Many of you know our family has a contract on a new home. The month of April reminds us our time is getting closer to moving in. Before we can move in we have some work to do: cleaning, packing, cleaning, removing wall paper, cleaning, painting, cleaning, tearing up carpet to replace and adding wood floors, cleaning… everyone understands there is lots of work and cleaning to do when a family moves.
Many of us want God to give us a new life: renewal, forgiveness, hope, change of circumstances – but they don’t want God to touch anything. They want God’s changing power without His cleansing methods. If God is going to bless us in the future then we have to allow and trust Him to break us in the present.
Today we are starting a journey. Everyone starts somewhere. Your journey may have just begun. Some of you have been traveling for a long time and ready for final destination. There are still others who may be winding difficult pathways and having to backtrack, and a few may be miles ahead of others. Wherever you are on the journey God wants to help you identify the starting points of connecting your story to His Story.
Here are 5 starting points that God wants to use in your life to start and sustain your journey.
April 3 Instruction with practical teaching (Matthew 7:21-29)
April 10 Interaction with providential relationships (Acts 1-2)
April 17 Implementation with personal disciplines (Acts 2:42-47)
April 24 Investment with purposeful service (Acts 6:1-7)
May 1 Incidents with pivotal circumstances (Acts 9)
EXAMINE Matthew 7:21-29
This is the end of a large teaching section from Jesus known as the Sermon on the Mount. In these passages Jesus is not speaking to atheists or agnostics. Jesus is not speaking to the irreligious but to the religious; not so much pagans as pew-sitters who need to hear and understand what it means to have faith lived out in action. Much of Jesus’ teaching is directed toward those who are deluded into thinking they are on the narrow pathway to the kingdom of God when instead they are on the broad highway to hell. Back then and just as now, we are good at creating crowds but not developing devoted disciples.
Christianity is more than lip service (Matthew 7:21).
Jesus references people’s empty claims when he tires of people calling Him “Lord” but does not do what He instructs. “Not everyone who says ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven.” Some people may give mental assent to Jesus saying Jesus is a good lecturer and teacher. However, Jesus is more than a lecture but Lord. It is an empty affirmation to call Jesus Lord if we are not willing to submit our lives to Him. Jesus notes that only the one who does the will of the Father will enter Heaven.
In my childhood of 1990’s, a pop vocal group was awarded the Grammy Award for Best New Artist. The duo was composed of Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus, better known as Milli Vanilli. Their breakthrough album produced songs like, “Girl You Know It’s True” and three #1 hits titled, “Girl I’m Gonna Miss You,” “Baby Don’t Forget My Number” and “Blame It On The Rain.”
The problem came during a live performance, recorded by MTV, of the song, “Girl You Know It’s True.” The recording jammed and began to skip, repeating the line “Girl You Know It’s-” over and over, resulting in one of the most embarrassing moments in popular music history. As a result, Milli Vanilli’s Grammy was withdrawn four days later, and Arista Records dropped the act from its roster and deleted their album and its masters from their catalog, making Girl You Know It’s True the largest-selling album to ever be taken out of print.
This sad and embarrassing story was relatively replicated with several musical artists since. The sadness and embarrassment of it all is not because the entertainment world is vain and empty but it is because these scenarios resemble much of what is happening in churches all over the United States. Many people who call themselves Christians could rather be known as “Milli Vanilli Religion”.
o Religion is no replacement for relationship with God. Going through religious motions misses the point of what it means to know Jesus Christ in a faith relationship. General awareness of God is not a substitute for life agreement with the ways and word of God. Further, church attendance without life application is just not the faith that Jesus describes in the Gospels and desires for our lives.
- Unapplied truth is like unapplied paint, it doesn’t do anybody any good. The value of paint is in the application.
– Information must lead to transformation.
Bible Groups. Sunday Sermons. Studies. Ask the question: “And then what…?” How is it equipping you to put truth into practice?
o John 13:17 “If you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”
o Romans 2:13 “For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.”
o James 1:22 “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”
o James 2:17 “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
o Acts 2:37 “Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’”
è One way to identify and facilitate transformation is by telling others your faith response for accountability. This is why we do altar responses at the end of service; it’s why we have community and fellowship opportunities so that we can gather and grow; it’s why we offer service opportunities through ministry teams and mission trips.
Christianity is more than life service (Matthew 7:22-23)
Jesus also contrasts the those who only give Him lip service to those who only give Him life service. Jesus notes those who prophesy, cast out demons, and do many mighty works in His name, yet these too are turned away from the kingdom of heaven. Forgiveness of sin and eternal life in heaven can never be earned through good works.
– Service is important but is not a replacement for genuine experience of salvation. Generally speaking, most of those who are serving in a church are doing so out of right motivation and gratitude unto God. On occasion there are those that believe their good works – and for the church – will outweigh the bad to achieve favor with God. If this is you, the reminder is that salvation is not your works but Christs.
o Isaiah 64:6 “all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment”
o Titus 3:5 “he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.”
o Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
A similar attitude also shows up not only among those who serve frequently in the church but among those who spend majority of their time to the exclusion of the church. Their thinking is that gathering in church is boring and wasting time when you can be out among people who need to see and hear Jesus lived outside the church walls.
o Indeed, there is a time and place to display the gospel as salt and light in society (Mat 5:13-17). However, this view of service and social justice should never be to the exclusion of gathering as believers for biblical instruction and accountability.
Application may sound contradictory to the first point, but it is complementary.
è Combine service to Christ with the stewardship of the church. Our service in and through the church allows for us to maintain the gospel in deed and word. Church stewardship provides the balance that goes beyond social ministry to gospel witness with action.
è Additionally, the gathered church is the place for being built up and filled up in the faith so that what is shared and poured out is reflective of truth and the substance of Christ.
Christianity is life preserving (Matthew 7:24-27).
Jesus concludes this section of truth and practical teaching with a parable. Those who combine gospel confession with our lips and gospel commitment of our lives are like a wise man building his house on a solid foundation. When rain falls, floods rise, winds blow and beat on that house then it be preserved because it had the proper foundation. However, the one who does not combine lips and life commitment – is only a hearer and not a doer – is like a foolish person building his house on the foundation of sand. When the storms of life come there will be a great fall.
Jesus’ teaching was to the disciples. Their lives were faced with all sorts of problems and persecution, trial and trouble. Yet, because they heard and practiced Jesus’ teaching their lives left a great legacy.
– Foundations are seldom celebrated but are supremely critical.
o How many have pictures in their house of the construction workers building the foundation? However, many of us probably have family photos outside the already constructed house.
o Teaching children the basics of math can be lengthy and laborious… hardly anyone celebrates basic math but instead those who know complicated formulas have high paying jobs and acclaim. Yet, those individuals would not have been able to complete higher level math without the basic foundations.
- à It would be a neat project to locate your elementary school teachers and write a note of encouragement thanking them for the foundation they gave your vocation and life.
- à Or write a note of encouragement to your children’s Bible Group teachers.
- à Or those who are older generation come alongside younger to help those families establish a strong foundation.
– It is no accident that you are with us for sermon series “Starting Point”. God wants to use this in your life to evaluate and establish the foundation of your life. 1Corinthians 3:11 “For no one can lay any other foundation than that what has been laid down. That foundation is Jesus Christ.”
è Starting point with faith in Christ today? – – – – – – – – – – > baptism is a visual of this
Starting Point’s purpose is to help you identify 5 elements that encourage your life and faith.
– April 3 Instruction with practical teaching (Matthew 7:21-29)
– April 10 Interaction with providential relationships (Acts 1-2)
– April 17 Implementation with personal disciplines (Acts 2:42-47)
– April 24 Investment with purposeful service (Acts 6:1-7)
– May 1 Incidents with pivotal circumstances (Acts 9)
Today’s starting point is about Christian instruction not just being information but transformation. Jesus’ teaching was both powerful and practical. It made a difference in the lives of the early church and continues to do so today.
– It’s one thing to believe in nutrition but if you don’t diet, eat well, and exercise then there will be no impact. You can have all the diet books, cookware, gym equipment and memberships, but these do not make you a health expert.
– Need environments where bible teaching is powerful and practical… and typically the worship gathering is only half the impact of getting connected to a Bible Group. Our goal is to have 100% membership in a Bible Group.
o Let next week be the starting point for you to join a group.
- Note all groups…
o A next goal is to move from gatherings & groups to generational legacy
- Disciplemaking as parents & grandparents
- Disciplemaking for people in your life….
- *** April 10 Starting Point Groups training ***