Introduction: It's Vision Weekend at Calvary and we want you to know who we are and what we do. What binds us together is devotion to worshiping our heavenly Father, dedication to studying his Word, and determination to proclaim our eternal hope in Jesus Christ.
Skip Heitzig: John, chapter 17; let's pray.
Father, you know us so well that you know exactly what we're thinking at this very moment. You know the motive of our very heart, what got us up in the morning and brought us here, when we have conversations with people. You weigh the hearts. As David said, you have searched us and you have known us, our downsittings, our uprisings.
You know us and you know our ways. I just pray, Father, that you would enable us to know you and to know your ways. And that's what I believe the purpose for our gathering this morning is—that we might have a clear understanding of who we are individually, and together as a body, and what we're about according to your truth, in Jesus' name, amen.
Ever since I was twelve years old I wore, I have worn corrective lenses. Back then they didn't have contacts, or at least my parents wouldn't buy them. So I had glasses when I was twelve years old, because I noticed my vision kind of going away. And the glasses that I got were like these honking big black glasses.
I know they're like really cool right now; they were not at all cool when I had them. So I was sort of self-conscious about wearing them; and I'd take them and put them on, take them off when I didn't need them. After a while I just didn't wear them much.
When I was around twenty years old, I went to the eye doctor to get contact lenses. And my motivation for going to the eye doctor to get contact lenses is that when I was on my surfboard, I couldn't judge where the wave was when it was coming in. And you needed—I wanted something that wouldn't fall out in the water. So it was an emergency. I needed to get contact lenses for that. The doctor assured me that these were great in the water. And so I got contact lenses, and I've either worn contacts, like I am now, or glasses.
I went and got my vision checked a few weeks ago, and I told the doctor, I said, "Yeah, I probably haven't been in for like a year and a half or two years, and I need to get my eyes checked." He looked at my chart and said, "Dude, you haven't been in over five years."
And my vision didn't get that messed up in that length of time, but they gave me these lenses—they're very nice about it—they call them "progressive lenses." It's a very nice way of saying, "You can't see no matter which way you look, up close or far away; you need help all the way around." So now I'm progressive. I've got progressive lenses.
Well, I read something; I read an article that said 75 percent of American adults need corrective optics of some kind, 75 percent. That means most of can't see without help. We all need help to be able to see. We need vision.
There was a man named Arthur, 90 years of age. He was an avid golfer and a good one. Problem is he came home one day after a golf game and he tells his wife, "I'm going to have to quit playing golf, because I can hit my ball but I can't see where it's going. My vision is so bad that I just can't do this anymore."
She said, "Well, next time you play you ought to bring my brother with you." And Arthur said, "Your brother is 103; how's that going to help?" She goes, "He's 103, but he has perfect eyesight." So they went out to play golf. And Arthur teed the ball up, and took a mighty swing, and followed through, and sounded really good. And he then said to the 103-year-old brother-in-law, "Did you see my ball?" He said, "Of course, I saw your ball. I have perfect eyesight." He said, "Okay, where did it go." He said, "I can't remember." [laughter] If it's not one thing it's another, right?
Now, sometimes the loss of vision is not at all funny. True story—in 2008 an 86-year-old man who was a pilot flew his airplane, crashed it. He had five passengers on board—all of them were killed. Eighty-six-year-old pilot, flown all of his life, but they discovered that his eye doctor had been treating him for two years. He had macular degeneration. And the doctor said, "I won't even allow you to drive, let alone fly an airplane." I read that article and I thought of what it says in Proverbs 29, "Without vision the people perish."
So we all need the ability to see. And I want to talk to you about that today—the vision of the church. Now, when I speak to you about vision, I'm not referring to your eyesight, your ability to see things, or focus far away or near. I'm not really talking about insight, can you understand certain things, as much as I'm talking to you about foresight. Can we stand here and know who we are and what God has called us to be and do as we march into the future—that's the vision that I'm talking about—can we see what God wants us to be as his people.
I will begin with a little disclaimer; and that is, I'm, I'm not trying to win a popularity contest. It's nice when people like you or like the church that you pastor. I'm honored to pastor this church, it is a great joy of mine, but I realize that not everybody likes one style or another style. It's just who we are. I'm okay with that. I don't lose sleep over that.
Some people don't like the way we worship. Some would want it softer, or some would want it louder, or some would want more "Holy Ghost" stuff in it. It's okay. There's a lot of churches that offer all the above. Not everybody likes our style of expository teaching. They would rather have more exhortation or more liturgy. Not everybody likes the fact that we do evangelism, having altar calls often at our service. "Well, altar calls aren't in the Bible." Yeah, cars aren't in the Bible, but I bet you drove one to get here. [laughter]
Some people don't like the size of the church. "It's just too big," they say. I understand that. I understand all that, but I will say you can have a small church experience in a large church by simply belonging to a small group. And if you want to go to a small church, no problem, it's okay. But then when you get there, pray that it never grows, because otherwise you're going to be unhappy again and the cycle starts.
What does God want us to be? What has, what has God called us to do? I've asked you to turn to John 17 because there's two chapters in the Bible that years ago when the leadership got together and we were asking that question, and our vision essentially hasn't changed: upreach, inreach, outreach. Those two chapters gave us what we believe to be the cues for us as to why we formed that vision, and I just want to explain that to you.
John 17 is Jesus' prayer to his Father. Acts, chapter 2, is the birth of the church and how they actually practiced what Jesus was praying for in John 17. First of all, look at verse 1 of John 17. It brings up the first thing in our vision statement; that is, upreach. We believe a church should be one that radiates the glory of God.
Verse 1, "Jesus spoke these words, lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said: 'Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may also glorify you.' " Verse 4, " 'I have glorified you on the earth. I have finished the work which you have given me to do. And now, O Father, glorify me together with yourself, with the glory which I had with you before the world was. I manifested your name to the men whom you have given me out of the world. They were yours, you gave them to me, they have kept your word.' "
Go all the way to verse 22. " 'And the glory which you gave me I have given them, that they may be one just as we are one.' " If you were to go through this chapter and count the number of times the word glory appears or glorify appears, if you have the version that I have, you'd count up eight times, eight times glory or glorify appears.
Now, wouldn't you agree that the term glorify is a churchy-sounding term? You don't probably use that in your daily expression at work. You don't stand in line at the grocery store: "Excuse me, I have to go glorify." It's typically a word you reserve for a spiritual vocabulary, especially when talking about God himself.
But it's used eight times in this chapter. The question is: What does that word mean—glory or glorify? Well, it means two things, essentially, in the Bible. Number one, it is the visible expression of God, or the visible experience, you might say, of God. When God shows up to people in the Bible in his glory, there's some manifestation. Look at it this way: it's the outward wow that brings the inward woe.
Remember Isaiah had a vision of the glory of God? And it was like wow! "The train of his robe filled the temple." Wow! He's "high and lifted up," wow! The angels are singing, "Holy, holy, holy." But then the wow was followed by the woe. He said, "Woe is me, I am undone!" "In seeing how awesome God is, I saw how unawesome I am." It's the outward wow that brings the inward woe. So, it's the visible expression of God.
Second, and more to our point, it's valued attention toward God. Valued attention toward God. The word doxazó for "glorify" or "glory" is a word that means to make renown, to make renown, to make someone famous. I think that's the idea in verse 4, notice, "I have glorified you." And in verse 6, "I have manifested your name to the ones you gave me out of the world." In other words, "I've pointed, I've pointed to you, God the Father; I've pointed to you. I've put all the focus on you in front of them. Father, I put you on center stage, and I moved the spotlight so it shines on you, and I pass that onto them as a value." "Glory, glory, glorify, I have glorified."
So what is the church's goal primarily to be? To glorify God, to point God out, to give attention to God, to make him renown. Now, we do that in part, just in part, by our worship. Because when we sing to him or when we worship him, we are stating that he is of most value, that's what worship means. "Worthship" is the old English; worthship means to ascribe worth to. He's worth it. He is valuable. We do that in our worship.
Now, what Jesus prayed for, the early church in Acts, chapter 2, practiced. Acts, chapter 2, I told you was the birthday of the church. The church is born in Acts, chapter 2. So what, what would you expect then, based on this prayer, would be one of the first things they do in the book of Acts when the church is born? Praise God—and it's exactly what happened. The Holy Spirit came upon them. They were speaking in other languages in the temple courts. And the Bible says, "We hear them speaking . . . the wonderful works of God."
Toward the end of the chapter summing up their activity: "And they continued daily in one accord in the temple . . . praising God." I truly believe that we were created for this. We were created for worship. That we get most happy and satisfied and joyful when we fulfill the reason for which we were made; and that is, to worship him, to ascribe value and worth to him, to please him. We're actually created by God to do that.
In Revelation 4 verse 11 is the verse I want to just share with you to show you that. In heaven the anthem is this: "You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory, honor, power. You created everything," here it is, "and it is for your pleasure that they exist and were created."
If you're ever wondering: "Why am I here on earth? What is the purpose of life?" To please God, to please him. We're not the first people to have a Vision Week. Did you know that? That's been going on since the beginning of the church.
There's a book out, put out years ago called the Westminster Shorter Catechism. And it asked the first question: What is the chief end of man? What is the chief end of man? What is the whole reason we're here? What's the chief end of man? Answer: The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever. So that's upreach—we should be a church that radiates the glory of God.
Question: How exactly does God want to be worshiped? Well, he told a woman at the well of Samaria the Father is looking for people to worship him—you finish the sentence— "in spirit and in truth." So, two ways: in spirit and in truth. Ask yourself, "Am I worshiping him in spirit and in truth?" What does it means to worship him in spirit?
I believe primarily it's referring to the human spirit. Yes, certainly led by the Holy Spirit, but in the Greek word it's a small s. It's without the definite article which speaks about my spirit, your spirit. We are body, soul, and spirit, and the spirit is the real you, the authentic you, the core of your being. So when you worship him authentically like, "I really mean this," that's to worship him in spirit.
I would even go a step further and say to worship him in spirit is spirited worship, spirited worship. I mean, we're into—we're all into it with how we feel, and our emotions, and our expression, and our energy, in spirit and in truth. So it's based upon his worth and it's based upon his Word. "In spirit and in truth."
Okay, now get this: I want to predict your future. Really easy to do, I'm just going to read you a verse of Scripture. I want you to know what you're in for when you get to heaven. Because if you have any thoughts about, "Do I really want to hang out in heaven or not?" I just want you to know what you're going to get into.
Okay here's a little snippet of it, this is Revelation 5 verse 11, "Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands." That's a lot of voices, would you say? Would that be like the biggest church service you ever attended? Do you think it's going to be loud?
Well, listen to what it says in the Bible, "Saying with a loud voice: 'Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!' And every creature that was in heaven, on earth, and under the earth . . . said: 'Blessing and honor and glory and power be to him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb, forever!' "
Jesus prayed that he would glorify the Father, that we would glorify the Father. The book of Acts shows that they did that. In heaven you're going to be doing that with a loud voice giving honor and glory. So this is what it tells me, when it comes to our worship experience, there's one thing we can't do. We can't do this, ready? This is what you can't do [folds arms while making a spiritless expression] —not allowed. That doesn't sound to me like you're all in. "La, la, la, la."
Why is it that we think ascribing worth to the most worthy being on the whole, in the whole universe ought to be carefully contained? Do you think, do you think God looks down when we're just kind of not engaged in worship and says, "Oh, I love that! Way to hold it all in; man, I'm just so stoked when you don't let anybody know that you love me. I love that."
Now, before you say, "Well, I'm not the emotional type." You lie! I've seen some of you at games. [laughter] I, I've seen some of you when we score, and you shoot up in the air and you shout out, and you're so happy, or when your child scores, or when you shoot a good drive down the freeway— freeway? That's me [laughter] and I scream out, but it's not a happy scream. There's an emotion there.
And before you say, "Well, I don't have a good voice, that's why I don't sing." Prove it. Prove that you don't have a good voice. Sing it so loud so that people around you want to drown you out. [laughter] Seriously, seriously. There's only one qualification you need, make a joyful . . . noise. Can anybody do that? Yes. Anybody can make a joyful noise.
You have the voice that God all almighty has given to you. It's an adequate instrument to bless him with. And they cried out with a loud voice and they said this. So upreach: be all in, be engaged when you worship, you're ascribing him worth, valued attention toward God.
You know, I've always noticed that bars have what they call "happy hour." Nobody goes in looking happy, they go out looking happy, [laughter] but for the wrong reasons. Why can't church be happy hour? If you won the lottery—if you won the lottery would you do this? [folds arms and looks unenthusiastic] "Cool." Would you? So I, I'm here to tell you something: You've won the lottery! This is the lottery! [applause] You're saved, you're freed from all of the past, and you're on your way to heaven. That's the lottery, folks. That's upreach.
Second, according to this text, I believe that the church should be one that reveals the truth of God. Radiates the glory of God, number two, reveals the truth of God. Go down to look with me in John 17 at verse 6. " 'I have manifested your name to the men whom you have given me out of the world. They were yours, you gave them to me,' " notice, " 'they have kept your word. And now they have known that all things which you have given me are from you. For I have given to them the words which you have given me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from you; and they have believed that you sent me."
Verse 14, please, "I have given them your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world." Verse 17, "Sanctify them by your truth. Your word is truth." If you've ever wondered why we place a high emphasis on Bible study and we always say, "Turn in the Word of God to John 17; Daniel, chapter whatever; it's because of this. This is a reason. It's always about Bible study. It's always about what God has said.
"Well, can't you do like more interpretive dance around here or puppet shows or—" No, we can't. We always want to know what God has to say because he's the one that directs our worship. We believe the Word of God does the work of God in the hearts of the people of God, that we unleash the truth of what God has spoken. So we want to explain to you in inreach the relevance of God's Word to transform our lives into lives of service—that's inreach.
Now, what Jesus prayed for, once again, they practiced in Acts, chapter 2. Jesus prayed for them being sanctified by the truth. In Acts, chapter 2, that was their emphasis. We open up the chapter, they are praising God. We keep reading in the chapter and their list of values are given. Acts chapter 2 verse 42 says, "They continued steadfastly in the"—what's first on the list? Anybody know? "Apostles' doctrine, breaking bread, fellowship, prayer."
"They continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine." Or one translation says, "They devoted themselves to the apostles' doctrine." How many Christians do you know that are devoted to doctrine? "Hey, what are you into, man?" "Doctrine." "Really? Let me get away from you." Most Christian bookstores don't have a lot of doctrine, they have trinkets. We used to call it "Jesus junk." You go in and there's all these cards and little tchotchkes and—where's the truth, man? Where's books on truth, doctrine, teaching? That's inreach.
Dr. Albert Mohler writes, "Rarely do we hear these days that a church is distinguished primarily by its preaching. When we hear people speak about their own congregations, generally they speak about something other than preaching. They might speak of a church's ministry. They might speak of specialized programs for senior adults or young people. They might speak of a church's music. Sometimes they might speak of things far more superficial. But rarely, rarely, do you hear of a church described first and foremost by the character, power, and content of its preaching. This is because few preachers are true servants of the Word," end quote.
I first gave my life to Jesus Christ by listening to Billy Graham. I came to Christ by that evangelist. But I couldn't grow just sitting under evangelism my whole life; you can't do that. You need Bible teaching after you get saved. I don't need to be told every week how to get save again, I already am. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt, now I want to grow, I want to mature.
So I got saved watching Dr. Billy Graham. I'm always grateful and I remind him of that event when I see him. And so grateful and thankful, but I started going to a church that taught from Genesis to Revelation, a Bible-teaching church, and I started growing, growing.
And I had a neighbor that lived down the street, actually a couple of guys, a couple blocks from me in Huntington Beach. We were having a conversation, they were going to the same church I was. They graduated from seminary. They were like brainiacs. I was a youngster for duh! But they, they said, "You know what? We've learned more at the church in one year than we have in all of the years of our seminary training, just doing verse by verse, chapter by chapter through God's Word.
Well, we need that because when we learn, we grow. Second Peter 3:18, "Grow in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." First Peter chapter 2 verse 2, "As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby."
And so we believe as a church one of our core values is Bible teaching. But it doesn't end there. Inreach isn't just Bible preaching. Inreach doesn't just mean I come to church and I listen to what is dished out in Bible study from the pulpit. Inreach means I have a gift and you have a gift, and we have to have some format where we are sharing our gifts one with another. Because when that happens, inreach happens, we're being empowered for service and transformation. That's the goal—that you may grow, that you might stimulate each other to holiness.
I was reading through my New Testament, I discovered something that—well, it's monumental when you think about it. Sixty times, six-zero times, sixty times a phrase is used, the phrase "one another." One another. That was very telling to me when I first came across all the one anothers in the New Testament. Primarily they're in Paul's writings: "Love one another. Stimulate one another to good works. Edify one another."
And it dawned on me the most obvious thing, really profound, ready? You can't do one anothers by yourself. You can't do one another's by watching a computer screen. Our love to all those who are watching by computer right now. [laughter] But that can't be it. That can't be all you do. You can't do the one anothers by watching the service on an iPhone, or listening to Bible teaching on, on a device.
To do one anothers you have to be with one another. You need some format where we are sharing collectively, corporately, the expressions of God, Christ, in our lives to one another. And that's where home fellowships come in, that's where the little specialty groups we have at the church, that's where our Connect Groups come in. And we want you to get plugged in so that inreach happens in your life, and you're sharing with us what God has done with you.
Third, we believe that the church ought to be a church that rescues the enemies of God, rescues the enemies of God. We radiate the glory of God, that's upreach; we reveal the truth of God, that's inreach; but number three, we want to be about rescuing the enemies of God. Look at verse 18. One verse, chapter 17, verse 18, "As you sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world."
You know what that verse says? It says this: "You're on a mission from God." That's what it says—you're on a mission from God. Number two, it says you're on the kind of a mission from God like one Jesus was on from his Father. "As you have sent me into the world, so I also send them." Does anybody know why Jesus came? Do you know what his mission was? He said so in the gospel of Mark, "For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save those who are lost." That's what Jesus is about, looking for people who are lost, seeking them and saving them.
Now, read verse 18 again, "As you sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world." The word "sent" is a very interesting word; it's the word apostelló. Apostelló in Greek. What does that sound like—Apostelló? Apostle— that's exactly what it means. An apostle is somebody who's been sent. So, "I have been sent," apostelló; "I send them," apostelló. "Father, you've apostled me; I'm apostling these guys. I'm sending them out."
God's plan to rescue unsaved people is by sending saved ambassadors into their midst and giving them the gospel. Please, never let this church become a Bless-Me Club. A lot of people join churches because of all the benefits, like a country club. "I join for the benefits that it gives the members." There are benefits; there should be benefits. You should come and be able to pour out your heart, and be loved, and be prayed for, and get healed, and be part of a family.
However, you know we're the only outfit on earth that exists for the benefit of nonmembers? We exist for the benefit of those who don't know Christ. We have a tendency as human beings to focus on ourselves; we do that a lot. In fact, we probably do that every ten seconds. It's just who we are. We think about, "I'm hungry," or, "I need to do this. Here's my issue and my problem." It's just who we are. I'm not knocking that. I'm not putting it down. It's who we are as people. But we need, therefore, to be reminded we exist to give God glory, to build one another up, and to bring unsaved people to know Jesus Christ.
Now, I think Jesus so knew that about his own disciples that one day as they're walking on a hillside in Galilee—and probably the disciples are thinking, "Where are we going to have a falafel for lunch? Where are we going to pitch our tents tonight to sleep?" And they're just kind of focusing in on them and their whole thing. And so Jesus seeing the crowds of people that are following him in the distance said to the disciples, "Lift up your eyes and look at the harvest and notice that it's white; it's ready to be picked." So don't always put your eyes on yourself, lift them up from time to time and see what's going on outside the church—that's the harvest field, and it is white, and it is ripe.
Again, what Jesus prayed for in John 17, the early church practiced in the book of Acts. The book of Acts opens and we see the coming of the Holy Spirit. And one unique fisherman who becomes their first preacher named Peter who stands up boldly in front of the crowds and gives a message, and the people are convicted. And some of the people say, "What must we do?" And Peter—Peter—Peter says, "Repent!"—this is Peter who chickened out when a servant girl asked him a few questions a couple days before. Now he's bold, filled with the Holy Spirit, and proclaiming the gospel and the resurrection of Jesus Christ to people. That's the model for us.
I think that's a healthy pattern. I think this upreach, inreach, outreach is a healthy pattern for every healthy believer, every healthy church. We're saved, we serve, we're sent. Remember those three words: saved, served, sent. We get saved, and it's all about the relationship with God. We love him; that never ends. And then we start serving one another. But then we also get sent out into the world—that's evangelism.
By the way, that's the reason we do altar calls. We throw out the net. Throw out the net because people are curious, they'll come to church or they'll be invited by a friend, and, and we have the opportunity to call them to Christ. That's not the only way to do it; that's just a way to do it.
You know, D. L. Moody, it's been often said, was the guy who came up with the idea of an altar call. I don't know if that's true or not; Jesus called people publicly. But Dwight L. Moody the pastor of Moody Church in Chicago (the first pastor) would often call people forward, and they called it an "altar call," and he was criticized for it.
On one particular occasion a woman came up to him and said, "Mr. Moody, I don't like the way you do evangelism." He had a classic answer. He goes, "You know, I don't think it's really that great either, so I'm always looking for new ways. Tell me, dear lady, how do you do it?" She said, "I don't do it." He said, "Then I think the way I do it is better than the way you don't do it. I'll stick with that one."
However way you do it—do it. If it means you just build a relationship with a person, if it means you go door to door and knock on doors, if it means you go down to the mall and speak to people and pass out tracts—there's a number of ways to do it—or you invite people to church to hear a message—but do it. Evangelism brings life into a body.
I close with this: Live churches are constantly changing; dead churches don't have to. Live churches have lots of noisy kids; dead churches are fairly quiet. Live churches expenses always exceed their income; dead churches take in more than they ever dreamed of spending. Live churches are constantly improving for the future; dead churches worship their past. Live churches focus on people; dead churches focus on programs. Live churches dream great dreams for God; dead churches relive nightmares. Live churches don't have "can't" in their vocabulary; dead churches have nothing but. Live churches evangelize; dead churches fossilize.
I don't want to be fossil folks. I looked in the mirror today, I'm half there—I'm there! [laughter] But that's just outwardly. You know, I think I'm twenty years old until I look in the mirror. [laughter] I go, "Oh, yeah, that's right. I am mortal. I'm on my way to glory, hallelujah."
The outward man is passing away," Paul said, "the inward man is being renewed day by day. I'm still young and energetic in my heart, and I still have vision for the future for this community, for the state, and for this country. And I love it when we can march together into the future. I'll say one final thing. There's one final element that would put it all together quite nicely.
Toward the end of chapter 17 Jesus touches on it. It's called love. It's called, it's called kindness. It's called grace. He said, "Father, I'm praying that they may be one as you and I are one . . . that the world may believe that you sent me." Whatever we do with each other, whatever we do for the glory of God and to the community, let it always, always, be soaked in grace. No room for legalism here. Grace—let that mark us. Be kind, be nice.
Father, we pray, Lord, that as you commission us this day when we walk out those doors and we behold our mission field, that every day we might just wonder and even ask, "Could it be that today I will fulfill more of the vision that my Lord has for my life? Could it be that today I'll be further down the road in pleasing him and bringing honor and glory to him? Could this be the day where I share an insight with another friend, or encourage someone who's struggling, or decide to lead a small group? Could this be the day that I'll not be focusing inward and downward, but outward and upward looking at the fields white for harvest?" I pray that it would; all for the glory of God, in Jesus' name, amen.
We pursue the God who is passionately pursuing a lost world; we do this with one another, through worship, by the Word, to the world.