Faithlife Sermons

Love Community.

Our Goal Is Love  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  49:00
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The love God has shown us can't stop with our family and our church. How can we love our community well? Find four admonitions for loving the community from this week's message.

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This marks the sixth week we have been looking at what we are describing as our core values.
The sheets you have been given lay out for us a clearer picture of what we are aiming for as a church. We know that there are more nuances to what it means to follow Jesus than we can put in a few bullet points, but these summary statements will help us move in the right direction.
By way of review, what is our key verse?
Thus far, we have seen that our goal is love for God and others in our family, church, community, and world.
We defined that love as a sacrificial response to and concern for another individual. We also said that our love is only a reaction and response to the love God has for us.
We have specifically arranged these in order of priority. We start with loving God before and above anything else, which involves everything we are and everything we have, as we see that we are called to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. We also see that we are called to love others by noticing, caring, and investing in their lives.
That love then pours out into our homes and our families as we look out for their physical, emotional, and especially their spiritual needs.
From there, we broaden out another level to loving our church family, where we learned, in part, that loving our church means spending time with and challenging each other to grow in Christ.
Jesus specifically said that the love we have for each other as believers is one of the clearest signs to the outside world that we have been changed by Him.
This morning, we shift again and move one more layer out. If you remember when we looked at the story of the Good Samaritan, we saw that we are called to love anyone and everyone around us.
Although our love for our church family is critical, it cannot stop with those within these four walls; we have to love those around us who are not yet believers.
That’s why, this morning, we acknowledge that part of our goal is that we would love our community.
What I am about to say shouldn’t surprise anyone here: Do you realize that the majority of people in Christiansburg, Blacksburg, Montgomery County, and the NRV likely don’t have a genuine relationship with Christ?
In findings released in April 2015, the Barna Group found that only 2 out of every 5 Americans say they have confessed their sinfulness and professed faith in Christ.[1]
Although that is now 3 years old, I haven’t seen a sweeping movement of God in revival that seems to change that.
Here’s how to put that into perspective. Next time you are out at a restaurant or the mall, start counting. First two people you see, mentally right “Saved” on their forehead. For the next three, put “Lost”. I know you don’t know them and you don’t know their heart; this is just for illustration.
Go around the room, and let it break your heart. See the husbands and wives and teenagers and older adults, and recognize that at least 3/5 of them are destined for a real place called hell if they don’t get saved.
How are they going to know about Christ? How will they know that they have sinned against a holy and loving God and are dead in their sins?
How will they know that they are on the wrong track and that Jesus has died to provide them the hope and the peace and they desperately need?
The only way our community will come to know Jesus is if we love them enough to tell them.
If we are going to see God bring us to reach our goal of love, then we must be loving our community.
Here’s how we have articulated that in our core values:
We pursue opportunities to join Christ at work in the lives around us. ()
We tell others about Jesus with a sense of urgency. (; )
We seek the good of our community as we work with and develop relationships with those outside the church through any means, including work, hobbies, and volunteer opportunities. (; ; )
We have a great example of this in Scripture, and that’s what we want to look at today.
Guys, to be honest, I believe this is one of our greatest challenges as a church. We gather weekly to express our love for God, we are putting structures in place to help families, and we have even taken the Gospel around the world last year through our work in Zimbabwe.
Yet, on the whole, we really have not engaged those around us in the hopes that we will see them come to Christ.
When was the last time we saw someone over the age of 18 come to faith in Christ?
Although we recently had the privilege of baptizing several people, they were either children and youth or had made previous decisions to follow Christ.
We rejoice when anyone comes to faith in Christ, but if 3/5s of the people walking around us may not know Jesus, then shouldn’t we see more people coming to know Jesus in their 20s, 30s, 40s, and beyond?
When was the last time you or I even shared our faith with someone whose salvation we weren’t sure about?
Maybe you think that is someone else’s job, and they must be doing it, right? Let’s ask this question: when was the last time someone tried to share the Gospel with you?
If no one is sharing with you, and you aren’t sharing the Gospel, then who is?
That’s why we need to look this morning at one example of how God worked in lives of believers who have gone before us to draw out some ideas of what He wants us to do.
Turn in your Bibles to .
Here, we have both examples to follow and commands to obey as we hear Paul talk about his ministry and also as he encourages the church at Colossae to engage their community.
Although Paul and the church at Colossae were in different places with different challenges, their goal was still to show those around them that Jesus came to save.
Read the passage with me…
I want us to draw four principles this morning out of this passage that will help us to love our community.
They are not necessarily finessed, but that is the point.
Loving others doesn’t have to be complicated or even programmatic. In fact, we love our community best when we start as individuals and families where we are and build from there.
Before we begin looking to reach out, we have to start where Paul starts:
If you are going to love your community, you must…

1) Devote yourself to prayer.

Look again at verse 2
If you are critiquing my sermon writing today, you might be tempted to dock points for lack of creativity.
To be honest, I couldn’t think of a better way to say what needs to be said here.
I thought about saying, “Begin with prayer”, but that gave the wrong impression.
We have such a tendency to underemphasize prayer.
In a world that marks success by how many widgets we make in an hour, prayer is horribly inefficient.
Often, it feels like our prayers are simply bouncing off the ceiling or we never see them answered that we give up.
Sometimes, we start praying for something, it starts to work out, so we think we can handle it from here and we quit praying.
That’s not what Paul is calling us to…Instead, he is calling us to a lifetime of prayer.
Why?
As Dr. Jerry Falwell Sr. used to say,
“Nothing of eternal significance is ever accomplished apart from prayer.”
Prayer is essentially acknowledged helplessness.
It is coming before God and saying, “I don’t know what is best. I am not strong enough to do what you are asking me to do. I need You to do it because I can’t.”
Paul said we are to be devoted to a life of prayer. The ESV translates it as saying, “Continue steadfastly in prayer.”
The picture is ongoing, life-altering talks with God about who He is and who we are and what is wrong in our world and how He wants to use us to reconcile the world to Himself.
Does that characterize you and me and our church? If not, we will never be able to love our community well.
Although our devotion to prayer is more than simply praying for our community, it certainly includes it!
We will not love our community like Jesus does if we are not asking God to show us how.
We all have too much going on in our lives, are too tired, are too scared, are too sinful, whatever, to do this on our own.
Did you notice that there were more qualifiers here?
We have to stay alert as we pray!
We will miss what God is doing around us if we don’t stay alert, watching for Him to show us whose hearts He is drawing and what doors we have open to honor Him.
We will fall into temptation and get sidetracked if we aren’t watching for how Satan is trying to disrupt the work of God.
Not only that, but we need to pray with thanksgiving, acknowledging that God is always at work, even through the most difficult situations we face.
If you and I are going to consistently love our community the way God calls us, we will first have to devote ourselves to prayer.
Then, as we see God working in the lives around us, we must…

2) Talk about Jesus.

Read verses 3-4 again.
Did you notice what Paul was asking them to pray? He made two requests.
First, he asked the Colossians to join him in praying that God would give him an open opportunity to proclaim the Gospel.
You and I desperately need God to give that to us. Our world is growing increasingly hostile to the things of God, and yet we need the truth that Jesus died for our sins and rose from the grave to show that He had overcome death itself more than ever!
As you pray for your community, pray that God would open up opportunities for you to share your faith.
You may be amazed at who God puts around you when He starts opening doors.
In the heat of the debate over fetal stem cell research, I had the opportunity to share the Gospel with a woman who worked in the provost’s office of one of the nation’s leading universities in stem cell research. I was able to explain to her why we are pro-life, believing that God creates each person for a relationship with Him. Although she didn’t receive Christ that day, it was an open door I could never have found on my own. Had I walked into her office, I would never have been given the time of day. However, God opened the door by putting her next to me on a plane on the way home from a friend’s wedding! Only He knows what He did with that.
Are you looking for opportunities around you? Are you asking God to give you a waiter who may be slower because his whole world is falling apart and he needs the Gospel?
Are you asking God which cashier needs you to befriend them or what organization you should be a part of so you can be around people who need Jesus?
Paul asked for open doors, and part of loving our community is looking for opportunities to step in with the love of Christ.
The second request follows. In verse 4, Paul says we need to pray that we will be able to make the Gospel clear.
We know that we are not the ones who save anyone:
John 6:44 CSB
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day.
“No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day. (, CSB)
However, we need to ask God to give us wisdom on how to present the Gospel in a clear, straightforward way.
Every situation is different, and a presentation that worked well once may not work well another time.
That’s why we need God to give us wisdom in how to talk about Jesus.
If you need help getting started, I would encourage you to learn at least one way to share the Gospel. God will change it and shape it and you will never say the same thing twice, but it is good to have a starting point.
By the way, don’t miss this: We cannot say we are loving our community if we aren’t talking about Jesus.
There are a ton of great organizations out there who are helping out people who have limited resources or extra needs, and we should do that as well.
But, if we stop short and don’t tell people the ultimate solution to their deepest needs, we haven’t really loved them.
You may have heard the quote, “Share the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.”
I understand the sentiment, but I am going to tell you, it is false.
Paul didn’t pray for himself to be nice to people; he prayed that God would give him an opportunity to share the Gospel.
If that comes through a random act of kindness or a community service project, then great! However, all those acts must be a part of looking for open doors to proclaim the Gospel.
That’s why Paul continues by telling the Colossians:

3) Use every opportunity.

Read verse 5 again.
The word “act” is actually the word “walk”.
If you notice, our emphasis this morning has not been on loving our community by having evangelistic meetings or a Tuesday night visitation program, although those have their place.
Instead, we are praying that you would love your slice of the community and that I would love my slice of the community and we would find creative ways to build relationships with those who don’t know Jesus and that every one of us would continuously share Jesus as we walk through every aspect of life.
That’s what the point is: we are making the most of every opportunity.
Every shopping trip, every doctor’s visit, every trip to the Farmer’s Market, every day at work, every service call by a repairman, every interaction with a neighbor, every haircut and every meal out is an opportunity to engage with someone who may not have a genuine relationship with Christ.
Think about it: you may be the only genuine Christian they know. You cannot assume that someone else loves them enough to point them to Jesus.
If 3/5 of the population doesn’t know Jesus, then there is a high likelihood there aren’t other believers on your street, at your job, or in your club.
God has put you there for a reason!
Cultivate every opportunity, because we don’t know how many we have!
The phrase here has the idea of “buying back the time”, because life is short and eternity is a long time!
“We have all eternity to celebrate our victories, but only a few short hours before sunset in which to win them.” (Robert Moffat or Amy Carmichael)
You and I have no idea how long we have until the sun sets for us, for those in our community, or for all of us when Jesus returns.
That’s why we have to be on the lookout for every single opportunity.
Returning to our words, we wrap up with this final admonition:

4) Watch your words.

Go over verse 6 again.
When we ask God to give us opportunities and we stay alert looking for them, we need to be careful about how we act, and especially how we react!
You can’t be a jerk to your waiter and expect to tell them about Jesus.
You treat people with dirt and then invite them into a relationship with God!
Instead, love your community enough to bear with uncomfortable situations and people so you can be ready to tell them the greatest truth in the world:
1 Peter 3:15 CSB
but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, ready at any time to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.
But in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, ready at any time to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. (, CSB)
God is always at work around you, and He is ready to open doors for you to love your community.
God is always at work around you, and He is ready to open doors for you to love your community.
It will be challenging, but if we are truly going to reach our goal of loving Him and others, we cannot miss out on opportunities to love those in our community.
Research cited: https://www.barna.org/barna-update/culture/714-what-do-americans-believe-about-jesus-5-popular-beliefs#.V0CmMJErLIU. Accessed 21 May 2016.
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