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Summary: In this sermon, I present our congregation's theme for the year. We want to focus on growing our relationship with God, our relationships in the church, and our outreach to the world.

Introduction:

A. Once there was a football team who had never won a game.

1. So one day before practice the coach decided to have a talk with them.

2. He told them, “Boys, our offense is bad, our defense is horrible, and our special teams are the worst I have ever seen, so today we are going back to the basics. We are going to start over.”

3. The coach reached over and picked up a football and said, “Boys, this is a football!”

4. Before he could say anything else one of his players spoke up and said, “Coach, please slow down, you’re going too fast.”

B. Brothers and sisters, today I want to have a little talk with you.

1. And we are not having this talk because we haven’t won a game, or because our offense, defense and special teams are horrible.

a. Rather, we are having this talk because it is important for us to back up every once and a while and go over the basics.

2. As you know, we periodically put up new worship banners here in the auditorium.

a. When we put up new banners it signals that there is something important that we want the congregation to focus on.

3. Last year, our banners helped us focus on the 12 shared goals that we have as disciples of Jesus.

4. This year, our banners will help us to focus on three directions that we want to be reaching.

5. I believe that God wants us to simultaneously and continually be reaching Upward, Inward, and Outward.

6. Let’s spend some time today talking about what I mean by reaching Upward, Inward, and Outward.

I. Reaching Upward

A. Reaching Upward has to do with being connected to God and staying connected with God.

1. We will not be effective in Reaching Inward or Reaching Outward if we do not remain connected Upward with God.

2. Our entire spiritual life – including our salvation, our transformation, and our mission – is dependent on our relationship with God.

3. As we look at each of these directions of reaching, I am going to connect them with some verses in the book of Colossians.

a. There are many other excellent verses that provide a foundation for these “reaching directions,” and we will look at a few other passages, but with each of the directions, we will look at something from Colossians.

B. Look with me at Colossians 2:6-7: Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

1. Did you notice the important aspects of staying connected to God in those verses?

2. After receiving Christ in the conversion process, then we must walk in Christ.

3. Walking in Christ includes being rooted and built up in Him, being established in the faith – all this leads to an outpouring of thanksgiving.

4. Our reaching upward toward God is an ongoing walking with Christ and a being rooted and growing in Christ.

C. The agricultural image is a very helpful one and is one that Jesus often used in His teaching.

1. We learn a lot from the Parable of the Sower about being the kind of soil that remains, grows and produces a harvest.

2. It is easy to be a flash in the pan and to experience a quick burst of life and growth when we first become a Christian.

3. But it is hard to remain and be established and growing.

4. Without deep roots, our spiritual life withers, and if we allow our lives to fill up with worldly weeds, they will choke out our spiritual life.

D. Jesus emphasized this in John 15: 1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:1-11)

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