A few weeks ago we began a sermon series that we are calling Growth Track and our main goal in Growth Track was to give you practical steps to Christian Growth, what does it mean to grow in Christ.
And the word I like here is restoration.
When you become a Christian you are credited the righteousness of Christ through faith. In others Christ’s record becomes your record, and because of the righteousness of Christ you are forgiven, with a perfect unblemished record before holy God. But the only problem is that all of that sin damages your soul. So, even though we have been given Christ’s perfect record, because we were born in sin, because we ourselves are sinners. We have all of this damage.
I remember one morning when Paige and I still lived in Covington we were heading out to go on a little beach trip and we heard all of these fire trucks rolling through town and your first thought is Oh no did we leave the stove on, is it my house but it wasn’t. It was my friends office place. He was an attorney in town and he had this wonderful law office in downtown Covington and it was this beautiful building built in the 1880’s. It had caught on fire, and fortunately before the fire had taken the whole building the fire trucks did come and they put out the fire… And I remember talking to my friend after the fire and I said well I am glad they caught the fire when do you think you will be able to begin working at the office again and he said, “well the fire is out but the damage is extensive, not only did the fire damage things we had smoke and water damage throughout the office, and the restoration process is going to take months” So, sure enough my friend Jim had to go out and hire a general contractor to build this office back, and it did take months, but when the work of restoration was done the office was even more beautiful than it had ever been.
Becoming a Christian, putting your faith in Christ, is about Jesus coming to put the fire out, when Jesus comes into your life, the power of sin is over, you have been saved if you will from the fire, but the Christian Life is the restoration process, where God by the power of the Holy Spirit is restoring our souls to how they were designed, perfect, without flaw, without sin. But, he is restoring our souls to something even more beautiful, to the very image of Christ. And as we said a few weeks ago, this happens by the Spirit of God when we with unveiled faces behold the glory of God we are transformed from one degree of glory to the next. But we also said the reason this isn’t happening in so many of our lives are that we don’t have the time or the energy for this restoration to take place.
And let me be really clear here church, God’s plans for your life is so good, he wants to use you, he wasn’t to do great things for you. But you have to unlock the door so the general contractor can get inside to do the work.
And I concluded that sermon in telling you two things that are so true and if you actual believe these things they are so freeing.
1. Everyone gets the same amount of time every day. We can’t create more time in the day but at the same time, the guy or gal who is the most mature in his faith here has the same amount of time as anyone else.
2. Every time you say yes to one thing you say no to something else.
And this is true for all of us. We are saying no to some things that we need to be saying yes to and yes to something that we need to be saying no to.
We gave you this wooden token as a symbol for you, and I hope everyone still has it, I hope you are carrying it around with you and if you don’t have it with you today like it is on your dresser or something you need to bring it next Sunday, I may give you something in return for it.
But as you look at this and think about this I want this to represent something in your life that you are saying yes to right now, that you need to be saying no to so that you can say yes to the Holy Spirit, so that you can say yes to Christians Growth, so that you can say yes to restoration and freedom
Last week Jason Cook preached and he encouraged you to say yes to the word of God, to be hearing God’s word, to be here in church, to be studying God’s word, having some sort of daily time with the Lord, and to be teaching God’s word. And I hope you all walked away saying I am going to exchange something wooden in my life for the gold of the word of God
But let me tell you something Christian growth is hard, it is not hard to get started, and it isn’t hard to begin. In fact there have been so many times that I have said in my Christian life, I need to do that. Or there have been a lot of times that I have gotten started with something and then not followed through. Like these things, has anyone here ever bought a One Year Bible and said this is the year, this is the year I am going to read the whole Bible through and then like January 15th roles around and you haven’t kept up with it. Or maybe it was a service opportunity. Like have you ever signed up to serve somewhere and you were all excited about it but then you realized wait a second this actually is a big commitment, and then you start looking for the easiest exit route. Or maybe it was a particular sin, and you said, I am never going to do that again, and then a week goes by. Or maybe I am going to start doing that, like tithing is one of these where Christians have said, this is going to be the year that I am going to quit robbing God, that I am going to begin being obedient. But then it’s the end of the month and you are a little short and you say well just this month I am not going to give but that becomes 3 months and then 3 years.
So, how do you keep it up, because I am not going to ask for a show of hands, but I am quite sure that everyone in here has started something in their Christian life, you have started down a growth track but then it was difficult or you got discouraged or distracted or whatever and you got off track.
How do you stay on track?
Well the answer to Keep Growing, the answer to continued Christian growth is actually another Growth Track, so not only will this growth track lead to Christian Growth, it will also keep you growing. What I am talking about is Real Intentional Christian Community. In order to grow in Christ and better yet in order to keep growing in Christ, in order to be restored to beauty, in order to find real freedom, you need real community. To move us forward with this conversation we are going to be looking into the book of Hebrews. The book of Hebrews is one of the most interesting books in the New Testament. And the author of the Hebrews is writing to former Jews that are struggling to understand the grace of God that has been displayed in Christ, and how exactly that applies to their lives. So, we are going to pick up in Hebrews 10:19 and the author of Hebrews has just been reminding them of the Gospel, saying that the one great sacrifice of Christ has paid the price for all of their sin and that God has given them the promise of the Holy Spirit to write the law of God on their hearts. So, because they have been made clean in Christ, so because they have been declared righteous in Christ we pick up in verse 19.
19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. So because of Jesus has done for us, paying the price of our sins and giving us a perfect record, let us draw near to God, so that we can be cleansed by God, and this is the restoration we have been talking about. But here is where it gets tricky. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.
So God is faithful to us, God is not going to quit on us and to respond to his never giving up never failing faithfulness, let us be faithful to him, lets stay the course, lets keep growing, because it is hard to continue the Bible reading plan, it is hard to kill sin in our lives, it is hard to always be pursuing righteousness, or to keep serving. So how are we are going to keep growing how do we stay on the growth track? So here is how verse 24:
24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
So how do we stay faithful? How do we keep pursuing Christ? It is when we are intentional, together in community with one another. Stirring one another along to love and good deeds. We need one another, to stay faithful, to stay encouraged, to stir one another along.
I love to camp and one of the reasons I love camping is that I really enjoy building a fire. But sometimes it is difficult to get the fire going. Especially if there has recently been a rain or something. This is one of my favorite pictures it is from my Mancation last fall, for those of you who don’t know, every year I take a man trip with some buddies of mine from college and it restores my soul. But we were camping out along the Yellowstone River, and if you can camp on a good bend in a river there is typically a lot of good driftwood, but it was damp that day. At first it was very difficult to get the fire going, but the trick on fire building is the coals. Once you get a good coal base, where you have several coals together at the base of that fire you can throw pretty much anything on that fire and it will burn even if it is a little wet, and the fire will stay hot. But at the end of the night when you want to put the fire out, its really not that hard, all you have to do is spread the coals out, all you have to do is to separate the coals, and the heat and the power of the fire will quickly fade. It is really the same thing with Christianity. If Christians who are hungry for God come together regularly and consider how to stir one another along toward love and good deeds they will be so hot for God, and they will do so much. Nothing will be able to stop them or to put them out. If you can separate Christians, if you can isolate Christians and get them alone. You can destroy their faith, and you can steal away all of their power. This is what Doug was talking about with his Ice Age illustration, stay with the heard. Christianity is necessarily communal. It is done in community with other people we stir one another along toward faith and good deeds.
We need this. If you don’t have this, if you don’t have the communion of Saints, well then even the smallest thing will destroy your faith or discourage your soul, but when people do have this, when Christians do have believers around them that love them, and that are praying for them, I have seen Christians walk through some of the most difficult situations sickness and heartache with peace. This is the Kingdom. As Christians we all hope in a New Kingdom, the New Jerusalem, and in that Kingdom there will be no sickness there will be no pain there will be no loneliness or heartache, or sin there will be no sin in the New Kingdom and therefore there will be no consequences for sin. But the church is called to be the presence of the Kingdom now, Thy Kingdom come, through us through the church. Now we clearly live in a world now where there is sickness and pain, and crying, and sin, and everything else. But where that exists that is where the community of believers steps in and is the presence of the Kingdom now.
And those stories are all over this church. From people literally adopting the Fatherless, to families stepping in and being a family to the widow, or paying the bills of the financially unstable, these stories are all over this church. A few years ago one of our staff members who is a part of a LifeGroup here, lost her husband. She has a young son, and he was a young boy, with no father, and a mother who has a job but she is a ministry assistant and is certainly not getting rich at Valleydale, and so here she is a young mother, she has this son to raise, and her husband is gone. And that’s when her group stepped in they have helped her take care of her house, and done major projects, some of the men in the class have been Father figures for this young boy. Now again this world is not the Kingdom that we hope in but her group has been for her the presence of the Kingdom now on earth IN a world where there is pain that pain has been eased by the church by community. See how that is gold? You see how there is something in that you can’t measure.
And I think that Hebrews 10 and specifically verses 24-25 are critical verses in understanding what this kind of community looks like in a church setting. We are going to see 4 things about Christian community in these verses.
First of all the Practice of Community. Is this just community or is it community of a specific kind?
Well of course it is a community of a specific kind. Every group has a purpose and many of us are in workout groups, or community service groups, and those great groups. But your soul desperately needs a group a community that is focused on encouraging Godliness. Typically this means some sort of Bible study. Encourage one another to know, and to obey God, and to follow God.
Look at verse 25
Encourage one another all the more as you see the Day drawing near.This is the Day of Judgment.But then look at 26 26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.
I want you to hear this incredibly powerful warning. And again this isn’t me; this is the Holy Spirit speaking through the Bible. If you have knowledge of Jesus, if you know the Gospel, if you know what Jesus has done for you, but you won’t stay faithful to him, you won’t follow him, you won’t repent of sins, then it doesn’t matter if you think you are a Christian or not, that is evidence of an unrepentant heart and the text says, that for you there no longer remains a sacrifice for sin.
So you see we aren’t just talking about making some good friends, we aren’t even just talking about trading wood for gold; we are talking about heaven and hell here. We are talking about people who start down the path of following God and have no one to stir them along and who lose their faith and go to hell. We need one another, to keep the faith. And I know some people are thinking, “well what about eternal security?” And we don’t really have time to have this conversation, so without getting into the nuances of the discussion let me just read the verse again
If we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.
Stay in the herd right? Don’t be the coal that gets kicked out of the fire and goes out. And when we come together we are encouraging one another, with God’s truth, with his word, to stay faithful, as God is faithful to us may we also be faithful to him, loving him, obeying him, knowing him.
So look this is pretty simple, if you aren’t in a group. And it doesn’t have to be a LifeGroup, any groups is good here, a men’s group or women’s group a prayer group, you need group life, this is so vital for your soul. Are you really a part of the body, or are you the coal that is trying to stay lit on your own, and you can do this today, you can get online
http://valleydale.org/connect/life-groups/ and learn about all of our groups
You can come see me after service myself or someone else will be able to help you get connected.
Or you can email our groups pastor Graham Hill.
So the practice of community is to encourage one another to stay faithful to God knowing that the Day when we see Jesus face to face is near, and we all need this or our faith will die.
Secondly I want to look at the way of community, and the way of community is pretty obvious. We come together.
24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
The way of community is to meet together. This is simple but it is hard. This is the whole wood and gold thing. We need community, but you have to make time for community. You have to be intentional about this.
And the goal here is really intimate loving relationships with people.
The definition of intimacy or the definition of real love is this. To be fully known, and fully accepted. See most people are scared to death of ever really being known, because if they know this about me? If they really knew this about me, well then they may not love me, then they may not accept me. And most of us kind of go through life not being known. And as Doug said in the video, when something hard happens, or when something embarrassing happens that we can’t hide, we run. Isn’t that what we do? I see this all the time, a difficult thing happens in someone’s life, you lose your job, there is a relationship issue, and people run. Exactly when they should be running to community they run away. Or people just hide in the crowd, there are some of you here and you have never joined a group, you never found community because you don’t want people to know you, well if you don’t let people know you then they can never really love you. Don’t you see, you need this, you were designed for this. It is the way of community to come together and to really know each other so that we can really love each other.
Tim Keller says this:
“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”
So for some of you maybe your whole group says hey we are going to get real with one another and you practice real accountability, or maybe the guys and the girls split up some weeks and really have accountability with one another. Or maybe your group is large and so you need to grab three or four guys, or three or four girls and say hey lets go a little deeper, lets really walk with one another here. I have had groups like this in my life, what you might call an accountability group and we always follow the ESPN model. We encourage one another in our faith, commending each other where we are doing well correcting one another when we need correction. We confess sin to one another, and I am talking about really confess sin. I had this thought here, I did this and I need to seek forgiveness, etc. We then pray for one another – And really pray as brothers. And then we take notes – We collect prayer requests, figure out what is happening in one another’s lives, that we can really keep us with one another.
You need to know and be known. To be fully known and fully loved is what you need more than anything else. Why aren’t you saying yes to this?
The third thing that we find about community in Hebrews 10:24-25 is The Mission of Community – We don’t just come together, we don’t just encourage one another, and we consider how to stir one another along toward love and good deeds. I love verse 24 and I love the word consider. It means we are thinking of one another, it means we love each other and we care about the well being of one another.
I like the way the New Living Translation says this.
24 Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.
My mother is always calling me and reminding me about things that are coming up in my life. So for example before Paige’s birthday, weeks before, she will call and say, “Have you gotten Paige a gift for her birthday?” And not even that kind of stuff, I will be going to a conference or something and she will call and say, “I know you have this conference in three months. Has Caroline, my assistant, booked a hotel room for you yet?” And I will be like, “I haven’t even thought about this, what are you talking about?” But she is thinking about me, she loves me. This is what Paul is talking about, though he isn’t talking about birthday gifts and hotel rooms, he is saying are you considering one another, are you taking ownership of one another, and helping one another, and keeping one another, and stirring one another toward deeper faith and toward good deeds. I would love to know that there are people in this community thinking about me, in the same way my mom does, thinking, how can I stir Jason to deeper faith, how can I stir Jason to good deeds? How can I stir that woman that I sit next to in church every week to deeper love and good deeds.It’s when you realize that not only are you on mission but you are on mission with these people. Its like Bob Waters about 10 years ago the guy got excited about global missions and he said, how can I stir these people toward love and good deeds, and his passion has changed the whole culture of our church. Or Carrie Graham whom just last year got a vision for Special Needs ministry and she has been stirring people along, she has been stirring me along.
The Mission of Community is that we are stirring one another along toward a deeper faith, toward a more pure love, and toward good deeds in Christ. So very simply whom are you stirring along? Who can you say, yes I am leading this person, I am teaching this person, and I am having influence over this person? I am considering how to stir this person along to love and good deeds and I know they are doing the same for me.
Lastly and quickly what is the Result of Community and there are two.
The first Result is multiplication, reproduction.When we are encouraging one another toward faithfulness and obedience, when we are consistent in meeting together being intentional about knowing one another and loving one another, and when we are always considering how to stir one another along then multiplication will happen. More people will come to know Christ, and want to know Christ and want to come together in community.People have said to me, what is the obsession with multiplication is this like a new program or church fad? To which I say, it is just the Great Commission, it is just the plan of the church since the time of Christ, it is just the reason that the church has spread out all over the world, and it is just the reason that any of us have heard the gospel. Disciples make disciples. Living things, living things reproduce. If you are alive in Christ, you will be multiplying yourself, your group, and your church. This is a sign of life.
The second result is this. When you find real community, like this, that is intentional to encourage one another, that is intentional to know one another deeply, and to stir one another along, you will stay alive you will grow, you will burn hot for the Lord. Without it you will burn out, you will be so incredibly ineffective for the Lord, you will die. Your soul desperately needs this. So the question is if you don’t have community, or even if you kind of have community but it is weak it is kind of soft and you know you need to go deeper, you aren’t stirring anyone along, you don’t have accountability.
The question is, What is it that you are saying yes to? That is causing you to say no to this? What is the wood that you are saying yes to, it may be a good thing but because you are saying yes to that you are saying no to this. So this week be praying with me. Father what is it that you want me to say no to?And what is it that you are calling me to say yes to? Use this little piece of wood as a reminder. Next week we are actually going to take action and I am going to ask you to commit to say no to something and so that you can say yes to the Gold that God has for me.