A Church Worth Fighting For

We started Journey about six years ago with the hopes of helping people discover the real Jesus.  We truly believe that Jesus is the son of God and that he came to transfer anyone who is willing out of the kingdom of darkness – this default world into which we were born – and move us into the kingdom of heaven.  Which, contrary to popular opinion, isn’t something you experience only after you die.  No!  You get to enter into the kingdom where God rules right now, the Kingdom of heaven is the right now Kingdom where Jesus governs our life with wisdom and love.

So we believe it. But we know there are some of you out there who are not ready to believe it.  And we respect that.  We understand that people have reasons why they believe what they believe, and why they are reluctant to trust Jesus.  So we get that.  And we promise you will be treated with dignity no matter what you believe.

This morning we are in the book of Colossians chapter 2.  And so here’s our recap of what’s gone on already in Colossians.  Colossians is in the New Testament.  It was written by a man named Paul, who was an extremely important person in the early church.  He wrote 13 letters in the NT, traveled as a missionary, planted churches.  He did it all.

He is writing to the Colossians to assure them that they are heading in the right direction.  Although Paul had never personally visited these people living in Colosse, he had heard about their faith, their love, their confidence in the Gospel.  Paul gives a wonderful one sentence description of the Gospel in the first chapter when we writes that 13 For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, 14 who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.

After this Paul describes Jesus as the one who made everything, and holds all things together.  Everything has been created by Jesus, and for Jesus.

Paul is then going to say that this all-powerful Jesus, is in us.  Christ in us, it’s the hope of the world has to see the magnificent power and beauty of the Lord and he transforms us into the image of Jesus

Now this morning we are going to turn the page and begin chapter 2.  Paul writes in 2:1  2 I want you to know how hard I am contending for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally.

I like how Paul is letting them know that he is fighting for them.  Even though he is not with them, possibly in prison even, he knows about them and is fighting for them.  And if you are familiar with Paul’s life as it is recorded in scripture you see a guy who endured a ton of terrible things in his life as he lived it for the church.  Shipwrecked, beaten, snake bitten, imprisoned, he endured great pain in his ministry.  He contended with many things for the sake of the church,  But it was worth the hard work, especially when Paul got wind of churches like the one in Colosse.

Today I am calling this message, “A Church Worth Fighting For.”   Paul knew a healthy church when he saw it.  And he was willing to contend and fight, struggle, do whatever he had to do in order for the church to thrive.

Colosse is a church worth fighting for.  And I have no doubts that Journey is a church worth fighting for.  So as we read what made the church in Colosse worth fighting for, we will apply it to our own church.  What kind of church is a church worth fighting for?

1.  It is an encouraged church.  Paul writes, “2 My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart”
One of Paul’s goals was to speak life into the church in Colosse.  He knew that encouraging words could be a fountain of life.  And this is why he often teaches people in church to encourage one another.  As a matter of fact in Hebrew 10:25, it is explained that part of the purpose of a church is to be able to serve as encouragers in each other’s lives. (25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another)

Don’t you love being around someone who believes in you?  When I speak about an encourager in your life, does someone come to mind?  Someone who believed in you?  Does your name come to anyone else’s mind?

For Paul, he wanted to make sure that this church worth fighting for felt encouraged as they grew in their faith.  He knew there was power in hearing the words, “I notice this about you.”

In any relationship – spouse to spouse, friend to friend, parent to child, child to parent – there is nothing quite like the blessing of hearing esomeone who really knows you say, “I’ve noticed a change in you – I see God changing you.    Super encouraging right?

The more specific the encouragement, the more power behind the words.  And so for Paul, he specifically encourages the church in Colosse in chapter 2: I delight to see how disciplined you are and how firm your faith in Christ is.  You are disciplined – you are purposeful in the manner in which you are studying and growing in your faith. You aren’t winging it.  You have an idea and a plan and you are moving forward.  And it shows in the fact that your faith is already strong.  For such a young church – such a strong faith.

Now allow me to take the place of Paul.  Were Paul to write a letter to Journey church, how might he specifically encourage you?  Allow me to propose that he would write, “I delight in the fact that you are making it easy for people to discover the truth about Jesus.”

The last three weeks I’ve spoken with new attenders to Journey who went out of their way to tell me that they found Journey to be a place where they felt welcomed, just as they were.  Which is great to hear.  Good job Journey.

Now it’s kind of interesting that, from time to time I will read articles about how to do church.  And many times I will read about how churches ought to have a strategy to greet people five times from the time they park until the time they sit down.  So have parking lot attendants – well welcome brother, so glad you are here today.  And someone at the door – shaking hands, and someone at the door to the meeting room and an usher to walk around.  And we don’t have any of that.

And purposely so.  We feel that there is a danger there of being fake friendly. There is a danger that instead of actually loving people, it comes across as – look at us, we have good systems to give the impression that we like you.

Now I’m sure that if you find the right people for that kind of thing, there isn’t anything wrong with it.  But I guess what I mean is that the people who are telling me that you are a warm church, they aren’t saying that because of a strategy hatched on a white board.  They are saying it because, low and behold – you people actually are kind.  You actually do welcome people as they are.  You really are an authentic group of people.  Which is hard to do.

I mean yesterday was Halloween – the day when everyone pretends to be someone they aren’t.  But Halloween isn’t the only place people pretend to be someone they aren’t.  It happens every Sunday in churches all across America.  And I’m not stupid – I know that there is a level of privacy that people have – but I am hearing from people who have come to Journey that you all are the real deal.  They don’t feel like anyone is judging them.

So way to go Journey.  God bless you’re heart.  You are the kind of people who display grace.  Not just talk about it.

And that’s why you all are a church worth fighting for.

Paul’s second mark of a church worth fighting for?

2.  It is a church united in love.
2 I want you to know how hard I am contending for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. 2 My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love.

A church who loves people?  That’s a church worth fighting for.  The bible makes a big deal about this.  I mean, it’s hard to say that with enough meaning.

Jesus said this in John 13:35 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Paul writes this in his first letter to the church that met in Corinth.

13 If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. 3 If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

A church that has not love, has nothing.  Love binds all of our virtues together.  It is the rope that binds everything together.  Love for God.  Love for brothers and sisters in Christ.  Love for a lost world.

I was having a conversation recently with someone who was asking me about the trinity.  How can God be one and three at the same time.  And my response is that it has to be that way.  If God is one and alone than he’s virtually narcissistic.  He is one and loves himself.

But with three you have this wonderful dynamic where love flows freely.   I love you.  You love me.  Together we love someone else.  God didn’t create us because he was lonely.  He didn’t create us to have minions who worshipped him.  He created us in order to invite us into that kind of relationship.  Into a dance of eternal love.

He loves us.  We love him.  Together we love another.  This is what a church should look like.  And I am so thankful to be part of a church who displays this kind of love on a regular basis.  You love one another.  And together you love others.

Whether it be the work you are doing to raise money to feed orphans in Haiti, or build medical facilities and churches in Mali.  Whether it be spending a Saturday afternoon at Heartland Hope to serve people who need a hand, or donating money to our assistance fund to help people in our church.  You are to be commended for your love.

You are a church worth fighting for.  You are united by love.

Listen there are plenty of churches united by their theology.  United by a stance on a social issue.  United by their building.  There are even “churches” united by their hatred for people.

But the church worth fighting for is united by their love.

3.  What else marks a church worth fighting for?  A church worth fighting for is a  spiritually maturing church.

2 I want you to know how hard I am contending for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. 2 My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ.

He goes on to write in verse 6, 6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught,

For Paul, the key here are the words “in Him”,  live your lives In Him.  Rooted, In HIM.  Built up In Him.  Strengthened IN HIM.  So we have this image of a tree – roots going down.  The tree going up.  Getting stronger over time..

A church worth fighting for is filled with people who understand the process that is here.  It begins with this idea of being rooted.  Invisible work, really, this root work.  It’s God at work on the inside of a person, changing, challenging, transforming the soul.

And this is where, honestly, the health of the overall church falls into the laps of the individual.   Individuals making a decision to work, to effort, to take responsibility for their own spiritual health.  As individuals in a church invest in the root system of their faith, then the overall health of a church strengthens.  And not only is the individual grow up in maturity, but it spurs others on to do the same.

What does it look like to invest in your own spiritual life?  Maybe it means picking up a book from a trusted author.  Maybe it means coming up with a plan to read through one of the Gospels, like Matthew or John.  Maybe it means buying a study bible.  A Study Bible is one of those bibles that has notes on the bottom half of the page.  And so if you come across something that doesn’t make sense you can look for helps built right into the page.  I use the NIV Study Bible.  I also have an NLT Study Bible.  Both are good, though I’ve found the NIV to be my go-to bible.

Maybe it means deciding to memorize some verses.  You start memorizing and praying through some verses like Psalm 23?  You’re feeding your root system.  You develop a routine for praying for people?  Investment.  Maybe you take the plunge and sign up to serve at Heartland hope.  Even though it’s outside your comfort zone.  Maybe you make a decision to start giving some of your money away.

All of these things.  Root work.  The result will be a building up of your faith, resulting in a firm and strong faith.  One that is able to weather the tough storms of life.

A church that is worth fighting for?  A church that is filled with people who are willing to take the next step in their spiritual journey.

An interesting thing happens as a result of making the decision to follow through with some practical steps of faith.  It begins to effect the way you look at the world.  And Paul says that one of the things that will begin to happen to the one who trusts God?  They become more thankful.

4.  It is a thankful church

6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

That word overflowing?  It’s the idea of lavish thankfulness.

See, one of the ways that sin messed up the operating system of the human heart is that we become unthankful people.  Those of you who handed out candy, how many times did parents have to teach their kids – “What do you say now?”  Thank you!  Why?  Because sin has shut down that switch.  It needs to be pounded into us before it begins to come back on.

But then we become adults and we struggle with ungratefulness.  We get a case of the grumbles.  My Job?  Grumble Grumble good for nothing boss.  Your house?  Grumble grumble.  Daylight Savings time?  Grumble grumble…

Our broken souls look for reasons to be ungrateful.  It seeks opportunities to dismiss the gifts that have been given and instead searches for what it does not have.  The heart is naturally ungrateful.

So you drive a car and you think, I wish I had that one.  You live in an apartment and you think I wish I had that house.  You live in a house and you think, wouldn’t it be cool if I lived in that house instead.

You have a job and you think, I wouldn’t mind that one.  You receive a paycheck and you think I deserve that person’s paycheck.

But as we grow in Christ we begin to see life differently.  We begin to recognize the kind mercies of God.  We begin to see God’s hand at work in ways we wouldn’t have considered before faith.

Once we begin to see God as near to us.  As powerful.  As caring.  Once we see God as our ever present help.  Once we see him as a good shepherd who is leading us down the right paths.  Once we see him as providing everything we need for life – it changes us.  From ungrateful, to overflowing with gratitude.

We begin to be thankful for the free stuff of life.  Nights like last night – beautiful, still, temperate.  sunrises. A good nights sleep.  Health.

A spiritually Mature person becomes content with the stuff they already own.  They are able to mentally, put a big bow on the stuff they already own.  like the car commercials we are soon going to be bombarded with- a big bow on everything in my house that is now being held together with glue, or screws or duct tape.

Thank you Lord for the stuff in my house that is jerry-rigged, zip tied, MacGyvered and paid off.  Thank God for the stuff you already have.  It’s actually substantial, and it can be a source of gratitude if we choose to allow it to be.

Gratitude – thankfulness – it overflows a heart rooted in Jesus.  A spiritually growing church, one over flowing with thanksgiving?  It’s a church worth fighting for.

5. Finally, a church worth fighting for is a focused church.

8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.

The point?  There are plenty of messages that will run counter to the message of Christ.  But a church worth fighting for is a church that refuses to be sidetracked.  It keeps it’s eyes on the prize.  And so as a church we are determined that Journey will continue to be a church for people who don’t like church.  We are determined to help the cynic and the skeptic and the spiritually stalled out.  We are determined to help people cross the line of faith, and we are determined to help people e able to live the way Jesus taught us we could live.

That’s from the church side.  Individually, the church worth fighting for is filled with individuals who recognize they live in a world filled with hollow and deceptive philosophies – a world filled with hollow and empty promises – promises of an abundant life if only you learn that the only person in the universe that matters is you.

And if we buy that kind of self centered view point – then we will find ourselves traveling down a dark, dead end alley and at the end of it that philosophy will beat us and rob us of the abundant life that we could have had through faith in Jesus.

See to it that you are not led into captivity by shallow, hollow, empty and deceptive philosophies about how life ought to be lived.  And instead fix your eyes on Jesus.  The author and perfector of your faith and life.

If we are able to keep our heads on straight – as a church and as individuals – then we will remain a church worth fighting for…

Last night I was sitting in my driveway around our little fire pit with a friend from Journey who was telling me a little bit of his story.  And he said that at one point his life was a complete mess.  He didn’t elaborate, just shook his head and said – just a mess.

Then I met a girl at work that I liked and I said, would you ever consider going out on a date with me?  And she said, well, how about you come to church with me this Sunday.  He said, sure, if that’s what it takes.

Well that Sunday he got up and went to the wrong church.  He was looking around for her like, man this girl stood me up going to church!  That’s messed up!   But he sat there and began to listen to the message of Jesus.

The message that Jesus came to throw open the gates to the kingdom of heaven – the right now alternative kingdom to the kingdom where he had made a mess of his life.  And he realized that even a messed up person like he was welcome to live his life under the wise guidance and gentle leadership of Jesus, the good shepherd.

And he aid that from that day onward God began to change his life around.  He never stopped going – and now his faith is growing and strong and as this guy spoke with me, his life seemed to be overflowing with thanksgiving.

Maybe that’s you today.  Maybe the church you walked into was Journey.  Would you pray with me that Journey would continue to be a church that is encouraged, and united by their love, and overflowing with gratitude, spiritually maturing, and that we keep our eyes on Jesus.

Let’s contend for that kind of Church.

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