we can live the abundant life that God has for you and me in the in between. And that’s the big idea. That’s what we’ve been doing. If you’re new or maybe you missed a couple of messages you can go back and check them out on our mobile app or on the internet. I believe you’d be blessed, because I think this has been a really good series. And hopefully you’ve felt like you’re getting some tools for your toolbox to equip you. At least that is what I pray as the pastor of the church.
So, to finish off this series I want to do a little mental exercise with everybody before we get into the meat of the sermon today. I want you to imagine, if you could, and you all are good imagineers. I know you are. I’ve seen you imagine with me before. I want you to imagine that you are on a cruise ship. You know the one where they have the midnight buffet where you’re stuffing your mouth with lobster, and shrimp, and butter’s running down your face. You know what I’m talking about? So, you’re on a cruise ship, and you’re just having a great time. And the band’s playing “Hot, hot, hot,” or whatever they’re doing. You know, and you’re doing the whole thing.
Some of you all have been on cruises. Anyway. It’s ok. Nothing wrong with that.
And so, you’re just doing your thing, but you don’t know that the boat is off course. You don’t know that the boat is going in the wrong direction. It’s sort of storming outside, but you’re inside and life’s going good. And all of a sudden the ship starts to sink, and it’s dark and nasty. And you’re trying to figure out how to get in a boat.
You finally get in a boat, and you get that boat to where you need to go. And you land up on this island. When you get on the island there’s people that have found their way there, too. And so there’s survivors, but you don’t know anybody. You don’t know anybody on the island at all. And some people speak different languages. Some people have different backgrounds. Some people come from different cultures. Some people come from different socioeconomic groups.
And at that moment everybody on the island, as you’re staring at each other, you realize, “What are we going to do now as a community? How are we going to make this thing work? Because if we can’t make this thing work we may not survive. How are we going to do that?” It would be natural for everybody in the group faced with that dilemma of, “What are we going to do? How’s this going to work? How’re we going to work together to survive?” It would be appropriate, and I think most people would do this in the group, they would start asking questions.
“Am I going to be able to get what I need from here? Is that something that’s a part of this island? I don’t know how this is going to work. I don’t know any of these people. Are some people going to hoard things and keep me from getting what I need? How’s this going to work? Am I going to be able to get what I need from here?”
Or, “Will they listen to me?”
In other words, if something comes up and maybe, “I’ve seen this before, I’ve done this before. Or maybe that was the vocation that I did, are they going to listen to me? Am I going to have a voice when I have a voice to be said? Will they listen at all?”
Some people would ask this question here: “Will I be treated the way I want to? I don’t know anybody on this island. Are they going to exploit me? Are they going to take advantage of me? Are we going to move off into factions, and have all kinds of different debates and everything else? And maybe violence. How’s this thing going to work?”
And at some point everybody on the island is going to have the dilemma of asking this question: “Is this going to be more about what I want, or what is going to best for what is the common good?”
In other words, if the common good is working together, and we can survive, or is it going to be about what I want?
Now, I say all of that to bring this point. God has taken you and me from different backgrounds, different places, different cities, different cultures, and He’s put us together in the Body of Christ, and He wants us to be a community. And we’re going to have these questions that we ask. “Am I going to get what I need from here? And is that the right question? Am I going to be heard here? Is that the right question?” And we have this dilemma.
And when we start talking about the common good… In other words, “Are we going to do this thing together? Are we going to love each other together? Are we going to serve on another together? Are we going to learn to forgive each other together? Are we going to learn to love each other with an unconditional love together?”
So many of us, if we’re honest, we start to recoil at that. We’re like, “Man, that was a great story. You had me at Royal Caribbean. I like the buffet, but now when you start talking about loving each other, turning the other cheek, and forgiving, and like seventy times seven, I just know where this goes, Bennett. It ends up me getting taken advantage of. It doesn’t really work that way.” And whether you’re thinking this or not, you probably are, you’re thinking, “Chip, that’s just not the way the world works, man. And it’s awesome that you want to talk about that, but it’s just not the way the world works.”
And so, I want you to lean in here, and I want you to listen to me. You are absolutely correct. That is not the way the world works. And if I were your pastor trying to teach you how to be successful in the world I wouldn’t preach what I’m going to preach to you today. But I’m not trying to make you successful in the world. I’m trying to teach you and equip you to be successful in God’s Kingdom. To be Kingdom people. That’s what we’re trying to do here.
So, why do we recoil? Why do we go, “You know, that doesn’t seem right. I mean, you know, someone’s going to take advantage of me. I got all this stuff here.”
I’m going to explain to you why we think that we, and why we feel that way. And I think we’re going to do this in a really cool story that you’re going to enjoy. Some people have been like, “Man, I didn’t know that was in the Bible.” We’re going to read a large section of Scripture today. Seriously. People are going, “Are you making that up? Is that like, part of the Bible that I didn’t read?”
No. We’re going to look at a story here that fills in the gap of the story that is the major story in the Bible. The major story in the Bible that follows all the way through from the Old Testament to the New Testament. The Prophets talk about it. They always, sort of, interact with it. Jesus talks about it. Paul talks about it. The writer to Hebrews talks about it. It’s this great story of God taking people out of Egypt. Taking people out of Pharaoh’s empire, leading them through the wilderness into Sinai to give them a new reimagined community where they love God and love their neighbor in a way that’s beyond their understanding. And ultimately never fulfilled until Jesus comes. And ultimately not fulfilled unto our lives until Jesus comes the second time again to get us all and take us home.
But here’s the story. The story is we know Joseph. Most of us, we grew up in church. If you didn’t you’ve probably heard the story. If not, then you’ll enjoy this story. But Joseph, we know about Joseph. He’s this guy that his brothers threw him into slavery, put him in a pit and sold him off to the Egyptians. He goes down to Egypt and has some hardships and whatever, but eventually God raises him up to be second in command to Pharaoh. There’s this great famine in the land. The people of Israel come to Egypt, and he’s able to feed them.
And we’re like, “Yay. Go, Joseph. You rock.” And everybody’s like, “Yeah, that’s awesome.” And we do that deal.
And then we go to Exodus, and we talk about everybody’s in slavery. The Pharaoh doesn’t know Joseph. And God has to delivery the people out of this empire. Out of Pharaoh’s control. And takes them to the wilderness, and all of that stuff. We like, sort of know those stories, but we’re missing a fundamental aspect of this story. Because if we don’t understand the full story we may not understand exactly what God is trying to do in our lives in forming community.
Now, I believe with all of my heart this is an incredible church for community. We do an incredible amount of outreach. We love each other. We have great groups here, and all of that stuff. But I believe like you believe like me. I believe we want more. I believe we want all that God has for us. We want to live this thing out. We want to live the abundant life in the in between. And to do that we’re going to have to understand anew and afresh what community really looks like, and why we tend to recoil by nature at the idea of it with all of these things that we start thinking. But to understand that we got to go back to the story.
So, let’s go back to the story here, and let’s fill in the story.
Joseph is in prison. Joseph’s in prison because Potiphar’s wife has sort of accused him of some things. He’s in prison hanging out. He meets a couple of dudes in prison, gives them some dream interpretation. But then several years goes by, and Pharaoh has a dream one night. Pharaoh’s sort of sleeping and he has this dream. He sees these seven really good, fat cows. He’s like, “Man, that’s good. We like fat cows at the Nile. That’s what we like. We’re not used to any type of scarcity. We’re not used to any types of famine. We got the river. We got the agriculture. We’re good. We got the empire. We control. We got the goods and the resources that people need. We’re in control. Everything’s good.”
He has this drive of the seven really big, fat cows. And all of a sudden these gangly seven cows come up out of the marsh and eat the really good ones. And he wakes up. And then, he goes back to bed.
He has another dream that there’s seven stalks of grain. Beautiful, ready to be harvested. Ready for food. And seven really bad, weather-beaten stalks of grain eat those good ones. And he wakes up. And he’s terrified, because the man who has everything is scared of losing it all. He’s scared of scarcity. He’s scared of not being in control even though it’s hallucinatory. He’s scared.
And so, what does he do? The Bible tells us this. The Bible says, “In the morning Pharaoh, his spirit was troubled. And he sent and called for all of the magicians of Egypt, and all of the wisemen.” He says, “Hey we need to get together.”
This is like, you know we look at magicians and wisemen and we’re like, “What’s that?” That’s like his cabinet back then, okay? These are the people that he brings in. The empire is in trouble. He doesn’t know what the dream means, but he didn’t like the dream. He’s feeling something isn’t right with the dream. He’s troubled. He brings in all of the wise people to solve the problem. But the problem is the empire can’t solve the empire’s problem.
Here’s what it says. “Pharaoh told them his dreams, but there was none who could interpret them to Pharaoh.” So, Pharaoh’s got a problem. He’s got this big empire going on, and it’s all about acquisition. It’s all about control. It’s all about disposable labor. It’s all about performance. It’s all about works. Even the gods of the empire support the empire. The gods of the empire tell the narrative of the empire. The empire is fused in everybody. It’s all going in this empire, and Pharaoh doesn’t know what to do until somebody comes up and says, “Hey, there’s this dude in prison that can tell you what your dreams mean.”
He says, “Well, go get him.”
Figure that. The guy of the empire doesn’t know what’s going on and is going to get somebody out of prison to tell him what’s going on, because this guy has the Word of God. He knows what God’s doing.
Joseph comes in and says, “Pharaoh, here’s your dream, buddy. You’re going to have seven years of really good years, and you’re going to have seven years of really bad years. There’s going to be famine.” They’re not used to hearing that, and that’s not a good thing when you’re Pharaoh.
So, he says, “Well, since you know the dream you seem to be pretty smart. Let me just put you second in command here. I need you to help me out to figure out what to do.” Well see, Joseph, even though he’s a believer, his heart has been formed in the empire. And the empire acquires, and then acquires, and then acquires to control. Because you’ve got to have all the stuff. You’ve got to have all the stuff to feel like you’re in control of your life. You’ve got to have all this anxiety and fear that goes on in your life, because you want to make sure that you have enough. That you have enough. That you’re in control. That you’ve got enough. That you’ve planned everything out. That you’ve done all of these things.
And so, Joseph says, “Well. I’ve got a plan. Here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to do what empires do. We’re going to store all the grain up that we can possibly store up so that we have everything that we need when the famine comes.”
Pharaoh says, “That’s a great idea. That’s the way the empire works, my son. We’re doing great.”
Then the famine hits. Here’s the passage of the story that most of you all probably don’t know, but it’s an important part of the story.
“Now, there was no food in all the land, for the famine was very severe.”
Just in case that you missed that the famine was severe the writer says, “So that the land of Egypt and the land of the Canaan languished by reason of the famine.”
In other words, the famine was terrible. It was bad. Let’s see what happens here.
“And Joseph gathered up all the money that was found in the land of Egypt and in the Land of Canaan in exchange for the grain that they bought.”
See, he’s got what everybody needs, and everybody needs it. So what does he do? Well, he bankrupts them. He gets all their money.
You say, “Man, I thought Joseph was a follower of God. Wouldn’t he have like helped people out?” No. His soul was crafted in empire. He took all of their money, everything that they had, and he sold them grain.
“And Joseph brought all of the money into Pharaoh’s house.” Keep storing it up, and storing it up, and storing it up. “And when the money was all spent in the land of Egypt and the land of Canaan…” – They’re broke. When all the money’s gone… – “…and the Egyptians came to Joseph and said, ‘Give us food.’” – “Can you help us out?” – “‘Why should we die before your eyes? For our money’s gone’ And Joseph answered,” – What do you think he’s going to say? He’ll say, “I got your back, man. It’s all good. I know we took your money. I sort of though about that. Probably shouldn’t have taken your money. God’s a good God. He’ll provide. He’ll do all that stuff. Let me make sure that you’re taken care of.” But oh no. No. No. Joseph’s heart was formed in the empire.
What does Joseph do? He says, “Well, give me your livestock…” – Give me your animals. – “…, and I’ll give you food in exchange for livestock if your money’s gone.’ So, they brought their livestock to Joseph, and Joseph gave them food in exchange for their horses, the flocks, the herds, and the donkeys.”
Now he’s taking all their money. Now he’s taking all their livestock. All the stuff that they need to live a life, and he’s supplied them with food in exchange for all their livestock that year. The first year he took their money. The second year he took their livestock.
“And when that year was ended they came to him the following year and said to him (This is year three), ‘We’re not going to hide from you that (we’re broke) all of our money’s spent.’” – You know that. – “‘And the herds of livestock are my lords.’” – We have nothing. We have nothing at all. – “There’s nothing left in the sight of our lord but our bodies and our land.”
That’s all we have. We don’t have anything else to give you. “Why should we die before your eyes, both we and our land? Buy us and our land for food, and we with our land will be servants to Pharaoh, and give us seed that we may live and not die, and that the land may not be desolate. So, Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh, for all the Egyptians sold their fields because the famine was severe on them. The land became Pharaoh’s. As for the people, he made servants of them from one end of Egypt to the other.”
Now you know how everybody became slaves. Via Joseph. Via the empire. Via acquire, acquire, acquire. I want power, power, power. I want mine, mine, mine. I don’t want anybody to take away what’s mine. I don’t want anybody to get what’s mine. I don’t want anybody to get the things that are mine. Formed in the empire.
See, the empire’s pervasive, because we live in the empire. The empire in the Bible’s called the world. The empire in the Bible’s called many other things. But what happens is that the empire gets into us, and then we start to behave like the empire. We see it in our leaders. We see it in our people. We see it in our neighbors. We see it on the streets when we drive. We see it on Black Friday in the way people act, because the empire’s got into us. Much like the deal that people say, “You can Chip out of Kentucky. You just can’t take Kentucky out of Chip.” Okay? We have the empire running through our veins.
In the middle of that, people start crying out, because they understand the oppressive nature of this. It’s not fair. They’re being exploited. God delivers them. He takes Moses, and they go through the Red Sea. And then He takes them to the wilderness. And this is huge. Lean in here. Very important that you understand this, because as God is delivering them from the empire He does something that’s very important. He brings them to the wilderness.
The wilderness is not where you want to go if your soul has been crafted in the empire. And the reason you don’t want to go there is because you don’t have what you need. It’s a very bad place. You don’t have your food that you’ve stored up. You don’t have your stuff that you’ve stored up. You don’t have your plans that make you feel like you’re in control, even though it’s an illusion. You are in the wilderness, and you know you’re going to die. But God does something in the wilderness that breaks the grip of the empire if we will let it.
He provides graciously to His people. Manna. The Hebrew word is manhu, which means, “What is it?” They don’t know what it is, and you know why they don’t know what it is? Because their souls have been crafted and formed in the empire. You have to work, and work, and work, and you never get paid enough. And you work harder, and harder, and harder. And you perform, and perform, and perform. And so when God says, “I’m going to graciously give you what you need for your daily sustenance,” they don’t know what to do with it.
Moses says to them, “Listen, don’t store it up. Don’t do the empire thing. God’s got your back. He’ll take care of you. He’s got this thing.” They don’t listen. The manna comes in. Everybody’s storing up stuff. They’re doing this stuff, and it turns to worms, and stinks. Bible even says that some gathered more, and some gathered less. And some of the ones that gathered more looked down upon the ones that gathered less. “I worked harder than you.”
Everybody was taken care of. Everybody God took care of, because here’s what they needed to learn and what we need to learn to break the grip of empire. That there is abundance in the wilderness.
See, when you and I understand God has my back all of a sudden it doesn’t have to become the self-centered rat race of the empire. Where now, when we get the idea that God will supply what I need, because He’s a good God and He has my back, we’re able to go now and get the words of the new community to be reimagined that says, “Love God first and love your neighbor in the right way.”
Don’t covet their stuff. Don’t take from their stuff. Don’t take their wives. Don’t take their property. Don’t bear false witness. Don’t live the way the empire lives. Live in a new community.
But we’re unable to live in the new community until the empire has been broken in our lives, and we understand the gracious nature of God. That He fully has our back. Completely. One hundred percent, He has our back. And when we understand that we can engage into other people’s lives.
So, here’s the great themes of the Bible. The empire. The wilderness. And the community. So, we do a recap here, and everybody’s aware of what’s going on. The empire is where the anxiety and fear that produces greed and self-centeredness gives us no time or energy for the common good. We’re so wrapped up in ourselves. We’re so wrapped up in our world. And even when we’re doing the nice thing, even when we’re trying to do the Christian thing, we’re always doing it with the thing of, “What can I get out of this? How can it make me feel?” Because our souls have been crafted in the empire. And God has to break that control in our lives to get us to where we know that He will take care of us daily so that we can engage in other people’s lives, because when you’re living in the empire there are no neighbors. There are friends. In the empire there’s only threats that have to be dealt with. There’s alliances that help the empire. And there’s disposable labor. That’s what the empire has.
The wilderness is where we experience an incredible act of generosity to break the grip of the empire. It’s where we go, “God’s got my back. He truly has my back.” If you knew that God would bring a raven to you to feed you food, if you knew He would supply your needs, if you knew that you didn’t have to store up like the empire and do all that and call it really good planning and all of that stuff that we love to say, if we knew that God had our back, if we knew the Lord’s Prayer said, “Give us each day our daily bread,” which is still going back to the themes that I’m talking about, if we really believed that it would be then and only then that we could engage full throttle to loving God and loving other people.
And the struggle in the wilderness is do we go back to what we came out of, or do we live in what we consider to be this risky faith gesture? And the Bible’s full of it. Don’t shrink back. Continue in the faith. Don’t go backwards. Keep going forwards. And it’s the struggle of, “Am I going to go back? Am I going to go forward? Am I going to trust God?” But the empire’s the siren call that continues to beckon at us, and bring us back, and all the anxiety, and all the fear, and all the garbage that keeps us from really engaging with other people.
And the community then becomes where our mind is off of self, and about the work of the neighborhood. About really engaging with others, and really doing the work God has called us to do. Because we know that God has our back, and He will take care of us so we can do what God has asked us to do.
You know, even when He brings them to Sinai, I don’t know if you’ve read this or not, but God asks them to swear to covenant loyalty before He tells them what they’re going to do. He says, “Trust Me first. Now, here’s what I want you to do. Put Me first, and put others second. Do that. That’s the way I want you to live.”
See, this is a journey that has to be made again and again. Everyday you and I wake up we have to make the movement out of the empire into the community that God wants us to be. And everything I’ve preached to you, everything I’ve said in this whole series revolves around this. We remember to serve because we believe that we have been brought out of the empire, and God totally will bless us, and God totally will take care of us so we can really remember to serve. Because we know that God wants to reimagine the community of the people of God.
We can reread Scripture. Scripture was produced by the community. It was produced by the Church. That we read Scripture so that we can make that journey on a regular basis out of the empire to God’s provision so that we can become all the people God wants us to be.
We revisit our connection with God, because if we’re not connected with God we don’t remember how generous He is, and we fall back into the thinkings of the empire. We recommit our lives to prayer, because in prayer it’s not, “My Father which art in Heaven.” It is, “Our Father which art in Heaven.” It’s, “God, help me to be about Your work. Help me to trust You. Help me to forgive those that have done wrong to me, because, God, what I want to do is live in authentic community.” And we reorient ourselves when we come in here every single weekend, and we get ahold of God again.
We make that journey every single day of shunning the empire and moving towards what God wants you and me to be. And here’s the best part of it all, Jesus Christ has liberated all of those who believe in Him from the empire, and has given them the ability in the Spirit of God within them to make that journey. Because greater is He that’s in you than he that’s in the world.
Now, this is the part where we take notes. It’s what I call the “Take homes.” Get out your sheet of paper. Write this down. Jot these down. These are the things I want you to chew on during the week. The things I want you to think about. Talk to your wife about. Talk to your husband about. Talk to God about. This is the reality here of what we’re talking about.
The first one is this: True community is formed by leaving the empire.
You have to leave it. You have to walk away from it. And here’s the grandest danger of all. And listen to me, and hear me well on this. The greatest temptation is for us to try and fuse empire and Kingdom living. It’s to take the cultures and the things that we hold to be true, and try to fuse it into a relationship with God so that it works.
Joseph did that, and he enslaved everybody. When the Church tries to join with the kingdoms of the world, and the empires of the world, what we do is we put everybody back into slavery. We start talking about production. We start talking about works. We start talking about all this stuff that everybody’s been churned. Everybody who’s been in church and been burned by religion you know what this is all about. It’s about do this, and do that, and live this way, and all that stuff.
We’ve got to get out of the empire. We’ve got to be delivered from the empire. We’ve got to trust that God has our back so that we can genuinely love other people. And that’s why we have the rub. The rub that we have when we talk about loving people, and turning the other cheek, and loving enemies, and doing all these things that God has called us to do is because our souls have been crafted in the empire. And the only way for us to get where God wants us to be is to leave it. True community is only formed by leaving the empire.
Secondly: True community provides a reality where people can be real.
This is what people want. People want authenticity. They don’t want the bull anymore. They don’t want the show anymore. They’re just like, “Man, I want to come to a place where I can be real, and I can be raw, and I can be who I am, and be loved and accepted, and all my stuff and all of my issues. I just want to be real.”
You know, me and Mindy had a flood at our house this week, and it flooded out the kids’ room and the kitchen and all this stuff. And then they got it all cleaned up, and then the garage flooded when the hot water heater blew out. It’s been great. The Serve Pro people walked in. They’re like, “Don’t I know you?”
I’m like, “Yeah, we just had a flood at the church.”
They’re like, “Yeah, man. Everywhere you go is a flood.”
I’m like, “I know. We’ve got to stop bonding like this.”
So, they came out, and it was a slab leak. So, they had to get the guy with the medieval dentist with all these tools, and doing all of this stuff. You know, and they had to break through this slab of concrete. They had to cut the wood out of my little girl’s room, and go into this slab. And they had to fix the pipe. And I grabbed Mindy and I said, “I want you to look at this. I want you to see this. Come here. You see that little bit of wood that we go ‘Ah, look how beautiful this is.’ Right underneath it is concrete and dirt. It’s an illusion.”
We walk around thinking it’s all great. No, we’re on dirt. It’s time to understand we’re dirt. We really have issues, and we need to be an authentic community where people can be real and not judged, and not pushed out, and not ridiculed. The church is not a courtroom. The church is a place for people to connect with God in authentic community. A place where people can be real. A place where people can say, “I’m broken and I need help.” And those who have abundance at that moment are willing to share with those that are in need, because they know God’s got their back. And those that are in need receive to where when one day they have abundance they return the favor.
And you go, “Yeah, but that’s not going to work. That’s not going to happen.” Unless God’s got your back, and He can provide abundance in the wilderness. Then you can live like that.
Third: True community changes the within and the without.
It changes me. Changes you. And changes the community.
Looks at this here. This is Acts 2. This is radical stuff. “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, the fellowship, the breaking of bread, the prayers.”
I mean, they were all in. They were like, “I’m in.” Slam-dunk. It’s like a dunk machine. I’m in the water. I’m all in. I believe in this stuff. I’m reading this stuff. I’m praying this stuff. I’m doing this stuff. I’m all of this stuff. I’m in.
“…and awe came upon every soul…”
I could tell you when you go full in with God you will be awed at what He does in your life.
“… and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common.”
Everything was for the common good. This isn’t communism. It’s not forced. Peter told Ananias and Sapphira, “Was it not your property before you decided to give it?” Nobody’s forcing any of this stuff. This is just people who go, “I know God’s got my back. I know He’s going to take care of me.”
We could truly live in a way that is subversive to the empire, that looks crazy to the empire. The empire’s going to look at you and go, “No. No. No. No. No. Slow down. Don’t do that much. Don’t be that gracious. Don’t be that good. Don’t turn the other cheek.”
People, you’ll hear that siren call again, and again, and again as you try to make that journey into becoming what God wants you to be. But I’m here to tell you something. When you get to the place of where you’re able to go, “Man, I know God’s got my back,” and you know He has your back. And you know He’s gracious. And you know He’s for you. And you know He’ll provide for you. You can live in a way that makes the world go crazy, and everybody’s going to want to know what you got. And they’re going to want to know about Jesus.
These people had everything in common. “…and they were all selling their possessions and belongs and distributing to everybody.”
They were all in, man. They were all, “Man, we’re going to take care of people. We’re going to love people, because God’s got our back.”
“…and day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes they received their food with glad and generous hearts…” – Listen to this. – “…praising God and having favor with all of the people.”
Listen, the Church isn’t supposed to be the place that gets everybody mad at us. We’re supposed to be the place that has favor with the people. We’re supposed to be the place that’s so authentic, and so real, and so takes care of one another, that the people out there go, “Man, something good’s going on in there. We like you.”
They love Jesus. You know, it was the religious people that hated Jesus. It wasn’t the common man. They gathered around Jesus. Read your Bibles. We got to get out of the empire. Become what God wants us to be.
Listen, “…because they had favor with the people,” – This is beautiful. – “…and the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
It’s beautiful. It’s a beautiful story. They believed God. They lived this thing out. They started the new community here on the Day of Pentecost, which is the day that God gave the Law. God gives the Law at Sinai which is the new community. The reimagined community. It lives within now, and we can love God and love others. And they start living this way, because they trust God, and they know God has their back. And they’re willing to put themselves out there.
And what does God do? Gives them favor, and brings people to faith.
See, I know this church, and I know that you all want to reach Lakewood Ranch. I know that we believe that God wants us to reach the unchurch by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ. In the in between we reread. We recommit. We do all of those things, but we have to reimagine community. And when we do that, and we buy in, the sky is the limit to what God can do with His people. He can turn the world upside-down with a group of people that say, “I am all in.”
And here’s what the beauty is. The in between becomes the biggest blessing in our life that we could ever imagine, because we see God doing stuff in the in between.
Dear Heavenly Father, I pray for everyone here in the building. I also pray for those that are watching via the internet and the mobile app. God I just pray that right now we would have a moment with You, and that we would hear Your voice that says, “There is abundance in the wilderness.” God, let us believe that You have our back. That You truly will provide and take care of us, because You are a gracious God.
And God, when we get ahold of that grace, and we get freed from that bondage of the empire, we are free to become all of the things that You’ve called us to be. Not out of coercion. Not out of force. Not out of guilt, but because of the grace that we have received from You.
So, Lord, I pray right now that everybody in this room and the mobile app and internet would just take a moment to hear Your voice. That You have their back, and that You really want to do great things in their lives even in the in between.
So, Lord, I pray that as we walk out of here today that You would lead, guide, and direct us. That You would watch over us. That You would protect us. That You’d bring us back safely to when we meet again. As we start the advent season and talk about the birth of Your Son I pray, God, that we would not only bring ourselves, but we’d bring friends and family, Lord, to hear about this great thing.
And Lord, I pray that You would continue to help us be the church that reaches the unchurch by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ. Lord, we love You. We praise You, and we honor You. In Jesus’ name. And everybody said, Amen.
Give the Lord a big handclap. Have a great day. See everybody soon.