Honored / Humbled Honored to be up here today. This month I'm speaking alongside Pastor Marshall, Pastor Don, and Pastor Charles, all who have been pastoring longer than I've been alive. And so I come today with humility. Truly.
40 Years Or course most of you know that this month celebrates our 40 year anniversary as a church. Which is just amazing. I haven't been here for all 40, I missed the first 2, but I have been here for 38 of it.
This month This month, we're talking about church.
Junk Mail I love the church, church is all I've ever known. I've been a part of the church so long even my junk mail is Christian.
Relationship Status - Complicated So some of you know that on Facebook, there's this thing called 'relationship status'. Married, single, engaged. But the coolest one is of course: Relationship Status: It's Complicated. And that's how a lot of people would describe their relationship to the church. It's complicated.
Mine, though, has been pretty simple. There has never been a season in my life where the church was anything but a blessing to me. Doesn't mean I'm not wounded by people, that happens to all of us. But there is 0% of me that thinks anyones life would be better off without a place like this. 0%.
Bound I personally know a lot of people who are bound by their past. And things that have happened in the past never seem to let them go, so they're in a way chained to who they used to be. That's a mistake when it comes to the past.
Don't know ANYTHING ANOTHER mistake that we make is we don't know ANYTHING about the past, all you know is small strokes of the story that is being painted and you don't know anything about the broad strokes.
Where you know nothing of the big story that's going on in the world, and all you know is the story of YOUR life.
For me : My christian life was taken to a higher level when I began to understand the connection between me and the Christians that came before me, and I began to have a sense of responsibility of carrying their message forward.
Christianity is always 1 generation away from extinction. The way that Christianity lives is by us faithfully passing down the message (the good news, the gospel) to the next generation. And every single generation is responsible for that. And it's something you should take very seriously.
Mental exercise. Let's do a little mental exercise. - I want you to for just a moment become totally aware of your surroundings. Notice yourself sitting in that chair. With those clothes on, next to that guy. Look at all these lights, and this microphone, and this crazy LED wall thing.
HOW DID YOU GET HERE? You could of course answer that question lots of different ways - my mom made me come, or I drove here, or God called me to this church' but if we were to dig a little deeper, in order to explain how you got here, we'd have to go back to the beginning.
In order to answer that question, we need to go back to the beginning. To the garden.
God creates everything in peace, shalom, everything is working the way it should work.
Sin comes in a messes everything up. And it begins to spiral out of control.
In this spiraling, God shows up to a man named Abram.
Abram is the father of the worlds 3 great monotheistic religions: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.
God shows up and says this : Genesis 12:1-3
The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. (Genesis 12:1)
“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. (Genesis 12:2)
I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse whoever curses you; and all the people of the earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:3)
God says - I'm going to bring the world back into order - I'm going to heal the world - and I'm going to do it through you.
They got this amazing promise "all the people of the earth will be blessed through you.” This promise is given again and again and again.
God makes it clear that his people are here so that all the nations of the earth will be blessed.
But for the next couple thousand years, they got, let's say, slightly sidetracked. That's putting it nicely. They have mostly failed at the original calling which is to be a blessing to the world.
Fast forward 2000 years.
Jesus has been raised from the dead and the apostles have been filled with the holy spirit.
So they walk out into the square - Peter, in verse 14 speaks out. He says: "Fellow Jews, listen to me." - And he then presents the good news. What we would call 'The Gospel'.
Something amazing happens - When Peter spoke all the jews from every corner of the roman empire heard what he was saying in their own language.
That day, 3000 people became believers in Jesus and the church began.
It was an amazing day, I'd argue that it's the most progress that had ever made on the whole 'All the peoples on earth will be blessed through you' thing.
But one problem : Every single person here is a jew.
The church continues to grow, and grow, and grow. - AMONGST THE JEWS.
Well that begins to change in Acts 10
2 Characters to concern yourself with:
An angel comes to Cornelius in a vision:
“Your prayers and gifts to the poor have been received by God as an offering! (Acts 10:4)
Now send some men to Joppa, and summon a man named Peter. (Acts 10:5)
So the angel is telling him to go get a man named Peter.
He is staying with Simon, a tanner who lives near the seashore.” (Acts 10:6)
Directions. I love that the angel gives him directions. The last thing you want is to bring back to wrong Peter.
So he tells 3 of his men "Go Get him." - Bring him to my house.
Meanwhile Peter is in a bit of wrestling match with himself.
About noon the following day as they were on their journey (the 3 men sent by Cornelius) and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. (Acts 10:9)
He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. (Acts 10:10)
The word here 'Trance' is the word we get the English word "Ecstasy". So he's having perhaps some sort of 'out of body' experience. People will call this Peters 'dream', but he wasn't sleeping.
He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. (Acts 10:11)
It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. (Acts 10:12)
Vision - sheet. He has a vision of this sheet that comes down from heaven with all sorts of animals on it that the jews would never in a million years touch, let alone eat. Their laws forbid it. It's like "Ewww. Gross."
Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.” (Acts 10:13)
“Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” (Acts 10:14)
1st reaction: "Surely not Lord!" - He resists.
He resists God in the name of…God.
He has a way of seeing the world and God. Has experience that doesn't fit.
Torah - avoiding impurity - purity laws Avoiding food & people - Wouldn't touch dead animal or unclean people. They wouldn't even go into their house.
The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” (Acts 10:15)
This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven. (Acts 10:16)
Moral dilemma. Peter was caught in we like to call a moral dilemma. He's caught between the way he understood his faith in the past and the new thing that God was doing.
"I was supposed to eat those animals? I thought they were unclean."
Meanwhile there's a knock at the door. It's Cornelius' 3 men. Who tell Peter that they've been instructed to take him to meet Cornelius.
Now these men are Romans, the ultimate in unclean.
I can see Peter saying something like "Absolutely not. I'm a Jew. I'm better than you. You're uncleeee…." But in that moment, he remembers the dream. "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean." So Peter agrees to go.
The holy spirit falls on Cornelius and his whole household and they begin to speak in tongues. Peter baptizes them all.
Acts 15 - Council meets, church rules "Gentiles are a part of what God is doing."
So you might be thinking: Who cares?! This moment is one of the biggest in the history of the world.
The Gospel is no longer just a message to the jews, no it's for the whole world.
"All the people of the earth will be blessed through you.”
This is around 39AD.
THAT'S how you got here.
WHY? God. - God told us in Genesis 12 - So that all people of the world would be blessed by us.
And Jesus is still at work bringing reconciliation and healing to the world, and he's using his church to do it.
So if you're here this morning and you feel insignificant, that is a lie. You are a part of holy heritage, and your life is a continuation of the story that began in Genesis 12 and goes through Jesus and the apostles and leads us into tomorrow.
This IS history
This is what's going on on this planet. The Gospel of Jesus Christ.
EVERYTHING is about what God is doing.
Every other story Footnote.
There are more Christians living on this planet right now than there has ever been in the history of the world.
This is the story of planet earth and the universe it finds itself in. The Gospel of Jesus Christ And it's a story that's not over. We're in it. Right at this very moment.
3 things that will happen is you can see yourself as a part of a much larger story. The story of the church.
Who wins the election doesn't rattle you.
That just a footnote in the real story.
If you can see yourself for what you are : A player in God's story.
Then you're anchored. Then you're tethered.
And I think you're much more likely to play your part well.
Instead of being consumed with 'preference' you'll become consumed with 'purpose'.
You won't spend your time here asking 'What do I like?' you'll ask 'What is my responsibility?'
How tragic for you spend your one "turn" complaining about stuff that doesn't matter.
Taking yourself out b/c of volume, or style, or speaker, is such a betrayal to people who are counting on you to keep the message going.
Oh my gosh! They're doing a special offering! It's all about money!
People were brutally killed. And they counted it an honor to run this race.
And we're angry about an offering. Or service being too long or too short.
If that's how we feel, we have no concept of the bigger thing that's happening.
THIS all see? When you look at church is THIS all you see? Just your moment, just your generation?
Or do you see the privilege and responsibility that we have to keep this thing moving.
Linking arms. Thousands of years of people linking arms with the people who came behind them, and with the people ahead of them to build something bigger than themselves.
"Repent and be baptized."
Cool - B/C 2 things: 1 you can do by yourself (repent) and another you need Christian community to do (be baptized).
You CAN take communion by yourself, but if that's the ONLY way you receive communion, you're missing a big part of it's significance.
So we have these 2 sides of our Christian faith - We have our personal relationship with Jesus and we have us coming together to form the body of Christ.
Closing Statement: The church is the hands and feet of Jesus and through it 'All the people of the earth will be blessed.' The church's mission didn't start with Believers Center, it started 4000 years ago in Genesis 12 with God's love for humanity and his commitment to save the lost and heal the world.
Because we are heirs of the church, WE have been entrusted with the responsibility of moving the church forward. We rely on the Holy Spirit to lead us into what's next, then, with our mission in hand, we sacrifice ourselves for the cause of Christ. This is our time.
And when we say this is 'Our' time. I mean OUR (all of us), not 'our' (the pastors). I mean all the believers who can hear my voice. OUR time.
As I close, I'd encourage you to come for the next 2 Sundays.
We're goings to be hearing from our lead pastor and your lead pastors pastor.