Community Group Study Notes
- What does it mean for us to love the Church like Jesus does? What does it look like in everyday life?
- Why is it important that we love the Church and not just our church? What is the difference between these things?
- What is one action step you can take with what you heard in Sunday’s message?
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:35)
I'm guessing you've seen one of these before, huh? Rubix Cube. How many of you actually at some point in your life may have known how to do one of these things? Raise your hand. Yeah, so what? How many of you if ever ... I just got a side, so there you go. You clap like that's some great achievement. I got a side. There's six sides, so I'm 1/6th stupid. So, how many of you at some point in your life actually tried to learn how to do this but got disgusted and threw it against a brick wall and broke it into a thousand pieces? Raise your hand, yeah. That's many of us. At one point in my life I knew how to do this back in like late middle school early high school I knew how to do this, and I could solve a Rubix Cube in under 60 seconds. So, taste it. Every one of you. No, I'm kidding. I did know how to do it.
But if you look at this cube sometimes if you don't see it properly, like if you saw it packaged just like this, "Hey, buy the Rubix Cube." You might think that it is, even though it's a cube, that it only has one color on every side. But when you see it actually you realize that it's multi-colored and multi-sided. Now the problem is, is that sometimes if we were looking at it like this we might think it's one-sided and one colored if we were looking at it this direction, or if we were looking at it from the top down. But when we see it as a whole cube we realize it's an entire cube, but it is multi-sided, and it is multi-colored. That there are six sides to the cube, one, two, three, four, five, six on the cube and then there are different colors on each side of that. So it's multi-sided, multi-colored. This is important for us to remember because sometimes what happens when we're talking about the love of God is that we can get ourselves into a place talking about the love of God where what we're saying is actually flattened out, and we make the love of God one-sided one colored. As opposed to realizing that God's love is actually multi-sided and multi-colored.
For instance, we have a tendency to flatten out the idea of the love of God when we make statements that are seemingly true but only partially so, like this. God loves everyone equally. Some of you are going, "Uh doesn't he?" Sort of, but not completely. You see what we've done when we make a statement like that is we flatten it out, and we make it look like God's love only has one side and one color to it when actually God's love is multi-sided and has many colors. I'm going to come back to that in just a minute.
And the reason that I'm kind of setting the platform that way is that in a few minutes we're going to look at this idea that we've been looking at for the last few weeks, this idea of the Greatest Commandment that we've been talking about. Except this time, we're going to be in Luke's gospel when we look at this idea. We've looked at it in Mathew's gospel before, but we're going to look at it in Luke's gospel in chapter 10 in just a moment, so if you want to open a Bible or if you want to call one up digitally, either one you can do that. And we'll be in Luke chapter 10 in just a moment.
But what I want us to first understand is the many-sided many colored love of God. The reason for that we're going to see in just a few minutes, but I want us to at least pay attention to what that looks like because God's love is not flat, and it's not one sided and one colored. In fact, let me show you some different ways of looking at the multi-sided multi-colored love of God, and I'm grateful for Dr. Carson's help in kind of sorting some of these categories out even though I'm using my own terminology and all of this, but he was a help to me. Here's what it says first, or here's what I'm saying first, one kind of side of God's love if we look at it this way is God's love within Himself. In other words, God has always existed. God the Father, God the Son, God the Spirit have always existed in eternity past and there was a love within the nature of the Godhead, within himself before anything ever at all. This is a part of the color of the sidedness of God's love. We know that the Father loves the Son, the Son loves the Father, the Spirit gives deference to the Son, we know that there is a love relationship within the nature of who God is that proceeds anything.
But, if we look at this we can say, "You know what, there's also another side and another color that we can look at." In fact, let me show it to you, it's God's, providential love. Here's what I'm saying when I say God's, providential love. The word providence actually has with it the idea of looking forward on something, looking in advance of something. But providential is something that I want you to pay attention to. Here's what I mean when I say that, God's providential love, it means that God has intervened in history, He's intervened in the Earth, and He's loved everything that he's made. He's loved the Earth and everything in it. That's God's, providential love. In fact, let's say you were looking at Psalm 1:45 it says this, "The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord is good to all; He has compassion on all He has made." You know what you see there? You see a benevolent God who has made everything and demonstrates his love in everything that he has created. That not only means his creation itself but it also refers to every person within creation also.
In fact, notice what Jesus said in Mathew 5 that God, "... Causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and He sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." In other words, everybody everywhere whether good or bad, whether righteous or unrighteous gets to receive the providential love of a caring creator who lets the sun shine on everybody and who brings rain for everybody, it's kind of all the same. So, God shows a providential love, but if you flip it another time you can see a different side of God's love.
Here's a third one, God's yearning love. In other words, the idea here is this, is that you can hear kind of God's desire for people to come to Him. Listen to how Jesus said it in Mathew chapter 11 he said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Can you hear it? Come to me. This is what Jesus is saying, I want you. Come to me, learn from me.
You also hear it in the word's of Peter in 2nd Peter chapter 3 says, "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." Do you hear it again? He wants you to come to him. This is the yearning love of God.
But if we turn it another way, a different way we can see God's empowering love. I'm giving you six by the way, because there's six sides on this, so I just figured it'd make it simple. God's empowering love. Listen to how Paul says it in Romans, "Hope does not put us to shame because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us." In other words, the empowering love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit that allows us to appropriate the love and the life of Christ in the world that we live in, it's an empowering love.
But it's also, listen to this, "For his own people, it's an unconditional love." God's love is unconditional in this sense. Notice what he said to Israel in Deuteronomy chapter seven, this chosen people of His he said, "For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession. The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt." So why was Israel chosen? Because God loved them. Was it because they were so lovable? Nope. Was it because they were so big? Nope. It was because God loved them. Well, why? Because God did. It was without condition. He chose them in love, it's what he chose to do.
Jeremiah teaches us that too he says, "The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: 'I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.'" This is the idea behind God's unconditional love.
In fact, when we begin to fast forward into the New Testament we see Paul talk about this, it's one of the great kind of soaring passages in the Book of Romans chapter eight he says this, "Who shall separate us from the Love of Christ?" He's talking to believers. "Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." This is one of the great passages of scripture to just read and reflect on because it reminds us of the unconditional nature of God's love.
But, if you turn another side here's what you'll also see. God's conditional love. Some of you are going, "Whoa, whoa, whoa. What did you just say?" Yeah, God's conditional love. Let me show it to you in fact when we look at the 10 Commandments. Exodus chapter 20. "You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments." There is something conditional about this, showing love that in regard.
And then when you fast forward into the New Testament and listen to the word's of Jesus in John 15:10, Jesus says, "If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commands and remain in his love." Now listen to this, Jesus is not saying that God is going to give love and take love away. That's not what He's referring to. What he's saying is this, is that when we are obedient to him we will experience his love in a depth of reality that other people who are not being obedient to him will not experience. We've already established that God has shown his love to everyone everywhere but those of us who obey him will experience his love in even deeper ways. So there are conditions associated with that, obedience is a condition to deeply experience the love of God.
Now, why do I tell you all of these things? I tell you all of these things because we need to understand that the love of God is multi-sided and multi-colored when we talk about it so that we don't just flatten it out. Because when we start to get to our study today we'll need to have that as a backdrop for our understanding. I told you we were going to be in Luke chapter 10 and we are. You remember kind of the story that we've been studying over the last few weeks. On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher, he asked, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
Jesus answered, "What's written in the law? How do you read it?"
And the teacher responded, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself."
"You've answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live."
But the teacher wanted to justify himself so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"
Now you remember how this went, right? We studied this passage and what we learned initially was the greatest or the most important commandment that we are given Jesus summarizes it and says, "Look everything hangs on these two things. First, love the Lord your God with everything you are, everything inside, everything outside, and everything you have at your disposal, love God with all. And the second is like it," he says. How is it like it? Because it's also about love. He says, "Love your neighbor as yourself. These are the two things on which all of the law and the commandments are hanging on this." All the law and the prophets, all the scripture, it's hanging on these two things. That's what we talked about initially.
This man hears that or actually this man said that he repeated it back to Jesus he said, this is what I think the law is teaching and Jesus says yep you got it, do this and you'll live. And the man wanting to justify himself said, "You know that thing you said about our neighbors, loving our neighbors, who's our neighbor? Who's my neighbor?" Now the beautiful thing about what Jesus does is that Jesus tells him a story in answer to his question and doesn't answer his question.
Do you know that Jesus gets asked a lot of questions in the Bible? I think if I were counting it would be in the hundreds. It's more than 200 questions that Jesus gets asked maybe even closer to 300 questions that he gets asked and he doesn't answer the majority of them. Isn't that cool? Some of you are going, "No, it's frustrating. Why is that happening?" The reason that Jesus doesn't answer the question usually is because what we does is he answers the question you should have been asking. He's answering the questions that they should have asked but didn't ask.
And so, this man says, "Who is my neighbor?"
And Jesus says, "Let me tell you a story." And it's the parable of the Good Samaritan that he tells that story. You know the story. Jesus implicitly answers the question but more specifically what Jesus does is Jesus tells a story after this man has asked, who is my neighbor, Jesus tells a story about what a neighbor should do, not about who it is. Why? Because the man the Bible says was trying to justify himself. Stay with me and listen. Why was the man trying to justify himself? Because he wanted to find out what the categories were. Who is it that's my neighbor that I have to love them? Who's not my neighbor and that I don't have to love them?
It's really simple, it's the same kind of things that we want to do with our lives, right? We want to categorize everybody. "Who's my neighbor, cause I have to love them? I got to, God said so." Like that's what God has in mind for the flourishing of humanity. "I gotta do it, I gotta love 'em. I hate 'em but I gotta love 'em." That's not what God's got in mind.
So he's not saying, "Hey, here's your neighbor, therefore, you can love them. And here's not your neighbor you can go ahead and just hate on them, man. Just be a hater, it's all good." Not what he has in mind.
So implicitly in the story what you find out is, you find out that, "Huh, who is my neighbor? Everybody." Apparently, everybody's my neighbor whether they're close to me or they're far from me, everybody's my neighbor. "Okay, I can't really break these people out now into categories of who I can and cannot love." That's the frustrating thing. But Jesus deals with that man not by answering his question but by answering the question that he should have asked and helps him to learn that everybody's his neighbor. But the question that he asked who's my neighbor's still a fair one. It's still a fair question. And if we were to look at that question ourselves it would help us to understand a couple of things.
In fact, if I were walking back into Deuteronomy where this original teaching comes from, love your neighbor as yourself, I would find the Hebrew word for what we translate as neighbor, it's the word rey’akha. Don't ask me to say that again, rey’akha. I did it again, don't ask me to do it a third time, rey’akha, I did it a third time. That's the Hebrew word. Why is that important? Here's why. Because that word ... listen to this, we've actually chosen an English word neighbor, which is really kind of a compromise term. Not compromise in a bad way, it's a perfectly fine translation but compromise in the sense that the word rey’akha means actually two things not one thing. Let me explain.
When we begin to see this word show up in the Old Testament it actually talks about those who are near to us and at other times it talks about those who are not. So for instance, when we see the word rey’akha show up in Job here's where it shows up, when Job's three friends, those that are close to him, that's what we see there. But if we look at the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11 notice what it says, there it is. "Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. They said to each other," there's our word right there, other. So you've got friends and you've got other. You see there's a two-pronged meaning to this and so, when we see the word neighbor it means friends and other. Therefore, what Jesus was helping to teach us with that story that neighbor means everyone is actually played out in the word itself where we see that it means those who are close to us and those who are far from us.
And by the way, that shouldn't be a shock because didn't Jesus teach us that anyway? Listen to what he said in John chapter 15, "My command," Jesus says, "is this: love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends." For those who are close to you.
But what did Jesus say on the Sermon on the Mount in Mathew chapter 5? "You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." You know what Jesus was actually saying there? If you really want to love your neighbor then you have to love your enemies, because loving your neighbor involves even your enemies. So it's those who are close and those who are far. That's what we're talking about when we talk about the idea of this word neighbor.
That's why in the very first message in this series, here's what I summarize this great commandment that says, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. And love your neighbor as yourself." I summarized it real easily. Love God, love the church, love the world. There it is. Do you know why we said, love the church love the world? Because it captures the two-pronged nature of love your neighbor. Love the people of God and love the not people of God. That's what you've got. Love the people of God and love the not people of God. Love God, love the church, love the world.
So, that said, this is why it's important for us to understand the multi-colored multi-faceted love of God. You see because when we begin to understand that even though this may represent love it is one cube, this is one love right here, but it is multi-colored and multi-sided. The reason that I express that is because God has a very distinctive love for his people. It's not the same even though it comes from the same God and God is love it is a distinctive color and side to his love when he is loving his own people. But we say things like, "God loves everybody the same. God loves everybody equally." We flatten it out and make it one sided and one colored when in actuality God has a very specific love for his people.
Maybe it'd be better instead of saying God loves everyone equally, maybe it would be better to say this, "God shows his love to everyone but there is a distinction as to the kind of color of love that he shows to different people." Or maybe I could say it this way, God doesn't love everyone equally he loves everyone specifically. You see this is what God is doing.
And the reason that I mention that to you is because it's something that you actually know to be true because God has a distinctive love for his bride. I'm married, I have a bride. This October we'll have been married for 25 years if God graces us to live to October, and I'm hoping he does. 25 years we've been married. Got married at 11, don't do the math. Kidding, we didn't get married at 11 that's illegal and gross, so I didn't do that. I actually had just turned 24 like two days prior and then got married. So, if you're doing the math you're going 25 years, 24 years ... I'm 48. This October I'll be 49, my wife is just slightly older than me, she's 98. Beautiful doesn't look it, incredible gene pool, it's awesome. No, she's just a few months older than I am. So we're right in that neighborhood 48, 49. We've been married 25 years.
Here's the thing, I have a love for everyone and anyone because I have the love of Christ in me. So, if I meet somebody for the very first time it doesn't matter if they're like me, it doesn't matter if they look like me, think like me, different than me, whatever, I still can love them because of Jesus in me. I can still love them. But my love for my bride has a different color, a different side to my love that I have for a stranger that I have yet to meet. In fact, it would play itself out pretty clearly that if this stranger that I had just met and my wife were standing side by side, and I had to make a split second decision because they were both in harm's way I can promise you that I'm headed for my bride. I can promise you that. Doesn't mean that I don't love it just means that I'm headed for this distinctive love that I have. You understand what I'm saying when I say that. I believe this to be true of God because God has a very distinctive love for his bride.
In fact, Paul knew this when he opened up the letter to Romans notice what he says in chapter one. "To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be his holy people." In other words, Paul is writing to a distinct group of people. He's writing to those that are loved by God and called to be his holy people as opposed to those who are not his holy people. Those who are not his holy people are still providentially loved by God but there is a distinctiveness of love that God has for his church that Paul knew quite well. In fact, when Paul is ending the Book of Galatians notice what he says, "Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers." Did you catch that? You had to because I highlighted it. Especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
There is a distinctive nature to the love that God shows to his people, to his church. Do you know what's so great? I don't have enough time to talk about this and I'm going to have to use some word economy to get us where we're going, but do you know what's so great about that in the Book of Galatians? When Paul says at the end of Galatians, "Do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.." Do you know why that's so beautiful? Because we've already found out in the book of Galatians that what unites this family of believers is Jesus. And that, that's bigger than any distinction.
In other words, now this family is not based on gender, it's not based on race or ethnicity, it's not based on social class, it's based on Jesus. That this a new kind of family and that what holds us together is bigger than all of the other things that seem to make categories out of us. You see this is the beautiful picture of this church that Jesus loves because this church is multi-sided and multi-colored, just as his love is multi-sided and multi-colored. And we get to see his distinctive love for his people, his church. In fact, how did Jesus love his church? How did love his church? He died for it, right?
Paul makes that really clear even though when he's talking about husbands and wives and how husbands are to love their wives, he actually uses the example of how Jesus loves the church. Ephesians 5:25, "Husbands love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." In other words, the love that Jesus has for the church is a sacrificially giving kind of love.
So, if then we are now going to ask the question, how do we obey what Jesus is teaching us when he says, "Greatest commandments, love God with everything we are, inside, outside, and everything that we've got at our disposal. And love your neighbor," two-pronged, right? "Love your neighbor as yourself." Those close, family relationship, the family of God, and those not close to God. We're looking at the close to God right now. Love the church, how do we do that? We have to do it like Jesus. And so, to love the church like Jesus we sacrificially share our lives, our resources, and our gifts. This is how we do this, this is how we actually obey what Jesus is teaching us. If we want to love the church like Jesus and we are called to love our neighbor, and the church counts as a part of that, then we sacrificially share our lives, our resources, and our gifts.
I'm going to take those one at a time and move through them really quickly, but I want you to see what I'm talking about. Let's look at the first. Sharing our lives. You know when the early church was founded, right at the very beginning, Pentecost came, 3,000 added to their number that day, this incredible group of people. Do you know what they started doing? They started sharing their lives. Look what it says in Acts chapter two. "They devoted themselves to the apostle's teaching and to fellowship to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." This is what they were doing, they were loving one another by sharing their lives with one another in community.
We find out when we fast forward into the Book of Hebrews a little later on in the New Testament it actually says this, "Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching." Do you know what we have, listen to this, do you know what we have in the New Testament when we talk about the early church expressing love to one another? We have them living in the context of community. That's what we have. They were living in the context of community.
Now, the brand new early church founded in Jerusalem, you're going, "yeah, but they had all these things in common, they were all Jewish. All the new believers were all Jewish at the very beginning." True, but they were from all over the place. They were from all over the place. They were back in town for a festival and they came from all kind of parts of the world.
So, just imagine, as they come to faith in Jesus, just imagine some of the differences that are showing up among them. Some of them may have been from the Hillel school of thought and some of them may have been from the Shammai school of thought. Or maybe I could say it this way, some of them watched Fox News and some of them watched MSNBC.
Some of them may have come and they're there, they're new followers of Jesus but they're in competing industries. Some of them came from different social backgrounds. Some of them may have thought differently about the Roman occupation, there may have been a handful of them that thought, "Hey, this is a good thing because it keeps us safe." There's another group out there saying, "This is an awful thing. We're under their thumb." And all of these people with all of these diversities and backgrounds are now coming together under the banner of Jesus Christ.
Wouldn't that be great if that's what the church did today? Wouldn't it be great if the church of Jesus Christ today was actually living that way, that we loved the church this way? That actually what brings us together in Jesus Christ is bigger than our political talking points, bigger. More important because I can promise you this, Jesus, when he returns is not going to show up on a donkey or an elephant. He's coming on a white horse, the scripture says.
This is not about being Republican or Democrat or Independent, all of those things, look it's great we can vote, we can express that, we want to do that with a Biblical kind of conscience. I got all of that, but let's not pretend regardless of which side of the congressional aisle you might fall on, let's not pretend that everybody's got it all solved and that there's no corruption on either side, so if I were you I wouldn't put all your hope in that. We don't trust in horses and chariots, we trust in the name of the Lord our God. This is what binds us together more than anything else. You see if that were the case then we could live with one another and we could love one another in the midst of it.
Or if it was our season of life, you know I'm only hanging out with people that are young marrieds with no kids, or I'm only hanging out with people that are young marrieds with kids, or I'm only hanging out with singles right now because that's all I'm going to do. What are you talking about? This is a family. Do you do that in your own family? Like, "I'm not going to the family reunion, I'm only hanging out with my cousins that are my same age, my grandparents, get out of here." We don't do that. That's nuts. This is a family and in family, its got to be bigger than our seasons of life. It's also got to be bigger than our ethnicities or our racial backgrounds. The only way that we get to know one another is getting to know one another! That's the only way it happens.
Then we start getting beyond some of the things that maybe we thought and we start learning that these are people who love Jesus, and what brings us together is what's bigger than what separates us. This is the lessons that we have to learn in the context of what we're studying to obey. Then our social standards and all of that kind of stuff, we come from money, we don't come from money. We're middle class, whatever, stop separating yourself into classes and realize you're a new kind of human being called a Christian, that everything has been made new and everything has a new definition based in love. This is what God's called us to.
You see that's why for us we keep saying to you, "We want you to be involved in a community of some kind." Now yes, we come together and we worship as a large, large community of believers, thousands of us on a Sunday between all of our campuses. But we want you in some kind of small arena, small community, why? Because this is how you actually grow, this is how you're shaped more into the image of Jesus. You know what you need? You need the accountability of that kind of community. You need the help of that kind of community. You need the prayer of that kind of community. You need the teaching and the learning and the opportunity to teach in that kind of community. And by the way, you need the hope of that community and you need the disappointments of that community. You need to learn what it means to be disappointed with family and still remain family and figure out how to work it out as family instead of hiding off and doing nothing about it. This is imperative for us.
You see sometimes what we do is we just stare at one another. You know how the Bible talks about how iron sharpens iron? You know how it does that? Ca-ching. That's how it does it. You actually have to be there. You know we're called brick upon brick, do you know how bricks get into place? They have to work their way in. This is a part of what community is. So let me tell you what community is not. Community is not showing up every week ... and I'm not talking about some extenuating circumstance, these things happen I realize it. Showing up every week like 10-15 minutes into the worship gathering and then departing while I'm praying. That's not community. What that is ... Let me just pause for a second. I love you. I do, I really do. I get kind of jacked up about stuff but I really do love you. I'm just trying to help you understand. This is not what community is and it's not what's good for you. You holding up thinking that all you need to do is attend becomes parasitic. You show up, you suck what you can get and you depart. That's not what we're called to. We need to be attached rather than just attend because that's what body is.
You see, that's the message we give to young people when they're leaving for college. We tell them, you gotta find a church to attend. And we mean well when we say that we're saying it with a right heart and a right motive, we want them to be connected to a church, but you know what we need, we need them to be grafted into community and attached to the body of Christ, not just to be a spectator who attends. That's what we want for you. So, you need to understand that, that's what we want for you. You need to find yourself in smaller communities where those things can actually have life. Share their lives is what they do.
Let me give you the second thing, they share the resources. I'm going to make this super quick, they share the resources. I'm going to just show it to you in the scriptures so you see it. Look at what they did in the early church, Acts chapter two, "All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power, the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God's grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need." Wow.
How about this one, 1st John chapter three, "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us." That's exactly what we're talking about, and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. "If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth."
Listen further in 1st John chapter four, "We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister." When we share our resources we are tangibly expressing our love for God by loving those he made and loving those in our family. Together when we gather and we give we have an opportunity to make an impact on many people's lives. But individually when we see and we know of a need we can help to meet that as God lays that on our heart to be able to do that, but guess what, you'll never know there's need if you're not in community. You'll never know. This is why we need to be in community with one another because it helps us to even know needs that God may use us to help meet.
So they share their lives, they share the resources but they also share their gifts. Listen closely, they use the gifts that the spirit of God gave them in service to the body in love. In fact, listen to what Paul says in Romans chapter 12, "For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ, we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others."
We have different gifts according to the grace given to each of us. If your gifts prophesying then prophesy in accordance with your faith. If it's serving then serve. If it's teaching teach. If it's encouraging give encouragement. If it's giving give. If it's to lead do it diligently. If it's to show mercy do it cheerfully. Love must be sincere. Hate what's evil, cling to what's good, be devoted to one another in love, honor one another above yourselves, never be lacking in zeal but keep your spiritual fervor serving the Lord. Do you know what when the scripture talks about this ... and also over in Peter, that I'm not going to go to because I'm running out of time. Do you know that when it talks about spiritual gifts it's always talking about love at the same time? Do you know why? Because spiritual gifts are supposed to be used in love. Do you know what that means? It means this, that your use of your gifts are others-centered not self-centered. That's what it means. The use of your gifts that the spirit of God gives to you are others-centered.
How then are you going to use your gifts if you're not in community? If you're not engaged in serving, how are you going to do that? This is why all of these things go together because God's people ultimately should be known by love, love for God, love for the church, and as we'll talk about next week, love for the world. And how do we love the church? We do it like Jesus does and remember what we said, to love the church like Jesus it means we sacrificially share our lives, our resources, and our gifts.
That said if you're here and you've never before experienced the gift given to you by God through his son Jesus then hopefully when we dismiss in just a moment ... now listen carefully, when we dismiss in just at moment you're going to be giving something very specific to do, everybody in the room. But if you have yet to begin a relationship with God through his son Jesus, boy the good news is, is that God so loved you that even while you and I were sinners he still died for us, Jesus did. And that we can be reconciled to God because of what Jesus has done. And we would love to talk to you about that so that when we dismiss in just a moment if that's your need, we want you to come to the fireside room because we'd love to talk to you for just a moment about that.
Now for everybody else, if you're here and you're a follower of Jesus I can't think of a better way for us to express love for the church then by remembering what Jesus did and sharing that together through the Lord's supper. But we're going to do it different, we're not passing anything out. Here's what we're going to do. In a moment when I dismiss you ... I'm going to pray and then dismiss you. Here at the CrossPoint Campus everybody in this room who is in the front half of the room, you're going to see four stations in this place. Everybody who's in the back half of the room there are stations out in the atrium. If you're in the East Worship Center you can look for those that are in the East Worship Center and those that are out in the atrium. So if you're in the back half you're going that way, front half you're coming this way.
Here's what I want you to do. I want you to come by and get one of the elements and get a card. There's a card right there. What that card is going to do is going to walk you through what to do. But you're going to have a group of maybe five, seven, eight, whatever and don't make it just your group. Not just you and your wife, not just you and your buddy, people you don't even know that are a part of this body, that are your brothers and sisters. What I want you to do is I want you to take an element, take a card and then with the group that you find and that you meet go somewhere outside of right next to these stations, because people are going to be coming to these stations to get their elements and the cards. Find a space. You can do it in here, you can do it in the seats if you're upfront. Out there in the atrium find a spot. And together just circle up. And then just do what the card says. And share the Lord's supper together as brothers and sisters in Christ. Even with people, you don't know.
Some of you are going, "This is pushing me a little bit out of my comfort zone."
Here's what I'm doing, "That's exactly right. That's the point of obedience." This is a great way for us to act on this. So, I'm going to pray for you and I'm going to dismiss you to do that. Everybody clear on the instructions?
Father thank you for your grace and thank you for the love that you have loved us with that is multi-sided and multi-colored. Thank you for the distinct love that you have for your bride, the church. And may we as the people of God love one another the way you love us. Sacrificially sharing our lives, our resources, and our gifts for your glory. I pray in Jesus' name, Amen.