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The Church Jesus Would Attend - Part 2 - John 17

Taught on | Topic: Church | Keywords: church, congregation, evangelizing, evangelism

Church-shopping and church-hopping have long been one of American Christians' notable patterns. Most want a church that suits them, helps them, and pleases them. But since Jesus paid for it, it's His church (Acts 20:28). So what does He want from us as a group? What should the collective people of God be like? What ingredients and activities ought to be part of our makeup as a congregation? In short--what kind of church would Jesus attend?

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5/3/2009
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The Church Jesus Would Attend - Part 2
John 17
Skip Heitzig
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Church-shopping and church-hopping have long been one of American Christians' notable patterns. Most want a church that suits them, helps them, and pleases them. But since Jesus paid for it, it's His church (Acts 20:28). So what does He want from us as a group? What should the collective people of God be like? What ingredients and activities ought to be part of our makeup as a congregation? In short--what kind of church would Jesus attend?
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Church? Who Needs It

Church? Who Needs It

The Church. Who really needs to be a part of it? Why should we belong to something so archaic and so narrow? The culture around us seems to ask this question relentlessly, but what is the answer? Pastor Skip Heitzig presents a series of reasons why the church, as Christ established it, is so vitally important to the Christian walk. From God's original intent for His church, to the ways in which He uses us today, and the reasons why people attend and leave the church, this series emphasizes the importance of the Church and the need to revere it as divinely established.


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Detailed Notes

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From Last Week:
I. One that Radiates the Glory of God
II. One that Reveals the Truth of God
A. Truth Produces Joy (vv. 13-14)
B. Truth Produces Holiness (vv. 15-19))


III. One that Rescues the Enemies of God (vv. 14-18)

  1. Knowing

  2. Growing

  3. Going


IV. One that Rallies over the Love of God (vv. 21-26)

Questions for Home Groups:

  1. Look over these four ingredients of what Jesus wants from His church to see if they are a part of your priority list for your personal life.

  2. Are you evangelizing or fossilizing?

  3. How big of a circle do you draw for fellowship: A. Only my family, B. Only my family and my small group (Women's, men's, home group), C. Only my family, small group and church family, D. All those who know and love the Lord Jesus (in my home, church family, small group, neighborhood, city, state, country, planet).

Transcript

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[MUSIC PLAYING]

Lord, we come to a portion of the service that is just as much a part of our worship service as singing, as giving of our finances. We give you our lives by allowing Your spirit to speak into our lives, by Your word, where we deliberately take down barriers that might go up when we hear certain things, certain truths. We want to be wide open to You, to throw out the chaff, but to definitely hold onto the wheat. So we pray You to speak, in Jesus' name. Amen.

True story. Back in January-- January 26, to be precise-- over in Saxony, Germany, a 23-year-old driver was driving his car way too fast. It was late at night. As he's speeding down the road, he missed the bend in the road. His car went down into a ditch, up an embankment, and careened into and landed in the second story of a church building. It's probably the closest and best seat he's ever had in church.

He didn't mean to do it, but I show you that because you can attend church with the wrong motivation. True story. Happened just a few months ago.

There were three churches in a Midwestern town. There was a Presbyterian church, a Methodist church, and a Baptist church, all in the same town. All had the same problem. That year, there was an infestation of squirrels in the community. And each of the churches had an abundance of squirrels in their building. They didn't know what to do, so they all had their respective leadership meetings.

The Presbyterians got together and decided that the squirrels were predestined to be there, so they just thought, we've got to live with it.

The Methodists decided that they would deal with the squirrels in the loving, humane manner, like Charles Wesley, and humanely trap the squirrels and move them to a space outside of town, which they did. And in three weeks, the squirrels were back.

It was the Baptists that probably did the right thing. They voted all of the squirrels in as members of the church and baptized them all, and they haven't seen them except on Christmas and Easter.

If you know the particular background and theological construct of those organizations, you can appreciate that. If not, I don't know what to tell you.

It's clear that a lot of people look at church, and especially going to a church assembly or attendance of church is to be something that's optional, that's non-essential. And perhaps, just perhaps, it's the church's fault. And I don't mean a particular church. No, I'm speaking very generally of churches in general. Perhaps it's because the church itself, we have lost our way and forgotten about or never were in tune with the purpose of the church.

And what is the purpose of the church? Why do we exist? What is God's vision of his church? Or as to frame it in the title we used for last week and this week, what kind of church would Jesus attend? And that is answered in John 17, because our Lord, in the longest recorded prayer in the New Testament that Jesus prayed, is praying for future believers, both his disciples, as well as others who will believe later on.

So he's anticipating this group together called the church. And there's four characteristics that Jesus wants and would be comfortable in a place that exhibits these. Number one, it's one that radiates the glory of God. Number two, it's one that reveals the truth of God. Those two we covered last week.

The second two we want to cover today. And the last two will ultimately deal with our relationship to the outside world, how we relate to unbelievers, one thing we must never become. And that is, we must never be so heavenly-minded that we're no earthly good. I know that the church has been accused of that over the years. We're thinking only about heaven and the future, and we're not thinking about the responsibilities we have here.

I think we can become earthly good and heavenly-minded, but how we define what is earthly good will vary. And I'll touch on that this morning.

I heard about a visitor to New York City. He walked by a building and he saw a sign in the window. It said, Chinese laundry. He was going to dinner, but he kept that as a mental note. And the next day he came to that establishment with his dirty clothes.

And he plopped them on the counter and the clerk behind the counter said, what's this? The man said, this is my laundry. I need it done, and I've always heard that Chinese laundries are the best. And the man smiled and he said this is not a Chinese laundry. This is a sign shop.

I'm going to let that sink in a little bit. He saw a sign among other signs in the window that said Chinese laundry. They were making the signs. That was not the laundry.

Now, I share that with you because I think the church can send out false signals. People with dirty lives, soiled lives can come to places and they find that the cross is just a sign. It's on the inside up front in the church, or it's on top, outside on a steeple. But they discover that the people within have no clue as to deal with people with soiled lives and how to disciple them and move them from one place to the next. So let's talk about the Church that Jesus would attend.

Number one, or number three in our outline from last week, it's one that rescues the enemies of God. Now, please understand when I say that. It's because Jesus said, you are either for me or against me. And the Bible indicates clearly that those who are opposed to God are at enmity with God. So we must be about the business of rescuing the enemies of God.

Look with me at verse 14 in John 17. Jesus prays, "I have given them--" his disciples-- "your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that you should take them out of the world, but that you should keep them from the Evil One. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world."

Now, would you look at verse 20 along with that? "I do not pray for these alone--" that is, these disciples-- "but also for those who will believe in me through their word."

That is pretty obvious that Jesus commissioned his followers to go out, to be sent out. He anticipates their evangelism, and He anticipates the success of their evangelism. The word sent, from apostelo, we get the word apostle. It means to go out on a mission, or to be set out commissioned to do a certain work.

So just as Jesus came into the world and was on a mission of redemption from His father, Jesus says, "so I send them out, as well." Furthermore, I draw your attention again to verse 20, especially for my hyper-Calvinist friends, to show them that God not only elects people for salvation, but elects the means through which they are saved.

Notice, who will believe through their word, or a better translation, through their testimony. So whether that testimony is one on one or whether that testimony is mass evangelism, God can ordain those as means by which He brings people to Himself.

Here is the mega point that I want to make. Church must never become just a bless me club, a help me club, a pick me up club, a fix me club, an entertain or whatever club Though you should be blessed, you should be helped, we should grow, all of that is true. We must never turn inward to ourselves exclusively. We always must have an eye on what's going on in the world around us.

Church is the only society, as one person put it, that exists for the benefit of nonmembers. That's part of our calling. That's part of Jesus envisioning for the future church, one that would rescue the enemies of God.

Jesus at one point told his disciples not to just look among themselves. He said, "lift up your eyes and look at the fields that are white for harvest." In other words, guys, look around your world and see the need. It's always present in every generation. The field is always white under harvest. And he continued by saying, "and he who reaps gathers fruit for eternal life."

But it can often happen to any church or any organization that they turn inward on themselves. And even though Jesus told us, go into all the world, somehow we have heard that to mean come to our church. So we build a building and we say to the world, come ye, when Jesus said to us, go ye out into all the world.

There is a healthy pattern, a healthy pattern. And by God's grace, I've seen this pattern repeated often here in this church. The healthy pattern is saved, serving, and sent. And I've had the privilege of seeing people come forward. I get to pray with them to receive Christ. I watch them grow over the years, and they serve one another. And they come to a place where they want to be sent out on the mission field, or to start a church, or to do a small group in the community, to reach out.

I've been reading a book lately. I always like to read a book or two that give me a fresh perspective for what I'm teaching on. It's a book by an author I've long loved, who's now in his 90s, named John Stott. He is an Anglican churchman. He has served a local church in London for many years. And he wrote a book called The Living Church. It's a new book, The Living Church.

It's the perspective of this elder statesman, longtime pastor, of what's going on in the church. And John Stott, in that book, believes that the church has failed historically in this particular element, evangelism, rescuing people. And he says it's because we have suffered historically from a false identity.

Now, this is what he says. He says, churches either turn inward and become a religious club-- it's all about my club, and this is what we do at my club. And our club has this club activity, and here's the benefits in our club, and do you like our clubhouse? This is introverted Christianity. It's about their private little club.

The other point of the false identity is they can turn into a secular club. Not a religious club, a secular club, saying, well, you know the church really exists for social benefit. We need to not think about heaven and Christ and all of that spiritual stuff. We have to do some practical things right now to help people in our community. And many times, it is Christianity without Christ. There's no gospel message at all.

Now, I believe we can do both. We can vertically worship God, vertically be in right relationship with God, but then horizontally, we can serve the world, that we can do both. We're called to do both.

But this is a huge exception. The best way and the primary way we can serve the world is to preach to them the message of life that rescues them and takes them to heaven. Because if we just hand out band-aids and food and make them happy and healthy and send them to Hell-- I don't know any other way to put it than just the bottom line-- we're not doing them a lot of good.

But we can do both. We can love God with all of our hearts and declare and proclaim Him, and then give to them in the name of Christ band-aids and food and help, with the agenda, the agenda of preaching to them the Gospel.

John Stott in that book says, "if all churches had been faithful to this, the world would long ago have been evangelized." I agree with that.

So what can we do? How can we help rescue the world? There's three things that are in our text. Number one, by knowing-- there's something you need to know. You need to know your position.

See, if we don't know who we are and where we are, we won't do any good for this world. There are certain things we need to be knowing.

Number two, we need to be growing, growing in our preparation, getting ready for this enterprise of rescuing.

And number three, we need to go.

So knowing, growing, and going.

Look at verse 16. This is what you should be knowing. This is your position. "They--" that is, His followers-- "they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world." Verse 18, "as you sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world."

Now, that's what you're to know. You are to know your position. And the position on this battleground, this playing field, is that you are in this world, but you are not of this world. Let me explain.

The world, cosmos, doesn't just mean a whole bunch of people or planet Earth. Here and often in the Bible, it refers to a system, a system of activities, philosophies, values, that are against God and controlled by the devil.

That's the term world, so often used in scripture. A system of activities, a system of behavior values that are against God and ruled by the devil. The devil is called in scripture the God of this world, or the God of this age many different times. So we need to know that.

We need to know that, because we are here to help Jesus rescue them. That's why he came. Verse 4, "I have finished the work which you have called me to do. I am in this world, but I am not of this world." And Jesus said, "as my followers are, as well."

So why is it then, if we're in it but we're not of it, under its influence, why are we so occupied or even preoccupied with it, with its values, with its opinions?

Dwight L Moody, a century ago, said the church reminded him of firemen straightening pictures on the wall of a burning house. What a great picture that is. Can you imagine, firemen going, the house is burning down. One of them stops and goes, I don't know about that. It's just not quite right.

What are you thinking? The house is on fire. There's something much bigger here than art right now.

So we need to know our position. We're passing through. We're on a mission. We're in the world and not of the world.

Second, we need to be growing, growing in our preparation. Once we know that, we need to graduate to doing something about that. And we do that by growing spiritually. Verse 17, we touched on this last week." Sanctify them, or separate them, or make them different, holy. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is Truth."

So here's the issue. We're here. We're in this world, but we're not of it, OK? In fact, I discovered something pretty early on after I gave my life to Christ. I discovered I wasn't in my element any longer. I didn't fit in any longer. When I tried to go back to my old group, my old gang, the old places we hung out, it just like-- I do not fit here. I'm not in my element.

Moreover, unless I am equipped, I'm not going to be able to withstand the kind of pressure that I'm getting from that group, or be able to do them any good, in terms of evangelism. So I need to be equipped.

This is what we're like. We're like the astronaut who goes into outer space who requires a special suit, a pressurized suit. You couldn't go into outer space and survive. That's not your element. You can't breathe spatial environment, because you'll die. I would die.

You need a special suit that has the environment that you're used to on earth, the same kind of pressure to withstand that. Or if you were to go under the ocean as a scuba diver, you need special equipment. Because you need pressure from within to offset the pressure that you get from without. So it is as believers. I need the pressure from within caused by the Holy Spirit that comes through the sanctifying truth, the word of God, to offset the pressure that I get every day out in the world.

Now, I'm prepared. And so that's why we fellowship and come to church a lot, and meet a lot, and pray a lot, and sing a lot, and get re-established and grow. We know our position. We grow in our faith. And the third is to go. Go. Verse 18, again. "As you sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world."

What good does it do to know and to grow if we don't go? You see, this is where the disconnect often happens. Christians start becoming aware, and they start knowing who they are, and they start knowing truth and growing in theological truth, and they start growing in that. And they discussed the fine points of theology back and forth. And they do all of that, but they never do anything with it in terms of unbelievers. So they grow fat and sassy. Spiritually speaking, they don't exercise.

We've got to be going. Because with all that knowledge we have and preparation, they don't yet know it. They need what we have to offer.

Now, historically, there have been five that I've come up with, five different responses that Christians have had to the outside world. Number one, to isolate, they become isolated. They go, boy, this world is bad. I've got to get away from it.

So they separate themselves from it. I mean, literally. That was the basis of the monastic movements hundreds of years ago. We got to go to a monastery, we have to get away from the bad stuff, the cooties that are in the world, be separated. So that's to isolate.

Number two is to insulate. It's very similar to the first, but it's a little bit different. It says, OK, we're in this world, so our biggest job is to protect ourselves and my family from the influences of the world. So I need to take my children out of this, take them out of that, and bring them here and bring myself there. And we just sit around in our bastion of Christianity, pointing our fingers at all the bad stuff in the world. But we're insulated.

A third response-- and both of those are not good game plans, by the way-- a third one is to vegetate. Vegetate. This is the Christian who becomes just apathetic. It's like, whatever. He or she has no passion at all for lost people. His or her only passion is self-comfort-- I just want something for me. There's no passion for the lost. Not a good game plan.

Number four is to imitate the world. Well, I'll just be like they are, so they'll accept me. After all, if I'm going to make any kind of an impact, I've got to see what they see, listen to what they listen to, go where they go. I'll just ape the world.

And it gets really bad when church people and church leaders start saying, let's just make our church just like the world. We'll take out all the songs that speak about the cross and the blood and Jesus, and make it really secular so unbelievers come and think we're really cool. Guess what? They don't. They don't. Not good strategies.

The best and fifth strategy is to penetrate, or to permeate, to as church people go where they are without being like them, and give off the aroma that attracts them. Jesus called it salt.

How many of you here know that you are the salt of the earth? I hope all your hands go up, because you need to know that. Jesus said, you're the salt of the earth. And right now, right here, we're in the salt shaker.

It's pretty fun. I like going to the salt shaker every Sunday. Honey, get the kids. We're going to the salt shaker. It's great. We get all shaken up and salty together, and it's really cool.

But we don't do the world any good until we do this. Turn the salt shaker over, let the salt spill out into the community, and by our lives bring people in. How do we do that? By our lives and by our words, very simply. It comes very naturally.

2 Kings, Chapter 7. You can just jot that down and look at it later, if you're not familiar with this story. Many of you are.

There were dudes-- I'm paraphrasing, admittedly. There were four leprous dudes, four men who were diseased with leprosy. And they are not only dying of leprosy, they're starving. There's a famine in the land, and in their city of Samaria, there's no food.

One of these guys one day gets a brilliant idea. He looks at the three guys and goes, why are we sitting here until we die? If we just stay here, we're going to die. They said, if we go into the city of Samaria, we're going to die there, because there's no food there.

Now, what if we were to go to the camp of the enemies and surrender? It could be that they will accept our surrender, and at least as a prisoner we'll get food. Now, they might not accept our surrender. They might kill us. But what do we care? We're going to die anyway. So the worst that can happen is we're going to die there, but if we stay here, we're going to die.

So they go to the camp of the enemies. Do you know what they find? No one's home. They have all vacated their camp because the Lord, the Bible says, drove them out. So now they have tents and clothes and food.

And so they start going to the tents and hoarding it and gathering it and stuffing it in their bags. And one of them says, wait a minute. What we are doing is not good. This is a day of good news, and we remain silent. We've got to go back to Samaria and tell them what we found, because there is a famine in that land. This is the day of good news, and we must not remain silent.

Ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, this today is a day of good news. This is the era of grace, where God pours out love and forgiveness. We can't hold this good news in. We've got to go, permeate, penetrate the world, and share it.

So the church that Jesus would attend is one that radiates His glory, the glory of God, reveals the truth of God, rescues the enemies of God, and fourth and finally, one that rallies over the love of God. That's the last part of this prayer. In Verse 20, the prayer gets really good, because He's praying for you. "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in me through their word."

How many of you believe in Jesus because of the word of the apostles? I did. Every believer today did. It's their testimony, written down and preserved, that has answered this prayer. So what does he pray? Verse 21, "that they--" that's us-- "may all be one as You, Father, are in me, and I in You, that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that You sent me. And the glory which You gave me I have given them, that they may be one, just as we are one, I in them and You in me, that they may be made perfect in one, that the world may know that You have sent me, and have loved them as you have loved me.

"Father, I desire that they also whom you gave me may be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory, which You have given me, for you loved me before the foundation of the world.

"O Righteous Father, the world has not known You, but I have known You, and these have known that You sent me. And I have declared to them Your name and will declare it, so that the love with which You love me may be in them, and i in them."

Now, boy, is that a mouthful. And let me just distill that and say this. Jesus is praying for unity based upon truth and love. He's praying for unity.

How can we ever preach the Gospel of the love of God to the world if we don't display that love among ourselves? That is the point. We have no credibility, we have no integrity, unless there's unity.

Now, what does the Bible mean when it talks of Christian unity? Let me tell you what it doesn't mean. It doesn't mean that we all think alike on every issue. It's impossible, you know that, right? It doesn't mean that we're all going to get together and hold hands, every church organization, and we're all going to get in one big group and just sway back and forth and sing "Kumbaya." It doesn't mean that. We're not going to agree on every point. We're not going to agree on every issue, on every policy, on every song.

If you have a large family, you have more than one child, you've probably noticed that your children are different from each other, and they don't always agree with each other. You have a child, one is very loud. You might have another child that's very, very quiet. And some of you are thinking, God, give me one of those. One might be a night person. One might be a morning person. They're all different, but they're all part of the family.

You know, the disciples didn't always get along. Peter and Paul didn't agree. Paul and Barnabas didn't agree. The council at the Jerusalem Church in Acts 15 didn't agree. And today, there are people who are believers, there are brothers and sisters, but we're different.

Some of us believe in a premillennial eschatology. We've already covered that. I'm among them. Others are amillennialists, and I pray for them. But they're my brothers and my sisters.

Some of us are those who hold a pre-tribulation Rapture, others are post-toasties, as I call them. We're going to go through all that judgment of God upon the earth in its full measure. I do not, but they're my brothers in Christ.

Some in our styles and methods like the organ, and they like hymns and choirs and robes, and others prefer guitars and granola and the more earthy style of worship. And I thank God-- honestly-- that there are different groups that have all of those varied expressions. But what does unity mean? What are we to be unified in? And we can't miss this point.

Verse 8 through 11 tell us precisely. Jesus prays, "I have given to them the words which You have given me, and they have received them and have known surely that I came forth from You, and they have believed that You sent me. I pray for them. I do not pray for the world, but for those You have given me, for they are Yours. And all mine are Yours, and Yours are mine, and I am glorified in them.

"Now, I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world. And I come to You, Holy Father. Keep through your name those whom You have given me, that they may be one, as we are."

Now, listen carefully. The unity that Jesus describes and prays for is unity based on truth. That's what it is. It's unity based on truth. And more specifically, its unity based on the truth of who Jesus is. They have received these words, and they believe that I am the one that You have sent. I pray that they would be one, as we are one.

This is what it means, very practically. It means that you and I are Christians in exactly the same way. You believe that what Jesus did on the cross was enough. I believe that, too. You believe that Jesus is the only Savior of mankind. I believe that, too.

And that's what we are unified on, the essentials of the Christian faith. We can never, ever get that wrong. We're unified in that.

However, we can allow latitude in a lot of other areas. We call this the essentials, we call these the nonessentials. It's essential that you know about Jesus and believe in Him, as the Bible says. But when it comes to the Rapture, or modes of baptism, or do you speak in tongues or not, all of that stuff is secondary and nonessential.

Augustine put it the best. "In essentials, unity. In nonessentials, liberty. And in all things, charity, love."

Now, four times, Jesus prays for unity in this prayer. Do you understand how significant that is? Four times. This is important to him. And for those of us who read it, it's like Jesus saying, OK, this is important.

OK, don't miss this. I'm going to say it again and pray for it. This is important. You can't miss this. It's important. You got to do this, it's important. Why is it so important? Verse 21 tells us why, that the world may believe that You sent me. Wow.

Do we want the world to believe that God the Father sent Jesus as the Savior? Then we better be unified.

OK, we have a problem. We have a problem in our evangelism. We go out and tell people about God, yes? The big problem? They can't see him. He's invisible.

You're telling people to have a personal relationship with somebody that cannot see. He's invisible. That poses a problem in our evangelism. So what do we do?

Well, one of the biggest things we can do that will help is to love each other. When we love each other sincerely and the world sees it, we take the invisible God and make Him visible.

Now, lest you think I'm just projecting that, listen to it from Scripture. 1 John-- I'll read it to you-- 1 John, Chapter 4, Verse 12. "No one has ever seen God, but if we love each other, God lives in us and His love is brought to full expression in us."

Hear that? When we love each other genuinely, sincerely, and reach across gender and race and rank, suddenly God becomes more visible.

I think that's what the Bible means when it says we're the body of Christ. Jesus left. He ascended into heaven. His physical body isn't here, so we're His hands, we're His feet, we're His mouth. We go in His name. And by our love for each other, the world sees that God sent His son.

So if unity of believers proves the reality of our message, then what do you think disunity among believers proves? Hmm, that's why they're very suspect about our message.

When the world sees churches fighting over colors of pews and kinds of music and styles of flowers and all of the bickering that divide the body of Christ, they go far away from us. They go far away.

John Stott, in that book I told you about, said, "we cannot proclaim the Gospel of God's love with any degree of integrity if we don't exhibit love for one another. Perhaps nothing is so damaging to the cause of Christ as a church torn apart by jealousy, rivalry, slander, malice, or preoccupied with its own selfish concerns."

So now we're done with this part. We're down with John 17 in this series.

After looking at this passage this week-- this is personally now-- I've come up with two applicational points for me, two things that I am praying for personally, based upon this.

Number one, I want to be renewed in love. That's my prayer this week. God, renew me in love. Make me sensitive and tender in Your love for your people. That's my prayer. I'll tell you why.

It is so easy to get jaded in the ministry. If you're on a pastoral staff or you're listening to this message and you've done any kind of ministry for any length of time, it is so easy to get what they call compassion fatigue. Because you just see a lot of stuff, and you hear a lot of stuff. And every time you meet people, it's this problem and that problem, and this stuff and that stuff, and it goes on year after year after year, and I've told you about all the people that drop out of the ministry because of that.

So I don't want to get a callous heart. I ask God for a tender heart, that I be renewed in my love, and number two, that based upon that love, that heart of love, that I would be ready daily to enter into conversations, as I'm in Starbucks, or at the Chinese laundry, wherever I'm at, to enter into meaningful conversations and look for open doors to share and live in such a way that attracts people out of darkness into light, so they can experience His love.

There's a little boy who was saying his prayer Sunday night. He had to go to bed early, because school was the next day. And he had been to church Sunday morning. And his closing prayer that night was Lord, we had such a good time at church today. I only wish You could have been there. Boy, I don't want that. I don't want Jesus on the outside knocking to get in.

So let me close by asking you this simple question. Let's take the spotlight off organizations. Let's take the spotlight off churches, because we get really good at grading and evaluating churches. Let's take the spotlight off of that and put it on us. And ask yourself this question, what are you living for?

What are you living for personally? Are you living for God? Are you living for his glory? Have you been really rescued? Are you a churchgoer merely, or have you given your life to Christ? If you haven't honestly personally asked Jesus to control your life as your Savior from sin and as your master, I'm going to give you that opportunity.

Let's bow our heads.

Our Heavenly Father, every word from heaven, every message from the word of truth, the Bible, does require self-examination. It does require a personal response. And Father, we now think about our lives. And we pray that honestly, if we haven't given our lives to You, if we haven't let You become our master, we haven't responded to Your calling, on us, I pray that we would do that today, we would make a decision to cooperate with Yours and say yes to You. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Let's all stand. As we're singing this song, if you have never given your life to Christ-- now hear me. Well, I've been to church all my life. I'm not saying that. If you have never personally asked Jesus Christ to be your Savior, I want to give you the opportunity, and I want you to do it today at this service, right now.

If you did something years ago but you're not walking with Christ today-- whatever it is you did, I don't know. But if today you're not walking with him or living for him, I'm going to ask you to get up and come. And I'm going to lead you in a prayer to receive Christ and make this the beginning of a whole new adventure.

So whether you're in the middle of a row or in the balcony or our family room, the hundreds of you who are outside in the amphitheater, I want you to get up and come right here right now and allow me to lead you in a prayer as we close the service. Come now, come quickly, as we sing.

Hear our cries, O God, as we rend our hearts confess our shame and brokenness. Hear us from heaven, God. Forgive our sin. Heal our lacks.

Shine on us again. Revive us according to Your mercy. Send Your healing touch. Restore us, God, bring us to our first love. Mend our wandering hearts.

I'm going to wait a few more minutes. You don't want to put this off. You don't want to put this off.

Hear us from heaven, God. Forgive our sin, heal our lacks. Shine on us again. Revive us according to Your mercy. Send Your healing touch. Restore us, God. Bring us to our first love. Mend our wandering hearts.

Restore us. Bring us to our first love. Mend our wandering hearts.

Restore us, God. Bring us to our first love. Mend our wandering hearts.

Now, if you're over in the overflow room, the hub next door, there's a pastor there who is going to tell you what to do and bring you over here. If you're outside in the overflow in the amphitheater, there's going to be a pastor there telling you to come forward and come in, as well.

And here I am with you, in this auditorium and just again reminding you, if you watch your heart unburdened, if you're living with just a huge ton of junk from the past and you want all of that to be not only forgiven-- whatever it is doesn't really matter, because God is a big God who loves to erase and forgive, and give a start and give you purpose. He's all about that.

He's not looking for perfect people. None of us fit that description. He takes the broken and the bruised and the beat up, and takes us as we are and loves on us and forgives us. And--

So you get up and come. We'd love to have you. We'd love to have you join this group up here. We just have a few more moments. Anybody else?

My Savior, he can move the mountains. My God is mighty to see. He is mighty to see. Forever, author of salvation. He rose and conquered the grave. Jesus conquered the grave.

Oh, my Savior, He can move the mountains. My God is mighty to see. He is mighty to see. Forever, author of salvation. He rose and conquered the grave. Jesus conquered the grave.

Jesus is in the rescue business. And you've come forward. And I'd like you now to ask yourself, I'd like you to ask Jesus to come in.

And this is how it's going to work. This is just sort of like marriage vows, where a couple makes a public vow before God and before men. I'm going to ask you to pray a prayer out loud. I'm going to ask you to pray this from your heart and mean it with all of your heart and say it to the Lord, asking Him to come in. Let's pray together.

Lord, I give you my life. I admit that I am a sinner. Please forgive me.

I believe in Jesus, that He died on a cross and rose from the dead. And I turn from my sin. I turn from my past. I turn my life over to you, as Savior and as master. In Jesus' name. Amen.

[APPLAUSE]

Additional Messages in this Series

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3/22/2009
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The Church? Who Needs It
Acts 1:12-15;2:1-13
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I'm a churchman. I freely confess that. Yet I'm also painfully aware that the culture around me incessantly asks the above question when it comes to the church: Who needs it? Why should I belong to something so archaic and so narrow? In the next several weeks, I'd like to take a fresh look at us--the church of Christ--and answer this question. Today, as we begin our series, let's jump right in and deal with this question head on: Who needs the church and why?
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3/29/2009
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Hey, Look Who's Starting a Church!
Matthew 16:13-18
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Church was God's idea. It's His plan. Jesus Christ is the founder, architect, builder, owner, and director of the church. Today we look at the first mention of the church in the Bible and consider our spiritual origins. As we listen into a conversation between Jesus and His followers, let's also rediscover our spiritual roots as the people of God. You'll discover that in New Testament terms, both Christian and church are synonymous--one implies the other.
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4/26/2009
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The Church Jesus Would Attend - Part 1
John 17
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The church is not a place; but it is a people. The church is not where you worship; but it is you who worship. Jesus laid claim on the church; it belongs to Him ("I will build My church"). So what does He want His church to be like? What things should characterize us overall as a church? In short--what kind of church would Jesus attend? In His longest recorded prayer, the Lord longs for four characteristics that are to mark God’s people. Today we look at the first two.
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5/10/2009
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The Art of Going to Church
Ecclesiastes 5:1-7
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If you're reading this, chances are you've come to church! But why are you here? What is your intention? Don't get me wrong, we're glad you're here today in this place of worship. But for a moment, think about your motivation and your experience--why you've come and what you'll do while you're here and even afterwards. There really is a right way and a wrong way to come to church. Let's consider the words of Solomon--the ancient Preacher.

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5/17/2009
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On Your Mark, Get Set…GROW! - Part 1
Acts 2:42
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What did the very first church look like? If we can answer that question, we can determine two things: First, we will be able to see the model we are expected to follow as a church. Second, we will be able to see why we need the church, since these things speak to core needs that we all have. The first church in Jerusalem was a learning church, a caring church, a worshipping church and a generous church. Let’s consider the first mark today, and the place that apostolic teaching and preaching had on the very first assembly.
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5/24/2009
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On Your Mark, Get Set…GROW! - Part 2
Acts 2:42
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"Fellowship"! How many times have you heard that word since you've been a Christian? But do we use it in the right sense and do we practice it in the right way? Let's take a topical tour of this word in the context in which it appears here in Acts. We discover that not only was the first church a learning church; it was a caring church. This is one of the strongest factors for your own personal spiritual growth, so let's see how it's to be done.

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5/31/2009
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On Your Mark, Get Set…GROW! - Part 3
Acts 2:42
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The third characteristic of Breaking Bread seems like it doesn’t fit in a list of the four most important priorities of a church. Of all the possibilities for essential core values, why is eating so central a practice? What does breaking bread really mean and is it still to be a primary focus for modern Christians? Today we will both study this and then practice it together.
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6/7/2009
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On Your Mark, Get Set…GROW! - Part 4
Acts 2:42
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The first church in Jerusalem had lots of things missing from it—charters, committees, strategies, financial resources and buildings—things that many today would deem as vital. But it had great power! Why? We can only surmise that it is because they tapped into the source of power through prayer. Prayer was part of the very fabric of the church. It was basic and foundational… and it was effective. What would happen to our church if we were all devoted to this discipline?
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6/14/2009
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When Christians Are Generous
Acts 2:44-45
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To find out what God intended His people to be like, we have to go back to the Spirit-led church in the book of Acts. As we take a fresh look at their style, structure, and service, we get the full picture. This group wasn't a bunch of independent isolationists who met once a week. They were generous toward one another and sought to meet the social and economic needs of people in their spiritual family. Because they were so open-hearted, they were also open-handed.
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6/21/2009
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Soul Winning
Acts 2:47
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Jesus said that He would build His church. But how does He build it? What means does He use to call people out of the world and into His church? The answer is simple: Evangelism. As the early church (and any church) shined it's light by proclamation and by practice, people left the darkness. In fact in the first stages of the church, unlike today, "joining the church" and "being saved" were equivalent statements. Let's see how the first church did evangelism.

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6/28/2009
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How to Build a Beautiful Body
1 Corinthians 12:3-22
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Advertisers know that a trim and beautiful physique helps sell products. Think of what that means in a spiritual sense. Can a spiritually fit and beautifully functioning local church attract people to Christ? Jesus said that He would build His church. So do we have any part in that? Since Paul compared the church to a physical body, is there anything that individual members can do to help beautify it? Let's look at four principles that will help us do exactly that.
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7/5/2009
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Avoiding Church Splits
Philippians 2:1-4
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The early church grew by addition and multiplication. It seems the modern church prefers to grow by division: one group splintering off on its own only to replicate that cycle again and again. The Christian community at Philippi was a vibrant, growing church but it was experiencing a period of disharmony. A split between two personalities was threatening the integrity of the church’s testimony. Here we learn how such a split can be avoided.

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7/12/2009
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Hands Up, Face Down
Acts 2:47;Revelation 4-5:14
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When you go to a doctor's office you are typically asked, "So, what brings you here?" The answers may range from having a sore throat to something far more serious. The same is true of coming to church. Not everyone comes for the right reason: to worship. The first earthly church was committed to it and the church in heaven will continue it. Let's get some Scriptural pointers.
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7/26/2009
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The Deacon-Possessed Church
Acts 6:1-15;Acts 20:1-36
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Yes, this message's title is a play on the words demon-possessed. Deacons were among the church's earliest leaders and so were elders. Leadership is needed in every sphere of life from governing a nation, managing a business, growing a marriage, and superintending a church. Jesus called the church His church, so no single person or denomination can lay claim to it. But how is the church to operate as an organization? And how is it that some deacons and elders stop being helpful and humble and become downright hurtful?
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8/2/2009
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You're On a Mission-From God!
Acts 1:8
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Please don't turn off to this message! It's going to be about missions. Lots of Christians immediately respond to world missions by saying, "That's not for me!" I think God would disagree. Getting the gospel of Jesus Christ out to the whole world is our "Family Business." In this final message on the church, lets consider why that is and how that works.
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There are 15 additional messages in this series.