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“Connections” Friend and Neighbour Sunday September 9th 2012 John 13:35 Page 1675 Objects: Puzzle, Spaghetti, and a Phone Book Who here likes puzzles? What do you like about them? Which piece is most important? Is it easy to make all of the connections so that it turns out like the maker of the puzzle intended? What would happen if you went to do the puzzle and half of the pieces did not show up? Building puzzles is all about making connections. There is a sense that the Church is like a puzzle with us making connection so that we form an image of Jesus. Today we will be thinking about God’s call for us to be connected to one another and to Him. God made us to be social beings and connections are important. As humans we do not do well in isolation. Not all of us need or desire the same level of connections but we do need to be connected to others in families, friendships, cities, civilizations, and in congregations of believers. It would be odd and challenging for us to all live our lives as hermits but many people try to live their faith in isolation. The idea that our personal faith is lived without connection to others is in direct opposition to God’s plan. On August 29th I received a devotional in my e-mail from Rick Warren that became the seed of today’s sermon. He called it: A Church Family Identifies You As a Believer (August 29th 2012) by Rick Warren “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35) I have taken that devotional and reworked it to add in other passages and concepts; as well as a few objects, to help us consider our connections. The Bible says a Christian without a church home is like an organ without a body, a sheep without a flock, or a child without a family. It is an unnatural state. Ephesians 2:19-20 says, “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.” Today’s culture of independent individualism has created many spiritual orphans — “bunny believers” who hop around from one church to another without any identity, accountability, or commitment. Many believe it is possible to be a “good Christian” without joining (or even attending) a local church, but God would strongly disagree. The church is so significant that Jesus died on the cross for it: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” (Ephesians 5:25-27). Except for a few important exceptions referring to all believers throughout history, almost every time the word “church” is used in the Bible it refers to a local, visible congregation. The New Testament assumes membership in a local congregation. The Greek word that is translated “church” is ekklesia – “the called out” which assumes a group. The NT letters were written to groups of believers who met in cities or even provinces. We have the letter to Rome, Corinth, Ephesus, Colossians, and even when Paul writes to Timothy and Titus it is about how to minister to the group. Revelation chapters 2-3 records God’s message to seven churches showing that he knows, and pays attention, to the good and bad things that are going on within the group. There is strength in connecting to others. OBJECTS: Spaghetti and Phone Book! Does anyone here want to try and rip this phone book apart as one unit? If you were to break it apart how would you go about it? Have you noticed that Satan uses the same tactic? He divides to conquer so we need to be aware of when we are being pulled away and losing our connections. God’s plan is that the saved and the unsaved would gather together to make connections so that they could share strengths and weaknesses and form a better representation of Jesus than any one person, or family. The reasons for God wanting us to connect are multiple with some of them being practical like sharing physical resources and others being spiritual so that we can watch over one another and encourage one another. The problem with the church, however, is that it is full of sinners who are in the process of being transformed so it can be tough to connect to other sinners. It can be tough but it is necessary. A church family identifies you as a genuine believer. I can’t claim to follow Christ if I’m not committed to any specific group of disciples. Jesus said, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” (John 13:35). The “one another” aspect is important and in the NT there are over 50 references in the New Testament about how we are to relate to "one another." Most of these passages address our behavior, not just our attitudes. In the sermon series that we did last year we looked at God’s call for us to submit to one another, commit to one another, instruct one another, live in harmony with one another, love one another, and the passages that tell us the things to not do to one another. When we come together in love as a church family from different backgrounds, races, and social statuses, it is also a witness to the world Galatians 3:26-28 on page 1813 says it this way: You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek , slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. When we are connected to Christ through baptism we are connected to one another but we must choose to honor that connection in our choices and actions. WE are ONE and God wants to lead us as a group… “To the church in Vernon I write…” Talk About It To what level are you connected to this congregation? You are identified as a believer not just by your church membership or attendance but also by your involvement. How are you serving your church family and community in ministry? Conclusion: We are a unit globally and locally. We need you and you need us. Satan is always working at division while God is a God of relationship. Connecting to other members helps you, and it helps us be a more complete picture of Jesus to our community. Taking It Home: Consider your current connections. Pray about who needs your connection. Consider how you use your talents to help others – how do you share your strength? Connect to a Life Group small group. Keep Christ #1 and watch for how Satan tries to encourage separation – physically, mentally, and socially, and spiritually. Practice hospitality this week!
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