The Church is Where I Learn How to Love

Matthew 22:36-40

According to a recent poll each week over 110 million people go to church somewhere in America. That’s a lot of folks so let’s try to get some perspective. We are in the middle of March Madness, and they are playing games in the NCAA Tournament in sold out arenas in Dayton, Pittsburgh, Wichita, Dallas, Boise, Charlotte, Detroit, Nashville, and San Diego. But this morning more people in American will gather in a place of worship than will attend all of those games in all of those cities combined. 

Let’s go a little farther, if you take all of the people who will attend a live college or professional basketball game, football game, baseball game, tennis match, Nascar race, or any public sporting event this year and add those numbers up, that still would not equal the number of people who go to church on a single weekend. More people will be in a place of worship this weekend than will go to all the sporting events combined in America in an entire year.

The big difference is that the folks who attend the sporting events know precisely why they are there, and many who are in a place of worship have no idea why they attend church. Some of them go out of tradition. Some of them go out of guilt. Some of them go out of habit. This year we have been looking at our purpose as a church body. I have been trying to remind you why we exist in this community. Why did you get out of bed this morning and come to church? Why did we pave all that space for parking? Why did we build this building? What is our purpose?

I want to gently remind you about our purpose this morning as we close out this series on Model City Model Love. I want to remind you why it is important that Greenbrier thrives in this community. 

First, the Church is where we learn how to center your life around God.

God didn’t put you on earth to live a self-centered life. He didn’t put you here for your benefit. He put you here for His benefit. You exist for God not vice versa. And God wants to be the center of your life. The Bible word for that is worship. Anytime God is the center of your life you are worshipping God.

Maybe you are wondering if God is the center of your life, there is an easy way to figure that out. What are you worried about? When God is not the center of your life you will struggle with worry and fear. When your career, your family, your money, or anything else becomes the center of your life you become overwhelmed with fear. So every time you start worrying, it’s just a little sign that at that particular moment God is not the center of your life.

Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 22:37 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. The most important thing you can do with your life is know and love God. If you want to know the meaning of life? Live your life loving God. We need to be reminded from time to time that God put us on earth so we could have a relationship with Him. Unfortunately many people go through life and never get to that relationship.

When you love God you put Him at the center of your life; or worship. But we seem to be confused over the best way to worship. Some folks light a little incense, some folks  say certain chants, some folks believe you have to wear certain robes or clothes to worship. But if loving God with your life is worship, that goes so far beyond what we do in this place for an hour or two a week.

Jesus describes worship in John 4:23: True worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. For they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks.  If we living a life of worship, then we must live lives that are authentic and accurate.

Authentic lives means that you don’t just give God lip service. Don’t say, I love You, God, but you’re really not thinking about Him. You’re thinking about the baseball game, the basketball game, the roast that’s burning in the oven. God says don’t be a hypocrite when you say you love Me. You’ve got to really mean it, if it’s not genuine then don’t bother.

Loving God means you must also be accurate. We get so consumed with form, crossing every T and dotting every I that we forget about the Who.  You can’t just make up your idea of God and worship that. Every now and then I hear people say, "I like to think of God as..." I have always wanted to respond Who cares? Who made you the expert? When you make up an idea of God there’s a word for that in the Bible. It’s called an idol. God says, Don’t make Me into your image. I want to make you into My image. It doesn’t really matter what you think God is like. It doesn’t really matter what I think God is like. What matters is what is God really like. We must worship Him in truth. You can’t just make up a God and worship that. We must worship the true God.

Jesus says, For they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks. God is looking for people who want a relationship with Him. He looks over His creation and asks, Is there anyone out there who really wants to know Me? Anyone out there who really wants to get close to Me? Does anyone really want to love me with their heart, minds, soul, body and strength? That’s the kind of person God is looking for. 

I learned how to love God with my life, in the community of Christians. One of the purposes of the church, is to provide a place where folks can come and join together in this struggle. We need to share life together so that we can help each other turn our focus from our selfish wants and desires, to seeing God in His glory. That’s our purpose, to love God and help others love God as well.

The Church is where we connect with other believers.

Remember Jesus said the second is like the first, Love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:39)  God wants you to connect with Him, just as much as He wants you to connect with other members of His family and learn to love them. Fellowship is basically learning to love other people.

Peter writes in 1 Peter 1:3: God has given us the privilege of being born again so that we are now members of God’s very own family. God is love and in His desire to love He created us to be a part of His family. If we are going to wear His name and be in His family we must learn to get along with each other.

But unfortunately, our culture emphasizes this need to live a self-centered life. We are taught to live for ourselves, for our own comfort. We have forgotten how to teach relational skills, how to love other people. We have traded lust for intimacy. Traded social media for genuine fellowship. We have lost the ability to get along with other people. The most important lesson you can learn in life is how to love God. The second most important lesson you can learn in life is how to love other people. God didn’t put you on earth to live an isolated, life. You were put on Earth to love Him and love the people He loves.

Luke wrote a history of the first days of the church in the book of Acts. As Church of Christ folks we love Acts 2:38, Repent and be baptized. And while that is important, we often leave it there. We forget that a few verses later Luke shares how those early Christians connected with each other. Here’s what it says they did: All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity (42-46)

This should be the model for Greenbrier. Notice that they They worshiped together at the Temple and they also met in homes. If we want to be a healthy and balanced church body, if you want to be a healthy and balanced person, you need large group worship in the temple courts and you need a small group. You need both to make it in your Christian life. If all you do is come to church for one, two or three hours a week you’re never going to grow as a Christian. You need fellowship. You can’t fellowship with 150 people. You can only fellowship with four or six or eight. Even Jesus had a small group of 4 other people.

That’s why it’s so important that every member here find a small group of folks that you can share life with. You don’t get relationships in a crowd. You can worship in a crowd but you can only fellowship in small groups. So for your spiritual growth you need to worship in the temple courts and you need to fellowship in the home.

There was an order to what was happening in Acts 2. First it says they believed. Then, they were baptized. They joined a church family, and committed to regular worship. They would always connect to a small intimate group because they knew that was vital to they maturity.

I wonder this morning what is your next step. Maybe you need to believe, to trust in Christ. Maybe you’ve already done that but you’ve never been baptized. The baptistry is ready, I’ve checked, we can do that today. Why put it off? There’s not a better time than now. You need to take that next step and be baptized. Or maybe you need to join a church family. Maybe you have been test driving this family for a while, it’s time for you to make a commitment not just to this body but to regular worship. Or maybe you have done all of that but you are still trying to do this on your own. There is no such thing as a solo act in the kingdom of God. Today you need to put down the false God of independence and connect to a small group.

It was in the church that I learned the truth of what Paul writes in Romans 12:5 So we belong to each other, and each needs all the others. (TLB) Fellowship is not only where we admit that we can’t do this alone, it’s where we learn how to live in a community of love. We need each other.

The Church is where we practice discipleship.

I know the word discipleship sounds scary, but discipleship is just the Bible word for growing up. It is the process of growing to spiritual maturity, becoming a disciple. God doesn’t want you to stay a spiritual baby. He wants you to grow up, to know His word, to trust His wisdom, and obey His commands. We need to develop the character of God. A lot of people got Baptized and never took another step. They’re stuck in perpetual immaturity. If your child never grew out of the baby stage, if you were still changing diapers and feeding them bottles at 10 years of age, you would recognize that they had a problem. In the same way if you have been a Christian for 5 or 10 years and you haven’t grown in your faith, you have a problem.

One of the saddest verses in the Bible is in Hebrews 5:12 where the writer talks about the Ought a Gap. They write, You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. There comes a time when you should be able to teach other people what you know. You ought to be teaching and sharing you faith, but you have refused to mature. One of the marks of maturity is the ability to share what you know.

The Hebrew writer is not talking about teaching a Sunday School class, we are all called to teach in different circumstances. We’re called to teach a friend who needs some advice. We’re called to teach a brother, a sister, a loved one, a parent who wants to know about the hope that you have. Sometimes we are called to teach our children, a co-worker, one on one about our experiences as a child of God. Discipleship is sharing your faith in a loving and compassionate way.

Discipleship is everyones ministry, it’s how we use our gifts and abilities to help other people fall in love with God. You are here in this time and place to do so much more than merely take up space, use resources, and die. You are here on purpose, you are here to make a contribution with your life. You’re to leave this place better than you found it. That’s called ministry. Anytime you use your talents, your abilities, your money, your energy, anything God has given you to help somebody else in Jesus’ name that is called ministry.

On that great day of Judgement, God the creator will look at us His creation and ask us a very simple question: What did you do with what I gave you? How are you going to answer that question? Are you going to look at God and say; I made a lot of money, retired and died. Are you comfortable with that answer? I’m not. We have to do more in this life than chase the almighty dollar. There are folks who live their entire lives being selfish. Every decision, every dollar, every minute is focused on themselves. Is there anything you’re doing in your life that is unselfish? Are you serving the needs of our community, or our church out of a servant’s heart?

I want you to write down a word. It’s a very important word if Greenbrier is gong to Model Love in the Model City. That word is whatever. What we need to say to God is, God, I don’t know what You want me to do but whatever You want me to do, I’ll do it. I have told you that preaching was not my goal in life, it was the result of me saying to God, Whatever you need me to do, whatever you equip me to do, I’ll do it. It was in the church that I learned how to love my community through serving God. 

The Church is where we exist to communicate God’s love through evangelism.

Evangelism means to share good news. That’s all it means. Evangelism means to pass on something you know that’s good to someone else. Anytime you’re doing that, you are doing evangelism.

Here’s some good news for you to share: you’re not an accident. Here’s the good news: you were made to last forever. Here’s the good news God has a purpose for your life. Here’s the good news: no matter what you’ve done Jesus Christ will forgive you because He’s paid for it on the cross. God has a purpose for your life. He has a plan and a place for you in heaven. He wants to forgive all your sins. That’s good news. And everybody needs to hear it.

Why do you think that God decided to leave you here on earth after your baptism? Why doesn’t He just take you to heaven so you don’t have anymore problems? The reason that you woke up this morning is because there is someone God wants you to about His love today. He wants you to show them His love through the way that you love them. He wants you to pass on the love you received from Him.

Every person I see is going to spend eternity one of two places heaven or hell, everybody I know and everybody you know is going to spend eternity in either heaven or hell. Because of His overwhelming love Jesus came to earth so we don’t have to go to hell. We can go to heaven. That’s good news that everyone can use. Who do you know who doesn’t know Jesus? Start praying for them and ask God to give you the opportunity to share your story.

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