1-2-05 New Beginnings

 

Here we are at the beginning of a new year and a new preacher so our lesson this morning is going to be about new beginnings and unity. First of all I would like to say that I am very excited and am looking forward to serving as the minister here at Lone Grove. In fact I was starting to wonder if the New Year would ever make it here. I would love to stand up here and tell you how I am going grow this congregation or how I am going to do this or that but you know what I can only do so much by myself and that is why I am going to need your help. One person can accomplish a little but when a group of people work together as a team with same goal in mind great things can be accomplished. I see great potential here at Lone Grove and I feel confident that if every single one of us works together in unity with the goal of growing spiritually and numerically that we will accomplish this goal. Psalm 133:1Of David. Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brethren to dwell together in unity!

 

However there is a wrong way and right way to do this. First lets take a look at the wrong way.

Please turn to Gen. 11: 1-9. This section of scripture takes place after the flood.

 

Genesis 11:1 Now the whole earth had one language and one speech.2 And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there.3 Then they said to one another, "Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly." They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar.4 And they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth."5 But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built.6 And the LORD said, "Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them.

 

Here we have a group of people that were united as one and even the Lord recognized this by saying that thereís nothing that these people canít accomplish because of their unity. In fact this is the kind of unity that God wants us to have today. God didnít have a problem with their unity. He had problem with their goal. Notice verse 4 tells us that they goal was to make a name for themselves. They left God out of the picture and they wanted to glorify themselves they wanted to do it there way. There a lot of people like this today who want to do things there way and we learn quickly that God wants us to do it his way and not our way. Notice what happened to these people.

7 "Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another's speech."8 So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city.9 Therefore its name is called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.

 

 

Turn to Philp 1:27 and Paul will teach us what kind of unity is pleasing to God.

 

Philippians 1:27 27 Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel,

 

Colossians 3:17 17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

 

You see our unity must be based upon the Word of God if want to be pleasing to God.

Now, I am sure there are many ways that we could grow this congregation numerically if wanted to be like people of Babel and do it our way by putting God out of the picture. But if we want God to be on our side and we want to honor and glorify him then we MUST strive to grow this congregation spiritual and numerically according to his word and no other way. We should never think that we can comprise the truth just so we can grow numerically. I can promise you that God would rather have 10 people worshiping him in spirit in truth than a 1000 or even 10000 people who were simply filling the pews and doing things their own way. Paul warns us over and over again in his letters to watch out for those who are teaching thing contrary to the Word of God and to avoid them.

 

Now as we begin to work together this year we need to realize that it will take time and it will a great deal of effort on our part to grow this congregation numerically because we have to overcome a society that has the mentality, if feels good itís got to be right. So as we begin this New Year I hope and pray that you will roll up your sleeves and work with me to grow this congregation because without you help things will not change.

 

Now that we know that right way to grow this congregation lets begin to examine some ways how you and I can accomplish this goal.

 

First of all we need to strive to look forward and not backward

Paul is a great example of this. When Paul was writing to the Philippians in Ch 3 he tells us how he use to persecute the church but now he considers what he did as loss to Christ. Paul goes on to say that even though he lost all the prestige and wealth he had before hand he counts them as rubbish and would rather suffer for Christ than have those kinds of things.

 

Philippians 3:8-12 8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

12 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.15 Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind;

 

Think about this, Paul wrote this letter after he had already completed 3 grueling missionary journeys and done many great things for the cause of Christ yet Paul understood that as long as he breathing he still had a great deal more to do for the Lord. He makes that statement in verse 12. (read it again). Paul is teaching us very clearly that you cannot retire from serving the Lord you press on. I believe some people think they can put in 10 or 20 good years for the lord and then kick back and take it easy and let someone else do the work but thatís not what Paul is teaching us is it. In vrs 13 Paul tells what he does he forgets those things which are behind and reaches forward to those things which are ahead. Paul wasnít just forgetting those bad times his life he was also forgetting those good things that he had done as well. That is exactly what you and I need to do in our Christian lives. Our congregation has had its ups and it downs. The worst thing we could do is to let our thoughts linger on those bad times because it all it will do is drag us down. We also need to avoid thinking about all the service we have done in the past thinking we have already fulfilled our duty. Instead we need to forget the past and press toward those things which are ahead which brings us to our second point.

 

2 Get involved

 

There have been many studies done on why churches grow spiritual and numerically and one of the reasons that top the list is to get involved. Now to me this just good old common sense. The more you get involved in congregation the more its going to become a part of your life and you will naturally want to grow spiritually and want to invite others to be a part of this loving congregation. 
 
Some may convince themselves that that they have nothing to offer for the church. Maybe some think they are to old or to young or maybe they just feel that someone else can do it better. We have some examples in the Bible of men who tried to makes excuses like this as well.
 
Exodus 4:10-11 10 Then Moses said to the LORD, "O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue."11 So the LORD said to him, "Who has made man's mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the LORD?
 
Jeremiah 1:6-7 6 Then said I: "Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I cannot speak, for I am a youth."7 But the LORD said to me: "Do not say, 'I am a youth,' For you shall go to all to whom I send you, And whatever I command you, you shall speak.
 
Just as Moses and Jeremiah excuses will not work neither will yours because I guarantee you everyone in this room has something they can do for the Lord weather in our outside of church. Paul teaches us in 1 Cor. 12 and Rom 12 that we make up Christ body and that every part has purpose and a function. That means that every single person in this room has a purpose and a role to play in this congregation. We have all been blessed with some ability that we can use to glorify God and strengthen his church. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 12:18 18 But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. You can still try and make excuses and say you have nothing to offer but Paul makes it clear that God has set each member of church just as he pleased. I can promise that God has not set you in place to be idle or to be a lazy servant. We can see this very clearly in the parable of the talents in Mathew 25:14-30. In this parable a man leaves his goods with 3 of his servants for them to take care of while he gone to a far off country. He gives one man 5 talents another 2 and last servant 1 talent. The man in this parable represents Jesus going into heaven and the 3 servants represent you and I. As the parable goes on the man with 5 talents and the man with 2 talents both get busy and they double their talents but the last servant took his 1 talent and buried in the ground and did nothing. When the master returned to his servants from the far country which represents Christ 2nd coming the 2 servants who had served their master well by doubling theirs talents were pleasing to the master and he rewarded both of them. But the last servant came to the master and started making all kinds of excuses about how he was afraid to use his talent so he buried it. But now notice the master response to this idle servant. 
 
26 "But his lord answered and said to him, 'You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed.27 'So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest.28 'Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents.29 'For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.30 'And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'
 
Are you like this 3rd servant this morning? If you are I strongly suggest that you make a change today and start using your talent to glorify God and to help grow this congregation. 

 

3 Love one another

1 Peter 3:8-9 8 Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous;9 not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.

 

Peter just gave us a very good definition of how we should love one another in unity. Notice the first thing he tells us to do is to have compassion for one another that is to be sympathetic or understanding of what your fellow brother or sister might be going through. Paul explains it this way he say rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. Rom. 12:15

 

Next Peter tells us to love as brothers. I think we can all understand this. Brother or sisters love one another even when they mess up or make you mad deep down no matter what they do you still love them. The same should be true with your Christian brothers and sister because we all mess up sometimes but that shouldnít keep us from loving one another.

 

Next Peter tells us to be tenderhearted that is to be kind and affectionate to one another.

 

He also tells us to be courteous in the NKJ version but a better word to use here would be humble minded. This is person who doesnít think to highly of themselves. When you start thinking to highly of yourself you begin to compare yourself with others and begin to think that everyone else just fails in comparison. So we should always strive to be humble minded.

 

Finally Peter tells us not return evil for evil or reviling for reviling. This is perhaps one of the hardest things for us as Christian to do today. We live in society that loves revenge. If one of brothers or sister in Christ does something evil toward us like cursing at us or stealing from us or another of evil what is first response sometimes? Sometimes we lose it, donít we, and whatever was dished us, we turn around and dish it right back but thatís not what a Christian is suppose to do. Jesus tells us to:

 

Matthew 5:44 bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,

 

This can be very difficult for us sometimes but if we want have the kind of love that Gods wants us have toward one another we need try our best to work on this every single day of our lives.

 

4. Finally if want to be successful in growing this congregation we must pray. Jesus said Luke 18:1 that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, Prayer is wonderful blessing we have been given to talk to God and to ask for his help. I hope that all of you will pray everyday for this congregation that we might have opportunities to reach out to the lost and grow both spiritual and numerically.

 

So in conclusion, God wants us to have unity based of his Word and we can achieve that unity by looking forward and not backwards, by getting involved, by loving one another and by prayer. If are willing to do these things I feel confident that we will accomplish great things for Gods kingdom.