In Our Community

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A gospel-revealing community first stands in the gap for the voiceless and ministers to the weak among them, while rejecting worldviews that are self-centered and not anchored in Scripture.

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REFLECTION TEXT: Acts 1:8
SERMON TEXT: James 1:22-27
BENEDICTION TEXT: 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24
Years ago, when my wife and I were leading a High School Sunday School class at the church she grew up in…the church I was radically saved in, we had a guest come and share.
The young lady said something I’ve never forgotten. “You can talk the talk, you might even walk the walk - but can you live the death?”

TALKING THE TALK

- The way I interpreted it - I think she was sharing how easy it is to engage in religious talk.
YOU SEE WHAT WE BELIEVE AFFECTS HOW WE BEHAVE - EVERYTHING ELSE IS JUST RELIGIOUS TALK!
LOOK BACK AT OUR TEXT
James 1:22 ESV
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
See the talker? The “hearer” only?
Yes, I go to church. I’m a faithful member of Grace Covenant Church.
I say “yes” and amen to every sermon.
I sing “out loud” or “in my heart” when it’s time.
Mark 7:6–8 ESV
6 And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “ ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 7 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ 8 You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”
While our conversation should definitely honor the LORD, our video and audio need to be in sync!

WALKING THE WALK

As we bear down on the last part of our text this morning, specifically as it relates to the HELPING SOME OF THE MOST VULNERABLE IN NEED…it’s worth noting that the church is not the only entity trying to help.
THERE ARE OTHER RELIEF AND HUMANITARIAN ORGANIZATIONS THAT ARE VERY EFFECTIVE AND EFFICIENT IN THEIR MISSION WITH THE MASSES.
But the Bible never just deals with one aspect of a matter, does it?
We’re not “human doings” we are “human beings”.
- Some personality types are more prone to ACTION - WALKING THE WALK…but their heart isn’t pure and their motives don’t glorify the LORD.
(Think of the people that were doing all the big things, in Jesus name in Matt 7.21-23, but their hearts weren’t his! They had skipped the great commandment and shot right to the needs of their neighbors…)
Matthew 7:21–23 ESV
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
The Pharisees were also great examples of these. They put their faith into action, forgetting that the LORD rejects the boastful (Ps 5.5)
Psalm 5:5 ESV
The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers.
LOOK BACK AT OUR TEXT
James 1:26 ESV
If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.
See the walker? The one who almost has it?
He’s walking it out, but can’t control his tongue. / She talks about all the wrong things, (self too much) while she’s going.
They want to do cool Jesus stuff…but they make sure everyone knows what they’re doing.
These are people who are more concerned with building their brand than doing the work.
…more concerned with being influencers for status sake, than being in the secret place for the sake of the Most High!
We have raised a generation of pastors, leaders who are living like a celebrity instead of dying to self.
They have been marketed, but they have not been MARKED by GOD!
Instead of...
Matthew 6:3 ESV
3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,
Our LEFT HAND is live streaming what our RIGHT HAND is doing!
You may talk the talk.
You may even walk the walk.
But to be about our Father’s business in our communities in a way where CHRIST SHINES THE BRIGHTEST…we have to...

LIVING THE DEATH

- Can you live the death? What a question…seems morbid. But it threw me immediately, as I’m sure it did many of you, to Paul’s note about dying daily in 1 Cor 15.31
1 Corinthians 15:31 ESV
I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day!
…or this thought of dying to the sinful desires of the flesh in 1 Pet 2:24
1 Peter 2:24 ESV
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
DYING DAILY IN THIS CELEBRITY ADDICTED CULTURE:
Painfully, but with the help of the Holy Spirit - the Great Comforter
we put to death our pride,
our need for congratulations,
our self-centered, self-advancing, self-preservation,
our pleasure-driven, adrenaline-addicted (OR leisure-junkie), me-focused motives!
WE DO THIS BECAUSE OF CHRIST’S GREAT LOVE FOR US…IN US…THROUGH US.
More than anything we want to desire to love one another with brotherly love and kindness.
We want our whole lives to reveal the gospel as we outdo one another in showing honor. (Rom 12:10)
WE REALLY DO LOVE THE LORD WITH ALL OF OUR HEART, MIND, SOUL, AND STRENGTH...
WE REALLY DO LOVE OUR NEIGHBORS AS OURSELVES.
WE REALLY WILL CONTINUE TO TURN THAT THEOLOGY INTO BIOGRAPHY ON THE STREETS!
LOOK AT OUR TEXT
James 1:27 ESV
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
See the selfless, baseline outworking of a pure religion that is focussed on Jesus and looking out for others?
The whole, “it’s not a religion, it’s a relationship” could better be expressed: Biblical Christianity is not an outward religion of showing up to hear about God-things, then doing enough stuff so that we look like Christians.
It is an all out surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ and the leading of the Holy Spirit, obedience to the Scriptures and submitting to the authority of the local church.
These relationships affect and give shape to our views, our affections, our passions, and our conversations.
________

BACK TO VERSE 27

Let’s bear down on verse 27 for a moment.
If we look at this whole picture we see this dichotomy of Hearing vs. Doing.
Hearing only = Deceived.
Doing =
Engaged in Pure Religion (displayed as Gospel-revealing)
Blessed in his doing (v25b)
Bridled tongue (v26) Psa 141:3
Psalm 141:3 ESV
Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!
stand before the Father (v27)
visit the afflicted (v27)
orphans
widows
keeps oneself unstained (v27)
THE TONE OF Verse 27 reveals conduct more so than exhaustively defines.
THOSE ARE VALID AND LIKELY NECESSARY GROUPS…BUT THEY ARE IN ADDITION TO THESE, NOT IN THE PLACE OF THESE.
This is a picture of a local church (a family, a fellowship, a flock, a body) RUNNING TO STAND IN THE GAP FOR THE VOICELESS AND THE VULNERABLE.
THE VULNERABLE - WIDOWS:
THE VOICELESS - ORPHANS:
there are 10,000 children in the Foster Care system in North Carolina
Ashlie and I know of several families that have adopted or are adopting. What a privilege. There are so many more opportunities that we need to explore in the coming months and (God being my help), years to equip more families to be engaged.
QUESTION: WHAT OTHER SEGMENTS OF SOCIETY DO YOU BELIEVE THE CHURCH SHOULD VISIT?
ALLOW FOR RESPONSE
Prisoners
Homeless
Sick (terminal)
Elderly
Marginalized
Families, or women and men who considering ABORTION? This is another segment of our society that I believe is embedded within this context of orphans = the child whose biological parents have arranged a permanent separation by abortion. (We’ll come back to this practically in a moment.)
WHAT ABOUT THIS LAST PHRASE,
“and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
What is meant by the WORLD? (kosmos)
The people constituting the world whose values, beliefs, and morals are in distinction and rebellion to God’s. Simply: “to be IN this world but not OF this world.”
If I can draw this out just a bit, what are some STAINS
As we follow Jesus with courageous abandon, we will keep ourselves from being stained, like
believing that WE are the center of the universe, the world revolves around us, and that ALL things are for OUR pleasure and consumption
we only need Christ as our ticket out of Hell
we desire happiness more than holiness that displays Christ
we will do only what is “minimally understood to be allowable to belong” to a church
we do not submit to one another in the authority of the local church
apart from Sunday morning attendance at a gathering, our lives are indistinguishable from those outside the faith
we will keep ourselves FROM THE STAINS OF A WORLDVIEW that:
would reduce the love and care of the needy as a function of the state
would minimize life and death of unborn children to a POLITICAL issue
would cause us to speak of children in our own midst as a burden that complicates our lives and dreams - instead of the heritage from the LORD that is promised. (It is not appropriate, not funny, not Gospel-revealing, not reflective of biblical Christianity for you to make lewd comments to large families about being large families.)
FINALLY, As we follow Jesus with COURAGEOUS abandon, we will keep ourselves from being stained with an unbiblical version of Christianity that
makes us feel safe, comfortable, and focused on the here-and-now instead of the faith-filled adventure that Jesus has called us to.

In the contrast between the hearer of the word who looks at his own face in a mirror and yet forgets, and the doer of the word who looks intently into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres, the distinction is found in whether the one who looks allows “the perfect law of freedom” (the gospel) to shape his life’s course. The person who hears and does “the word” puts faith into action and is blessed; his worship influences his life.

---
We have heard the Word of the LORD.
We confess that as BEINGS, there is much to DO…TO be about our Father’s Business in our community!
So is this text about just widows and orphans?
No.
It is literally about them, but the text also reaches beyond it’s immediate application with a key principle.
BEING ABOUT OUR FATHER’S BUSINESS IN THE COMMUNITY
GRACE COVENANT HAS A RICH HISTORY…and is known for being about our Father’s Business with the VULNERABLE AND THE VOICELESS:

INCARCERATED WOMEN - CHANGED CHOICES

Hebrews 13:3 ESV
3 Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.
For our legacy and longtime Grace Covenant family, I know you’re familiar with the ministry and you likely know what it’s about.
But there is so much going on in recent days & months at Changed Choices…if you’re not on their email list, it’s definitely time to reconnect.
When I think of Prison Ministry - I think of faithful and women and men going into prisons and leading evangelistic rallies or Bible studies. This is one aspect of Christian prison ministry.
Changed Choices is so much more...
They serve the ladies at the local detention center as chaplains' assistants, mentors, life skills instructors, and professional counselors.
They DISCIPLE incarcerated women who will commit to the program in their last 2 years. They connect them with a Pre-Release Care Manager, a pen pal, a Bible Study coach, card writers, and more.
They continue to DISCIPLE these women as they reenter the community. They help with housing, employment, and family reunification.
THE VOICELESS AND THE VULNERABLE - INCARCERATED WOMEN - THOSE IN PRISON are still fellow IMAGE BEARERS who need the same security and significance that we all do!
NOTE:
ONSITE - Email coming today.
ONLINE - For those of you watching online, the links should be showing up in the comments section.
THE VULNERABLE IN OUR COMMUNITIES INCLUDE CHILDREN!

CHILDREN - FAITH, HOPE, & LOVE

On Friday, I placed a robust list on our church’s website with the Scriptures linked to each point about the Bible’s take on ministering to children.
But a quick survey reminds us - To God, children are:
In need of teaching ‐ they are to be treasured and taught at home and in community (Deuteronomy 6, 11).
Deuteronomy 6:7 ESV
7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
We have to remember that they were a focus in God’s ministry
Jesus heals children (Luke 7, 8);
welcomes them (Mark 10);
uses children as examples of humility (Luke 18:17);
warns of judgement for those who harm them (Matthew 18:5‐6, 10)
and values them (Matthew 18:12‐14).
FAITH HOPE & LOVE
20+ years ago these truths came to bear as Grace Covenant launched Faith, Hope, & Love!
We’ve probably heard the most about this incredible ministry over the past year or so. Many of you are actively serving or connected to FHL in some way.
This is active discipling to these precious children through mentoring focused on spiritual and academic growth.
They can still use mentors…reach out to Kristy today.
GRACE COVENANT HAS A LONG, GENEROUS HISTORY IN THESE 2 AREAS OF SERVING OUR COMMUNITY...
…but we’re not done. There are a few more opportunities to explore this morning:
TRANSITION
Children are also Worthy of protection ‐ God is on the side of the vulnerable (Psalm 68:5; James 1:27). When children are neglected, abused, victimised, God grieves. Jesus strongly advocates for their protection (Matthew 18:5‐6, 10).

STANDING IN THE GAP FOR ABORTION-MINDED WOMEN AND MEN.

ABORTION IS NOT A POLITICAL ISSUE…IT’S A DISCIPLESHIP / GOSPEL OPPORTUNITY
Since I have taken this pulpit, you’ve heard me talk about this terrible stain on our city…our nation.
Tragic Truth about Charlotte
we have the largest abortion center in the southeast
abortion is the leading cause of death in our city
150-200 abortions happening every week in Charlotte.
1 out of 3 women and men will have an abortion in their lifetime (we believe this is more of a man's issue than a women's issue, calling for men to rise up and take responsibility) 
73% identify as Christians
Now 4 Abortion Centers...1000+ Churches
That’s the reason, this Church has faithfully given money to the Human Coalition for years - it’s a pro-life pregnancy resource center in Charlotte. A wonderful ministry…but there’s more.
WE ARE NOT MOTIVATED BY ABORTION…BUT THE LOVE OF GOD!
John 10:10 ESV
10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
In the near future, we’ll partner with Love Life Charlotte. It’s an incredible opportunity for us to:
PROCLAIM the truth in a loving, peaceful way.
PRAY for the end of abortion and for the women, men and children impacted by it.
PROVIDE for the medical and tangible needs of the these families,
and PROTECT life in meaningful ways beyond the moment at the abortion mills.
Since it’s launch in 2016,
2,000+ Babies Saved
70,000+ people just like you have showed up to pray
300+ Partnering Churches with many individuals connecting to ongoing ministries like Foster Care and Adoption, Mentoring families who choose life, sidewalk outreach to abortion-minded men and women, and post-abortive biblical counseling for healing and restoration
20+ abortion workers felt Convicted to leave this industry
100+ are in the process or have adopted.
Our own Dr. Edith Miller Hall serves as a sidewalk counselor each week at one of the Abortion Mills in Charlotte.
Partnering with LoveLife is not a protest…it is the church of the Lord Jesus Christ leaving the building to SHOW UP where there are hurting people!
This is not a PRO-LIFE CAUSE that we’re going to simply write a check to. It’s a Gospel and Discipleship opportunity at some of the darkest places in our city that we will SHOW UP FOR!
This is Sanctity of LIFE Sunday - but we are not motivated by Abortion - we are motivated by the Love of God to be doers - not just hearers only.
Romans 2:13 ESV
For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.
James 1:22 ESV
22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
How will you engage? There are so many other ways and people groups who need help in our community, but we skip over the first priorities of Scripture:
Widows, Orphans
the vulnerable and the voiceless
I’m dedicating quite a bit of time in February to research some more effective ways that we can impact our homeless neighbors in the SouthEnd. More to come on that.
Grace Covenant has a long and rich history of being intentional about reaching our community. We’re BUILDING ON THAT AS A CHURCH - and I couldn’t be happier.
I’M CHALLENGING YOU TODAY, BE ABOUT OUR FATHER’S BUSINESS IN THE COMMUNITY:
Be faithful and generous in your giving so we can do MORE with these local ministries. I’d like to double our monthly financial support with them in the coming months.
Connect with Changed Choices
Connect with Faith, Hope, & Love
Connect with the Human Coalition Center here in Charlotte
Connect with Edith or Mark Lykins to see about Love Life Charlotte
Connect ME to Gospel-Centered Homeless ministries here in town.
DON’T JUST DO SOMETHING…Be about the Father’s Business…Do it the GOSPEL WAY!
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