Three Fundamentals for Church Community

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1 Three Fundamentals for Church Community Exodus 17:8-18:27 Justin Deeter July 12, 2015 Introduction One of the greatest joys of my life is being a member of a church like Forest Hills. What a gift it is to be united to the body of Christ. The community of the church is an incredible blessing. We are the people of God. Today, as we look to Exodus, we are going to observe three fundamentals for church community. As we think about who we are as the redeemed people of God, there are three things we will observe from Exodus that we must put into practice as God s people. 1. Trust in God s Power (Ex 17:8-16) As the people travel, another obstacle approaches. This time it is not food or water, but an outside enemy that threatens the people. We are told that Amalek came and fought with Israel. The Amelekites trace their lineage back to Esau. They inhabited the northern part of the Sinai peninsula. We are not entirely sure what instigated this military conflict. Perhaps they were threatened by Israel or maybe they were concerned about them taking up to much resources. Moses reflects on the conflict in Deuteronomy 25 and seems that Amalek was trying to take advantage of a weak people. So Moses speaks to Joshua (the same Joshua who would become Moses successor), and tells him to assemble men to go out and fight. Moses is going to stand on top of the hill and hold out the staff of God. Moses goes up and held up his hand. As he hands were up the people prevailed. When his hands went down Amalek and his army prevailed. It was God fighting for his people 1

2 through his servant Moses. It was the power of God that made the difference in the battle. We too must trust in the power of God for victory. As we think about our own church it is easy for us to begin trusting in ourselves. As a church it is easy for us to become comfortable in the battle we fight. We may begin to trust in our own resources or our own talents. As we try to fulfill the mission God has given us, there is a real danger on self-reliance. But we must understand that our success is dependent only on the power of God. As Moses, who is God s chosen intercessor for his people, stands on that hill holding his hands up high to the heavens. As we think about the mission God has given us, we must trust in his power and there is no better way to trust in that power than with our hands held high in prayer to our Father heaven. The apostle Paul would write about the importance of prayer in the life of the church, I desire then that in every place the men should pray (1 Timothy 2:8, ESV) The people of God should be a people of prayer. This should be essential to the body of Christ, because God alone is the source of victory. Think about all that God has called us to do. He has called us to treasure Christ, equip believers, and send disciples to the glory of God. What makes us think that we in any right can accomplish that within our own might? We can t make people treasure Christ. We can t equip people. We can t send people out. It is only through the working of the Spirit of God that these things will come to pass. As the Spirit of God works through the preaching of the Gospel, it is God who takes hardened sinners and opens their hearts to treasure the Lord Jesus in faith. It is the Spirit of God who uses the gifting of the membership to teach, encourage, serve, and equip one another for the mission, and it is only God s power that will strengthen our resolve to go where Christ has yet to be proclaimed as the sent people of God. How foolish it is to think that our own might can accomplish these things. Perhaps we spend to much time strategizing, planning, and orchestrating 2

3 when God just wants us to lift up our hands on the hill and ask him for power and victory. Church, may we trust in the power of God to help us, because we have an intercessor that is far better than Moses. As Moses stands on the hill as God s intercessor in prayer as his hands are held high, his arms became weak. His arms were tired, and when his arms began to lower the enemy began to prevail. Yet, now we have an intercessor who is greater than Moses, we have the Lord Jesus Christ. He is always pleading our case and our cause before the father as our mediator. His hands are always extended to his father, and his arms never grow weak. Through Jesus we receive the channel of God s forgiveness, grace, and mercy as his arms spread apart nailed on that wooden tree. As the people of God saved and redeemed by Jesus, we now have access to the inheritance, blessing, and victory purchased by our great intercessor and high priest, Jesus. 2. Testify to God s Redemption (Ex 18:1-12) After God wins the victory over Amalek, a sweet family reunion takes place. Jethro, Moses father-in-law meets up with Moses and the Israelites. Jethro had been taking care of Moses wife and his two sons while he had been leading the people of Israel. Now the family is reunited and it is a sweet time of fellowship. Jethro had heard about all that had happened in Egypt and how Yahweh had won the victory over Pharaoh. Moses and Jethro catch up and Moses tells Jethro all that had happened. He testified concerning the power and redemption of God. Now the great fear of every mom and dad is that their child would marry a weirdo. I m sure Jethro had that same fear, so imagine how he responded when his son-in-law Moses returned only to tell him that a burning bush told him that he had to go back to Egypt and free his people. Imagine Jethro s skepticism as Moses heads back to Egypt. But now, after having watched 3

4 Moses, and having heard from Moses own mouth what had taken place, Jethro is singing a different tune. Jethro said, Blessed be the Lord, who has delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of Pharaoh and has delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians. Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods, because in this affair they dealt arrogantly with the people. (Exodus 18:10 11, ESV) Jethro comes to recognize that Yahweh, the God of Israel, is the one true God. He becomes a believer in the God of Israel and even offers him a burnt offering and sacrifices to God. Here we see a second fundamental to our church community, we must testify to the redemption of God. Moses is quick to tell Jericho the story of God s redemption. I m sure as Moses tells the story Jethro gets every detail of what God did. We too must share the story of God s redemption with others. We are a church not with a program to offer or a service to give, but a message to tell, king. Jesus has come. Jesus has lived. Jesus has died. Jesus has risen. Jesus is This testimony is that of the Gospel. That the son of God came into this world to die in the place of sinners. If you have repented and put your faith in Jesus, you share in the same victorious story of God s redeeming love. In fact, you are a recipient of it! May the story of what Jesus has done for you be ever on your lips! If Jesus has transformed your life, tell somebody about him. Some of you have had your lives transformed by Jesus. We have a church made up of former drunkards, adulterers, porn addicts, self-righteous hypocrites, lying gossips, and more. The people of Forest Hills are a messed up, sinful bunch of people who have been transformed by the redeeming love of God. The great thing about being your pastor is that so many you share 4

5 your testimonies with me of how Jesus has saved you and redeemed you. Yet, the thing I don t always understand is why we are so slow to share it. Its almost like once we become a Christian we have to hide who we used to be and never discuss what we used to do. Why? Why would we not talk about the way Jesus had freed us from our dark past? Why would we steal glory and honor from God by keeping our own personal story of God s redeeming love to ourselves? We must speak it to others. This world is more confused and broken than ever looking for love and healing. One of the greatest ways you can bring glory to God is by sharing the Gospel through your own personal testimony. Share what Jesus has done for you, the world is longing for it. I was listening to a song on internet radio this week and a song came on by a singer/songwriter named Tom Odell. I had never really heard of him, but he is a British musician. He had a song come on called Heal. It was one of the saddest songs I ve ever heard, because the whole song was the aching and longing for healing. The tragedy of the song is that it never resolves. He never finds his answers. The melancholy piano ballad leaves us simply in the heartache o f a man who longs for healing, but is unable to find it. Take my mind And take my pain Like an empty bottle takes the rain And heal, heal, heal, heal And take my past and take my sense Like an empty sail takes the wind And heal, heal, heal, heal And tell me somethings last And tell me somethings last These lyrics stuck out to me as a haunting reminder that we live in a broken world that needs hope. They need to hear about the love of Jesus 5

6 Christ that heals us and sets us free. We need a savior that takes our pain and our past. We need a savior who takes our hand and shows us that there are somethings that last. Like Moses, we must be a people continually testifying of the love of God in Jesus. We must speak the Gospel and it must ever be on our lips. If we don t speak this message as a church what are we really doing? We are not a social club. We are not here to hang out with friends. We are here to be a beacon of hope to the lost and dying world by holding out Jesus Christ as the great healer and redeemer. Speak your testimony. Share your dark past, and share how Jesus lit up your life. 3. Share in God s Ministry (Ex 18:13-27) There is a third fundamental we must recognize for a healthy church community. We must share in God s ministry together. No one man can do it on his own. While Jethro is visiting with Moses he notices a major issues, and he loves Moses enough to speak to him about it. The next day Moses gets up and spends the whole day, from morning till evening judging the people. Moses as the leader was getting stuck with these minor decisions among the people, and it was exhausting. If there was a dispute, Moses had to settle it. Jethro sees the pace that Moses is going and he is worried about him. Look at how he responds in 18: Moses father-in-law said to him, What you are doing is not good. You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone. (Exodus 18:17 18, ESV) Moses was trying to function as the single leader doing all the work by himself. The results in a practical leadership discussion that Jethro has with Moses. Moses has to share the load. He had to be able to delegate lesser things out to other people. So Jethro advises him to select men who are of god character and reputation, who fear God, and they are to serve as the judges over the people. They can handle all the smaller matters, and if there 6

7 is a larger matter that needs to be addressed they can bring it to you. These men were to serve as a filter. Moses couldn t adequately care for all of the people. He needed assistance. Moses took the counsel of his Father-in-law and he put the plan in place. Now, the situation is not entirely the same, but there is much to be learned concerning our church. No one person can adequately do all the work of ministry required. Although many churches practically function this way, this is not the patter we see in the New Testament. We see that there is a sharing of the work of ministry. The New Testament provides some clarity on this in two ways. First, the New Testament teaches a plurality of p astors (called elders in the NT) to provide the leadership of the church. Second, the New Testament teaches that every member is a minister, meaning that all members are to be devoted to sharing in the work of the ministry. Lets talk briefly about the first one. It has been the tradition for most of the last century to see baptist churches have only one pastor. Usually he is the one called and paid full time by the congregants to do the work of the ministry. Growing up in smaller churches like this myself, the pastor is the one called to lead and do the ministry. For many smaller churches, the pastor is a clergy-man who is a service provider. He leads the worship service, he makes visits to sick members, and he officiates weddings and funerals, etc. All this is good, except that the entire load of ministry is usually placed on a single man, who may or may not be up to the task of doing everything well. Even in more medium sized churches like us, when you start having staff in addition to the single-senior pastor, we think that the main work of ministry is delegated to the paid professionals. The membership doesn t come to minister, but rather be ministered too by the programs and activities directed by the staff. The only main issue with that, is that doesn t seem to be what the bible teaches at all. Rather, the Bible says there are to be a team of pastors who 7

8 lead the church together. These men are called elders in the New Testament. We are going to talk in much more detail this fall about the New Testament s teaching on church leadership, more specifically elders and how we as Forest Hills can become more biblical in our church leadership structures. God never intended the church to operate with a single pastor like so many baptist churches do. Thankfully, at Forest Hills we have two other pastors here, Grant and Tim, who are invaluable in helping with the shepherding ministry. Like Moses, I can attest to the taxing demands of leadership. Trying to do it all is a recipe for failure. So in the fall we are going to start talking about the New Testament teaching on elders and begin praying through the possibility of sharing the pastoral load not just among staff pastors, but volunteer or lay pastors as well. Secondly though, although God intends his church to be lead by a group of called and godly men called elders, the work of ministry is to be shared by all the membership of the church. Every man and woman in the body is called to help in the ministry. Every Christian can pray for others, disciple another, visit the sick, and so on. This is a paradigm shift in the way many of us think about church membership. To become a member means that you commit to sharing in the load of ministry. It means you commit to give of yourself and sacrifice in time, energy, and money, giving it for the mission of God. Simply put, if we are going to reach this city with the Gospel it is going to take all hands on deck. We need every member seriously engaged in prayer, in sharing the Gospel with others in evangelism. We need your help to reach your neighbors and your coworkers with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There is great work to do and we as a church must work together united as a team for the glory of God! 8

9 Final Thoughts These three things are the fundamentals to healthy church community. We must trust in the power of God. We must testify to the work of God s redemptive love in our life. We share the load of ministry together. As we think about the bright future God has before us as we walk in obedience to him, may we as a church trust in his power to bring it to pass. May we trust in that great mediator, Jesus Christ, whose hands are held high bringing us victory through his glorious resurrection. Today may God lead you to commit to pray for our church, to be active in testifying to his grace as you live each day, and may we share the work of ministry together as we reach our world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ Forest Hills Baptist Church 9

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