Hello, and welcome to this message from Skip Heitzig of Calvary Church. We pray this message encourages you. And if it does, we'd love to hear about it. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you'd like to support this ministry financially, you can give online securely at calvaryabq.org/give.
In the New Testament the church is often called the body of Christ. Like a human body has many parts and function, in the message Anatomy of a Healthy Church, Skip considers five necessary components of a healthy church. Now, please open your Bible to Phillipians, chapter 4, as he begins.
Turn in your Bibles to the book of Philippians, and guess what? Chapter 4. We made it through chapter 3 so we're in the homestretch. Philippians, chapter 4. If you did not bring one, there is probably one close to you. Or someone next to you who wouldn't mind sharing. Philippians, chapter 4.
So over the years I've had an interesting journey with the church. I grew up having to go to church. I had to go. My parents made me go. And they even called it my Sunday obligation. And they gave me that term because my church talked about the Sunday obligation. You may not want to go, but you have to go. And so I grew up having to go to church.
Well, when I was 18 years of age I had a real encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ, and something changed. I didn't have to go to church now-- I wanted to go to church. Albeit, a completely different church, but I wanted to go there. So I went from having to go to church, to wanting to go to church. And then as I grew in my faith, I wanted to plant a church.
So I moved back east-- that's what I told all my friends and family in California-- I'm moving east to Albuquerque. Because, on the West Coast, everything's east. So I moved 800 miles east to plant a church. And I've had the distinct privilege of pastoring for over 30 years.
And though I love His church, and I believe that, as Paul said to Timothy, the church is the pillar and the ground of the truth-- I believe that-- I also have come to know that sometimes the church can get weird. Am I right? We can get wonky.
So we, as church people, can have a tendency to have all sorts of disagreements over trivial issues. There can be personality disagreements and leadership quarrels. I heard about a church who had a huge argument over which picture they would agree to put of Jesus in the foyer. Now I don't know why anybody would argue about that, since we really do not have an accurate picture or rendition of what Jesus really looked like. Some artists just make stuff up. But it was a huge division in the church over which picture we're going to put in the bulletin.
Another church sent a petition around to the congregation to have all of the church staff clean-shaven. Apparently, they didn't like facial hair. Again, they wouldn't do too well in the Old or the New Testament times. But they wanted to make sure their church staff was clean-shaven.
And then there was another church that I read about that had an argument if the church should allow deviled eggs at their potluck suppers. Now come on, really? You're going to go that far? Deviled eggs? Like, if they're demon-possessed eggs or something.
There's a magazine that's been around for years called Leadership Magazine-- great magazine, and it has very helpful articles. And Leadership Magazine, a Christian publication, always has cartoons about church life. And in one cartoon they showed a little cartoon of a grim-faced pastor behind his pulpit. And he had stopped in the middle of the sermon and was reading a note. And he said-- in the cartoon-- we interrupt this sermon to inform you that the fourth grade boys are now in complete control of their Sunday school class and are holding Ms. Mosby hostage.
Now, we have never had any of our teachers taken hostage yet. But over the years, we've had some very interesting times as a church. The ministry of a church is always the ministry of people. It's never about brick and mortar, or carpet and pews. It's never about property. It's really about people. That's what a church is-- it's a group of people that are called out to be together.
So if a church lives, it's because the people in it are alive-- they're vibrant, they're vital, they're involved. If a church withers and dies, it's because the people in it have withered and died.
I heard a story about a pastor who went to a little town in Oklahoma to take over a church. It was a troubled church. He'd heard about it, but he was a young man, and he had stars in his eyes, much optimism, and he believed he had what it would take to turn this church around. So he went and had all sorts of fresh ideas to no avail. They wanted none of it. They didn't want to change. All of his ideas were shot down. All of his attempts were pushed away.
So he was very frustrated. And he had one final idea. He decided he would take out-- in the local paper on a Saturday-- an ad that read, the church that I pastor has died. The church has died. Tomorrow afternoon-- Sunday afternoon-- please come for its funeral service. We're going to give it a proper burial.
Well, this got everybody's interest, not only in the church, but in the community. So that afternoon for the first time in years the church was packed-- packed to the gills, standing room only, people were on the outside looking in, trying to listen through the windows. And they noticed that it looked like a funeral service. There was a casket up front. There were flowers draped over the casket. The pastor got up at this afternoon funeral service, gave a eulogy, gave the history of the Church, where it's come from, but, he said, it died. And we're going to bury it.
And then afterwards the flowers were taken off the casket. The casket was opened up, and he invited everyone to come down and pay their respects to the dearly beloved. As people walked down to that open casket, and they looked inside of it, they were shocked. And they turned their face away. Because the pastor had placed a large mirror in the casket, so that as people walked by, they could see the church that had died. He made his point very, very vividly.
Well, as we read our text, in the fourth chapter of Philippians, you will notice the hint of a problem that is threatening the church. Verse 1, Philippians, chapter 4, "Therefore", or furthermore, "my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved. I implore you Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life. Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand."
You'll notice right off the bat a series of exhortations, refrains, obviously written by somebody who has a deep concern for this church at Philippi. You'll notice in verse 1, the words, stand fast. In verse 2, I implore, that is, I beg. Verse 3, I urge. And verse 4, the command, rejoice.
We can, by reading this, infer that there must have been some disagreement, some argument, some spat, some wrangling between two women that are mentioned here in the text. And their argument is affecting the whole church at Philippi. So I have outlined for you what I am calling, the anatomy of a healthy church. We're going to look at it in an anatomical formation. And I want to give you five components of a healthy, vigorous, strong church.
I'll begin with the first, in verse 1-- a healthy church has a big heart. As we read verse 1, I want you to notice something. It's very rare, because Paul-- what he does, he just sort of piles on these tender phrases toward this church. Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord. Then he repeats himself-- beloved.
This is the big heart of a loving leader. In one sentence he is able to express his gracious pastoral heart toward this group. Now, in affirming them, he provides an example of what is needed in every church. A big heart-- people with big hearts. Don't you love that he refers to them, my beloved? Maybe I should just start calling you my beloved.
I love that because it means my loved ones. Loved ones-- you are loved by God. You are loved by me. This is Paul's way of saying I love you to this church. And we all know that, according to Jesus Christ, the mark-- the mark-- the hallmark of the Church should be love. Not truth, though that's super important. Not holiness, though that's super important. But the one that takes precedence over all is love.
Jesus said, "By this all men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another." Now why is that? Why is that the singular most important attribute. Well, it stands to reason. How will you ever preach the gospel of the love of God, if you don't practice the gospel of the love of God? You can't just exhort people to love, you have to exhibit love. So that becomes preeminent.
And we have another problem. And that is that our God is invisible. And the unbelieving world loves to point that out. Oh, you talk to me about God. Prove God to me. Let me see God. That's just a way that weak people have of getting through a difficult life-- believing in a higher power.
So what love does, it takes the invisible God and makes him visible. 1 John, chapter 4, verse 12-- "No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us." So you see, if the world could possibly see a community of nurturing, caring, loving, forgiving people, that love each other across the barriers of race and rank and age and sex, they might listen. A big heart.
So he says, "My beloved." And he says it twice in verse 1. But he didn't stop there. He didn't say, now, my beloved-- now that I've gotten past that, let me slam you with this. He didn't stop there. Notice he pours it on. "Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren."
Now, I was thinking about this little phrase-- my longed-for brethren. And I was thinking that Paul had known this group at Philippi about 10 years. I tried to figure it out. I'm thinking between 10 and 11 years he had known them. It had been that long since he first went there and founded the Church at Philippi. So he'd known them for at least 10 years-- a decade. But he had not seen them for about five years.
So now he's in prison in Rome-- you know the story. And he's thinking back to when the church started, the people he knew and met. And he starts longing for them. He misses them. He wants to be with them. And though I certainly don't compare myself to Paul, I would say I understand that, at least a little bit.
Because about 13 years ago I left here for about 2 and 1/2 years, and I went out West again for a number of reasons. But I was absent from this church. And when I was alone, I would find myself thinking back and greatly missing New Mexico. And it wasn't just the green and red chili, either, although that does rank high on the list-- on anybody's list. It wasn't like Dion's Pizza or something.
What it was for me is my mind took me back to all the people that I had counseled, or prayed with, or prayed for, or married, or dedicated their children. And this enormous longing for them-- for you-- developed in the heart. So I understand when Paul says, my beloved, my longed-for.
And then he didn't stop there. He calls them my joy. Now here's why this is significant, because what's the theme of this book? Joy-- Technicolor joy. 18 times he mentions either joy, or rejoicing, or rejoice in this book. So the theme is joy. But now, in saying this, we understand a part of his joy was wrapped up in them-- in people.
So this is a healthy, tender relationship. It wasn't a toxic relationship like the pastor putting a mirror in a casket. This was a healthy, tender one. So my beloved, my longed-for brethren, my joy-- but he didn't stop there. He calls them my crown-- my crown.
Now this word, crown, is the Greek word stephanos. It is the crown of an athlete. It's a little laurel wreath that is put on the head of somebody who runs a race in an Olympic event and wins. So it's not the crown of a ruler who rules over something. It's the crown of a runner, of an athlete, and who gets a reward.
So when Paul says, you're my crown, he's not saying, I'm ruler over you. He's saying, you're all the reward I need. Knowing you in this relationship of love that we have, that is reward enough. You are the icing on my cake. So I'm pointing all these out because this first shows us what a big heart the founder of this church had toward the flock at Philippi. And that's an ingredient. That's a component of a healthy, vigorous, strong, church-- a big heart.
But that's not all. A big heart needs to be balanced out by a firm stance. So, verse 1-- "Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved." All right, now he's asking them to take a firm stand in the context here over an issue that is dividing them by these two gals mentioned in the next couple verses.
He's asking them to take a stand in healing the division that has gotten out of hand. So what does that tell me? It tells me that a church isn't just a nice place to get a pat on the back, and feel good about yourself, and feel affirmed, and feel loved-- though that's important. But it's also a place filled with people who have deep convictions that keep them rooted and grounded in a world that is hostile to them.
The words, stand fast, is a command, by the way. [GREEK] is the Greek word. It means stand in one place. Immovable. Be stationary. Persevere. It's a military term for a soldier standing in a battle and not retreating. Now, this happens to be a theme throughout the New Testament, this idea of spiritual stability or perseverance. 14 times in the New Testament we are told to stand fast. Or we are told to be steadfast.
So evidently, as a Christian, there are tendencies to make us not want to hold our ground, but retreat, or hide, or go away, or quit following Christ. In Acts, chapter 11, a new church starts up in Antioch, up in Syria. People in Jerusalem hear about that-- they send Barnabas up.
It says, "When Barnabas got there, when he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord." Why would he tell them that? Because he knew that in the opposition that they face, they're going to want to not continue in the Lord. They're going to want to sort of drop off the map and stop following.
1 Corinthians, 15 Paul writes, "My beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord." So if you want any strength in a church, you need a big heart and a firm stance-- spiritual stability. Because spiritual instability leads to doubt, discouragement, disappointment.
Unstable people are crushed by trials, overwhelmed by circumstances, overtaken by temptations. As James said, a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways. So with a big-hearted love, we need a firm stance that says, I'm going to follow Jesus no matter what.
Sometimes when people come to me for counseling, depending on the issue, I ask them a question that surprises them. I will say, what would it take for you to stop following Jesus. They go, what? What do you mean? I say, well is there some kind of event you can think of? Some catastrophic event that if God crosses that line, or he takes that person away from me, I quit. What would it take to get you to stop following Jesus? Or, are you like the song that is sung, I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back. I'm standing firm. I'm standing fast.
An African pastor in Zimbabwe died. He was martyred for his faith in Christ by persecutors. After he died, among his papers was found something he wrote. And it turns out this was his philosophy of life. But it's noteworthy. Listen to what he wrote. He said, "My face is set. My gait is fast. My goal is heaven. My road is narrow. My way is rough. My companions are few. But my guide is reliable. My mission is clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, diluted, or delayed.
I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of adversity, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in a maze of mediocrity. I won't give up, shut up, let up, or slow up, until I've preached up, prayed up, paid up, stored up, and stayed up for Christ." That's steadfastness, and it got him killed. I think he was OK with that. I think right now he's going, yeah, I made the right choice.
So a big heart, a firm stance-- there's a third component, and that is a warm embrace. A warm embrace, that is, the ability to take two parties that are in disagreement, to embrace both of them and helping them to resolve the conflict. Verse 2-- I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche-- aren't you glad you have the name that you have? And pardon me if I offended anyone here named Syntyche, but I doubt that is the case.
But I implore these" two gals "to be of the same mind in the Lord. "And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers whose names are in the book of life." Now, we don't know anything about who these ladies really are. We don't know any details about their argument. They are not mentioned anywhere else in the New Testament. We just know that something between them happened.
We do know what their names mean. Euodia is a word that means "good journey" or "have a good trip." The word, syntyche, is a Greek word that means "fortunate" or "lucky." So, forgive me, but I'm going to give them these names. I'm going to call one Mrs. Goodtrip, and the other Miss Lucky.
So Mrs. Goodtrip and Miss Lucky loved each other, and were part of this church, and fellowshipped together, and probably brought deviled eggs to the potluck. But something happened between Mrs. Goodtrip and Miss Lucky. And the disagreement got to be so advanced that it polarized the church, and groups developed around both opinions.
And Paul writes about it. And he's had enough of it, and he needs to get it resolved. Something about these women we do know-- they were prominent women. They weren't just any women, they were prominent women. How do know that? Because verse 3-- Paul said, "they labored with me in the gospel." That's significant
I'm guessing-- I can't prove it-- I'm guessing that they were among the first women who were at the first prayer meeting in Philippi. Remember the story? Acts, chapter 16-- I'll refresh your memory. Paul goes to Philippi. There is no Jewish synagogue there. The law required at least 10 males-- 10 men-- to form a synagogue. There weren't any.
So it says, on the Sabbath day we went outside the city to a riverside where prayer was customarily made, and we spoke to the women. There were praying women-- Jewish women-- at a riverside. That was the first meeting Paul attended. I'm guessing these women, Euodia and Syntyche, were part of that first group.
I love the idea that a church was birthed out of a group of praying women. We talk about the founding fathers-- these are the founding mothers of the church. But a personal conflict has erupted into two antagonistic groups, so Paul wants this stopped.
And here's what I want you to think of. The only time their names are mentioned in the Bible is over an argument they had, and now it's immortalized. For the next 2000 years, people are going to read the Bible and go, oh, those are the two gals in Philippi who had a disagreement. Wouldn't you hate that?
And so Michael Bentley asked this-- if in 100 years time your name was to be discovered in an old document, what one thing would you like the finder of that document to learn about you? It's a good question, because these two women at Philippi go down in history being remembered for a disagreement.
Now, notice the solution. I think the solution is found here. The solution to their disagreement is found in a phrase-- don't overlook this phrase-- in the Lord. Look at it. "I implore,"-- verse 2-- "Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord." Now this is not Paul throwing in a spiritual phrase so it'll sound good. This is really the solution to the problem.
It's the same thing as in verse 1. Notice he says, stand fast in the Lord. Verse 4-- rejoice in the Lord always. The solution is always in the Lord, because he's usually the one people forget. When they have an argument with each other, when they don't disagree, they have a viewpoint, you have a viewpoint, you go at it, you have forgotten the Lord's viewpoint.
So what Paul does is brilliant. It's clever. He takes a social issue, and he moves it onto spiritual ground. So it becomes a spiritual issue now. Settle the disagreement in the Lord. In other words, focus on God's glory. Aim at his glory. Focus on what he wants.
This is all tied up with the New Testament concept of unity, not uniformity. It doesn't mean you can't have your own opinions and your own ideas-- but unity in the church. Unity among Christians is what proves the veracity of the Christian message. If there is no unity in the church, people aren't going to listen to much else that we have to say.
So I found something very interesting from-- it's called the American Psychological Association. They studied an orchestra. And an orchestra is fascinating. You have all these different instruments in an orchestra pit, and it's like one harmonious sound.
Well, this Psychological Association decided to ask the different people in the orchestra what they thought of the other people in the orchestra. And they discovered percussionists were seen as insensitive, unintelligent, and hard of hearing-- yet fun-loving. String players were seen as arrogant, stuffy, and unathletic.
The orchestra members overwhelmingly chose the word loud as the primary adjective to describe brass players. Woodwind players seem to be held in highest esteem, described as quiet and meticulous, though very egotistical. I have a question, given what you just heard. How on earth can people with such different perceptions of one another and different personality quirks make beautiful music together? The answer-- they subordinate their feelings and their biases to the leadership of a conductor.
Once they get in the pit, and they get the music in front of them, and they're about ready to play they don't think about what the personality differences are, the opinions are, or the political differences are, or stances are. They're there to make music. They subordinate all of that to what a conductor wants. They follow the conductor. So that's wrapped up in the idea-- in the Lord. He's the conductor. That's the solution.
A big heart, a firm stance, a warm embrace-- those are three of the five components. Let me give you a fourth-- a merry soul. Verse 4-- "Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I will say, rejoice." There it is again. This guy in jail keeps getting happier. Rejoice in the Lord always, and I'll say it again, rejoice.
Now that sounds like a command-- kind of like stand fast. Rejoice. It sounds kind of weird to walk up to a grumpy person and go, hey you-- rejoice. Really? You're telling me as a command to do that?
Why does it come off as a command? Well, for the same reason he says it twice. He says, rejoice in the Lord always. And just in case you forgot what I just said, I'll say it again, rejoice. And I think the reason he says it twice-- the reason it comes off as a command-- is because it ain't easy to always rejoice. It's hard to be joyful.
But what this tells me is that joy is a choice more than a feeling. That joy is a decision much more than it is a sensation. That joy is an outlook that is based on an uplook.
And how often are we to rejoice? Well, it says rejoice in the Lord, sometimes. Oh, did I read that wrong? I'm sorry. Rejoice in the Lord most of the time. I still blew it. Rejoice in the Lord on Sunday at 12:30 in church. No, rejoice in the Lord always.
How can a man say that? Here's why. Joy is a personal choice to react to life's uncertainties with faith. That's my definition of joy. Joy is a personal choice to react or respond to life's uncertainties with faith.
So he says, rejoice in the Lord. He didn't just say rejoice. He qualifies it-- rejoice in the Lord. Let me translate that my way. Life is tough, but God is good. Life is tough, but God is good. Rejoice in the Lord, always.
Now, Paul did this. He testified of this in his own personal life. 2 Corinthians, 6, he writes, "being sorrowful yet always rejoicing." Doesn't that sound weird? You can have both. You can be filled with sorrow and grief and pain at the same time your soul rejoices. You're experiencing both. You're experiencing one, but you're making that choice for the other. You're responding that way.
Paul and Silas were put in jail in Philippi. You know the story. They were beaten-- beaten up pretty hard. They were put in chains and stocks, and fastened to the wall. They were bleeding.
And it says, at midnight Paul and Silas-- what did they do? They sang hymns. It's the darkest time of the night. It's the darkest dungeon they've been in for a while. They're bleeding, blood's coming down their arms, they're fastened in stocks. And Paul turns to his buddy, Silas, and says, hey, do you know a song? Yeah, how about this one? Good, you start. I'll do harmony. And they sang hymns to God at night. Being sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.
Proverbs 15, verse 15, says, "He who is of a merry heart has a continual feast." And when you find people like that, you're attracted to them. They're a great advertisement for the church.
God deliver us from grumpy Christians. Get more of the light bulb ones out there. As Ben Franklin said, you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. You'll catch more souls that way, too.
So a big heart, a firm stance, a warm embrace, a merry soul all constitute a healthy, vibrant church filled with individuals like that. Here's a final one, a soft touch. We'll close with this, verse 5-- "Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand."
Whenever there's a conflict, like this conflict at Philippi, it's that gracious, gentle, diplomatic touch that will make all the difference. The word, gentleness, could be better translated-- sweet reasonableness. I love that. Let your sweet reasonableness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.
Now this is the person who carries around a big bucket of mercy. And when that person finds failures and faults and shortcoming, that just starts pouring that bucket of mercy that direction. That's sweet reasonableness.
Now let me say a word to so many of you who are mature believers. I know you're out there. Some of you have grown in your faith, admirably so. You've become leaders. You know the Bible. You're Bible experts. You serve in a mature leadership capacity. And as wonderful as that is, the danger with that is the older and the more advanced you grow in the Christian faith, sometimes we can forget what it's like to be newly born. In a fresh off the slave market, and liberated into Christ-- we forget that.
And so what happens is arrogance begins to creep in. And a snobbery-- a spiritual snobbery-- starts creeping in. And people don't feel relaxed around us. Because we're so [SINGING] Ah.
But let me remind you of something. You weren't always this awesome. You weren't always this knowledgeable. You weren't always so mature as you are now. So keep that in mind, and give them a little slack. And be softer in your touch, gentle in your touch toward them.
It says in Proverbs 15-- you know this well-- "A soft answer turns away wrath." It's that soft touch. When there is conflict in any group, home, church, whatever-- that soft touch.
Remember, you follow the Savior who said, I am gentle and humble in heart. You follow that guy. And that guy is humble, and that guy is gentle. So if we follow him, some of that ought to rub off.
Now, I have the hunch that some people here have a real battle with anger. Could be that you battle a critical nature. That's just been a part of who you are for a number of reasons. Bitter feelings are a part of that.
Some of you even battle outright rage. What Paul is saying in this verse is you need to get a new reputation. You need to be known for something else.
So if you want to reset your life? Here's a good place to start. Let your gentleness be known to all men. In other words, start being famous for your gentleness. Let that be your reputation.
And why should we? Well, it says, the Lord is at hand. Now I think most people read this and go, Jesus is coming back, you better straighten up. He's right around the corner. You better watch it, because he's coming back.
Now, when it says the Lord is at hand, that can refer to nearness in space or in time. Most people think it means time. The Lord, chronologically speaking, is coming soon. And I believe that he is.
But I think the context suggests nearness in space. He is saying to the church at Philippi, God is among you. God is present. God goes to your church, too. So he's with you. He's present. Be gentle because the Lord is present with you. He's near.
So back to where we started. I said the ministry of a church is a ministry of people. If the church lives, it's because its people are alive. If the church withers and dies, it's because its people are doing that, personally.
So there was a guy named Tim, and he wrote something very honest. Tim was a Christian. Tim was a mature Christian. Tim was a leader. But Tim found himself having conversations with people who were other believers, and invariably, in the conversation it would go negative toward the church. He found himself talking smack about the church-- his church, the church, all churches. Christians are like this-- he just found himself on that negative roll.
So as he was doing that one day he said a mental image flashed in his mind of a bride and groom on their wedding day. And in the mental image he saw himself walking up to the groom on the wedding day, and leaning in and saying, your bride is ugly.
You can't imagine doing that, right? And he said, I would never do that. I mean, no matter how unattractive a bride might seem to somebody else, to the groom she's gorgeous, she's radiant. But he said, the Lord used that. It was as if he was saying, Tim, every time you criticize my church you're telling me my bride is ugly.
So we have to be very careful how we talk about what Jesus said is the only thing he came to build, and that is His church. I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. So deviled eggs at a potluck will not prevail against the church, or anything better or worse. It's His bride.
I finally just want to say a word to those of you who have been hurt by the church. I don't know your background, but I could guess that in this group some of you have bad experiences in your past. You left the church. You have not fond memories of its leadership. They did something to you or your family. You're still holding on to that.
And I just want to say to you, on behalf of the church as a representative, how sorry I am. I'm sorry that whatever church it was, whatever city you came from, whatever happened to you, would you just accept that apology from a representative of His church. I'm sorry.
But now, I quickly want to say this. Jesus never said, follow my people. He said, follow me. He never said, follow my pastors. He said, follow me. He never said, follow my church. He said, follow me.
So don't take it out on Jesus for having some bad representatives. Because, here's the deal. He's the only perfect one. We follow a perfect Savior, imperfectly. We're all imperfect. And if you're pushing Jesus away at arm's length-- if you decide I'm going to follow Jesus, the perfect one, you're going to be surrounded with a lot of people like you-- imperfect.
You know the old joke-- if you ever find a perfect church, don't join it because you'll spoil it. Because we're all imperfect. We get that. We're called to pursue the perfect Savior. And as we look to Him, and we look at all the people who are around him following him imperfectly, at some point you need to overlook them, and keep looking to the perfect one. Because he can, and will, change your life if you let him.
Let's pray together. Father, thank you for Paul's letter of joy to the Philippians. We have learned, we have gleaned, we have grown so much just from these few weeks pondering this short letter from a Roman prison to a congregation experiencing a number of issues, including division.
Through it all, Lord, we have seen your plan for this imperfect group you call the church. But that's what you came to build. You said, upon this rock I will build my church.
And so we thank you, Lord. For as imperfect as we are, as failure ridden as we are, that you still love us, and you still have a plan for us. And you still want us to love one another, and still work together with a big heart, a firm stance, a warm embrace, a merry soul, and a soft touch.
Some of these principles we're good at, others we're lame at. We confess that. Would you just help balance us all out? And remind us, like you did today, of how important every one of these things are. Because we are your representatives. As much as we fail in that, we are your representatives. So help us.
And I do pray for anyone who doesn't know Jesus yet here. Lord, you know who they are. They know who they are. I pray, Lord, that you would compel them to follow you, to make you their Savior. And to, at some point, overlook the misrepresentation, the bad players that have been on the chess board. And to look to you, and to decide, I'm going to follow that Jesus. I'm going to follow him right into heaven.
And right now, our heads are bowed, our eyes are closed. I just want to give you an opportunity if you have not made a decision yet, personally, to follow Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior-- know this, imperfect one, he died for you. He bled for you. He rose from the dead for you. He loves you.
And he'll never force himself on you, but he does invite you to come and follow him. And he said, I stand at the door and knock. And if you'll open it, I'll come in and fellowship with you. So he's knocking. And some of you can feel that. You have heard that voice and that knock for some time, but you haven't opened your heart, yet.
You've even sat through altar calls, but you haven't opened your heart yet. You've heard invitations, but you haven't opened the door of your heart. Some of you need to give your life to Christ for the first time. Some of you need to come home after straying into whatever it is you are into. Just come home and be forgiven. And know that your name can be written in his book of life.
And if you want to do that, as our heads are bowed, and our eyes are closed-- mine will be open to register and acknowledge you-- I want you to raise your hand. I want to pray for you. I need to know who I'm praying for. Just raise your hand up.
And then you're raising it-- God bless you towards the back. You're saying, I'm going to give my life to Jesus. I want to follow him. I'm going to give my life to Christ today and be forgiven. God bless you-- right up here to my right, in the front, and right in the middle.
Anybody else? Would you just raise that hand up? Say yes to Him-- in the balcony, in the back. Anyone else? A couple of you in that family room-- awesome.
Thank you, Lord, for each one of these. These are raised hands I have just seen. But these are humans. These are people that you made, that you love, that you have a plan for. And how thankful we are that they're here among us.
We don't know their background. We don't know their baggage. And thank you, Lord, they don't know ours. But we know you love them. And I pray you'd convince them of that, and strengthen them to follow you. In Jesus' name we pray, amen.
Would you stand to your feet please? I'm going to ask those of you who raised your hands to do something. I bet you thought I was going to do this. You're right, I am.
If you raised your hand, I'm going to ask you now to get up from where you're standing. If you're in the family room or balcony, we're going to wait for you. We want you come down, come in this building, walk down the aisle if you're in here, and just stand right up here.
I'm going to lead you in a prayer in just a moment-- your own personal prayer of receiving Christ. You'll hear us encourage you as you come. But you please come. Can you do that? Let yourself be known. Let yourself be encouraged. Let yourself be loved through all this. God bless you. Come stand right up here. Awesome. Thank you. That's so good.
[SINGING] Wanderer come home.
If you're in that balcony, would you just come down those steps? Come down the aisle if you're in the family room. Just come through the door, which is up to the front, to the right. Come stand right here. We'll wait for you as you come. But we want you to be a part of this. We want you to walk away knowing this is the day I gave my life to Christ. This was the moment that changed everything for me.
[SINGING] So lay down your burdens, lay down your shame.
Lay it down. Lay it down.
[SINGING] All who are broken lift up your face. Wanderer come home you're not too far So lay down your hurt, lay down your heart, and come as you are. As you are. Come as you are, as you are, as you are. Wanderer come home you're not too far. Lay down your hurt, lay down your heart, and come as you are.
Now those of you who have come, a thought just came into my mind at how pleasing you are to the Lord right now, for just making that step of obedience and saying, yes. And how happy it makes the Lord.
And I had another thought. You just ticked off the devil, which gives me great joy and pleasure. It's always good to do what God wants you to do, and to obey him.
So here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to lead you in a prayer. I'm going to pray it out loud. I'm going to ask you to say these words out loud after me. Say them from your heart. Mean them, as you are telling God to come and take control of your life. OK?
So let's pray. Lord, I give you my life-- Lord, I give you my life. I know that I'm a sinner-- I know that I'm a sinner. Please forgive me-- Please forgive me. I believe in Jesus-- I believe in Jesus.
That he came to earth-- that he came to earth, that he shed his blood for my sin-- that he shed his blood for my sin, and that he rose again from the dead-- and that he rose again from the dead, and that he's alive right now-- and that he's alive right now.
I turn from my sin-- I turn from my sin. I leave my past behind-- I leave my past behind. I turn to Jesus as my Savior-- I turn to Jesus as my Savior. Help me to follow him-- Help me to follow him. As my Lord-- As my Lord. Every day-- Every day. In Jesus' name-- In Jesus' name. Amen-- Amen.
Just like a physical body, growth in the church often comes with growing pains. Did this message give you insight on how to manage those kinds of pains? We'd love to hear about it. Email us at email@example.com.
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