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Sermon Series

 

September 13, 2015, A.D., by Pastor Ben Willis

Psalm 122

A song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem.

A psalm of David.

1 I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” 2 And now here we are, standing inside your gates, O Jerusalem. 3 Jerusalem is a well-built city; its seamless walls cannot be breached. 4 All the tribes of Israel—the Lord’s people—make their pilgrimage here. They come to give thanks to the name of the Lord, as the Law requires of Israel. 5 Here stand the thrones where judgment is given, the thrones of the dynasty of David.

6 Pray for peace in Jerusalem. May all who love this city prosper. 7 O Jerusalem, may there be peace within your walls and prosperity in your palaces. 8 For the sake of my family and friends, I will say, “May you have peace.” 9 For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek what is best for you, O Jerusalem.

I want to propose what may be a revolutionary thought to you this morning. Are you ready for it? Here it is: Sunday was meant to be the best day of your week.

Many of us grew up in situations where Sunday was boring. Or Sunday was a rat race. Some of us grew up in homes where Sunday was just another day. Others grew up in homes where Sunday was a disappointment, because it was supposed to be a family day, or a day off, but nothing ever happened because the family never did anything together. Or the wrong thing happened, like you had to do yard work with dad or chores with mom all day. For some of us, Sundays were awkward days because they were the day we had to go stay with our non-custodial parent whom we didn’t know very well. Others of us grew up in homes where Sunday was full of conflict because church was mandatory but no one was ever ready to leave on time, so the whole family competed for the bathroom, bumped into each other scrambling for breakfast in the kitchen, wolfed down our food, bolted for the door, and argued with each other all the way to church—where you were miraculously healed and acted like saints as soon as you hit the parking lot.

Well, I have good news for you today: Sundays were never meant to be that way. God made Sundays for you! Jesus said in Mark 2:27, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” And yet today we live in a world where the pace of life is killing us.

I want to suggest to you today that Sunday is a solution to that.

It feels like we always have too much to do. God said that Sunday is the antidote for that. It seems like we always feel pressured. God made Sundays as the relief for that. We rarely have time for the really important things. God thinks Sundays can take care of that. There’s never enough time for family … or for the people we love … or for the rest we need. God designed Sundays for that. With so much going on in our world, it’s easy to lose sight of what really matters. God created Sundays as the cure for that.

Open up your Bible or your Bible app or a pew Bible to Psalm 122. Psalms is in the middle of the Bible, and Psalm 118 is the chapter exactly in the middle of the Bible, so open just about to the middle and you should be able to find Psalm 122 fairly easily from there.

In a manner of speaking, one time, somebody invited King David, who wrote this psalm, to attend church with them. David’s response is recorded here in Psalm 122. Listen to this: “I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” (Psalm 122:1)

Does that sound like a guy who was turned off by church? No. David got excited when he was invited to church. Why? Why was David fired up about the thing that so many people are turned off by today? David couldn’t wait to get there. What does he know about church that aren’t making clear to those around us?

Well, let’s walk through this little psalm together so we can find out.

David says: “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’” He’s pumped about going to church, wouldn’t you say?

Verses 2-3: “And now here we are, standing inside your gates, O Jerusalem. Jerusalem is a well-built city; its seamless walls cannot be breached.”
He’s describing his physical surroundings: He’s inside the city of Jerusalem. It’s well-fortified. He’s feeling safe there.

Verse 4: “All the tribes of Israel—the Lord’s people—make their pilgrimage here. They come to give thanks to the name of the Lord, as the Law requires of Israel.” David’s describing what the people are doing: They’re going up to worship God. And there are lots of them—tribes of them, in fact. They’re going to give God thanks, to give Him glory, “as the Law requires of Israel.” In other words, “because God told them He’d like them to come.”

Verse 5: “Here stand the thrones where judgment is given, the thrones of the dynasty of David.” Again, he’s describing what he’s seeing: The Congress and Supreme Court of Israel!

So that’s what David’s been seeing and feeling. Now we get to hear what he’s thinking about. In verse 6 he sings: “Pray for peace in Jerusalem. May all who love this city prosper.” Why does he want that? Because he cares for the people he’s worshiping with.

“O Jerusalem, may there be peace within your walls and prosperity in your palaces,” he goes on in verses 7 and 8. “For the sake of my family and friends, I will say, ‘May you have peace.’”
He’s singing, “God, I want you to keep my people safe. I want you to bring them peace whenever we get together, and even when we’re not together. I want this for my family gathering with me, and for my friends that are all around me.”

He closes by saying, “For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek what is best for you, O Jerusalem.” That is, “God,” David is singing, “I want this for You and for Your sake too. In fact, I’m going to do something to make this happen. I am going to seek your prosperity.” Why? “Because I love Your place, I love Your people, and I love You.”

Let’s unpack that for a minute. In this little psalm, David gives six great reasons to go to church.

First – look at verse 4 – he says that he wanted to go to church because he liked being with God’s people. “That’s where my tribe goes,” he’s saying.

Second, also in verse 4, David wanted to honor God: “I want to go to church to give thanks and praise the name of the Lord.”

Third, again in verse 4, David says that he wanted to go to church because he wanted to do what God asked him to do: “I want to go to church because the commandments given to Israel tell us to.”

Fourth, now in verse 6, David wanted there to be peace and security in the house because he wanted peace for those who love God. He just wants good things for God’s people. He wants peace for those he loves. Don’t you?

Fifth, in verse 8, he admits that he wanted peace for them because God’s people were his family and his friends: “For the sake of my family and friends,” he says.

And sixth, in verse 9, he makes this decision: He’s committed to doing whatever is best for the house of God (v. 9).

I want to tell you why I want there to be people in church and why I want what’s best for the house of God, and why I want Sunday to become the best day of the week for each and every one of us.

Once upon a time in our country, everything stopped on Sundays. People went to church and worshipped God, then ate together, hung out together, rested and recreated together in the afternoon. Sunday wasn’t an extra day to get things done or a bonus day to put our kids in high-impact activities so they could get ahead. Sunday was a day of rest and worship.

I think people had a greater sense of peace in those days. And a greater sense of hope. I think their pace of life all week wasn’t as frantic as ours because they slowed their pace of life one day a week and rested and refueled and refocused on what really mattered.

Imagine a graph in your mind. The vertical line represents happiness and prosperity. The horizontal line represents years on a calendar. Plot the percentage of our nation’s church attendance year by year. You’ll notice it’s been going down for the last few decades. Now plot the percentage of societal happiness and peace over that same length of time. What you find is two lines that run parallel, because the two are directly related. The higher the church attendance, the higher the happiness quotient. Why is that?

The Bible tells us that it’s because there is something you can’t see, touch, taste, or smell about being in church and worshiping God that makes it the most powerful investment of your week. Something about being in church and Worshiping God that makes us better and qualifies us for special blessings and provisions from God.

Once upon a time, Sunday was the best day of the week for almost everybody. And life was better for almost everybody. I want that again for our country. And I want that for you.

Way back at the beginning of Time, the Bible says that God created the heavens and the earth. After it was all done, after He made the sun and the moon and the land and the plants and animals, Genesis 2:2–3 says, “On the seventh day God had finished His work of creation, so He rested from all His work. And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when He rested from all His work of creation.”

God rested. Do you think He rested because He was tired? God doesn’t get tired! The reason God rested on the seventh day was because He knew that we would need to rest every seventh day (remember that Jesus told us that He’d made the Sabbath for us?) so He set the example for us.

When God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses, His fourth commandment was, “Remember to observe the Sabbath by keeping it holy.” But there was more. in Exodus 20:8–11 we read: “Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day He rested. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy.”

Let me give you seven reasons why I want to invest in a Sabbath every week.

First, I need it, and God knows I need it. That’s why He rested and that’s why He gave the commandment. God doesn’t want to flatten our fun or lessen our lives by taking away a day. He wants to increase our joy and improve our lives by giving us a day to refresh, refuel, and refocus with Him because He knows we need it!

The second reason I want to invest in a weekly Sabbath is because God asks me to. The fourth commandment says to keep the Sabbath “holy.” (I’ll talk about that more in a couple of weeks.)

Third, I want to invest in a Sabbath because God blessed the Sabbath. (Genesis 2:3) For reasons only He fully understands, God says that He blessed the Sabbath. It’s a special day, not an extra day. When we cooperate with what God blesses, we get blessed!

Fourth, my life goes better when I Sabbath. So many of us think that if we can just get more done we can get ahead faster… But that’s not how God made the universe. Did you know that the most prosperous fast-food restaurant in the world is Chick-fil-A. No one makes as much money per location as Chick-fil-A. And Chick-fil-A is closed on Sundays because the owners of Chick-fil-A know that if they honor the Sabbath, God will honor their business. So they make more money in six days a week than McDonald’s, Subway, Burger King, and Taco Bell do in seven!

Here are some statistics I think you’ll find interesting. Secular sociologists have studied the benefits of church attendance. Follow this for a minute. What they’ve found is that those who attend church regularly:

Live seven and a half years longer than those who don’t. (And yet some people say they don’t have time for church. J)

Are 56 percent more likely to have an optimistic life outlook than those who don’t.

Are 27 percent less likely to be depressed.

Are 35 percent less likely to get divorced.

Have higher average levels of commitment to partners, higher levels of marital satisfaction, less thinking and talking about divorce, and lower levels of negative interaction.

Achieve higher grades, practice better time management, and experience a better sex life.

Sociologists, who aren’t necessarily going to church themselves, are finding that life goes better for those who go to church regularly.

The fifth reason I want to take a Sabbath every Sunday is because my Mondays go better when I Sabbath. Does anyone here dread Mondays? Does anybody here get out of bed saying, “Ugh! I have to go back to work today!” Anybody here exhausted and unmotivated because you used all your energy on Sunday instead of receiving new energy from Sunday?

Today I’m starting a series called I Love Sundays. We won’t be going straight through because, for instance, next Sunday I want to talk about all the end of the world predictions, especially since we might not get the chance to do so again, if the world ends.

But during this series I want to teach you two things from God’s perspective. Number one is how to have a great week, and number two is how to have a great life. The next message is called “Good Sundays Make Better Mondays.” We’re going to learn is that if your Sunday is lived the way God intended, your Monday will go as it was intended too.

The sixth reason I want to take a weekly Sabbath is because my family does better when we Sabbath.  It really is true that the family that rests together does best together. A family that attends church learns skills from the Bible about how to do relationships better and how to do life better. And great families become great by building great memories together. If you develop the habit of doing church together, and then take the Sabbath to invest in family and relationships, you will build a storehouse of goodwill, happiness, and rich memories that will last a lifetime. My family is a far better family because of church, and because of those Sundays we’ve protected and invested in the Lord and one another.

And the seventh and last reason for Sabbathing is because I know that my eternity will go better if I Sabbath. God promises to bless me if I bless Him. And I bless Him when I show up at church to worship Him.

I heard someone tell of a friend who once said that they hated Sundays. But that one day he heard God whisper to him, “I love Sundays, because that’s the day when my children sing to me.”

Can you imagine what that would feel like? You create a planet for people and you do things for people all week long, and then they spend a morning a week recognizing you and thanking you for what you’ve done. Wouldn’t that would be great?

Yeah, God loves Sundays. And He wants us to love Sundays, too.



September 6, 2015 A.D., by Pastor Ben Willis

The Prophet Jeremiah 31:31-34 [NLTse]

“The day is coming,” says the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. This covenant will not be like the one I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and brought them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant, though I loved them as a husband loves his wife,” says the Lord.
“But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,” says the Lord. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. And they will not need to teach their neighbors, nor will they need to teach their relatives, saying, ‘You should know the Lord.’ For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will know me already,” says the Lord. “And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.”

Interlude

[Super-glue two paintsticks together.] Anyone ever heard of Gorilla glue? Great stuff. These are two paint sticks. With a line of Gorilla glue. And we’ll set that aside…

The Letter To the Hebrews 9:11-28 [NLTse]

So Christ has now become the High Priest over all the good things that have come. He has entered that greater, more perfect Tabernacle in heaven, which was not made by human hands and is not part of this created world. With his own blood—not the blood of goats and calves—he entered the Most Holy Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever.

Under the old system, the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow could cleanse people’s bodies from ceremonial impurity. Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our consciences from sinful deeds so that we can worship the living God. For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. That is why he is the one who mediates a new covenant between God and people, so that all who are called can receive the eternal inheritance God has promised them. For Christ died to set them free from the penalty of the sins they had committed under that first covenant.

Now when someone leaves a will, it is necessary to prove that the person who made it is dead. The will goes into effect only after the person’s death. While the person who made it is still alive, the will cannot be put into effect.

That is why even the first covenant was put into effect with the blood of an animal. For after Moses had read each of God’s commandments to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, along with water, and sprinkled both the book of God’s law and all the people, using hyssop branches and scarlet wool. Then he said, “This blood confirms the covenant God has made with you.” And in the same way, he sprinkled blood on the Tabernacle and on everything used for worship. In fact, according to the law of Moses, nearly everything was purified with blood. For without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness.

That is why the Tabernacle and everything in it, which were copies of things in heaven, had to be purified by the blood of animals. But the real things – the things in heaven – had to be purified with far better sacrifices than the blood of animals.

For Christ did not enter into a holy place made with human hands, which was only a copy of the true one in heaven. He entered into heaven itself to appear now before God on our behalf. And he did not enter heaven to offer himself again and again, like the high priest here on earth who enters the Most Holy Place year after year with the blood of an animal. If that had been necessary, Christ would have had to die again and again, ever since the world began. But now, once for all time, he has appeared at the end of the age to remove sin by his own death as a sacrifice.

And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment, so also Christ died once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him.

Sermon

Our God – our Father – is a covenant-maker.

He made a covenant with Noah promising to never again destroy all life on the earth by flood. And He gave us the rainbow as a sign of this “eternal covenant between God and every living creature on earth.” (See Genesis 9:8-17)

He made a covenant with Abraham promising that Abraham’s family line would grow to become a great nation, and that through Abraham’s descendants that all the peoples of the earth would be blessed. He promised Abraham’s children all the land between the Nile and Euphrates rivers, and gave them circumcision as the sign of this everlasting covenant. (See Genesis chapters 12-17)

God Almighty made a covenant with Moses promising to make the nation of Israel His treasured possession from among all the nations of the earth, to make them a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation”, if they would follow God’s commandments. The Sabbath was the visible sign He gave of this covenant. (See Exodus chapters 19-24 and Deuteronomy)

The Lord made a covenant with King David promising that one of David’s heirs would always sit on the throne of Israel, and that David’s kingdom would be established forever, even as David’s heirs were promised to obey all of the Lord’s ways. (See 2 Samuel 7) The sons of David, the kings of Israel, were the living signs of this covenant.

And some have argued convincingly that God also made covenants with Adam and Aaron and Aaron’ son, Phineas, and others.

Our God – our Father – is a covenant-maker.

Some of these covenants have been one-sided, God bearing all the responsibility. Some of the others have given responsibility to God and Man. And God has always been faithful: The great covenant-keeper! And humanity has always been faithless: Not always circumcising, not obeying the Law, Israel’s kings not always following in God’s ways; breaking the terms of each and every one.

In our Old Testament reading this morning, back around the 600s B.C., the Prophet Jeremiah announced Abba’s intention to make another covenant, a new covenant. This new covenant wouldn’t be like the old covenants that Israel kept for awhile but broke eventually. No. This new covenant would require a circumcision of the heart. He would put His commandments deep inside of people. God Most High Himself would forgive their wickedness and never again remember their sins…

Our God – our Father – is a covenant-maker. He establishes this new covenant, and He fulfills our failings in all the others, in Jesus Christ.

A covenant is legal action between two or more parties. That legal action can be someone committing to leave their belongings to another or others when they die, like a will. That legal action can be a man and a woman committing themselves and their belongings to each other, forever, like in marriage. Buying and selling property is a kind of covenant. Establishing a business partnership is a kind of covenant. The receipt you got at the movie theater or Home Depot serves as a kind of covenant. Even friendships can be covenants when commitments are promised and kept, when assurances need to be offered and are…

Contrary to modern beliefs and practices, covenants are to be unbreakable. There should be no such thing as “no fault divorce”. Filing “bankruptcy” should never be allowed! They are all a breaking of what God established to be unbreakable.

(Now, don’t get me wrong. People are people, and sin happens, and forgiveness is available for those who have trusted in Christ, confess their sins, and seek His grace to change their ways. But none of that changes that fact that covenants are meant to last forever, or at least until the terms of the covenant have been fulfilled.)

Back to our Gorilla glued sticks… Gorilla glue promises that if you fasten two things together with their glue that the new piece might break again, but they promise that it won’t break in the place where it was glued. They promise that the glued areas will be stronger than the original materials. [Break the glued stick over my knee.]

God established covenants to be unbreakable. A relationship, a deal, an agreement, a commitment might break in all sorts of different ways and in all sorts of different places but they will never break at the the junction of the covenant. Not at the place of the promise. Not where the covenant-commitment was made. Not if God’s involved. Not if He is Lord of our covenants. Things might break, but they will break anywhere but there.

[Move to the Lord’s Table.] Which brings us to the Lord’s table and the New Covenant established in Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, established in His body and His blood.

This is the bread, this is the cup, of the eternal, unbreakable covenant God has made between Himself and people. All the benefits of Christ’s sacrifice are wrapped up and made fresh new to us in this bread and this cup.

Jesus can say, “I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life,” (John 5:24) because the New Covenant is an unbreakable covenant. Paul can write to Titus, “he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit,” (3:5) because the covenant is everlasting. And to the Romans, “I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of @#!*% can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Yes, Paul can write these things, saying even, “I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns,” (Philippians 1:6) because God Himself has established this New Covenant not through a weak, sinful man the likes of Noah, Abraham, Moses, or David. No. He’s established this covenant through sinless Son of Man/Son of God, Christ Jesus of Nazareth.

And in Jesus the heart is circumcised and the Law is fulfilled and Son of David and the King of kings is able and willing to keep the ways of the Lord! And the earth will, indeed, never be completely destroyed again by floodwaters, but by the purifying fires of judgment: Fires that will warm and welcome those made righteous by His sacrifice, those saved by His body and His blood; fires that will destroy and put an end to the wicked and wickedness once-and-for-all.

So, come to the Table! This is not my table. It is not the Evangelical Presbyterian Church’s table. It is the Lord’s Table! And the Lord Jesus Christ invites all those who have trusted in His death on the cross to serve as God’s sacrifice for sin to come and be refreshed and be made new by the New Covenant made in His body and blood.

Feed yourselves on bread that pronounces you innocent of your every sin, bread that grants you Jesus’ Own righteousness in the place of all your wicked thoughts, words, and deeds. Drink deeply from a cup that assurances you of salvation, a cup that proclaims here and in the heavenly places your peace with God. Eat and drink holiness. Swallow the unconditional love of the Almighty. Satisfy your hunger with true forgiveness. Quench your thirst with a new life to worship and give never-ending thanks to the One Who truly saves…



August 30, 2015 A.D., sermon preached by Pastor Ben Willis

According to Luke 5:1-11 [NLTse]
One day as Jesus was preaching on the shore of the Sea of Galilee,[a] great crowds pressed in on him to listen to the word of God. 2 He noticed two empty boats at the water’s edge, for the fishermen had left them and were washing their nets. 3 Stepping into one of the boats, Jesus asked Simon,[b] its owner, to push it out into the water. So he sat in the boat and taught the crowds from there.
4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish.”
5 “Master,” Simon replied, “we worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing. But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again.” 6 And this time their nets were so full of fish they began to tear! 7 A shout for help brought their partners in the other boat, and soon both boats were filled with fish and on the verge of sinking.
8 When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m too much of a sinner to be around you.” 9 For he was awestruck by the number of fish they had caught, as were the others with him. 10 His partners, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were also amazed.
Jesus replied to Simon, “Don’t be afraid! From now on you’ll be fishing for people!” 11 And as soon as they landed, they left everything and followed Jesus.

Sermon
Why are you here? Do you know why you are here? I know that you woke up to your alarms, took showers, got dressed, and drove here. But, why? Do you know why you set your alarms, took showers, got dressed, and drove here?

Maybe you think it is because you wanted to worship God and show your love and adoration for Him with other Christians. Maybe you’re thinking it is because you wanted to learn more about the Christian life: Who God is by getting to better know Who Jesus is; who you are by getting to better know what Jesus has done and how the Holy Spirit has applied that to you. Maybe you think it is because your husband or your wife or your mom or your dad or your son or your daughter made you come this morning, and that’s why you’re here.

Well, the Bible tells us that you are here – that we are all here, each of us altogether – because God the Father has gathered us here by calling out to us through the voice of Jesus Christ and moving us to accept His call through the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, all of which moved us to set our alarms, take showers, get dressed, and drive here.
You are here because God wants you here. We – this unique mix of us – we are here because God wants us here.

Paul writes, “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) “Not that we loved God but that He loved us,” John the apostle writes. (1 John 4:10) The Lord Jesus Himself made it clear this way, “You did not choose Me but I chose you.” (John 15:16)

When a child is adopted he or she does not visit adoption websites looking through bios of prospective parents who are looking to adopt, and then picking from among them his or her new mom and dad. No. Parents adopt the child.

When Amy and I were dating she asked me to marry her: Not once, not twice, but three times! I said “no” to her every time, but not because I didn’t want to marry her. I loved Amy and was committed even during those moments to be her husband and have her to be my wife! No. I said “no” because the woman doesn’t ask the man to marry her (I know, call me old-fashioned), the man asks the woman.

And so it is with the Lord. The apostle Paul tells us, “You received God’s Spirit when He adopted you as His Own children. Now we call Him, “Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15) We didn’t pick and choose and adopt Him. He picked, He chose, and He adopted us!

Likewise, to the Ephesian-Christians, the apostle Paul wrote, “The Scriptures say, ‘A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one.” And St. Paul goes on writing to the Corinthian-Christians, “I promised you as a pure bride to one husband—Christ.” (2 Corinthians 11:2) And it is the husband who asks for the wife’s hand, not the wife the husband’s…
You are here because God wants you here. You are His because God has made you His. We are here this morning because God Himself wants us to be.

So, what does He want from us, this God Almighty, the maker of Heaven and earth, the Holy One of Israel, Who knows everyone and everything (even the hearts of people), Who is and has within Himself all power, even power over death… He has called us to be with Him. He has made us His Own. His love for us like a husband’s; his love for us like a dad’s… What does this lover of our souls want from us?
Well, of course, as lover’s do, He tells us.

In our reading this morning Jesus said: He wants us to go and fish for people. And in our passage from John where Jesus said, “You did not choose Me but I chose you,” He went on to say, “And I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit.” (15:16)

Let’s start with our reading from Mark. Our Lord and Husband wanting us to “fish for people” means that He wants us to “catch people” for Him or “gather people together” for Him. And yet we’ve just said that people only come to Christ when He’s first called them personally! So then, “fishing for people” must mean having people respond to Christ’s call and then come to be with Him because they’ve heard His voice calling to them through us – through our words, our influence, or our ministry in their lives: Fishing for people.

And He has appointed us to go and produce lasting fruit. And that lasting fruit might include “fishing for people”, but, certainly it must also include the fruit Paul so famously refers to as the Fruit of the Spirit: “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control,” (Galatians 5:22-23) the very character of God that gets produced in us as we are with Him daily responding to His call.

So, where “fishing for people” speaks of Jesus’ desire for us to call more and more people to Himself through us, “producing lasting fruit” speaks about Jesus’ desire to make each of those He’s called – each of you, each of us – Jesus’ desire to make each of those He’s called to be more and more like Him.

Now, that can seem like a pretty tall order, and like pretty hairy and complicated tasks. But I believe that Jesus has intended for it to be simple.

Elder Doug Jacobs preached to you all several weeks ago about the book, “Simple Church”, that different ones around the congregation have been reading. So many churches around the world are trying to be all things to all people, having become so very scattered and complex and, perhaps, so very unfocused and lost as a part of it. Yet the Bible seems to portray our life together quite simply: Jesus calls people; they come to Him; and then they go and serve as His mouthpieces to others while at the same time growing to be more like Him in character and heart.
For years I have been talking and preaching and teaching about God’s calling us to regularly – even always – be a part of worshiping Him, talking, preaching, and teaching us to be a part of at least one Bible Study to help us be growing in Him, and talking and preaching and teaching us to be a part of at least one ministry so that we can be serving Him. I’ve talked and preached and taught about it as WORSHIPING making us like a pitcher, and GROWING being that which fills us up, and SERVING being that which pours us out, ready again for a fresh filling. I’ve talked and preached and taught about it as WORSHIPING being that which refreshes and renews our new life, and GROWING being, then, like breathing in, and SERVING being, then, like breathing out. And our “Simple Church” study has provided even more of a foundation and an intentionality to all of that for us, and, of course, most especially, for the elders.

We believe that Jesus Christ is calling people to Himself and developing “fishers-of-men” and “fruit that will last” by setting us to be a WORSHIPING – GROWING – SERVING people. That as we WORSHIP and actively participate in expressing our commitment to Christ by WORSHIPING, that as we GROW and are actively GROWING through Bible study, prayer for one another, and Christian fellowship, and that as we SERVE and are actively SERVING in ever more self-challenging and faith-demanding ways, that we will indeed be living lives following after Him as He calls, and that draw others to Him as His ambassadors and mouthpieces, even as we become more and more like Him in grace and truth.

If you are not already involved in at least one Bible Study, whether that be one of our small groups that meet in the church or at different ones houses throughout the week or whether that be one of the Sunday School classes that will be beginning Sunday, September 13th, I charge you to join one, or to start one yourself in your own home or neighborhood.

If you are not already involved in at least one serving-ministry, whether that be serving Sunday morning or serving in other ways at other times across the week, I charge you to offer your gifts to be a part of serving the Lord Jesus Christ through your service to one another or to others around our community.
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He’s calling us to be with Him. in order to call even others to Him, and in order to be more like Him, the way He is. WORSHIPING – GROWING – SERVING. Simple.