Sunday – October 1, 2017 Week Three: “Why Do Good People Disagree on How to Serve Church?”

Sunday – October 1, 2017 – Read the Word on Worship

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NEW SERIES: “The Church- Can We Have It Our Way?”
Week Three: “Why Do Good People Disagree on How to Serve Church?”

Word On Worship – Sunday – October 1, 2017 Download / Print

1 Corinthians 11:16
“If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice — nor do the churches of God.”

First, our differences may be matters of conviction, rather than matters of doctrine. While some aspects of church life are (at least in my opinion) non-negotiables, not all fall into this category. Some practices are simply a matter of choice. Whether or not to have a Sunday school, or to meet on Wednesday nights for prayer meeting, are not matters written in stone. Thus, some of our differences are merely matters of conviction.

Second, some truths are more crucial than others. Minor differences should not divide churches, but should be an occasion to manifest grace and to display true Christian unity. Some doctrines are what we would call “fundamentals of the faith.” The rejection of one of these doctrines has both earthly and eternal consequences. To reject the deity of Christ, the substitutionary atonement of our Lord, or the doctrine of justification by faith would have grave implications. To differ over whether communion should be observed weekly or monthly would not have the same consequences.

Third, being biblical entails more than just using the right terms and having the right forms. Being biblical necessitates having the right heart attitudes. This is actually a summation of our series, so I will not dwell on it here. But suffice it to say that there may very well be churches that do not have all the right forms (or all the proper terms), but who have biblical attitudes, and thus they may function better than other churches that outwardly appear to get it right.

It is not my purpose to prove us right and all others wrong; it is my goal to explain how and why we “serve church” as we do, and to show how we deal with Scripture to come to our conclusions. To be honest, I don’t expect to convince everyone that we are doing it right. For some, learning how and why we “do church” may prompt them to look elsewhere for a church that functions more closely to their understanding of Scripture. But I would hope that some will find our ecclesiology (doctrine of the church) something you believe to be biblical, and thus something that you want to embrace and support.

Sunday – September 24, 2017 NEW SERIES Week Two: “Why is the Church Important to God?”

Sunday – September 24, 2017 – Read the Word on Worship

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NEW SERIES: “The Church- Can We Have It Our Way?”
Week Two: “Why is the Church Important to God?”

Word On Worship – Sunday – September 24, 2017 Download / Print

1 Timothy 3:14-15
Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.”

Why would I want to preach a series asking if we can do church “our way?” Maybe some will hear it and decide, “I’m out of here.” Maybe it will expose a lot of problem areas with our church, leading to grumbling and discontent. And maybe it will help us understand the glorious purpose God has for redeeming His creation “which angels desire to look into” (1 Peter 1:12) and increase our desire to worship God with hearts that are focused on Him.

I’m preaching on this topic for several reasons. First, maybe someone here is in the process of looking for a good church, and you need to know what to look for. People pick churches for a lot of reasons, not all of them based on Scripture. Some like the “vibes” or feelings they get when they go to a church. Or, they feel welcomed and loved. Some pick a church based on what their kids like. For others, it’s the music or they like the building. And, some like a church because the pastor wears his shirt untucked. So we need to understand the biblical criteria for a good church.

Second, you may have friends who are looking for a good church, and you may find the opportunity to offer them some specific help. Although it should be the first place to look, it may not occur to them to find what the Bible says what constitutes a good church. You will be able to show them in the Scriptures what God has revealed as important in the work and service of the Church. You can also warn them about what to avoid in a church as well.

And, third, I think we should use these qualities of a good church to evaluate ourselves so that we can try to improve where we need to. We are not studying this topic to suggest we are perfect nor we are not studying this because of problems in the pews. Every church has room to improve and sharpen our focus. Also, before we look at these marks of a good church, we need to keep in mind that there are no perfect churches because churches are made up of imperfect people. As the old joke goes, “If you find a perfect church, don’t join it because you’d ruin it!” But, even though perfect churches don’t exist, there are good, solid, churches. We need strive to be a church focused on glorifying God through Jesus Christ.

Sunday – October 18, 2015 Revelation 2 & 3 “He Who Has an Ear, Let Him Hear”

Sunday – October 18, 2015 – Read the Word on Worship

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Revelation 1:19-20
Therefore write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things. As for the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.”

Perhaps you’ve seen the television commercial in which a doctor instructs his patient how to perform surgery on himself – all over the phone. The “patient” asks the doctor, “Shouldn’t you be doing this?” One would expect something as serious as surgery to be performed by a surgeon – not by the patient. The same is true for the church. If the church is important, and its mission critical, then one would think that God would have significant involvement. He would not leave it for us to do ourselves, as best we can figure it out. Yet, many Christians seem to think that God has pretty much left the church on its own to figure out for itself just how it should function best.

It is generally accepted that the Gospel of Matthew has a Jewish focus. Noteworthy here is that Matthew is the only Gospel where the term “church” is found. In Matthew 16, we find Peter’s “great confession” and our Lord’s first reference to the church: “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.”  The coming of Israel’s Messiah was so that He could build His church. I am not saying this was His only reason for coming. What I am saying is that Matthew, a Jew writing to a Jewish audience, is saying this immediately after our Lord’s identity as Messiah is proclaimed by Peter. And this new confederation, His church, is so endowed with power that the gates of Hades cannot successfully resist or oppose it. The church is the means by which our Lord will overcome Satan’s domain.

I’m not quite sure how to say it any better than this. The church is very special to God. The imagery of our Lord’s relationship to the church depicts the love and intimacy between Christ and His church. He is the Shepherd; we are His flock. He is the groom; we are the bride. Christ loved the church and gave His life for it. That is exactly what Paul told the Ephesian elders: “Watch out for yourselves and for all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God that he obtained with the blood of his own Son (Acts 20:28).”

Christ nourishes and cherishes the church (Ephesians 5:29), and He keeps a watchful eye on the church, both in its victories and in its defeats. Our study in the first three books of Revelation demonstrates that our Lord knows exactly what is going on in each of the seven churches of Asia. He identifies their strengths and their failures far better than they knew- or we know about our body. Even today, the Lord Jesus gives us words of exhortation and words of warning. Our Lord cares about His church, and it shows.

Sunday – August 30, 2015 Revelation 2:12-17 “Pergamum: Sin City” Part 2

Sunday – August 30, 2015 – Read the Word on Worship

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Revelation 2:16-17
‘Therefore repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth. ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.’

It has been said, “Any idiot can be complicated; but it takes genius to be simple.” Indeed, the most effective oral and written communicators are those who take profound truths and make them simple. This has bearing on every area of our lives. When we communicate with others either individually or corporately, we must be clear and simple. The well-known acronym K.I.S.S. (“Keep It Simple Stupid”) applies here.

Although the Lord is the deepest thinker, after all “His ways are not our ways.” He always strives to bring His great truth down to common folks like you and me. However, many who have taught from the Book of the Revelation have produced a most unfortunate history of application in the church.  Unfortunately, this trend continues today. By appealing to “hidden manna” and “white stones” all kinds of false doctrines are being perpetuated and widely accepted. Therefore, we must be on the alert against this passage and others like it being abused. Our goal must be to understand why our Lord Jesus has written to this letter to these churches and how it applies to our lives.

The wonderful mysteries God has prepared for those who love Him are not knowable only by a select group of Christians. Any and every believer can understand and appreciate them because the indwelling Holy Spirit can enlighten us. However, without the light of God’s Spirit, we’ll be in the dark. This is why our Lord instructs each of these churches to listen to what the Spirit has to say to each of these seven churches. The Holy Spirit searches the very depths of the heart and mind of God. He can do this because He is God – the third member of the Trinity.

There will be many things about life and faith we will not understand on this side of heaven. They are mysteries – but mystery is not a bad thing. It ultimately comes down to whom do you believe? Do you believe God and what He has promised to those who overcome or do you believe what the world says about what will make your life pleasant and meaningful. The walk of faith is one that trusts what God has promised even though we cannot know what the results will be because the One who has promised it is faithful to what He has promised and is all powerful to accomplish what He has promised.

Sunday – August 9, 2015 “Ephesus Love Lost” Part 2 Revelation 2 verses 1 to 8 pt 2

Sunday – August 9, 2015 – Read the Word on Worship

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Revelation 2:7
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.”

Have you ever put yourself in the shoes of John as he is trying to write out the revelation that has been given to him from our Lord Jesus? He is the last apostle standing. In John 21 Peter had been grumbling when Jesus told him they would bind his hands and lead him where he did not want to go and he wanted to know why John’s fate was not going to be his. But at this time all of the other apostles, as far as we know, are dead and only John is left. He is no longer a young man, and his time for departure is very near – whether that be from old age or his exile on the island of Patmos as a prisoner.

The churches that are addressed in the Book of Revelation are moving from first generation churches to second generation churches. When we consider the history of Israel, after God has moved in a powerful way the transition between generations was never easy. The same is true for generations in the church. In Acts 19, we are told that the gospel spread throughout all of Asia (modern day Turkey). The idol makers were greatly distressed because of the hit that their businesses took. Even imposters like the seven sons of Sceva tried to get in on the rising tide of God’s powerful work. Even people of Ephesus cleared out their books on the occult and idol worship, taking them out to the city square and burning them. And yet Jesus tells them He has something against them.

The first generation church, based on what they saw and experienced, realized the sufficiency and the power of Jesus Christ in their lives. But that was nearly forty years before. It was a distant memory for the older generation and merely a story that was told to the next generation as they heard their parents repeat yet again what God did “back then.” I cannot help but think John was sitting on the island of Patmos and wondering what all of this meant for the ensuing generations and what this would mean for the future of Jesus Christ’s church.

This should cause each of us this morning to pause for a moment. If it had been roughly forty years after the church at Ephesus had been born when Jesus gave this revelation to John, we should remember that is drawing very close to the age of Sunrise Community Church. The passing of time is not always good. Churches, like human bodies, tend to have life spans. Unless love is continually kindled, bodies move from old to cold. And so I wonder if the problems the church at Ephesus faced at the writing of this letter may not be too different than the problems that face us today. I believe this letter is one we should listen well to what is said.

Sunday – August 2, 2015 “Ephesus Love Lost” Part 1 Revalation 2 verses 1 to 8

Sunday – August 2, 2015 – Read the Word on Worship

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Revelation 2:4-5
“’But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. ‘Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place — unless you repent.”

As a disclaimer, both here and in the message, any discussion about the churches in the Book of Revelation requires the reader (as all Scripture should do) to examine themselves. Self examination is never a pleasant process, which is why so few people approach the Scripture with an attitude of humility, asking the Lord to search their hearts and their will, to allow the Spirit to show them deficiencies in their heart so they may walk with the Lord. This is even more necessary in Revelation 2 and 3. There is a spiritual pride that gives us the ability to see splinter in the eyes of these churches, but blinds us to the log in our lives and in our church.

You may have houseplants to decorate your house that you simply forget to water– not because you decided you did not like the plants anymore but rather you get busy doing other things. We all take such simple things for granted. Time goes by and our day continues to fill up with all the activities that must be completed. By default, watering the plants ends up being ignored. The same is true of love. I don’t think anyone sets out to stop loving, but out of neglect love grows cold.

The issue with the church of Ephesus is that they have left their first love. The question for the scholars and those of us who are more pragmatic is, what is first love? Is it a matter of first in priority or first in a sequence? Is it our love for God or is it our love for others? Some have suggested it is our love for the lost who need to know the gospel. I think all of these are true, but it still does not answer the question: what is our first love?

As I study this passage, let me tell you my definition. Our first love is the love we experienced and then expressed when we came to faith. What it means is all dimensions of love – not just our love for God and not just our love of others and not just our love to see people saved – but every facet of love. This is what I see lived out in the Book of Acts when the Church was started. With this as a working definition of first love, I want to challenge you to go to the Lord and ask Him to show you where you have left your first love. Is it in how you worship? How well do you love others, not just in words but in attitude and action? How concerned are you for the lost? I believe the Lord has many things to tell us if we are willing to listen and learn the lessons to the seven churches of Revelation.