Reimagine Church: A Community of Love

Dear Christ Church,

For those that missed the start to our new sermon series Reimagine Church, here is a brief summary of what we covered.  Be sure to check out the sermon if you get a chance!

Title:  Reimagine Church:  A Community of Love

Text:  Revelation 2:1-7

The Ephesians were a pretty strong church that had some good things going for them.  They had endured hard times and not abandoned their faith.  They had sniffed out false teachers and not been duped by charlatans.  They had refused to compromise their convictions despite the enormous pressures of their culture.  Yet, in all this, they are critiqued by Jesus for losing the love that they had at first.  God cares not just about what we believe in our heads and what we do with our hands.  He also cares about what we feel in our hearts.  We don’t have to guess what God wants us to feel. In the letter to the Ephesians we are told what their first love was.

For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you (Eph 1:15-16 ESV)

The love the Ephesians had at first, which they had now lost, had two components to it.   Love for Jesus (because faith always implies love) and love for all the saints.  

Point #1  Vertical Love

We always need to start with vertical love because that is the love that keeps us aligned.  Like those beat up shopping carts at Walmart, our hearts are naturally bent inwards towards ourselves and are always pulling us away from loving others.  The only true way we can be free to show horizontal love and not just have it be about us, is if we are aligned with our vertical love for God.

We align ourselves with vertical love by,

Remember therefore from where you have fallen (Rev 2:5 ESV)

When we first became followers of God we had a clear thirst that we had.  Like a dehydrated person in the desert, for the first time we tasted water and we just could not get enough.  However, over time, the more water we drink, the more we can be tempted to get tired of it and want to fill up on other things.  It is not that our thirst goes away, but that we choose to quench it with things other than God.  Like someone who only drinks coffee or soda, we can quench our thirst with junk and eventually become dehydrated again.  If we want to regain our thirst for God we can’t just try to conjure up feelings of being thirsty.  The thirst is already there.  We need to stop drinking other things that take away our thirst, but don’t really leave us satisfied.

We satisfy our thirst for God by spending time with God through reading the word of God.  The Bible is not a book of disconnected stories, but is all one big story of who Jesus is and what he has done.  Jesus said,

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me (Joh 5:39 ESV)

No matter what we are studying in the Bible we should always be asking ourselves these two questions:  What is this showing me about my need for Jesus?  How is this fulfilled by Jesus?

The really good news is that God has not left us to just figure this out for ourselves, but has promised to give us His Holy Spirit to strengthen us so that Christ might dwell in our hearts.

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith-- that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God (Eph 3:14-19 ESV)

So thirsting for God, reading God’s word, and praying to be filled with the Spirit are all ways that we can keep our love for God fresh.  

However, this vertical love between us and God is not meant to stay between us and God.

Point #2  Horizontal Love

For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you (Eph 1:15-16 ESV)

This love for all the saints is not just a general feeling of well wishing towards people.  A major theme in the book of Ephesians is how Christian love is meant to reach across races and bring different ethnicities together.

Eph 2:11-22, Jesus has broken down the walls that divide us, not just from God, but from each other

Eph 3:6  The mystery of the gospel is not just that we are now one with God, but that we can be one with one another, both Jew and Gentile

Eph 3:10 The church is meant to display the manifold (literally, multi colored) love of God

Eph 4:4-6 Even though we are very different from one another, Jesus brings us all together in unity

This is the picture of the church given in heaven.

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!" (Rev 7:9-10 ESV)

Heaven is not color blind.  Heaven is colorful.  You can see different tribes and nations represented.  You can hear different languages being spoken.  God loves diversity, because he created it.  Diversity will exist in heaven.  And yet there will be incredible unity as we are all clothed in Jesus and singing His salvation song.  This picture of heaven though is not just meant to be for heaven.

Pray then like this: "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.  Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. (Mat 6:9-10 ESV)

I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (Joh 17:20-21 ESV)

God’s clear desire is that we would be a many colored, multi ethnic church here on earth.  Yet, 86% of the churches in America are represented by one predominant ethnic group.  The words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr still ring true today as he said that Sunday mornings remain the most segregated time in America.  Not many churches are trying to be monocultural, homogenous groups.  However, that is what naturally happens because having different kinds of people together is hard.  It is easy to ask someone to assimilate, “You are welcome here as long as you embrace our culture”, then it is to accomodate “You are welcome here and we commit to making room for your culture.”  Because this is so hard, diversity is often seen as something that would be nice, but is not necessary.  However, being a diverse church is not nice.  It is a necessary outflow of the gospel.  Only by having vastly different people together, and still letting each one be different, can the church be a testimony to the world of how the blood of Jesus runs deeper than our differences.  

We need to reimagine church as a community of love.  Fresh, vibrant, ever increasing love for Jesus.  And love that reaches across racial divides.

In His Love,

Pastor Jeff

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