November 14, 2021
What makes for a great church? Is it excellent worship music? Some would say so. Others would say, “good biblical preaching.” Or “Preaching that feeds.” Others might say, “A praying church is what makes for a great church.” Or still others might say, “A church that’s making a difference in their community is what makes a great church.” And still others will tell you that “to be a great church you have to be a friendly church.” Being a welcoming church is what makes for a great church. Years ago, when our family was between ministries we started attending a church that did all those things except the last one. It had great music, good biblical preaching and was definitely a praying church. But one thing we struggled with was experiencing a genuine sense of welcome. We felt like we were on the outside looking in. But we stuck around because we believed that since there were enough good things happening in this church, eventually we would connect and experience the genuine love and acceptance of God’s people.
You see, it’s this last characteristic, this love and acceptance of God’s people that Jesus’ says is not just what makes for a great church, but what makes His disciples known to the world. It’s our love for one another that doesn’t just make us a great church, but an irresistible church – the kind of church that people want to be a part of. So, today as we continue our Rock Springs Reboot series, we’re going to look at not what makes for a great church, but what creates the kind of church our world can’t resist. In other words, what makes for an irresistible church?
You see we live in a day where Churches are losing their witness. Some are no longer a light to the world because what they’re about no longer stands out as different from the world. These churches are trying to draw people to themselves by trying to imitate too many of the world’s values or politics. Other churches have taken up the battle cry of “us against them.” They’re known for what they stand against, not who or what they’re for. And because many Churches have drifted from their true calling, not only is the world no longer interested in what we have to offer, but many Christians have also given up on the Church. In fact, those who research these things say that anywhere between 20 to 30 percent of people who belonged too or participated in the Church prior to the Pandemic, have now left the church. But God never intended His Church to be like the world or against to the world, but different from the world. As old Welsh preacher, Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones once said, “The glory of the gospel is that when the Church is absolutely different from the world, she invariably attracts it.”
So, if you want to be part of a Church that stands out from the world, but invariably attracts it; if you want to be part of an irresistible church, then let me encourage you to open your Bibles to Hebrews 10:24-25, where God’s Word lays out four practices that can help us be that kind of church our world can’t resist. And the first one is this:
An Irresistible Church Stirs Up Love Let me read the text: And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25
Now, up to this point in his letter, the writer of the Hebrews has been making an argument for exalting Jesus as the chief practice of the Church. Believing in Jesus, worshiping Jesus, following Jesus, learning from Jesus is the main focus of God’s people. Jesus is the head of the Church. Jesus is the life of the Church. Without Jesus there is no Church. That has always been one of the key practices of our Church. So, as we take a look at the first of these practices that can make us kind of church the world can’t resist, I want to remind you that keeping Jesus our main focus is really the prerequisite to these four practices. Following Jesus as our Lord is the key vertical relationship that makes for an irresistible church.
Now with these two verses, the writer of Hebrews spells out four practices that focus on our relationship with one another in the church. And the first of these focus on our love for one another. Now, if you were here last week, we heard Jesus say very clearly, that if we love one another like Jesus loves us, all people will know that we are his disciples.
Here now, the emphasis is on our responsibility to stir up our love for one another. In other words, when it comes to working out the love of Christ for us with one another, we need a little help. God knows that left to ourselves, we don’t automatically take the initiative to love like Jesus. Left to ourselves, we are still influenced by our flesh, and we have the mindset that guides us, and we say to ourselves: I’m not going to love others like Jesus unless someone else loves me first. In other words, we are reluctant to make the first move. We are reluctant to love like Jesus loves us, until someone loves us. Now, can you imagine if we all acted like that? No one would love anyone. We’d all be waiting for someone else to make the first move.
God knew we would have a hard time doing this one our own. So, He gave us this verse. God wants us to initiate love, be intentional about loving one another, so He exhorts us to put our heads together and come up with ways we can get love flowing in His family. “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.”
Here’s the first key to becoming an irresistible church. God wants US to give intentional thought to how WE can stir up love among US. God wants us to consider together, to think together, discuss together, pray together, plan together how we might stir up the love of Christ in us so that we will truly love one another. Somehow, God understands that when we do life together, when we are engaged in relationship with one another – it is in that context: with one another, that the Spirit will help us consider how we can spur one another onto love.
Now, let me unpack this word “stir up,” or “spur.” What a powerful word. It’s the word that’s normally used “to provoke” someone to anger. It’s the word used to arouse a reaction, to start an argument, to incite a riot. So it’s a word that is meant to illicit an reaction. Think about what God’s Word is saying here: We are to consider together how to incite a riot of love amongst God’s people. God’s not content that we occasionally see a need and meet it. God’s not content, that when it’s convenient for us, we might go out of our way and help someone. No, God wants us to get together and think together of ways we can create a riot of love together as His people.
And I can’t help but think, if we did this; if this was the one Scripture we put into practice in our Journey Groups, in our life together, then what would be said of us would be the same that was said of the early church: And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.Acts 2:44-47 That’s a picture of the irresistible church. They did together whatever it took to spur one another on to love and good deeds.
It’s no wonder the evil one wants to keep God’s people apart from one another. It’s no wonder that he wants us to be content practicing some form of individual Christianity. It’s no wonder he works overtime to get Churches to focus on politics or religion. Just as long as he can keep us from one another, then he can keep us from loving one another. For he knows that if we begin to start a riot of love amongst God’s people, then there’d be no stopping us. We’d not just become an irresistible Church, but an unstoppable force of love.
God wants US to give intentional thought to how WE can stir up love among US. God wants us to incite a riot of love that will make us different from the world, and invariably attract the world. I can’t do this for us. It’s all our responsibility. This is going to take all of us working together, putting our heads together and provoking one another to love and good deeds. An irresistible Church stirs up love. Now that’s just the first thing we see in these verses. Here’s the second and it is connect with our love for one another:
An Irresistible Church Stimulates Good Works Let me read verse 24 again: “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.” The same key about starting a riot of love is found in creating a climate of good works. God wants us to give intentional thought to how we can stir up good works among us. God wants us to incite a riot of good works among us. How is this different than stirring up love?
First, I want us to look at two Scriptures that talk about good works. First, one that Jesus promises to us. In the Upper Room Jesus gave this promise to His disciples: “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.” John 14:12 Then there is this Scripture from Paul: For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10
Jesus promises that if we believe in Him, we will also do the works He did, and even greater works than these. And Paul tells us that God has a hand in making us people who will do good works. We are the handiwork of God, God’s workmanship. We have been recreated in Christ to do good works. It’s what we are to be about. So we have to ask ourselves: what are the works of Jesus that He would have us do?
Again, this is why in our Journey Groups we are encouraged to study together the life of Jesus Christ from the Gospels. In the Gospels we see how Jesus lived, what Jesus taught, and what Jesus did. We see his works. The defining verse of Scripture that helps me get a handle on the works of Jesus comes from the pen of John who bears witness to what the disciples had seen from Jesus. Listen to this description of Jesus: The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 It’s that last little phrase that describes Jesus life that helps us understand the works of Jesus. Jesus was full of grace and truth. When we read the Gospels we hear the truths of Jesus. Every time He says, “Truly, truly I say to you,” He is speaking truth that He heard from the Father and wants to make known to us. And Jesus qualified this by saying, “For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken.” John 12:49 So Jesus was full of truth.
But He was also full of grace. Whenever Jesus did a work it was an act of grace. And everything He did also came from the Father. “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; He can do only what he sees His Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” John 5:19
So, the works we are to incite one another to do are works of grace. God wants US to give intentional thought to how WE can stir up God’s grace among US. Think about it this way. When people were hungry, Jesus did what it took to feed them. When people were ostracized, Jesus did what it took to restore them. When people were captive to sin, Jesus did what it took to free them. When people were lonely, Jesus did what it took to include them. These are works of grace. Jesus did for people what they could not do for themselves. These are the same works Jesus said we would do if we believe in him. These are the kind of works we’ve been created in Christ Jesus to do: works of grace.
This is why our Journey Groups are so much more than a Bible Study, or a community of love, they’re a launching pad for God’s handiwork in our world, they’re a vehicle where God’s people work out God’s grace together. And when we are doing this together, we will different; and the world will be attracted to what’s going on among us. An Irresistible Church Stimulates Works of Grace. That’s the second thing we do. Now the third:
An Irresistible Church Stays the Course “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some” The opposite of coming together to stir up one another to love and good works, is to stop coming together, to neglect the fellowship of faith, to leave the church. Unfortunately, this has become a trend ever since the onset of the pandemic. You can hear people say, “I love Jesus, but I don’t love the Church.” Therefore, I’m no longer connected, no longer attending, no longer participating with a Church.
Let me just say two things to this; because for some reason it’s become open season on the Church – to tear it down or find something wrong with the gathering of God’s people, or something wrong with the worship, or something wrong with the pastor, or the leaders or God’s people themselves. People are quick to point out what’s wrong with the Church so they can justify walking away from God’s people. So, the first thing I want to point out is this truth: Jesus Christ loves His Church. This truth is found in God’s Word where husbands are commanded to love their wives. And they are given an example how to do this: Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the Word, and to present her to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. Ephesians 5:25-27
Jesus Christ loves His Church. He laid down His life for the Church, to make us a holy bride, to make us a radiant church, without stain or blemish – to make us a beautiful and irresistible bride. That tells us right here that His church: “you and I,” we a work in progress. Jesus is continually cleansing us with His Word. He is working in His church to remove our stains, make us new, to make us beautiful, holy, different! Jesus never gives up on His people no matter how messed up, broken, or imperfect we are. Therefore, if Jesus loves His Church no matter how messed up, broken or imperfect we are, then we need to stay the course with Him: we need to keep gathering, keep inciting love for one another, keep doing good works together. Because Jesus is not done with us and He loves us too much to give up on us. Because He wants to make us an irresistible bride. That’s the first truth.
Here’s the second: We need one another. We need to stay connected to the gathering of God’s people, whether that’s worshiping on Sundays or loving and serving together in our Journey Groups. And we need to stay connected to Jesus Christ, who is the head of the church. Jesus Christ is the head of the Church, not just the authority of the Church, but it’s life. And if Jesus is the head of the Church then we are His body. Therefore, we need to stay connected with His people.
So, then what happens to us when we begin to neglect the fellowship of God’s people, and foolishly say, “All I need is Jesus.” Or “I can do this alone” we actually defy Jesus Christ. We decide that we think we know better than Jesus what we need… For when any of us neglect the assembling together of Christ’s body, this is what we do: We cut ourselves off from the very means which Christ feeds, assures, and protects His people. So, we need each other. And if for some reason you think differently, just listen to how God designed us to need one another: God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as He wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 1 Corinthians 12:18-25
We need one another. Even the weakest among us is considered indispensable by God. And when this truth sinks in: When we recognize how much we need one another for life, for love, for strength, for growth and for protection – when we begin to understand God designed us to flourish when we are together, not separate. And when we begin to see our connection with one another as essential for the health and well-being of God’s family – THAT’S WHEN WE BECOME AN IRRESISTABLE CHURCH
You see, each one of us is wired to belong to a community where we are loved and respected, where we are valued and included, where even if we don’t have much to bring to the table, just our presence alone is considered important. That’s what God wants in His gathering of people – we call the church. And people today are looking for a community like that. People are looking for a community that doesn’t quit on them when they fail. Half of the people in our country have experienced failed marriages or divided families. Almost everyone has grown cynical over the broken promises of politicians. It’s hard to find anyone or anything to count on as faithful. But when God’s people are faithful, when God’s people stay the course, when God’s people keep meeting together, and loving one another despite our failures and short-comings – then we become a community of faith that our world cannot resist. Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25
Some of you this morning know friends who’ve walked away from the family of God. Some of you know people who’ve quit the church. And if you ask them, each one has a valid reason for walking. But are we giving them a reason to stay? Do you love the Church like Jesus loves His Church? Do you see each person around you as indispensable to your faith? God wants you to stay the course with Jesus by staying the course with those He loves. And when we do that, we show the world something different: We show the world what a faithful family looks like.
Now, when I started this message, I asked the question: What makes for a great Church? And this morning, we’ve looked at three practices that can help us become the kind of church our world can’t resist:
An Irresistible Church Stirs Up Love Together
An Irresistible Church Stimulates Good Works Together
An Irresistible Church Stays the Course Together
But now, to look at the fourth practice we’re going to have to wait on until next week:
An Irresistible Church Speaks the Truth to one another. That’s all about the importance of the encouragement God wants us to give one another.
But until next week, what is God’s Spirit saying to you today? How does God want you to respond to His design for His people?
Maybe God is calling you to be an initiator of love. That He wants you to put your head together with others so you can help incite a riot of love.
Or maybe God wants you to invite friend to check out your Journey Group with you?
Or maybe God is telling you that maybe it’s time you took a risk and got involved in some way with His Church?
Or maybe God is simply saying, “Hang in there, stay the course, it will do you good.”
I don’t know what God may be saying to you today, but I do know this: Jesus loves His Church and He wants you in it. Jesus loves His Church and He wants you to do your part in it. That’s why He died for you. For God sees in you what He wants to make us an irresistible church. That’s our God, and He’s not done with what He wants to make of us. And I can’t wait to see, just what He’ll do! Let’s pray.