As I have said over these past few weeks, each sermon has had a very personal feel to it. Sunday’s was no different. Only this time, it wasn’t just targeting my heart. It was targeting ‘our’ heart as a church. Last year, during my sermon planning, discussing jealousy and selfish ambition seemed like an excellent follow-up to Sarai and Hagar. But I didn’t envision what God was about to do in our church and how quickly things were changing in CLF. So this sermon not only ‘felt’ right, it felt like prophetic guardrails around the ‘soul’ of our church. The following points in this post give you a greater sense of why I think that way.
A Humble, Gentle, and Peaceable Approach to Ministry and Outreach
When I look at God’s work at CLF, it could be easy to “get out over our skis” and think we’re doing something right. But, it’s also a clear temptation to change who we “are” and forget our moorings in the gospel. Where I feel the tug of sin the most is in thinking too highly of our wisdom and ministry ideas. What all of these temptations lead to is pride. They’re filled with selfish ambition and the thought that we’ve done something, and they push God’s glory to the circumference.
That’s one reason why this sermon is important. Pride makes us harsh, and it stirs up conflict with others. Pride thinks we have the corner of the market on all truth and that we are always ‘right’ in our understanding and methods. Pride doesn’t look upon others with compassion, nor is pride open to reason. I don’t want any of these things in my heart or in the church I attend or pastor.
Instead, I want to treat others as if they’re made in the image of God, and they deserve respect and care because of that fact. I want to acknowledge and believe with all my heart that I ‘see through a glass dimly’ and that I’m always in need of growth and understanding. I want to be open to hearing different perspectives, respectfully and lovingly sharing the gospel with others, and know I’ve handled people with mercy and compassion.
Our community needs to see and hear from truly wise Christians who are gentle, peaceable, and humble.
Faithfully Following Jesus
Our Western world thinks that success is making a splash and impact. Bigger always seems better. But what I’ve always been amazed about when I think of faithfully following Jesus is how small, subtle, and “normal” people and ministry look in the New Testament.
I love pastor Timothy. I relate to him the most in the NT. But you never read of Timothy casting out demons (I’m sure he probably did) or doing some great miracle. Instead, you read Paul’s instructions to him to be a faithful man and faithful pastor. He wasn’t showy; he was faithful. His people so beloved him that tradition tells us that when he was trampled by a mob, the men of his church carried his body to the hill overlooking Ephesus and buried him there because they felt that he should be overlooking “his” city.
I also love Lydia, Onesiphorus, and others who faithfully served their churches without much fanfare. See, in the Western world, we look at Paul and Peter and say, “If we’re not doing what they’re doing, we’re not faithfully following Jesus.” Yet we fail to see that while those men were faithful to their calling, others were also. Not everyone makes a “YUGE” impact. Most of us will be people who faithfully love our neighbors, faithful spouses, good parents, and helpful citizens who demonstrate and declare Jesus to our friends, neighbors, and co-workers. And sometimes, no one but God will see.
But one other thought: I think this subtle and faithful following of Jesus aligns with Jesus’ life on earth. Think about this: The King of Heaven was born in a manger, without fanfare, to parents from Nazareth, considered a ‘no-place’ town. He was raised in a carpenter’s home and went about his ministry with 12 nobodies who were like social outcasts. And when He died, all of them fled.
Engaging a “Cancel” and Divided Culture
The last reason I think this sermon was important is that many Christians today are engaging our “cancel” and divided culture with the same weapons the world uses. I’m deeply concerned about this. Christians approach the culture to create a war rather than responding biblically and faithfully to the raging war. So let me clarify a few things because some have asked me about this.
First, I am not saying that Christians should stay quiet on cultural issues. Instead, we should speak the truth in love to others over concern for their soul and protect the innocent. Our speech should be seasoned with grace and filled with mercy. This is why I don’t believe that accusatory and judgmental words are helpful. Christians should speak in such a way that reveals that God has a better plan and that God’s way is the best, most satisfying way to live.
Second, there is no place in Scripture where we, as Christians, are the issue with cultural debate and discussion. Of course, the gospel of Christ will bring offense to others, and people will get mad at us, at times, when we share it with them. But, as Christians (our attitude, demeanor, and tone), we should not be the reason they’re made at us. My current concern is that Christians don’t know how to engage the world around them, so they yell, get angry, say harsh/mean things, and are not concerned about the souls of the people they’re accusing.
Third, I think that some Christians in the USA have lost perspective of the world they’re living in, and that has affected how they engage this world. The Greco-Roman world was remarkably decadent and immoral. Yet, we do not see or hear of the apostles ‘freaking out’ or being shocked by what they see. They knew they were living in a Genesis 3 world, and they called on Christians to “live honorably” and treat others with “gentleness and respect.”
Finally, from my personal ministry experience, I harshly confronted others with zero grace in my younger years. I did not truly listen to other peoples’ perspectives. I was not gentle or open to reason. But, as I have grown in the gospel and been amazed at God’s grace and patience, the Lord has been kind to keep changing me. I have found that a “gentle answer does turn away wrath” and that people will respectfully listen to what I say when they know how much I care for them. And the opportunities for the gospel have increased, not decreased, as the Lord has taught me compassion and how to care for people. I’m not perfect, but I am being changed. And by the grace of God, He has allowed me to demonstrate and declare His gospel in places I never dreamed of before.
This Coming Sunday
This Sunday, May 28th, we will look at the Implications of the Gospel from 1 Corinthians 15:1-5 and 2 Corinthians 5:14-21. Our service will be at 10:00 a.m. at Jacoby Auditorium on the campus of Umpqua Community College.
Church Locations in the Upcoming Weeks
- May 28th: Jacoby Auditorium at 10:00 a.m.
- June 4th: One Champion Field at 10:00 a.m.
- June 11th: Jacoby Auditorium at 10:00 a.m. “Brown Bag Sunday” means bringing your lunch to church to hang out afterward. This is for those who might’ve thought “Brown Bag” meant bringing an adult beverage.🤣
- June 18th: Jacoby Auditorium at 10:00 a.m.
- June 25th: Jacoby Auditorium at 10:00 a.m.
From the Cheap Seats
- Time to brag about people from our church. Kelly Simonson coaches track at Oakland High School. Her teams were fantastic this past weekend at the district championship, and she was nominated coach of the year. The Oakland girls won the district championship, and the boys finished 3rd! They have at least 15 kids going to the state track meet. Great job, Kelly.
- The baseball team I coach, Umpqua Valley Christian, won our league title and claimed the #1 seed to state. State playoffs begin today (Monday, May 22nd), and our first playoff game will be Wednesday at One Champion Field.
- Now…how about Manchester City!! 3 titles in a row and 5 in the last 6 years. Wow! Pep is a genius. And he’s a bit crazy.
- Check out this catch: https://bleacherreport.com/post/college-baseball/a51af0e3-f0e2-4cfc-8087-90b9a87da7c2
- Just in case you didn’t think European futbol was crazy, watch this video when Barcelona won LaLiga on an opponent’s turf: https://bleacherreport.com/post/world-football/b498173c-51a0-4194-8b50-8873ad85b024.
Have a great week!
To watch or listen to the sermon described in this post, please click here.