Speaker: Ben Marsh
Scripture: Mark 2:1-12

From the series It's Personal

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Well, good morning. I’ve got a question for you this morning. Are you busy this weekend? You guys are busy. Let me think while I’m here. Right. This is such a unique question. And maybe I’m alone in this, but let me just follow with me for a moment. There’s this question. Has the ability to evoke a wide array of emotions in a millisecond, depending on when and where it’s asked and by whom. Because if you’re in the middle of your work week and somebody comes up and they ask you this question, where does your head go? Again, this might just be me, but okay, who’s asking this question? Why are they asking this question? What might it be? Now is this an event? Is this like a dinner? Is this like, do they want to hang out? Is there a party? So there could be a little bit of excitement? Or a lot of times is it. What do they want? And they already asked this question. I don’t know what it’s about. And so if I say yes, how am I going to back out of this? And like, how am I going to respond? Maybe that again might just be me, might just be me. Does anybody out there own a pickup truck? Anyone? So back in college, I was one of the kids on campus. A small Christian campus that had a pickup truck. And so you better believe that I was asked this question more than my, like, my fair share of times by people I did not know from at all, they would say, oh, well, I know this person who’s in this class over in chemistry, over here, over there or wherever. And they and I heard, I heard you have a truck.

Are you busy this weekend? But you’re Ben, right? You’re Ben. Yeah. Yeah, yeah. It’s this kind of question, this kind of idea of like, how connected are we to others? And what is our connection? What is our our influence with others? And what do people want from us that, I think ultimately has led us to a place in our lives that more times than not. We really are interested in kind of maintaining our own lives more than we’re interested in influencing others. We’re in the middle of this series right now. There’s three parts of talking about these personal parts of our life. Last week we talked about just this idea of life in general came to a conclusion that life is, in fact, not our own. It is God’s. And this week, this area of our life that again, I think we believe to be so terribly personal. My faith, my faith, my faith in Jesus, my relationship with Jesus as a personal thing and really doesn’t have a whole lot to do with other people. It’s just me and Jesus. That’s all I need. And I think that this is actually found its way not only into our society, but now has seeped into the church as well. And it’s hurting us. And it’s actually it’s hard to find a solution for this because because we actually have this propensity to just want to isolate ourselves and to be alone. And there’s actually stats that are pointing in the fact that it’s actually hurting us.

How many people would actually say, do you feel like you’re more connected to your community, family and friends now today than you were four years ago? Probably not. And actually, stats that don’t go up to just four years ago. This is from the Surgeon General who’s now sounding the alarm that we have an epidemic of loneliness. And these stats are drawn from 2003 to 2020. So four years ago, and things have not gotten better. But just let us look at a few of these here together. The social life. Social isolation has increased 24 hours per month that our engagement, even inside of our own families, has decreased five hours a month. Our time with our companions has gone down 14 hours a month. Our social engagement with friends outside of our family has decreased 20 hours a month. Non household family engagement, 6.5 hours per month and our social engagement with others just as a whole is down, it’s down, it’s down, it’s down. We’re engaged less. So if I look at those numbers then we would just presume that all that time, all those hours that we’re not connecting with others, we’re we’re just like, we’re making the best use of that time. Right? We’re being really faithful. I just assume that’s all Bible reading time that we’ve now compensated. Actually, there’s social isolation. They have all these stats of these numbers dropping and we’re just less and less connected. But then even more than that, they even point to the fact that it is, in fact, hurting us. It’s not just mental and spiritual consequences.

There’s actual physical consequences from insufficient connection with others, which include, just to name a few, a 29% increased risk of heart disease, 32% increased risk of stroke, 50%. Increase in developing dementia for older adults. And lastly, that if you’re lacking social, connection, it increases your risk of premature death by more than 60% then not being in community with others is literally killing us. It’s hurting our health, and it’s actually hurting our society. And when we you look at us go, well, why is that? Why would it? Why would it actually hurt to not be connected with other people? But if you if you can go back to the very beginning and God created everything and everything’s good, the very first thing that God said wasn’t good. If you looked at Adam and said, it’s not good that he’s alone. He needed companionship. He needed a community that God Himself, father, son, Holy Spirit in all, throughout all eternity is in community and that human beings are made to be in community as well. Yeah, all too often we actually Jews of our own will and our own volition that we want to isolate ourselves. We don’t want to be connected with others, because if we’re connected with other people. They might be different than us.

They might not just be the exact same as us and have all the exact same ideas. Can you believe that? And then they might actually say things that we disagree with. Right now, do you have people who have the right to speak into your life? And I’m not talking about the right to speak into your life like, no, no, no, you shouldn’t be watching this show on Netflix. You should be watching this one, not just telling you about the next thing that they’re streaming, or they’ll let the new restaurant or those very surface level. But fun things to talk about. But is there anyone in your life that actually has the right to speak truth to you? Because as a society as a whole, again, and I believe this is seeping into the church as well, is that we believe it’s my faith, it’s my opinion. And like it’s all totally and completely personal. So I really don’t I don’t have the right to step on other people’s toes. And then then we end up with like, bumper stickers that look like this and just excuse me for a second. Oh, that’s just it. I can’t even look at it. It. the idea of unity is fine, but the idea that I have to just sit there and believe that what you’re saying is true, just because you say it’s true. And I just have to tolerate that. And if I have actual truth to the actual truth, then I don’t have the I don’t have the right like yours is yours. Mine is mine.

We’re not supposed to talk about these things. Religion. We’re just. We’re supposed to be. It’s, you know, all the same, when we know as believers, it is not all the same that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, and that there is no way to the father except through him. When we can love other people and we are called to love the other people inside and outside the church, because there’s difficult people inside and outside, there’s sinners inside and outside the church. But for a moment, we cannot begin to believe what society tries to tell us that faith is totally a personal thing and it doesn’t matter whatsoever. You know, like what they believe. They just believe what they believe. For example, a number of weeks ago I was driving down 23 mile. I was headed to go pick up my son from school, running a little bit behind, and all of a sudden this guy had the nerve. He started honking behind me on the left turn lane. Try and turn off 23 down his honk honk, wave and wave on. What’s this guy want? And so I pull off and I get into a parking lot, and he’s trying to let me know that one of my back tires is completely and utterly flat. By the grace of God, he has a pump in his car. He’s like the nicest person ever. Helps me pump it up, make sure that I’m good to go. and like, I’m able to go get my son.

He’s trying to tell me something was true, and he’s trying to help me out. I could have just said, well, that’s not my truth. My personal faith in my vehicle is that my tires are all full, and I’m going to continue to drive on all these full tires until I destroy the rims. No, he’s speaking truth to me. He’s trying to help me out. That’s actually what we see here. Throughout this whole series. We’re looking at not only these personal issues, but how Jesus himself, in his earthly ministry, speaks into these issues. See, in Jesus’s earthly ministry, starting off in the book of Mark, he’s already done a number of healings and it started to get a little bit popular. And the word is spread about Jesus and what he’s doing. As we pick up in chapter two, it says. A few days later, Jesus again entered Capernaum. People had heard that he had come home. They gathered in such a large number that there was no room left, not even outside the door. And he preached the word to them. There again you see that Jesus is coming not just to tell people everything that you believe is just fine. He’s coming to actually be true. He’s actually the word in flesh. He is truth incarnate and he’s teaching them truth. And you see, people are gathering by the droves. They are drawn to this truth. They’re also interested in the healing as well. But I mean, again, all too often we think, well, we don’t want to step on somebody’s toes like that.

Might ostracize them a little bit if I speak truth. But if you do so in love, people are drawn to Jesus. So much so there’s no room. Which then poses a problem because there’s some men and they came bringing to him that is bringing to Jesus a paralyzed man carried by four of them. Now all of a sudden, there’s a group, there’s a community, there’s a community with a common purpose. And I believe that communities just as a whole, that if they’re going to be deep, authentic communities are going to gather around two things. And sometimes these two things are in conjunction with each other, a deep, authentic community that’s not just surface level about things that we find in common. They all have a common problem. There’s a problem that needs to be solved, and that community is gathering around that problem. And that community also will gather around hope, hope for a solution, hope for some sort of answer. And so here, this small community of five, four men trying to help this paralyzed friend see that there is a potential solution. And they all see the problem. They see this paralyzed man and they’ve heard the word that they okay, Jesus is healing people. And so maybe, just maybe, this man who had been paralyzed could find healing over here. And they do more than just. Okay. Hey, buddy. Sorry about you being paralyzed here. I got good news for you. There is this new teacher in town, and he can heal you. So you should probably get over there. Good luck with that.

And then they had on their way, you know, they actually physically pick him up. They do all that they can within their power because they, in and of themselves, not one of the four friends it doesn’t mention here at all that one of the four friends goes, well, yeah, that Jesus can heal, but maybe I’ll give it a shot. They know that the the limit of their ability and the limit of their gifting, what they’re called to do, and they see what I’m called to do with what I have here. And now. It’s actually take this man who has a problem and bring him to someone who might have a solution. And since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd. Because that. Because there’s you can’t even get to the door. There’s so many people around before friends quit. And they go on on their way, right? No, they are diligent. They are hopeful. They see the problem. They see a potential solution. And so again, you have to realize this. This is not just some fairy tale story. This is an account of real history of Jesus in flesh and people being drawn to him. And these men being so convicted that this man might be the answer, that not only are they willing to toil by caring their friend, but they’re willing to carry him up onto a roof.

They’re willing to go up on the roof. And they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it, and they lowered the mat. The man was lying on. And the man who owned that house was probably not too happy. But they were convinced that there was a solution for their friend that they were willing to sacrifice. They were willing to work. They were willing to do all that was in their power to bring that, bring them to someone who had even more power. But all too often, again, we want to isolate ourselves because that’s that’s work. It’s extra care and concern. It’s not it doesn’t necessarily benefit them personally. And so we isolate ourselves and focus on ourselves, yet not only even within humanity, but if you even look inside of God’s creation and you look at the animal kingdom, do animals more times than not stay in isolation, or do they stay in groups and groups? Let’s do a little quiz. I’m going to share a photo with you. You tell me what this group of animals is called collectively, we have some ants. That’s a colony. This next one is crows a murder. Yeah, that’s a fun one. Common one here. Lions. Another fun one. Porcupines. A prickle. My personal favorite. A group of skunks. A stench, yeah. And then you even have a group of whales together as well. Apart that there’s names for these groups. So they gather together and they gather for a common purpose. They are safety in numbers. There’s there’s value to being in a group.

There’s a value to being in community. And none of them think to themselves like, oh, I’d be better off not being in a pot. I’d be better off not being in a circle. Like, I’m going, just go do my own thing because I have my own stuff going on. Yeah. If this is just built into the DNA of God’s creation, to be in community with one another, because it’s safer, because it benefits the whole community, then why do we avoid it? Why do we want to be in community? Why or why do we want to be in community? Like we’ve just had the lip service to say, yeah, I just really want some close friends, but I don’t want to do anything to maintain those relationships. I just wish people knew me more. But I don’t want to have to share anything at all. I just want to be in community, and I just want it to all be catered around me. But community, by its very nature, it’s communal that you’re part of something bigger than yourself. There’s at least a few things that I can see that get in the way. Being in community is overwhelming. Because you have your own stuff, don’t you? I can see it. You guys have your own stuff going on. And then if you’re in community with other people, guess what? They have stuff to. They have things that they need help with. They have times that they want to talk to you and they want to talk to you about their problems, not your problems. There might be things required of you to be in community with someone else. It could also sometimes feel like it’s just fake. It’s just surface level that nobody actually shares what’s going on.

No one actually talks about the real stuff of their life. They just stay superficial. Because if you want authentic community, you have to you have to be vulnerable. You have to be willing to come before someone and have scars and faults and imperfections, because then they can speak into that part of your life, too. They can speak truth into that. And if they do that, that’s costly, because then all of a sudden your ego gets deflated a little bit and you’re humbled. It can also be costly to be in community because they might want time, they might want resource, they might want to be with you. Believe it or not, every now and again there are some people that would want to be around you. It’s going to cost you time. It might cost you finance. They might want to come to your house. You might have to share food with them. They might drink the good beer, might drink the good coffee. They might sit in your chair in the living room. Oh my gosh. And then, of course, you could always correct them and let them know, you know, okay, we can be friends, but we’re not okay. That’s my spot. But also if we’re vulnerable, if we if we make sacrifice, if we’re willing to be overwhelmed and we’re willing to give pieces of ourselves to others, then we’re actually opening up ourselves to ultimately be hurt. And community. Community can can painfully hurt, especially when community is filled with sinful, broken people. People who don’t always see eye to eye with you, people whose toes you might step on or they might step on your toes. I mean, all of us have experienced it to some extent. I mean, all families are not perfect. And I tell you what, even here, just this last week on Friday, I did a funeral. And the siblings of the person who passed weren’t in attendance because they didn’t want to see each other. I’m sorry to grow up.

Being community, you’re not. It’s not about you. It’s not about you. You need to be there for others. And all too often we get hurt and we fixate on that pain of something that maybe is long time forgotten now. But all I remember is I’m supposed to be upset with you, and I’m not even sure why anymore. But I just don’t like you. And because of that hurt, then we want to isolate. Because. And then when we isolate that, we don’t want to find any other connection with other people. Because you know what other people might do? Might hurt you again. And so we put up walls, and we want to protect ourselves from anyone speaking into our lives or being close to anybody. Because if we’re actually close again, then they might hurt us again. But when it comes to superficial stuff, we’re fine with that. We’ll connect with people who connect with people around the basic stuff, but being really close, being really vulnerable, this is going to be it’s going to be a hard pass for most of us. It’s costly. It’s painful. We’ll connect about silly stuff. I mean, we looked at groups of animals. Let’s look at for a moment. Look at groups of people. What do you call this group? Delusional. You had it right. I’m sorry. They’re fans, right? They’re fans. They’re Lions fans. And maybe they were delusional before they gathered. This is a perfect example. They for years and decades and forever gathered around common suffering. And now we have common hope, don’t we? We have common hope. Finally. What about coworkers? Coworkers? You can gather around common problems. We got to solve these problems. We got to get this job done.

We have the hope, you know, just getting along, getting the job done, getting the paycheck, accomplishing the task, whatever it may be, but that it’s so easy to say, so superficial there, isn’t it? You don’t have to talk about anything real. And actually it can just be an escape. You can actually isolate yourself in superficial relationships, spend more and more time with other people that have no interest in going any deeper whatsoever. Because if I spend more time with these people, then I don’t have to spend as much time with these people. This would be some of my extended family here years and years ago. I’m one of my dad, said, one of 17 cousins and one of the youngest. And this family has continued to grow and grow. And when you’re in a family, if you’re in a big family, right, you look at this picture and you can think, no one has ever argued about anything, right? Nothing. There’s never been an argument and it’s not even true. You know, that’s the big family. But even this family too, right? Every time I’m up here, I think I’m gonna show. I just love this photo. I sure did last week. But probably no one in this family ever argues about anything. No one ever argues about what show to watch or what toy to play with. And I’ll tell you what. The parents, we never argue, right? We never. There’s never been an argument once. Right, Stephanie? Yes. She confirms right. That’s an authentic community, right? When you’re when you are in authentic community, when you’re in real community with other broken people, your brokenness rub up against their brokenness. You’re a human being.

You’re not you’re not perfect, and neither are they. And we’re not called to be either, but we’re called to be unified. And so finally, we come into like this group of people. This would just be a simple photo of our church here. And when you see a photo of the church, what do you what do you call this collective group? It’s a church, but it’s also the body of Christ, right? Christ doesn’t have multiple bodies. He is the head of the church. There is one church and we are members, members of a collective body. And in this body we recognize this, that we are all in fact sinful and broken, but we’re also sanctified. That we all had a common problem, bigger than any other problem that we face in our life. Bigger than a flat tire, bigger than and finances bigger than inflation. And how much groceries costs our bridges problem was sin. And now, as a body, as a community of believers, we are the most beautiful thing that now binds us is not only the problem that we have, but our solution is the same as well. It’s fine on the fact that we have Christ that we should find more common ground than a lions fan, more common ground than someone that lives across the street, more common ground than anyone else in existence is someone who knows that their plight was your same plight of sin, and their answer is the same answer. And in realizing this, that we’re unified through it. Paul puts it this way as he’s writing about the church, he’s saying just as one body, though one has many parts, there’s many members, but all its parts form one body. So it is with Christ.

For we were all baptized by one spirit as to form one body, that we all have different gifts and that we don’t. And he goes on to say that you shouldn’t long after other people’s gifts, that they everyone is uniquely created, uniquely gifted all by the same spirit, all by the same God. And that when we come together collectively, that it honors God, that Jesus Himself actually prayed for this very thing, that he prayed for unity within his church. And so for us to for a moment think, well, like it’s just me and Jesus and I’m going to come to church and get what’s what’s mine so I can be reminded and I’m going to go on my own way and not be a part of the church. There’s not one chapter, one verse anywhere in all of Scripture that talks about it just being you on your own. If you’re now grafted in to the vine, if you’re now connected to Christ, you’re connected all the other vines. If you’re adopted into the family of God, guess what? Not only are you his child, but you have a whole bunch more siblings than you ever thought you had before. Amen. And they’re not perfect, but they have gifts. They have ways to speak into your lives. They have ways to speak truth in you. They have ways to encourage you that ways to pray for you that you don’t have for yourself. And that’s what he wants to see his body do.

And again, this is why actually what we see take place in this text, going back in when Jesus saw there’s that this is the four friends carrying their paralyzed friend on the mat when he saw actually say it with him when he saw their faith. All throughout the Gospels, Jesus will look upon someone and you’ll say, your faith has made you well. Your faith has made your well. Your faith has now made it so that you can see your feet. Here is the one spot in all the Gospels that we see. This. Their feet. And just see the paralyzed man’s faith. He saw their faith. He saw this community of believers that that that gathered around for the for the common interest of someone else other than themselves and knew that the solution wasn’t themselves and brought it to Jesus. And then this is so curious. Jesus says this what only he can do. He said to the paralyzed man, son, your sins are forgiven. And he’s one of the men who may be carrying the mat. Well, wait, wait a second. Jesus, we didn’t come here for that. We came here. Can you tell? We can’t walk? That’s why we’re carrying him on the mat. Jesus was trying to show them that his biggest problem was. You thought you brought him here. To someone that can answer questions that you’re not even asking. We look at the story and we relate it back here to the church, into our own lives. Before asking the question, whose mat are you carrying? Which I think is an appropriate question. That could be fine. You slow down and ask yourself this question. Who has carried your mat? For the last 2000 years, since Jesus life, death and resurrection, the church has been carried forward by God, working in and through his church.

And there is not a single person that is here, a single person that is watching online, that has been impacted by the gospel of Jesus Christ, that has not been impacted by the church. To be part of that broader community. It doesn’t happen in isolation. That is now God’s redemptive plan is that the good news of Jesus is going to spread through his people, and that his people would be bound together in care for one another. I know I can speak for myself even in my short time here, just in the last four years, I can see how this body has blessed my family. When we first moved here, we moved into a rental. A rental that was just roughly about a third the size of our house down in Texas. We lived there for two years and our family got bigger in the process as well. And we started to look for a house, and a house is nowhere to be found. The market was completely insane. We were outbid, left and right. We were becoming despondent. It took us a year, couldn’t find anything. Gotten to the second year? We’re about to sign a lease again into living in a rental with three young kids that we didn’t ultimately want to live in, and someone from this congregation came forward. To Ben, are you looking for a house? Yeah, yeah, I’m looking for a house. Well, we’re actually planning on moving in. well, here’s the square footage. Here’s the rooms, here’s the bathrooms, here’s where it’s at. Here’s the price point. And he just went down the list and literally checked every single box that my wife and I were talking about. And rather than didn’t go into the market, we just shook hands on the deal and said, that sounds like a fair price.

Let’s go ahead and do this deal that God, God didn’t just supernaturally just drop a house down from the heavens for the marshes. God used his people. And then when you know that now we’re living in an area that we didn’t originally look at living, and then now one mile from our house is another member from this congregation. And they would you know that with three young kids, every now and again, you need a little bit of help. And this wonderful member that lives less than a mile from our house, that was given to us by a member of this congregation. Now watch as our boys was even watching my boys on Friday while I perform that funeral. And my middle son let me know in no uncertain terms as I went to pick him up. I like her more than I like you. The first time he said it, it hurt a little. The second time I got to clarify. Dad, I don’t know if you heard me, but, you know I like her more than I like you. Hear that? Here. These people are being used by God, and my family has been a blessed recipients of God’s people. Doing what they can do what they have at their disposal. Just like these men in this story are using what is at their disposal. Some of the people there didn’t like it, though. Some of the teachers, these are Pharisees. They’re sitting there, the teachers of the law, they’re and they’re thinking to themselves, why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming. Who can forgive sins, but God alone?

They are so much closer than they realize, but they’re just coming at it from the wrong angle. And immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this is what they were thinking in their hearts. And he said to them, why are you thinking these things? Which is easier to say to this man, your sins are forgiven, or get up, take your mat and walk. Now, for any of us would be pretty easy to just say either of those things. But Jesus is trying to teach them something here in this moment. It’s much, much more difficult to say your sins are forgiven and actually have forgiven his sins. And so he uses this moment to show them who he is and ultimately who what. The bigger problem for this man and for all of us is, he says, I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins. So he said to that man, I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home. He got up, took his mat, walked out in full view of all them. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, we have never seen anything like this. Now I don’t know because it doesn’t say here in the text why they’re praising. Are they praising because the man is simply walking again, this paralyzed man is walking and maybe that is just it. Or do they realize or they starting to see, but probably not. But Jesus is trying to show them that he has authority, not only to tell him to walk, but he has authority to forgive his sins. Because we can all see the same thing, but we can come to different conclusions about what’s happening.

Then just this last week, driving my minivan, go pick up my oldest son. My youngest two are in the back. My middle son looks out the window with all the confidence. He looks to my youngest son and he lets us all. And he lets my youngest son know. He says, own. There is a pterodactyl outside. So of course, like any good parent, I immediately called my wife, let her know stay inside. There’s dinosaurs outside right now. Alert the authorities. There’s pterodactyls. Like we got to do something about this. I caught a glimpse of what he had seen. He saw a crane flying through the sky. Called it a pterodactyl. Jesus is here to forgive sins. He’s not here to necessarily heal the man’s legs. The healing of the man’s legs and allowing him to walk is pointing to the fact that he’s forgiven of his sins. All too often in society, when we have this coexist mentality and this idea of unity and not wanting to step on people’s toes, we can let them go. Oh, that’s fine. You can think that there’s all these multiple ways to heaven and all this stuff. I don’t want to step on your toes. It can be a pterodactyl. That’s fine. You can just believe whatever you want. But the truth, if you wanted to speak truth in there, it’s a crane. It’s Jesus. Jesus isn’t here to solve all your stress. Jesus isn’t here to fix all your little problems that you have. And may you pray to him for those things. Does he care for you in those things as well? Absolutely. But the thing he is ultimately come to do is to forgive your sins. He’s come to lay down his life for you. And to say anything otherwise is to not be truthful, not be honest.

What we believe as believers in the church, and we can care for each other in all these practical ways. And I pray that we do, and that God would use us to love one another, that we would use that what’s at our disposal. But ultimately, what should bind us as believers together is ultimately the truth of who Jesus is and what he’s come to do. And that’s actually what Scripture says in second Corinthians 515. It says, As Jesus died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for him who died for them, and was raised again. Again, going back to last week, your life is not your own. And now, if you have faith in Jesus, you don’t have faith in isolation. If Christ is in you, if Christ is for you, guess what? Now you’re for other people. Because Christ isn’t only for you, but he’s for. He’s for all those who would place their faith in him. And so if you are in him, you are bound and connected to other believers as well. And as you seek to serve him, as you seek to honor him, as you seek to glorify him in your body, you will ultimately love others. That’s what he’s called you to do, that we wouldn’t live in isolation from one another. That’s what raises this question. Now what is my what of my my faith? What is it supposed to look like? Jesus is actually very clear about this. He redefines all the commandments. And even in John 15 says he’s talking to his disciples before he goes to the cross. He tells them, this is my greatest commandment, that you love each other as I have loved you.

Greater love has no one than this to lay down his life for one’s friends. You are my friends. You’re no longer servants. You’re my friends. And if you’re my friends, if you’re in me, you’re going to do what I command. And what I command you to do is what I have done to love others more than you love yourself. And I believe that’s what we actually push up against time and time again is ultimately why we don’t want to love others, why we’re afraid of community, and we want to be isolated because that’s what we love ourselves too much. Our eyes are fixed on ourselves far too much. We’re afraid to be in community. We could tell ourselves all these other reasons. And guess what? This sermon is being preached to me just as well. We’re afraid to be part of the body of Christ because guess what? Now I might have to care about others interests more than my own. I might actually have to bear cross. I might have to do difficult things. I might have to say difficult things. But we recognize this. All those things that God wants to do in you. He also wants to do through you by the power of His Holy Spirit. And in the New Testament, all of Paul’s writings to the early church, he explains the gospel. He spends the first chapters, the first half of any of those books, and he tells them with, without pulling any punches, who Jesus is, what he has done, who is included in that? You are justified by faith in Jesus Christ, and there’s nothing that you can add to it whatsoever. And then there’s always a movement. There’s always a shift in every single one of those books. And he doesn’t start talking to individuals, but he starts talking to the church as a whole and saying, now that you’ve been justified, now that you’ve been redeemed, now that you know what Jesus has done for you on the cross, and it is in fact done, you are my children now start acting like my children now love one another.

And what is loving one another? This is just a snapshot. This isn’t even everything. But let’s take a look at a few of these that you’re called to love one another. Be devoted to one another. Honor one another above yourself. Live in harmony with one another. Build up one another. Be like minded. Accept one another. Care for them. Serve each other. Forgive each other. Submit to each other. Be patient with one another and speak truth in love. Consider others better than yourselves. Look to the interests of others. You’re called to teach others, comfort others, encourage others. Stir up one another to love and good works. Be hospitable. Pray. Oh, and this last one confess, confess and forgive sins, that there’s nothing more that would be beautiful within the body of Christ than it is broken people to come to each other and confess their sins, and the other person to announce in the name of Jesus Christ that your sins are in fact forgiven. We have that authority as the body of Christ to remind each other again and again that we’ll help you with other problems, will help you, will help you with your yard. We’ll help you with moving. We’ll help you with food. We’ll help you with kids. But guess what? There’s one problem that none of us can help each other with, and that’s our sin. But what we can do is remind each other again and again and again. Because we’re so quick to forget that your biggest problem was your sin. And the problem that you have with sin is the same problem I have. And your solution is my same solution is the thing that will bind us together more than anything else. So, practically speaking, what does it look like here? How do we love one another here at Shepherd’s Gate?

In one word. In perfectly. On this side of eternity, we’re still sinful, broken people. And we don’t have it all figured out. And we all still have this propensity to continue to look at our own lives and be concerned about ourselves more than we’re concerned about others. And time and time again, we fall into that trap over and over again. Yet we stumble forward by grace and by mercy. That’s new each and every day. To try to love each other well, to try to get it right. It’s not perfect. It is a church filled with sinful people and sinful staff that are looking for opportunities for God to work in and through us, that we might be a blessing to others. You heard it in the announcement. In a couple of weeks, we’re going to have a volunteer fair. Maybe you’ve never volunteered in the church. Maybe you’ve been around here for a few weeks. Maybe you’ve been around for a few years, and you’ve never actually taken the time to think. What could actually I offer back? What does God want to work in me and through me to bless this church? I encourage you, in a few weeks go to the volunteer fair, try something out. Maybe you want to learn more about the church and what it means to be a member here that same day. Two weeks from now, we’re going to do something called explore ASG, where you could learn about what it means to be a member of this body that would love and care for one another, or even very simply, your homework assignment for today. Instead of going out and heading straight to the parking lot, or instead of going out and talking to the same people that you love to talk to, go talk to a different part of the body.

All the knees. Stop talking to each other. Go talk to some elbows. Like branch out, be part of the body. Be connected. This is a beautiful community. Is a beautiful and imperfect community that is bound together in this common faith in our Savior, Jesus Christ. So I encourage you. Step out, be vulnerable. Be the one that’s willing to make this step and confess the fact that we fall short time and time again, but we will together stumble forward to try to be what God has called us to be. Amen. You join me in prayer. Heavenly father. God. All too often we make life. When we make our faith, we make everything all about ourselves. God forgive us that time and time again we make a make it about each of us individually. God give us eyes to see how we are beautifully connected and interwoven and intertwined with your church. Help us to see how you uniquely gifted us, how you equally positioned each of us that we might bless others with the things that you’ve given us. And help us be bold enough to speak your truth in love to those both in and outside of the church, that they might be reminded of where they might come to the knowledge of who you are and what you’ve done. We pray this all in Jesus name, Amen.