Read at beginning of service:
Psalms 77:10-14 (NIV)
10 Then I thought, “To this I will appeal: the years of the right hand of the Most High.” 11 I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. 12 I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds. 13 Your ways, O God, are holy. What god is so great as our God? 14 You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples.
Well here we are at the beginning of a brand new year. The first day and the first SUNDAY of the new year is today and it?s great that we can start the year together in the same place! I thank you for coming today!
For the message to you this morning I thought it would be good to revisit what Hanover Pentecostal Church is all about. To ask the question, “What are we in this for?”. With the passing of time and the increasing exponential change that happens all around us we can sometimes forget or at least get sidetracked about why we are a part of this local body of believers and what we?re all about. Whether you?ve been a member of HPC for over 10 years or just started attending recently it?s important to revisit our purpose and be motivated once again ? and what a better time to do that then at the beginning of a new year!
As I share this message I want you to ask yourself, “What am I in this for?”. I think it?s an important question to ask, and frankly we ask this question a lot in other areas of our lives. A business owner asks that when planning for his success in the future. Parents often visit this question in the midst of a chaotic household with kids writing on walls and having food fights at dinner time. Teachers face this question when finding that the level of respect they receive from students seems to keep degrading rather than improving with time. A patient lying on the surgery bed waiting to be operated on is probably rehashing the question he or she has been asking over and over again ever since the date was marked in the calendar. A couple falling in love probably have this question on their minds. Oh, and I?d really like to know the politician?s answer to this question! Not everyone asks this question when thinking about their lives but for those who do they discover it helps make sense of what you do and why you do it. Eventually, if it?s not asked, circumstances and events will bring you to the place where you are in fact forced to face it. So, frankly, it?s better to ask it right at the beginning!
Jesus wanted to make sure His followers asked this question! Listen to his words as recorded by Luke in chapter 14 of the his gospel,
(Read Luke 14:25-33)
A large crowd was following Jesus and He turned to them and basically asked, “What are you in this for?” I guess in a way Jesus was really saying, “Do you really know what your getting into?”. Jesus stressed the importance of counting the cost before following Him. Indeed there is life in following Christ and there is death in not ? even though salvation is a free gift of God it doesn?t mean it?s cheap. Jesus gave His life for us that we may live ? but to live as Christ lived in a world that?s basically against Him isn?t easy! Is it worth it? Of course! But that?s what counting the cost is all about. If you look at the cost of following Christ in consideration of the rewards of following Him ? there really is motivation for casting your lot in with Him!
But here?s what really intrigues me about Jesus? words is what he says at the end of this passage,
Luke 14:34-35 (NIV)
34 “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? 35 It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out. “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
It seems that those who have not asked, “What am I in this for?”, those who have not “counted the cost” are really impotent and ineffective people. I mean think about it ? those who really make a difference for what they follow are those who are willing to give up everything for what they believe! Their mission and purpose is clear and they are willing to see it through at any cost! Why? Because they consider it worth it.
Matthew recorded Jesus saying the same thing in Matthew 5:
Matthew 5:13 (NIV)
13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.
And then he goes on to say,
Matthew 5:14-15 (NIV)
14 “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.
Anybody recognize that verse? You should! It?s the scripture that is the backbone of the vision God has given HPC to be a City on a Hill. I want you to note however that Jesus again associates these words with “counting the cost”. Jesus had been teaching a large crowd the Beattitudes?
Blessed are those who are poor (vs3)
Blessed are those who mourn (vs4)
Blessed are those who are humble (vs5)
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (vs6)
Blessed are the merciful (vs7)
Blessed are the pure in heart (vs8)
Blessed are the peacemakers (vs9)
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness (or doing what is right) (vs10)
Blessed are those who are insulted, persecuted and falsely accused of wrong because of their love for Christ (vs11)
Jesus is pointing out the cost of following Him! Why? Again because failure to do so will lead to fruitless lives and lackluster impact.
So, let?s ask this question today then ? “What are we in this for?” It?s both a question for each one of us individually and also as a church body.
The first answer to that question is carried and sustained by the most important statement we could make?
IT?S ALL ABOUT GOD! (WORSHIP)
It?s all about HIM! While there are certainly ancillary benefits for us and for the church in following Christ we must always keep in mind that the main reason we are in this is because of God.
Hebrews 2:10 (NIV)
10 In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering.
The purpose of your life is far greater than your happiness. It?s far greater than your personal fulfillment. It is far greater than your success. It?s far greater than your dreams or ambitions. You were made by God and for God and until you understand that, life doesn?t make sense. You were made for God. And the Bible says that God made us for His forever family.
Colossians 1:16 (NIV)
16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.
Now, this is the most basic truth we have to understand about life; that life is not about you (or me), it is about God. You were made for God, and you were made to live with God forever in eternity; and you exist for God, not vice versa.
This is the personal application of this statement but it also applies to us together as a church. You know, I sometimes hear people make statements like this about the church. They?ll say that the church is “the hope of the world”. The intent behind that statement is to highlight that the church of Christ is the greatest organization or group of people that the world has ever seen and has the greatest potential to influence and impact our world for good. While I will not dispute the value of the church of Jesus Christ I take issue with this statement because the church isn?t the hope of the world. Jesus is. You see it?s not all about the church ? it?s all about Christ. Our Lord and Savior is the hope of the world and His church is His body. The church is simply to be the hands and feet of Christ at work in our world and as we share Him as the hope and model Him in everything we do and as He works through His church then the impact on our world is limitless.
Ephesians 2:19-22 (NIV)
19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
And so because it?s all about God and not about me, because it?s all about Christ not the church the first thing we need to be reminded about as we ask the question?”What are we in this for?” is to WORSHIP. Worship is simply recognizing and giving authority and priority to the triune God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) in everything we do. WE are in this for HIS pleasure ? and that?s been His plan all along.
TO BELONG (FELLOWSHIP)
Ephesians 1:5 (NIV)
5 he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will–
1 Peter 2:17b (NIV)
17 Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.
1 John 4:21 (NIV)
21 And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.
1 Timothy 3:14-15 (NIV)
14 Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, 15 if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.
We are in this to belong to each other. The word for that is fellowship. Friends Hanover Pentecostal Church is not this building, it will not be the building we are setting out to build. HPC is family we belong to the family of God and hence belong to each other. It is not an institution, it is not an organization, it is not a club. It is family!. A lot of people say, “Well, I?m going to go to church,” as if church is a place you go to. That?s not correct. Church is not a place you go to. Church is a family you belong to. Big difference.
Fellowship is loving God?s family.
That?s what fellowship is all about. We weren?t meant to be here on earth alone, to go through life on our own. We need each other and that?s where fellowship comes in. What are we in this for? To belong to God?s family.
TO GROW (DISCIPLESHIP)
Romans 8:29 (NIV)
29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
God?s plan has always been to make you more like Christ. His plan from the very beginning has been to make human beings like Himself. Now, don?t get me wrong, let me be clear, He?s not saying you?re going to be a god. You?ll never be a god. I mean your wife may think you?re a god, but you?ll never be a god. In fact, I?m sure she doesn?t think you?re a god. Maybe in your own mind you think you?re a god, but you?re not. But God doesn?t want you to become a god; He wants you to become godly. He wants you to develop His character, the way He thinks, the way He acts, the way He feels, His values, His moral character. God wants to make you like Himself!
Ephesians 4:15 (NIV)
15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.
Now, this is a process. This doesn?t happen overnight. It?s not like one day all of a sudden ? ZAP ? you?re just like Jesus. It?s a process, and this process is called “discipleship,” and it takes an entire lifetime
So, how does God do it? How does God help us grow spiritually?
Through the Bible.
Through trouble (teach us trust)
Through temptation (teach us to obey)
Through trespasses (teach us to forgive)
Now God will take each one us through this individually but He will also do this with the church as a body to. As a church family we are also going through this process of becoming more like Christ and being a City on a Hill. Here?s an important insight to remember. As we become more like Christ individually ? we will see the fruit of that in the life and impact of HPC. So, what are we in this for? To grow!
TO SERVE (MINISTRY)
One of my favorite verses in the Bible is found in Ephesians 2:10;
Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)
10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
I like this because it tells us three important things. First, we are God?s workmanship. We were created by God. His hands shape us and mold us. We are products of His creative power. Second, we were created in Christ Jesus to do good works. We were made to make a contribution, not just to consume. God made you to make a difference. And what matters is not how long you live, but how you live. What matters is not the duration of your life, but the donation of your life. On this planet nobody gets a free ride. We?re all meant to give something back. We?re all meant to make a contribution. The Bible says we?re created to serve, we?re saved to serve, we?re gifted to serve, we?re shaped to serve. We?re commanded to serve! Third, God prepared these good works in advance for us to do! In other words God has created you for a unique work for you to do! He?s prepared a practice for you to have, opportunities for you to seize. He has equipped you for the task He wants you to serve in.
God has given each one of us a unique SHAPE – Spiritual gifts, Heart, Abilities, Personality, and Experiences. These five things make you, and God uniquely shapes you, different from anybody else in the world, for a purpose. And that purpose is to serve Him.
1 Peter 4:10 (NIV)
10 Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.
So what are we in this for? To serve God by serving others? The word for this is ministry. Every single one of us is called to ministry. Every Christian is a minister. Any time you use your talent to help somebody else, you are ministering. You are serving. All women are ministers. All men are ministers. All little kids, all old people, if we?re believers, we?re all called to serve Jesus Christ as His ministers.
TO SHARE THE GOOD NEWS (evangelism)
This is the fifth answer to the question, “What are we in this for?” Listen what Jesus said in John 17:18,
John 17:18 (NIV)
18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.
The common mission that everyone of us shares as a part of HPC is to tell people the good news about God?s grace. God wants us to share everything about Christ with whoever He brings our way. The word for this is evangelism. Evangelism is just the Greek word for “good news.” That?s all it means. And so the Bible says that once I know the Good News, that God loves me, has a purpose and plan for my life and all the things I?ve been talking about, that God wants me to pass it on, sharing the Good News with others.
Now where are we supposed to share?
Acts 1:8 (NIV)
8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Start at home (Jersusalem)
Then the people nearby, but who are different then you (Judea and Samaria)
To the ends of the Earth (everybody else).
Now it?s important that we recognize that Jesus doesn?t say, “You will be my defense attorney.” He doesn?t? say, “You will be my prosecutor.” He didn?t say, “You will be my salesman.” You don?t? have to defend God. You don?t? have to be a salesman for God. All God wants you to do is He wants you to be a witness. What is a witness? A witness is somebody who just tells what they have seen. I saw this, and then I saw this; and this is what happened.
You are the expert on what has happened in your life. Nobody can be a better witness of your life than you. Nobody can be a better witness of what God has done in your life than you, because you are the authority on your life, not some pastor, not some priest, not anybody else. So God says, “I just want you to tell other people what?s happened to you, what?s happened in your life.” And he says, ” I want you to go all over; the people close to you, the people who are near, but different, and then to everybody else.
Now, what we must do as a church is facilitate what each one of us should be doing individually as we carry out our missions at home. But, we also enable the carrying our of our mission to our community and to the ends of the earth. That?s why we have bridge-building events such as Family Day, and ministries like our Small Groups and Time out Tuesday. It?s also why missions is such an integral function of our church body?..because we are in this to share the good news.
Romans 10:13-14 (Living)
13 Anyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. 14 But how shall they ask him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?
This then is the answer to the question “What are we in this for?” when we think about our involvement with the family of Hanover Pentecostal Church?
We are in this to worship
We are in this to belong
We are in this to grow
We are in this to serve
We are in this to share the good news.
Now, I want to ask you this, have you counted the cost? Have you considered what it means to belong to the family of God ? what it means to belong to this local body of believers? I don?t know about you but I?m excited to belong here! I?m excited about the incredible things that God has planned for this church family and how He wants to impact the world through us individually and corporately! As we enter into 2006 I look forward to the ways in which God will continue to grow us and work through us. But here?s the tough thing. If we consider the cost and commit to what God has called us to then we will continue to be salty and shine like a light for Christ. But if we don?t then we?ll be “thrown out” and “trampled by men”. I don?t know about you but I don?t want to see that happen.
So, what are you in this for?
Can you declare with me this morning?
I am in this to worship God! I realize that it?s all about Jesus ? it?s not about me. It?s not even about this church. It?s all about Him. Everything I do, I do for His glory and for His purpose. It is all my active worship to Him.
I am in this to belong. I realize that God created me for family and has brought me to Hanover Pentecostal Church to belong to this body of believers. I belong to them and they belong to me. We are family. We?re in this together. I am willing to love God?s family.
I am in this to grow. I am thankful that God wants me to become more like Him. I will seize the opportunities given to me to help me grow in Christ and take on the character and qualities He wants to develop in me. I will also make myself available in my church family to help others grow in areas that God has matured me. I also am looking forward to contributing to the growth of HPC as each one of us becomes more like Christ and enhance the impact of our community of believers.
I am in this to serve. I welcome opportunities to discover my SHAPE and be a minister in the area of God?s calling in my life. I am eager to serve wherever and whenever God would have me serve. I realize that every believer is a minister of Jesus Christ and welcome the Holy Spirit?s leading in my life to the places He would have me serve.
I am in this to share the good news. I realize that God has done incredible things in my life and I wont? be silent about the testimony God has given me. I may not be eloquent, and I may not have all my scripture down pat but I can share from my own experiences and be available for any opportunity God gives me to share. I am also committed to supporting the work of my church family in sharing the good news with our community and the world. I realize that missions is what we do and that sharing about Jesus is our mission!