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Back to the Future Pt4 - The Community Church

Back to the Future - The Church: What We Are Meant to Be  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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The key to effective community is commitment to God, to each other, and to the people of our city.

Notes & Transcripts
Good morning.
We have come to the last segment in our Back to the Future series, and today is all about what it means to be a community church.
It is staggering to notice how many churches have the word, community, in their names, but their practice ignores community altogether.
Some churches try to engineer the perfect community. But that’s not a community church at all, that’s a community clique. And last I checked, we are not supposed to be Valley Community Baptist Clique.
Some churches try to attract people to an escape from the pressures of life. But that’s not a community church at all, that’s a community club. And last I checked, we are not supposed to be Valley Community Baptist Club.
We are supposed to be Valley Community Baptist Church.
The word church is the one that really defines who we are, and what we are supposed to be doing with our time and efforts.
And that definition has been previously established by God when He instituted the church as His ambassadors on earth more than 2000 years ago.
That means that if we are to call ourselves a “church”, and then a “community church” on top of that, that we are to reach our communities in Christ’s name, and adopt them into His community, i.e., His family, i.e. the church.
We started our Back to the Future journey looking at God’s primary purpose for establishing the church, which is that those who are called the church, i.e., Christians would proclaim the kingdom of God and the salvation of Jesus Christ wherever they are planted.
Next we looked at what it means to be a selfless church, since proclaiming salvation in Christ to people who are lost requires a selfless and humble posture before God.
Last week, we examined what it means to be a disciple-making church and how disciple-making is alot like parenting in that the things that are important that parents demonstrate and teach their children, are the same things that God wants believers to teach each other ().
And again, today, we are looking at what it means to be a community church.
And as a community church, we need to recognize that we are a community church in two ways:
1. We have our faith community. That is our church family. In two weeks, we are starting a series on how we are to treat and love one another as a church family, so we won’t go too much into that today, but nonetheless, this is one of two important aspects of biblical community.
2. We have our local community. This is our city. And again, we’ve been talking quite a bit about our primary mission as a church in reaching the lost and the broken and the needy in Bristol in Jesus’ Name.
The main point for today is this:
The Key to Being a True, Biblical Community Church is Commitment
Commitment of the individual believer to follow Jesus
Commitment of the individual believer to follow Jesus
Commitment of the family of believers to obey Jesus’ command of the Great Commission
Commitment of the family of believers to each other
As we approach Scripture this morning, we will be reading from and wherein the author of Hebrews gives us three essential steps of commitment that we need to make if we are going to truly be a community church, and not a club or a clique.
Lets pray as we come to God’s Word together.
Hebrews 10:19–25 ESV
19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
From here, we will skip down to the end of the chapter for the sake of time. But to summarize what the author is writing over the next 10 verses:
26-31, the author gives examples of professing Christians who show no fruit in their lives and suggests that they were not saved in the first place (if you hear the truth and deliberately go on sinning, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins). A believer will demonstrate spiritual fruit. A believer will not be sinless, but when they do sin, they won’t like it like they did before they knew Christ. No one can manipulate Christ into being obligated to save them by mere words and lip service. True repentance leads to faith in Jesus, and a lifetime trajectory of leaving sin behind and increasingly walking in the footsteps of Christ.
32-34, The author reminds the readers/hearers that they had endured tremendous persecution and suffering because of their faith in Christ, and urges them to continue to persevere in the faith, and not to become wary of Christ’s promises and/or give up on being there for each other.
And now we come to end of the chapter.
Hebrews 10:
Hebrews 10:35–39 ESV
35 Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. 37 For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; 38 but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” 39 But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.
Ok, let’s break this down.
As I said, the author of Hebrews gives us 3 steps of commitment that are necessary if we are to be a community church.
But just before the author gives those steps of commitment, he gives the reasons that should, in a believer, inspire and compel such commitment.
Reasons for Commitment
v19. We can approach God without fear of punishment for being in His Holy Presence.
This unrestricted access to God was made possible and secured through the blood of Christ that was shed on the cross.
v.20. The way to God is new and living
New because Jesus’ sacrifice created an entirely new situation before God. Living because the way to God is inextricably bound up with Christ Himself. The old way to God was not a direct route, but now because of Christ, we can come to God Himself. On the cross, Christ’s body was torn apart just like the veil over the holy of holies was torn apart. This actual event is also a symbol of the new way being torn into history for the sake and salvation of humanity.
v21. Our High Priest, Jesus, is sovereign over God’s House.
There is a new way to approach God. One in which we do not have to be afraid of punishment. And this way was made in and through Jesus Christ. And since Jesus Christ is sovereign over God’s House, we know we can trust what He says.
Why are these reasons for our commitment?
Because these reasons show that we are not committing to a temporary purpose, or momentary human cause or idea.
Inasmuch as commitment is the key to effective biblical community, lack of commitment is biblical community’s biggest hurdle among believers. And certainly in our day, the same is true. Far too many Christians are, if we are being honest, committed to ourselves, and we can attempt to use the church to accomplish our goals, instead of being a part of church so that God can use us to accomplish His.
But again, it is critical to notice that the author’s appeal and reasons for such commitment do not trace back to a pastor’s initiative, a political cause, or a ministry program. They all trace back to the author and perfecter of our faith, Jesus Christ.
We commit to God and to each other because of who He is, and because of His unchanging truth.
The 3 Essential Steps of Commitment
Let us draw near to God with sincere hearts (v.22)
In this verse, the author uses the word “heart” to summarize heart, soul, mind, and strength, like we talked about last week. We know from the word, “us,” that the author is identifying the church. And the author states that with our hearts sprinkled clean (i.e. salvation), and through our baptism (the symbolic ceremony of identifying with Christ in His death and resurrection. The public confession of our faith), it is, then, in full view of what Christ has done for us that we should draw near to God with deep sincerity. We are to draw near to God with our whole selves.
How many of us in this room draw near to God with only part of ourselves? You know, the part that we don’t mind God seeing, or the part that we don’t mind other people seeing? Or maybe we only draw near to God with the parts of ourselves that we trust Him with, and we withhold the rest? Or maybe we only draw near to God with the parts of ourselves that we are ok with Him using, and we leave out the parts of our lives that we don’t want Him to ask us to use for one reason or another?
Isn’t it amazing how so many of us have gifts and talents and skills and abilities, and yet how few of us use them with our church families for God’s purposes?
Teacher example?
The challenge in this step of commitment is this:
If we only bring part of ourselves near to God, it means that we are coming to Him insincerely.
Now, how effective can a community church be if its members are insincerely gathered?
We have got to be a people who draw all of ourselves near to God sincerely if we are going to be a truly biblical community church.
The second step of commitment is this:
We need to hold fast to the Hope of Christ that we profess (v.23)
You know, another amazing and staggering concept is the idea that many of us are more comforted by potential temporary results than by the guaranteed eternal promises of God.
We’ve heard of this idea before perhaps, when we hear messages or read articles about how Christians should not trust in circumstances or specific results, but should trust only on God.
So many of us get knocked off of our journeys of faith because life didn’t turn out the way that we planned it.
Because hardship came and sent us for a loop.
Because the relationships that were supposed to last, that were supposed to be sacred and loving were anything but.
And we despair. We wonder where God is, and what we did wrong.
The truth about this step of commitment is this:
God’s promises to fulfill His purposes, not our plans
Now, this does not mean that when we are hurting that we should just ignore the pain and move on. Sometimes we do need to take a time out. But, we also need to seek healing and restoration in Jesus Christ with our church family.
And church, I desperately want this to be true of us, that we would hold fast to the Hope of Christ that we profess.
That’s why, our first stop in terms of church-wide discipleship, is our Wednesday group, Spiritual Transformation.
Spiritual Transformation is more than a 10 week study, it is the start of journey of spiritual health and healing through renewed intimacy with Jesus Christ in the context of true biblical community. Each of the ten sessions contains different foundational truths that serve to open the spiritual eyes of the participants' hearts. With each session building upon the truths of the previous one, the participants are offered the opportunity to apply these truth to their relationship with God, and in so doing, experience healing and restoration in their own lives, support through community with other believers, and lasting peace and freedom in Jesus.
The Spiritual Transformation group begins Wednesday, Sept. 12 @ 6pm, and it will be held at The Bridge Community Church in Bristol. Childcare is provided.
Spiritual Transformation is a group name that I know is not altogether common in Baptistic circles. I assure you, however, that this is not an exercise of undisciplined charismaticism. The reason its called Spiritual Transformation is because all too often, in an effort to overcome the hurts, pains, and hangups in our lives, we assume, and we have also been taught in our churches that the answer is Behavioral Reformation. Change this and change that, and take the seven steps to some kind of nonsense and everything will be fine.
That’s a lie. And its discouraging. And you know that because you’re going though it.
Spiritual Transformation. Cleaning the inside of you, so that what overflows is also clean.
And the main spiritual goal through this journey is to learn a deeper and richer intimacy with Christ. Because the deeper our intimacy with Christ, the more vivid before our eyes is the Hope in Christ that we profess. And the more vivid our hope in Christ is before us, the better we can hold fast to it.
If you want to be a part of our Spiritual Transformation journey on Wednesday evenings, please sign up right after service today. And if you would rather be a part of a different group, or if you already have been going to a different group, we ask you to still register for that group. Please do not assume that we know you’re in a group just because you’ve been going to it already. Our available groups are noted at the Welcome Table and you can sign up for any of our small groups immediately after service.
And the third step of commitment is this:
Consider how to inspire each other to love and good works (v.24)
Christians are supposed to encourage and inspire each other to love. And the love being talked about here is agape love, or, sacrificial love. This is the love that Christ commands us to have for each other in . Jesus says if we agape, sacrificially, love each other, that is how the world will that we belong to Him. Sacrificial is unique, and it leaves its mark. This is a critical step of commitment for Christians and believers are to help each other attain it.
Why?
Well, this kind of love produces community activity, i.e., if we all are spurring each other onto love it stands to reason that we will love each other, and it stands to reason that we will want to share that love with a lost and dying world that does not have it. Sacrificial love is not a feeling it is an action that must be exercised, and such action cannot happen alone.
80% do nothing, 20% do everything. Does this inspire and encourage us to love?
Not only that, but the author of Hebrews follows up this step of commitment with a second sub-point by reminding Christians that we are not to give up meeting together.
And that makes sense.
How can we love each other if we are not together?
How can we serve each other if we have isolated ourselves from each other?
Its interesting.
We practice faith and hope alone, but not love.
I can have faith in Jesus in my closet by myself. I can rely on His Hope in my closet.
But I cannot love alone.
We cannot love alone.
And yet Jesus commands His church to love one another as He has loved us.
The Bible tells us that faith in Christ alone is what saves us.
The Bible tells us to cling to the Hope we have in Christ.
And Jesus commands us to love one another.
Perhaps it is not a coincidence that the first fruit of the Spirit is love.
Love is the basic first expression of believers, and it is the outward expression of our inward commitment to God.
How many churches are full of faith, but have not love?
How many churches talk all about the Hope of Christ for eternity, and yet are loveless?
1 Corinthians 13 ESV
1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Is not this who God wants us to be as the church?
And as we are obedient to God, and as we commit to each other, this will be true of us in increasing measure.
And what we must always remember, is that all of this that we have discussed and walked through together this month about our purpose and who we are as a church, is firmly rooted in the life-giving Gospel of Jesus Christ.
As a part of my study for this series, I spent alot of time digging through , which is the famous passage that describes how the early church treated each other, and I came to an observation about the power of the Gospel to transform a community.
In our daily lives, we are dedicated to protecting what we believe to be our most valuable commodities; time and money. It like the Eagles said in the greatest song of all time, “Take It to the Limit,” “you can spend all your time making money, and you can spend all your love making time.”
For the church, it seems that these days it is more difficult for believers to give more time or or money to the cause of Christ beyond what they can “afford.” As a result, many churches that experience fast growth have embraced the idea that asking people to give as little as possible is the best strategy for attracting people and keeping them coming to church every Sunday.
We see it all over. Appeals to spend just 5 minutes a day with Jesus. Just give 1% of your money. Just spend 1 hour a week at church. We present a Christian life that only costs a minimal amount, and can therefore be achieved not through sacrifice, but through our excess. And then, of course, when we do not have excess, we give ourselves an excuse.
But when I look at and how the early church was impacted by the Gospel, I see just the opposite. All the things, thoughts, and conventional wisdoms that might have limited people’s generosity and commitment were done away with. The barriers that people had built between them and a committed life of following Christ came down. In regards to time, the Bible literally says that the believers met together every day to worship in the temple, and then they went to each other’s houses to share meals. With respect to money, Acts tells us that the believers sold their possessions and gave to anyone who had need so that no one among them had need.
Do you see that? Everyone poured into everyone. All together. That’s how we are supposed to live and be as the church.
Too many Christians, for far too long, have tried to manufacture in their own lives, and in their churches what only the Gospel can produce. You cannot manufacture or manipulate God or anyone else to meet your needs any more than church leaders can manipulate you into genuine biblical community. Only the Gospel can accomplish that.
And that’s the point.
We cannot manufacture what only Gospel can produce. The relationship of time and money, for example, to the early church changed because the Gospel had restructured the motivations of their hearts and opened the floodgates of love for one another.
Where they were once guarded, they were now generous.
Where they were once restrictive, they were now lavish.
Their precious commodities of time and money became like the precious ointment and perfume of Mary which she broke and poured out onto the feet of Jesus. Nothing was a waste.
It is my prayer, and I do pray that it is your prayer too, that God and the Gospel will penetrate our hearts more and more so that we might treasure Jesus to the point that our time and earthly treasures find their home in the hearts and lives of our households and our church family.
When I think of a church that is what God wants it to be, that’s what I think of, and that’s what I want to be a part of, and I and my family are willing to make the necessary sacrifices to see that happen.
What about you?
____Pause for edit point__________
As we get set to close today, I want to bring your attention to the little handout of our ministry calendar.
You can see how we hope that we can balance our year of ministry so that we can grow effectively and serve each other and our city faithfully.
Each small group is expected, during their small group 8-10 week term, to find a way to serve the people of the city of Bristol. Additionally, each small group is expected to find way, if they are not already, to serve their brothers and sisters in Christ at Valley Bristol and I want to present to you two possibilities for that right now.
Now, if God prompts you to respond to one of these opportunities, I encourage you to share it with your small group when they start in a couple weeks, and see if you might also be able to serve with your friends. Serving Jesus with your posse is one of the true blessings of being a part of God’s family.
First up, Craig Hlavac.
Beginning immediately, even today, we need at least 3 people to commit to helping us set up and tear down our equipment on Sundays.
This commitment is from September-December.
All you have to do is come here to Greene Hills and set up the equipment, which will be here.
I want you to see that you’re not just serving the worship service, or some pastor’s idea, etc.
You’re loving and serving: Craig, his wife, his kids, each other.
If you are willing to commit to this, we want you to meet with Craig after today’s service, and he will get you the rest of the information that you need, and get you on the schedule.
As we go forward, there will be more opportunities for serving at Valley Bristol presented to you. We cannot settle for 20% of us doing all the work. We all need to grab a broom, so to speak. This is a critical part of loving each other, which is not suggested, but commanded by Jesus.
Next, we have an opportunity to serve the students of Bristol.
Bring music team up.
As the music team comes up, I want to introduce you to Sarah Mitchell.
Sarah Mitchell is the Community Communications Coordinator for the Bristol Public School system. She coordinates over 100 mentors and mentees, advocates for middle school robotics, outreaches to the community and raises funds for programs in the district. Outside of work, she volunteers with various veteran and military charities, the American Cancer Society, and is an arts advocate. She lives by the mantra of “Don’t say it; do it” – creativity, philanthropy, and providing opportunities to youth are what drive her to do what she does.
And Sarah is here to let us know of the vast opportunities to serve our city by serving the students of Bristol.
If Jesus is prompting you to step into this kind of service, you need to do two things:
Talk to Sarah after service today and get the info you need to follow up and get connected.
When our small groups start, share the opportunity with your group and see if anyone else would like to serve with you.
And now let’s stand together and respond to this truth in a song of praise as we wrap up our service today.
Let’s sing out together.
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