Community: Next Steps

Community: Next Steps
2 Chronicles 34:29-33
Youth & Young Adult Pastor Brian Pell

Hey, everyone. I really feel like both you and I deserve a shot a redemption this week. Last time I was up here with you, we struggled to get a dialogue going. So, we’re going to try it again; except this time we’re going to simply ask your opinion.

I really want to do this…I want you to shout out your favorite things about this church and this service…go! (Examples: Love the people, love the community, and love the atmosphere). Good, those are all things I was expecting, and rightfully so. Those are all true and good things that we’ve got going on here.

The question I want to wrestle with today is, how do we take this thing to the next level? We’ve got a good thing going here, amen? But, what does it look like for us to take this thing and make it better?

Most of you know a bit about my story. You guys know that Colorado is my sixth state, and you know that I’ve grown up in various churches. You also know that I really didn’t like church growing up. I thought youth group was lame, and I thought Sunday morning stuff was boring. Not really my thing.

And, honestly, I still wrestle with those things sometimes. But, what happened in my life that changed my perspective on church? The obvious answer is, I got saved. But, on a more practical level…my family began attending a church that was different than the ones I’d experienced before. This new church was preaching the Bible dynamically and ferociously. Their worship was robust and deep. And, their people were actively trying to do life together, and through seeing that God slowly helped me realize what church could really be and what it was designed to be.

And, when I took this job right around two years ago, I didn’t take it because I really liked Pastor Doug or because I wanted the money. I took this job because I could see the potential of this church from the moment I set foot in here. I could feel that God was working and was able to do something beautiful in this place.

Today, I believe that just as much as I did when I interviewed. I believe that God can continue to save and change people here and see it grow and have a real impact on Aurora and Denver as a whole. And, I believe you guys are the beginning. You guys are the future leaders and guides to that movement. But, we’ve got to continue to think about and daydream about and rest in the truth of what God has for this place…

So, let’s go to the Old Testament today…to 2 Chronicles. I’m going to be impressed if you can get there without looking in the Table of Contents.

Then the king sent and gathered together all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. And the king went up to the house of the LORD, with all the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the priests and the Levites, all the people both great and small. And he read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant that had been found in the house of the LORD. And the king stood in his place and made a covenant before the LORD, to walk after the LORD and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant that were written in this book. Then he made all who were present in Jerusalem and in Benjamin join in it. And the inhabitants of Jerusalem did according to the covenant of God, the God of their fathers. And Josiah took away all the abominations from all the territory that belonged to the people of Israel and made all who were present in Israel serve the LORD their God. All his days they did not turn away from following the LORD, the God of their fathers. -2 Chronicles 34:29-33

Here’s what’s unique about our discussion today – the line of thinking will apply to your personal walk with the Lord, and it’ll apply to us as a whole. We’re going to focus on the latter. However, I want you to know that the thinking will work as you think about your own life and experience with God.

But, before we really dive into these verses, I need to give you some background. How did we get here?

How many of you are familiar with the story of King David with the people of Israel? Awesome. Maybe not to the same extent, but how many of you are familiar of the story of King Solomon (David’s son) with the people of Israel? Perfect.

After Solomon died, his sons took over, and the Kingdom of Israel split. So, we’re on the Judah side of the split, and it’s been a few hundred years. Those years have been full of mostly evil kings with a few other good ones in there. But, the Israelites on the side of Judah are far from God and worshiping other gods.

Then, the ways things fell, a boy named Josiah becomes king. And, from a young age he tries to get Judah back on track with God. While he had the people trying to renovate the house of the Lord (their church), they discovered a part of the Bible. That piece of Scripture was taken to Josiah, and he realized just how far out of bounds they all were.

And, it’s his response that we’re going to analyze today…

Let’s look at it. In verse 18 the portion of the Bible is read to Josiah, so let’s look at verse 19 to see what this guy does.

And when the king heard the words of the Law, he tore his clothes. And the king commanded a bunch of people, saying, “Go, inquire of the LORD for me and for those who are left in Israel and in Judah, concerning the words of the book that has been found. For great is the wrath of the LORD that is poured out on us, because our fathers have not kept the word of the LORD, to do according to all that is written in this book.” -2 Chronicles 34:19-21

We’re not going to spend tons of time on these first two points, but they’re absolutely necessary to get to right relations with the God of the universe. Josiah’s first response to the things that he sees around him is to tear his clothes and find out if it’s true.

There is a 1) realization of the situation.

This is the essential first step in any life or in any church. When you got saved, the first thing that needed to happen was your recognition of the fact that you needed a Savior. You had to realize the reality that your sin has separated you from the God of the universe, and the only way to get back to Him is to have that sin taken care of.

In the life of the church, we need to realize the state of ourselves and the state of the place God has us. God has us in Denver and Aurora, and it’s dark here. People need Jesus here, and so do we. Those of us that know Him, still need Him. Those of us that don’t know Him, need Him.

Then, what does Josiah do?

And the king stood in his place and made a covenant before the LORD, to walk after the LORD and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant that were written in this book. -2 Chronicles 34:31

He gathers everyone around, and there is a 2) renewal of the covenant

In your own life, this looked like you receiving the gospel with the understanding that Christ did all of the work for you. Resting in the truth of God’s love and Jesus’ sacrifice on your behalf.

In the church, this looks like our continued focus on the gospel work in our own lives and in the life of this community. We know that the only way things are going to happen are through the work of God Himself and through prayer. We really don’t have that much to offer you other than pointing you to Jesus.

Every week we gather, we have an opportunity to experience the covenant or the gospel again. We seek to meet God here and send you out. That’s what we’re doing. We’re not just doing this because it’s fun, though it certainly can be.

We want you to meet Jesus and experience Him and have a renewed sense of your place in His plan for the cosmos.

Let’s keep moving. And, these next two points are the ones I really want to focus on…

“And Josiah took away all the abominations from all the territory that belonged to the people of Israel…” – Josiah finished the process of removing all of the idolatry…all of the shrines…all of the other places to make sacrifices to other gods…

As a people, 3) repentance of sins

And, I’ve found this to be one of the most fundamental weaknesses of churches in western society…because of the comfort and profitability of the people in this country, we have this incredibly consistent desire to convince other people that we have life figured out. And, I know there are people in this room with real struggles that aren’t afraid to discuss their struggles. I’m not talking to you guys so much as I’m talking to the rest of us.

God created us to be do life together, and we can help each other. But, we can’t help each other if we’re not willing to be honest.

I have to be straight with you, this group of people is fairly good at this actually, but we can definitely get better. We’ve got to be willing to share what’s going on in our lives rather than just sit and listen to some songs and teaching each week.

And, here’s how I know we can get better – there was a guy that visited for a couple weeks last year. This guy wrestles with some dark stuff and comes from a broken family. He’s working hard and hasn’t been to college. Unfortunately, this guy stopped coming because he didn’t think he’d be welcome if people knew what he struggled with, and he wasn’t willing to get any help.

Of course, there’s nothing we can do about the fact that he didn’t want any help, but we can continue to do better at being an honest group of people that aren’t afraid to discuss where we’re weak…because that is going to be a light to other broken people. And, we know that it’s okay because the God of the universe loves us and declares us righteous…where we’re weak, He is strong. We know this.

In the book of Acts many churches began, but there was one in particular that I find funny and fitting here…the church in Ephesus.

There were a group of brothers that were trying to cast out demons in the name of Paul and Jesus, and at one point the demons mess them up – to the point of those guys getting beat up and losing their clothing (that’s how you know you’ve lost a fight). And, in Acts 19 we see what happens in Ephesus:

And this became known to all the residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. And fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled. Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily. -Acts 19:17-20

God used that ridiculousness to move in power, and people got saved and changed. What’d they do? They started confessing and discussing their weaknesses and dealing with them, and that church grew and expanded.

Later in the Bible, God longs to correct the church in Ephesus…and here’s what He said to them:

But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. -Revelation 2:4-5

These people were no longer doing what they were originally doing…being honest and confessing and repenting of their sins. We’ve got to be a people that can be honest with one another because our identity isn’t in how good we are…it’s in Jesus.

So, when you’re given an opportunity for us to pray for you, take advantage of it. Let us know what’s going on. When you’re hanging with people after the service, don’t just talk about the good things that are going on. Ask for prayer. Let people in a little bit. Let us know how we can help you…how we can be a shoulder for you to lean on.

How does this story about Josiah and the Israelites finish?

“…and made all who were present in Israel serve the LORD their God. All his days they did not turn away from following the LORD, the God of their fathers.” – you see that the people of Judah are changed and are ever-changing for the better (till Josiah’s death).

You see a 4) revitalization of the community

This is what happens when a person meets Jesus and walks with Him – they get plugged into a church and develop a new set of relationships with believers that are encouraging and bring joy as well as push each other and grow together

So, what does it look like when a church undergoes this sort of change? We’re given a near-perfect picture of it at the beginning of Acts…

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 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 2:42-47

A church will get together and engage God’s Word together. They’ll do life together. They’ll discuss difficult things. They’ll invite each other over for dinner. They’ll pray together. They’ll be engaged in the needs of their people and their community. They’ll worship together. And, God will bring people there.

As a group, we are on the precipice of starting to see this take place, but there are ways we can move closer and closer to it.

Engage God’s Word – I know a lot of people in this service at this point, and I know a lot about your walks with the Lord. And, as a result, I know that a lot of you are not diving into God’s Word on a regular basis. This book is the gasoline you can pour on the fire in your hearts. If God has called you to Himself, this book will jumpstart that growth in a way that nothing else can.

So, here’s my recommendation…we’re trying this with the students right now. We’re just a couple weeks away from starting the book of Colossians. Just try reading that book (it only has a few chapters), and, when we’re going through it, just focus on reading the next section for the next week’s sermon. That’s it. It’ll only take a few minutes during your week, and it’ll make a huge difference.

Do life together – we’ve got a young adult Bible study going on right now, and, if you’re a young adult, come join us. We’re just eating and hanging out together. We pray for each other. We’re building community. That’s what this is about…getting into the grimy, messy day-to-day stuff together.

If you’re a little bit older, start thinking about setting something up where you can have people over. Where we can do life together in another way.

Worship together – your opportunities to worship are going to increase. I know Benson, and his heart beats for worship and for connecting people to Jesus. You’re going to continue to have opportunities to worship here. Don’t just stand there or sit there. Dive in. Try some new things. You’ll see God light your heart on fire through that as well.

Get into the community – what does your neighbor need? What does your neighborhood need? How can you give to somebody that you work with? If as a church we start to think externally, we’ll see so many opportunities to do ministry on a practical level. And, God will draw them to Himself and to this church. That’s how He does is…through relationships.

You guys are right. That’s the greatest strength of this service, and I really believe God is going to do powerful things through that. So, let’s continue to fall in love with Him together. Let’s do life together, let’s worship and get into His Word, and let’s engage those around us…pour into them, and God will move.

And, I really want this for us. God help us.
Let’s pray