Faithlife Sermons

A Community On Fire

Gospel Community  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
0 ratings

Big Idea: This message speaks to our church that exists in a current cultural setting. We face a choice much like the church at Laodicea did. We can either be effective or we can make a statement. Being rich towards God makes an impact. Being rich in our own sight (which often comes from a sense of freedom, superiority, and security leads to death). In a climate where everyone wants to make a statement (to include churches) lets choose to make an impact. Life transformation towards seeing our economy and world through an eternal lens is what I am after.
I want to start today off addressing something that many churches were able to address months ago and walk through the fallout of. Months ago, we were not a church, nor were we in a position that we needed to address the issues currently facing our nation and the church. Many of you were at other churches or had not even moved into the area at the time when this issue was being addressed but I believe it of utmost importance that we address the things going on in our nation, especially when they have such a huge effect on the church.
I am of course talking about the new list of mandates that have come out here in the state of Washington regarding COVID-19 response. This is incredibly frustrating and is putting strain on an already bad situation…this is without a doubt.
Here is the deal… every single person in this room and even those watching online have their own personal perspective about this issue (trust me…as your pastor I hear all of them and believe it or not, I have my own thoughts and feelings I am constantly working through as well). I sympathize with all of you. We are all effected differently. For some, this season has been nothing more than a mild inconvenience and for that we are thankful. For some this is seen as an existential threat to our freedoms and is the start down a road that we will never recover from if we don’t act swiftly and boldly…and I completely understand those feelings. For others, however, this season has meant staring financial ruin dead in the eyes, the loss of a business or hours at work, or loss of a job completely. For some, this has been incredibly frightening (especially if you have experienced loss of a loved one) or if you have health concerns of your own that would put you in grave danger and for all of those cases we are here for you in any way that we can be and in as great of a capacity as we can be. Let it be known that we will practice what we preach and extend sacrificial generosity should the needs arise…we are here for you so please do not suffer in silence if you are in the latter category. Our church…just like every other church in the world is filled with every one of those viewpoints and even more that were not mentioned.
The current climate of our culture is based around an endless stream of narratives, agendas, and causes. Everyone wants to make a statement with the hope being that your statement is logical, witty, solid, undeniable, true, passive-aggressive enough to change the minds of others and therefore control the situation. This constant stream of narrative is literally all around us: from the pundits on the news, to the podcast/youtube/truck-cab theologians, to your social media, to the lady down the street you bump into at the mailbox, it will be around your thanksgiving table this year and if you spend more than two minutes talking with another human that has been alive during this time, you will likely hear their narrative as well. The problem is that when everyone is screaming their narrative, none of them matter. The problem is that for many Christians, we have bought a narrative first and went to the Bible for God’s stamp of approval second (if we have truly went there at all) instead of remaining separate from the world around us in this regard and developing a viewpoint based solely off of what the Bible has to say. Make no mistake, there is no shortage of creativity on man’s behalf when it comes to twisting the Bible to fit a narrative. This is nothing new in the church…take a stroll through history and look at the atrocities we are capable of when we buy the narrative of men and then go to Gods Word for approval. Countless wars have been fought and millions have died because of this.
In the words of a wise pastor, “You can make a statement, or you can make a difference.”
I can tell you in no uncertain terms that we are not here to make a statement. It is in our mission statement and has been since the beginning that we exist to help others orient their lives to Jesus, engage with others on the Journey, and live a life of IMPACT…liVe a life that actually makes a difference…not a statement.
Here is how we are going to do that as a church. This is not some solution that is half-cocked but is the result of much study, much council, and much prayer. Let me preface these solutions with the fact that they are going to rub every single one of us in the wrong way to some degree. What I have learned as I look in the Bible at others response to Jesus is that if you are actually following Jesus…He is going to rub you the wrong way. It isn’t called politely giving Jesus control of your life…it’s called dying to self so that Jesus can rule over every aspect of your life. And that death is often violent and is never comfortable. Jesus doesn’t fit neatly in the categories, causes, and narratives that we often like to imagine Him in. The Jesus of the Bible is incredibly disruptive to both the religious and the lost…perhaps especially the religious. I know at least something in this list will rub you the wrong way because I still struggle with this as well.
John 13:34–35 NASB95
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
And in case you think this just applies to loving other believers...
Mark 12:31 NASB95
“The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
And if there were any doubts in your mind...
Matthew 5:44–45 NASB95
“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
Love is not a good feeling towards others. Love, as seen in Jesus, is a willingness to do and to sacrifice anything for the good of another.
If we truly are operating from a position of love then what naturally follows is obedience.
John 14:15 NASB95
“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.
Now there are a million different things we could say about this. There are a multitude of different commandments that we need to be talking about and calling one another to as followers of Jesus. We aren’t talking about those things though…we are talking about our response to the mandates of the newest string of COVID restrictions. So in light of that, we are commanded to:
Hebrews 10:25 NASB95
not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
If the government showed up at our church next Sunday with pad locks and armed guards and threatened to shoot or drag off to jail anyone caught worshipping, our response would look like Daniel 3. Would we just come down here and say “move out of the way…don’t step on my rights…we are worshipping anyways?” I think our brothers and sisters in Christ in China and Afghanistan would say…not wise. This isn’t out of fear but out of wisdom and for the perpetuation of the gospel. I am not entirely sure what it would look like, but I think it would mean that we would operate like 60% of the Christian world has to…underground. It is not where we worship…but who we worship… and Jesus tells us that that worship happens in Spirit and Truth…not in a building.
But that isn’t happening. In fact, churches have been extended disproportionate favor when considered against any other entity that has a corporate gathering as its primary model. And so we will continue to assemble together. This may mean we have to be flexible and sacrifice for the sake of others but in no way does it mean we cannot or will not assemble together.
Obeying Jesus’ commandments also looks like:
Titus 2:15–3:2 NASB95
These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you. Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.
And if you want an expanded teaching on this, go read Paul’s words in Romans 13.
I don’t care what your thoughts and feelings are towards those in power (conservative or liberal) a base operating system of love and of obedience means that we recognize the authorities over us as put there by God. God erected good kings and bad kings all the time in the Bible and He used both to His will. In fact:
Proverbs 21:1 NASB95
The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes.
There are a lot of signatures on the bottom of our Declaration of Independence but Jesus Christ is not one of them. We have enjoyed an unprecedented level of freedom in this country and so I think we have to truly stop and ask ourselves how we have stewarded that to advance the kingdom. Because, if God decided to take it from us tomorrow and put us under the rule of an actual oppressive brutal dictator, He wouldn’t have done a single one of us any wrong. This isn’t an abdication of defeat, this is simply a realization of who is truly in charge. We live in Babylon. We may have come to give it the name America. It may have given us some incredible liberties…I have even went off to war to fight for this country…but at the end of the day it is still Babylon. To put our hope in Babylon is a bad place to be in (Read Rev. 19-21). No…we have our hope in Jesus and because we have our trust in Him we follow His commandments…right now that looks like holding Hebrews 10, Daniel 3, and Titus 3 and Romans 13 in tension. It looks like wearing a mask and abiding by the things we have been asked to but it also looks like worshipping together and being the church no matter what. It looks like respecting, not speaking badly of (that is what ‘to malign no one’ means) and being obedient to the authorities over us because God has put them there, He has a purpose for them, and He is ultimately sovereign over everything that is happening.
This isn’t a season we are just going to limp along until it is over and then come out of our den like a mother bear out of hibernation. God is at work. God is refining His church through fire and it is a process that you have an opportunity to participate in or not. God is growing us and leading us to maturity in Christ it is often painful…but you always have a choice if you are going to just have the pain or if you are going to also take the lesson away. God is at work in our community and in the hearts of those far from Him in some new and unique ways that He expects us to partner with Him in. If we are too busy fighting over these things though, Satan has won because we will have been rendered ineffective.
That is our response to the current issues facing our country and our church.
Now…on to our sermon.
Tell Disney World Sick story
Do you have any foods you can’t eat?
Something has to be pretty bad to invoke vomiting…(even for someone suffering from an eating disorder, there is a serious negative underlying stimulus that drives that action)
For Jesus to say, that something makes Him want to vomit…I think we should stop and take note. What’s more, the statement isn’t directed towards the unbelieving world. That is saying something too! When Jesus spoke these words that we are going to read today, Rome was at the height of their wickedness and sexual depravity (give coliseum example). What’s more, there were plenty of other churches that were engaging in many of the same things and yet Jesus reserves the language tied to such a horrible act as vomiting for a particular church.
We have been in this series...
Talk about what we are committing to today (give gospel roots for a couple) you are not committing to the outpost but to go back to the gospel and...
Now...A few weeks ago, we took a look at a case study about what can happen when a church lives out the principles of a Gospel Community and what it can lead to (briefly restate that example of the Ephesian Church). This week, I want us to look at the opposite end of that spectrum.
For the duration of this study, we have been calling you TO something (Unity, Mission, Service, etc.). There is so much ground to cover in those topics and judging by the length of some of those sermons, we could have easily doubled the length of this series. BUT, today, we are calling you OUT of something.
In our current Christian culture and Church climate…I think this is the biggest roadblock to actually being the Gospel Community we have been talking about.
Lets look in our Bibles to a church who had stumbled headlong into the roadblock to being a true Gospel community and what we can learn from them.
Turn in your Bibles to Revelation 3
Explain about the first few chapters of Revelation
Revelation 3:14 NASB95
“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this:
Angel just means messenger in this context.
The one who has been here since the beginning and is the final authority…the final word (amen) and is a trustworthy witness to your character has a word for you…
Tell about Laodicea:
Lyca Valley
Rich…like really rich
Like the city burned to the ground once and the second wealthiest family in Rome (who happened to live in Laodicea) just rebuilt the city with their own money.
Like they had an 8.0 magnitude earthquake in the region around Laodicea that devastated the entire region and when Rome sent out relief funds to help the cities rebuild, Laodicea said no thanks we got this. What city refuses government aid?!?
Think Dubai
The got rich because they sat at the heart of some major trade routes that had to run through the Lycas valley.
The got rich because they were a textile town. There was a rare black wool that was only found there in the mountain villages around Laodicea and everyone in Rome wanted clothing made of this particular wool.
Six miles to the north was Colossae - Book of Colossians & Cold mountain springs
Six miles to the northeast was Hierapolis - there were these mineral rich hot springs that came out of the sides of the mountains that calcified the sides of these cliffs and pooled up in the hot springs pools. Medical and spa capitol of Rome (think John’s Hopkins). There are actually some significant medical advances that came out of Hierapolis…specifically and eye salve made from the mineral rich hot springs.
Now…I know that sounds like a lot of just gee whiz information. I didn’t tell you all of because I needed to fill time in a sermon (I think we all know I don’t have any trouble doing that). All of those details are actually crucial to understanding what Jesus is saying to the church there at Laodicea.
Revelation 3:15–16 NASB95
‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. ‘So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.
Do the hot and cold mixture that coalesced there at Laodicea. They actually had to pump water in through an aquifer from a little town a few miles to the south of them.
Cold is good. Do cold milk and ding dong thing.
Hot is good. Do hot milk and hot chocolate thing.
Tell story about learning about lukewarm milk on the counter as a kid.
Cold water is effective at quenching thirst. It is good and refreshing.
Hot mineral rich water is an effective therapeutic and healing agent.
The lukewarm waters there in Laodicea were good for neither of those and had actually lost any of the effective properties of the cold springs or the mineral hot springs.
This is ultimately about effectiveness.
Remember I said a few weeks ago in our case study of the Ephesian church that they were an effective church. They were so effective that they disrupted the entire economic system of their city. They were so effective that they brought down one of the seven wonders of the ancient world (the pagan temple to Artemis).
Effective at what you might ask...
Effective at living as a church of unity. Perhaps they had lost their effectiveness at engaging in the mission of Jesus. Maybe they had stopped practicing the rhythms that promote healthy growing disciples. Or it could have been that they had become ineffective in their service to one another or in their generosity. Perhaps they had become stagnated in their prayer and in their worship. The passage doesn’t actually say…and I think that’s the point.
Our ineffectiveness can work itself out in a number of different ways.
A lukewarm church is an ineffective church.
And because a church is a collection of people, a lukewarm christian is an ineffective christian.
Again, though, Jesus doesn’t tell us what this ineffectiveness looks like and that is kind of the point. It is their ineffectiveness that makes him want to vomit but Jesus actually points the Laodicean believers to the actual source of their ineffectiveness.
Revelation 3:17 NASB95
‘Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked,
The Laodicean believers definitely were wealthy. Incredibly wealthy. Being wealthy isn’t the issue here…it is in putting faith and a hope in that wealth that should only be reserved for Jesus alone. Did you notice how they said they had need of nothing? This was idolatry. To see the source of their ineffectiveness we just have to contrast the picture we get here of the Laodicean church with that of the Ephesian church. The Ephesian church was above all else fiercely commited to Jesus. So much so that they come together to burn their books of magic that totaled several million dollars in today's estimate. They were so committed to Jesus that they completely devastated the idol makers guilds buisenesses because they came to realize that a god made by human hands is no god at all and is not worth our loyalty or worth putting our faith and hope in.
A lukewarm Christian has claimed the banner of Jesus but has actually placed their hope in the gods of their own making.
By that right....
A lukewarm Christian in an oxymoron.
There is no such thing as a lukewarm Christian.
There are plenty of sins that we all fall prey to. But there is no bait quite as effective as that of riches, comfort, and status that have ensnared the majority of Christians in our culture today.
Do ‘a lukewarm christian’ vs. ‘an effective christian’
It is the riches of financial wealth
It is the riches of freedom and liberty
“It doesn’t matter what you cover our face with, you can never mask our worship because it proceeds out of spirit and truth.”
It is the riches of comfort - TIE TO MISSIONS
It is the riches of status and a platform - TIE TO WORSHIP - TIE TO HUMILITY AND BEING A LIVING EXAMPLE OF A SERVANT
Did you notice the worst part…they didn’t even realize how they were actually wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.
And so he says:
Revelation 3:18 NASB95
I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.
Exegete -
Gold refined by fire - the testing of our faith that produces godly character and causes us to see the world the way He does.
White garments - This is a repeated theme in revelation and is indicitave of those who are truly following Jesus. Meaning that
Let me give you how verses 17 & 18 could have read:
“You are rich, and have become wealthy because of the gifts of the Father and his blessings. Because of how you have stewarded what I have given you, you have become rich with gold refined by the fires of your suffering and the testing of your faith that comes through a life lived for the sake of My kingdom. You now stand clothed in pure white garments that I have given you because you have placed your faith in me and I have removed the shame of your nakedness. This is evident by how you have stewarded all that I have given you. You have done all of this because you have submitted yourself to My Word which has acted like a salve that gives you true sight…eternal sight.”
But that’s not how it reads and so Jesus says:
Revelation 3:19 NASB95
‘Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.
That isn’t your story church. That isn’t your story believer but it can be and I love you too much to not call you out of this. Outpost (myself included) I love you too much to not call this out in us and call us out of it.
Revelation 3:20 NASB95
‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.
This is an invitation...
To the lost
To the one needing baptism
To the believer
Revelation 3:21 NASB95
‘He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.
READ THIS AGAIN and exegete…This is what we stand to gain
Revelation 3:22 NASB95
‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ ”
Give invitation and commitment opportunity. Give a few minutes to pray silently then pray over all of these areas.
Related Media
Related Sermons