Community Group Study Notes
- Have someone in your group provide a brief, 2-minute summary of Sunday’s teaching.
- In what ways does the message of the Kingdom turn the world’s thought process upside-down?
- Read Ephesians 5:8-10. What does it mean for us to once be “darkness” but to now be “light in the Lord”? Why does God want his people to live distinct, holy lives? What does it mean to be salt and light in our world?
- What is the connection between our ability to live distinct, holy lives and our ability to Love the World? What impact will it have on people when we do live life this way? What impact will it have when we don’t?
- How can we still live distinct lives without becoming haughty or self-righteous?
- What is one action step you can take with what you heard in Sunday’s message?
Father as we open up your word, we pray that you would crack open our minds to listen to what you want to say, to push back the business of life, the difficulties or cares or front and next that we brought into this time together. Help us push those back for just a few minutes and hear the words that are your words. Words that are sharper than any two edged sword. Words that you have breathed through others for us to partake of. And Father as we listen to those words, may our wills be brought into submission to your Holy Spirit. That you would do all in us through us and for this world that you want to do, and we thank you for it in Jesus name, amen.
You have a tremendous opportunity before the service and after it to wander around out there and I think sort of poke your finger into the world and begin to see something that has been radically transformational in the last 50 years. I guess if I could name the last 50 I would say the most phenomenal years that the church has experienced in 2000 years. Not that there weren't a lot of other faithful people, not that there weren't moments of great victory and great receptivity and great harvest. But there have been more people who have come to faith in the last 50 years that I think have come in the whole of the 2000 year history since Jesus has left this planet.
And so when you go outside, you begin to put your finger, you poke it into India, you discover that you are involved in helping an Indian church disciple its own nation. And whereas for almost 2000 years, that was a struggle. Today 50 years on, well, 33 years in my life, as that's when the movement began called CONS [short for Congress On National Saturation]. It was a disciple a whole nation kind of movement. You've seen a nation go from 115 or so a 1000 churches in 25,000,000 believers to something in excess of 700,000 churches and more than 150,000,000 believers.
And to put that into perspective, India is the largest church that Christian history is seen. And we have lived those phenomenal years. You stick your finger in the Ethiopian and 80,000,000 believers. You put your finger into the Philippines that went from 3,000 churches in 1975, '73 to well over 50,000 by the year 2,000. You stick your finger in the Latin America and you find churches, national churches of 30%, 40%, 50% and 60% of the population. Days that others would have dreamed of prayed for and they did sacrifice for. But phenomenal years that we have had an opportunity to experience.
And in every one of those there are multiple things that are happening, but one principle stands out above everything else. A principle that this church subscribes to. That we in SEPI deeply ascribe to. We might say emphatically we subscribed to. Some might say to rapidly ascribe to. And that is this that whatever God's going to do in the world he does through all of Christ's people.
There's a little bit of a danger in our society. I wouldn't want to wipe all these things away but sometimes we have to bring it into perspective. We who have been conditioned to watch football on Sunday afternoons or all day Saturday or we watch basketball and or we watch baseball and in even in those there are these exceptional people. Super human element, super human, super, super, super. And sometimes we let that bleed over into our spiritual thinking. And somehow what God does is through exceptional things when God is just the opposite. It's not the exceptional, they're out there and maybe they're a witness of something special that he wants to say. But the norm of God is you.
The thing that He wants to do is refract His glory in the resurrection put into you in the mundanes or we think it's mundanes, the smallness, the microcosm of our life. That's the power of God. Now, I who have traveled the world can see that just again and again and again and again. You say how did these nations grow so rapidly? It wasn't because Billy Graham went there. It wasn't because they had some big church that called people to recognize, look, these are Christians. Those both are good things. It was because there were thousands and millions of people talking their faith, living their faith.
Kate mentioned just a few minutes ago. They started that church. She's not even sure the woman who leads the church can read, but she is filled with the Holy Spirit because she has been changed by the blood of the cross. Resurrected new and Jesus Christ. The power of God is his people, living the very small elements of life.
Now we can see that strategically, but I always like to take the strategic and tie it back to the inspired. And it's written all over the Bible but I would like for you to this morning just opened up Matthew chapter five because it's always the words of Jesus that are really so simple but so compelling. Why didn't I think of that? So simple but so compelling. And let's look at the first number of verses of chapter five.
Notice what he says Matthew, as he records this occasion. "Seeing the crowds He went up on the mountain," because a bunch of people gathered around them, they want to be inspired. They want to see what next He's going to do. They want to hear His words. So he goes up on the mountains, "and He sits down, and the disciples are the closest, and He begins to speak to them. And he opened his mouth and He taught them saying,
'Let me tell you about my Kingdom. Let me tell you about my exceptional people. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and they persecute you, and they say all kinds of evil things against you, and they do it falsely. But they do it on my account. Rejoice. Be glad. For your reward in Heaven is so much greater. Because just exactly how they treated the prophets who were before you.'
You are the salt of the earth, but it's salt has lost its taste. How can it be brought back again? It is no longer good for anything except to be trampled under the feet of men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden nor to people light a lamp and hide it but they put it on a basket." Pardon me, "up high, not under a basket. But on a stand and it gives light to all those in the house in the house.
In this same way, let your light shine before others so that they may glorify God by they seeing your good works and give glory to God in heaven. Do not think that I came to abolish all these things that have been a part of your joyous experience. I have not come to abolish them. Instead, I've come to fulfill them. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not even the smallest jot, or the smallest dot will pass away until all of these things are accomplished. Therefore, whoever relax is one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven." Why?
"Because I tell you this, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you will never enter into the Kingdom of Heaven."
And here's the principle I think that goes on. Whether you are a new believer or an old believer, is that when you come to faith in Jesus Christ because of the resurrection because of the infusion of the life of God that comes to you by the residency of the Holy Spirit, there is a restoration of the Divine image that was given to Adam and Eve that is now given to us again in the last Adam. Yes, it is still marred, but be God begins to turn the ratchet of your life upside down.
Maybe in the beginning and doesn't look dramatically different. But it looks enough different for people that say, "Aha, what's happened to you? Why not this why not that why not this other thing?" For the longer you're a believer, the more this nature begins to set on the very way that you live and the way you think. The default of your actions and you begin to turn life upside down.
And that's what Jesus is describing in here in these things called the Beatitudes. The longer we walk in obedience to the Word of God ministered by the Spirit of God into the image of the Son of God, the more we stop looking like the world around us. We make different choices. We handle our assets differently. We treat people differently. We handle anger differently. We handle relationships differently. We handle money differently. We handle all of the assets God's given us differently. We handle the marketplace different. Everything is transformed. When you come to Jesus Christ.
And these Beatitudes begin to describe who you are, and they turn your life upside down to the world around you. And that is what God wants. He wants your life so served upside down that all of a sudden they say, "Wow, what's this all about?
But notice what He says, the world would say it this way. Let me put these Beatitudes in worldly thought. The world was a blessing or the wealthy for they possess the earth. Yeah? You got it all because you got the money. Blessed are the happy because they're really the ones who joy life.
Blessed are the aggressive because they take away so much of everybody else's stuff, they have the fullness of the earth. Blessed are those who hunger to possess, because they're never going to be satisfied. So they're always going to be after more of it. Blessed are those who hunger to possess than ever before. Blessed are the self-righteous. Why? Because they show no mercy. You show mercy. Hey, you don't win in football.
Well, the things you got to be careful about sports. It's so winning oriented, that you show no mercy. But the trouble is, if you don't show mercy to people, you got a problem with God. Mercy is the very element of our interpersonal relationships. It's how God treated you. If God gave us what we deserve, there would be no mercy.
I'm not saying we don't pray emphatically. But I'm just saying in all of the avenues of life we turn everything upside down and the world looks at things one way and God says, "No, I don't look at it that way. Oh, by the way, you're not my child." You're going to look at it differently.
Blessed are the corrupt for they don't want to see God. Blessed are those who sow division. Why? Because you divide and conquer. Blessed are those who protect themselves because you retain your Kingdom. Blessed are you if you're always liked, because that's what world relationships are all about.
And now notice Jesus re-frames these. Jesus says, "No-"
How Jesus re-frames this, Jesus says no, blessed are the poor in spirit because they recognize their need. Oh, I don't want to be a needy person. I want to be strong. Jesus says, no, you need to recognize your need because you've been alienated from me. They mourn because of this lostness. They are quiet before God, meek. I realized that God's in control of everything. In the beginning God created. What does that mean? I do this with my grandkids all the time. Okay, let's sit down and talk. "In the beginning, God created. What does that mean?" "Jido grandpa."
"It means he owns everything." "oh, tell me that again?" "Everything." "Oh, that includes you?" "Yeah," "your house," "yeah," "your car, your future, your marriage, the one you might marry, the children you're going to have." In the beginning, God created, it's declaration. It all belongs to him. In meekness, we bend our knee before that reality and we are quiet before him. They hunger to be made holly. I mean that it's the pursuit of holiness. And I want to be holly, but God's already declared holiness his righteousness. You want to be holly, you have to be righteous. I'll give you as much righteousness as I can give you this side of eternity and someday I'm going to take away all of that incompleteness.
I sometimes I'll frustrate myself. I'll sit down and I'll start to think about, okay, what's it going to be like to never get agitated? I mean, I have a hard time with that one to actually wake up in the morning. I guess we'll wake up in the morning or will you figured out any way you want to and I'm not agitated. Oh, I don't even know how that feels, there's no lust. There is no anger. I woke up today and there was no bitterness. That's health. It's health because that's how God created humanity to live. He didn't create all the marine and the difficulty and the pain and all the things that Adam and eve gave us and we've exacerbated. And so these are my children, they turn it all upside down and the oxymoron, the enigma, the difficulty for us, content in discontent, content that I'm alive today because God wants me alive, not done with me. If he were done with me, I'd be gone. How do you know that? In the beginning, God created. He knows what he's doing. It all belongs to him. I belonged to him. I willfully submit to that.
My days are over when he's decided they're over. And I am supposed to speed feel uncomfortable here. I'm supposed to feel uncomfortable with some of the stuff I see on the movies. Some of the stuff I see on TV, some of the words I hear, oh, and the thoughts that come into my mind, I'm supposed to feel uncomfortable with that because that is not righteousness. That's not what God created me to be in Jesus. He wants me to begin to be changed into healthy righteousness.
And yet I need to be content. I'm content for today. Jesus actually says later on the sermon on the mountain be content for today, don't worry about tomorrow because you can't handle tomorrow anyhow, so be content for today. Don't worry about the discontent of the moral. You can't change it except God's sovereignty in it. No, don't be lazy, but be content.
We should be uncomfortable in this world. I set aside assets for retirement, but I should feel uncomfortable about that as well. Why? Well, I know that if I'm wise and in the world I live in and everybody tells me, sometimes they tell me, I think I don't want need here and things I don't need, but they tell me a lot of good things that I know need to set aside something for the day that when it comes, I'll have an asset to be able to support myself, but it's always in direct contradiction to the fact that God takes care of me.
All of these polar opposites, right? The just Yank you in different directions. We're supposed to feel uncomfortable here. True Comfort will only come when you open your eyes in eternity. You'll be comfortable. Now, I got to fight through this polar opposite. That's who we are. We are countered distinctive to the world we live in and that message is the post most powerful message you've got, but there's another reason and Jesus goes on to say very clearly, you're important to my mission. Not only this is who you are, but you are extremely important to my mission, and he says four things and let's just work through them quickly. Number one, your light. Pardon me your salt is first, your salt. think about it for a minute. Is that denigrating? Is that all I am is just a leftover flavor. You think about salt. We use salt to flavor something, bonding and thinking about it and we throw it on the ground to melt the snow, your salt.
but I think there's three things about salt that make it distinctive to what God wants to say to us. Number one, salt flavors, we things like, well, you know that's missing something. Oh, what's it missing? Salt. Sometimes too much, but it's missing. Salt flavors thing you see as we navigate a world, the majority of witches antagonistic to God. I think I'm fair, insane, Jerry and correct me after the service. Every man, woman, and child in Buffalo is not going to become a follower of Jesus Christ. No, we don't act on that. We act on the opposite, that everybody has a right to here to see, to tell, to be able to make a decision, but Jesus says very clearly the ways narrow is not. It's not an easy one. The gates small, the way is narrow and oh, by the way, that narrow way is difficult, is not gonna be easy.
How many are going to become followers of Jesus in Buffalo? I don't know. Does it matter? That's up to God. I know what I'm supposed to do. We'll let God take care of the rest. but I am, and you are the flavor of eternity in their lives, we're the flavor that there is a god who created this earth to which we are responsible to render some accountability. We're the flavor of the divinity that many people will only see. Is not complete. It's not full, is not exhaustive, but it's enough of that flavor though for them if they are being called by God to say, mmm, that smells different, that tastes different. What is that taste? is eternity. We're salt.
Number two, I think salt also has the preservation aspect. I used one for a time, lived in Ukraine never salted fish all over the place. It preserves it. We preserve the image of God in a very rebellious place. We preserve the fact that humanity bears the stamp of the image of God and the children unborn and already born that the world thinks are cast off people we refuse to accept because God has stamped his image on those people.
Well, they're not the perfect image. Neither are you. You will not be the perfect image until you leave this body behind and get the next one. We preserve some sense of consciousness that people would be held accountable for taking life that only is held in the hand of God. We preserve the image of the living God. We preserve the words of God. We preserve the fact that God created marriage and I'm going to work to preserve it because in marriage, there is a genius of unity that only God could have thought up. We preserve that image.
And then thirdly, salt has some healing qualities to it, and we're healers in the world. And most of those ministries you heard up here and out there in the room, they're the fingers and the hands of God going out to a very dramatically damaged world. No, we're not going to change all the problems in the world. Systemic change is very difficult in order to get that you gotta have some governmental cooperation and that's a tough one to get,
but don't tell that to the person who you helped. They don't care about the systemic change. All they know is that the finger of God through you touch them. My wife and I had been very involved in women out of prison in a lot of different ways for about 15 or 20 years and I cannot change the prison system. I cannot change many of the unjust ways that happened to prisoners when they come out. I can't change the lack of opportunity that those women have. I can't all meet ... We've worked to get them jobs. We can't even get them jobs because industry has closed them off, so they don't survive, so I can't change all of that, but we can help 15 women. We can change their lives and you just start thinking of all the dimensions of life, you are the healing force of God in a broken world.
Why? Because you're the salt of the earth. Second, he says that we're the light of the world. You don't hide the light. You put them up on the stand. You want everybody to see it. Now, there's two polar difficulties with life. The first is the purpose of light is to reveal things. I mean, I've traveled so much and it's always a mystery to me as we usually flights on the way internationally they land at night and so coming in and all these beautiful lights and you get out there's lights everywhere though. Oh, this is so romantic it's so enchanting oh this is so inspiring and then the next morning you get out in the walk, in the light, Whoa, what happened? What in the world? Where did that come from? Where did that come from? Where did that come from?
That's what light does. It uncovers things and begins to show the underbelly of life. In Ephesians five, it's exactly what Paul says, a part of your ministry as you move out of the world, is to demonstrate, to show light on the underbelly of corruption in the world. That's what rescuing trafficked women is all about.
No, no I don't want to hear about it. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. It's not in America. No, no, no, no. That's too sad for me. Well, I'm too comfortable. I'm going to have to go find a room to get in to be comfortable. No, no, no, no, no. Don't tell me that. Sorry.
We live in a polluted world. We live in a corrupt world. We live in an immoral world. We live in a world that rapes and pillages and we don't see it. Don't want to say it, but it's there and a part of our lifestyle ought to bring the revelation of that reality. Number of years ago, I was reading shocking, brought me to some conviction. One of the most trafficked women time in America is the two weeks around the Superbowl. What am I supposed to do with that? Oh Rah, Rah, Rah, Rah really? Well, I got that polar pool again, right? I'm comfortable with God. I'm uncomfortable with that. If I were emperor, we'd get rid of that. Problem is I'm not emperor. I'm nothing. Well I can do is handle one or two, three, four. I can't change that system.
The underbelly is there, but our lifestyle begins to show the underbelly of the sickness of the world because it distorts the human experience. It corrupts the beauty of what God created, your light. The second part of the light is really the positive side. If you're on a boat and it's really foggy or ship, I should say, you're on a ship and it's really foggy and it's raining and you're kind of lost a little bit and you see a light out there. What's that called? A lighthouse, saved I know where to go. That's what we are. We point people to rescue. We point people to solutions because we point people to eternity. Your light, your assault. Third, he goes on to say, here and I'm going to move quickly. We're truth. I didn't come to get rid of all this. I'm not simply saying to you, yeah, like you're so much, like your hairstyle, you're in, come on in. I'm going to get rid of all those. No, no, no, no, no.
I came to fulfill them all. In fact, I fulfilled them all so much. I died in the place of them. Yeah, I paid the full price by putting my life right there on that cross for all those payments, but none of them are going to be eliminated. They're going to be fulfilled by me. You and I are a statement of truth. Gaba named Dallas Willard, who is now in heaven, Christian philosophy.
Dallas Willard, who's now in heaven, Christian philosopher, bright individual, I'm really inspired by some of his writings, made this statement in a recent article I read that published after his death. Moral knowledge started to die in this country 50 years ago. Well, he also has other articles that make it clear that moral knowledge dies when this knowledge dies. Generally, in this world, we don't have any tied knowledge anymore. You go to university, it's a random commitment to knowledge. There's no base thing tying us anymore. Knowledge is slippery. In fact, they call it liquid modernity nowadays because you can't put your fingers around it. He said the real damage in this is there's no longer any moral conscience so there's no moral knowledge.
I'm running for office. I want to get your vote. I want to make sure you lose. I can say anything I want about you. Nobody's going to know whether it's the truth or not. I can lie. I'm not talking Republicans or Democrats. I'm talking all of them. We can lie. We can cheat. We can distort. Oh, by the way, if you're stupid enough to tell the truth, you don't deserve to be elected. Moral knowledge. When once this knowledge is given up, then moral knowledge starts to change. The further away it gets from any kind of revelation standard, one that we all agree to, that you can come up with anything you want here. You can walk in the door and say you're a yamma. Who's going to say no? You have the right to call yourself a yamma. You can say, "That's crazy. You're not a yamma." Well, why? Who's going to stop it? Off of what basis do you say I'm not a yamma? I feel like a yamma. I want to be a yamma. You have no right to tell me what I'm not because this moral basis is gone.
We can give up relationships. We can lie. We can cheat. We can steal money. We can abort children. We can abandon families. We can just simply walk away and say, "Well, you know, that's not how I feel," because, all of a sudden, the further away we get from any sense of standard, it's whatever you want it to be, baby. It's where we are. I didn't say that moral knowledge was dying. I said he said it's dead, but it's not absent. Did you get that? It's dead, but it's not absent. Why? You're still here. That's why. You're a statement that there is a truth that is so important that you will stake your life on it. I can't explain everything. There's a lot of mysteries. I can't unwind all of your arguments that you spin out here.
You run out here, and you spin an argument. I try to take you back here. No, no. We don't believe that anymore. Well, you believe this. Tell me where that came from. Well, I don't know where it came from. It doesn't matter where it came from. This is what we think. You're not going to get away from that, but you are still the irritant, yes, you are the irritant that God uses to say to a rebellious world there is an eternal truth and I have committed my life to it. You want to reject that, then that's what it's all about. You have a right to say no, but if you still want to smell some salt, smell eternity, if you want to see some light, if you want to see some redemption brought to your life, there is still truth. As much as I understand it, I am it. We're the truth of God declared into a very rebellious and a difficult environment.
Then, fourthly, he says very clearly you got a different kind of righteousness. He goes on to say, look, if all we are is Sadducees and Pharisees and Baptists and Pentecostals and Presbyterians and name them all you want, if that's all we are, then that's the wrong kind of righteousness because that kind of righteousness doesn't change anybody. Those are all human descriptions of something we hope is really Biblical. If it is or isn't, that's up to God. He says, "Look, there is a righteousness that I've given to you. That righteousness is the righteousness of my Father. It's not just it exceeds the righteousness of the prophets and of the scribes and the Pharisees, it's different than. Their righteousness is all out here. Mine is infused into you." You see, I would be lying to you, I would be deceiving you, I would be mocking you, I would be manipulating you if I were sitting here for these 35 minutes saying all these things without a conviction that God has infused you with his life, his righteousness, and his Spirit because I would be asking you to do something that is impossible for you to do.
With the design of God replaced in you by the blood of Jesus Christ and his resurrection, you are fully capable to begin to look like the Beatitudes and to walk in the righteousness for which God has designed you. Some day, you will wake up and all of those urges are gone, but for now, you are the brushstroke of God on the small, little canvas of your life. You think, "Well, not mine." Yours. Everywhere where God is preparing people, he wants to refract himself through your journey of obedience and transformation, not somebody else's. You don't read a testimony, you don't go read this book. I don't mind with the books. I get tired of go read the book. Read me. Imperfect that I am, read me. That's what God wants you to do.
Now, obviously you got to preserve that with time with him and listening to the Holy Spirit and allowing the Spirit to come in and create this tension in you. No, I'm not going to go this way. I'm going to go that way. Without you, I can guarantee you Buffalo's not going to be won except by some miracle that, in spite of us, God does what he wants. The beauty of God is every one of you is a brushstroke of his glory painted in the tapestry of your own time. Whatever God's going to do in Buffalo, whatever he's going to do in Lockport, whatever he's going to do in Cheektowaga, whatever he's going to do in India, just keep putting it out, he does through us, you incarnationally here and you through this church giving amazing amount of love and sacrifice to people who serve the world.
This church can only give if you give. You only give if you've been transformed by the blood of Christ, radicalized. I'm going to be upside down. Why? Because Jesus made me that way. May God grant you the joy of walking that joyous epiphany because it's always new. It's always different. Every day can be an adventure of God painting himself through your life for his glory. Father, we say thank you for this and we say thank you for what you want to teach us. I say thank you for this church as well as those who have come this week with me as a guest. We thank you for its faithfulness, its commitments, its radical commitment to this city, and its involvement in the world. May you continue to bless it, multiply it, and grow these people into the people that you want them to be. We ask it in Jesus' name. Amen.