Summary: Sermon to prepare for the 40 Days of Community campaign, introduces the purposes and encourages people to get involved to experience God at work.
Next Sunday we will begin day one of the 40 Days of Community, it’s our kickoff Sunday (six week series called "What on Earth Are We Here For?"). We aren’t doing this just for something to do this fall, giving us one more thing to keep ourselves busy with church. Our leadership has chosen to do this campaign because we believe it will help all of us experience God’s work in our life, in our church, and in our community in fresh new ways. In other words we are expecting to have a God visit. We donï¿½t want this to be business as usual we want to experience a God in a fresh way. We believe God will help us grow closer to him and closer to one another.
Before we experience a God visit, we need to be prepared. God said to Moses when he was about to personally visit the people of Israel, go to the people and prepare them for my visit, purify them (Exodus 19:10, NLT). The verse which has became, for our leadership team, the focal point for a God visit is 2 Chronicles 7:14 where God says, "if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land." Last Sunday we began that preparation with a day of prayer and fasting. We had a 24 hour prayer vigil, a day set aside to humble ourselves, pray and seek Godï¿½s face, and ask God to anoint the 40 Days. We pray we would experience God, our church would experience God, and even our community would experience Godï¿½s presence through us. Our prayers have already begun to pave the way. We ask that you would continue to pray and remember the 40 Days in your personal devotion time (we have some prayer focuses handouts available on the 40 Days information table).
Last week we also began looking at what else it takes (besides prayer and fasting) for us to prepare for a God visit. We looked at the story of the small, wealthy man named Zacchaeus and how he prepared himself. When he heard Jesus was in his town coming down the street, he climbed the sycamore tree looking with expectation to see Jesus. He was looking for a God visit. We wonï¿½t experience a God visit, if we are not expecting to see it, and make no effort on our part to see it happen. If we expect the same old, same old, guess what we will get? The same old, same old. This is the element of faith. Because of Zacchaeus’ desire to see Jesus, he was the only person of the entire crowd that day Jesus went to visit with. Do we look with anticipation, with faith that God is going to do something.
Once Jesus confronted Zacchaeus, he realized he needed to do a spiritual inventory of his life if he was going to experience Godï¿½s work. He got honest with himself and looked critically at the direction his life was taking and he realized he was way off track with God. He wasnï¿½t doing what God wanted him to do. He had spent his life in the pursuit of wealth by swindling his own people. In order to get back on track he needed to repent or turn from his sin. Zacchaeus made it right, giving half his possessions to the poor, and repaying anyone 4 times what he had cheated anyone as a tax collector. Zacchaeus tuned from his sin to make room for God in his life. He was restored into right relationship with God and with God’s people that day. He became part of community again that day.
We spent some time doing a spiritual inventory of our own lives. What if Jesus were to walk into our house unannounced? What if he looked in our calendar, our blackberries? What if he looked in our checkbook to see where we spend our money? Would we be embarrassed or ashamed of what he sees? Like Zacchaeus we need to get honest with ourselves and own up to our sin, to those places where weï¿½ve wandered away from God, and then repent or turn and ask forgiveness if we want to experience a God visit in our life and our church. As 2 Chr. 7:14 reminds us if we "turn from our wicked ways," God will "hear from heaven," he will forgive our sin and will heal." That’s the first and most important step.
These are necessary beginning steps, but if we are going to prepare ourselves for a sustained God visit, it will require a commitment to living out God’s purposes. When we choose to do what God asks us to do, that is when we experience a God visit. If you want God’s blessing in your life and in our church, then do what God blesses. We are going back to the book of Acts asking ourselves how did the early Christians experience the sustained, or the ongoing presence and power of God’s Spirit? And in this passage we see that the early Christians committed themselves to at least four things: 1) They made a commitment to worshipping together, 2) growing spiritually together (going deeper in my relationship with God), 3) being in relationship with each other, and 4) serving one another.