– video “The Mission of the Church Matters”
– As we begin 2011 I will be sharing several messages about God’s vision for His church. Last week we were reminded that the same passion and focus that individuals have for sports, is a secular condemnation for the believer’s passion and focus on things of eternity. Christians are to take seriously their calling and purpose.
EXAMINE Jeremiah 29:1-14
In this passage, the prophet Jeremiah writes a letter to his fellow countrymen of Judah. They were exiled into Babylon. God led King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon to conquer Judah because of their rebellious sin against Him. Judah was to spend 70+ years in exile yet they assumed God would automatically deliver them from the Babylonians. The reality was, God had a different plan and the prophet Jeremiah wrote them a letter to bring clarity to their present purpose.
What is God’s plan for believers, living in the midst of an ungodly, secular society? This passage will give us 3 principles for God’s people to fulfill His plan and mission.
God calls believers to live among the city (29:1-6).
Jeremiah reminded Judah that it was God who sent them to Babylon. Therefore, there were some lessons needing to be learned before they were to be removed from exile. He told them to stop looking for escape and to engage their present world. In other words, they were going to be in Babylon for a while and it was their role to live among the city as God’s people.
- Build houses, live, plant gardens, eat produce
- Marry, raise children and families
- Identify with the people and become a stakeholder of the city
Babylon was a pagan city and is still illustrative today of places that are self-indulgent, pleasure seekers of lust. In fact, this area is modern Iraq led by the former Saddam Hussein who often imaged himself as the great King Nebuchadnezzar. It is a place of spiritual dryness in need of hope.
Many Christians retreat from “Babylonian” secular society. They create holy huddles or Christian ghetto sub-cultures in order to have “safe” places filled with people who think, believe and behave only like they do. It’s a bomb shelter mentality. HOWEVER, God tells His people to stop trying to escape and to engage their Babylon. Christians are to live among secular cities in effort to become God’s help and hope to others. In doing so, Christians become missionaries to their cities and reflect the Lord Jesus who became a missionary to a secular world through the incarnation. Churches are to have an incarnational ministry.
- Christians & Culture
- Reject: things incompatible with godly values; ex. homosexuality, abortion, porn, etc.
- Receive: things of common grace and good; ex. intelligence, innovation, medicine, etc.
- Redeem: things morally neutral but culture has corrupted; ex. technology, sex, etc.
- But note, Christians are to live among secular society not as secular society. In other words, rather than being changed by society Christians seek to transform society with Christ’s truth and grace.
- Do you know neighbors and do they know you’re a Christian?
- Does your marriage honor God or reflect Hollywood?
- Are you growing godly generations or cycles of broken generations?
God calls believers to love the city (29:8).
Jeremiah instructed Judah to seek the welfare of the city and to pray on its behalf. This was a striking to what the people expected to hear from the Lord. Praying for enemies was foreign to them, however, it was not foreign to the Scriptures. God had always called His children to be a light to the nations (cf. Gen 12:1-3; et al.). The idea was for God’s people to be a blessing to the city not a burden.
Likewise, Christians and churches are to love their communities. Cities should be better because of the church’s presence. The social issues of our day are not for Christians to complain and condemn but to rise up bringing about change. The church is not meant to simply take up realty and receive tax breaks but meant to redeem its surrounding culture. Community members should be saying, “I may not believe as they do, but I’m glad they are in our community. They do a lot of good work and perhaps will lead me to explore their beliefs more.”
Matthew 5:13-16 “You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
Luke 10:30-37 “30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ 36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” 37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
God calls believers to listen to God’s plan for the city (29:9-14).
Jeremiah also warned Judah not to listen to false prophets. Some of the prophets of the day were promising ease and escape for Judah. They assumed God would deliver them from Babylonian exile in a short time. Yet, they were not from God. They were to listen carefully and discern God’s truth and plan for them and the city.
Christians and churches often create their own plans and then later ask God to bless their efforts. However, God wants His people to listen and follow His plan and then He will bless their efforts. God’s plan for our life is often not our short term comfort but our long term character to reflect trust in Him. God’s prosperity was preceded by 70 years of pain and poverty; sometimes life
- Do plans for your life and church reflect personal comfort or God’s commands?
- How will you create listening time with God in your life? In our church? This reflects our value/lack of prayer.
ð Is your life, marriage and family reflecting or transforming the world?
ð Do your unbelieving friends view your Christianity as a blessing or a burden?
µ God’s ultimate plan:
As an exile you are forever separated from God. However, Jesus went to sinful Babylon and took the punishment for exiles. He provides a new hope and purpose for us when we call upon His name. He seeks to restore you with God himself and home in heaven.
- Will you receive Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for your sin?
- Will you make your home with Christ and the church?
 See Mark Driscoll message at Southeastern Seminary conference “The Gospel Comes To Life”.