March 22, 2006

My Final Message

Here is my final message at the church I planted six years ago. I will say now, excuse the typos.

The Take Home

As you know, this is my last sermon here. Most pastors preach the Gospel, but each has a different angle or emphasis because who has influenced them and what books they have read. So I thought I would sum up some of the things I really hope you got from me about the Christian faith.

I. We should radically live out the Great Commandment.

a. Matthew 22:34-40, “Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?
Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” NIV

b. This love is an action. If you really love someone or something, you take action. I love pizza, so I eat pizza. I love to read, so I buy books and read them; sometimes. I love my family so I spend time with them and buy them things and do things with them.
If we truly love God, we will take action toward Him. We will worship Him. We will learn more about Him. We will want to grow in our relationship with Him. We will go out into the world and serve Him.
If we truly love our neighbors as ourselves, we will take action toward them. We will do good for them with no expectation of return or reward. We will care for the lost, the broken, the hurting. We will serve them. It is a fallacy to think that we love our neighbor as long as we don’t do anything bad to them.
Love is active. Love sees a need and meets the need.

c. I have said it before, and I will say it till I die, this passage is the basis for all we do as Christians. This is the expectation of God rolled in a nice little statement. This is like His vision statement for us. To love God with everything we have, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.

d. If you want to see how this is lived out, we come to my second point:

II. We should model our lives after Jesus.

a. Jesus’ life and teaching is what we have to wrestle with. The Gospels present Jesus’ life and teaching, and the rest of the New Testament is simply the new Church attempting to live out the life of Jesus in the world where they have been placed.

b. We in the Christian faith assert that Jesus was both fully God and fully man. We can’t explain how that happens, but we affirm that it is true. The problem is that we often over-emphasize one of those aspects. We look at all the things Jesus did and say, “I can’t do that I am not God.” Jesus resisted temptation, healed people, lived a holy life not because He was God, but because He was “abiding” in the Father.

c. Abiding is the word the Gospel of John uses to describe a life intimately connected to God the Father. Jesus depended upon God for everything. Jesus promised His they too could share in this connection, and on the day of Pentecost, the power of the Holy Spirit fell upon them, and they were able to do incredible things in God’s name.

d. I was talking with a friend on Friday, and I told him that one of the biggest connections I have made in the past few months is that we are called to bring Glory and Honor and to do the will of God the Father. We see how that is lived out in everyday life by looking to Jesus Christ. And, we are given the power to do it through the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of us.

e. Caring for the poor, defending the weak and the helpless, loving our neighbors and enemies (sometimes one in the same), all of these things are difficult if not impossible without Holy Spirit helping us live the life we see in Jesus Christ.

f. This week I heard a story about one of our preteens that I need to share. I asked for permission to share this story because I feel it demonstrates the risk of living life like Jesus, but also illustrates a very practical example.
Nicole rides the bus to school each day, and has noticed the bus driver picking on one boy in particular. He is a first grader. This past week, the bus driver pushed the boy into the seat, and Nicole stepped up to defend the boy. She risked being mistreated. She risked being laughed at for defending a first-grader. She risked a lot, but she was living out the life of Jesus by defending someone who is unable to defend themselves.

g. When we take seriously our call to live life like Jesus, we will surprise ourselves at what happens. If we radically living out the Great Commandment in the way of Jesus, we can’t help but:

III. We should take the Great Commission seriously.

a. We are called to transform the world through God’s power. We can’t do it on our own. But as we live life like Jesus lived, and we do this through the power of the Holy Spirit inside us, we can transform the world. If the Great Commandment is God’s mission statement for our lives, the Great Commission is God’s Mission statement for His followers as they live together in community.

b. Matthew 28:16-20, “Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’” NIV

c. It may be hard for you to believe, but God can use you to transform the world. They may not write books about you. You may not do anything really spectacular, but you can change the world.

d. After serving more than 50,000 people at her clinic, Mother Theresa was asked, “What is the most significant thing about serving 50,000 people?” She replied, “I had to help the first person before I could help the 50,000th person.”

e. Some of you have openly expressed worry about whether they will close down the church once I am gone. I understand why you feel this way. But I want to tell you two things. First, I have only been the pastor/leader here. This church does not revolve around me. In fact, this church does not revolve around any one of you. You will find a new pastor, and he or she will probably be very different from me. In fact, I am pretty sure there is only one me, and most everybody I know is very happy about that fact.
The moment a church begins to revolve around any one of us is the moment it starts to die. The Church must revolve around Jesus and His call to reach the least, the lost, and the lonely. If you focus on “we have never done church that way before,” or “I don’t want to be part of a growing church,” or you start promoting a personal agenda and start bickering over little things, or you stop inviting your unchurched friends that is the moment the church is dead whether or not you are still meeting together on Sundays. Second, the way to alleviate those fears is to take seriously the call to reach the lost, the broken, and the hurting people. Invite your unchurched friends, care for broken and hurting people, become close to one another, serve each other and those around you.

f. Whether or not you continue to meet together on Sunday with this group is not the issue. The issue is whether or not as a church you are focused on changing your world; starting with Pleasant Hill and the surrounding community.

IV. I am not saying this to scare anyone about the future; I am saying it as a challenge. Live out the Great Commandment by actively loving God and your neighbor. Hold Jesus up as the model for all of life and live that life through the power of the Holy Spirit. Fulfill the Great Commission by reaching the lost, the broken, and the hurting people.
I hope I have emphasized these in my life and preaching while I was with you, and I hope that this is the legacy I have left behind.

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