Five Keys to Spiritual Growth: Community

January 26, 2020 ()

Bible Text: 1 Peter 4:7-11 |

Series:

Five Keys to Spiritual Growth: Community | 1 Peter 4:7-11
Brian Hedges | January 26, 2020

Turn in your Bibles this morning to the book of 1 Peter. We are actually finishing the series that we started a few weeks ago called “Five Keys to Spiritual Growth.” We’ve been looking at some of the spiritual practices. We looked at prayer, Scripture, watchfulness, and worship.

Maybe it’s important to remind us as we look at this fifth and final message (today is going to be on community, on the church, relationships), maybe it’s important to remind us that the disciplines themselves are not the goal. Our goal is not simply that you will adopt these practices into your life as if that will accomplish anything in and of itself. That’s not the goal. The goal is transformation. The goal is that you and I become more and more like Jesus Christ, that we grow in holiness, that we grow in love, that we grow in spiritual maturity. It's growth, it is spiritual growth. These are five keys to spiritual growth. That’s the goal, is becoming more like Jesus.

It’s also just important to remind ourselves that the disciplines themselves don’t change us. The disciplines don’t change us. Jesus changes us. The Holy Spirit through the word changes us. The disciplines are rather means to get us in connection with Jesus.

I love the way I think it was G. Campbell Morgan put it: he was talking about revival, but I think the illustration applies here. He said, “I can no more cause revival, cause the Holy Spirit to come, than I can cause the wind to blow, but what I can do is I can set my sail so as to catch the wind when God chooses to blow on his people.”

As new covenant, New Testament Christians, we believe that the wind of the Spirit is blowing. Christ has given his Spirit to the church at Pentecost. He has sent “the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” He is the Spirit of sanctification. The Spirit works. The wind is blowing. The disciplines are how we set our sails so that we can catch that wind, so that we can get in touch with God through his word and prayer and through these other disciplines.

So today we’re going to talk about the last one in this series. We could easily go on for another ten weeks. There are at least 15 of these disciplines, but we’re looking at some of the main ones. Today I want to talk about the one that has to do with other people: community or relationships.

There are lots of different angles we could take on this. We could talk about the importance of the church, and indeed, I believe that the church, the local church, is vital to our spiritual growth. A few years ago there was a study done of youth, teenagers and young people who have grown up in the church, and whether they stay in the church or not. One of the factors that was most significant on whether they would stay in the church or not was consistent, regular church attendance of their families through their growing up years. It’s just so crucial to our families and so crucial to our spiritual growth that we are regularly gathering together in church.

Now, that’s not going to be the main focus this morning. I want to think about the relationships we have with one another in the church. We might think of this as fellowship or relationships, or, to use a non—you know, fellowship is the Christian word for this, but just to use the regular word, we’re talking about friendship! That’s what we’re talking about. We’re talking about friendship. We’re talking about the kinds of relationships that we build with each other as believers in Jesus Christ.

I want to begin this morning with a quotation from C.S. Lewis. Before we get into 1 Peter, I want to start with this quotation from C.S. Lewis. This struck me years ago when I first read it from his essay “The Weight of Glory.” It just underscores how urgent and how important these relationships are. Let me read this, just to put some weight on this message. Okay? This isn’t a take-it-or-leave-it message. There’s some urgency. Your life will be affected based on what you do with this morning’s sermon. Lewis, I think, explains why.

He says, “It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbor. The load or weight or burden of my neighbor’s glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken. It is a serious thing,” he says, “to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which if it you saw it now you’d be strongly tempted to worship; or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are in some degree helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another: all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization; these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat; but it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit. Immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”

There’s an urgency to our relationships, because you and I are either helping one another to the goal of being more like Jesus or we are hindering one another. This means that wrong friends (or for that matter, the wrong church) can ruin your soul. But it also means that God can use you. He can use you to help someone in their sanctification, in their journey to being like Christ, being conformed to the image of Christ.

It also means this: it means that you need people. You’re not meant to do this alone. You need people. You need the body of Christ. There are no Lone Ranger Christians. I think it was Eugene Peterson who one time said that one of the first changes that happens when someone becomes a Christian is a change in grammar, from “I” to “we.” “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name.” We’re part of a family, and we need one another.

So this morning what I want to do is just dig into one passage of Scripture that talks about what it means to be in these kinds of relationships with one another. You know the "one anothers" in Scripture? You have all of these passages in the New Testament with commands that say to do something to or with “one another.”

Well, this passage has three of them; 1 Peter 4:7-11. So I want to read it, and just in a very simple way walk through the passage and talk about these "one anothers."1 Peter 4:7:

“The end of all things is at hand, therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace; whoever speaks as one who speaks oracles of God, whoever serves as one who serves by the strength that God supplies, in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

So, three "one anothers" in this passage. Here’s the outline. I’m just going to follow the text. I. Love One Another; II. Show Hospitality to One Another; III. Serve One Another. Let’s look at each one of these.

I. Love One Another

Number one, love one another, verse 8. “Keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.”

Now, this is not Peter’s first exhortation to love one another. He says this also in chapter 1 and in chapter 3, and in chapter 1 he gives some of the reason for why we are to love one another, and it’s because of what we’ve experienced in new birth. Listen to what he says there, 1 Peter 1:22-23. He says, “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.”

One of the very first marks of the genuinely born-again Christian, the person who has genuinely received new life, new birth through Jesus Christ; one of the first marks or evidences is that they love other believers. In fact, this is such a crucial evidence of new birth that the apostle John in his letter says that if you don’t love your brother, even though you say you love God, you don’t love God! The love of God in your heart means that you will love others. He says, “This is how we know that we have passed from death into life, that we love” one another, that we love “the brethren.”

So, loving one another is crucial. This is just basic Christianity 101. In fact, we could just say that the central New Testament command is, “Love one another.” You remember how Jesus, when someone asked him about the commandments, asked him about the law, he condensed the entire law into two commands: Love the Lord your God with your heart, soul, mind, and strength; and love your neighbor as yourself.

When the apostle Paul writes his letters, he tells us more than one time that love is the fulfilling of the law, it’s the fulfillment of the law. This is how you fulfill the law: by loving one another.

Or take what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13, this great chapter on love. He essentially says there that you can have the greatest spiritual gifts, you can make the most significant personal sacrifices, you can have the greatest amount of theological knowledge; you can have all that, but if you don’t have love, you’re nothing. You’re just an empty noise. A clanging gong, he says, a clanging cymbal. You’re nothing without love. Love is everything!

The whole Christian life can be summed up by love. The basic command for followers of Jesus is, “Love.” We sing it in one of our Christmas carols, “His law is love and his gospel is peace.” The law of Jesus is the law of love. This is the one thing that we are commanded to do that encompasses all the other things. There’s a priority here to love.

In fact, Peter says it here. “Above all,” he says, “keep on loving one another.” Notice he tells us how to do this. He says, “Keep on loving one another earnestly.” So there’s an intensity here. That word “earnestly” means eagerly or diligently, constantly. It carries the idea of being marked by care and consistent effort, and it’s in the present tense. He says, “Keep loving one another.” Literally, “Keep having earnest love for one another.” This isn’t something you ever get a day off from. Loving one another is the constant, ongoing obligation of the Christian.

Now, it should be our joy as well. We can’t just muster up the strength to love one another. The only way we can do it is through the indwelling Spirit of God. That’s why love is first on the list in the Fruit of the Spirit. If you’re filled with the Spirit, the expression of that is going to be love. This is the basic Christian life.

Notice the object here of our love. It is, “Love one another.” Love one another. Keep loving one another.

I just recently started reading Francis Schaeffer. Anybody familiar with Francis Schaeffer? He was this great apologist in the 20th century, and I just kind of had this sense that I need Schaeffer. I’ve read one or two books, but really haven’t read him much. So I picked up this week his little book True Spirituality. Outstanding book. There’s a chapter in True Spirituality where he’s talking about how Christianity repairs our relationships, and he makes this contrast between Christianity and humanism. I thought it was interesting, and I think it emphasizes what I think Peter’s after here.

He says, “One of the problems with humanists is that they tend to love humanity as a whole, Man with capital M, man as an idea, but forget about man as individual, as a person. Christianity,” he says, “is to be exactly the opposite. Christianity is not to love an abstraction, but to love the individual who stands before me in person-to-person relationship. He must never be faceless to me, or I am denying everything I say I believe. This concept will involve some cost. It is not a cheap thing, because we live in a fallen world, and we ourselves are fallen.”

What does it mean to love one another? It means to love the person next to you. It means to love the person in front of you. It means to love the person who’s difficult to love. That’s what it means. It’s not just loving people in general; it’s not just love in abstraction; it’s loving specifically the people that you are in relationship with, loving your friends, loving your family, loving your church, with all of its warts. It’s costly, but it’s beautiful.

Peter gives one of the reasons why this love is so beautiful. He says, “Love one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” He doesn’t mean that love covers up things that need to be exposed; when there’s injustice, we deal with that. He does mean that when you love one another there are a thousand minor, trivial offenses that you just pass over. You don’t get offended easily. You forgive quickly. You don’t bear grudges. That’s what it means to love one another.

Brothers and sisters, you and I need that kind of love in our lives. I wonder, are you the recipient of that love? Are there people like that loving you? Are you giving that kind of love to the people in your life?

That’s the first command: love one another.

II. Show Hospitality to One Another

Here’s the second: show hospitality to one another, verse 9. “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.”

In the ancient world, travel was really slow and there were no hotels. Commentators tell us that inns in those days were "impossibly filthy and notoriously immoral." It was even dangerous to try to stay in an inn. You didn’t have anything like Marriott or great hotels that we have today. So the Christians, this network of Christians, were called upon to show hospitality to one another by opening their homes to one another.

Perhaps what Peter has in mind is opening their homes to traveling missionaries who would come through, or something like that, but he does say, “Show hospitality to one another,” so it seems like there’s some kind of reciprocal relationship.

Now, hospitality’s a little bit different in our world today. We don’t necessarily have to do that in order to avoid danger; but we do need to open our homes to one another and open our lives to one another, and that’s sometimes difficult to do, which is, perhaps, why he says, “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.” Why would people grumble? Because it’s hard! Because your house gets messed up. Because people stay too long. There are all kinds of reasons. (Small group leaders, you know this, right?!). So Peter says, “Show hospitality...without grumbling.”

You know that old poem—it’s bad poetry, but it rings true to life:

“To live above
With the saints in love,
Oh, that will be glory;
To live below
With the saints I know,
Now that’s a different story.”

Do you ever feel that way? Sometimes church relationships are hard, and especially when you get into this part of it. It’s pretty easy to show up on Sunday and then go on your merry way and live the rest of your week without much connection with other people. You rob yourself of so much when you do that.

But when you take the risk to actually get involved, to get connected, to join a group, to invite people into your home, to build friendships, to build relationships, with all of the messiness and all of the awkwardness that comes along with that, it can be hard even as it is rewarding.

Here’s what I think we need, folks. I think we need to change our expectations by both raising them and by lowering them. We need to raise our expectations in that we actually should expect more of ourselves in terms of constancy, in terms of effort, in terms of time, in terms of generosity. We should expect more of ourselves. If you’re not regularly engaging with believers outside of Sunday morning, you’re not living the Christian life in the way that God intends. He wants you to be plugged in with other people.

There are so many places in Scripture we go for this, but just think about the passages that talk about the body, right? 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, Ephesians 4; the body. Members of the body. We’re called the body of Christ. Paul’s point in these passages is that every part of the body is necessary. Every member of the body is necessary. We need one another. The body doesn’t function until every part, every joint is doing its part. That’s why we talk about body life.

Well, we need more of that, not less of that. We need to raise our expectations.

But we also need to lower our expectations in certain ways. We need to lower our expectations in the sense of extending more grace to others, not being as easily offended, being more patient, more forbearing, more kind, more generous, more quick to give the benefit of a doubt. We need to lower our expectations, people, in that way, because it’s very easy for us to have an idea of what the perfect church should be like, and then as soon as the church fails to meet that standard we get disappointed, we get cynical, and we begin to check out.

I think one of the most helpful things I’ve ever read on church and community life is Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s little book Life Together. There’s a quotation—some of you have heard me share this before, but let me share it again. Bonhoeffer I think just comes right at our expectations in this book, and I want you to listen to what he says. If you take this to heart, this could be life-changing for you in terms of how you think about church.

He says, “The serious Christian, set down for the first time in a Christian community, is likely to bring with him a very definite idea of what Christian life together should be and to try to realize it. But God’s grace speedily shatters such dreams. Every human wish-dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.”

Don’t put your ideal of what the church should be above the actual church you’re in, the actual community you are in. Love the people around you. Redeemer Church is not a perfect church. There are great things about this church; I love our church, I’m glad to be a part of our church; but I’ve been around long enough to know the warts, to know the problems, and if you’re fairly new to Redeemer, if you stick around awhile you’re going to find those, too. Every church has them.

It’s an old saying, isn’t it, “Don’t join a perfect church if you find one, because you’ll ruin it.” That’s true. There’s no perfect church. We’re not a perfect church.

But we are the body of Christ. We are a real church. It is a church of real believers who really engaged with one another. So if this hits you where you are, I hope that you’ll take the step to actually be a part of it. Show hospitality to one another. Open your home, open the door, take people to lunch, take people to coffee, make a new friend, get to know one another, join a small group; show hospitality to one another. And don’t grumble while you do it.

III. Serve One Another

Number three: serve one another. I told you this was a simple sermon, isn’t it? Simple; I mean, it’s just right there in the text. Serve one another. Love one another, show hospitality to one another, and serve one another.

Peter has more to say about this than the other two commands, and it takes all of verses 10 and 11. Let me just break it down in this way, with three G words: Gifts, Grace, Glory. Gifts is how we serve one another (because God gives us spiritual gifts), grace is the strength that empowers those gifts, and God’s glory is the motivation.

(1) Gifts

First of all, look in verse 10. “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another.” Each has received a gift. Every Christian has a spiritual gift, and you have one. You have a spiritual gift.

I wonder, how many of you have ever taken a spiritual gifts survey test? Let me see your hands. Okay. How many of you have no idea what your spiritual gift is? Let me see your hands. Alright, there are quite a few hands. Listen, I could give you a spiritual gift survey; I have them. You could also go to our website, poke around on our website; I think it’s under the Serve tab, and there are links to spiritual gift surveys. You could go take one this afternoon and start to find out what your gift is.

Every Christian has a gift, and Peter tells us as you’ve received a gift, use it to serve one another. Then he breaks down these gifts into two basic categories in verse 11. “...whoever speaks as one who speaks oracles of God, whoever serves as one who serves by the strength that God supplies.” Two kinds of gifts: speaking gifts and serving gifts.

You could look at other passages in the New Testament, and there as many as, I don’t know, I guess maybe 20 different specific spiritual gifts that are mentioned in the New Testament, but they all fall into one of these two categories. They’re all either speaking gifts or they’re serving gifts.

Speaking gifts would be things like this: teaching, preaching (that’s obvious), exhortation, communication, leadership, what Paul describes as words of wisdom and words of knowledge, right, admonishing one another—all those kinds of things, things where you use words to speak into another person’s life; those are speaking gifts.

Serving gifts don’t so much use words as they use action. It’s when you do something in order to serve someone else. This would include things like giving, generosity, gifts of generosity, giving; or mercy, showing mercy and compassion to others. It would include certain aspects of leadership. It would of course include the myriads of ways that people just jump in and help. In fact, Paul talks about the gift of helps, the gift of helping.

This would apply to all kinds of things in the local church. There’s no need for me to name them all off; you know what they are, from children’s ministry to property maintenance to manning a table to whatever. All of these are different gifts.

I’m going to ask for a show of hands one more time. I’m just curious, how many of you feel like you have the first category of gifts, you have a speaking gift? Let me see your hands. Okay, quite a few. And how many of you feel like you have a serving gift? Let me see your hands. Okay, probably more of the service gifts.

That’s great. There’s a wonderful distribution of spiritual gifts. You just told me that you had them, right? Alright, there’s the trap! I’m springing the trap. That means you need to step up and serve or speak. You need to use the gift, because Peter says, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another.”

I’m not going to ask for a show of hands how many of you are using your gift, but I guess is it would be somewhat less than the number of hands that just went up. You have a gift; use the gift.

(2) Grace

How do you use it? You use it by depending on God’s grace. Peter says, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.”

I love this phrase that Peter uses here. The word “varied” is a word that literally means “many-colored.” Do you remember there was a movie many years ago called “Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing”? I never saw it, I know nothing about the movie; but you could say that grace is "a many-splendored thing" in Scripture. This is the word that’s used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament for Joseph’s coat of many colors.

So Peter is saying God’s grace is many-colored; that is, it has diversity. It’s not uniformity, it’s diversity. It is grace that has many different expressions. Peter says you’re a steward of this, so use the gift as a steward.

You know what a steward is. A steward is someone who’s been trusted with the possessions of someone else and is accountable to the person who gave him those possessions. You and I are stewards of God’s grace, these gifts of grace that have been given to us, and we are accountable to God for them.

Then Peter tells us how this works out in verse 11. “...whoever speaks as one who speaks oracles of God, and whoever serves as one who serves by the strength that God supplies.”

Just think about it for a minute. If you speak, what do you need? You need words. If you serve, what do you need? You need strength. Where do we get the words and where do we get the strength?

Peter tells us. You speak as speaking the oracles of God, the word of God. What Peter means here is that if you’re teaching, if you’re exhorting, if you’re leading a small group or a Sunday school class or filling a pulpit or leading a Bible Study Fellowship or teaching children, whatever, that you’re speaking the words of God. He means that we should be the way Charles Spurgeon described John Bunyan. He said, “Prick him anywhere and he bleeds Bible.” You should be so full of the word that when you open your mouth to speak, the word is coming out. That’s how you exercise the spiritual gift of speaking.

How do you exercise the spiritual gift of serving? You do it by depending on the strength that God supplies. It’s not doing it all in your own strength, it’s looking to God to energize you and to fill you and to equip you and to give you what you need so that you can serve. Listen, as you serve in this way, you know what’s happening? What’s happening is God is working through you, God’s grace is working through you to help other people.

J.I. Packer said, “Our exercise of spiritual gifts is nothing more nor less than Christ himself ministering through his body, to his body, to the Father, and to all mankind. From heaven Christ uses Christians as his mouth, his hands, his feet, even his smile. It is through us, his people, that he speaks and acts, meets, loves, and saves here and now, in this world.” You get to be a part of that when you use your gifts to serve others.

(3) Glory

Why do you do it? This is crucial. This gets into motivation. Look at the end of verse 11. “...in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

What’s the motivation for using your spiritual gifts? It’s to glorify God. It’s not to glorify you. It’s not to find personal fulfillment. It’s not to feel like you have something meaningful to contribute. That’s kind of a secondary by-product, and that’s great, but your goal, your motivation in seeking to serve shouldn’t be that you get to use your gift so that you feel fulfilled in doing it; it should be that God is glorified as you are meeting needs.

I’ll tell you, I love it when I have these kinds of meetings with people, and I often do (I’ve had them in the last couple weeks), where I meet with people and we’re talking about some kind of ministry, and the posture is basically, “We want to plug in wherever there’s a need.” Not jockeying for position, not lobbying to get something in particular, not coming with your pet ministry, and the only way you can serve is by doing this one thing. That’s the wrong attitude. That’s a carnal attitude. The right attitude is that you want to meet needs and you want to glorify God, that you want to serve. It’s serving! We do it in order that God is glorified.

Now, this means that there should be humility in the way we serve, because God is the one who has given us the gift, so we do it for his glory.

It also means that there is accountability. You remember the parable of the stewards, in the Gospel of Matthew? There’s this master, and he gives different stewards different numbers of talents, and each one is accountable for what they do with the talents.

Listen. I don’t know what your gifts are. I don’t know what your talents are. The talent in the parable is a measurement of money, but when you think about your talents you think about your gifts, you think about your abilities, I don’t know what all of those are. I know what some of them are, but I don’t know what all those are.

Some of you may feel like you have wonderful, great talents. If so, use them for the glory of God. Some of you may feel like, “I don’t feel like I have much to contribute,” but you have something. You have something. Everybody has something, and you are accountable for using those gifts for the glory of God.

One more quotation, and then I’m in final application. I love this. This is from A.T. Pierson, who was the successor to Charles Spurgeon at the Metropolitan Tabernacle pulpit.

Pierson said, “Everyone has some gift, therefore all should be encouraged. No one has all gifts, therefore all should be humble. All gifts are for the one body, therefore all should be harmonious. All gifts are from the Lord, therefore all should be contented. All gifts are mutually helpful and needful, therefore all should be studiously faithful. All gifts promote the health and strength of the whole body, therefore none can be safely dispensed with. All gifts depend on his fullness for power, therefore all should keep in close touch with him.”

Application

Okay, what’s the application? It’s pretty obvious, but I just want to make it crystal clear. These are three steps that I think you can take in response to the message.

(1) Commit to a church. Many of you are. Some of you are members at Redeemer, some of you are committed, coming regularly to Redeemer. But if you’re not and you’re looking for a church, I’m thrilled you’re here, glad you’re here; but I just want to encourage you, don’t stay in the market where you’re looking for a church for very long. Commit to a church. Become a member of a church.

It’s sort of like marriage, right? There’s something wrong if you want to stay in the dating scene for too long, right? What you want is to find someone, commit to them, build a relationship, and stick it out through thick and thin, for better, for worse. Church is sort of like that. You want to find a church, commit to the church, and then stay with the church, and let that relationship ripen into the kind of spiritual fruit that God can bring.

So if you’re looking for a church, I hope you will consider Redeemer. You’re here because you’re considering something, and I’d love to talk to you more, love for you to come to a Discover Redeemer luncheon. There’s a Membership Sunday coming up in March. If you’re not a member and you’re regularly attending, you’re no longer looking, you need to commit to church membership. I would encourage you to do that. That’s first.

(2) Here’s the second thing: join a small group. We say at Redeemer that we are not a church with small groups, but a church of small groups. By small group I mean you’re in some kind of grouping of believers that meets outside of Sunday morning worship. Now, that may be a Sunday school class, it may be a women’s small group or prayer group or women’s fellowship, it may be a men’s Bible study. We have one on Wednesday nights. We have a women’s group that meets on Wednesday nights here at the church, we have a men’s group that meets off-campus on Wednesday nights; there are other women’s events as well. It may be a small group, where you’re meeting in people’s homes during the week, and there are numerous options for that.

But somewhere you need to be plugging in with other Christians, with other believers, on a regular basis outside of Sunday morning. Okay? Outside of Sunday corporate worship. Maybe it’s Sunday school; that’s Sunday morning in that sense, but outside of the worship service.

That’s where you’re building relationships. That’s where you are in this kind of interaction with one another. So join a small group.

(3) Here’s number three: use your gifts to serve others. A practical way to do that is to sign up and actually join a ministry team. We probably have eight or ten ministry teams led by our deacons and ministry coordinators at Redeemer, and we’re always needing more people. We’re always needing more people. The church is growing; that’s great. But as the church grows ministries grow and there are more things that need to be done.

There is a practical, easy way to do this. There are these little sheets that say, “Where can I serve?” and they’re on the information table back there. You can pick one up. I know that Jenni would love to put one of these in your hands. You pick one up, you fill it out, drop it in an offering plate next week or hand it back to someone at the information desk or hand it to me. Hand it to somebody, and we will help you get connected with a ministry leader so that you can plug in, so that you can serve.

Those are the three applications that I had in mind. I sat down for the sermon and I’m thinking, “Okay, what do I want people to do?” Well, I want them to join the church, join a small group, serve on a team. So I hope you’ll do that.

Let me say one more thing before we come to a close. You cannot actually be a functioning member of the body of Christ unless you are in Christ. This has mostly been a sermon for believers. It’s been a sermon kind of assuming that most of us are believers in Jesus Christ.

But it may be that you’re not, and if you’re not, then my hope is that something that we’ve talked about this morning would be attractive to you, that you’re thinking, “Wow, those kinds of relationships, that kind of love, that kind of hospitality, that kind of using whatever God maybe has given me, using that to help others; I want to be a part of something like that.” Maybe that’s kind of percolating in your heart this morning.

But the very first step isn’t even joining a church. It’s not even joining a group. It’s not doing anything. The very first step is recognizing your need for Jesus Christ and becoming a part of his family.

So if you’re not a Christian this morning I just want to tell you one more time what the gospel says. The gospel teaches us that outside of Christ we are dead in our trespasses and sins, we have no life at all; but that God by his grace can make us alive, that he will forgive all of our sins, the sins of every single person who believes in Christ, and he will do it through simple faith for those who believe in Christ and his death and his resurrection, to believe that Christ died for your sins and that he was raised from the dead on the third day.

If you believe that and you will trust him, he will send his Spirit into your heart, he will make you alive, he will make you new, he will give you a new life, and part of what comes with that new life is a new family and a new way of living. If you’ve never confessed Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, I hope today will be the day of salvation for you; I’d love to pray with you after the service.

Let’s bow together in prayer.

Our gracious Lord, we thank you for your mercy and your grace given to us in Christ. We thank you that you have made us a part of your family and that you have given us to one another. We pray for your work in us and through us.

Lord, I pray that today would be a day where we just take steps towards a richer, deeper community, that we would take steps in friendship and relationship, that we would love the people around us, the people in front of us. Lord, I pray that no one would feel neglected, that no one would feel left out, that every person who attends this church would be able to find a place of belonging as well as a place of service.

We pray this because want you to be glorified, because we want to obey you, and because we long for these kinds of relationships that you’ve created us for. So help us find our way to the next step this morning.

As we come to the Lord’s table, I pray that you would meet with us here, that by your Spirit we would know fellowship with Christ, that we would know the assurance that comes through the broken body and the shed blood of the Lord Jesus. May we receive these elements with faith, may we receive Christ himself with believing hearts this morning, and would you work through this to change us. We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.