Encouraged to Encourage

E2E: Encouraged to Encourage  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented
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Well, we are starting a new series this week. / / E2E: Encouraged to Encourage. We’ll be looking at our life in Christ as it pertains to the body of Christ. Colossians 1:18 says, / / Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. So, that means when we enter into the salvation of Jesus Christ by his grace through faith, we are automatically joined to each other as much as we are joined to Him.
And after finishing this last series we were in, we’re now set to launch into the life of the Christian Church, right?
Jesus is risen. The Holy Spirit has come. The mission is clear.
But how do we do it? What’s most important? Well, as the title of this series suggests, we are going to be looking at the fact that yes, we are meant to be encouraged, but also that we are meant to encourage. And that’s not a bad thing right there because let’s be honest, it’s easier to encourage people when you yourself are being encouraged. It’s a little harder when life seems to be going against you to show up and encourage other people. So, it’s not a bad thing at all to face the reality that truly we are in this thing together.
The foundation of this series is one simple verse, Romans 1:12. Paul is writing to a church of people he hasn’t actually met yet. If you’re reading along with our bible reading plan, and reading the sheets about the books that go along with it, the Romans sheet says that Paul hasn’t even made it to Rome yet. And I was reading this past week that there was an emperor in Rome who was so anti-Jewish, that he had made all Jews leave Rome, they couldn’t be there, couldn’t live there. Then, Christianity starts, a few people in Rome start to become followers of Jesus, but we can only assume that they are all non-Jews, or what the bible often refers to as Gentiles, because there aren’t any Jews in Rome. Well, that emperor dies, a new one comes into power, Jews are allowed back in Rome and so you’ve got this mix now of Gentile Christians, Jewish Christians, Gentiles who would have inherited the previous emperor’s hatred for Jews, and Jews who are either outright against, or at least not following Jesus as Messiah. And so there would’ve been a learned hostility between the two, and there would have been carry over of which parts of the law are relevant, which parts are not… Gives some context to the book of Romans. Paul is writing to this group of people, who are learning to get along, worship together, learn together, grow together. To be the body together.
That’s actually a very relatable scenario to many of the churches today, I would say especially in our country. America is essentially a melting pot of cultures, backgrounds, histories and beliefs. Well, put those people together in a room all trying to accomplish or do the same thing, learning what we are meant to do, all trying to follow the same thing, and it can get a little messy.
This series is called E2E because that’s the point. We are learning what it means to do this thing together. As much as we come to church and there are things being done by specific people. Kelley gets up here and leads worship. I come up and speak. Both of which are good things, we have to constantly remind ourselves that each of us carry something to encourage someone with. Each of us need both: encouragement, and we need to encourage.
So, Let’s read from the book of Romans, and then I want to give some framework for this series.
/ / This letter is from Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, chosen by God to be an apostle and sent out to preach his Good News… I am writing to all of you in Rome who are loved by God and are called to be his own holy people… Let me say first that I thank God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith in him is being talked about all over the world. God knows how often I pray for you. Day and night I bring you and your needs in prayer to God, whom I serve with all my heart by spreading the Good News about his Son.
One of the things I always pray for is the opportunity, God willing, to come at last to see you. For I long to visit you so I can bring you some spiritual gift that will help you grow strong in the Lord. When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours. (Romans 1:1, 7, 8-12)
Near the end of April when we were just getting into the book of Romans, I read this verse and God instantly highlighted it to me and I felt His heart speak to mine and say, “This is the local church...” I get that Paul was writing this to people he’d never met, but I so felt God’s desire for us to embrace this as a community together. If we all woke up in the morning, everyday really, but let’s just take Sunday morning to start, and we had this thought, / / “When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours.” how different would our interactions and gatherings be?
Now, y’all know me. I can sometimes be in my own little world, both in the expressions I wear on my face, and also my interactions with people. Sometimes I completely miss it. But ya know what. I walk away, every time, thinking, “Oh man, I didn’t get to talk to this person.” or “I didn’t get to say hi to them. I hope they’re doing ok.” and especially when someone isn’t here. I’m always thinking, “I hope they are doing ok. I miss them.” And not just because I want you to be here to be encouraged, but because I am encouraged by you! When I miss the opportunity to connect with people I miss part of why I come to church! Imagine if we were in Paul’s situation and we couldn’t just shoot a quick text message to say, “hey, thinking about you, what’s up?” But here’s Paul writing a book to this community he’s never even met!
So, over the next few weeks we’ll look at what that means. How we can encourage each other. Are we all gifted in the same way to encourage, are we all gifted differently? Do we have to be outgoing to encourage? Do we have to become something we aren’t? What does all of it mean?
And we’ll dig into scripture on these things, but just in this simple verse, and in what I felt God’s heart through it. This is the foundation of church life. Not the foundation of our salvation, that’s Jesus, always has been and always will be. But the foundation of Church life is this right here. Your life being impacted by, and impacting the lives of people around you.
We have talked about that before. If Jesus says that the world will know we are his disciples by the way that we love each other, then we have to recognize that the way we love each other is our highest form of evangelism, and if you look at the world’s #1 issue with the church today it’s not that we don’t love God, it’s not that we don’t preach the gospel, it’s that we preach love and don’t seem to know how to do the thing we preach.
I’m not saying you or I, I’m saying, the church at large does not have a reputation of loving well. Now, that’s for two reasons. First, we’re human, we’ve messed up, we’re not always great at it, and we’re learning, and second, the enemy has it out for us. We can’t ever forget that. 1 Peter 5:8 says, / / Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. And he will do whatever he can to damage the image of the church because I believe the church is the hope of the world. We are the body of Christ doing his work in this earth.
We are ok with saying Jesus is the light of the world. He said that in John 8:12, / / “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” That we can handle. BUT, Jesus also said in Matthew 5:14-16, / / “You are the light of the world - like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”
There is a direct connection between how we act as a church, those who are watching us, and God receiving praise.
And look at how Jesus says it. First, you are a light. Second, let it shine in your house. Third, your good deeds are how you shine outside your house. Fourth, people are watching, and when they see you being light to those in the house, and those outside the house, they’ll praise God like you do!
If the world looks into the windows of the church and sees disfunction, chaos, anger issues, marriages falling apart, leaders failing morally, I just heard a story from a friend, a church near them, the book keeper had been embezzling funds and took off a couple thousand miles away.
When people look in on any group or organization and that’s what’s happening, there’s nothing about that that says, “Definitely want to be a part of that...” Why would you be involved, why would you give to it, why would you invest your life and your encouragement to it?
I’m not saying we have to be perfect, but the goal at least has to be following the one who is perfect! And as we follow Christ, we are encouraged, and we can encourage others. And then, our light shining out becomes something that is attractive, something that is desired, because I honestly believe that all of us, regardless of our level of interaction, our level of outgoing extravertedness or internal contemplative introvertedness, we all want community - and whether we admit we want it or not, we at least all NEED community. And it is only the enemy that will tell you, “Ya, you’re good on your own.”
Listen, If you ever hear a voice in your head, heart or otherwise telling you that you’re better off on your own, be like Jesus and say, “Get behind me satan...”
We are created to both be encouraged and to give encouragement. We don’t get to choose to be something else. We are human beings created in the image of God with this as a fundamental need, desire and function.
So, When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but also want to be encouraged by yours!
Now some thoughts on this to set a bit of groundwork, or a framework for this series to fit into. Because I want to ensure we don’t misinterpret scripture and our own place in this whole story. This isn’t always an easy reality to come to grips with - / / Christianity is not a class to sit in and church is not a spectator sport. So, what does that mean? How do we develop a culture and a community where the full expression of the body of Christ is realized?
/ / 1. You are still you!
Don’t worry. If you are an introvert, or you are an extrovert, or whatever you are, however you react, respond, interact and however dynamic or not you are, this is not about changing you - in the sense of who God created you to be. This is about finding the rhythm of life for each of us that is both following Jesus, and following Jesus together. Having Christ as our head, but recognizing that we are all the body, meaning we are just as connected with him as we are with each other.
I’ve already mentioned this verse this morning. If Jesus says in John 13:34-35, / / So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.
That means two things.
First: / / Love doesn’t demand you change who you are!
Love isn’t going to constantly be telling you that you have to change who you are. And you have to hear that in context, I’m speaking to the you that God created you to be. The way you are that is unique to you that may be completely different from me. Love isn’t going to be after you all the time...
You’re not outgoing enough... You’re too outgoing, calm down...
I actually had a leader tell me once that if scripture tells us we can do all things through Christ, then I should be able to do anything that he does the way he does it.
Well, he wasn’t lying from a scripture standpoint, the bible does say that. But, I’m going to be honest with you. That makes no sense at all. I was completely different than him, but that was his current belief structure. I don’t know if it still is. He was a younger leader at the time, and younger than I was, and his type of temperament was one that believed the world would be better if everyone was like him. He had a hard time understanding that people are different, and we actually need that.
I get it. Being a leader is tricky in that way because there are kind of two schools of thought there, lead to have people become like you, or lead to have people become more of who they are meant to be, regardless of whether that is like you or not. And I would suggest that the way to do that is actually both. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:1, / / Imitate me as I imitate Christ. And my understanding of that scripture is. Look at what I’m doing. I’m following Christ. You too should be following Christ. But when it comes to the how and the what we do, that will be as varied as our own personalities and how God has created us. Right? So I can’t just replicate myself as a leader, that would be a very bad idea.
The other part of John 13, Jesus saying we are to love each other as He loved us and that the world would know that we’re his disciples because of how we love each other, is that / / love doesn’t ignore what should be changed. And so this is actually my second point this morning, in that as much as you are who you are and that does not change, you are who God has created you to be, we have to realize that there are things we are, or things we have become, or learned, adopted, have been engrained into us that we need to give up. So, my second point as we are laying a foundation for this series is:
/ / 2. Change what should be changed!
We as humanity, and we as the church need to come a long way in allowing people the space to speak into our lives and call us to a higher place, a better place. To show each other what it means to live a life of righteousness before God.
Paul says in Colossians 3:5-11 says, / / So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with them… Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcise or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.
The goal is to become like Christ. Even if we read Romans 1:12 again, Paul isn’t saying he just wants to be encouraged, he’s saying he wants to be encouraged IN HIS FAITH, as well as encourage others in their faith. It’s not a, “Oh you’re feeling bad, let me get you a cupcake to lift your spirits” although that’s maybe not a bad thing, but that is fleeting encouragement. But being encouraged in your faith is pointing you to Jesus, which is the point, to become more like Jesus. And if we are becoming more like Jesus, although troubles and trials might not end, we will be more equipped and prepared to endure those troubles and trials.
The other thing, and you all know my love for what the recovery world calls the Serenity Prayer. It says, / / God, give me the grace to accept with serenity the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
And it continues in on a beautiful prayer to God. As we grow in our faith we learn what is just simply who we are, that sometimes makes us different than other people, but isn’t a bad thing, so we can embrace it, or live with it. And we also learn what is in us that we should no longer carry.
Point 1 is still true - You are still you, that isn’t going to change. And as much as I say you don’t need to become someone else in this process - the reality is, you are meant to become like someone else in this process.... but it’s not a person beside you, a leader, or anyone else, it’s Jesus. And becoming more Jesus will more fully bring the you he created you to be to the forefront - And I am not going to hide the truth here, It’s not a “This might mean”..no, this is a, “It WILL mean you lay down some things that you shouldn’t have picked up in your life. Because you aren’t learning to follow me, or follow some earthly leader, but you’re working to follow Jesus, and Jesus said in Matthew 16:24, / / If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?
I would suggest to you today that one of the biggest problems we have in society right now is that people are unwilling to hear that what they think they should be able to do, what they think they should be able to believe, and what they think they are, is actually hurting them, not helping them.
It takes a lot of humility to recognize that I am something that I want to be, but shouldn’t be.
And I am best to use my own life as an example, and trust Holy Spirit that he is working in other people to reveal these things to them for their lives.
I am a food addict. I am a compulsive eater, addicted to food, addicted to sugar and in my own strength I am uncontrollable.
Well, look at the world we live in. There are people who are so convinced that they get to be whatever they want that if you tell them they are unhealthy because they are carrying extra weight, you’ve just fat shamed them and you are a bigot. You are hateful. You are mean. And you are wrong.
Now, I’m not telling you to go around and tell people all the ways they are unhealthy or doing life wrong. That’s a bad idea. Let Holy Spirit do that one, ok.
But our feelings haven’t changed what we all know to be true medically and scientifically. We can easily see how extra weight puts extra pressure on the body, and can result in consequences and results we don’t want. I’m type 2 diabetic, not because I was born that way but because of what I did with my life. What I did or did not eat, how I did or did not exercise…
Now, I see the irony, ok, I’m an overweight guy telling you that being overweight is not a good thing. I get it.
But that’s just the natural reasons it’s a good idea to head warning - not even beginning to look at what scripture says...
Proverbs 23:20 says, / / Do not carouse with drunkard or feast with gluttons… define glutton, an excessively greedy eater.
Paul says in Romans 13:14, / / clothe yourselves with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires. Another way to say that would be don’t give in to the cravings of your physical nature...
He also says in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, / / Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.
Who’s body? God’s body. What’s the biggest cry in society right now? Don’t tell me what to do with my body… We’ve completely ignored the fact that our Creator has good intentions for our bodies, and we can trust him to lead us and teach us in a way that brings true health. But it’s health by HIS design, and too many people have decided they want to live by their own design, which unfortunately is often giving into what Paul would call our flesh, or our earthly desires.
Proverbs 27:20 says, / / Just as death and destruction are never satisfied, so human desire is never satisfied.
Hebrews 11:25 says that sin has a fleeting moment of enjoyment, meaning, it doesn’t last, and it’s not worth it.
And if we define sin as missing the mark, God has a better way and here we are choosing our own thing thinking THAT will give us life. Ya, the cake might be sweet and tasty, but a moment on your lips....forever on your hips, am’i’right?
So, what’s Jesus saying in Matthew 16. if you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it.
But this is just who I am. This is who you made me to be. I was born like this...
Ok, even if I was. Even if I am predisposed to eating sugar and carbs does Jesus not still deserve reverence and honor through my life? Isn’t that what would make the sacrifice a sweet smelling incense to God? Let me be honest with you for a moment. I take issue with people that don’t have any predisposition to food. Especially sugar. Not like I don’t like you, or something like that, but I do wonder, why me? Why is it so hard for me, and for others it’s just not even a thing?
But that’s not taking in to account I don’t know your life, I don’t know what you struggle with. So where it might not be sugar for you, and God bless you in that, it might be something else. I haven’t had a cigarette for 13 years now. And sure, sometimes when I smell one I’m reminded of enjoying it. But I don’t crave it like I do when I pass something I used to eat...
But when I choose to lay down that part of me. The part that desires food, and make the choice to honor God with my body, that is worship, that is sacrifice, that is Matthew 16, giving up my life for His sake, and in that I truly find life.
And this is not a matter of sin and punishment, or doing the right or wrong thing. This is, truly following Jesus means laying down my right to choose what I think is best for me, and adopting what He says is best for me.
There are simply things in my life that if I choose to embrace them, they are not good for me, and I need to learn to give them up for the sake of following Christ so that I can become more like him. Whether that is food addiction, or smoking, which is harming my body, or any number of things, physical, emotional, spiritual or otherwise. Paul says in Colossians 3, which I was reading from earlier, / / Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy. Get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. Don’t lie to each other.
And the list goes on and on. Notice he kind of covers both sides, things we actively do and things we internalize. Is it acting out in lust or following our evil desires, or is it anger, unforgiveness, resentment, things that eat away at us inside.
/ / What are we holding onto that we need to come to a place of being willing to give up?
Now back to the part about being you and that’s a good thing - This is also becoming more comfortable and confident with who God made me to be.
John Mark Comer says we spend half our lives trying to fix ourselves, and then realize there are just some things that we aren’t supposed to “fix”, and we enter a stage of being unapologetically who we are.
I was saying this to a group of pastors the other day in regards to the town events we do. I know who I am, and I am becoming more and more comfortable with who I am. And I am not the most outgoing, adventurous, courageous person when it comes to meeting new people and striking up conversation. I can unfortunately be a little awkward at it. My good friend Pastor John-Michael on the other hand, that’s his wheelhouse. That’s who he is in spades. Now, if we go to a town event, and I feel like I need to be like him, because we’re both pastors, and that’s what pastors are expected to do, then I am going to feel awkward, feel like a failure, feel uncomfortable and all of that is going to come across when I try to talk to someone. And that used to be exactly what I would go through internally. Constantly feeling less than, or like a failure because I wasn’t like other leaders I would see who would do what I don’t do. But I am learning to be unapologetically me and play to my own strengths. And Kelley and Cassandra laugh at me because something actually comes out of me when I do this right. I stand behind the water cooler, so people are coming toward me, which gives me an opportunity to engage with them, ask them if they want water, open the cooler for them, give them the biggest smile I can muster and wish them a really good day. And sometimes that sparks a conversation. Sometimes that sparks further engagement. And I am comfortable and confident there. And when we’re giving away prizes to kids I’m just a big goofball anyways, and so something just happens, and I become more boisterous or funny, or something. I don’t know. Maybe it’s all awkward. But I am confidently me in who God has made me to be, and when that happens, when I don’t live under the shadow of something I’m not meant to be in the first place, I can shine like the light God’s created me to be!
Now, if someone told John-Michael that he had to act like me, he would probably feel caged and feel out of his element, awkward, uncomfortable, and be constantly itching to get out there and talk to people.
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:6-8, / / I planted the seed in your hearts and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose.
The point is this.
There are things we are that we are meant to be.
There are things we’ve become that we shouldn’t have and God wants to heal us in those areas.
And there are expectations that have been put on us to be something we aren’t, or not be something we are.
Are you starting to see the difference.
There are unhealthy things in my life that the world would say, “Just embrace who you are.” that are categorically untrue. I should not embrace my unhealthy habits. I should not embrace my addictions. I should not embrace my human, or in Paul’s words, my sinful nature, and say, “This is just who I am and you have to accept it.” untrue.
And listen, you may be born this way. You may be unable to change it. That does not make it right or good. The fact that I WANT to eat all the things is something I am constantly faced with and it is a matter of righteousness and holiness to lay that down for the sake of following Jesus.
And then there are things we are, that unfortunately because of leaders or teachers, parents or even friends, pushing us to be like them, or something different, that we felt we weren’t enough, or were wrong. And that’s not just an introverted quiet thing.
Kelley has had to work through some things because she was told by leaders she was too outgoing, like that’s some sort of a bad thing. I wouldn’t say all the time, but generally speaking, Kelley talks more than I do. Let’s say we’re out for dinner, or at our house with friends, Kelley will most likely talk more than I do. And we actually had a leader that said to us she was wrong and walked all over me because she naturally talks more than me. And so they stepped into what they thought was somehow protecting me from the evil wife who wouldn’t let her husband talk, when the reality is, I’ll talk when I want to talk, and say what I need to say, but I might sit in silence for a while before that happens - because I am simply just less likely to talk in the first place - unless you give me a microphone, then clearly it’s hard to get me to stop, right? But when it comes to our marriage and leadership, there is a mutual respect and honor between us. Neither of us feels pushed down or like we don’t have a voice - and we are confident enough in our relationship to say to each other, “Hey, that conversation earlier, you were really cutting me off...” or in the moment, “Can you let me finish...” And we’re ok saying, “Oh, sorry, didn’t mean to cut you off...”
All of that to say, this is something that can impact every single one of us, no matter who we are, our temperament and character, how God made us, and all of that fun stuff that makes us so different.
And the truth of the matter is, when it comes to following Jesus there are things we will have to decide we are ready to let go of that are just part of laying down our humanity for the sake of following Christ. And I believe the more we are willing to lay down what we shouldn’t carry, the more the Holy Spirit can open us up to who we truly are. And some of those things we lay down once, and they seem to never both us again, and other things we have to make the decision everyday, to lay down our lives, take up our cross and follow. That’s what Jesus was really saying in Matthew 16, if you lay down your life to follow him, you’ll experience REAL life, which you can’t even comprehend at the moment, because you think that life is found in what YOU think you want and need.
/ / It’s hard to become fully you when you’re trying to hold on to something you actually aren’t meant to be.
Ok, so that’s really important to define right at the beginning of this series. You are still you and that is an incredibly wonderful thing, and the journey of following Jesus will truly show you what is mean to be embraced and what is meant to be let go of.
The last point I want to make this morning as we lay the foundation for this series, is:
/ / 3. It’s 2023
You got it. It’s the year 2023, and anything we read in the bible has to be read with two things in mind. It was a different time, and it was often written to a specific group of people for a specific reason.
I had a Bible teacher many years ago who would drill into us, Context is King! To read scripture out of context is incredibly dangerous!
Some of the most misapplied scriptures are simply because they have been taken out of context. We have entire denominations that are against women in leadership because of what Paul writes to Timothy in his letter 1 Timothy. But the Bible is full of women in leadership and ministry. But it’s so easy to see how people can take scripture and use it to fit their own narrative rather than looking at the whole of scripture together and interpreting it from that perspective. And scripture out of context can lead us to believing and following things we simply should not.
Alright, so it’s 2023, and when it comes to reading how the disciples started the church and did things 2000 years ago and then put that expectation on ourselves could end up being a dire mistake. Not that there isn’t all kinds of stuff to pull form. Of course there is. Scripture is absolutely foundational, but again, we have to read it in context, and apply it with understanding.
You can read things like Acts 2, the Spirit of God falls on the disciples and Acts 2:41 says, / / Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day - about 3,000 in all.
I had someone come to me and say, This is the kind of move of God we need, why isn’t this happening here? This is what will grow the church.
Listen, I don’t disagree. I’m not saying that can’t happen today. Or saying it wouldn’t be amazing if it did. But let’s just look at it with context for a moment, especially so that we don’t get discouraged when things don’t happen just like they happened somewhere else, or at a different time, or with different people.
Who is Peter talking to? Acts 2:5-6 says, / / At that time there were devout Jews from every nation living in Jerusalem. When they heard the loud noise, everyone came running...
What’s different about a devout Jew 2000 years ago and your next door neighbor who isn’t a Christian and maybe hasn’t ever even stepped foot inside a church before? Probably a lot of things, but one thing in particular is, a devout Jew 2000 years ago is waiting for the Messiah to come. And if they are devout, which means they were good, learned, reverent followers of God, they knew scripture, they knew prophecy, they were waiting with anticipation for the savior of Israel. So when Peter gets up and says, What you are seeing is the fulfillment of what the prophets had spoken, along with the evidence of them hearing their own languages knowing that Peter and his friends don’t speak their language, so signs and wonders and miracles, and Peter’s testimony that Jesus, who was crucified 50 days ago, but rose again and appeared to many of them and he IS the Messiah of God....the conversation is settled. You have a captive audience.
Again, that doesn’t mean this won’t work with your neighbor, or co-worker, or someone in Publix you run into, but we have to recognize that today is a very different world.
That’s just one way to show how we need context when we read scripture.
That’s going to play a lot in this series, as we look at becoming an encouragement to others and being encouraged, looking at what it means to be the body of Christ in todays age.
Listen, as a pastor and leader I have to temper myself in these things. 3,000 people join the church in one moment, and then Acts 2:46 (MSG) says, / / They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful.
I would love that. I’m here everyday.... But I also get that life is different now. AD 35 was probably a bit of a simpler time. They didn’t live in south Florida, in a city that most people can barely afford to live in where both husband and wife are working and sometimes multiple jobs, and their kids are in dance, soccer, after school programs, choir, band, football etc… and if I try to lead this church like we have the time the Acts church had, and we had the world the Acts church had, I will constantly feel like a failure.
Now, do I think we’re too busy? Yes.
Do I think we need to slow down a bit? Yes.
Do I think we should be more of a community that gathers, and does more together? Yes.
But if we try to do it in histories context, we will feel like we are failing in todays world. So we’re on a mission to learn together, and to feel this thing out, and to develop what that means for our community.
I had a friend once tell me, You don’t have to be able to give 100%, if you can only give 10%, at least give 100% of yourself to that 10%. That’s amazing advice. You have a capacity, and that capacity can’t be tapped more than you are able. But in what you can give, let’s learn to give of ourselves to the best of our ability.
And that’s in the context of community, NOT in the context of following Jesus. Most definitely give 100% to that. Nothing less!
So, this is going to be our journey for the next few weeks. Learning to be encouraged in our faith, and to encourage others in their faith. Remembering that we are who God has created us to be, we may have picked up some things along the way we need to get rid of in our following of Jesus, becoming more like him, and it all has to work within the context and reality of the world we live in.
And so I will leave you with this question this morning:
/ / Is this a journey you want to go on and is this a path you want to walk?
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