ser50607 - Simple Christianity
“Simple Christianity” FPCC 5/6/07 Mark 12:28-34
Golf video – where guy makes the swing so complex
Our world seems to be getting more complex all the time
-amount of information accessible to us is constantly increasing
-advancing technology creates devices that are supposed to make life easier, but often makes it more complicated
-TVs, computers, phones – they all come with increasingly complex instructions you have to master
-now we have to program our ovens and our thermostats.
Google knows this that there is a growing backlash to the complexity of our world
-simple is now in
-75% of web searches done on google
-they have millions by making sophisticated internet technology more simple
-their goal is to have only 20 to 40 words on their web site – period
-at last count – 32 words
Southwest Airlines has also gotten into the simple revolution
-they don’t sell food, there are no assigned seats, there are no hubs to fly through, just direct, cheap flights
-and they too are making lots of money from this simple approach.
Jesus was into the simple approach to faith matters 2000 years ago.
-Jesus liked to simplify what the Scribes and Pharisees of his day had made into a very complex religion of Judaism
–Traditionally the scribes spoke of 613 individual commandments that a good Jew had to live by – 613!!!
-365 were negative ones (i.e. thou shalt nots)
-248 were positive ones (i.e. you must dos)
And while they believed that all were binding, or required of each good Jew, they did make a distinction between weightier and lighter commandments
-i.e. these you’ve got to do or you are REALLY in trouble, and others weren’t quite as important.
Now, in those days men didn’t sit around and talk about whether the Chargers were going to be better than the Vikings this year, or whether Michigan was going to beat Ohio State
-no, they talked theology
-and one of their favorite subjects was “Which of the commandments was the most important.
And so, in light of this debate, our text today tells us that a Law teacher came to Jesus and asked, Which (poia, “what kind of”) commandment is the most important (prōtē, “first”) of them all?
-and of course, Jesus responded with a simplification of all the 613 laws
-that all the law and prophets could be summed up in just two commandments
-he reduced them down to two – Love God, Love others
The first was something that was very familiar to any Jew
-It contained the opening words of Deut. 6:4, known to Jews as “The Shema” –
-Shema means “hear” in Hebrew, and it is the first word of this confession:
DT 6:4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.*  Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
-This affirmation of faith was recited twice daily—in the morning and in the evening—by devout Jews.
-so everyone knew the shema, and it was daily a part of their lives
-It basically was a reminder to love God with everything you’ve got.
And to this Jesus added a second commandment – Love your neighbor as yourself.
-and with those two assertions, Jesus reduced a very complex religion down to a very simple one.
-LOVE GOD, LOVE OTHERS
-that’s what God wants of each of us – LOVE GOD, LOVE OTHERS
Now in many ways, we in the modern church have done a good job of making Christianity once again very complex.
-years of theologians sitting around in seminaries dissecting every word of the Bible have created all kinds of schools of thinking and complex interpretations of various theological issues.
And the church has become more complex as well.
-years of traditions built one on top of another have made understanding what’s going on in church something that a good church goer must orient themselves to.
-church constitutions with bylaws and Robert’s Rules of Order with amendments to the amendments
-Books of worship that tell you how to properly do this ritual and that.
-doctrinal statements that you must line up with theologically
-and church calendar holidays throughout the year reflecting various liturgical seasons with which one has to be educated about.
And one can argue that they all have their place, but the bottom line is we have often fallen into the trap of the Scribes and Pharisees.
-we have once again made our Christianity way too complex a thing
-and it constantly tempts to focus on very minor issues in church life, rather than keeping our eyes on the big picture.
And it makes me wonder if Jesus came back today, if he would be pleased with what he sees in our churches, or whether he would say, “What happened to simply loving God and loving others?”
I recently read a book entitled “Simple Church”, which is addressing an interesting trend in American church culture today
-After some exhaustive research, what churches do you think are reaching America today most effectively
-the ones with complex structures and all kinds of different programs or those who have tried to simplify their vision and focus
-you got it – simple churches that have attempted to reduce things back to the basics of loving God and loving others are the growing churches in America today.
And it affirms something what we have been working at here at Forest Park for the last couple years, long before I came across this book.
-we have a three fold vision statement here at Forest Park that in many ways has attempted to simplify what the Christian life is all about
-what being a follower of Jesus, a disciple of Jesus is all about.
-do you know what our vision statement is?
-it’s in the bulletin every week, it’s on the screen every week.
-CTG, CTOA, CTW
A very simple statement that lays out Jesus mandate to love God, love others, and serve the world.
-that’s about as simple as we can make it when it comes to following Christ, of being a Christian.
-and we have tried to structure our ministry strategy and our encouragement to your our members around these three things.
To Connect to God – Worship, Prayer, Bible Study
To Connect to One Another – part of loving your neighbor
– ABFs, Small Groups, Ministry Teams
-if you haven’t found your ABF, you haven’t found your church yet.
-Do not forsake the gathering of yourselves 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.” Heb. 10:25
-the more evil our world gets; the farther away it moves from Biblical principles, the more we need the love and support of our fellow Christian brothers and sisters!
Interesting phenomena taking place in our culture today.
-Primary and Secondary relationships
-we need face to face gatherings
Connect to the World – the other part of loving your neighbor
-reaching out with the love of Jesus
-sharing your faith
-serving the less fortunate, trying to redeem the community one individual at a time
-why we encourage you to be involved in some type of ministry either in the church of in the community.
Our new members
-these three things to be committed to.
-come to church to Connect to God
-gather in an ABF for fellowship and mutual support
-serve in a ministry to show Christ’s love to the world.
In so doing we are trying to hang on to the reduction of Jesus – to love God, love others, and serve the world.
As we got to communion, think about the fact that this is how Jesus lived is life
-he connected to God in worship, prayer, knowing the scriptures
-he connected with others, having 12 close friends, and three special friends within the twelve
-and he connected to the world through his miracles of healing, and his preaching of the gospel.
As you take communion today, and commit yourself once again to being a follower of this same Jesus Christ, rededicate yourself to these three simple principles
-if we indeed but these as the central goals of our lives, we will change this community, and we will change the world.