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Family Value #2 | We Live Connected

Mission and Vision | Family Value  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Big Idea | God has connected us; therefore, we live connected.

God Has Connected Us (Romans 12:1-5)

I begin unpacking these first five verses by calling your attention to verse 4-5. There we read:
Romans 12:4–5 ESV
4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
We are one body. If you are a believer, if God has removed his wrath in Christ from over your head, if you are His child, then you are connected. You are a part. You do not get to choose to be a part of the body. Being connected is not a goal we are striving after. No, the church is connected by God in Christ. This is a reality. I used this quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer a few weeks ago, but it is worth repeating today:
“ Christian community is not an ideal we have to realize, but rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participate.”
We do not get to define our connectedness nor do we get to set the level of our connectedness. Being connected to the body is not a step along the way in the discipleship journey. God’s joining us to the body of believers is a reality. If God has connected you to Himself, He has connected you to His church. Disconnected Christians do not exist. You might be a weak member of the body. You might be a diseased member, or a rebellious member, but if you are united to God through Christ you are united; you are connected to the church, the body of which Christ is the head.
This connectedness cannot be undone. It is eternal. So convinced of this permanence, that the apostle John taught that if one whose life seemed extremely connected to the church, but who over time walked away from the church; we as Christians should not conclude that somehow he severed his fellowship but that the fellowship, true connectedness never actually existed.
Again I quote Bonhoeffer, who so concisely tells us what it means at least in part to be connected in Christ:
“It means… that from eternity we have been chosen in Jesus Christ, accepted in time, and united for eternity.”
God has connected you and I to each other, and He has connected us to the larger church. We are members of each other, not by our choosing, but by God’s choosing. Not by our work but by God’s work in Christ.

God Has Connected Us Purposefully

Have you ever stopped to consider the question, “Why did God create the church?” If we believe that God has connected us, then we can be assured that he did so for a reason. What is that reason? This question is of utmost importance. If we do not get this right, we are in danger of highjacking the purpose of the church to assign our own purpose.
Although the purpose behind God creating the church with all its many parts may be hinted at throughout this section of Paul’s letter, the clearest statement comes at the very end of the large section introduced in Romans 12:3-5. It come in the conclusion found in Romans 15:5-7:
Romans 15:5–7 ESV
5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
Do you see the purpose? The purpose is the glory of God. God has created the church so that He is glorified. We express this purpose in our mission statement with the phrase “so that Jesus may be known and worshipped.” God has created the church universal and the church local for this end to glorify God. To make jesus known and worshipped.

God Has Connected Us Organizationally

Romans 12:5–8 ESV
5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.
Here we find that God has organized the church. The church is not a random collection of disconnected individuals. Nor is it an assembly of similar folks. What we find in this text is that just like your human body, the church has many parts. Each one not only crafted by God, but also assigned a role. He has determined by His grace each man and woman’s gift. He has determined your place in the church, and He has in His wisdom determined how each part relates to the other. There is a divine strategy. There is a divine system of operation for the church. Each one of us has been equipped to contribute so that when we all operate as we are designed in cooperation with each other, the result is growth - not necessarily numerical growth, but growth into maturity. Paul speaks of this in chapter 14
Romans 14:18–19 ESV
18 Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.
And he states it even more precisely in his letter to the church at Ephesus.
Ephesians 4:15–16 ESV
15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Do you see? God has so designed and organized the church so that as it works together in unity serving one another according to each individuals design and function, the church grows from infancy into maturity.
How about you? Are you gifted in any of these ways:
Are you gifted to understand God’s Word? Share God’s message with us; Are you gifted to serve? Serve! Are you gifted to teach? Then by all means teach!; Are you gifted to exhort? Then go urge others to faithfulness. Are you gifted with resources to contribute? Then do so generously! Are you gifted to lead in the accomplishment of tasks? Then help us organize and go accomplish tasks! Are you gifted with a compassionate heart for those who are in need? Then help us go do acts of mercy! God has organized one body out of many purposefully and diversely gifted members.

God Has Connected Us Deeply

Romans 12:9–13 ESV
9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
Do you notice the language in this text? Listen to these words Paul uses:
Love
Abhor
Affection
Honor
Zeal
Fervent
Rejoice
Hospitable
These words speak to something deeper than outward service. They speak to something beyond or deeper than the organization of people. We see hear that the church it not just structurally connected. In addition to the structure, they have an inner life.
The example of the body perfectly captures this. You and I each have a physical body. We are made up of many visible parts. These parts are seen. They are tangible. We can touch them. They look different, yet they operate together in an organized and strategic way.
At the same time, we know that you are more than the organization of many parts. There is a life inside you. Behind the physical is a mind and a heart. There is a way of thinking and flow of desires and passions that animate, motivate, and direct the movement of all the parts.
God has connected the church at such a deep level that they share mutual love and affection. Together, they find evil to be abhorrent. Together they esteem one another. They are zealous for good works they don’t just do them. They possess a deep care and concern for outsiders that moves them to hospitably open their homes to welcome strangers.

So, We Live Connected

Since God has connected us. He has assembled us; therefore, we live connected. By the phrase “we live connected...” we acknowledge that our connectedness is both a reality created by God and responsibility assigned by God. As a reality, it is to be accepted and believed to be true. We are indeed connected. Our lives our connected. As a responsibility, the connected life is to be pursued and lived out. We do not mean that we are to attach ourselves to the church, for if God has saved us we are now already attached. We are saying that the conviction that God has connected us compels us to live in such a way that benefits rather than harms both ourselves and the rest of the body to which we belong.

We Live Connected by Pursuing Christ

Romans 12:3-15:7 instructs the church as it lives together in this world. The foundation for such instructions is found in Romans 12:1
Romans 12:1 ESV
1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
When Paul wanted to encourage the church to live together in love as a unified and connected whole, he called their attention to the gospel - to the good news that God has fulfilled all of His promises through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Paul took the church of Roman on a deep dive into the mystery of the gospel in Romans 1-11 with the full expectation that there in the news that Jesus has secured our good before God by satisfying God’s just wrath the believer would be prepped for living connected - for living in harmony for the glory of God.
The gospel of Jesus is effective in bringing about Christian community because it renews the mind of the believer. Paul tells us over and over again that men are corrupt. They are depraved at the level of the mind and the heart. Men have a mind hostile to God. It cannot submit to God’s law.
What is God’s Law? Is it not to love the Lord your God with all your heart soul and mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself? Paul reminds us of this much Romans 13:8-10.
Romans 13:8–10 ESV
8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
Paul understood that the church could not be the connected community God designed unless their minds were renewed, and he believed that men’s minds are renewed as they behold the glory of God as displayed in the good news of Jesus. This is exactly what he is getting at in Romans 12:2
Romans 12:2 ESV
2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
You are being conformed by the world to think like the world, or you are being renewed in your thinking. The thinking of the world breeds division and hostility. It leads to fractions and isolation. The new thinking brought about by knowing and experiencing Christ yields unity and love.
Therefore, if Christ Fellowship truly desires to live connected. If we desire to be a countercultural community in a context where division, hostility, rivalry, and should I even say hatred seems to infect almost every arena of social life, then we must be a community that continually pursues Christ, for it is in the presence of Christ that our minds are renewed and love for God and for each other becomes possible.

We Live Connected with Humility

The gospel contains power as we saw last week in our first family value. One is affected by the gospel. These affects enable the christians to live in harmony, so that the body is not at war but at peace. The first effect we find is humility. We see this in Romans 12:3.
Romans 12:3 ESV
3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
As we have seen, Paul believed that transformation came through the renewal of one’s thinking. The renewal comes as we meditate on the gospel of Jesus. Now, Paul identifies one way in which the Christian’s mind is renewed. The Christian begins to think less of himself. He stops attributing more significance to himself than he should. In other words the gospel kills our pride.
One of my favorite preachers helped me understand that the gospel conquers our pride by first showing us ourselves and then by showing us others.
Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones says it like this:
The first thing the cross does is to show us to ourselves. of course, we always defend ourselves, do we not? it isn’t my fault, we say, it is his. If only he understood… It is always somebody else, is it not? We are never wrong, we are very wonderful, if only we coudl be understood. The trouble is people do not understand us. We are all people of peace. None of us wants to quarrel with anybody, we are not jealous, or envious, we are not quarrelsome. It is always somebody else, always that other person. Do you know what the gospel does? What the cross does? It shows you to yourself. And nothing else in the whole world does that but the cross. There is nothing that will ever humble a man or a nation but the cross of Christ.
The cross reveals something very offensive to our pride. The gospel comes to us declaring you cannot save yourself. It comes exclaiming that you are weak and sick, that you are corrupt and evil, that you are guilty and damned. The gospel contradicts what your natural mind like to think, it says, you are not righteous and you cannot become righteous on your own. The gospel reveals to the Christians - to the church - that thinks “I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing” that they are actually “wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” The cross strips us bear. It humbles us. And by humbly us it makes living harmoniously possible. In the gospel God reconciled us to God and to each other. We are indeed connected. In the gospel we also find the means, the power, to live as a unit. To live harmoniously. For, in the gospel the division producing pride is crushed.
In the gospel our pride is also crushed as we begin to see other correctly. Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones makes this point as well:
The cross shows me that these other people also are souls, that it does not matter what the colour of their skin is, or whether they are wealthy or poor, whether they are very learned or very ignorant. It does not matter whether they are very powerful or very weak, they are souls. They are mean and women, like me, made originally in the image of God, and standing before God in all the dignity of human nature. But why do they behave as they ? That is the question, and before I myself was humbled, I never went beyond that. I said, “it is because they are wrong. I am right and they are wrong.” I have now seen that I am wrong, altogether wrong, but what of them? Ah, now I am enabled to see them in a new way. They are the victims of the devil even as I was. It is that the devil is controlling them, and as I see this I begin to pity them. In other words, what the cross does is to make us both see ourselves exactly as we are and the moment that happens we see that there is no difference at all between us.
Only with a humble mind will we live connected. Only when we see ourselves in light of the cross will Christian community be possible. All the division, all the factions within the church, all the broken relationship, all the acts of kindness and service left undone, they all connect back to pride. To considering ourselves more highly than we ought. To rank our felt needs above others, to assume our rightness over the rightness of those with whom we disagree. Pride leaves the individual cold, hard, and isolated while leaving the community fractured, segmented and dismembered. How do we live harmoniously as connected members of Christ’s body? We do so clothed in humility, a humility draped on us as we sit and behold Christ together.

We Live Connected by Organizing and Strategizing

There is a movement gaining popularity that has spurned the organizing and the strategizing of the church. They detest the structure. They prefer to huddle in small groups and talk about the Scriptures. There is no formal authority. They is no preaching. There is no organizing and planning and structure. There are no programs. There is this idea that the church is suppose to just “do life together.”
With Covid-19 really reducing the level of organizing and structure a church can provide, many have been left wondering if it is necessary. Do we need church buildings, children’s ministries, serve teams, and the like. Can the church just not gather in pockets for prayer and encouragement? Does a believer really need the church as an organization?
I must admit that at times in my past I wrestled with this question, as I too became tired of the hustle and bustle of church. However, while I do admit that if we are not careful the organizing and the strategizing can become the wrongful end, I am convinced that to be the connected community God intends us to be there must be a certain level of organizing and strategizing. I believe there are at least a few reasons.
We are one made of many. The image of a body to picture the church suggests a level of organizing, does it not? Are you not thankful God did not put your eyes on your big toes, and your fingers on your knees? Are you grate that your hips are located at the waist and not at the neck? Yes diversity is great, but simply to have a bunch of various parts that are not assembled in an organized way will yield nothing beyond diversity. We believe that God has provided everything Christ Fellowship needs to glorify God and progress each of us toward maturity. We also believe that if the individual parts are not assembled and organized so that they might function in relation to the whole , then the potential is greatly hindered.
We are more than organization and structure. We are a connected community that knows love, affection, and zeal. But how do these things manifest themselves? Is it not through the individual members interacting harmoniously? It is true that church can become more characterized by its organizing, strategizing, and acting than it can for its love. But when organization and structure are used correctly they serve as the vessels through which love runs to each member? Awhile back I read a great book I recommend to you called the Trellis and the Vine. In it, the author shares how the church - the people - is a vine. It is a living organism. It must be watered, pruned, and nurtured. If it is not well kept it will die. It is also true that vines benefit from have a trellis. A structure on which the vine might grow and spread. The trellis is a different can of work, and it possesses no life. The point of the trellis is to support and display the vine in all its beauty. The trellis when properly used aids in the health of the vine while also the beauty of the vine is maximally seen and enjoyed.
We desire to create an organized and strategic structure for ministry so that the love we trust God is producing in your heart through the preaching of the gospel might be manifested in acts of service to the church and world. Like blood vessels which carry oxygen to every cell in the body, so we hope that every thing we do aids in carrying the love of Jesus to each of you. We want you to experience Christ, and God’s way of dealing with you is through his people. We trust God has given you a heart of hospitality, so we desire to give you strategic and organized ways to be hospitable. We trust God has blessed some of us with great financial resources and a generous heart! So, we want to provide you with needs that need to be met! We know God has equipped you with a gift to serve, and we want to give you the tracks on which to run!

We Live Connect by Reserving Judgement

Romans 14:10 ESV
10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God;

We Live Connected by Bearing with the Weak

Romans 15:1–2 ESV
1 We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.

We Live Connected by Hope

Romans 15:3–7 ESV
3 For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” 4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. 5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
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