Summary: Foreigners in a Foreign Land Believing, Belonging, and Contributing
Foreigners in a Foreign Land
Believing, Belonging, and Contributing
We are finishing our first mini series in 1 Peter, “Foreigners in a Foreign Land” (1.1-2.10) with todays message, Believing, Belonging, and Contributing. We have had a significant influx into our body and I want to share with you about what we believe what it means to be part of a church family.
Big Idea – God is constructing a spiritual house, the church, made up of individuals who are believing the gospel, belonging to, and contributing to this construction.
The Church is a Community of People Who Believe
Peter calls us living stones. We are spiritually alive because God has begotten us through the gospel. This new birth gives rise to new desires and new behaviors that are the fruit of this new life. This new birth is the work of God, even our faith is the work of God. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. The fruit of being God's children is that we see Jesus the way our Father sees him, precious. That is, he is more to us than an object of interest on Sundays; He is everything to us. And when God begets us as his children we become part of God's family, the church. The bible describes the church in two ways, the universal church and the local church. The Universal church is all those who come to faith in Christ from all time and from all places. But most of the time when the New Testament speaks of the church is it talking about the local church that is an expression of the universal church.
The Church is a Community of People Who Belong
The local church is a specific group of people, in a specific place, with specific characteristics. The bible does not know Christ followers who are not part of a specific local church. All the metaphors in the New Testament point to belonging to, committed to, and yes the nasty word among some, submission to a local church. For instance a sheep does not make a flock; a stone does not make a building; a limb does not make a body; and a child does not make a family. The same is true of the descriptions of the local church. For instance, Paul writes to the church in Corinth who is made up of individuals whom he knows, is thankful for, and understands the nature of the specific problems they face. Or as he finishes the letter to the church at Rome, he greets specific individuals that he knows personally or by reputation. And when he writes the church in Philippi he tells two women to get along. It is an oxymoron to say you are a christian and not be part of a local church. To say I am part of the invisible church but not part of the visible church is like saying I am an invisible employee or an invisible member of the football team. The local church is actually God's provision for you. If you are not comfortable in the body of Christ here on earth you will not be comfortable in the body of Christ in heaven.
The Church is a Community of People to Contribute
Peter describes us as living stones whom God is using to build a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices. The stones are living so they themselves are being built up as the house is being built up. We grow spiritually because we are part of the house; growth happens in community. The local church is God's provision for our spiritual health and vitality. But that requires each of us to take personal responsibility in our own spiritual growth as well as be connected to other living stones who will encourage us. The bible tells us that without the encouragement of other Christ followers, we are in grave spiritual danger. Spiritual growth is a community project. As priests, we offer spiritual sacrifices, that are contributing to something larger than ourselves, the building of the church. The priest imagery points to engagement and involvement; not passivity or a lack of interest. What are spiritual sacrifices? Each one of us has time, talents, and treasures to contribute to the building of the spiritual house God is building. As he is shaping us individually, he is shaping us as body.
How does belonging and contributing express itself in our body. First gather with us as a community. Make Sundays a regular habit. We start out 9:00 am to pray for the service. Then at 9:30 am we gather for Sunday school for children and adults. Then at 10:30 am we gather for worship in song and word. Second, connect with us as a community. Sunday is a time to celebrate the work of Jesus in our lives but that is not a place to develop community. Community is the place where we can know and be known; where we connect as family; where we support and encourage each other. Spiritual growth requires that we are in meaningful relationships where we can instruct one another, shepherd one another, encourage one another, and experience life together. Third, contribute to the community. We all contribute with our time, our talents, and our treasures. We are a non profit organization run mostly by volunteers who contribute their time because they believe in who we are and what we are doing. Then God has given each of us talents, gifts and abilities, to contribute. You may say, I don’t know what I could possibly do. Well we have something for everyone. If you do not know your gifts and abilities, then start somewhere and you will find out soon enough. Then contribute your treasures. Give regularly, give consistently, and give generously. Church should be the first and primary place you give. Last, contribute to the cause. Participate in the discipleship process. Connect with those God has placed in your life to share the gospel. Find someone more less spiritually mature than you and speak into their lives and find someone more spiritually mature and ask them to speak into your life.