The Life You Were Meant to Live part 4
Living In Community
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
July 13, 2008



This morning, we’re finishing up a message series entitled, “The Life You Were Meant to Live.” So far, we’ve talked about the kind of life that pleases God – a life that’s devoted to growth, that’s committed to Truth, that practices self-control, and that is characterized by integrity. That was the first week.

The second week, we talked about living a life worthy of respect. Exceeding the expectations of others, standing firm on your principles, contributing to the lives of others, taking responsibility for yourself… those kinds of things.

Last week, we talked about giving God our all… 100% commitment. Even when it costs us something, even when it means we set aside our own agenda, the life we were meant to live is a life that is completely devoted knowing God and serving Him.

And that brings us to this morning. Today, we’re going to talk about how you were not meant to live life alone, in isolation. You were meant to live in community with others.

Now, that doesn’t mean that we’re going to set up some kind of commune, you’ll never have any contact with the outside world, and you’ll have to display portraits of me in all your homes. No, that’s not what “living in community” means.

It simply means we live life together, we grow together, we serve together, we love together, we mourn together, we celebrate together. It means you have a responsibility to be there for others and they have a responsibility to you.

So this morning, we’re going to talk about that a bit more. We’re going to explore the questions, “What does it mean to live in community?” And to do that, we’re going to take a closer look at the passage Jim read for us and see if we can find out. What does it mean for you to live in community? What does it means for me to live in community? Well, living in community means…


What does it mean to live in Community?

1.    Everybody contributes their abilities.

Romans 12:6 (NLT)
In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability…

… and it goes on to say that whatever ability you’ve been given, you should use it to serve. You should use it to contribute to the greater community of believers, the Body of Christ, the Church.

You know, we all have talents. We all have skills that we’ve learned over the years. We all have things that we do that we’re good at and that we enjoy. And the Bible teaches that every Christ-follower is given other special abilities – we call them spiritual gifts, such as mercy, and leadership, and giving, and encouraging, and showing kindness – all sorts of abilities given to Christ-followers to be used to serve others and build up His Church.

Jim, Lynn, Kathy – you’ve been contributing your musical abilities this morning to help us praise God and worship Him and celebrate in His presence.

Rosita, Karen, Loretta, Laura, Shera – you’ve used your gifts in Sunrise Express teaching the children of the Church about God’s Word and modeling for them what it means to follow Christ. Others of you are helping out through the summer months. Jessica and Alan, you’ve been helping out on a regular basis.

Gail, Donna – You’ve served us faithfully with your hospitality each week, taking care of the coffee and KoolAid and any snacks…

And I could go on and on… so many of you contributing your abilities to serve and build up the church. And all I mentioned is Sunday morning. So many of you contribute through the week, too, and in so many other ways. You’re taking seriously what the apostle Paul told his young protégé Timothy…

1 Timothy 4:14 (NLT)
Do not neglect the spiritual gift you received…

You’re not going to neglect it because you’re contributing it. You’re contributing your gifts, your abilities, your talents, your skills. You’re using them, not for selfish reasons, but to build up others… to support others… to help others… to encourage others.

Philippians 2:3-4 (MSG)
Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.

If we’re going to live in community with each other, we must forget ourselves and focus on serving each other with our abilities.


The second thing about living in community is…

2.    Everybody contributes their love.

We just talked about contributing your abilities. But you know, if you contribute your abilities without contributing your love, you’re going to become proud and boastful, you’re going to become resentful, you’re going to start to think people owe you something, and instead of serving others you’re going to end up offending them and turning them off.

In the passage Jim read it talked about contributing your abilities, and then immediately it added this…

Romans 12:9-10 (NLT)
Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.

That’s from the book of Romans in the New Testament. In the very next book, the 1st letter to the Corinthians, chapter 12 is all about using our spiritual gifts. Two chapters later, chapter 14, Paul keeps on talking about using your gifts and your abilities to serve and build up others within the community of faith.

But right in between, you find 1 Corinthians 13. Some of you immediately know the passage I’m talking about. Some of you had it read at your wedding. This is what it says…

1 Corinthians 13:1-7 (NLT)
If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Do you think it’s an accident that when Paul was talking about using your abilities to serve others he took this little break to talk about love? I sure don’t. I think Paul knew exactly what he was doing. I think Paul understood that even if you serve others to the best of your ability, it’s not going to amount to anything unless you love them, too.

“Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them.”

You’ve got to have a genuine compassion, a real concern for people. Otherwise, what’s the point?

I read a story this week (from The Big Idea) about a well known pastor and author, Juan Carlos Ortiz. He talks about how one Sunday when he got up to preach something unusual happened. As he approached his podium and was about to launch into the sermon he had spent hours and hours preparing and praying over, he heard a voice…

“Juan.”

I don’t know if it was an audible voice or not… probably not… but he heard that voice in his soul and he knew it was the voice of God.

“Yes, Lord,” he replied.

“How many times have you preached on this passage in this church?”

“I don’t know—maybe a dozen.”

“Did any of those sermons do any good?”

Now, let me give you a bit of insight here. Preparing and preaching a sermon is a serious thing. A lot of people joke about how pastors only work one day a week. I’ve joked about that myself. But the truth is, there’s a whole lot that a pastor does through the course of an ordinary week, and one of the major things is preparing the sermon for Sunday.

I know that there have been times when I’ve preached a sermon and I really hit it out of the park. It connected with people, people were challenged, and all was right with the world.

And there have been times when I’ve delivered a real stinker. Not for lack of effort, but it just didn’t seem to work. And I’m left wondering, did I get it right? Was I obedient to God this week? Did I trust Him to guide me as I prepared? Did I pray earnestly over this message?

Well, that day when Juan Carlos Ortiz approached the podium he suddenly became very aware that he had the wrong message prepared. And let me tell you, what a terrible feeling that is.

Well, he stood there… frozen in time. His mind went blank, and he had no idea what he was going to do. So he just stood there, looking out over the crowd of people who were there to hear him that day. He saw people he had led to Christ. He saw people he had counseled. People he had visited in the hospital. People who were new to the church, and people who had been there for years and had heard it all, over and over again.

Finally, after standing there for a while, he just said, “Love one another.” Then he walked back to his seat and sat down.

Well, the people in the seat didn’t know what to think. So they just sat there silently, waiting. After they sat there for a while in utter stillness, Ortiz went up to the podium again and said, “Love one another.” Then he went back to his seat and sat down.

Well, the people still didn’t know what to make of it. So they started looking at each other, raising a Spockian eyebrow, shrugging their shoulders… they were all bewildered.

Finally, after a few more minutes, Ortiz went to the podium once again. “Love… one… another.” And then he went and sat down.

After a few moments, a man stood up and said, “Brothers and sisters, I think I understand what Pastor Ortiz is saying. He is asking me to love you” , and he pointed to a family sitting next to him, “But how can I love you when I do not even know your name?” So they introduced themselves and just started talking.

Then another man stood up and said, “I understand what the pastor is saying. He wants me to love Carlos (a man sitting three rows in front of him), but how can I love Carlos when I still hold a grudge against him?” So he went up to apologize to Carlos and the two of them were reconciled.

Another family was in town for some medical treatment for the daughter, and didn’t have a way to get home. So someone bought them a bus ticket. Another guy who needed a job was introduced to someone looking for a worker.

That church was never the same again, because they learned what it means to love each other. It doesn’t just mean that you sit beside each other peacefully. It means you care about each other. You take a genuine interest in each other. You support each other. You love one another.

If you want to be part of the community, you’ve got to contribute your love.


3.    Everybody contributes their full devotion.

If you’re going to be part of a community of faith, you’ve got to put your all into it. You can’t do it half-heartedly.

Romans 12:11 (NLT)
Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.

Now, you know that I don’t make a habit of bad-mouthing other churches. And I don’t think I’m going to do it this morning, either. But there are churches, and there are Christians, who have the attitude that “Good enough is good enough.” In other words, they want to get by with the bare minimum. Somehow, they’ve gotten the idea that God doesn’t deserve their best.

But good enough is not good enough. God deserves our very best. He deserves our complete dedication.

That’s why when we’re setting up here on Sundays, Paul or Sandra or Harvey will often mop the floor. We’re not meeting in the Taj Mahal here, but they do what they can to make this room as excellent as possible.

On the worship team, we try to play to the very best of our ability… not to show off, but because God deserves nothing less. That doesn’t mean we don’t hit a wrong chord once in a while, but we do what we can to minimize that happening. And that’s not about perfection… we’ll never be perfect… it’s about excellence… giving our best to God.

We had someone from New Brunswick who attended our service once, and afterward they commented on how our Worship Celebration seemed like it was for prepared for hundreds of people. They were impressed with the level of excellence here. Now, I don’t know if that’s a compliment for us as much as it’s a bad commentary on some other churches. But I do think it’s wonderful that here at Sunrise we strive to give God our very best.

We put full effort into what happens here Sunday morning. We put full effort into all our ministries. Because good enough is not good enough. God deserves and expects our very best.

There’s an old hymn with this exhortation…

Give of your best to the Master;
Naught else is worthy His love.
He gave Himself for your ransom,
Gave up His glory above.
Laid down His life without murmur,
You from sin’s ruin to save.
Give Him your heart’s adoration;
Give Him the best that you have.


4.    Everybody contributes their consistency.

This means you never give up. You keep on serving, you keep on helping, you keep on loving… you’re consistent. You’re persistent.

Romans 12:12-13 (NLT)
Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.

In your notes, underline these phrases…

“Be patient.” “Keep on.” “Be ready.” “Always be eager.”

Paul’s saying, “Don’t give up. Press on. Be consistent.”

Galatians 6:9-10 (NLT)
So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.

Let’s not get tired of doing what is good… we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith… those in the community of Christ-followers.


5.    Everybody contributes themselves.

You‘re not just putting in time; you’re giving of yourselves. Because we need each other, we serve other, we love each other, we support each other, we depend on each other, we belong to each other.

Romans 12:5, 16 (NLT)
We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other… Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!

You know, some people really do act like they’re better than others. They act all holier-than-thou. And they give the rest of us a bad name.

But the truth is, we’re all on equal footing. We’re all just sinners in desperate need of God’s grace and forgiveness. So it’s not about you serving me. It’s not about me serving you. It’s about us humbly serving each other and giving ourselves wholeheartedly to each other.

 

 

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