Good morning, everybody. My name is Tony Fernandez. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m one of the ministers here on staff. And when I walked in, people said my shirt looked like Florida summer. So there it is. That’s that’s what I’m wearing today. In a moment, we’re going to get to Matthew chapter four so if you have a Bible, you can go and turn there. But before we do that, I just wanted to share a little bit about our upcoming missions offering.
If you’re a member here, you know that we have set before the church a really faithful goal of 10 times our weekly offering for the work that goes above and beyond what we will we can accomplish through our normal resources. Specifically, we’re talking about the work in South America, in the southern coast of South America and in the Caribbean, and also to reach more people right here in Broward County and online. This year, this is our goal. But this year, the offering is going to take place on June the 6th, twenty twenty one.
And that’s the start of the offering. And I’m really excited about every single week we’re going to be showing you a little bit about the impact that’s made through that offering that has been made and that will continue to be made. And I hope that this year our collection will do more for the world than maybe ever before. But for now, let’s continue our study. As I mentioned before, we are in a brand new or not a brand new series.
We’re in week four of a series that we’re calling Practicing the Way of Jesus. And this series really speaks to the broader goal of our church, which is to build a church around the idea of following Jesus. Simply put, we want to cultivate a community of faith around the idea that we are followers of Jesus. And I know this isn’t necessarily new for any of us, but I believe a focused emphasis on recommitting ourselves to the basics of our faith is the best and probably the most beautiful way of being what Jesus called a city on a hill, a place, an ambassadorship, us being ambassadors of Christ to a world who is really looking for hope.
And so I again, believe that what we’re talking about is really special. This is a special moment in our church because we are recommitting to the roots of our faith. Let’s be followers of Jesus. That’s what we’re talking about. We’re talking about being apprentices or being disciples of Jesus of Nazareth. We’ve been using the word apprentices because we we like that word. It’s the same word as disciple. But basically what we’re saying is that our lives should be circle ordered around kind of three goals and three goals are this.
We’ve been talking about the whole Series. Be with him. Would Jesus be like Jesus and do what Jesus did? Our goal in life is to spend time with God, be in his presence and living our lives. Our goal in life is to become like him, for his characteristics to permeate our hearts and then to be lived out in our experiences and then to do what he did, to be able to bring the world the character of Jesus and the compassion of Jesus and the way that he just kind of like elevates everybody around him.
I spoke on the first week. I spoke of the first week on being with him, Mike, and Chase did the next two weeks. I thought they did a great job on the other two topics. But we’re not done. And here’s why. Because as much as we want to reorder our lives around these three goals, it’s easier said than done. Is that right?
In fact, it’s not easy to redesign your life. It’s not even easy to marginally change your life. Changing your life is hard. Ask anybody who’s ever been on a diet as that’s right. Ask anybody who’s ever who’s ever tried to cut something out of the way, what they eat, or ask anybody who’s tried to exercise as anybody who’s tried to stop biting their nails. Changing your life is actually quite difficult. And I could, with all the eloquence that I have, give you some smooth sounding ideas and I can preach with as much power as I can muster.
And I can tell you, hey, reorder your life around these three goals. And I could tell you that life’s problems are really found in the solutions of the gospel. And I can paint a picture of how beautiful it is to live in the experience as a Christian. And I can do this for the next 10 years and I would only partially influence change in your life.
The fact is that a sermon on Sunday morning isn’t the way we change. As much as I wish that it was.I wish that I could get up here and say something and then everyone would leave different.
But it’s not the way it works. I just throw out seeds. Hopefully some of them take root, germinate and grow into something quite beautiful.
But really what the Gospel is after is not us sitting in chairs or listening online in order to change a little bit throughout the course of ten years. The Bible is after transformation top to bottom transformation Romans chapter twelve, listen to this, this is the apostle Paul. It says, Do not be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind or the renewal of your mind. This from the ESV. Second Corinthians in chapter three, verse 18, and we all, with unveiled faces, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to the next. And I can show you a passage after passage of the passage to kind of paint the beautiful picture that God is after us, radically changing.
Jesus wants to see us form from one degree of glory to the next. Transformation is what God is after, and so it’s what we’re after. The Greek word transformation is the word metamorpho which is where we get the word metamorphosis. Here’s the definition. The profound change in form from one stage to the next in the life of an organism as from the caterpillar to the pupa, from the pupa to an adult butterfly, it’s a profound change. There is nothing similar between a pupa and a butterfly.
There is nothing similar between a caterpillar and a butterfly. They are radically different. This is what the gospel is after a whole life, whole mind, whole body, whole soul change. The New Testament writers write about this over and over and over again. Transformation is what God is after, not just for eternity, not just being changed in heaven, but being changed today, being changed in our actions today. So in the midst of difficult times, we were able to if we’re changed, we’re able to find joy because Jesus was able to find joy in difficulty.
And we’re able to find compassion when our lives are crumbling around us and we’re able to embrace the way of Jesus when there are hurting people and we’re able to embrace the way of Jesus when we don’t know what to do. The goal, again, is to build a church around the idea of following, of becoming like being with and doing as Jesus did.
But the problem is, again, if we’re honest, most of us aren’t there yet. We change, but we’re still in process. As a matter of fact, you know, talk to somebody next to you say I’m still in process. All right, yeah, you can do better than that, you’re the nine o’clock service, come on, energy. I’m still in process. Drop that in the chat to. I’m still I’m still in process. And, you know, I’m still in process too thank you for telling me that because I am also and I need some encouragement to know I’m on the same team.
You know, all of us are like we’re going, but we’re still in process of transformation. And the truth is that a lot of us sometimes feel like we’re stuck. You might feel this. I changed a lot a long time ago, I changed a lot when I was young, I changed a lot when I found faith. I changed a lot back then. But today I’m stuck, stuck in emotional pain of my past, stuck in addictions, stuck in dysfunctional patterns, stuck in relationships that I feel like I just don’t know what to do with stuck in a spiritual rut.
And for most of us, it’s not that we don’t want transformation. It’s not that we’re not trying to transform, it’s that we don’t actually know how to transform. And so this is where this sermon series shifts for the next four weeks with our goals in mind of being with him, being like him and doing as he did what we’re going to talk about his spiritual transformation. How do we become people that embrace these three things?
How do we change spiritual transformation or as some call it, in the Christian world, spiritual formation? If you’re new to the language of spiritual formation, here’s a working definition. Spiritual formation is the process of increasingly being possessed and permeated by the character traits of Jesus. That’s what it is. As the apostle Paul in his language calls it, its being transformed from one degree of glory to the next. It’s constantly being refined by God in such a way that I become more and more like Jesus.
Now, spiritual formation isn’t just a Christian thing, because as all of us know, we are all being formed. You and I are being shaped. Every day you wake up, you are becoming somebody. And the question is, who are you becoming? You’re in process. But in the process of becoming what? If you if you haven’t thought about it much, you can call that version of formation unintentional spiritual formation. And here’s here’s how this works.
Stay with me. I promise. I’m going to get to Matthew Chapter four. I told you to turn there. Unintentional spiritual formation. This is the triangle. This is not original, but here it is.
We are formed by this triangle of formation, the voices we believe. This is the stories you hear, the media outlets you listen to, the books that you read, the things that you consume, voices we believe. You go, that makes sense. That political pundit makes sense and all of a sudden you are slowly being formed. You don’t necessarily know it’s unintentional formation, but you are being formed. Also your habits. Every morning when you wake up and you grab your phone, that is forming you. I don’t know what it’s forming you into, but it’s forming you. It’s forming you into something every time you spend a dollar on something, it’s forming you. All those little habits form you, you may not know what it’s forming you into, but it’s forming you and then the relationships, specifically the relationships that you have been given, the ones the people you sit next to at work or at school or the people that are on your Zoom call or the people that God put you in in terms of your family, those people form you.
We can call this unintentional formation the voices you believe. You don’t even know that it’s forming you, the habits. You don’t even realize how you spend or what you do is forming you. And lastly, the relationships they are forming you. You might ask, how does this work? Well, let me give you a silly example. Someone might ask I don’t know who would ask, but someone might ask why would anyone become, I don’t know, a Dolphins fan, for example?
I know. I’m just saying exactly. It’s crazy. Why? Well the reason is because you grew up in South Florida listening and believing that eight and eight was OK. For thirty years you’ve been eight and eight. You believe that thats successful. Boom formation.
And each week you got home after Sunday morning church and the only thing on television because they block it all out was the Miami Dolphins. And so those are your habits. You begin to form into someone that watches it. Right. And then all the people around you, mom, dad, brothers, friends, coworkers, the relationships, all are Miami Dolphins fan. And so now you’re a Miami Dolphins fan and it’s a silly example, but essentially that’s the way it works.
Over time, we are slowly formed into what some have called dol-fans, which, by the way, is what a three year old girl is, a doll fan. Just saying. I digress. I’m joking. But but but but some. Because some information is benign, right?
Who cares? But some information is actually really, really important or maybe even dangerous. In fact, most of us, we are the vices we live with. The ideology that we subscribe to and the sin that we struggle with was formed in us unintentionally. We were formed, but here’s the good news, as apprentices of Jesus in the scriptures, we are offered a counter formation. So you have the unintentional formation, but then God gives us a way of recalibrating those things to actually go towards our goal of discipleship. To counter the voices we have biblical teaching.
They’re teachings that so we go this is what we should believe. It’s not just I believe it because I believe it, but this is what I should believe, because it’s laid down in the scriptures.
To counter the habits that we form, we have the practices of Jesus, quiet time, silence and solitude, all the things that we’ve been talking about, practicing, stopping. All of these things, they are ways of breaking the habits that we form unintentionally and then to reform our relationship that we’re just given. We are given by God, biblical community. It’s an amazing thing. And the holy it’s the Holy Spirit way of forming us or transforming us. And so for the next few months or for the next month or so, we’re going to kind of circle back to these concepts.
We’re going to go in depth in each one of them. But because there is so much content to do, I’m just going to take on one this morning. So that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to talk about the very first one. We’re going to talk about community. Are you still with me here? I told you we were going to be in Matthew Chapter four. It’s taken a while. We’re going to get there in just a second.
So how do we in the language of the New Testament, how are we formed? Well, the short answer is it’s not exactly how most of us think. We have a problem in our world, Mother Teresa said that loneliness is the leprosy of the modern world. And over the last 10 years, I’m sure that you’ve seen if you looked at any surveys of sociologists or anything, really surveys we’ve seen that people surveyed a number after number after number of people who mark lonely or they don’t have somebody to connect with.
In those surveys, the nationwide has skyrocketed. One survey I saw said that 67 percent of Americans say that they’re lonely. Sixty seven percent of Americans say that they’re lonely. And fifty five percent feel like they’ve completely lost their sense of community, completely lost their sense of community. And this has been obviously exacerbated by national lockdowns and school and church closures and the idea of social distancing. And I’m not saying I’m not making a statement. I’m just saying it’s the truth.
The fault line, the kind of tectonic catastrophe of loneliness is now clearer than ever before. We may have missed this because we have a digital age, right, where we have Facebook and Instagram and Twitter and email and text messaging and zoom and FaceTime, and we’re more connected now than ever before. But wouldn’t you agree that connectivity is not necessarily the same thing as community?
Shirley Turkle is a sociologist and a and A and a psychologist from MIT in her book Alone Together, which is kind of a terrible I mean, it’s heart wrenching book. She wrote this. She says, We are lonely but fearful of intimacy.
She goes on to say, loneliness is the deep ache, this pain at the heart of our culture and at the same time community, in spite of all our technology, she says community is more elusive than ever before.
We are lonely people. Alone, separate, disappointed, disillusioned, because of the fact that community has been sort of destroyed and it’s not as before the pandemic of this stuff started happening. And obviously, since that, it’s been a lot more difficult to connect with people. But the beauty is that Jesus offers us community for men and women who are lonely, for men and women who need transformation, for men and women who need relationships.
Jesus offers community. Matthew, chapter four, verse 18. Listen to the calling of the disciples. Listen to the way he drew them in and offer them something they would not have had otherwise. As Jesus Walk was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers. Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake for they were fishermen. Come follow me, Jesus said, and I will send you out to fish for people.
At once they left their nets and followed him. Come follow me. Or as we mentioned a couple of weeks ago, this could be translated as Come be my disciple, come, be my apprentice, come. And he says, I will send you out and I will transform you. You were a fisherman. I will make you a fisher of men and notice that Jesus is saying, Hey, come be a part of my community.
These are the first two disciples that Jesus calls. We know that later Jesus calls the sons of Zebedee right after that. And all these people are kind of good Torah observing Jews from this area of of Jerusalem or the area of Israel called Galilee. These people kind of understood the Bible of their time. They were religious. But then all of a sudden something really interesting happens. And you can flip a couple of pages over to Matthew Chapter nine and look at who Jesus calls in this situation.
Matthew, chapter nine, verse nine. It says, As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at a tax collectors booth.
Follow me, he told him. Same exact call he made to those disciples. And Matthew got up and followed him or Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. Matthew is a tax collector. If you’re not familiar with the Bible, a tax collector was kind of like a traitor. They were Jewish people who worked for the enemy, they worked for the Roman Empire, and it’s no coincidence that Matthew’s close friends were tax collectors and sinners.
This was his community, and yet Jesus says, hey, you know those good Jewish boys that I called from Galilee, I’m also calling this sinner over here, this man who would have been an outcast.
The scriptures continue, Matthew. Chapter 10, verse one describing the disciples. He says Jesus called his 12 sorry, his 12 disciples to him and gave them authority. These are the names of the 12 apostles. First, Simon, who is called Peter. We had an interaction with him already and his brother Andrew. We know about him, James James, son of Zebedee and his brother John, Phillip and Bartholomew Thomas and Matthew, the tax collector James son og Alpheus and Thaddeus Simon, the Zealot and Judas Iscariot who betrayed him.
This is a wide range of people. We said that Matthew was a tax collector. He worked for Rome, and then you have a guy named Simon, the zealot. Zealots in the Day of Jesus were a violent insurrection sect of Judaism. They use guerilla warfare tactics to basically murder Roman people and particularly Roman officers. I read one commentary that called them the dagger people because they would hide daggers in their cloaks. They would be in a crowd, they would go up to a Roman official and they would cut his neck. They would stick their dagger back in their cloak and then hide back into the crowd.
And so think about who you have. You have a Roman official sort of in Matthew and you have the guy who wants to slit his throat and they’re in the same community group. Can you imagine, you know, each meeting with a potential chance for murder?
This is crazy, but this would be kind of like a Q-Anon person, you know, kind of a far right person being in a small group with like a Hollywood leftist elite. Talk about like Michael Moore, you know, and they’re all in the same group. It’s interesting because the people who should have hated each other, Jesus brings into community together.
It’s kind of intense and you wonder, you know, there’s this ideal of community that goes the disciples were fantastic. You know, you think, well, doesn’t that mean that when they came in, there were no fights at all because God just smoothed out all the issues? Well, no, the disciples fought a lot. Read Matthew Mark, Chapter 10. We’re going to read it now. They disagreed a lot. They disagreed on a lot.
Read Galatuans chapter two, this is where Paul rebukes Paul, rebukes Peter to his face. Did the group had problems? Of course they did. Acts chapter six, Acts Chapter five act, Chapter 11 and on and on and on and on and on.
Why would God, Jesus do this? Why would Jesus put people together who were nothing like them?
Why would Jesus put this kind of crazy community together of insurgent insurrectionist and people that worked for the government and people that were really religious and people that we’re not really sure, why would Jesus bring that group together? And I believe it tells us about a major point that we see in the gospels, which is that biblical community is transformative because it’s messy.
Let me explain this to you, if you have to co-exist with someone who thinks different and acts different, but at the same time is striving for the goal of heaven, you have to decide in your heart and in your mind whether the fickle similarities of temporal living are more valuable to you or eternal life is more valuable to you.
And in that moment, you are challenged.
You get me? You have to decide, OK, do I want to be with people who act like me, sound like me, think like me, or do I want to be refined by people who don’t think like me, don’t act like me, don’t have the same political affiliations as me because they’re going to challenge all the issues of my thinking. Do I want to be part of an all black church or an all white church, or do I want to be a part of a culturally multicultural church that’s going to refone me in such a way that I can make it to heaven?
Do I want to be a part of an all Republican church an all a Democrat church an all rich church an all poor church an all Miami Dolphins fan church? You get what I’m saying? Like an all gamer church an all young church an all old church. Do I want to be part of people that are similar to me, or do I want to be challenged by those who don’t think like me? Who won’t create an echo chamber for me, but who will ultimately help me by challenging me and refining me into the image of Jesus?
Biblical community is transformative because it’s messy, read the Book of Acts, it’s messy.
And I see it all the time, right? There’s this ideal of community. I want community to be people that all dress exactly like me. I want people who wear no show socks and have floral shirts because that’s what I wear and have beards. And I want them to be part of my church. And and, you know, there’s the ideal of community. It’s all it’s going to be perfect. You know, everyone’s going to get along all the time. Right? And then there’s the messy reality of community, which is like, no, you’re not.
And I believe discipleship lives somewhere in the middle of all that stuff, shooting for the ideals, but realizing that it’s quite messy. And I’m just going to hammer home the point. It’s not just biblical community isn’t just transformative because it’s messy. It’s also transformative because it’s diverse. Read Romans Chapter 12 and First Corinthians 12. We don’t have time but go back and read it. Or read through the early church and you’ll see that it was transformative because it was diverse and messy.
And the reason church is messy and the reason it’s diverse is because people are messy. Newsflash, you are messy. You are strange. I’m just letting you know you got some weird habits. You do. A lot of your opinions are very, very silly. You make statements about things you think you’re right all the time. You’re way too aggressive. Sometimes you you make terrible judgments. You have strange quirks. Sometimes you’re way too quiet. You know, people are talking you don’t say anything. Sometimes you’re too talkative, you’re difficult. And so am I. Right. We’re we’re we’re difficult. And the beauty of the gospel is that God takes all these weirdos and all of their stories and he brings them into a family and he brings them into a community, and their unity will be a sign of his glory. The fact that we can be in the same community is a sign of God’s glory. If you are from an of African descent, can you raise your hand?
Yeah, if you are from European descent, can you raise your hand? Yeah, like how cool is that? If you voted for. I’m just kidding. But like like. Oh, how cool. How cool is that? Like, here we have this diverse church. If I would’ve asked you to look around, you would have seen the diversity was amazing and I could have gone on if you’re Hispanic raise your hand if you’re Asian. Yeah, that’s right.
Come on. Latinos. Latinos. But God takes all of us and all of our quirks and all of who makes us us, and He puts us together for his glory.
I’m going to read Ephesians chapter two, verse 14. I love this, For he himself is our peace who has made the two groups or for us, the 50 groups one and destroyed the barrier in the dividing wall of hostility by setting the side in the flesh of sorrow in his flesh, the law with its command and regulations. He his purpose was to create himself in himself one new humanity, thus making peace and in one body to reconcile both of them and all of them to God through the cross by which you put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you, who are far away and peace those nearby. For through him we both have access to the father by one spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets with Jesus Christ himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord and in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His spirit. Amen. What a passage.
Jesus said I came in to destroy what divides, to tear down the dividing walls and to create a new nation, a new community. And really the most popular term in the Bible is a new family. If you have a Bible turn to mark Chapter three, it will be up on the screen the second. But actually you know for the second time I’m just going to read it, Mark. Chapter three, verse thirty one.
It says this Then Jesus, Jesus is having his disciples they’re in this house and he’s he’s teaching them and all these people around him and all of a sudden Jesus’s mom and brothers come up to him. So says that Jesus’s mother and brother arrived at the place. Right. And they were standing outside of this house because there’s no room for them. And they sent someone in to call him. So they’re saying, hey, hey, can you go get my my son?
Can you get my my brother? The crowd was sitting around him and they told him, hey, your mother and your brothers are outside looking for you.
I love Jesus response. Who are my mother and my brothers? They’re like. Mary and Jude James are your mother and your brothers. That’s a rhetorical question. Obviously, everybody knows who they are. Then listen to this statement. Then he looked at those seated in the circle around him and he said, here, here, here are my mother and my brothers. Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother. What is Jesus saying? Well, his community of apprentices, the people who followed him are his family.
That’s what he’s saying. You know, throughout the gospels, we hear Jesus refer to God as father. And here we see Jesus refers to his disciples as brothers and sisters, adelphos. I don’t know how to say this word.
This is the Greek word used here. This is the word used not only by Jesus, but every single one of the New Testament writers, every single one. This, brothers and sisters, is the dominant moniker of the people of the community of Jesus, not disciple, not Christian, brothers and sisters. It’s used in the New Testament three hundred and forty two times. Why? Because it’s making a point. Family is the dominant idea of the kind of community that Jesus is after, and it sounds sappy, but I would argue this is actually the most radical teaching or one of the most radical teachings of Jesus.
To explain this, I’m going to take you on a journey and then I’ll come back and connect it all together.
Have you ever heard the difference between a strong group and a weak group? Strong group society and weak group societies. OK, nobody cares. Strong groups is what Jesus’s community was a strong group society. And it’s what cultural anthropologist Bruce Molina calls this is what he says, a strong group. He says in a strong group society, the person perceives himself or herself to be a member of a group and responsible to the group for his or her actions destiny, career development and life in general.
The individual person is embedded in the group and is free to do what he or she feels right and necessarily a necessary only if in accordance with group norms and only if the action in the groups is in the group’s best interest.
The group has priority over the individual member. Examples of this strong group societies would be like Korean culture today, some African cultures, some Arabic cultures or many Arabic cultures, and then even some Hispanic cultures and island cultures. They’re strong groups. A weak group would be what 90 percent of us are.
All of us in the room watching online probably are part of weak group societies. A weak group is where the individual has priority over the group. OK, you’re following me. Strong group group more important than individuals. Weak group individuals more important than group. Makes sense? And it’s interesting because the idea of strong group for many of us sounds oppressive, even weird, because freedom for us is defined as our ability to do whatever we want as long as it doesn’t hurt anybody.
That would be a ridiculous statement in a strong group society, that wouldn’t be freedom, that would be like just catastrophe or something like that. All I’m saying is that Jesus’s world was a strong group. Jesus World was in a group more important than the individual group. And your family, your mother and your brothers and sisters and your father were your primary group. That was your group. So now your wheels are connecting, right? What Jesus said.
So what does Jesus call his disciples? Oh his siblings? And his mother. He’s saying this group is the most intimate group I have in my life. Now, that’s intense in the 21st century, but could you imagine how intense that would be in 1st century Judaism and Jesus’s day? Like for us, this statement means nothing, but for them it was amazing, Jesus is calling his apprentices his strong group family.
He goes, I value these people more than anybody else in the world. That’s crazy. These people from a diverse background are part of this new family. And not only are they part of a diverse background, but he says it’s open to anybody who does what? Whoever does God’s will. Meaning whoever does God’s will, it doesn’t matter what ethnicity you’re from or what hobbies you like or a common interest or location or any of that stuff. Anybody who does God’s will can be a part of this strong group family.
This group is filled with Jews and Americans and Koreans and Ugandans and Icelandic people, I don’t know if it’s filled with like every people on the political spectrum and on the opinion spectrum, as long as you’re trying to do God’s will you’re in the group. That’s crazy, you know, there’s so many people talk about Pro, how how pro family Jesus was and he is. He talks about divorce and about marriage. But some scholars argue that there are just as many anti family teachings as pro family teachings in the New Testament.
Anti family, meaning that he elevates elevates discipleship much more than the family. I mean, go back. You know, Jesus says hate your father and mother. But that statement would have been like, whoa, anybody who loves father mother more than me is not worthy of me Jesus would say. N.T. Wright said the only explanation for Jesus astonishing command is that he investiged.
This means to envision. I had to look it up. Loyalty to himself and his kingdom movement as creating an alternative family. He said the only way to make sense of this is that Jesus was going, this is no longer my family. This community is now my family. Meaning you have to give up allegiance to your blood family to join this multi-ethnic family. For us, that’s crazy. And that doesn’t mean you don’t love your father and mother, Jesus taught that like crazy, but it means that the dominant group is the group of Christians.
That’s radical. It’s really, really radical. Jesus makes the church community. The primary community, in order to freak you out even more, I’m going to take the definition we read earlier and replace the word group with the word church. I’m going to watch everybody squirm in their seat. This is going to be fun.
This is what Jesus is saying kind of. In the church, the person perceives himself or herself to be a member of a church and responsible to the church for his or her actions. So when you go buy something, are you thinking I’m responsible to the church for this action? Destiny, career development and life in general. The individual person is embedded in the church and is free to do what he or she feels right and necessarily necessary only if you can only do things according to the church norms and only if the action is in the church’s best interest.
The church has priority over the individual members. Many of you are freaking out a little bit under the surface of your heart thinking I knew this was a cult. I knew it. And look, I read this and I feel the exact same way because I’m American. Because that’s where I’m from, I don’t understand how important community was to Jesus. So I freak out, you know, I’m struggling to realize this, too, that we are more important than me.
But in that. I just know I have a long way to grow. I have a lot of opportunities for transformation. The Bible teaches me that I belong to you. Romans Chapter 12 hours five, that you belong to me. Do you think of yourself that way? Do you go you know, what would I do on Monday really affects my larger community as a church? Do you think that? Do you think you know what? What I spend online affects the larger community.
How I use my time affects the church. Do you think about any of that stuff? I certainly don’t. I want to get to a place where I start thinking about it step by step, practicing the ways of Jesus. Let me just hit you with some takeaways as we as we end here. First, I just want to make it really clear. Community that we’re describing is not optional for discipleship to Jesus. It’s not optional. You cannot separate discipleship to Jesus from involvement in a community. In Galatians, we read that we were adopted by the father and what that means is that when you’re adopted by the father, you also get brothers and sisters.
You can’t be like, oh, I was adopted, but those aren’t my siblings. You’re my dad, but those aren’t my siblings. No, no, no.
We are together. I mentioned again, Romans Chapter 12, says you belong to me and I belong to you. You cannot separate relationships with God, from relationships with people. We are a family.
In recent a recent nationwide poll that nationwide polled survey done by a group called the Barna Group, who are kind of like the leading think tank for Christian research, said that they asked the question, how do you want your discipleship to be done? And what’s interesting is that the number one choice, the number one choice above everything else by far, like doubled all the other choices was how do you want discipleship to be done? And 38 percent of the people said on my own, I want discipleship on my own.
They ask the question, how do you grow in your relationship with Jesus? And 40 percent of the people are just like by myself thank you very much. And I get it because I’m an introvert, like after service is done, I want to hide in the corner and just like read a book or something like that. Like I feel like I can grow with just like listening to a podcast all the time. But but I have to be convinced that I can’t change without people. That iron sharpens iron.
There’s a there’s a rub that needs to happen in order for us to be transformed. And it’s not going to be beautiful every time. And people aren’t going to say things perfectly and people aren’t going to you know, it’s not going to be the ideal community because you’re never going to get that. But it’s beautiful because it’s the community of Jesus. Part of the very essence of Christianity is to live in community and its messiness and all the tension that has brought there. Spirituality cannot be done as much as Americans want to tell us it can be individually.
And in fact, I would argue that Christian spirituality is as much about dealing with each other as it is about dealing with God. And honestly, I hate this. I hate this. But it’s true. Read first, John. Chapter four, verse 20. So you have to be in community, it’s not optional, you have to be in community. I love this quote that I once read that says you fix your broken parts in relationships. Community is where healing is done and we’re refining is done and we’re being formed into into Christ is done.
It’s in the context of community, long term interpersonal relationships. They are the crucible of genuine progress in the Christian life. People who are who stay, they grow. People who leave do not grow. It’s as simple as that. It’s a profound biblical truth. Here’s another take away. Community is a byproduct of commitment. It’s mandatory, but it also only can happen if you’re willing to commit to it. And we kind of have a catch 22 in our society, on one hand, we all ache for belonging, but we’re also we also have hyper mobility mixed with like individualism mixed with like placelessness, mixed with like the need to like FaceTime people, you know, instead of be with people. And the breakdown of a family has made us insecure and covid has made us afraid. And and after all that, we are lonely people. But we also have this feeling that we go, I could get community, but but there’s so many options, right? Like, what if I joined this church?
But there’s a better church out there. In fact, there probably is a better church out there. But like, what if I do? What if I get connected to this sister or brother? But, you know, they’re not really good for me. And so the idea is that we have so many options that we never make a commitment to anybody. You know, this guy isn’t for me or we make a commitment, but we’re so fickle that we the second that someone says something wrong or does something silly, we don’t extend any trust to them.
We just write them off and we say they don’t get me and we just go away. Look, you know, I actually had this conversation with my wife the other day because I was like, I don’t really think that person is a person for me. And my wife is like, is that a Christian thing to say? And I’m like, no. Well, like, like like like I don’t know. Like, I don’t I have many choices.
That person is not for me, you know, but that’s that’s the way we are. We have so many options so we can hold out for somebody better, for somebody cooler, for a better church. So we keep everybody at arm’s length. We never really invest in community. We’re never really committed to community. And so we never really have it.
We want community, right? We want the depth, the safety, the openness, the the intensity of community. We long for it. We just don’t want to do it. And I’m not trying to slam anybody, but we’re just so transient that people leave community groups like this.
They join a group and they’re like eh wasn’t really for me. I’m just I’m just saying, if we want to have biblical community, we have to make a commitment. I love this vow that a monastery has before you get into the monastery. We vow to remain all our lives with our local community. We live together, pray together, work together, relax together, we give up the temptation to move from place to place in search of an ideal situation, we give up the temptation to move from place to place in search of an ideal situation. Look, the idea that there is something better out there is an illusion.
We need to be brave enough to commit to each other and don’t freak out. I’m not saying you need to take a vow of stability to the Broward Church or to Broward County in general. I’m just saying you need to live rooted if you really want to transform in a community. But the main thing I’m trying to communicate this whole lesson today to you is simply this the way God does his transforming work is through relationships, through community and more specifically through familial community, family.
Family, this is what God is after, this is what God is after, it’s for that I want to give you two takeaways, two practices that you can deal with running a little bit late. So I’m gonna try to speed through it.
One, we’re going to have a community group redesign coming up soon because we see that the community groups need to be about transformation. We were going to have a refresh in a couple of weeks, but we’re putting that on hold because we found the value of just redesigning our community groups and making them awesome. So wait and see. Join a community group now.
But we’re going to have some some I think some community groups are going to have more focused emphasis on transformation in the upcoming weeks or upcoming months. Next is we have these midweeks coming up. But how to deal with each other of different opinions? It’s called Escaping the Beast. I want to invite you to that Wednesday night, 7:00 pm seven thirty pm on Zoom. If you need the link you can go online and find it. I want to give a nod to this because I think it’s so important.
Two things you can do: join a group now, be recommitted to your group, wait for our redesign. It’s coming, is going to be beautiful and also attend the escaping the beast classes. Let’s pray now for our community. God, we are so grateful that you would love us in such a great way that you would kind of draw us into community. Thank you for doing that, God. Thank you for caring about us and realizing that we would be lonely all alone, that we would be lonely without the context of community.
And thank you for for bringing us into a family. God, I pray for my brothers and sisters. I pray a blessing on them that you will bless their lives and they will have greater success than they’ve ever had this year. God, that they would grow in profound ways, that they would change into your image, that they would get the things they desire. God, I pray that you would heal them from their addictions and their past pains, that you would give them relief of their trauma and their issues.
God, I pray that this family will be a committed family, that we will value each other above anything else that we have because we are the only thing that we have. God, we are it and the path to make it to heaven. God, I thank you for Jesus. Thank you that He died so that we would be united. I pray that we never take this community in vain. We love you, Dad. We praise you.
Thank you for the bread that represents your body and the juice that represents your blood. Thank you for the sacrifice that your son made for us in Christ Jesus name. Amen.