Last week we discussed “Our Mission: What We Are Called To Do” and learned that we are called to reach and teach for changed lives. This morning we shall discuss “Our Vision: Where We Hope To Go” and see that we are to be a community of disciples who love God and love others. Let’s consider this vision more closely.
Salvation is personal, but it is never private. It is personal in that every person must repent and believe the gospel. No one can repent for you and no one can believe on your behalf. Each person must be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ in order to have eternal life. While salvation is personal, it is important to know that it is never a private matter (Hide it under a bushel? No!). Those who are saved by grace through faith (Eph 2:8-9) are called to live out their faith in the covenant community of God.
First Baptist desires to a community. We desire to be together. We want to worship together and share life together. We want to encourage one another, strengthen one another, forgive one another, laugh with one another, cry with one another, and love one another.
We want to be a community united by a common confession and a common Lord. We are brothers and sisters of the same Father. We want our church to be a place of healing that brings comfort and joy to those in desperate need of both. We want to be a Christ-centered community that encourages people to surrender their past, present, and future to Jesus Christ. Their past, which condemns them for the sins they have committed, is surrendered in confession of sin. Their present is surrendered in the offering of themselves “as a living sacrifice” (Rom 12:1) to Christ. Their future is surrendered in their prayer: “If the Lord wills” (James 4:15). All of this is to be done in community.
We not only want to say that we want to be a community, we want to intentionally commit to exploring ways to help build and foster a Christ-centered community that is deep, relational, and lasting. Our prayer is that everyone who is simply living a private Christian life would ask God to help them get their light out into the community (out of the bushel) and let it shine.
Who makes up this community? Jesus told His followers to “make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:19). We desire to be a community of disciples. Why disciples? J. Oswald Sanders, former director of China Inland Mission, once commented:
It is not without significance that the word disciple occurs in the New Testament 269 times, Christian only 3 times, and believers 2 times. This surely indicates that the task of the church is not so much to make “Christians” or “believers” but “disciples.”
Who are disciples? As we learned last week, disciples are those who not only hear what Jesus commanded and memorize what Jesus commanded, but “observe all that [Jesus] has commanded” (Matt 28:20). Disciples are those who are strive to be obedient.
Jesus told His followers in Matthew 16:18, “I will build My Church.” This church is built upon the Rock, the confession that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt 16:16). Those who make this confession enter into discipleship and are brought the church: the community of God.
First Baptist commits to not only being intentional about making disciples, but making disciples that enter into community, stay in community, and bless the community. 1 Corinthians 12:7 reminds us that “to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” We strive to be a community of disciples who are mature in faith, who do not serve God so that they can be happy, but rather serve God because He is worthy.
Love God and Love Others
While everything we have described thus far is good, it is essential that we get our motivation for being a community of disciples right. We want to be a community of disciples who love God and love others. If our motivation is not love, it is meaningless. Whatever we do, whatever we say, we must do it in love for God and others. This is important because we are told in 1 John 4:7-8:
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
Jesus Christ told His Church that the two greatest commandments are to love God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (Matt 22:37) and love your neighbor as yourself (Matt 22:39). Disciples who obey God’s commands are those who love because “the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Gal 5:14).
How do we love? There is false love and real love. We must not move too far to the right into legalism. Legalism is the strict adherence to the rules and commands without room for grace and compassion. We must also take care not to move too far to the left into licentiousness. Licentiousness is the lack of all moral restraints and without regard for God’s law. The legalist seeks to earn God’s favor through good works and the licentious seeks to use God’s favor as a means to please himself. True love is full of grace and truth. Grace reminds us that we cannot earn God’s favor through good works and truth reminds us that we must be obedient to the commands God has given us.
May the grace of God fill us with such love for God and others, that all of the spiritual forces of evil make a note that The First Baptist Church of Scott City Missouri shall stand firm! (Eph 6:13)