Posted by: lepages | May 2, 2010

Preparing for Growth!

These are my notes that I used as the base for my preach at Rutland Road Church this morning. If you’d prefer to listen in to my getting tongue tied on the word ‘anonymous’ instead of just reading it you should be able to do so from here in the next few days.

Introduction
Who believes that it is in God’s heart for this church to grow?
To grow spiritually and to grow numerically?
To see people finding new life in God through Jesus?

Any ‘Amens’ to that??!!

As elders we believe God’s heart is to grow this congregation as part of his church across the town, for this church to be an influence for the Kingdom of God in this community and everywhere he takes us as his people.

As elders we are conscious that as a church we are not perfect…. we have a long way to go to be all that God wants us to be. Over the last year or so, a number of areas have come to light where we feel that we need to move forward effectively if we are to be ready for growth and to cope with it and be a continuing blessing through it. There are other areas where, being practical, we need to move from being passive to being proactive.

Over this month, we are going to think about:-

Preparing for Growth

I hope that this month will be encouraging, stimulating, faith building and will help us prepare for what God wants us to be as his people.

We start with a very simple command:-

Love one another

Simple enough…. but incredibly challenging.

Turn with me if you would to

John 13:34,35

READ John 13:34,35

“As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

I hope that in our cell groups this week we will get practical with what that means for us in working it out in our lives. If you’re not part of a cell, they are the core of the way we function as a church – it is supremely in these groups that we work out in practice what it means to ‘love one another’, – then can I encourage you to become a part of a group – you will be blessed if you do and you will be a blessing – and there’s a joy in blessing others lives – if the times / venues etc. don’t suit you then talk to me – we can always put new groups together – if our church is to grow, part of preparing for growth is preparing to see new group facilitators released, and existing groups multiply as they grow.

One of the three strands of dna that run through our groups is ‘loving one another’.
One of the delights for me in visiting Brereton Road cell from time to time is seeing how they do that. How different members are in touch with one another, looking out for one another, loving one another.

So lets come to scripture and let it speak to us, lets unpack the verses we’ve read a sentence at a time.

“A new command I give you: Love one another.

I don’t know if you’ve realised this or not, but loving others is not an option as a Christian.
It’s a command!!

Its not a suggestion that as a Christian you should have a general loving attitude towards others – though there’s nothing wrong with that if you do!! Its a command. To love one another. Its an active word. Its a command to be lived out in action to your brothers and sisters.

Look at the person sitting alongside you – on your left, and on your right – if you’re at the end of the row – look to the beginning of the row on the other side of the building. Look at the person sitting in front of you and behind you – again if you’re on the front row, or the back row – look to the person at the opposite end of the room to you – if you need to stand up to do so, stand up!!

So each of us is going to be looking at 4 people. You are called to love those people.
What can you do to show love to them?

Think for a minute. Who’s not here this morning?
What can you do to show love to them?
You see the command is not to have loving feelings towards others, not to feel love for others – the command is an active one – ‘Love one another’
And Jesus then explains how we are to do that:-

“As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

I’m pretty much convinced that this encounter with Jesus stuck with the Apostle John for years – I’m sure it wasn’t just that he wrote down a record of the things Jesus said as they shared a special meal together and was prompted by them as he looked at them again – though I’m sure he was – but I think what he learned as Jesus spoke on this night, as he went on to suffer and die for them, and be raised to life again, stuck with John for his life and shaped his Christian life. So much so that later as he wrote a letter to his spiritual children the theme of this love being worked out in practice, it infiltrated every part of the letter.

He would reflect on the greatness of God’s love being lavished on us (1 John 3:1); he would come back to Jesus’ command “Love one another”, again and again and again!

Please turn with me to:-

1 John 3:16-18

I wonder whether as John wrote these words he was transported back to that evening meal with Jesus, remembering Jesus’ words, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
And perhaps as he reflected on those words he wrote these words down:-

READ 1 John 3:16-18

“As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

Jesus’ love for you, Jesus’ love for me was so great he laid down his life for you.
He did it for me.

I’m not going to ask you to think
‘Am I willing to lay my life down for the people I’ve looked at this morning, my brothers and sisters?’
I want to ask you the reverse.
How would you feel if one of the people you’ve looked at was willing to lay down their life for you?

Some of us may be thinking, ‘Oh no, don’t do it for me! I’m not worth it. They’re better than me.’
If that’s you, just remember Jesus did it for you. He thought that you were worth dying for.
He thought that you were worth him giving his life for.
If Jesus thinks you’re worthwhile giving his life for, then in the words of the misapplied advert ‘You’re worth it!’
You’re worth it to him.

John gets practical. The reality is that most of us here are not likely to be called to give our lives for the sake of someone else – it may happen for some of us, but its not likely to happen for most of us. So John says effectively, how does this laying down of our lives work out in day to day living?

So he says in 1 John 3:17
“If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?”

He says, be practical – meet one another’s physical needs.

In verse 18 he goes on to say:-

“Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”

You see loving one another means that saying ‘I’ll pray for you’ is not enough – it may be if we step out in faith and see God work a miracle – its right that we show love to one another, by listening to one another, supporting one another, praying for one another, but if it is within our means to make a difference to a person’s situation, then we should!

I heard this week of someone who is going to take someone else to an appointment 40 miles or so away. Not just giving wise advice about buses and taxis, and even offering to help finance those costs, but saying, ‘let me take you there’.

I know of others who have helped people decorate their homes. Or cleared gardens where people weren’t able to. There have been occasions of illness when folk have gathered round to supply regular meals.

This is love in action.

So what might there be to do to show love in action to the 4 folk you have looked at this morning, to the person you have thought about who isn’t here?

This is not something just for us as individuals though.

If you were to turn to Acts 6 you would see reference to practical provision of food for widows who weren’t blessed with a social care system like we have now.
The church worked together to provide for those in need.
Some people were given special responsibility to oversee the practical care of others whilst the apostles continued with their responsibility of prayer and teaching.

As a church we have financially, a ‘Special Needs Fund’ where monies are received and passed to members in Special Financial need – sometimes as a gift, sometimes as an interest free loan. Sometimes individual gifts are received to be passed on to a particular individual, so that gift can be received anonymously. Recently I heard of someone in need and I was delighted to hear that a gift has been given to the Treasurer to pass on anonymously to the person concerned.

You may be able to do that too. Aware of a need and in a position to help meet the need, but want to do so anonymously so pass the gift to Dave and he will pass the monies on anonymously to the person concerned. You may be aware of a need, but not in a position to help meet it – in that situation, speak to one of us as elders and we will see if we are able to help from the Fund (gifts to which are always of course welcomed!)

Loving in this way goes against our self centred approach to life – laying down your life for the sake of others may mean going without something you would like so that you can bless and show love to others.

“As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

Jesus laid down his life. He left the glories of heaven. He put aside his rights as God and became a human being like us. He laid down his life and went to the cross, taking on himself the weight of all that is wrong in the world, all the sin in our lives. And he did it because he loves you.

And he calls us to do the same.

For some it may mean being prepared to give our lives for the sake of others.
For some it may mean sacrifice financially, going without for the blessing of others.
For some it may mean a sacrifice in terms of time and effort, to meet the physical needs of others.

“As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

Loving one another doesn’t just bring blessing to us – it marks us out as God’s people and makes us attractive to others.

Jesus said (John 13:35) as a result of loving one another as he has loved us:-

“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

A couple of weeks ago we read from Acts 2:42-47 thinking about the church – a church which modelled what it means ‘to love one another as I have loved you’ and it talks there of the disciples “enjoying the favour of all the people…”

One of the most significant things in people coming to faith in Christ is knowing someone who is a Christian and over time observing that there is something about that person which is different and which they appreciate. When they meet more than one Christian together and they see the love of God being worked out in their lives it often opens hearts and lives, there is often this growing realisation that their friend is not just ‘a nice person’, that that thing which they found attractive in their lives is a product of them being a Christian – this is why its important for us to bring our friends into contact with other Christians – that’s where cell socials can be so valuable, where things like Time Out, CAMEO, upcoming possibilities such as Carpet Bowls and ‘Lads ‘n’ Dads’ can be so valuable.

Conclusion
As a church, we need to ‘love one another’ and we need to do so in a way that enables others to see that love and so be drawn to the originator of that love – God himself.
Let’s pray.

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Responses

  1. Matthew 6 appears to contradict this conclusion.

  2. Matthew 6 says we shouldn’t love one another?? Not sure I understand your comment Jon…. could you expand?

  3. Matthew 6 appears to say that acts of love should be unseen, rather than seen.


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