Today much is being said about core values. You see it in many organizational structures. From large iconic companies to small businesses, professional sports teams to college teams, and even high school teams. My son, his cousin Michael, Marcy’s son, and the Owen’s son are all on the same high school baseball team. They even have, even at the beginning of try-outs are given a set, a sheet, of core values of becoming a part of Stevenson High School baseball.
So, what do core values mean? Well in simplicity its fundamental beliefs, it’s then taken in whatever organizational structure that is, and repeated and woven into everything within the organization. So people are mindful to consider the core values. It creates, for people in a business, the ability to reach the goal of the intended business, whatever that might be. Core values then become this kind of unwavering march together as a group. It is for them, an unchanging guide.
Now we just read of the Apostle’s Creed, the Church, the historic, has had core values based on unwavering and unchanging eternal truths. For an outline the name Christ Community Church, is a great reminder for us of those great historical truths. And it is an instant gospel conversation piece for each and every one of us.
Now, having said that, this morning we are going to look at our name “Christ Community Church” inverted. We are going to look at the Church for the first point. Community and what that would mean for us, second. Then you have to save the best for last, Christ.
In beginning to look at this, what is the meaning of the word Church? In the New Testament ________, simply means assembly, congregation, and gathering. It is a group together with like-mindedness. Members of the church are followers, Christ followers. This is important to understand, it is the same kind of word used in the Old Testament Hebrew, speaking of the assembly of God’s people in the nation of Israel.
Here is what you want to understand about this, church is not where you go, the church is who we are. That may sound simplistic, but we really need to get a hold of that. People have a tendency to compartmentalize their lives, with “I’m going to church as if something special will happen when I’m in here, but outside of it there won’t.” And there is something special to the meeting and gathering of God’s people but that is really a whacked out view. We have compartmentalized our life. The church is who we are. This gathering of the followers of Jesus, which is Jesus’ command in the New Testament, simply means for us that we obey Jesus because we belong to him and we enjoy the sacraments, we always have a good fellowship meal together in a week-to-week way. We always enjoy people becoming a part of God’s family in the waters of Baptism. We enjoy those things; we enjoy them collectively as the church. We enjoy God’s means of grace, which is built in our lives in the sacraments, in the Word as we are doing now, and in several different venues. Here we are meeting collectively through prayer and giving.
Ultimately you see this word given throughout the New Testament, the Greek word Koinonia is used. The word, in the English, has to do with fellowship, but we don’t ever want to misrepresent that, because it has to do with a deep intimate fellowship. A connection that we have with one another that centers upon Christ. It centers upon our relationship with Christ and how that is developed with each other. So the salvation of the church centers upon Jesus. Jesus is the centerpiece, the head of the church, of the gospel.
Jesus is the gospel. He is the gospel. The church, we his people, we are not perfect but we have been made perfect by the work of Christ. He has made us perfect, by and through his substitutional atonement, and then his resurrection into life proving he is God. You and I, from the text Alex read from in Ephesians 2, have been saved by grace; Christ alone has saved us. God’s grace working through faith, we trust and believe the gospel. Because prior to this we were hopelessly lost, we were dead to God; we were like an aborted fetus. When you hear these words that are in this text, you can think of your own life and how you came to Christ, and I just want you to listen to this. I think it’s just most appropriate. I am going to read Ezekiel 16: 4 – 14.
(See, you and I are a catch to God. You can get saved, and be saved for so long you almost get to the point where you feel like you deserve it. My friend, that’s you, that’s me. Then God said “live.”)
My friends, if that is not a perfect metaphor for our salvation, there isn’t anything that is. It is good to sense that! It is good to have those moments that reflect back, on what God has saved us from. Because the bottom line is, God takes us and we are His workmanship. It literally means we are His masterpiece. God, through the working of His grace, takes us, who are really a horrible people earning no merit or favor of our own, and makes us His beautiful masterpiece. Now, you are probably thinking, “Man, I don’t feel that way about myself.” And the truth is, in the life of any church, church gets messy doesn’t it? It does. Every church does. We have disagreement with each other; we don’t always share the same views and opinions. Sometimes we even fight foolishly. You ever hear of Corinth or Laodicea? Laodicea literally means, “the people decide.” No wonder Jesus was outside the church there. The truth is, in every church that happens, and it is true of ours. But we don’t want to remain; we don’t want to be known as Corinth. Do we?
I will never forget when I was beginning to understand the Bible a little bit. I was a Christian at 12/13 years old, and I was going to a Tigers game. You guys remember the old Tigers stadium? Where the buses would be, they would let the church buses park there, and one of them said, “Corinth the Denomination Church.” I’m thinking, why would you name yourself Corinth? They don’t have a good history do they? But the truth is, church gets messy. I don’t know this, neither do I necessarily want to know, some of you may be at odds with each other right now. I certainly hope you would want to get that right before you went to the table. But the truth is church gets messy because we are fallen. It gets messy in the McGuire household. Sometimes Valerie and I spat; I can say that here because she isn’t here. And I am always right. Sometimes the boys have disagreements, and sometimes the boys look at me like, “What in the world is the matter with him?” It gets messy! But there is still the root and the base of Christ and his love.
But we don’t want to remain there as a messy group, do we? That shouldn’t be our goal; we want to grow in Christ because we have born again. God has literally, through his words in the New Testament, made us new. We are created, Romans 8, in the image of Christ as new creation. As we are contemplating our name in Church, and we want to get built up in this thing together, we need to have some expectation for our own selves. We don’t want the bar to be low! We want the bar to be high.
As new creation, we want the fruit of the Spirit to be cultivated in our church, in the relationships. We want our conversation to be gospel driven and affected in everything that we do in life. Listen to this not programs, not technology, and not even our own foolish portions of tradition that we worship. The last words of a dying church are, “We have never done it this way before.” Now let me say something as we transition to community: programs make the church restless. It puts burden on people. Now there are certain things and certain structural things that we will do, but in the restlessness of it people become combative with one another because people put expectations on each other. The fruit of the Spirit makes you restful. It gives you peace, calm, comfort, tranquility, and rest. Jesus is the one who is giving you that. That is the kind of church that we want to be. So whatever programs and whatever types of things that we do or have done, ultimately we should be rested in the fruit of the Spirit, in order that we can have an appropriate relationship with one another.
I don’t care how old you are, you should want to grow! I want you to want more for yourself, more for Christ Community Church. Not in an unhealthy way to cast burden upon you, but we are a part of the greatest mission in the history of the world, Christ’s church. I think we ought to want more. That means that we want to rest in the things that are restful, we want the fruits of the spirit to permeate our interaction with one another. As we move along in this, the Church is obviously eternal. It is going to be with us throughout all eternity. You read the end of the story and it will tell you so.
Our second point is Community. What is that? What exactly does that mean? Turn to Matthew 28. You are going to feel “coached” up on this; I am not going to deny that I am probably going to do that. I want you to feel “coached” up. I want you to feel encouraged by the end of this. But I kind of have a Philippians Paul reaching thing running around in my head. We want to do that collectively, but we all want to be doing this. What is community? For those who are in the church, all people are created in God’s image, every person born. Here is what that means for us, every person has eternal value, but because of his or her sin they are in need, like us, of new creation. Picture this, all people are created in God’s image, the church is re-created in Christ’s image (Romans 8), but because of their sin they don’t see that yet. The Bible tells us in 2 Corinthians 4:4 that Satan has blinded the eyes, of those who don’t believe, to the gospel. They don’t find their needs yet; they don’t have the full understanding of what sin is. What you want to know about the idea of community is that the church has community but you also have community. Every people, every nation, every race, that’s our target as a church. Every people, every people, every race. There is going to be some things in this text, in two words, that we are going to look at that might change some of your thought process about Matthew 28.
You want this to begin with, where is your community? When I say community, I am talking about people who are outside of Christ. To whom do you have relationship with, that doesn’t know Jesus? And part past just an individual, what group of people? Now mine is different than Alex’s. Within this room, some of your connections with people may not be as great as others. That’s okay! But what you want to begin thinking about now, is to whom? I want you to see faces in your mind. This is where the head of the church goes way past me or Alex, who are the typical messengers in this pulpit, to reach into your soul. What individual are you seeing that is outside the body of Christ? What group of people? Let me tell you something, we all have them. Every one of us, and they represent people of every nation and every race. What is your connection to that group? That is one of the things that you want to identify with this community. Let me say this: don’t overthink it. Think about the track of your life, where you go to work, who you hang out with, some of your relationships, who is your community? Follow along in Matthew 28:18. (He is already resurrected, in his glorified body)
We all know this process! Faith passed down and handed on. I want o give you two words here that are sometimes misinterpreted, the word “go” and the word “nations”. Let me explain because I think it will help you to understand, “Wow God’s given me a community.” There is not doubt in my mind that God has already opened up in your mind some of those within your community that don’t know Jesus. We want God to help us understand where our community is, not just continue to go through life. This will be different for different people, and that is okay. God wants each of us to have our own Christian life, and our own Christian experience. He doesn’t want you to live through the lens of somebody else. Jesus is our example! Paul says that he leaves himself as an example. There is nothing wrong with having example, but don’t live your life through them. God has given you a Christian life, he has tied you to something larger than you have ever expected, the church, and he has given you a community. That community is why you are still here on the earth.
It comes up in home through parental relationships, but then extends past your own living quarters. The word “go” that is used in verse 19, typically when people hear this word, is though to refer to foreign missions. And this is good. There is nothing wrong that you think that, foreign missions, but the word “go” there actually means: as you go and in your going. Wherever your feet are taking you, in a day-to-day way, wherever your traffic and track of life is you are going and in that going you have a community of people that are a part of your life. So God says, as you are living your life and you are doing life, I am creating and giving you a community for you to make disciples out of. Now, it’s just become a gospel driven witness.
Let me explain a little bit about that. It starts first and foremost by making a relationship. It starts by seeking to be an honest and genuine friend because ours is a world of people in need, and they desperately need Jesus just like I do. When we begin to understand our own predicament, that mirrors Ezekiel 16, and then we can see that face of the individuals differently. Our approach in their life can become different to first and foremost think, how can I make right relationship with them so that God can bring the gospel to them?
The next word “nations” it comes from the Greek word ethnos, which really has to do with ethnicity. Listen to this, when you hear nations, you think, “Okay, there’s boundaries. There is the continental United States. It goes from one border to the next.” There are boundaries to nations, but that is not exactly what the word means, it has to do with people not boundaries. The people there that Jesus is talking to, and that’s literally what they do. They go out two by two and they go out in varied ways by movement of the Holy Spirit, but they are going to people groups all across the globe. They are doing life; they are taking the life of the gospel to them. Ethnos is people; it’s ethnicity, which has no boundaries. I want to make this personal, and I trust the Holy Spirit will make it a fact for you, Christians have largely become marginalized because we have chosen to isolate ourselves from community. We want gospel community, we want comfort and peace, but we almost have this Eeyore/Winnie the Pooh mentality of Christian mentality. We are afraid of everybody in the World, when Jesus left us in the world and we have taken “don’t be OF the world” to mean, “we don’t even want to live in the world, I hate the world.” I hate my job and I hate my life, etc. We have subjected ourselves apart, and we haven’t accurately embraced the gospel.
In part, we have marginalized ourselves because we simply won’t create relationships with people who are lost. Beyond the who and the whom that are in your community, we all need to have a desire to expand that group of people. We marginalize and isolate ourselves for various reasons. Because we are afraid of black people, we are afraid of yellow people, we are afraid of red people, because young people kind of despise the elderly, and the elderly hold the young people in contempt. By our own fears, more and more we isolate ourselves from the very life that God intended to give us. We are so worried about being right, we are so worried about expressing doctrine, which that’s not wrong but until they know you love them, you aren’t going to have a fruitful ground for the gospel.
I’m not going to tell you exactly how to do that, I’m trying to figure out how God wants me to make in-roads in my community, but I want you to think about your life differently than you have. Just like the church is eternal, community is eternal because those are souls, those are people. White, black, yellow, red, brown, orange, you just name it! It doesn’t matter. If they are walking and breathing and living as a human being, here is what Jesus says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all ethnicity (people).” Now that is not some cheap thing that we are going to go try to create people of color, I hope God just brings anybody. I don’t care who it is. If we have been saved by God’s grace there should be within your heart, a love for ALL people, it doesn’t matter who they are. For the elderly, for the young, and it their skin color doesn’t matter. Think about the craziness of just a sheer 18th inch of a skin, there are people who suffer and won’t even talk to one another. It’s bizarre! Especially us, who are God’s people. We should know the instruction because we know that all people are created in God’s image. They have infinite value! We don’t give them the value; God did by giving them life.
Our church has a community the church is us. You need to find who it is, you need think of them, pray for them, and love them. You need to love them as a faithful friend, because we have the faithful friend, Jesus! My elder brother won’t let me go when I mess up. He pulls me into himself, that big strong arm of his. I want some more brothers and sisters! I trust and pray you do, and I believe you do. But let me tell you something, you better get uncomfortable with yourself if that is going to take place. You better risk yourself, as those disciples would they risked their lives. You may risk the loss of relationship. You may risk being ridiculed when trying to create some relationship. At a surface level on Facebook, I’ve already had a few tell me they are going to cut me off. That’s okay. You can’t take things personally. Who are you risking your life for? Are you that person crowded up in a corner reading Tim Lehay books, saying, “Oh Lord, get me out of here!” You have a community, you need to become a faithful friend and shower these people with the wonder of Jesus. Because our community is in need!
We like to do program things and I don’t like to poo-poo that, there are certain things that are good as a group, but that is not enough! Do you think they had Awana? Do you think they had praise teams? No! He wanted them to invest themselves into lives. Guess what they did, they went into homes. Who is the last person that you opened up your home to that was lost? If that hurts, it should. I don’t mean to hurt you, I mean to wake you up. God help us that we would all give them Jesus!
I left Jesus for the last point; I thought it appropriate to do that. Jesus is preeminent to us as a church. If Jesus isn’t everything, then Jesus is nothing; Jesus is preeminent to the church. The world doesn’t understand it but Jesus is preeminent in the world and community. Because history is His story as it continues to unfold. Dear friends, Jesus is preeminent in everything, and if the church isn’t about Jesus let’s burn the building down. There are a of places you begin with, for times sake we won’t but let me share some things with your about my Lord.
John 1: He is the creator. Jesus is the creator of every atom in the universe. Jesus brought in the physical creation that we know. Jesus, when came into the earth, brought in new creation and one day will consummate all this as creator when he makes the new heaven and the new earth. Jesus is creator.
Colossians 1: Jesus is an icon. He is an icon. He presented there by Paul as the exact imprint of God the father. That means when Jesus walked the earth, he was the embodiment of the Father. Now don’t confuse that, we are Trinitarian as the church has been historic. But Jesus was the physical representation of God the Father to the earth; he only ever completely obeyed the will of God. Proving his deity. Hence the word “Immanuel”, meaning God with us. God brought the manifestation of his deity through the physical birth of the virgin Mary of Jesus, his own son to the earth. He dwelled here! Jesus is an icon.
Hebrews 1: Jesus is supreme. His supremacy is filled through that epistle. It is over all creation, it superior to every great man in history. Why? Because Jesus, in Hebrews 1, is appointed the heir of everything. In Revelation 1, he is the King. I learned that as a teenager, it’s easy to remember. You want to learn some stuff about Jesus? John 1, Colossians 1, Hebrews 1, Revelation 1. In Revelation 1 Jesus is presented as the King who rules over all. Jesus is the king to a kingdom and Jesus’ kingdom will come in, ultimately by force. When he appears he will save those who are being redeemed and he will judge those who are against him. Why? Because he is the King! He is the King!
Jesus has no peer! There is not peer to Jesus. Throughout all of history, when Jesus preaches, he proves that all religion is vain apart from him. There is no other gospel but Jesus! Only through Jesus are the dead raised, the last miracle he does on the earth was that he raised Lazarus from the dead. More importantly for you and I, Jesus raised your dead heart. Now we are sitting here today, alive to God. Rejoicing and wanting to make Jesus’ name famous! Wanting to extol and worship and adore the one who deserves to be adored, and to do it passionately, because Jesus is real. Jesus is completely sufficient and satisfying for everything in your life, to every detail. Any sermon apart from Christ is powerless to save. It doesn’t mean anything! It is just a bunch of hot air. That for us makes Jesus altogether beautiful and lovely. Who is Jesus you ask? Man the superlatives are endless. He is talked about in the Old Testament as the Lily in the valley, the Rose of Sherin, the healing balm in Gilead. Jesus as the creation was the star breather. His majesty was glorious and he is going to return in splendor.
I can’t put the appropriate words, but we know our Lord is uncontainable; he is indescribable. For whatever superlatives we give him, it is beyond our imagination how great the glory is going to be when he comes. If you will fix into that, you will look at the church differently and you are going to look at the community differently. Most assuredly, Jesus is going to become sweeter to you. Jesus is called the beginning and the end. We are about to embark upon that in Hebrews 12. Jesus is the very goal of history, and your story, my story, the historic church’s story, and stories of redemption that are being made this morning, they are all wrapped into the grand story; Christ. All of that, as I close, and all his names that are given throughout the bible, I like to say the name Jesus. It is so personal! More than just giving him a title, Jesus seems warm. I feel his compassion. I sense his strength. When I say Jesus, it garners up love to me. I feel his tenderness. He gives me comfort. He gives me joy. He gives me peace. Whatever kind of chaos is going on in my life or in my mind, when I have a communication and Jesus’ name is used for me, it’s something so close. It’s personal and it’s real. I’m afraid we don’t always think of his name in that regard because we have made the cross too small. It’s too small. We want to enlarge the gospel! We want to contemplate from time to time in a necessary and fruitful way, our own sin. Not to lead us to despair, but I like that, that will preach, that’s 3 G’s right there, guilt, grace and gratitude. You can bet that is coming up again. Is Jesus beautiful to you? I’m serious. Is he beautiful to you? You can get out of the box you are living in. You can get out of the fear you are living in. Is Jesus beautiful enough to you, where you will risk yourself? I believe that is what the disciples did they abandoned everything. If Jesus isn’t everything to you, then he is nothing to you. Our prayer this morning is by God’s grace, that Jesus himself will make us genuinely extol him.