Fast forward to 2009, and the government imposed that all television viewing must be digital. With that switch, the high definition television was in high demand. With higher definition came a picture that was not distorted as the size increased, so the 32-inch television (which was a good-sized TV in the first decade of the 21st Century) gave way to 40, 48, 55, 80 inches, etc. Now, we have Ultra High Def which has brought about an even brighter and more vibrant picture. We can say that the digital revolution has brought about a new perspective.
God wants to give us a new perspective as well. The perspective He desires for us is one that aligns with the life of Jesus which is recorded in His Word. A part of that perspective relates to the Church Jesus promised to build. Jesus promised to build the Church. He commissioned the the Church to do the work, and He gave a promise that Holy Spirit would empower the work.
But, before we are ready to partner with Him in that work, we may need to change our perspective on the Church. A part of that perspective is based upon our previous experiences, but a part of our perspective is based upon our personal ideas of what the church is or what it should be. That is what this series is designed to help us overcome. We need to get our own ideas out of the way and see what God’s design is for the church.
It is like the rhino who was painting a picture. Its perspective altered the true nature of the landscape he was trying to paint. If we are not careful, we will let our thoughts dictate what God’s church should be like instead of letting Him build what He has planned. Sometimes we have to get ourselves out of the way in order to see clearly.
Last week, I mentioned that Peter preached a great message. What made it great was that it got the attention of those who heard it and they desired to know what to do because of it. Peter told them what they needed to do and they did it. Repent. Be baptized. And they were. Now, we think of baptism as an event within the life of the church, but in the Jewish custom, baptism was not just getting dunked. It was a matter of identifying with something or someone – in this case Jesus. It was setting aside what was formally important and re-defining one’s life. In this case, the life would now be defined by Jesus. This obedience to repent and then to be baptized was the first step towards spiritual formation.
Obedience Leads to Spiritual Formation (Acts 2.42-47)
Yes, these first two points are saying the same thing. But the point must not be overlooked. In the first instance, their obedience was to be saved, now their obedience will lead to growth in their salvation. Notice what happened to this new group of Christians. Before this day of Pentecost, we know that approximately 120 were in the upper room (Acts 1.15). Now 3000 more souls were added to the church. What did they do? They became devoted to the teaching of the apostles. We do not know exactly what they taught or when they taught it, but we can have a very good idea. In the Great Commission, Jesus instructed His closest followers to “teach them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Notice what these three thousand people did immediately after choosing Jesus. They engaged in:
- Fellowship – they desired being with one another (Oct 7 – Unite)
- Breaking of Bread – they desired to eat together, mealtimes are great for discussions
- Prayer – certainly to understand what God wanted for this new group
- Unity – they had all things in common (not uniformity as we will see later)
- Sharing – they cared for those in need
- Daily Time Together – again, a desire existed to be together and to learn and to talk
- Praise – daily worship
- Including Others – more people believed; invited others to see what God was doing
The apostles also did signs and wonders. The apostles did great things which got people’s attention, but the idea is not just what they did because, as Jesus said, we are salt and light.
The point is that their obedience to what the disciples taught caused them to engage in discipleship, fellowship, worship, ministry, and evangelism – the five focal points of a kingdom-focused church. For Fairfax Baptist Church, those five focal points are represented by the:
- O – Observe (Discipleship)
- U – Unite (Fellowship
- R – Revere (Worship)
- N – Nurture (Ministry)
- E – Engage (Evangelism)
Ultimately, the work of the apostles was to make disciples and that is what they did. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would guide His followers into all truth. In other words, the goal of making disciples was spiritual formation which leads to transformed lives.
Consider for a moment how much time you waste in a week. Thankfully, in Atchison County we don’t have stop lights, but each day in cities all over this nation, consider the collective number of minutes lost while sitting at a stop light. Or what about junk mail? It is called junk for a reason. But how much time is lost, let alone how much money is spent on sending it out. If I get the mail by going out through the garage, most of the time junk mail doesn’t even make it into our house. It goes straight into the recycle container.
The point is we waste a lot of time doing things that do not matter at all. When we stand before Jesus, He will not ask about how well we read our junk mail. Yet, junk mail, and other time wasters keep us from doing what He wants for us – to be transformed through spiritual formation. And, one to two hours per week of church do not lead to spiritual formation. Spiritual formation comes from our being obedient to Christ and, in turn, allows us to be spiritually formed to become like Christ. And this is where I have to get really ugly because of the high definition focus.
Last week, I mentioned a question that would be prominent through this series. That question was, and is: What can I do that, if done well, and done for Jesus, can make a difference in this church? I cannot answer that for you. But for Andy Braams, the answer is to lead. If I lead well, and lead as Jesus would have me lead, it will make a difference.
Last month, while we were meeting downstairs, I confessed that despite the success of the renovations, I had not handled parts of this renovation process well. Comparing the life of David to the situation, I mentioned the 5 A’s of overcoming mistakes. Be Aware. Acknowledge. Apologize. Act. Apply Additional Generosity. At the time, I told you that I was not certain what the additional generosity should be. Well, I have a better perspective after God got hold of me this week.
Before I share that perspective, let me offer you another question to ponder. What is one thing you would change about this church? As I mentioned last week, I am not allowing myself to get ahead in this series in expectation that God will speak to me at the right moment about changes that need to be made. Well, He gave me one which ties directly into the question I asked last week.
The one thing I need to change about this church is the only thing I have control over – myself. I need to change me. God hit me over the head with this on Tuesday in such a way I could not escape it. In fact, after I went to bed, and stirred for an hour, I got up and wrote this sermon because He would not leave me alone until I got some things recorded and began to make plans to rectify the situation.
Let me share just a few items:
- I need to pray more. We need teachers. We need leaders. We need more children in SS. I have prayed about this, but not as much as I should.
- I need to train more. We have good teachers, but we can all be better. It is not enough to ask people to teach, it is imperative that each teacher be equipped to be the best teacher s/he can be.
- I need to model more. I mentioned that we lack children in SS. Oftentimes, teachers show up and no students come. I can relate – it happens occasionally on a Sunday night or Wednesday to me. But will they come, if we do not go? That is, if we take the time to go make contact with them, maybe they will come to us. I need to model this better.
- I need to equip more. Some will think of this as delegation, but the Bible is clear that those who are the leaders of the church are to equip the saints for the work of ministry. In part, this is training (like for the teachers as I just mentioned), but it is also making certain people are prepared biblically to go and do what God’s servants are to do – and that is to make disciples.
- I need to lead more. All of these items, and others have to do with my leadership. Don’t get me wrong, we have done some good in our time at Fairfax. But what has been done is like the tip of the iceberg and what God wants to do through us is what still lies beneath. So, I need to pray, train, model, equip, guide, share, delegate, trust, encourage, celebrate, exhort, and challenge us more (and probably a few others I am forgetting). And all of that stems from my leadership. Thus, I need to lead more.
I also need to continue to improve my teaching and preaching skills – particularly making the application more readily understood so we will not just be hearers, rather we will be doers, which according to Jesus words means we are wise (Matthew 7.24).
The point is that the one thing I can do well, and have been asked to do at this time, and do for Jesus, is lead. If I do that, it will be a benefit for me, for each of you, for Fairfax Baptist Church and for God’s Kingdom. I just needed a new perspective. And I got it big! But it is one thing for me to know it and another for me to do it. Remember, the difference between the wise and foolish builders was that the wise builder was like the one who does what Jesus says. That is, the wise person is obedient. In fact, Bill Hull, claims that nothing else should matter to the Christian. In his words, “Obedience is the only sound objective of a Christian spirituality.” – Bill Hull
If we are obedient, we will keep the Great Commandment. We will fulfill the Great Commission. We will be in fellowship. We will desire to worship. We will love one another. Etc. Etc. Etc. Obedience is the fullness of what we will do when we understand what God truly wants for us and from us. We cannot be obedient until we have learned what Jesus asks of us. Matt Perman says it this way, “Coming to church is not coming to learn, it is coming to engage with God, in service, with others. But that begins with learning. The Great Commission says we are to teach everyone to observe everything He commanded. Ephesians 4 says that the people are to be equipped for ministry which requires teaching.” (1)
As we move further into this sermon series, my prayer is that we will all continue to gain a new perspective on what God wants from us individually and for this church. Some may be stubborn, but remember, God used a donkey to talk to Balaam to change his perspective. So watch out because God may surprise you by what He does to get your attention.
Remember when you were in school and you had an exam coming. Perhaps you had missed a couple of days and wanted to know what might be on the test and specifically you wanted to know how to pass the test. You found someone you trusted to get the information and/or the answers. Well, we have a final exam coming. And while I do not have all of the answers, I am the one you said you trusted to lead you and this church. My NT life verse speaks directly to my desire for people to be prepared for the final exam and yet, I have failed at one key part – wisdom.
Colossians 1.28-29 says, “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.”
I must toil harder and longer and with more of His energy, because I want us all to pass that final exam. I want all of us to be presented mature in Christ! God has unfinished business at this church and I must use every ounce of wisdom He has given me and will give me to lead this church to become what He desires it to be. The goal is to present EVERYONE as mature in Christ. Some will not choose to be mature, but for those that want their spiritual formation to continue, my responsibility is to do what I can, which primarily includes making sure each person has an opportunity to be equipped to be more effective in his/her walk with Jesus.
JOURNEY: The JOURNEY letter for today is: O – OBSERVE.
PRINCIPLE: Spiritual formation and obedience to Christ are inextricably linked together.
QUESTION: What can I do that, if done well, and done for Jesus, can make a difference in this church?
- LEARN: Study more about the Church during this series. I have flagged two studies in RightNow Media to help you dig further into God’s plan for the church.
- LIVE: Commit to serve God through His Church. Answer the question: What can I do that, if done well, and done for Jesus, can make a difference in this church?
- LOVE: Love God, love others, and love one another. See Mark 12.30-31 and John 13.34-35). These are not options, they are what Jesus expects from His Church.
- LEAD: Assist in making some necessary changes to the church. Ask God what changes He desires to make. But only ask if you are ready for Him to say the change must start with you – because your answer may be just like mine!
(1) Matt Perman, https://www.whatsbestnext.com/2018/04/what-is-the-meaning-of-spiritual-formation/