August 6, 2017
Pastor Jeff Struecker
I want you to start out with doing something different. Stick with me today for just a moment. I want you to go ahead and look around the room, and I want you to find a face in this room that you’ve never met before. In just a second, I’m going to ask you to get up, to go out of your seat and go introduce yourself to somebody who you’ve never met before, and I want you to get to know them just a little bit. We’re going to talk about what it means to be part of the family in just a second, but I know you will do this for 20 minutes if I’m not careful, so I’m going to put a countdown timer on the screen and give you three minutes, which is enough time for those of you in the left side of the balcony to go hang out with people in the right side of the balcony and vice versa, but go find somebody in this room that you don’t know, and go talk to them and introduce yourself to them. Ready… go.
Alright, you can start making your way back to your seats. Thank you very much. I’ll tell you what, the volume level just went through the roof when we did that exercise a minute ago.
Hey, if you’re new to Calvary, I want to introduce myself. My name is Jeff. We’re right now studying through a sermon series called “Meaningful Membership”, and this sermon series is designed to tell you about being a member of a church. Does it make any difference to be a member of a church? Does it make any difference to be a member of this church? And part of the thing that we want to discuss over these three weeks, we started last week, and we said the church is a very significant group of people that is bought by the blood of Jesus Christ. We’re a purchased people.
Next week, I’ll just tell you where we’re going to go. Next week, we’ll talk about how the church is supposed to be a pure group of people. But today, I want to talk about what it means to be a peculiar group of people. You can see it on the worship guide in front of you. That word peculiar doesn’t mean strange, although some of you in this room are kind of weird. The word peculiar actually means different. In fact, we’re using Bible language today.
The reason why we did this (what I call the “morning mixer”) just a second ago, is because I wanted you to introduce yourself to somebody who you don’t know anything about, who you’ve really never met before. Here’s the truth: A lot of people right now this morning at 11 o’clock on Sunday morning are saying, “I work 70 hours a week. I only have one day off to spend with my family. Why on earth would I get up and go to church with a bunch of total strangers that I’ve never met before and listen to a boring sermon? The answer is, if that’s what you’re going to hear when you get to church, then I don’t know why you would go either, but hopefully, you don’t hear a boring sermon this morning. But you do have to ask the question about the people that are in the room. What makes these people one? What unites these people together?
Well, the language that we’re using to discuss what it means to be a different, or a set apart, group of people… The word peculiar really means to be select and to be set apart. It comes directly from the Bible. It’s found in the King James version of the Bible, in 1st Peter, chapter 2. Here’s what the Bible says– it’s highlighted for you up on the screen– This is Peter talking to the church, about the church. I just want to use these two verses as the overarching theme to what we’re discussing today:
1 Peter 2:9-10
9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;
10 Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.
If you were to read those two verses in other translations, chances are, the other translations that you look at today are going to say that you’re a special group of people. I want us to ask the question, “What makes this group special? What makes this group different? What makes this a peculiar group of people?”
And we’re going to hop around in the Bible a little bit today, ‘cause I want to give you the overarching theme of what the Bible says about the church, to the church. In fact, I don’t have enough time to give you even most of what the Bible says. We’re just going to select a few very important verses here, and we’re going to take a look at what makes the church different –Why is the church different than other social groups? What makes us different than your sorority? What makes us different than the United Way or than Greenpeace International?
I. Loved by Jesus
So, I want you to write a few things down as we go along today. Would you write this down if you’re taking notes? First, above everything else, here’s what makes the church special, unique, different: We are people who are loved by Jesus
Many of you in this room recognize the name, George Carlin, the famous comedian. -the guy who made his living making fun of everything in society. George Carlin once quipped, or he made fun of the church, and when Carlin was talking about the church, George Carlin said it this way, “Why on earth would I ever want to be a member of a group whose symbol was a guy nailed to two pieces of wood?” ‘You know what? That sounds absolutely irreverent, but it’s true.
What makes the church one? What makes the church unique? The answer is three nails and two pieces of wood, the blood of Jesus Christ poured out for us on the cross of Jesus Christ. That’s what makes the church, the church. the math that George Carlin used is absolutely right. God used three nails and two pieces of wood to build one church, and that church is above everything else, loved by Jesus.
The great apostle, Paul, this church planter extraordinaire in the New Testament, wrote this to the church about the church:
1 Thessalonians 1:4-6
4 We know, dear brothers and sisters, that God loves you and has chosen you to be his own people. 5 For when we brought you the Good News, it was not only with words but also with power, for the Holy Spirit gave you full assurance that what we said was true. And you know of our concern for you from the way we lived when we were with you. 6 So you received the message with joy from the Holy Spirit in spite of the severe suffering it brought you. In this way, you imitated both us and the Lord.
Let’s go back and look at this verse again. Verse 4 -check out this language on the screen- the apostle Paul is a Jewish Pharisee who has become a follower of Jesus Christ, writing to a church that is many miles away from him right now and mostly made up of Greeks, people that were not born into his family, and notice the language at the beginning of verse 4. Paul is using family language here. He’s calling these folks that he has no blood kin to his brothers and sisters. Paul says, “I’ll tell you what made us family. What made us family is that you are loved by God; you were adopted into the family of God. When you were adopted into the family of God, and I was adopted into the family of God, that made us different. That made us one, and the Holy Spirit is the demonstration that you belong to Jesus.” In fact, the Holy Spirit is so clear, Paul says, that he, the Holy Spirit of the Living God, is sustaining you in the midst of severe suffering. -that the Holy Spirit has got you right in the middle of his hand.
Paul would say the love of Jesus is bigger than your biggest issues. Paul wants his church to know that the love of Jesus goes deeper than your deepest emotions. -that it lasts longer than your longest challenges, that the love of Jesus Christ is stronger than your strongest problems, that Jesus’s love, above everything else, unites his church and makes his church want even people that come from very different walks of life.
‘See, all of us in this room, if we were honest, would say the thing that unites me to the lady sitting next to me and the guy on the other side of the room is that we’ve both been bought by the blood of Jesus Christ. -that he loves us and he changed us, and now my entire identity is different, ‘cause I’ve been bought by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.
I want you to hear an NFL player who found his identity in sports, until he understood who he was by the blood of Jesus Christ. He went through this identity crisis, and when he came out on the other side, he understood that he was a child of the Living God. Watch this video:
Hey, Danielle is pretty awesome, because I’m pretty sure she just said being a wife means telling your husband and his friends what to do. No seriously, let’s talk about this video for just a second, because this guy is saying, “When I understood who I was in Jesus Christ, it changed something inside of me.” He uses the language that, “I woke up, and I started to realize, I want to make a difference with people around me” Matt and Danielle literally went to one of the worst neighborhoods in America, the south side of Chicago, and they started investing in kids that nobody else in the world wanted to invest in, and even after the NFL moved them away, they continued to go back to the southside of Chicago and continued to invest in those children, because they want those children to be loved by Jesus the way Matt and Danielle are loved by Jesus. They don’t want anybody to fall through the cracks.
And I guess one of the things that I want you to hear today, church, is that Jesus loves you too much to let you slip through the cracks. He loves his church. It’s three nails and two boards that God used to create one church.
II. Love for Jesus
Above everything else, the church is loved by Jesus, and secondly, the church has love for Jesus. Because we are loved by Christ, we have love for Christ. He starts to move in our heart and changes our heart so that our heart starts to pursue his heart. This is what Jesus’s brother, Jude, says about what happens inside the heart of the church when the church is captured by the heart of Jesus Christ.
17 But you, my dear friends, must remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ predicted. 18 They told you that in the last times there would be scoffers whose purpose in life is to satisfy their ungodly desires. 19 These people are the ones who are creating divisions among you. They follow their natural instincts because they do not have God’s Spirit in them. 20 But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, 21 and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love.
The church is loved by Jesus and then the church has the love for Jesus, and it permeates everything that the church does. Now, I’m about to make a statement, and some of you are going to get on Twitter today, and you’ll call me a heretic for making this statement. I want to listen very carefully to what I’m going to say, and then I’m going to explain what I said and the reason why I said it the way that I said it. Are you ready? Here’s the statement: If your heart doesn’t take you to church, then perhaps your heart isn’t going to take you to Heaven. I’m going to say that one more time: If your heart doesn’t take you to church, then perhaps your heart isn’t going to take you to Heaven.
And I hope some of you out there aren’t thinking, “Did Jeff just say that you have to go to church in order to get to Heaven? Did he just say that if you’re not going to church, you’re not getting to Heaven?” And if that’s what you heard, you just heard me focus on the actions. That’s not what I’m saying. I’m asking you to examine the motive behind the action. Is it love for Jesus that gets you out of bed and gets you to church on Sunday morning? -Because the truth is, the guy or the gal that can lie in bed on Sunday morning and wants nothing to do with the church, wants nothing to do with hearing the Word of God, of worshiping the Lord Jesus Christ in song, of being around God’s people…-They have a heart problem, and if your heart doesn’t get you to church, then maybe your heart isn’t going to get you to Heaven, and I care deeply -I know you do too- about the folks that are not in this room, the folks that are not in church anywhere this morning, the folks that were in this room and aren’t in this room or aren’t anywhere in church anymore. And basically, we want them to know that Jesus loves them and has done everything necessary to make them right with God, and Jesus wants their heart to love him and to love others.
III. Love for each other
Here’s the natural outpouring of being loved by Jesus and having love for Jesus: You start to love Jesus’s people; you start to love each other like brothers and sisters, love each other (and sometimes fuss with each other), but at the end of the day, still love each other. People don’t build great churches; churches build great people. It’s when you come to church and when you’re confronted with the Word of God and when you’re rubbing up against other sincere followers of Jesus, that your life starts to look different. It starts to change; something is different inside of you. It’s not people that build great churches. No, it works the other way around. It’s churches that build great people, and it begins with the love of Jesus.
It goes to the love for Jesus and then it starts to spread out to the love for others- for Jesus’s people. First John says it this way. John the apostle, the follower of Jesus Christ says:
1 John 4:7-8
7 Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. 8 But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
John, I guess, is saying it to us this way: Your ability, your capacity to love, it comes from God in the first place. It is God that gives us the ability to love him. It’s God who gives us the ability to love others. And if you’re thinking, “Well wait a second, Jeff. What about the total pagan? What about the absolute hard-core atheist? Can’t they still love?” The answer is yes, they can. But that’s because they already have the fingerprint -they have the image- of God on them, and it is God that gives anybody the capacity to love. But when you start talking about the church, now you’re loving people that are different from you. Now you’re loving people that don’t look like you and don’t come from the same place you come from and don’t come from the same walk of life that you come from. And the way that we love each other makes an impact on each other…but it’s supposed to make an impact on the community.
Jesus puts it this way when he’s talking to his disciples. He said people are going to watch you, and they’re going to watch the way that you love one another, and they’re going to see the way that you love one another, and it’s going to convince them that I’m real. John 13, verse 35: “It is your love for one another that will show the world [those outside the doors of this church] that you really are my disciples.”-by the way that you love each other. People are going to watch you to see it, and they’re going to watch what you’ve got, and they’re going to realize what you have must be real, because you can’t fake this.
I asked for permission to share the story with you. We as a church showed the love of Jesus really well last week. We did it in a life group. Several weeks ago, one of the ladies in our church contacted us and said, “Hey, I have a friend who is really struggling. She doesn’t go to church anywhere. She just needs a church to reach out to her, to love her, and to help her.” So, I asked Donna June Waller, who was on stage just a minute ago introducing Mike Krug to you. She leads a life group of ladies in our church. And I said, “Donna June, would you reach out to this lady? Just contact her to see if there’s anything that your life group can do for this woman.” And that woman showed up last Sunday to church. She actually went to the life group hour. ‘First time she ever walked in the doors of our church, and she was met by a bunch of women in our church who listened to her and loved on her and heard her explain what’s going on in her life. She’s got health problems, and she’s got family problems, and as a result, that group last week decided, “You know what? This is our lesson for today. We’re not going to do a lesson today. We’re just going to rally around this woman. We’re going to love this woman, and we’re going to serve this woman. They stopped what they were doing, and they met with her, and they prayed with her and made a commitment to her to walk with her through what she’s going through in life. Basically, they said, “Hey, we love Jesus, and Jesus loves us, and because we love him and he loves us, we love other people, and we’re going to love you through this challenge.
And when you do that, I’m convinced people stand up and take notice. In fact, I’m convinced they say, “I want what you guys got.” You see, if you asked the question, “Why does the church still exist today? Why didn’t Jesus just snatch us out of Earth and bring us up to Heaven the moment that he changed us?”-The answer to that question is simple. He left us on earth to make an impact in his absence. He left us to continue his mission until he comes back again.
IV. Left in the city
The truth is, he left his church in the city to make an impact on the city. That’s what the church is supposed to do. He left this church in the city to make a big impact. This whole sermon today is building towards one point. In fact, it’s building towards one sentence. If you hear nothing else that I say today, I want you to hear this sentence, because this describes everything that we’re trying to say today about being the church. Why does the church still exist in the Chattahoochee Valley today? Why didn’t God just take us up to Heaven? Well, the answer that question is this: The church lives a life for which the city is longing.
There are a lot of people in this town who don’t know what this church or other churches have the offer, so they don’t know what we have to give them. There are some people in this town that don’t know what they’re looking for until they walk in the doors of the church and experience it for the first time, and then they realize, “You know what? That’s really what I was longing for.”
So, what is it that we give to the city that they are wanting, the thing that they’re longing for? The answers is love -the way that we love each other. When people see that, they should say, “Man, I want some. How do I get what these folks have?” Jesus did this with his disciples. He gathered them together. He invested himself in them, and then when their lives are radically transformed, Jesus spread them out all over the countryside to go make an impact in his name and for his sake. Luke tells us how this went down in chapter 10:
1 The Lord now chose seventy-two other disciples and sent them ahead in pairs to all the towns and places he planned to visit. 2 These were his instructions to them: “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields. 3 Now go, and remember that I am sending you out as lambs among wolves.
Go out there and love your city, and go out there and live your faith in front of your city, so that your city says, “I want some of that too.”
Texas pastor, Todd Wagner, put it this way, “The church is God’s battering ram on the gates of Hell, and the way that the church does that is in the power of the Holy Spirit in a God-honoring, Jesus Christ-magnifying way. We go outside the doors of the city, and we love and we serve each other, and we love and we serve our city, so that they see: Hey, these folks aren’t like the United Way; these folks aren’t like the gals in my sorority; these folks are not like Rotary International. There something else different about them. There’s something that’s different about them that’s not true about anybody else.”
Church, the truth is that when our worship service is over on Sundays, the real work of the service begins. When we’re done collectively coming together and worshiping King Jesus in this room, when we leave out the doors of this room, we leave here to go work and go make an impact.-as big of an impact as we can for Jesus Christ, our King. And we don’t want to see anybody fall through the cracks. We don’t want to see anybody fall out of the family. We don’t want to see anybody end up missing in action.
Did y’all watch the news this weekend? A U.S. Marine Corps aircraft went down right off the coast of Australia. The U.S. Marine Corps is pouring tons of money and people and energy and resources into finding these three Marines to see if any of them survived. Even the country of Australia is at work right now trying to see if anybody survived in this crash. I watched some of America’s greatest warriors -no questions, hands-down some of America’s greatest warriors- drop everything and go get back a brother or sister who went missing. I watched them plan the mission and then go execute the mission to go find Jessica Lynch and her team, and when they realized that the rest of her team was dead and buried in shallow graves in the dirt, those men dug with their own bare hands and pulled those bodies, American bodies, out of the dirt, so they could send them back to their families. I watched them use bullets and bombs and millions of dollars-worth of money and equipment to go get one guy, Marcus Luttrell and go bring him back up the side of a mountain.
And I see the nation’s greatest warriors can accomplish anything, spent five years of their life trying to find this one soldier who walked away from his base, Bowe Bergdahl, and whatever it takes, go get that guy who’s missing in action and go bring him back to his country and bring him back to his people.
I often think in the back of my mind, if America’s military would do this for somebody who’s missing in action, shouldn’t the church be willing to do just as much for somebody who’s not here anymore.
I’ve got a challenge for us today. In fact, I’ve got a challenge that I want everybody in this room who is a regular at Calvary to consider taking. Would you consider this next step today? Look around the room. Look at an empty chair in the room that you remember there was a time when this lady or that guy or this family used to sit in that chair, and they’re still in this town, but I don’t know where they are. I don’t know if they’re going to church anywhere right now. Would you be the one on behalf of Calvary Baptist Church to go back to them and go say, “Hey, we want you back in church.” Listen to what I just said: We want you back in church, somewhere in a gospel-teaching, Bible-believing church. If it’s not Calvary Baptist Church, then so be it, but we want you back in church somewhere. And if not here, let us help you find another church in town, where you can get plugged in, where you can be loved, where you can be served, and where you can serve. In fact, churches all over America on September 17 are going to go to the folks that are missing in action and going to ask them to come back. – if not back to Calvary Baptist Church, then go back to a good church somewhere else in our city. I’m certain if you’re a longtime regular here, you know somebody right now who used to sit next to you, and they’re not sitting next to you anymore, and you may be thinking of yourself, “Hey, where are these people? Are they going to church anywhere right now?
‘You see, if we’re going to love our city, one of the ways that we need to show that we love our city is by loving those that are not here right now. I’m asked you to go to the church office. Go ask them, “Can I get the contact information for this couple or for this family who used to be here all the time, and they’re not here anymore? -because I’m going to go talk to them over the next couple weeks. I’m going to ask them to come back to Calvary, or I’m going to invite them to go to another good church in our city.” But, we don’t want to see anybody missing in action. We don’t want to see anybody fall through the cracks. It’s too important -to be involved in a church regularly and to be blessed and to be encouraged by a church- is way too important.
So, right now, look around the room, and think of somebody who used to be sitting in that seat, that empty seat that doesn’t have anybody in it. How would you reach out to them over the next few weeks, and would you invite them to come back to church, if not here, then somewhere. This is our challenge. As a family, we don’t let anybody from the family slip through the cracks. This is the next step that I want to ask everybody in this room who is a regular or a longtime member of Calvary Baptist Church, would you do that this week? Would you do that last thing on the screens? Would you go reach out to somebody this week who you know should be at Calvary or somewhere and are not going anywhere?
• I need Jesus to change my heart. Today, I turn from my sins and surrender to him for the first time.
– I haven’t been living for Jesus lately. Pray for me to show the kind of faith for which people are longing.
+ I will reach out to someone who is no longer at Calvary this week.
- Can you call yourself a member of a church and not love Jesus? Explain your answer.
- We all like to spend time at a friend’s house getting to know them better. On a scale of 1-10, how excited were you to go to Jesus’s house last Sunday?
- What does it say to people outside the faith when church people are ugly to one another?
- What can the church offer that no other club in town can offer?
- If the church is a group of people and not a building, what does the church “do” Monday through Saturday?
- Can you call yourself a Christian if you don’t go to church and don’t want to? Explain your answer.
- Pray for someone that you know has left Calvary and isn’t going anywhere right now.