Posts Tagged ‘Fellowship’


Moses with one wave of his staff was able to see the seas part and the seabed dry up. He was able to see the waters stand tall as if held back by a thick wall of glass. When the enemy army was crossing after them, with another wave of the rod of God, he saw the waters fall upon them and drown every soldier.

But when it came to leading this complaining horde of people across a desert land, Moses was at his wits end.

Moses and the Tent of Meeting

In Exodus 33, we find that Moses would take a tent and pitch it outside the camp, far away from the people, and there Moses sought the Lord. He called it the ʾōhel môʿēd (tent of meeting). This was the forerunner of the tabernacle. Here Moses would speak face to face with God (Ex 33:11)

When Moses would enter the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and God would speak to Moses.

When Moses went out to the tent, all the people would get up, go to their tent door, and watch. And when the cloud would descend, the people would worship, each at their tent door.

Later on, when they constructed the Tabernacle according to God’s commands, it was brought within the camp, and the people worshipped there. I can’t help but wonder if Moses longed to return to that tent outside the camp…

Letter to Concerned Jewish Christians

It is a reference to the Tabernacle that the writer of Hebrews is using to address the concerns of the Jewish Christians in Hebrews 13. Here the writer makes the foundational statement which should guide these Christians, and I believe it is the foundational statement for our church.

Foundational Statement of Hebrews

We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat. For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore, let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. Hebrews 13:10-16

The Problem Facing these Jewish Christians

There were pressures from the world-pressures as to how they should worship, how they should not worship. It was so much easier to follow a hybrid Christ-one who was Jewish and Christian. One who was worldly and Godly.

On the other hand, the world was becoming more antagonistic toward Christians, especially those that really followed Him. So the struggles they were facing are the same ones we face in our lives.

Two Problems

1.  Driven by formalism-How they worshiped was more important than Who they worshiped.

2.  Paralyzed by Fear – Faced expulsion or persecution-wanted to have the glory of God and stay in the safety of the camp. Their desire for comfort overwhelmed the command to risk it all.

Remember:

We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat.

If we insist on serving from a place of comfort, or a place of ‘tradition’, or a place of safety…we can not eat from the altar of Jesus Christ. We will lose out on the sweet abiding fellowship that is in Him alone.

Choice Number 1

  • Will we Die in our Religion or Die in our Devotion?

The writer addressed the plight of the Hebrews by calling their attention to those who wandered in the wilderness:

Num 13:31-14:4; Num 14:20-23, 32-34

Here the Jewish wanderers had the chance to believe in God’s Word, to embrace His power that they had witnessed first hand. However, they refused to see Him Who is able, and focused on their own weakness and inability. Instead of advancing into Canaan and trusting God to overcome the giants, they wept in bitterness and retreated from the mission God had given them.

They had two options:

  1. Retreat from the Mission

  2. Risk everything for the Mission

To risk everything requires the faith to see Him who is invisible. To risk everything requires a total disregard for personal comfort, personal safety, but an overwhelming CONFIDENCE in the power of God to allow you to finish the mission!

We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat.

Choice Number 2

  • Will We Embrace our Comfort or Will we Embrace His Cross?

If you want to eat from this altar. If you want to experience God face to face. If you want to know the presence and power of God, you must go outside the camp. You must be willing to be disgraced just like Jesus. You must be willing to bear His disgrace.

Let us Go to Jesus …Outside the Camp

Dead and Dirty things

And the bull for the sin offering and the goat for the sin offering, whose blood was brought in to make atonement in the Holy Place, shall be carried outside the camp. Their skin and their flesh and their dung shall be burned up with fire. And he who burns them shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and afterward he may come into the camp. Leviticus 16:27-28

Diseased and Despised

“The leprous person who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean.’ He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease. He is unclean. He shall live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp. Leviticus 13:45-46

Blasphemers

Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Bring out of the camp the one who cursed, and let all who heard him lay their hands on his head, and let all the congregation stone him. And speak to the people of Israel, saying, Whoever curses his God shall bear his sin. Whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall stone him. The sojourner as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death. Leviticus 24:13-16

Dangerous

Murderers, blasphemers, adulterers were all kept and stoned outside the camp.

Do You Really Want to Follow Jesus?

Then you must go to Him OUTSIDE the camp!

  • Mission without suffering is like Christianity without a cross
  • Suffering is not a consequence of our mission: it is the central strategy for achieving our mission.

Moses met face to face with God outside the camp!

If you desire to fellowship face to face with Jesus Christ, you must meet with Him outside the camp, and bear His reproach.

Choice Number 3

  • Will We Live for Pleasure in this World or for Paradise in the World to Come?

The Truth of the Real Jesus

  • Jesus calls the church to live according to a radically different definition of success than the rest of the world.
  • Jesus calls me to live according to a radically different definition of success than the rest of the world

If we do not advance toward Jesus in our Christian walk, we:

  • Give way to formalism
  • Give way to paralyzing fear
  • Give way to a retreating spirit

We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat.

Do we desire to stay inside the comfort of our camp? Do not count on feasting on Christ.

Believer’s can be forgiven but cursed to wander in the wilderness apart from the power and presence of God.

God does not need our church to gain glory for Himself. He will glorify His Name regardless of whether we go to the altar outside the camp.

Following Christ does not mean coming to the cross and then neatly carrying Jesus back into our safe and comfortable American lives. It means risking everything and going outside the camp to bear His reproach on His altar of total sacrifice. (A thank you to David Platt for the core points of this message)

Notation about my Faith Journey

In 2004-2005 I became burdened about the nation of Myanmar. I even went there in January 2006, and now serve as Treasurer on the Executive Board of the Friends of Burma, Inc. This all came about as I began to understand the true meaning of discipleship.

While going through a sermon series on Mark, I was struck anew with Mark 8.

And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. Mark 8:34-35

The greatest example of these verses was the life of Adoniram Judson. I was fascinated with the truth that what he risked with his life and family was the reason for the Christians in that forsaken country today!

His life led me to became so interested and concerned about Burma (Myanmar).

Adoniram Judson is why I am going outside the camp. Adoniram Judson went outside the camp and bore the reproach of Jesus Christ.

Adoniram Judson

Once when a Buddhist teacher said that he could not believe that Christ suffered the death of the cross because no king allows his son such indignity, “Judson responded, ‘Therefore you are not a disciple of Christ. A true disciple inquires not whether a fact is agreeable to his own reason, but whether it is in the book. His pride has yielded to the divine testimony. Teacher, your pride is still unbroken. Break down your pride, and yield to the word of God.’ (Anderson, To the Golden Shore, 240.)

Judson’s conversion to Christ was due in large measure to the same deist friend who led him away from Christ. After graduation, Judson left home to become a wanderlust. One night in a country inn, his room was adjacent to the room of a dying man. The moaning and groaning of that man through the long night permitted Judson no sleep. His thoughts troubled him. All night questions assailed his soul: “Was the dying man prepared to die?” “Where would he spend eternity?” “Was he a Christian, calm and strong in the hope of life in Heaven?” “Or, was he a sinner shuddering in the dark brink of the lower region?” Judson constantly chided himself for even entertaining such thoughts contrary to his philosophy of life beyond the grave, and thought how his brilliant college friend would rebuke him if he learned of these childish worries.

But the next morning, when Judson inquired of the proprietor as to the identity of the dead man, he was shocked by the most staggering statement he had ever heard: “He was a brilliant young person from Providence College. Ernest was his name.”

Ernest was the unbeliever who had destroyed Judson’s faith. “Now he was dead — and was lost! Was lost! Was lost! Lost! Lost!” Those words raced through his brain, rang in his ears, roared in his soul — “Was lost! Lost! Lost! There and then Judson realized he was lost, too! He ended his traveling, returned home, entered Andover Theological Seminary and soon “sought God for the pardon of his soul,” was saved and dedicated his life to the Master’s service!

In Burma

But opposition came, also. Finally, Judson was imprisoned as a British spy — an imprisonment of twenty-one months. Judson was condemned to die, but in answer to prayers to God and the incessant pleadings of his wife to officials (one of the most emotional-packed, soul-stirring stories in evangelism), Judson’s life was spared and finally British intervention freed him from imprisonment.

Following the missionaries in their holy adventure, we behold scenes too horrible for words. On one occasion Judson, pitifully weak and emaciated, was driven in chains across the burning tropical sands, until, his back lacerated beneath the lash and his feet covered with blisters, he fell to the ground and prayed that the mercy of God might grant him a speedy death. For almost two years he was incarcerated in a prison too vile to house animals. He was bound with three pairs of chains and his feet were fastened in stocks which at times were elevated, so that only his shoulders touched the ground. The room, into which he and many other prisoners were crowded, was without a window and felt like a fiery furnace under the merciless glare of the tropical sun. The stench of the place was terrible, vermin crawled everywhere and the jailer, Mr. Spotted Face, was a brute in human form. And, as Judson saw other prisoners dragged out to execution, he lived in terrifying suspense and was able to say with Paul, “I die daily.”

Surely, he would have fallen and perished under the weight of his cross, except for the tender, persistent, beautiful ministrations of Ann. As often as possible, she bribed the jailer and then, under cover of darkness, crept to the door of Judson’s den, bringing food and whispering words of hope and consolation. Finally, for three long weeks she did not appear; but, upon her return, she bore in her arms a newborn baby to explain her absence. An epidemic of smallpox was raging unchecked through the city and little Maria was smitten with the dread disease. Due to the double strain of concern for her imprisoned husband and the suffering baby, Ann found herself unable to nurse the little one. Tormented by its pitiful cries, Ann took her baby up and down the streets of the city, pleading for mercy and for milk: “You women who have babies, have mercy on my baby and nurse her!”

Near the prison gate was a caged lion, whose fearful bellowings had told all that he was being starved against the day when he would be turned loose upon some of the prisoners. But the lion died of hunger before the plan was executed. Thereupon, plucky Mrs. Judson cleaned out the cage and secured permission for her husband to stay there for a few weeks, since he was critically ill with a fever.

One of the most pathetic pages in the history of Christian missions is that which describes the scene when Judson was finally released and returned to the mission house seeking Ann, who again had failed to visit him for some weeks. As he ambled down the street as fast as his maimed ankles would permit, the tormenting question kept repeating itself, “Is Ann still alive?” Upon reaching the house, the first object to attract his attention was a fat, half-naked Burman woman squatting in the ashes beside a pan of coals and holding on her knees an emaciated baby, so begrimed with dirt that it did not occur to him that it could be his own. Across the foot of the bed, as though she had fallen there, lay a human object that, at the first glance, was no more recognizable than his child. The face was of a ghastly paleness and the body shrunken to the last degree of emaciation. The glossy black curls had all been shorn from the finely-shaped head. There lay the faithful and devoted wife who had followed him so unwearily from prison to prison, ever alleviating his distresses and consoling him in his trials. Presently Ann felt warm tears falling upon her face and, rousing from her stupor, saw Judson by her side.

And there were other sorrows. Before he had been in Burma fourteen years he buried Ann and all of his children. But “the love that never fails” sustained him. “If I had not felt certain,” he says, “that every additional trial was ordered by infinite love and mercy, I could not have survived my accumulated sufferings.” Judson joined with Paul in declaring: “The love of Christ constraineth me … Therefore I will glory in reproaches, in persecution and in distresses for Christ’s sake.”[2]

The work progressed and gospel power began to open blind eyes, break idolatry-shackled hearts and transform the newly-begotten converts into triumphant Christians. On April 12, 1850, at the age of 62, Judson died. Except for a few months (when he returned to America after thirty-four years from his first sailing), Judson had spent thirty-eight years in Burma. Although he had waited six years for his first convert, sometime after his death a government survey recorded 210,000 Christians, one out of every fifty-eight Burmans! It was a partial fulfillment and a monument to the spirit and ministry of the man, who at Ava, the capital city, gazed at the temple of Buddha and challenged, “A voice mightier than mine, a still small voice, will ere long sweep away every vestige of thy dominion. The churches of Jesus Christ will soon supplant these idolatrous monuments and the chanting devotees of Buddha will die away before the Christian’s hymns of praise.”[1]

Will You Go Outside the Camp?

My question is, if Christ delays his return another two hundred years – a mere fraction of a day in his reckoning – which of you will have suffered and died so that the triumphs of grace will be told about one or two of those 3,500 peoples who are in the same condition today that the Karen and Chin and Kachins and Burmese were in 1813? Who will labor so long and so hard and so perseveringly that in two hundred years there will be two million Christians in many of the 10/40-window peoples who can scarcely recall their Muslim or Hindu or Buddhist roots?

May God use his powerful word and the life of Adoniram Judson to stir many of you to give your lives to this great cause!

We must keep advancing to Him, to His altar which is outside the camp!

Advertisements


This outline was the basis of our “Covenant Sunday” We began the process of revising our archaic Church Covenant over six months ago, and finally arrived at a church covenant that was relevant and applicable for our church, that was also in harmony with the teachings of Scripture. After reading the new Church Covenant, all members affirmed their support of the Covenant with their written signature.

I. The Church is Built upon a New Covenant

  • Matthew 26:27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you,
  • Mark 14:24 And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.
  • Luke 22:20 Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you

Hebrews 9:15-17 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive.

The New Covenant is Conditional

Hebrews 10:26-31 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

The Purpose of our Church Covenant

Our Covenant Reinforces the Conditions of this New Covenant with Jesus Christ

Our Covenant is the Practical Application of God’s Word to our Church Family

It is a Promise of how we will live our lives in the Church, in our Family, and in the World

It is a Summary of our Family Values

It is our Commitment to each other as a Family of Followers of Christ

It is our Ethical Statement to the World

It is our Biblical Standard for our Family

A.  Basis of Membership (Partnership)

  1. The first century church transformed the way believer’s thought, lived, and used their resources of time and money.
  2. A bond united genuine believers and exposed those who were not a part of the body of Christ. Acts 5:13
  3. The Distinguishing factor between those who were part of the fellowship and those who were not: 1 John 2:19-20

1 John 2:19-20 They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us. But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. (anointing is the word charisma “the special endowment of the Holy Spirit”)

B. Basis of Discipline

1. Fellowship was so vital and valuable that early discipline was to be disallowed from fellowshipping with the church.

1 Corinthians 5:13 God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked man from among you.”

2. Loss of fellowship was so powerful that it would produce great sorrow.

2 Corinthians 2:6-7 The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient for him. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.

C.  Basis of Mutual Edification

1. Ultimate purpose of the body is to edify one another so that each believer can come to full maturity and a unity in faith.

Ephesians 4:11-13 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

2. Primary purpose is to provoke one another to do good works.

Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

  • Twenty five “one another” commands in the N.T. are listed in our new Covenant

Our Church Covenant serves to unite our family together as the Body of Christ meeting as Pleasant Prairie Baptist Church. He is our Head and we are to function and grow as His Body. Our Covenant is the practical statement of how our body will work together and live together and relate with each other. Our Covenant is what distinguishes our family from the families around us. Our Covenant also provides the basis for dealing with problems in the family. The purpose of the Covenant is not to chain people together, but to promote growth with one another in Jesus Christ. The wellness of the body is the chief aim. Our Church Covenant is to serve to Edify the body meeting as Pleasant Prairie Baptist Church.

II. The Power of Edifying One Another

A. The Goal of Fellowship is to produce spiritual maturity through mutual Edification.

Acts 2:42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

The Church is to provide opportunities for believer’s to give testimonies of God’s Working in their lives.

Paul testifies to the Power of public testimonies:

1 Corinthians 14:23-25 So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and some who do not understand or some unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind? But if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!”

    • Secrets of his heart will be exposed
    • Conviction of sins
    • People falling to their face and worshiping God
    • Knowing God is among you

Teaching of the Apostles was the ‘rhema’ of the Word, not the ‘logos.’

  • John 6:63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words (rhema)that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
  • John 15:7 If you abide in me, and my words (rhema) abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

A “RHEMA” requires confirmation of two or three witnesses

2 Corinthians 13:1 This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word (rhema) be established.

Paul gives further instructions about the importance of sharing what God is doing in your life:

Strengthens the Body

1 Corinthians 14:26-27 26 What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.

Provides Training in Godliness

1 Thessalonians 2:11-12 For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.

  • Testimonies-Psalm, message in sacred song
  • Instruction from Scripture
  • Personal rhema from the Word.
  • Insight into Christian living
  • Report on how truth was applied.

B. Specific Types of Edification

  1. Build faith by sharing rhemas – Romans 10:17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word (rhema) of God.
  2. Glory to God for Answers to prayer (Psalms 50:15 “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.”)
  3. Sharing fruit from building spiritual disciplines in your life.
  4. Sharing your growth from salvation
  5. Sharing about others coming to Christ
  6. Testifying to the truth of God’s Way of Life – problem in life and how obeying God’s Word has resulted in life.
  7. Dealing with Sin and the illnesses it causes
  8. Sharing the rewards of suffering, or thanking God.
  9. Wisdom gleaned from wise men
  10. Results of good works
  11. Benefits of Godly standards
  12. Praise others for their example

C.  Powerful Potential of Fellowship

  1. Testimonies often reveal needs that the Holy Spirit then impresses others to meet.
  2. Builds ‘koinonia’ -partnership, interaction.
  3. Fellowship of the churches in Macedonia

2 Corinthians 8:1-5 Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia: that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality. For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God.

Our New Church Covenant:

The Foundation

Believing that Jesus Christ is the head of the church, and the church is the body of Christ, and that only by the Holy Spirit is one made alive to God and placed “in Christ”, I make the following two affirmations:

  • I have been born again by the Holy Spirit, having personally repented of my sin before God, received His forgiveness, believed upon the Lord Jesus Christ—crucified, buried, and resurrected—as my one and only Savior.
  • I have identified myself publicly as a Christian and have followed my Lord in baptism in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

The Promises

Having given ourselves to God by our faith in Jesus Christ, and having adopted the Word of God as our rule of faith and practice, and as members of this local Body of Christ, we now give ourselves to one another in this solemn covenant. We hereby promise:

  • To be committed to each other in seeking to love and obey Jesus Christ; and for His sake love, accept, and forgive each other with affectionate care and watchfulness.
  • To join with fellow members to seek God’s will in our common decision-making; to allow every member the privilege of seeking to influence the church in its pursuit of God’s will; to accept congregational decisions without grumbling; and to work to prevent division in the body.
  • To help one another grow in Jesus Christ by building up one another, bearing one another’s burdens, encouraging one another, exhorting one another, praying for one another, confessing our sins to one another, speaking the truth in love to one another, admonishing one another, teaching one another, comforting one another, submitting to one another, serving one another, patiently bearing with one another, being hospitable to one another, being kind and tenderhearted to one another.
  • To work together for the continuance of a faithful evangelical ministry in this church, as we support and sustain its worship, ordinances, discipline and doctrines. As we are being built up we will reach out to the lost and to the fallen and through our love and service seek to bring them into fellowship with Jesus Christ. Through self-denial, faith and good works we endeavor to grow together in grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
  • To practice Biblical stewardship of our resources, and to contribute cheerfully and regularly to the support of the ministry, the expenses of the church, the relief of the poor, and the spread of the Gospel to all nations.
  • To seek, by God’s grace, to live carefully in the world, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to be an example in our speech and conduct, purposing to lead new and holy lives in the power of the Holy Spirit, especially with regard to the following:
    • To use chemical substances such as alcohol and drugs only as informed by the teachings of the Bible, wise medical counsel, and the dictates of the law.
    • To flee sexual immorality; to shun pornography; to reserve sexual activity for one man and one woman united in the covenant of marriage;
    • To initiate divorce proceedings only when there has been clear and continual violation of God’s Word regarding divorce and marriage. Anyone in such a situation agrees to consult with church leadership and seek Christian counseling.
    • To protect and defend the lives of our children from the moment of their conception; to bring up those in our home in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and by a pure and loving example seek the salvation of our family, teaching and encouraging them to love, follow and serve God.
    • To practice justice and compassion toward all people, especially the poor, the sick, the disabled, widows, and orphans.
    • To conduct all business in honesty and integrity, counting it our chief business in life to extend the influence of Christ in society.
  • To submit to the leadership of the Holy Spirit and pursue the fruit that He brings forth and to work and pray for the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, that the Kingdom of God may come, and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

The Protection:

We enter into this covenant voluntarily and affirm the ambitions of this covenant as our own. We realize that we can only fulfill this covenant through the power of Jesus Christ living in us. We invite fellow members to pray for us, teach us, correct us and rebuke us, if necessary; in a spirit of gentleness and humility should we stray from the Lord’s commands. We voluntarily submit ourselves to one another and to the biblical authority of this church. If we fail to live up to this covenant, we commit to yield to correction with meekness, to seek forgiveness and reconciliation, and to turn from our sin, relying on God’s grace to lift us up. Should church discipline ever be required, it will always be undertaken for the purpose of restoration to fellowship with God and with this covenant community – and it will always be done in accordance with Scriptural procedures in Matthew 18:15-22 and Galatians 6:1. We further commit to never refuse forgiveness and reconciliation in the face of Godly repentance.

If we find ourselves unwilling to try to fulfill this covenant, we commit to remove our self from this congregation. If relocation outside the community prevents us from fulfilling this covenant, we commit to unite with another congregation and to continue to pursue growth as a Christian.

The Blessing

May the Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Love of God, and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit Be With Us All. Amen.



Prodigal GodThen drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them. And he spake this parable unto them, saying, What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance. Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it? And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost. Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth. Luke 15:1-10

Luke 15 begins with the religious leaders noticing something—that Jesus seems to attract and befriend “tax collectors and sinners,” moral outcasts of respectable society.

In the Lord of the Rings we find a weird creature named Gollum. He is always offering riddles for the Hobbit Bilbo Baggins to solve. One of them I will offer for you:

Voiceless it Cries
Wingless it flutters
Toothless it bites
Mouthless it muttters

(Answer – the Wind)

We read in verse 2 that they “murmur” to one another about this. “to mutter, murmur, grumble, say anything in a low tone” The air was stirring with their murmurings! We can almost hear them saying: “He welcomes sinners! This kind of person never comes to our meetings. This must be because he is telling them what they want to hear. He is not calling them to repent or change.”

This murmuring prompts Jesus to tell the three parables of Luke 15.

  • Parables of the Lost Sheep
  • Lost Coin
  • the Lost Sons.

Jesus Seeks the LostBy listening carefully to all three parables, and especially to the last one, traditionally called The Parable of the Prodigal Son, Jesus challenges his listeners’ fundamental assumptions about God, sin, and salvation. He gives them an entirely new way of thinking about God, themselves, and the whole world.

Most people think of religion as “humanity’s search for God.” We like to think of ourselves as spiritual seekers, as honest inquirers. We look at the religions of the world and, while giving somewhat different directions about how to do so, they all seem to agree that if we sincerely search for God we will find him. Millions of people the world over believe that by believing and obeying God’s law in the Bible, they can find God.

The problem is that anyone who feels they have searched for and found God will naturally disdain those who seem to be making no effort at all. They will look at “sinners” and say, “I found God! If you try, you can. I did.”

And here is the first great blow to the “religious” people of the world. Religion and religious behavior is NOT the way to God! Jesus is telling us that God had to come down into the world to seek and save us. Salvation must be by His grace, not our achievement.

The end of each parable challenges not just the categories of the Pharisees but their heart and attitude. A theme through all three parables is the joy of finding the lost. God does not look at spiritually lost people the way the Pharisees do. Because the Pharisees do not see themselves as lost sinners saved by grace, they disdain “sinners”. They feel superior to them. But heaven rejoices when “sinners” are reached and found.

Jesus New CommunityJesus is declaring to the religious establishment that He is creating a New Community of People. A Community of People bonded together by the experience of Death & Life. To Understand this New Community, we will look closely at the first two parables. In the next four weeks following we will examine the Parable of the Lost Sons.

This week we look at the first two of these parables. Let’s notice three sets of characters:

  1. the listeners
  2. the lost things
  3. the joyful seekers.

1. The listeners—verses 1-3.

Jesus and the ListenersThere are two groups of people around Jesus—“tax collectors and ‘sinners’”, and “Pharisees and the teachers of the law.” The ‘religious’ group is especially offended that Jesus eats with sinners. In the Middle East an offer of a meal is an offer of Friendship. It is an offer of Community. Table fellowship was considered a sign of acceptance and friendship. How, they thought, can he be so open to them? Doesn’t he realize that they are the “bad people”— who are the real trouble with the world? (And, therefore, that we are the “good guys”?)

jesus with sinnersJesus does not give a direct, compact answer. Instead, he responds with three stories or parables.It is important to realize that these parables were not spoken in a vacuum. The purpose of all three parables was to challenge the “Religious Peoples Point of View” of what Jesus was wanting to do.

When we get to the final parable, we will realize that BOTH groups of people—“sinners” and “religious people”—are actually in the parable. That is why the last story, the story of the prodigal son, is Jesus’ final answer. But that is to come later. For now, let’s notice how he begins to challenge our attitudes and categories of thought in the first two parables.

2. The lost things—verses 4-5, 8.

The Lost SheepJesus uses these “Lost” things to teach us religious types what He is all about. Why He came to this planet, and what He is accomplishing. The impact of these parables is lost on us because we do not look at them from a Middle Eastern viewpoint. These teach us about the community that Jesus want to build within His body – the church.

In order to understand and grasp the meaning of parables, I find it helpful to meditate on the visual images Jesus uses. People of the middle east are very visual in their thinking. It comes from a long line of oral history. That is why God painted very visual images of His miracles in the hearts of His people. That is why all the Jewish feasts and Holy Days are very visual.

The Sheep, the Search, & the Shepherd.

First, Jesus confronts their View of themselves and their Righteousness. The Pharisees thought they had it made. They were children of Abraham. They were children of the Covenant. They were chosen. They followed the Law. But Jesus says none of that is important to him. If we are to be important to Jesus, we must realize we are sheep.

In the parable of the lost sheep, the shepherd leaves the 99 sheep to go looking for the one lost sheep. We think that being a sheep is a warm fuzzy huggy type of description. We think of Mary and her little lamb, or Little Bo Peep. Being called a Sheep is an INSULT!

Sheep are StupidA Sheep is a stupid animal. It loses its direction constantly, in a way a cat or dog never does. Even when you find a lost sheep, the sheep will rush to and fro, but will not follow you home like a dog or cat might. So when you find it, you must seize it, throw it to the ground, tie its feet together and carry it over your shoulders.A sheep is a stupid animal that is completely helpless when lost. We need to view sheep like these people did.

  • Sheep will go after grass no matter how impossible the place is.
  • They will go onto the most dangerous place to eat grass.
  • They will need to be rescued, or they will fall to their death.
  • In the second parable the lost object is a coin, even more incapable of finding its way home.

The three lost “objects”—the sheep, the coin, and (in vv. 11-32) the son—all represent people who are spiritually lost, far from God. This is Jesus characterizing the people the Pharisees view as “sinners.” They are lost, yet they are lost in quite different ways. The sheep is lost through foolishness, the coin through thoughtlessness, and the son through willfulness.

But no matter the ‘Lostness’, they are each valued by Jesus, because of their condition.To have value to Jesus, we must realize to the depths of our soul that we are LOST, with NO HOPE of ever being saved.

The Sheep Teaches us We Need to be rescued

Communion2In liturgical churches sometimes the Pastor will administer the Lord’s Supper by saying this:

May the body of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was given for you, preserve your body and soul to eternal life. Take and eat this in remembrance that Christ died for you and feed on him in your heart by faith with thanksgiving.

It implies that your soul is feeding on something. And of course, this is true, no matter your spiritual condition. We all cling to something.The deepest hopes of your heart for security and love are resting on something. It can be image, status, wealth, career, position, family, Mr X or Miss Y.

If you are feeding on anything but Jesus for your peace, well being, satisfaction; You are like a sheep feeding on the ledge of a mountain. Say you are dating Mr. X, and decide he is the “one”. You rest your hearts deepest hopes on that person or that relationship. You believe you are valuable because this person loves me.

The truth is that if you are relying on anything or any person other than Jesus, you are in danger of an emotional and spiritual plunge off the mountain side.

You are like a stupid sheep, searching for sustenance in dangerous places, without any sense of your impending doom. You are headed for a spiritual and emotional plunge.

You will have no self worth, no hope left, for you have fed your soul on the wrong person, the wrong things.

We are all like sheep, we have all gone astray

Sheep need rescuingWe all need to be rescued. We can contribute nothing to our salvation. The shepherd has to walk the sheep all the way home. We are utterly lost in sin. We must be saved totally by the grace of God.

Salvation is not a process of cooperation. Our shepherd is not telling us how to live, not giving us self-help pointers. Being a Christian is not trying to live like Jesus. Not wearing a wrist band “What Would Jesus Do?” We must be asking ourselves What is Jesus Doing for Me at this very moment? Jesus must be our life!

We try to be a dog or a cat, but we are sheep. A Teacher is not enough, we need a Savior. We need someone who is able to do everything that we have to do, but are unable to do. He lives the life we should have lived, He dies the death we should have died. Everyone is utterly lost in sin.

The Search Teaches Us:

The Search for the LostJesus is friends with those who need rescuing. The community of Jesus is with the broken, the lost, the sinners, the failures of society. Jesus is building a faith community with these people in it. Normally these people are excluded-they can’t be included.

The Pharisees shake their fingers at them and say “These are the type of people we are NOT supposed to be like! But Jesus says these are the very people I want in my community. Jesus is creating a new faith community that includes publicans and tax collectors.

No Matter the Source of your sin, You Must realize your Lostness.

Here’s an example. Mr. Smith has a problem with abusive anger—he often flies off the handle and is verbally abusive and sometimes physically so. Why? Is his problem genetic? Is it a matter of brain chemistry? Is it just part of his inborn nature, as in the example of the sheep? Or is his problem the result of a bad environment? Perhaps the result of poor parenting and family life? Was he, like the coin, mismanaged by his “supervisors”? Or does his problem stem from selfishness and pride, as with the prodigal son?

We Have ALL Gone AstrayThe answer is that usually, in varying degrees, it is all of the above.

Sin is deeply complex. It is inborn in you, it is magnified by sinful treatment, and it is deepened and shaped by your own choices. Jesus’ view of sin is more comprehensive and multi-dimensional than that of many psychologists, sociologists, and many religious leaders. It is certainly more comprehensive than the view held by the Pharisees listening to him.

Jesus’ view is that no matter your sin, you must realize it is sin, that you are lost and you need saving, or you will die out on a ledge somewhere.

The Shepherd Teaches us

He is the only one who can rescue the lost. The lost are worth rescuing. The coin was the woman’s dowry, livelihood. The shepherd is not complete til he finds all of his sheep.

3. The Joyful Seekers—verses 6-7, 9-10.

The Joyful ShepherdJesus confronts their categories about salvation. He reveals that He comes from a community in heaven that is this way. “I come from a community in heaven that celebrates sinners saved by grace” It does not celebrate righteous people who don’t realize their lostness. I am creating a community like this here.

Community – bonded into a body through an intense common experience.

The more intense the experience, the stronger the bond. The Karen People are being brought into the United States by our State Dept. They have suffered persecution and death at the hands of the Myanmar Military Junta. No matter where they are placed in the United States, they quickly form a close-knit community with fellow Karen. What is the bond-it is their shared death and life experience. The persecution and killing has created an intense bond amonst the Karen in the US.

We all have “identity” factors that create bonds with other people. Black, white, College, No, Good school, acheivements, all come to represent our identity in the world. This identy is our self worth, self image. It is hat makes us distinctive. It is the foundation of who we are.

Christians should have an intense bond that forms the basis of our identity and how we relate to one another. Ephesians 2 begins with Christians who are dead in trespasses and sin, but who share the bond of being made alive by Jesus. Ephesians 2 ends stating we are all like living stones that are fitted together to build a temple in which God’s spirit will dwell.

Other religions aspire to make you better so that you might be like God. In otherwords they treat you like a dog or a cat. Take you to the groomers, to obedience school. You’ll be fine.

The Gospel is for sheep-we must realize we can do nothing to be saved.It is a life and death experience. I am infinitely lost, but I am infinitely loved and infinitely treasured. I am infinitely valued. The Shepherd will do anything to bring me home. It blows your complete identity factor away.

WHO I THINK I AM DOESN’T MATTER

I can be from an IVY league college, be moral, come from a big family. I can derive joy from these things and even feel superior to others. Certain things automatically make us feel better than other people. That joy excludes people who are worse off than we are. It excludes publicans and tax collectors.

Jesus declares that these things don’t matter, that TRUE JOY comes when these Lost people are FOUND! His community doesn’t look down on people, but welcomes all with open arms!

This community has the common bond of death and lostness, but now we are found and saved!

THE QUARRY

quarry rocks for templeThis is the Community of “1 Kings 6”. When building the Temple, the Quarry masons worked so well preparing the monstrous stones for the Temple that on the Temple Mount the stones needed no further hammering, the stones fit together perfectly. So the temple went up in silence-no need for hammering, no need for mortar!

If you have been to the quarry, if you have been through life and death, nothing matters, not your pedigree, your accomplishments, your wealth, nothing matters. You have a bond – a Life and death bond.

Jesus knocks down all barriers to seek those that are lost.

Shepherds aren’t consultants, they aren’t trying to improve the sheep. Sheep are absolutely dependent upon the shepherd.Sheep should give themselves to the Shepherd COMPLETELY!

Jesus New Community1Jesus desires to do two things with His Church:

  1. Build a community that is filled with His beautiful, unified difference – acceptance for sinners!
  2. Provide a place where sinners are free to admit they are sinners.

Christians need to stop eating their wounded. We need to be able to confess our faults one to another without fear of condemnation. Religiousity permits no one to be a sinner, but Jesus welcomes all sinners. Masks will do no good before Jesus. He knows, so we all should know. We are all sinners.We are all lowly sheep who have been rescued by our loving shepherd.

Jesus our ShepherdJesus is the Great Shepherd, even more intent and joyful than the shepherd of the parable. For Jesus knew that he would have to die to bring the lost home, but “for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame” (Heb. 12:2). The joy he had in doing his Father’s will, and the joy he had in finding us, was so great that he was willing to endure the cross.