September 9, 2015
Pastor Nick Bruner
Think about the words and the gravity of the Gospel expressed in those songs. Oh how he loves us in spite of us. How he has lavished his grace and his mercy on us who don’t deserve it at all. It is an amazing reality that we as the people of God can live in. It’s an amazing reality that we as the people of God can express. It is an amazing reality that we as the people of God share with others in this city. We’re coming to the end of this time of worship that we’ve had this long weak. I can tell you today I was feeling it. I wasn’t sure I had the energy to get through one more night of this. I asked God to give me the energy for one more night. So tonight I pray the same thing for all of us, God give us a little bit more energy to get through this last sermon. Lord, you are doing something. We know you are doing something. We see that you are doing something. So as we come to the end of this time together this week, let’s not see it as an end but as a beginning. I see it as something that we as the people of God at Calvary Baptist Church would look back on, talk about, and remember as the week that set the tone for the next 30 years. So this might be a beginning if God is in it, all around it and we believe in a sovereign God, then we are embarking on something amazing, ground shaking, and city shattering. We are about transforming lives, renewed life, restored, and a city changed for the glory of Jesus Christ. That’s what we’re about and that’s what we are going to be about. That’s why we’ve come here the last four days to do some rehab, hit the reset button, and recalibrate our hearts to what God has called us to do when he saved us out of the train wreck of our lives into the glorious righteousness of who he is. But, we’re not done yet.
Tonight we’re going to be talking about love. Love of God, love for the people of God’s church and love for those that have no clue who King Jesus is. If the stats are right that is around 80% of our city. I’ve said this phrase to some of the pastors over the last couple days. It hit me like a ton of bricks a couple days ago as I was preparing for this message. When we are talking about revival of the people of God this is a family matter. This is a matter of the family of God. We have something in this place that is deeper than blood. Something that transcends this life. So this is very important. When we’re talking about revival we are talking about the family and the church, the bride of Christ. I mean think about this. We that believe in Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior are going to be spending eternity with Jesus together. Let that sit for a moment. You get to spend eternity with Jesus and me forever. I get to spend eternity with Jesus and you forever. Is that a wonderful thought in your mind or does it just fall flat like a bad taste in your mouth?
Tonight I can’t throw softballs at you. I would betray my calling as a pastor and a preacher of God’s word. We’re talking about family. It’s a family thing. It is personal. We have to do some heart interrogation. We have to do some introspection. We have to dive deep into ourselves and understand what it means to be revived for the purpose of glorifying Christ in our lives with each other into our city.
I want you to have in your head by the end of tonight a person that you know that does not know Christ and who lives in this city. This is important. It could be a family member, coworker, workout buddy or next-door neighbor. It could be a cubicle neighbor because I know some of you live in a land of partitions on a daily basis. As we dive into the Scriptures tonight have that person in the forefront of your thoughts.
1. Christ followers must love their neighbor.
36 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” 37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”
The context of this passage is huge. Let’s put it into focus. The Pharisees, scribes, and experts in the law are in this long drawn out Q&A with Jesus. From the time that Jesus was seen as a threat to their power, the religious elite did everything they could to corner him, catch him in a lie and put an end to him. These experts in the law had no idea. They were blinded by their pride, their sin, and their own power that they had welled for themselves. Though they were conversing with a guy, who happened to be a homeless guy from Nazareth with a few scattering of followers, they were oblivious to the reality that he was not just well-versed in the law but that he was the lawgiver himself. So there’s your context.
An expert in the law asking the lawgiver a question. The question centered on the greatest command. The answer centered on love. Here’s the question. Which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses? Of all the law, prophets, everything that we know to be from God, what is the most important? He gave the answer that they were probably looking for first off. He said love the Lord your God with your whole self, heart, mind and soul. He was quoting Deuteronomy chapter 6. The Pharisees had no problem with that. Then he said in equal footing you must love your neighbor as yourself. These two commandments are the foundation of all the law and the prophets. The whole Old Testament hangs on these and he brought them together. He fused them together. This has not happened before. It’s a command. That’s the crazy thing. It is a command. Now for us, we see that command and think I guess I have to do it. I have no choice. However, it’s something more. It’s not a command soiled and muddied up with legalism and obligation but a command that is grounded in the Gospel. It is a command that can never be fully expressed without the Gospel or without the Good News of Jesus Christ. It’s not just news; it’s Good News. We love God not as a means to an end, not to earn salvation, because the rest the world as we know it has been trying to do this from the very beginning. Since a loving God came down, died on a cross, and loves us. While we were still sinners Christ died for us. We are train wrecks that deserve an eternal death and hell. We cannot save ourselves yet he became our substitute exchanging our life for his on the cross. We are accepted and received because of his sacrifice. We are loved, adopted, and saved if we believe in him and what he did and has done for us. It is a sealed deal. It can never be taken away.
Therefore, as a result of this amazing reality, love God with your whole self – mind, soul, and heart because he loves you despite you. He loves you with his whole self and gave his whole self for you. You’ve been set free from the penalty of sin and death. So now you are free to love God with all of yourself. Free from sin. Free from obligation. Free from trying to earn something that you cannot earn. It has been given to you so therefore love God with all of yourself.
The first point Christ followers must love their neighbor of equal measure. Love God with all of yourself but with equal measure we are called to love our neighbor with the same wholeness that we are to love God. It is again in the vein of a command. It is a must that we’ve been freed to do. Free from obligation. Free from the hopelessness that legalism provides. When we dive into the context of what Christ is saying here he is quoting directly from Leviticus.
Leviticus 19:18 Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against a fellow Israelite, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.
Jesus could have easily said the 10 Commandments and all of that stuff about your conduct with other people that’s loving your neighbor. But no he went to Leviticus chapter 19. He is speaking of a conduct of a holy people before a holy God and how they are to treat the people of God. So, who is your neighbor? All you have to do is look around you at your friends, family, and neighbors. Here’s our problem. This is a time when I tell God that I don’t know how I’m going to deliver this one but here we go. In the words of Paul, I hear that there are divisions among you, disunity, grudges, bitterness, anger, distrust, and broken relationships. In some cases, over the pettiest of things. How can we expect or hope that a holy God would use a people that are called to be salt and light the epitome of Christ’s love to this city and world that we live in when we can’t even love each other? I said this is a family matter. This is personal. Revival not only happens within the context of the personal heart but revival must happen within the people of God. That means the busted up parts of the family need to reconcile. We need to be revived as a family and a people before a holy God.
Revival is a family matter. It’s a matter of the heart and a matter of the heart’s of the people of God. Are there those in your midst that you need to be bold in your humility, confess, repent and ask for forgiveness? Does there need to be healing, mending, or restoration of relationships?
2. The Problem
“No believer or church member will feel compelled to share his or her faith if they don’t really believe others need the Gospel.” -Thom Rainer
I tell you this. The Gospel is not just about knowledge intake or exchanging knowledge with another person. It is a transformative lifestyle displayed by people who call themselves saved and is expressed in the way that we live. So, if that is true, what picture of the Christian life are we displaying to the world through the way that we treat the very people that we are going to be spending eternity with and then asking others in our city who don’t know Jesus to join in? The Gospel can be offensive. We can be hated because we share the Gospel and we can create such tension in our culture for the sake of Jesus Christ, the community of faith and of the saints can be beautiful and attractive best displayed by the saved.
This is the difference between the counterfeit and the truth, between the Pharisee and the body of Christ, the difference between whitewashed tombs and restored brothers and sisters, adopted sons and daughters of God. This is the difference between Peter who at one time denied Jesus three times and basically cowered in fear of retribution because he was a part of Jesus to the point where on the other side of Pentecost he shared one of the greatest sermons that led to 3000 people being saved in a day. He became the very rock that Jesus said he would be. This is John the disciple whom Jesus loved and who stayed there to the very end of Jesus’ life. He was there when Jesus resurrected from the dead. There was division among the disciples. They scattered about after Jesus got arrested but something happened that brought them all together and that was the moving of the Holy Spirit. Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came down and ignited the movement that led to the church and led to you sitting in this very seat tonight 2000 years later. These two men, Peter and John, stood before the same group of scribes and Pharisees that questioned Jesus. This love, this reality of being saved, and expressing that unity of salvation between the two and between the church in its infancy said this in response to the same religious guys trying to silence them as well.
Acts 4:19-20 But Peter and John replied, “Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than him?20 We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard.”
They were unified. Both of these men put away all division and united on a common goal, purpose, and mission that they both equally had been called to and they could not help but do. The Commandments that Jesus said love God with all that you are and love your neighbor as yourself. We as a people of God have to get to this place where when people try to silence us, we are unified together saying we can’t help it. We can’t stop telling what we’ve seen and heard regardless of what the world is going to throw at us. We can’t stop! Aren’t you glad they didn’t stop! Amen! The Gospel frees us to love God with our whole selves and to love the people of God with that same boldness. This leads us to see that the solution to the very problem lies within the Gospel, within the Good News of Jesus Christ.
3. The Solution
For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.
What was the reasoning? Love. God so loved us. The centerpiece, the reason God did what he did, why Jesus did what he did was love. Sacrificial, selfless, passionate love. For us the solution to the problem, the solution to the divisions, the solution to the bitterness, the solution to everything that is hindering the Holy Spirit from being able to work in the lives of the people of God here at Calvary, is to live the Gospel out with each other. Then the world can see what the Gospel truly does to people. How it transforms us, propels us and how it shows the world of reality of the way things truly are. Francis Schaeffer calls this the true truth. Live out the love that’s been so richly bestowed and lavished on us. You’ve been set free to do it and be able to live in that. So, family we are not called to be divided. We are not called to be bitter towards one another. We are not called to have division over petty things, that in some cases in some relationships might have lasted decades or may have happened last night. The Gospel calls us to daily live for Christ with one another. Love one another. Love everyone that God puts in your way wherever God has placed you. Love them despite themselves because at one time we were all in that place. If all of you shared your testimony tonight, there was a person in your life who sought to love you despite you because Christ loved them despite themselves and wanted to show you the mark of what it means to be saved.
What’s amazing and awesome about this whole thing is that Christ foresaw this. He prayed for us. He prayed that we would be unified in this amazing work he has called us to. He prayed for us in the implication that we would falter and we would need in times of revival to reset buttons and recalibrate our hearts. He prayed for us!
I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. 21 I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. 22 I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. 23 I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me. 24 Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am. Then they can see all the glory you gave me because you loved me even before the world began
In this Christ has called us, his church, to be unified so that revival does not end tonight but that revival would spread and turn into awakening. Souls saved, hearts renewed, dead turned alive in this city, world changed, and lives transformed in Jesus.
Therefore, love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and love your neighbor, your fellow family members with that same love. Therefore… now we can be in that place, now we can go on the mission that God has called us to, that Christ has commissioned us for, and that we have been talking about this entire year.
Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
We have been called to action. We have been called to go. As we are going, we are making disciples and making more worshipers of God. They can live in the same freedom that you do. What does loving your neighbor look like? It may mean knocking on your next-door neighbor’s door for the first time. It may be to the extreme of saying I want to love this city to the point that I want to accept them into my home and to love them as Christ loves them.
Here is an example of how much our city needs the church to be on mission. Remember this number 416. That’s how many children are in foster care in our city. That’s how many children are coming out of broken families in desperate need of others to share the Gospel with them. There are people in desperate need of Jesus in our city. If you’re a guy, at 6:30 tomorrow morning there’s something happening at the Columbus Trade Center. If you want to meet unchurched guys be there tomorrow morning. For details check out our website page at http://columbusgameplanforlife.com.
What does loving your neighbor look like? It may mean stepping out into a very uncomfortable place that you’ve never been before but guess what Jesus says he is with you always to the very end of the age. It might be becoming a foster family and accepting some of 416 kids into my home that they may hear the Gospel for the first time. So that their mom, who’s addicted to crack, might hear the Gospel for the first time. That’s our city. We’re on the top 10 list of the most depressed cities in the country. We need the Gospel. The harvest is plentiful. We are called to do it. We are called to be a people in a manner of Peter and John. We can’t help it. We can’t stop. We’ve got to go and do because we have been set free and we want others to be set free. How are we going to do it? Jesus has said that he will be with us in this and he will give us power to do it.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
My prayer is that we will not be a church that this is said of. I was reading a book called Why Revival Tarries by Leonard Ravenhill. There was a quote in the book by JI Bryson that says, “The church has halted somewhere between Calvary and Pentecost.” I pray that is not us. Great things are happening here and, as Jeff’s said, we are very encouraged by what God is doing here. I know that he’s not yet done with us. So we have been given the power by the Holy Spirit who dwells in each of us to be heralds of the good news to those who need to hear it.
I want you to go back in your mind to that person I mentioned at the beginning of the sermon. Before I do that I want to tell you a story to give you some perspective about what to do next. When my wife, Ashley, and I were in North Carolina going to Southeastern Seminary we were members of Northlake Church. When they were building their new building years back, they had a service in the building. They had sharpies and magic markers there. Pastor Larry Trotter led them in a service and at the end asked them to write down on the concrete, the framing, or the very walls that they would be worshiping within the names of those that they knew that did not know Jesus. The ones that they had been praying for. The ones they had so been hoping that would come into the fold of Christ and join the people of God. What’s remarkable is that he was sharing that story with us a few years later and there was evidence of answered prayers all over. Families restored. Whole families that had come to know Christ because of one person filling up two rows of the church. I want us to have that person in our thoughts. There are empty chairs in our room tonight. This is what I’m calling you to do. First choose a chair. Kneel before it. Pray over that chair. Pray for that person that is in your head. Pray that that person would be saved and that the Holy Spirit would convict their hearts of their sin. That you would be an instrument to do that and ultimately that they would come into the fold of Christ here at Calvary, worshiping alongside so you.
Some of you may say that you don’t know anybody who’s not saved. My direction is for you to pray that God would literally put someone in your way that doesn’t know Jesus. Pray that God would give you the opportunities to not only share the Gospel but live it out before your co-workers and family members who do not know Jesus. I know there are some in here with entire families that are without Christ. Thirdly you might be in the place of where you are so preoccupied with anger and bitterness toward someone in this room or someone within this church that you can’t even think about people outside the walls of this church. There’s some brokenness that needs to be fixed here. I’m not just talking to you. I’m also talking to me. Maybe there are some relationships that need to be mended. Maybe there is some forgiveness that needs to happen within this place. How can we be a people of God united with a common purpose and united in that reality? How can we do that with busted up relationships within the midst of us? Maybe this is the time where you need to be bold in your humility and ask for forgiveness, not only before God but also to person who that might not be here today. It’s time for us not just to be revived in our heart but revived as a people and that means that relationships need to be restored in Christ.
- Because Jesus loves me despite myself, I will do likewise with everyone that God places in my life.