JESUS AND THE CHURCH HE LOVES
Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, to make her holy... and to present her to himself as a radiant church without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. - Ephesians 5:25-27
Jesus loved the church. He still loves his church. In the Ephesians passage where Paul is talking about the love and trust between a husband and wife, he uses the love and trust of Jesus and his church as the model.
Jesus loves the church. Whatever Jesus loves, we who follow Jesus should love as well. The paradox is that we who are the church should love the church that Jesus loved. Love Jesus. Love the church. Love ourselves (who are the church of Christ).
For Reflection, Conversation, and Prayer
Do you love what Jesus loves?
Do you love the church Jesus loves?
What does it mean to love the church?
What did Jesus do out of love for the church?
What did Jesus want to accomplish for the church?
What is Jesus asking you to do for the church he loves?
What will keep you from doing what Jesus asks you to do?
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. - Acts 2:42
Get out your Bible and read Acts 2:36-47. This passage begins with the final words of a great sermon. People are convicted about the reality of Jesus as Lord and Messiah (Savior). About 3,000 people become followers of Jesus. Then, in verses 42-47, we read a description of the first church.
There are about 10 signs (characteristics, features, marks, qualities) of the first REAL church of Jesus. What are the signs described in Acts 2:36-47?
A REAL church is a church with the same characteristics and features. The more these qualities are a part of a church, the more real it is.
Every one of these qualities is vital for us at Living Word. We are highly intentional and committed to making sure we do all these things at Living Word. The forms they take may look different than they did in 33 A.D., but any church, to be REALLY the church, must experience and practice these things.
And notice how generous the people were in supporting the First Church and its needs. Today, this takes the form of tithes, gifts, and financial offerings so the church can be the Real Church. It is called stewardship. Without it, Real Church won’t be able to do all the other things a Real Church does. Thank you for your generosity for the church Jesus loves.
ALL IN! ARE YOU ALL IN?
Count me in. I’m in. I’m in for good. I’m in this for the long haul. This is the language we use when we are committed to something, when we believe in something, when we love something (or someone). This is the language of whole heartedness.
Stop! Before you go any further, what are four or five evidences that a person would be all in to something? To anything? What are the signs of being all in?
The Great Commandment is a commandment to be all in. Love the Lord your God with ALL your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Read it again in Mark 12:28-34. Are you ALL IN?
Jesus says real discipleship means you count the cost, you understand the commitment, and you say, “Yes, Jesus, I am all in. I belong to you. I will follow you. Your will be done. I am all in.” Read Luke 9:23-25. These are some of the most powerful, challenging, and life-giving words and responses you will ever read. Check out additional explanation by Jesus on this reality in Luke 14:25-35. Are you ALL IN?
The words of Jesus to the church in Laodicea were words about being all in. They weren’t all in. They were lukewarm. They were half-hearted. They were fooling around with faith. They were playing church. Jesus would have none of it. Church, he says, be ALL IN. Read Revelation 3:15-16, 19-20. Are you ALL IN?
Right now, imagine you are having a conversation with Jesus. He asks, Are you ALL IN? What do you say to Jesus?
THE CHURCH REALLY NEEDS YOU
But since you excel in everything - in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you - see that you also excel in this grace of giving. - 2 Corinthians 8:7
You need the church. And the church needs you.
The church loves you. And you love the church.
The church serves you. And you serve the church.
The church is here for you. And you are here for the church.
That is the symbiotic (close, long-term, mutually beneficial) and synergistic (when two things interact and the whole is greater than the sum of the parts) relationship of you and the church.
The church is here for you. And there is no church without you. That is simply how God has designed it.
Living Word needs you. If we are to be the Church of Jesus assembling at 2530 Cape Horn Road, Red Lion, PA, 17356 in 2018 and beyond . . .
We need you. We need your time and your talents. We need your service and your leadership. We need your patience and your understanding. We need your love and your commitment. We need your creativity and your leadership.
And we certainly need your generous giving. Living Word, and all churches, are charitable religious organizations. We depend on your financial gifts.
The most powerful, inspiring, and instructive passages in the New Testament that guide me (and all who are ALL IN) on generosity and financial faithfulness is 2 Corinthians 8:7-14; 9:6-15. Spend 10 minutes reading these verses and allow Jesus to show how you can love the church through your generosity.
THE CHURCH REALLY NEEDS YOU: A PERSONAL WORD FROM PASTOR BRIAN
I love the church Jesus loves. I hope you do as well. In particular, I really love this local church called Living Word. I always appreciated how much Pastor Steve loved Living Word.
There are many reasons why I love our church.
- I love our church because Jesus loves Living Word. And when Jesus loves something, I just assume it is a good thing for Brian Rice to love it as well.
- I love our church because we are a collection, a group, a family, a body, a team, a partnership, and a community that belongs to Jesus. We are the people of Jesus. That’s why we are called Christians. While I lov Christians everywhere, even if a few are harder to love, I really love the Christians who call Living Word their community.
- I love our church because the presence of God is here. While I encounter and enjoy God’s presence all over the place, some of the very best encounters of God’s presence have been at Living Word. I love when the space becomes very thin between heaven and earth. It happened again this past weekend. God, by your grace, may it happen often.
- I love our church because the purposes of God are working their way in, through, and out from us into the world. What a joy to know that Jesus is pleased to use us to do his work in the world he loves. And in particular, for us, we get to do that right here in York and at strategic places around the world.
- I love our church because of the collage of God stories that grows more beautiful every year. You are a walking story of grace, love, mercy, and so much more. You are all, every day, a walking cardboard testimony to the goodness of Jesus. I love being a part of that.
Let’s keep on pursuing God as a company of his missional friends, so that we may bring him much glory and pleasure as we do what we are meant to do and become who we are meant to be.
Gratefully yours, Pastor Brian
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