Summary: This is the theme of our small group ministry. This sermon is a celebration and review of lessons in Genesis from this past eleven week series.
Dan Chambers is a Christian whose parents attend Mountain Creek Church of Christ. Dan has written a book entitled Churches in the shape of Scripture. In it, he explains several of the distinctive practices of the churches of Christ and why these practices matter. He has made it easy to read with a conversational style that is enjoyably interesting. He is convincing and clever but always biblical.
The title alone captures something that I think is vital to our faith. Imagine it, a church that looks and acts like God’s ideal as we read it in the scriptures. Is that not the heart of seeking first the kingdom of heaven? Is not the purpose of God’s people to know and faithfully, obediently follow God’s Son and ultimately spend eternity together in His presence?
This is a high, holy and demanding call. It is not for the cowardly or dishonest. It is not for the rebellious or proud. God’s calling will not welcome self-centeredness and love of sin. To answer God’s call is to be stripped of all things that stand in the way of His holiness and to be born again into a living hope that leaves behind that which is temporary for that which is eternal. It is tempting to take a broader path and follow what we would consider an easier way of life, is it not? There will always be false teachers who will water down the milk of the word and tickle our ears with words that lead us in paths of less than righteousness, paths that fall short of God’s call. Let’s ask the question: Can we be a church in the shape of Scripture? Is it possible? Where do we start?
There are so many shaping influences all around us and even inside us. Think of it: What has shaped your life, your character, your way of thinking most? What is shaping you now? What do you allow to have influence and shaping control of your life? Can you say that God and His word have shaped your life more than any other influence? Can you honestly say that? If not, you need to repent! God’s call on your life is serious business. A church that is not allowing God’s word to be THE shaping influence is a church that needs to repent. And it is so tempting to fall short. It is so tempting to become worldly and cool. The world calls us too! In the book of Proverbs both Wisdom and Folly call out to those who will hear them. We must choose who we will follow, who will we allow to shape us.
We’ve just completed our first group ministry campaign. Eleven weeks of meetings together with the purpose of drawing closer to God and closer to one another. I know that some of you would say that this was a smashing success! You not only enjoyed the fellowship, you put forth effort to grow. Others of you might not think it was so successful. I would guess that those of you who grew closer to God and one another put a good deal of time, prayer, study and energy into growing in those ways. Did you put forth a lot of effort to grow closer to those in your group? It takes work, you know. Not everyone is willing to give it the effort, but those that do are those that reap the reward.
God’s call is like that. Some reject it outright as if it did not matter. Their hearts are too hard to hear the word, much less enjoy its benefits. Some answer God’s call rather casually adding it to the list of things on the agenda of life. They give God time when it is convenient for them and when it fits their tastes. Those who do not love God above all else lose life’s greatest reward. Finally, some hear the call of God and answer in obedient faith. They are the children of Abraham who find friendship with God and after they have endured the struggle to follow Him receive a rich welcome into eternal glory with Him. To enjoy God’s blessings we must humbly, faithfully, obediently, and persistently look to, listen to, learn from, and live by God’s will and God’s words. When we draw near to God, He draws near to us. When we draw near to God we also discover that we draw near to one another in godly, spiritually loving ways.
Growing closer to God and closer to one another are the greatest of all human quests. These two, Jesus said, are the greatest commandments. They are the lenses through which we see and understand God’s word and will for us. Imagine a church shaped by these! Are they not the very shape of scripture!