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Cultivate—No Disciple Grows Alone
Oct. 4, 2015
Welcome…Bibles…Q and A…
Why does The Gallery Covenant Church exist? To make disciples. What’s the purpose this message today? To cultivate disciples. We have a lot of ground to cover so let’s get to it. Let’s stand for the reading of God’s word.
John 17:20-21, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
Okay, imagine yourself in a high school gym at a high school dance. The music’s pulsing. You have to yell above the pounding of the bass. Maybe you’re there with a date. Maybe just looking for someone to date. It doesn’t matter. There’s this kid. He’s new to your school. You haven’t really met him. But you’ve seen him around. Seems nice enough, not necessarily handsome or anything. You saw himcome in--alone. And he’s been sitting on the bleachers watching everyone. He’s way up on the top, all by his lonesome. Just watching.
Suddenly he gets up, steps down the bleachers, begins to walk around the gym floor. He walks all the way to the corner of the room and makes a bee-line to Patty. You know Patty. Everyone knows Patty. Patty smells. She doesn’t bathe, and then she pours on the perfume to hide it. Everyone can smell her going down the hall. Her hair is greasy. She wears the same jeans over and over again. And this new kid goes over to her and asks her to dance—the music’s slow, so it’s going to be a slow dance, one where he’s real close. He reaches out his hand, and Patty the girl no one wants to touch, takes his hand, and there they go. They dance together, real close, real slow. They seem to be talking. Patty’s laughing. You turn to your friends and everyone’s thinking the same thing: “That’s kinda odd, isn’t it?”
The songs over and this kid and Patty walk over to David Boyd. Everyone knows David too. Fattest kid in the school. Patty asks David to dance. This is getting really odd, you think. Patty and David a couple? The thought of David even dancing cracks you and your friends up. And while Patty and David make their way out to the dance floor, the new kid walks over to Leslie McDowell. “Not Leslie McDowell!” you’re thinking. Leslie doesn’t hang out with guys. Everyone knows she’s a…well, at least everyone suspects she is. But she takes his hand too. Out to the dance floor they go. What a sight! Patty and David and this new kid and Leslie, all out there shakin’ it, and laughing. These four they create their own little space right there in the middle. And people are giving them room, cuz this is odd. It’s extraordinary. It’s just not normal.
The song ends and all four of them walk over to…no, they’re not. Yes, they are. They walk right over to Tom Fields. Tom’s the quarterback of the football team. He’s got Bob Savage on his right, another football player, and Eddie Tellez and Jeff Sing are there. They all have their dates—Sandy Stubbings, and Carla and Michelle. Now, you’ve heard the rumors, the take on Sandy is that Tom got her pregnant. No one can verify it…yet. Anyway, this is the elite—the uppercrust, the top of the food-chain in your school. And the new kid and Patty and David and Leslie, the bottom of the food-chain, kinda motion to them—“Come dance with us.” Those four jocks burst out laughing, but Sandy Stubbings, the prettiest girl in the school, she takes the hand of big old David Boyd and now the five of them make their way onto that dance floor, and they form a circle and they dance. Strangest thing you ever seen isn’t it? After the song, they all separate and make their way to the wallflowers, motioning, “Come on, let’s dance.” And their little circle grows, and they’re dancing up a storm. Cracking each other up. They’re going for it. Song after song, a group of people who seem to have nothing in common other than this one kid who brought them all together. You don’t know him, but suddenly this new community he’s created makes you think you do!
And then it happens, another song ends, they break up looking for more dancers, and that new kid walks right over to you, holds out his hand and says, “My name’s Jesus. Come dance with us.”
We worship an odd God, don’t we? And the Church, His disciples, is the very odd community of the very odd God. I say odd, because when you compare the community of God to the community of the world, at first glance it seems downright foolish.
Think about it…
THE COMMUNITY OF THE WORLD IS BUILT ON SELFISHNESS.
I hate to shatter any image you might have of me. What occupies my thoughts? My comfort, my pain, my happiness, where can I get my next pint of Haagen Dazs? And this is the normal way of doing things in our world. It causes things like arguments, divorce and war. You have what I want.
James 4:1-2 says, “What causes fights and quarrels? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but you don’t get it.”
Thus, we build communities in our world to protect and acquire.
But THE COMMUNITY OF CHRIST IS BUILT ON SELFLESSNESS.
What is selflessness? Selflessness turns ME into WE. Selflessness realizes I will never be all I can be without all of you.
The problem with selflessness is it requires the death of the self and no one wants their self dead. That would be odd. Phil. 2:4 says, “Look out for one another's interests, not just for your own.” That’s craziness, but also the very foundation of what it means to be a community of Jesus’ disciples.
What does it look like for disciples to be selfless?
First of all, Disciples show up. Let’s be honest. You can’t have a godly marriage, you can’t be a godly family, you can’t have a godly Disciple group if people don’t show up. Just by being there, by being available you send a message to your spouse, kids and church, that their needs are important to you. So you gotta show up, if you’re going to be selfless.
Second of all, Disciples accept one another. I love to tell the story of a woman from a former church who came to me and whispered: “I’m on anti-depressants.” I said back to her: “Oh really! So is two-third’s of our congregation!” The beauty of the Kingdom of God is not that we have it all together, but that we stay together despite the fact that we’re barely keepin’ it together. Disciples accept one another because we know without grace there is only a fight for survival and protection. Selflessness is vulnerable and dangerous. If I accept you in grace, I have to accept you might hurt me. I have to open myself up, but there can be no Christian community without such grace.
Thirdly, Disciples listen. Listening is the first act of love. It’s one of the greatest gifts you’ll give your family and your small group, and your pastor who’s speaking to you right now. Because you’re giving time, a chunk of your life, to someone who might require you to not think of yourself first. When we listen, we’re saying, “You are important to me—your thoughts, your feelings, your bumps and bruises, they matter to me.”
One more way: Disciples help. This seems like counsel for a preschool class, but it’s not. The parable of the Good Samaritan is essentially Jesus’ teaching on “get off the couch and help a brother out, folks.”
Gal. 6:8 (Mes) says…
“The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others-and ignoring God - harvests a crop of weeds. All he'll have to show for his life is weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God's Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, and eternal life.”
Gang, we are going to reap what we sow. If we take the easy route, do what’s normal, think only about ourselves, we’ll end up with marriages, families and churches filled with weeds. But if we plant selfless communities in response to God, allowing His Spirit to do the work, that’s when we get marriages and families and small groups filled with real life, eternal life. And those communities are rare. They’re odd.
THE COMMUNITY OF THE WORLD IS BUILT ON PRIDE.
What does a pride-filled community look like? It looks exactly like the jock table of my high school cafeteria. When I went to high school, I really wanted to be “in.” And the most “in” place was the inner circle of the jock table in our lunch room. This table could seat about 16 guys. It was long, smack-dab in the middle of the cafeteria. I played basketball in high school, so even though I look like a weakling, it wasn’t out of the realm of possibilities that I could sit at that table. But you had to be invited. It took me a while, but I finally got an invite. So for the last few months of my freshman year I’d sit in the inner sanctum every lunch hour. But, man, it was brutal. Why? Because the guys at that table played in criticism and put-downs the way Rembrandt played in oils. As I sat there every lunch, it seemed the goal of every conversation was to put someone either at the table or in the room down one more notch.
Pride’s easy. It’s normal. The humble person—that’s the odd duck. And that’s what the community of God is built on.
THE COMMUNITY OF CHRIST IS BUILT ON HUMILITY.
The reason God builds his communities on humility is that humility recognizes “I don’t have all the answers. I’m not the smartest. I’m not the best. I need you.”
A humble, harmonious, loving, community is like a symphony. You can’t make beautiful music if all the musicians want to solo all the time. The beautiful harmonies of a symphony are only possible if every musician is humble enough to play their part in submission to the whole. The same is true in the community of God. We each have a part to play, and we will only make beautiful music if we humbly play the part God has given us.
Look at how Paul ties humility to oneness: “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love…There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Ephesians 4:2-6
Now, I know those are odd suggestions. They’re not natural. But that’s the kind of God we serve. The Father, Son, and Spirit live in an eternal self-giving. When we are in Christ we are invited into that oneness. And that oneness is not about self-actualization. It’s about discovering we cannot know who we are without the Father, Son, and Spirit and the family of God in which we have been reborn. A community of disciples confesses we will never get it without each other.
Another way the community of the world clashes with God’s community is…
THE COMMUNITY OF THE WORLD IS BUILT ON INSECURITY.
This is logical. It makes sense. It’s not odd. Because when you have community filled with selfish, pride-filled people what you’re going to get is fear. You’re going to get a bunch of people who never know where they stand with each other. And if you don’t know where you stand with other people, you live in fear. In fear they are not going to like you. In fear that they might say something that will hurt you.
If I’m afraid what you think of me, I will never feel free enough to be me in front of you. If I’m afraid you might walk out on me, our relationship will never grow to what it can possibly be. Insecurity prevents intimacy.
THE COMMUNITY OF CHRIST IS BUILT ON UNCONDITIONAL LOVE.
And here I want to share with you a precious gem that comes in being together. I promise you this. If you left the church, you would survive and maybe even thrive. In many respects you would be just fine. People all over the world survive and thrive apart from the church. But what you would miss is the great gift in having your own conditional love threatened.
In the community of Jesus, our conditional love is exposed. Light is shed upon it. And we shrink back in fear. 1 John 4:18 “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
It makes us afraid to know we are not what we wish were. In the community of Christ, we discover our selfishness and the selfishness of others and still we are embraced and called to embrace. And that’s scary, and that’s why it’s absolutely necessary to embrace.
I love what Brennan Manning says. In the community of Christ, he says, God loves us “not after you clean up your act and eliminate every trace of sin, selfishness, dishonesty, and degraded love; not after you develop a disciplined prayer life and spend ten years in Calcutta with Mother Teresa’s missionaries; but in this moment, right now, right here, with all your faults and weaknesses” God loves you.
It’s scary to be embraced and be called to embrace with such grace and abandon, and without the community of Christ, you would never be called to do so, and that’s why no disciple can ever grow alone.
Okay, I’m just about done, but I want to go back to that high school dance. Where are you on the dance floor? Are you there in the center dancing with Jesus and that odd collection of misfits laughing and kicking it up? If so, its great to be loved isn’t it? Its great to let loose and dance knowing you’re in a community that is crazy in love with your bumps and bruises and all. If you’re not there in the middle, allow the rhythms of God’s grace to move you closer to where He is dancing. Join Him in the celebration.
And a question: Who do you know out there who’s not dancing? Who hasn’t met this amazing new, odd kid, the lover of the ragamuffins—this Jesus guy. When the song ends, go find them and invite them to the dance. You know they’ll love it.
Let’s pray and then we’ll do Q and A.